Entry 3: Beginning Phases...

  • It took my hitting rock bottom, to give me the tools to climb back up.

    The year was... 2007, or 2008. My family and I were homeless, and I figured I could get this free mental health agency to help me get S.S.I. and a place to live, so we could all get off the streets and I'd have enough of an income to get me through, until I could get a decent job. The psychiatrist there compensated his volunteer status by getting paid to offer popular types of drugs. Of course, this meant he had to find every possible excuse for diagnosing people with conditions that required the use of these drugs. For me, the diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder, and possible mild, complex epilepsy. The treatment: regular participation in group therapy (it gave me a place to go during the day, gave my father and brother one less bundle of worries to focus on, and gave me a sense of independence), and a combination of 50 milligrams of Risperidal and 500 milligrams of Depakote, Extended Release. I was, quite literally, out of my mind with fatigue, drowsiness, dehydration, auditory hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, and eventually, visual hallucinations. Of course, this was about the time that popular media revealed the end plot of "the Sopranos", in which their theory was that Tony Soprano was killed, and that was why the last episode ended in a long, blank silence. My until-then-easily-repressed fears of living in a postmortem hallucination had come back to me. People looked like rotting corpses. The landscape looked like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. Every time I closed my eyes, or walked through a narrow enclosure, I felt like I was in a coffin, in the ground. I tried manipulating my own fears - making my corpse rise from the grave and feed on the spirits of the living, for example, - but to no avail; the hallucinations refused to change to what I wanted them to be. I had no choice, but to go cold turkey from the drugs, and force myself to deal with the effects in fearful silence. It caused me to question every sensation, every memory, and every thought. Literally, I felt like I was starting from zero, all over again. Fortunately, I found a way through the madness.

    It's true that our senses can ignore things that are right in front of us, and our minds can fool us into sensing things that aren't even there. Our senses are unreliable, but just how much? After all, it's impossible for us to ever truly create anything in our imaginations from absolutely nothing; something must exist externally, and we must experience it through our senses, before we can imagine anything out of it; that is, we must observe something real, before we can hypothesize the possibilities of the components of our observations in other circumstances, like the way Nikola Tesla would go through an experiment in his imagination before bothering with it in his real-life laboratory. That still leaves us with the questions of what we really experience, what's our imagination, and what we miss out on. Add that to the problem of memory. Just like we can only imagine things based on what we objectively observe in reality, we can only remember things we really observed, in some form or other, before we manipulate them in our minds. The problem is determining what we missed, what we forgot, what we imagined, and what we altered in our memories, as these things really happen, and we can experience fake memories as vivid as real ones, and forget real memories as easily as fake ones. Real memories, to us, can seem fake, as well, just compounding the confusion. Finally, we have to get to our cognitive abilities. We do learn through a framework of logic and deduction, as well as our imaginations, but we rarely have perfect logic or deduction. We can get facts mixed up, make up facts that are not true, and come up with illogical reasons for believing them. Imagination, though a powerful tool in deduction and logic, can get in the way as well. Compound that with fallible memories and senses, and we have the perfect recipe for doubt that anything even exists; while it's true that we can't imagine absolute nothingness, we can certainly imagine an absolute lack of individual things, or groups of things. As science can only be used through our faulty senses, memories, and cognition, and technology - aside from being used by faulty humans to observe data we may incorrectly analyze, - is capable of malfunctions and errors, not to mention the possible illusory nature of our interactions with the outside world - though logic demands that there is an external reality, - we are only left with a series of unsatisfactory possibilities:

    1) nothing exists, which we've already discussed cannot be the case;
    2) only some things exist, which can be understood through the proper framework of the use of the senses, memory, cognition, and interaction with that which we perceive, which we've already discussed is too uncertain to trust;
    3) everything exists, and we can only experience some things, which means all phenomena must be true... including the phenomenon of universal nothingness, which negates every other;
    4) only one of us is real, and this is their imagination playing out, which leads us to the unanswerable question of which among us is so powerful, so knowledgeable, and so limitless, as to have that kind of power;
    5) we each make up our own realities that we hallucinate, like the Tibetan monks and their thoughtform hallucinations that they call tulpa, which we've already addressed is unsatisfactory, since something must exist for us to observe and use as raw material for our imaginations.

