Perception and “The Dress”

So this picture of a dress has been going around – you may have seen it – and apparently 74% of people see white and gold. I see blue and black. I’ve tried really hard to see white and gold, but it ain’t happening.

Go here to see the dress: https://www.yahoo.com/health/is-this-dress-blue-and-black-or-white-and-gold-112194158507.html

And here’s an explanation for why people are seeing different things: http://www.wired.com/2015/02/science-one-agrees-color-dress/

This incident with The Dress – and the way people can see the same thing so differently and are so sure they’re right about the way they see it – reminded me of some conversations I’ve had with others about God and Nogod. Many of those dialogues have been frustrating for everyone involved. But there was a dialogue I had on this blog a year ago with Andrey Pavlov, a young medical doctor and atheist, that was one of the most enjoyable conversations I believe I have ever had with another human being regarding “God.” I had met Andrey on the sciencebasedmedicine.org website, and he had kindly joined me on my blog so we could carry on our conversation.

I’d tried to describe to Andrey what “God” is to me. I’d written: And perhaps “God” IS nothing more than my own consciousness of good, really – but I feel this Good as a presence in my life. It’s as real to me as the air I breath. It speaks to me – not in a man-voice – but… it speaks to me as Truth. As Love. In times when I’m scared, I feel this presence of Love and comfort around me – and, again, maybe that’s nothing more than my own thoughts – but whatever it is – whether it’s just my own consciousness – something inside me – or whether it’s something I am inside of – this power I call God has been with me when I’ve been sick, and when I’ve been scared, and when I’ve had to make important decisions in my life – and this presence has helped me.

And Andrey responded with this –

“This is interesting to me. I believe you, I really do. I absolutely believe that you have these experiences and feel the things you do as you say them. And I do not think these are evidence of any sort of psychiatric illness, cognitive dysfunction, or anything someone may call ‘abnormal.’ I don’t really know (nobody does) but there is plenty of evidence to lead us to think that this is simply one of the many fluid ways in which an individual processes the universe around them.

“It is, IMO, important to realize that everything a person sees, feels,experiences in any way is highly processed by the software and hardware of our brains. We (mostly) all agree that an object which reflects electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of 650nM looks ‘red.’ But how do I know that what you actually experience as ‘red’ is actually what I experience as ‘red’? I can’t know and you can’t know. That is what philosophers refer to as the ‘qualia’ of life – that purely internal subjective processing and experience of life and the universe through the consciousness we have. It raises this interesting idea of ‘p-zombies.’ Dan Dennett has written a fair bit on them and it stems in part from the concept of a Turing test.

“So when you say that you ‘feel’ the presence of Love, Goodness, etc. I believe you. I can’t possibly imagine what that means in the same way I can’t imagine what it means when a synesthetic says that someone’s name is “lime green” in color. But to that synesthetic, it is a consistent, meaningful, and very real experience.”

I really appreciated the way Andrey listened – heard me – and made an effort to understand my perspective and translate it into something he could relate to in some way.

And wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we all could do that for each other?

Reality and Simulation

(Author’s note: This is one of those posts that I hesitate to publish. It’s… well it’s my “pondering stuff” voice, I guess.  But what the hell, right? What’s the worst thing that can happen here? No one reads it? P’shaw! I ain’t ascared. of having no audience for this one. In fact, that might be a good thing. 🙂 )

“Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time… Historically, simulations used in different fields developed largely independently, but 20th century studies of systems theory and cybernetics combined with spreading use of computers across all those fields have led to some unification and a more systematic view of the concept… Simulation is extensively used for educational purposes… Virtual simulations represent a specific category of simulation that utilizes simulation equipment to create a simulated world for the user. Virtual simulations allow users to interact with a virtual world.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulation

I’m reading Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures again. Every time I read this book I notice things I never noticed before. This time one of the things that has popped out at me is Eddy’s use of the word “simulate”. I probably didn’t notice this word the first time I read Science and Health – back in 1980 or so – because it wasn’t as commonly used as it is today. I wouldn’t have been able to relate it to anything in my own experience back then.

Eddy seems to have, once again, made a leap into the future with her use of the word “simulate” in Science and Health. Though her book was first published in 1875 – almost a century and a half ago – it makes mention of space travel, atomic power, and what today might be called quantum physics. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when I came upon the word “simulate”.

Contrasting  the creation of Adam in the second chapter of Genesis with the creation described in the first chapter, Eddy writes: “Beginning creation with darkness instead of light, – materially rather than spiritually, – error now simulates the work of Truth, mocking Love and declaring what things error has done.” She writes, “Close your eyes, and you may dream that you see a  flower, – that you touch and smell it. Thus you learn that the flower is a product of the so-called mind, a formation of thought rather than of matter. Close your eyes again, and you may see landscapes, men, and women. Thus you learn that these also are images, which mortal mind holds and evolves and which simulate mind, life, and intelligence.” A little further into Science and Health, and the author writes, “When we put off the false sense for the true, and see that sin and mortality have neither Principle nor permanency, we shall learn that sin and mortality are without actual origin or rightful existence. They are native nothingness, out of which error would simulate creation through a man formed from dust… Sin, sickness, and death are comprised in human material belief… They have neither Principle nor permanence, but belong, with all that is material and temporal, to the nothingness of error, which simulates the creations of Truth.”

