Inside the process of how story and math change our world

historical geniusesHeisenberg’s uncertainty principle applies equally to particles, parabolas, and prose. To describe – which is the common goal of any story or mathematical formula – is to influence the object of observation. Our reflection of reality becomes our measure of the world. isaac newton caricatureBut while Heisenberg’s electrons were thrown off course by photons, the change in our reality is essentially rooted in perception. And because perception is our brain’s only way of interacting with the universe, a change in perception equals a change in our world.

Truth is variable according to our experiences. Our experience of ideas, concepts, and proofs come together to pattern our perception of the truth of our reality. ernest hemingway caricatureWhen not individualized through direct sensory exposure, this ‘experience’ is communicated to our neural networks through a language of symbol: story through words, math through numbers. Both math and literature humanize a universe fraught with chaos by translating it into patterns of information compatible with the structure and function of our brains.

The only difference between story and math is the path of emotional access. Both words and numbers are symbols loaded with meaning and expectation of pattern of connection (eg. sentence structure/ B.E.D.M.A.S.). albert einstein caricatureHowever, words have broader associations and are linked with emotions that, when activated, open and extend our logic parameters to create new suspended realities. We can choose to incorporate these new worlds into our own (The Globe and Mail, religion, this post) or simple abandon them when we get to the last page (fiction, Calgary Sun). Mathematical symbols have a much stricter pattern of expectation that, upon entering the brain, must first be vetted by the logic system in our prefrontal cortex before giving us an emotional response/release in the form of soothing contentment (eg. simple beauty of E=mc2), or that sick feeling you get in your stomach when a formula turns out to be bullshit (eg. string theory… don’t get me started!).

virginia woolf caricatureInterchangeable except for path of emotional access, every story and mathematical formula use a shared humanized language of symbol to communicate novel patterns of perception that, if adopted as truth, change our world.

The Versatile Blogger Award goes Greek when a ‘good-girl-bad-girl’ reveals all!

good girl bad girlBefore Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there were Anaximander’s opposites (hot/cold, good/evil, wet/dry), which where brought into unity by Heraclitus: “The road up and the road down are the same thing.” Being awarded The Versatile Blogger Award (many thanks to ToKillAHammingBird for the nomination!!) requires me to tell you 7 things about myself. versatileblogger111But there are so many versions of ‘self’ that 7 things can be strategically used to describe. Who do I want to be to you? But no, that’s too easy. I’ve always been a woman of extremes, no nebulous middle ground, and I’m going to allow you to know me at my most honest – and therefore by my opposites: Good Girl …versus… Bad Girl. The Greeks were fearless of ideas. This freedom has been their greatest gift to history. And when you are fearless in who you are, your own history begins to make a lot more sense.

1) Requisite ‘good girl’ volunteering, plus earned full scholarships and A++ ave in high school & university …versus… Dropped out to play (briefly) in the _ _ _  industry and to work (permanently) as a Thinker/Writer/Designer

2) Won fashion (and industrial) design awards, commissions, and designed and hand-stitched my wedding dress …versus… Last ten years could be defined as a tragic series of ugly hand-me-down pants

3) Have accessorized said pants with running shoes, baseball cap, and ponytail 23/7 …versus… Harley Davidson boots other 1/7, with all manner of debauchery above my thigh-high fishnets

4) Match all my man’s socks as soon as they come out of the drier …versus… Have resorted to buying paper plates and plastic cutlery after ignoring the dishes for weeks (ok… so once it was a whole month)

5) Work diligently 9 to 5 rolling paper (don’t ask) and doing academic research on ‘the evolution of ideas’ …versus… My infamous 3 am ‘field testing’

6) Have a deeply Christian faith (with new philosophical proof that would leave Aquinas shaking in his sandals) …versus… Once wrote an essay on cheese being the highest expression of human spirituality

7) If you break my heart you won’t shake my faith in love …versus… But I will have to kill you.