    There is one other possibility.

    Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers of all time. His position opposed that of the sopists, who believed knowledge was attainable. By asking questions, Socrates found every philosophical position lacking, leaving nothing but questions without sufficient answers. Later generations of philosophers, including his own students, developed a reconciliation to the problem of existence posed by Socrates, and those mentioned above. This solution was modeled on the imperfect example of a dreamer and his dreamscape, a man and his imagination, or in later millennia, a computer simulation and it's programmer. This was the dichotomy between necessary and contingent truths. Contingent truths, so the idea goes, are true, and can make other premises or conclusions true; they just cannot be true all on their own, and cannot persist in some infinite loop or line of validation of each-other. Necessary truth, however, can make contingencies true, and requires no greater truth to make it true. Following this model, researchers at M.I.T. came up with the only possible formula that could answer, with any certainty, whether or not this universe is a computer simulation of some sort... and, according to their data, odds are that it is.

    Consider, on top of that, the fact that computer programmers and designers consider the human brain to be the most powerful organic computer, and model many of their programs and designs on it's structure and functions. In 2009, a computer system was designed from maps of the human brain, called DISCERN. According to the Turing test method, DISCERN had humanoid intelligence, and the ability to learn. There was just one problem: it's programming, faulty as it was, gave it schizophrenia. Whenever it learned a new story, DISCERN put it's identity in the place of a main character. When it was informed of terrorist bombings, DISCERN believed it had been there, as one of the terrorists; when it was informed of stories about superheroes, DISCERN believed it was one of those superheroes.

    All of this information, along with the fine tuning of the universe, the Kalam cosmological argument, and the irreducible complexity of biological organisms, leads to the conclusion that there is a necessary truth to the contingent truth of our universe, unbound by any set of paramters or limits, such as all contingent truths have. Given the extensive investment in this reality, it's more likely than not that this necessary truth made it all for a purpose; being the one necessary truth, that purpose could only relate each contingent truth to all others, and all contingent truths to the will of this necessary truth. Given the objectively observed immaterial properties of the universe, including those that inspired the teleological philosophical position, and the negative position of such extremes as hatred, fear, and evil, to their polar opposites, love and goodness, it's far more likely than not that this necessary truth is the source of all love and goodness, loves all it's contingent creations, and created all of this contingent reality with the original design and intention of that which we refer to objectively as love and goodness. It's no wonder love and goodness eventually win out in the end. Nonetheless, it's the facts that matter, not feelings; feelings should be informed by facts, and not the other way around.

    In any case, people often think it's either strength, or speed, or brains, or stealth, or money, or looks that save the day. The fact is, to some extent, you need a little of all of these, but only after developing a method for functioning adaptibly to any situation, can you truly learn how to use your natural benefits to fight crime and save lives. Believe it or not, it all starts with the simplest of processes...

    The U.S. Army Survival Manual provides an anagram for survival, coincidentally based on the word, "Survival".

     

    -Size up your situation (surroundings, condition, equipment)
    -Utilize all your senses/Undue haste makes waste
    -Remember where you are
    -Vanquish fear and panic
    -Improvise
    -Value living
    -Act like the natives
    -Learn basic skills/Live by your wits.

    I started using an extremely simple method that helps clear the mind, refocus the senses, restructure the memory, and provide a clean slate in any environment, optimizing analysis, observation, memory, composure, improvisation, and the efficient use of one's surroundings. It's so simple, many people do it on occasion, and don't even realize the benefits of what they're doing.

