Oh, good! We’re at the “meaning” part of the book

So, I’ve been chugging along with the rest of my life, leaving the posting to this blog on autopilot, while I launch some other ventures. I’m starting to teach college students (and others who may be job seeking) how to connect effectively with recruiters, so they can get the work they want… and avoid the work situations they don’t want to get into.

More on that later. Now, dear reader, we’ve arrived at a section of the book that’s near and dear to my heart. Let’s talk about meaning!

As I said in my last post (and my book):

I think of “meaning” as a sort of master pattern that we piece together from the past to help guide us into the future. It’s a conceptual road map of our world view that puts the full range of our experiences and observations in the context of a larger pattern, explaining the past, putting our current situation in context, and pointing us in directions that are consistent with the ways we think the world works. Meaning helps us make sense out of our world, both literally and figuratively. It orients us in life. It shows us the way. It adds logical predictability to our thinking and creates palpable sensations when we engage with our world. In order to have means, we need an end, and meaning shows us the ends toward which we are (or should be) moving.

So, yeah, yeah, whatever. That’s nice, Kay, but what difference does that make?

Actually, it makes a lot of difference. Think about it. we’re living in strange times. Absurd times. And all the roads seem to lead either to nowhere, straight off a cliff, into anticipated danger, or in some indeterminate direction that could take us either to paradise or the brink of destruction.

A lot of of literally have no map of the road ahead. Who the heck has a map? Tell me, because I want to talk to them.

Meaning is our map. I can’t stress this enough.  Each and every one of us has our own way of finding meaning in life (don’t get me started about how life is supposedly meaningless). And when we lose touch with the internal map we use to guide ourselves through life, well, our lives can seem meaningless. They’re not. But we think they are. And that’s a problem.

A couple of posts ago, I defined “meaning” as

the significance we give to the ebb and flow of our lives in this confusing, overwhelming world. Meaning is hugely important to us, and according to Merriam-Webster, “mean” is one of the top 1% of words looked up at their website. We usually think of it in terms of significance or importance, direction or purpose. What something means is central [to us]. It leads our understanding down a certain path and lets us “design for . . . a specified purpose or future”.

You see, in certain contexts, the word “mean” indicates someone heading in a certain direction. A few examples jump out at me.

  • A means to an end… where something provides a kind of bridge from where we want to go, to reaching our ultimate destination.
  • Living within your means… is about living in harmony with the resources that make it possible for us to achieve our goals.
  • A person of means… indicates someone with the resources to get from where they are to where they plan to go.

So, “means” has a tangible, practical significance to us. It’s what gets us from one point to another in our lives, in a material way. And we use the word and understand its … meaning… as if there were never any question. Because we get it, in those contexts.

However, when we look at philosophical, psychological, or spiritual Meaning, we pretend that it’s something ephemeral… otherworldly. But it’s pretty much the same as material means, conceptually speaking. Just like “means” can be about having the resource to make it possible to get from Point A to Point B (or C, M, X, and Z), “meaning” is literally about our mind having the capacity to see a future course for us, based on existing resources – i.e., the patterns we’ve seen in the past. 

Those patterns are more than just fanciful ideas we cling to for whatever reason. There’s a physical component to them, as well, that makes them every bit as tangible as a fistful of money, or a wallet full of credit cards. Whether we’re aware or not, our prior experiences are biochemically, emotionally, mentally embedded in our human systems. And based on those different signals we picked up along the way, we construct a veritable bridge to our future. Out of the minuscule biochemical building blocks that load up our systems, we pave the path that we detect ahead.

Having a sense of meaning adds purpose and direction to our lives. After all, you can’t have a purpose, if you can’t see an ultimate destination. And there’s no point in going in any direction at all, if you can’t detect which one will work. We make these judgement calls all the time – snap judgments that “just work” for us in the moment, which we assume are right on. Because they feel right. They fit. They confirm our biases or they widen the world ahead of us.

But meaning doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s something we construct. Out of our past experiences. Out of what we think are empirical data points. We observe. We process. We detect. We assign significance. And then we decide what it all means… where it’s taking us.