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The Versatile Blogger Award also asks that I nominate 15 other bloggers for the next round:
Shoeism ~ HitchhikingColorado ~ TheMusicType ~ LivingDilbert ~ AFireworkInProgress ~ BlueHouseRecords ~ MagicAndMarvels ~ AdventuresAspirations”Aha”Moments ~ Sewbon ~ TheBlondeAlarmist ~ Bun81Bridge ~ BareKnuckleWriter ~ TheStoryShack ~ BalconyViews ~AdventuresInWiferyAndOther…

Schopenhauer’s morality argument crippled by vegetarian violence

arthur schopenhauer portrait

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”Arthur Schopenhauer

Sharpen blade. Slice pepper straight through. Rip out reproductive organs. Throw away mangled innards – thereby destroying the only chance this sweet, ripe, living system ever had to fulfil its ‘Wille zum Leben’. Another life sacrificed for one glorious, throbbingly vibrant… snack.

vegetable platter

It’s one of the raw immutable truths of our existence: something has to die for us to live. While Schopenhauer should be applauded for trying to make this transition as humane as possible, his philosophical drift into humanism is a bastardization of his adopted Hindu principle of ‘universal compassion’. “Hindus believe that consciousness is present in all life forms, even fish and plants. However, though the soul is present in all species, its potential is exhibited to different degrees.” For him to exclude from moral embrace all life that does not share our five, exquisitely limited, senses, is only an extension of the hypocrisy against which he rages.

veggie love drawingIf morality, evolutionarily and sociologically speaking, is concerned with the preservation of life and reduction of suffering, ‘universal compassion’ necessitates extending our morality beyond the selfishness of its inherently humanist coding. Babies call forth our ultimate moral care, but yet are stationary expressions of life that reach out for the warmth of a mother’s arms the same way young green shoots stretch out searching for the sun. A baby’s face and irresistible scent elicit an advantageous response from its environment the same way the rosy pink and perfume of petals help ensure the world comes in close to help it achieve its goals. Empirically speaking, a baby can easily be found to have far more in common with a plant than an enemy soldier has observable differences from his mortal moral foe. Who are we to disrespect all life that uses means outside our five senses to calibrate its reality, when our own perception is so often metered by other less measurable, yet equally informative  forces?

History has proven that morality is an extension of ourselves at one moment, in one life. Schopenhauer demands that morality be rooted in ‘universal compassion’, then uses an essentially Western, humanist definition of ‘universal’ that contradicts his Hindu sources. His moment, his morality. Our own moment in time culturally frees us to extend our personal moralities beyond our five senses, and out into an ever expanding world of complexities.

The moral of this story? Next time you eat a salad… show those veggies some f-ing respect!

The exact moment I realize I’m wasting my life

Spinning with the Earth at 1675 km/h, we humans are always and only ‘falling through time’. We feign power and control over our most precious, non-renewable resource with an abuser’s vocabulary – using, taking, spending, wasting… killing. In contrast, the words associated with our time efficiencies and generosities have somewhat religious overtones – saving, making, creating, giving. We express love through the valuing and sharing of time. And if we love ourselves, deeply, truly, is killing time the ultimate betrayal?

Slow day at work… do I write my future or stall it through distraction? The word search is almost too easy to rationalize. The 60 words are 60 novelists, so I’m not killing time… I’m learning. Ya, that’s it! Schooling myself for writer street-cred name dropping with a two-birds-one-stone pleasant pastime, the very essence of intelligent efficiency.

endless wordsearchALCOT, AMIS, AUSTEN – there’s HEMINGWAY in the middle there – BAINBRIDGE… BUCHAN is taking some time, no matter, I’m leeearning. Oh, there’s ORWELL along the top, but where’s BUCHAN? I dedicate myself to BUCHAN with full intensity pattern recognition/scanning, picking out all the BU’s and CH’s. Minutes pass… I start to get the same sick feeling in my stomach I used to get after too many Saturday morning cartoons (and still get after too much celebrity gossip). Screw it, we’re going old school here, line by line…

I do this twice. There is no BUCHAN! WTF?? This is so wrong it hurts. But just as stubborn as Rihanna going back to Chris Brown (don’t get me started!), I deny the atrocity and jump right back in. Sometimes the universe sends you a message, and sometimes that message is ELIOT with one L in the list, but two in the grid!?? This is officially BULL! with two Ls anywhere you find it!

I sit staring at the word search in numb disbelief. This is against all the rules! The contract of trust is broken. How can I ever commit to a word search again? Maybe crosswords aren’t even sacred! Two more go-to distractions tainted. But this is a wake-up; I can feel it in my bones. I can’t waste any more time.