    The process starts, whenever you're ready to sleep or meditate. You start by shutting down and ignoring the senses. Start with sight, since this is the most used sense in humans. Any images that come to mind can be acknowledged, but should be ignored. Continue with hearing, then smell, then taste, then touch. Once you've completely isolated yourself from all external stimuli, you start with the internal stimuli of memory. Ignore memories that come to mind, until you're dreaming, and keep out as much of your memory as possible. Finally, you shut down your cognitive abilities. Stop thinking. Thoughts will come to mind; just let them pass. Eventually, you can even learn to ignore your sense of your own existence. This practice wipes the slate clean, gives you better rest, and makes you more sensitive to stimuli, when you come out of it. Of course, if you're in an unfamiliar environment, you should retain some awareness of your surroundings, just in case you need to spring into action; that is the only exception to these guidelines.

    After you've completely cleared your mind, you come out of the trance, a little at a time. First, you let yourself become aware of existing, and specifically, of your existence. Next, you use that awareness with the reactivation of your cognitive processes. Then, you use your reactivated cognition in your reactivation of your memory, starting from that zero-point. Then, you go through each sense, in reverse order, using your reactivated memory in the reactivation of your sense of touch, using your sense of touch in your sense of taste, using your sense of taste in your sense of smell, using your sense of smell in your sense of hearing, and using your sense of hearing in your sense of sight. Let each sense work with the others, to reinform your memory, which works to reframe your cognition, which works to reevaluate your existence. Once you've gathered significant information from your environment, your next task is to use your senses, memory, and cognition to determine optimum methods and directions of movement; once you can move optimally for your environment, you use the sum and substance of your experience to frame your methods of communication to be optimal to your environment. It's that simple. You probably do it already, to some degree or other, and don't even realize it.

    On top of this, I found it was necessary to make myself as well-rounded as I could; improve myself in all areas, equally. I developed a sense of my existence, and interaction with external existence, based on a cycle through seven levels.