Now, I know there are some folks who say “life is inherently meaningless”. But I think it’s much more hopeful — and, in fact, more accurate — to say that “life is infinitely meaningful”. Because it is. It is full of patterns, full of choices, full of signals. And they can be combined and recombined in any particular way we like. Of course, they don’t arrange themselves. We have to do that part. But life isn’t stingy at all, when it comes to patterns or indicators or pointers to some distant destination. It’s overflowing with meaning.

We just have to pick the meanings that work for us.

The ties that bind, the separations that connect

separate goldfish in bagsA couple of years ago, I wrote this book, Beloved Distance, about how we’re essentially separate from each other… and we can never be in direct contact with anything.  Our billions of neurons, which transmit the data that connect us with the world around us, are always – by definition – separate. They don’t touch. They’re almost impossibly close to each other, yet they’re not in direct contact with each other.

Synapse IllustrationAnd yet, that very separateness is what connects us. Because the gap between synapses makes room for neurotransmitters, the biochemicals that pass along the information we need to make sense of the world around us. And our neurotransmitters provide a richness, a sort of “analog” data transmission that’s qualitative, as opposed to the “digital” electronic signals that pass along the incredibly complex (and long) network of our nervous system.

Like light, we are both particle and wave. We’re both neuron/synapse and neurotransmitter. That’s what makes us what we are. That’s what makes us how we are. And if our neurons were in direct contact with each other, we’d both short-circuit (because the data transmission would be too much, too soon) and never have the varied experiences that our biochemicals give us.

So, yeah. We’re like light, in that respect.

And now that quantum computing is getting all kinds of press (at least in the circles I run in) and other AI/Machine Learning/Deep Learning is picking up speed in active development and deployment, this whole concept segues nicely with the spirit of the day.

I wrote this book about 2 years ago. And I figured it would be a number of years (say, 10+) before other people would notice that it mattered. I’ve been a strong believer that it matters, all along. Ever since I first grasped what that picture of the neuron was telling me, oh, about 12 (?) years ago, I’ve believed it matters. And since I’ve been reading about quantum physics for close to 20 years*, a lot of what I’ve uncovered in the past decade or so really has some nice correlations with the quantum world view. Or maybe my quantum worldview came first and helps me make sense of the biochemistry and neurology…? Who knows?

Anyway, it’s all connected, as some like to say. And yeah, from everything I can tell and have observed in my half a century+ on this planet… It is.

*I’m a huge fan of David Bohm, and on some level, quantum concepts all make total sense to me. Why is it taking so long for everybody to catch on? 😉

So, what does this have to do with anything that matters to anyone else?

Isn’t this just some rambling of an inquisitive mind who loves to explore the reaches of PubMed, ArXive, Frontiers and more? Isn’t this just some philosophical hoo-hah that’s an indulgence at best, an annoying distraction from what really matters, at worst?

Well, I believe that this isn’t just about me, and it’s certainly not something that I came up with. I just noticed it and realized how much it matters. And yeah, I do believe it matters… especially today. We’re relentlessly inundated with a constant stream of disruptive, interruptive, disjointed, unconnected, random data points that scream (and I mean scream) for our attention. And we’ve become increasingly unhinged from the world we inhabit and the lives we want to lead.

We mourn, on the one hand, for oceans that are dying from too much plastic… and yet, we don’t hesitate to go out and buy all kinds of stuff packaged in plastic that never gets recycled. We bemoan our political fates, yet we don’t actually engage with the people or the process. We curse all sorts of forces around us, as though we have no control or influence… at a time when the average person has more control and influence than maybe ever in the past hundreds, even thousands, of years. The cognitive dissonance is deafening. And yet, we persist in making choices that go directly against our own best interests, even survival.

I’m not saying we need to each radically up-end our habits, and do away with every offending act and thought. It’s an idea, but it’s probably not all that sustainable.

What I am suggesting is that we just might be able to get more of a connection with our larger lives, by looking within our systems and better understanding how we — each and every one of us — functions at the cellular level. You can learn a lot from looking at the drawing of a synapse… especially if you really think about what you’re looking at.

The human race has always looked up for meaning. We’ve looked to the stars… to big-picture concepts… mythology… beliefs… religions… philosophies… storytelling in books as well as on the small and big screens… we’ve searched high and low for ways to make sense of our world. And now, since we have the equipment and the capability, we can also look within — literally — to find new clues from our cellular makeup about what it means to be us, what it means to be human… what it means to be here.