I do the only thing that’s ever made my stomach stop churning. I put the story into my own words.

Secret to how to REALLY start doing things differently

I once witnessed a car accident while driving with my sister-in-law. At impact, the red minivan two cars ahead of us lifted up and spiraled like a football into the ditch. Mercifully, there were only minor injuries. After attending with water (and chocolate) until the paramedics arrived, we were asked to write witness statements. Upon reading each other’s, my sister-in-law and I were surprised to find that what we’d paid attention to was wildly different. Our attentions can be inherent to our coded personalities, cultural, or based on personal experience. But here’s the secret: retraining your attentions will give you incredible freedom of action.

Now let’s go to the grocery store. If you noted and evaluated every single one of the tens of thousands of products sold at your average grocery store… well, quite simply, your brain would shut down. In reality, we each walk into a markedly different store, depending on our tastes and habits. Like those big green signs on the highway, our attentions allow the rest of the landscape to blur into the background. A few weeks ago, I was standing in the salad dressing aisle with a bottle of Miracle Whip in my hand – not only Easy Squeeze, but on sale too! See that fellow on my shoulder in the illustration above? That’s Mitch – my insatiable human itch. When you give something an identity (Mitch’s origins will be explained in an upcoming post), you give yourself the freedom to open a dialogue. NOTE: This isn’t any sort of talking-to-yourself or actually seeing the little guy weirdness, just a fun philosophical allegory, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra or Virgil’s guides in Dante’s Inferno (although I don’t suppose either of those two examples could be called particularly ‘fun’).

When you can dialogue with your primal human drives, habits, and interpretations (dare I say subconscious), you can begin to challenge your reflexive attentions, thoughts, and actions. In this case, choice of salad dressing. Don’t let a touch of natural, biological anxiety hold you back from trying something new. Our neurotransmitters are calibrated to keep our patterns stable in this so often unstable world… just push through (practice makes it easier). I’ve always thought about trying to make my own dressing, so told Mitch to shove off, and through the subsequent catecholamine haze, went hunting for apple cider vinegar, canola oil, and a good novelty mustard.

This shift in attentions began to change my experience of the store. New products came into focus, new flavour combinations, textures, and possibilities for combination. I was essentially shopping a different store, not literally, but a new menu for selection had opened up on familiar shelves. In lieu of an allegory brush off, you can also try this…

Practical Exercise For Retraining Attentions: Next time you’re in the grocery store, arbitrarily pick a 2′ by 2′ area of shelving. For every product within that square, imagine being served a sample at a dinner party. How does it taste? Smell? Look? What is it being served with? What are people talking about while eating? Build a story around it. Then pick one of these products (one you’ve never picked before) and have the balls, yes I said it, balls, to put it in your cart. You can stop here, or if you’ve really got kahoonas, build a dish around this product and see how your story plays out when you serve it to your family.

Risking everything to get from Here to There

Once, on stage, I blanked out. I stood there stupidly, holding a silent, quivering flute, cantilevered out into nothingness.

Once, before a deadline, I blanked out. I sat there stupidly, hating my hands for shaking, this time over a keyboard, poised over an article that would never be written.

Now I sit here risking everything promised by our current paradigm, but my hands are steady. These words are my own. There is no fear beyond the slow, mild panic of a human engaging her humanity. There is no composer’s melody to forget, and no interviews to transcribe. There can be no ‘blanking’ out because this is Blank Canvas Living. This is a living dialogue. This is a brain exploring, within and without. This is freedom.

Who are you? Who do you want to be? Risk asking.

But more than that – risk knowing.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom – Anais Nin

To blossom in this world takes a sharp act of will, fierce and unwavering. There can be no permission. Blank Canvas Living’s  tips/techniques, personal style guide, creative living exercises, and experiments in engagement are designed to loosen our jumbled neural associations and give us the freedom to learn our brains, love them, and blossom according to our most primal coding. Backed by a five year dedicated study into the evolution of ideas (from prehistory through to today), and ongoing philosophical field testing, Blank Canvas Living is an interactive forum for passionate people who share a high need for cognition and sensory/sensual involvement.