It has been very helpful to me to see material existence as just a simulation – maybe one of those training simulators – providing me with the opportunity to practice separating the true from the false, to practice recognizing the real and eternal, and to practice translating all the good and beautiful we see represented  in the “simulator” back into its spiritual form.

“Nature voices natural, spiritual law and divine Love, but human belief misinterprets nature. Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds, mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers, and glorious heavens, – all point to Mind, the spiritual  intelligence they reflect. The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity.” – Mary Baker Eddy

The Real and Ideal

“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good”. – Genesis

“The Bible declares: ‘All things were made by Him [the divine Word]; and without Him was not anything, made that was made.’  This is the eternal verity of divine Science. If sin, sickness, and death were understood as nothingness, they would disappear.  As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of good. One must hide the other. How important, then, to choose good as the reality!” – Mary Baker Eddy

“Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.” – Mary Baker Eddy

***

One of the things that people just learning about Christian Science sometimes have a problem cogitating is the Christian Scientist’s belief that all of creation is perfect and good and flawless, without disease, death, or sin.  And I can understand, for sure, the perception that the way Christian Scientists look at the world is just wacky. I mean, if you turn on the news or connect to the internet, we seem surrounded by chaos, cruelty, wars, dishonesty, cheating, betrayals, greed, destruction, disease, death.  To deny there’s evil in the world must seem really naïve, if not totally delusional, to most people.

And I have to admit that there have been times in my life when this way of looking at the world – with an intentional and conscious expectancy of good – has seemed sort of delusional to me, too.

But several years ago I went through an experience with depression that taught me a lot about what’s “real” and what’s not, and the power that lies in purposely and purposefully aligning myself to the good surrounding me.  There was a moment when I had a sort of epiphany – when I realized that right where there appeared to be pain and darkness and gloom – in that very same place there was incredible beauty and goodness and love.  It occurred to me that there are sort of parallel universes filling the same place and space – one that’s full of despair and discouragement, and one that’s full of hope and incredible generosity – and I could choose which one I wanted to live in, and accept as real.

Up until the time of the depression, I’d always been a naturally happy person – joy was not something I’d had to work at. But when I was in the grips of the depression it sometimes seemed like a Herculean task to put myself in a place of joy. I was sometimes overwhelmed by the sadness and hopelessness of “life.”

At the time, the depression seemed like the worst thing I’d ever gone through. In retrospect, though, I see it was one of the best.  It was, in fact, an incredible time of growth for me.

In the moment when I stood in a ray of sun bursting through the clouds, in that moment when I saw that, right where there appeared to be overwhelming darkness, there was spectacular light and joy – in that moment when I began to wake up from the depression – I made a commitment to myself to always try to keep my thoughts and being in harmony with the universe of joy, love, and beauty.

In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “We are sometimes led to believe that darkness is as real as light; but Science affirms darkness to be only a mortal sense of the absence of light, at the coming of which darkness loses the appearance of reality. So sin and sorrow, disease and death, are the suppositional absence of Life, God, and flee as phantoms of error before truth and love.”

I know what Eddy writes here might sound kind of strange on the surface of it, but I have actually proven her words to be true in my own life. I have experienced those moments where I felt overwhelmed by sorrow and sickness, and, with a simple change of thought – by filling my thoughts up with love and knowing I was loved – have experienced healing.

In fact, the analogy of light and darkness that Eddy brings us has been really useful to me in understanding the power in Good.  When I think about the properties of light and darkness I recognize that Light has a source – it comes from somewhere – the sun or a lightbulb or reflected off water; Darkness, on the other hand, has no source – there’s no darkbulb we can turn on to create darkness, and there’s nothing I know of in the physical world that reflects darkness.  Darkness is nothing, comes from nowhere, has no cause or source – it’s simply the absence of light.  I picture the way light fills the darkness – light curving around dark corners, gliding into crevices, bouncing off the Moon – and wherever it touches, darkness disappears. Isn’t that cool?!  And I believe the power of good – the power of Love and Truth and Life – are like the light in that respect – everything that love and truth touch is transformed.

I don’t believe we can transform our world into its ideal by letting ourselves get pulled into the anger and hate and confusion and ugliness that seem to be trying really hard to overwhelm us.  I believe we transform our lives and our world by transforming our thoughts – by lifting our thoughts up to the ideal, and making that our reality.  I don’t mean to suggest that we ignore the sickness and misery that challenges humanity and pretend it’s not “there” – we need to recognize and expose the bad stuff, for sure – bring it out into the light and then let love and truth do to evil the same thing that light does to the mold and fungus that thrive in dark, dank places – put an end to it.

Mohatma Gandhi said, “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”  I think we need to have the courage to deny power to evil in whatever form it takes. And yes, I think we need to deny it reality, too – not with rose-colored glasses obstinately placed on our noses, but resolutely, with the courage of our ideals, knowing that the ideal of good will win in the end. As Gandhi said, “When I despair I remember that all through history there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.”

***

 “The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable. Evil is not power. It is a mockery of strength, which erelong betrays its weakenss and falls, never to rise.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“The time to be happy is now; The place to be happy is here.” – Robert Ingersoll