    - The first is the spiritual level. Contrary to popular theology, this doesn't mean your ghost or consciousness; even in the Bible, 'spirit' refers to that initial reaction of energy with matter that brings you to life. Most believe this is the result of matter releasing energy; given the nature of energy, being that it can only be observed and analyzed in how it affects matter, and the fact that the laws of cause and effect place the activity of energy as the cause to the effect of matter's reaction to energy and it's functions, the spirit is given by God, the necessary truth, to activate the life-functions of the body. This spirit resides within us, for as long as our bodies can handle the cycle of energy in and out of themselves, before they break down too much for the spirit to keep them functioning; at that point, the body releases the spirit, which is then released back into the universe, and retrieved by the God that gave it. Spirit can be channeled through the body, on a temporary basis, to make up for deficiencies in physical care. You can force yourself to stay awake, keep moving through fatigue, withstand starvation and dehydration, and even function through pain and injury, all because of the redirection of spirit from the matter of your body. Done on a regular basis, however, this will break down your body faster than usual, as parts of it lose the energy provided by the spirit. This can result in injury, illness, fatigue, premature aging, and even death. There's nothing mystical or magical about this; it's just the laws of thermodynamics, in action.
    - Next, we get to the soul. The soul is the first thing to happen, come to life, or be created, inside your body, as a result of your spirit's activation of the nervous system. Your spirit keeps your soul going, and your soul directs your spirit's work in your body. Over time, they become so enmeshed, through their work together in the human brain and nervous system, that it's the work of the spirit and soul that causes the changes that happen in the brain and nervous system. They work together. Neglecting your soul is neglecting who and what you are, and can lead to your spirit being unused, or used improperly. Neglecting your spirit can lead to psychological issues, from a lack of energy powering the soul. Abuse of the soul can also cause psychological problems, which will lead to the effects discusssed just a sentence or two before. This is why proper conditioning and psychological care are necessary.
    - Then, we get to the heart, or seat, of the emotions. Only recently, has it been discovered that the emotions have the greatest effect on the functions of the physical heart, though people have known about how they can make the physical heart feel for thousands of years. This is the part that functions on the basis of the soul, or who you are; that is, who you are determines what, when, where, why, and how, you feel. Proper emotional care is crucial to the functions of the soul and heart, alike. Emotional abuse can cause your emotions to change your soul into something it was never meant to be, and emotional neglect can leave you unaware of your soul and heart. Furthermore, by exciting certain emotions above others on a regular basis, you can affect your psychology. This is the connection between brain and soul, in which the reactions of the brain and nervous system to certain stimuli can cause you to feel things, just as much as the work of your soul, or "psyche", can make your emotions cause changes in your brain and nervous system (I know, I keep mentioning the nervous system, without mentioning the endocrine system. There's a reason for that; for now, just know that the effects of the endocrine system on the nervous system and brain are being considered as part of the nervous system and brain, their structures, and their functions... such as the effect of the pituitary gland, in the brain. In fact, the brain is considered to be a large glandular connection, responding to neurochemical and electrochemical stimuli).
    - Then, we get to the mind. The 'mind' is what we call the cognitive, or information-based, functions of the self, as opposed to the soul, or psyche, which functions separately from pure information. The mind informs the heart of various stimuli that may elicit certain emotions, and is inspired by the emotional state to access certain types of information and come up with decisions based on them. Neglecting the mind can lead to inappropriate emotional states and inadequate information, which lead to grievous errors. Abusing the mind leads to the negative altering of emotional states, wrong information, and again, grievous errors. Crucial to the appropriate function of the heart is the healthy stimulation of emotional states, and crucial to the appropriate function of the mind is having true principles implanted as the solid and sure foundation of the vast quantities of knowledge the brain must take in.
    - Then, we get to the body. The body has a special position, as the last true step between the internal and external layers. The body has several special functions, related to the relationship between itself, and the mind. The body provides information on the outside world that may affect the mind, brings rest that can rejuvenate the physical components and make the mind's job easier, take in material nourishment and hydration to further build up the physical components through which the immaterial components function, exerts the effort necessary to improve on it's ability to function, and when injured, heals as best it can. in turn, the mind guides the functions of the body. It's important to take good care of the body, or it will function less adequately, degrade the functions of the mind, and eventually die. That's why it's needs must be attended to - rest, sleep, food, drink, medicine, exercise, protection from the elements, - and any dangers - illness, injury, malfunction, - must be avoided at all costs.
    - The first external step beyond the self can also be considered the last link between the external and the internal. Tools are made from various materials in the environment, designed specifically to do certain tasks, and utilized as extensions of the body. They provide the body with the raw materials it needs, and ways to convert them into more useful forms; they are used by the body, as extensions that are capable of doing what the body is limited in it's ability to do. If you don't make or pick your tools properly, if you use them improperly, or if you neglect to care for them, they will malfunction, fail, and eventually, come apart, becoming useless. That's why regular maintenance is necessary, as is innovation, resourcefulness, and imagination.
    - The most external layer is the outside existence. This encompasses other people, as well as other things. Proper care is crucial, here, as this is where you get all your raw materials from. On top of that, there are around seven billion other people in this world, each similar enough to yourself that they matter at least equally, and it is only by cooperation that we can compensate for our own, and each-others', weaknesses. Abuse of others will alienate them, or worse, cause retaliation, and it's almost like you're abusing yourself. This includes manipulation and subjugation. Neglecting others will also cause you to be alienated, and is as bad as neglecting yourself, often many times over. Abusing or neglecting your environment is also inadvisable, as it affects the quantity and quality of materials you get back from it. That's why proper interaction with others, caring for the needs and suffering of others, and taking care of your environment, are all crucial.

    In order of importance, I typically rank God first. Next come others, then the environment, then my tools. Then comes my physical well being, then my mental well being, then my emotional well being, and then my psychological well being. Finally, I worry about my spiritual well being. The reason is simple: it's in order of importance, because it's in order of urgency. While importance may not necessarily equate to urgency, they do share a connection, in that we tend to put more importance on the more urgent things, if only to get them out of the way. The further back in I go, the lower the level of maintenance is required, and less often.