The Anatomy of Awareness, Part One: Notes on Dying

Transmitted on Aug 18 2009 to anatomy of awareness

This is the first excerpt from The Anatomy of Awareness, my 260-page book illustrating a groundbreaking, mindbending new theory of human consciousness (recently completed and currently seeking publication). Each excerpt will be linked here as it is posted. For more information, look here.

My first memory is of dying.
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More specifically, the first memory I have is of losing consciousness; of bright light and a sudden, slow-moving darkness; of sensations and their sudden dissolution, of knowing that whatever this was, it was evaporating.

I stopped breathing six times within the first day I was alive, and I am not sure which one of these serves as that first, earliest memory. All I remember is the strangeness of that brevity, like a flash of light in pitch darkness.
Imagine a movie screen, completely dark, completely silent, erupting suddenly into a single kinetic flare of sound and light. Then back to darkness. The darkness is slow in coming, but the light is so quick you wonder if it just was a synaptic mis-fire, just a mistake.

Being scarcely born, I had no linguistic methods with which to approximate that confusion, except perhaps “where’d it go?” (much as a dog might “think”). But whether it can be conveyed in words or not, I remember it. It can be conjured up in any moment, crystalline, buried unchanging and unchanged in the very core of my mind.
I began to wonder, then, which other memories I would end up storing as cleanly, whose edges might not be dulled by time and age. This led me to wonder exactly what memories are, and what they are not. It led me to wonder at the ways memory—both our own and our cultures must shape our identities, our thoughts, and our beliefs. It led me to examine the ways our memory is a trap, a false record, a case of mistaken identity.

And then it led me to write this.

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Hello, Esalen! + an update on my plans

Transmitted on Jul 09 2009 to consciousness & Source, site news

Whew! What a crazy few weeks it’s been!

After wrapping up work on my senior thesis and staggering through a whirlwind graduation, I packed up my things and bid farewell to a college (and home) I loved dearly for four jam-packed years. There wasn’t much time to be sentimental, though– within mere hours I was on a plane, flying to California to join the work-scholar program at Big Sur’s Esalen Institute. There, surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, I spent a blissful month thinking, writing, taking pictures and slicing onions. I loved every second of it, and learned so much about myself in the process that i’m still trying to unpack the entirety of the experience.

But all such experiences must come to an end eventually, and I’m thrilled to move ahead with my life after graduation. Aside from the obvious (finding a place to live, getting a job or several) I have some big new plans for Evolation and my future work. I also have some fantastic things to show you!

Unfortunately, my computer (a beloved Powerbook G4) bit the dust this evening with a loud and dramatic death rattle. While I get that sorted out and step up to a modern machine, I’ll be a bit more delayed than I’d like in posting here.

In the coming weeks I’m thrilled to begin posting excerpts from The Anatomy of Awareness, my “magnum opus” project that attempts to understand–and advance dramatic new thinking about– the nature of consciousness. As a dual memoir– part novel, part scientific paper– the work is engaging and poetic while remaining incredibly complete and thorough. Drawing on a wide range of ideas and concepts culled from years of my own research, the book (and it is a book, at nearly 200 pages) confronts the “hard problem” of consciousness head-on, emerging with radical new ideas on the nature of the mind. It is my tremendous pleasure to begin sharing this work with you! One section, read at an open mic at Esalen, was greeted with incredible enthusiasm– and I can’t thank all of you enough for that praise and positive energy. It felt so good to be validated on a public level with a work that is so intensely personal and meaningful to me. Thank you all!

I also have a huge backlog of amazing photos left to put online– they too will need to wait until I can work again with my images. I promise, it’ll be worth it.

In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work manifesting an incredible living situation for myself here in New York: if you know anyone in photography, design, tech or editorial in need of assistance, let them know that there’s a dedicated and quick-learning college grad in need of a job!

Till next time..

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10 Ways to Stop Wasting Time Online

Transmitted on Apr 19 2009 to technology

I’m fascinated by the sheer volume of information on the Web.

Many of us are at least partly familiar with the “Wikipedia effect” (captured succinctly below by xkcd’s Randall Munroe). You start off on one, well-intentioned search, and minutes (or is it hours? or is it days?) later you’ve found yourself reading up on something completely unrelated. It’s hard to say what causes such scattered thinking: part of it is interest, certainly, but there’s more to it than that.

There seems to be something intrinsic about the nature of Web-based information that allows for such a freeform approach to learning new things. Decades ago, when television allowed us to flip channels and potentially explore new (and unrelated) things, we remained hooked in to the whims of the channel operators. We might discover something new on the cooking channel, but it was dictated largely by whatever the cooking channel happened to have on. For those of us who grew up without cable– wow!– that cooking channel might not even exist.

Now, of course, things are radically different from the various forms of entertainment and knowledge accessibility our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Virtually all information online is put on equal footing (though it might be filtered and condensed by blogs and Google) and there are no barriers to discovering content that might previously have been hidden for nationalist, cultural, lawful or ideological reasons. This is an open ocean, and we rely far more on others to direct our attention.
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Green Enough? The Biodegradable Credit Card

Transmitted on Apr 12 2009 to earth & nature

“The biodegradable Discover Card is another way for environmentally conscious consumers to do their part to help protect our planet,” says Kelly Tufts, Discover’s director of marketing. The card, which “breaks down 99% [...] in nine months to five years”, will leave less of an impact on the earth than the other 150 card designs Discover makes available for purchase. But in a market and economy wracked by increasing consumer debt ($5710 in credit card debt per consumer in December 2008), is this really what we need?

If Discover was serious about helping the environment (while encouraging rampant overspending), they could do many things: move their other designs to biodegradable plastic, donate 1% (or some other percentage) to a “green” cause, or work towards environmentally friendly practices in their buildings and corporate mentality (which would discourage overconsumption). This card, in contrast, strikes me as a confused attempt to reconcile two very different modalities, with little benefit to anyone.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

via Inhabitat and Next Nature.

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