November 03, 2008
by: jovial_cynic

image: Prison Cell (cc) Still Burning

I have these fleeting thoughts about the nature of reality. I periodically get caught in a Blakeian loop while trying to figure out what parts of the universe are just constructs of our minds, and what part of it is truly real. I'm not thinking about it on any sort of heavy theological sense, but at the same time, reducing it to mere philosophy seems too whimsical and inconsequential. There seems to be some life-impacting perspective change involved.

I got to thinking about prisons, recently. Of the mind.

As near as I can figure, we enter existence as prisoners of our biology. There's the animal part of our brain that we, as newborns, are incapable of ignoring. Our brains pick up the signals from our organs and environment (hungry, tired, uncomfortable), which our mouths amplify into a scream. Because that's pretty much all babies do. Scream, scream, scream.

It isn't until some socialization happens (positive/negative reinforcement) that some of the animal impulses are curbed, and we cheer the idea that the child has grown out of that baby phase. After a few years, children learn things like the potty dance because having urine dribble down the legs is more socially unacceptable than it is uncomfortable. Likewise, we see people consciously forgoing meals (ignoring their hunger) for the purpose of dieting. Instant gratification gives way to the idea of a future reward -- in this case, the loss of weight.

But the reality is that people merely climb out of one prison and into the next. Instead of individual biology dictating behavior, now it's society... which is sort of the larger human super-organism. And society is really just more biology, if you think about it.

Nearly all adult behavior is dictated by this whole notion of a pecking order. What is the goal of weight-loss but submission to some sort of societal norm? Why are humans are irresistibly drawn to shopping centers and retail outlet malls? It's because their behavior is dictated by society, and society seems intent on keeping everyone in some line or another. And in the same way that children aren't aware that they are prisoners of their biology, most adults aren't aware that they are prisoners of their society.

However, there are some folks who have at least a peripheral awareness of the forces of society, and intentionally ignore the social cues that guide most people. Some of these might be hermits, or monks, or otherwise eccentric folks... but I can't help but thinking that upon breaking free of society's prison, these people find themselves confined by yet another cage: the rules that govern reality itself. The fundamental laws of the universe. No paradigm shift is going to let anyone get around gravity, or the speed of light, or entropy. Reality is a big place; it's an awfully large cage.

The problem, of course, is this whole question of the nature of reality.

If reality is the last prison, and if reality exists only in our minds (via perception), did we ever leave the infant stage? As long as it is true that our ego is a biological construct, tasked with superimposing a consciousness, or "sense of self," over an otherwise mechanical brain, we are forced to acknowledge that even this prison of reality is actually that same first biological prison. In which case, we've simply managed to peel back a single layer of the fractal walls that confine us, and we've gotten no closer to escaping anything.


TimDogg said:
If biology is all that is at play, and our sense of self and free-will is really a feeling that is pasted over clock-work, and as you surmise, we are still in the first biological prison, I would posit that we've made no such peeling of any layer of the prison around us. It may all be wallpaper -- padded in this case.

The Buddhists seem to think they can free themselves from Samsara, or endless wandering, and reach nirvana. This might be some way of escaping the prison of reality. I'm not a Buddhist though, so I dunno what the hell is going on.

November 04, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
TimDogg - I think that the escape, for the Buddhist, is only found in death. And I suppose that makes sense. The only way to get away from one's self is to die.

But then the worms eat you. And the prison of a worm gut seems less appealing than the prison of my own head.

November 04, 2008

TimDogg said:
No one that has reached nirvana has any concern about the worm. They are the worm.
November 04, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
No no, friend. There is no worm.
November 04, 2008

Ken said:
"They are the worm" is buddhist.

"There is no worm" is zen, or daoist.

A favorite author of mine often defines what you call "prison" as a "reality tunnel." Reality Tunnels can be changed, but only for a different Reality Tunnel. There will always be a matrix of filters through which we experience.

The author also writes of, and I agree with the possibility, of being able to gain objectivity of such tunnels, and enter or access any of them at will.

"Imprints" are like software that has become hardware. We have periods of "imprint vulnerability" during our lives. Experiences during times of imprint vulnerability write programs in the brain, within the context of our genes. These dictate how we will perceive and/or react to everything. Imprints are "software" that have become "hardware." Things we've learned that have are so deep we can't unlearn them.

There are ways to re-imprint yourself and others.
Military boot camp is a way of re-imprinting people by stripping the sense of self/individuality, creating the unit/army as a surrogate parent, creating dependency and loyalty to the newly imprinted family/provider.

This doesn't work on everyone, especially recently as military boot camps have become somewhat neutered in their ability to achieve this effect.

Stockholm Syndrome is a fine example of re-imprinting...

rambling... lack cogency... bleh

November 05, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Ken - Oh... I had them jumbled. Upon looking at the definition of Nirvana, it appears that I was incorrect:

Nirvana, then, is not a place nor a state, it is an absolute truth to be realized, and a person can do so without dying.


November 05, 2008

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