That’s ultimately what Beloved Distance is all about — looking at some very, very tiny stuff, to see if there’s any big meaning there.

I’ve found a lot of it.

You might, too.

“Beloved Distance” paperback is now available on Amazon

I just checked Amazon, and sure enough, Beloved Distance is now available for purchase there.

Beloved Distance listing on Amazon
Click the image to order “Beloved Distance” on Amazon

Just a reminder, the eBook will be available for download through the rest of today (Eastern Time).

As the rest of the world churns over last night’s political spectacles, I settle into my day and get ready to take care of business.

I wish you peace.

2.5 more days – Beloved Distance eBook available for free download

Deloved Distance CoverFree eBook Download Available till 31 January, 2018

Beloved Distance – The Separation That Connects Us to All

Click here to download a Free copy of the Beloved Distance eBook (ePub format – gratis till 31. January 2018)

After 1/31/18, Beloved Distance will be available for purchase in Kindle format and also in print.

Amazon ordering coming soon!

About Beloved Distance

We live in a world on fire.

Everywhere we turn, there’s discord, strife, violence. It feels like everything is falling apart, and the global suffering never seems to end.

What can we do?

Some say, we must eradicate separation and experience Unity, in order to step back from the brink of destruction. We must come together As One, and embrace a sense of universal connection.

The only problem is, separation is central to our human experience. We are separate beings, distinct from each other. And we constantly seek to distinguish ourselves from others, as part of our community-building work.

This book explores how we can embrace separation and distance as a vital part of our human lives. It asks us to look within – to the very structure of our cells – to find answers… and ultimately meaning… in the way we’re built, and the way we are built to connect.

Separation is what we are.

Connection is what we do.

Join this journey into the innermost workings of the amazing human body, and let it change your ideas about the outermost workings of the human species.

Get your copy now

 

 

 

 

The wait is over – Beloved Distance is now available for download and (print) order

Deloved Distance CoverNow Available

Beloved Distance – The Separation That Connects Us to All

Paperback 9×6″

168 Pages

$11.95 (+$2.99 s/h)

Printed on-demand, takes 5-10 days for delivery.

Order Your Print Copy on Amazon Now

Click here to buy in Kindle Format ($9.95)

ut Beloved Distance

We live in a world on fire.

Everywhere we turn, there’s discord, strife, violence. It feels like everything is falling apart, and the global suffering never seems to end.

What can we do?

Some say, we must eradicate separation and experience Unity, in order to step back from the brink of destruction. We must come together As One, and embrace a sense of universal connection.

The only problem is, separation is central to our human experience. We are separate beings, distinct from each other. And we constantly seek to distinguish ourselves from others, as part of our community-building work.

This book explores how we can embrace separation and distance as a vital part of our human lives. It asks us to look within – to the very structure of our cells – to find answers… and ultimately meaning… in the way we’re built, and the way we are built to connect.

Separation is what we are.

Connection is what we do.

Join this journey into the innermost workings of the amazing human body, and let it change your ideas about the outermost workings of the human species.

Get your copy now

 

 

 

 

Beloved Distance eBook is queued up for publication this coming week

Deloved Distance CoverThis weekend has turned out to be another full one (and I’m flying to Austin, next weekend, so there’s another weekend… consumed. So, I’m making the most of my time.

I’m still waiting for the print proof copies to show up (tho’ they might be waiting for me down at the garage, if FedEx showed up today – I’ll have to go check).

In the meantime, I’ve prepped the eBook version, and that is ready to go on Wednesday. I’ll be offering free copies of the eBook on publication day (Wednesday, January 17), as well as opening up to purchase.

Folks who want print copies will be able to order on Wednesday, as well. It’s just going to take a week or two for them to arrive, since the first print run has yet to go, and fulfillment takes time. But nonetheless, Beloved Distance will be available this coming Wednesday, January 17, 2018, as planned.

And once the production details are all settled and the book is in circulation, the in-depth discussions shall commence.

On it goes.

Ever onward.

P.S. If you’d like a review copy, please comment below. Specify print or digital. And if you’d like to chat about Beloved Distance on your radio show or podcast, feel free to reach out to me, as well. Would love to talk!

Proof copies have been ordered… now the wait

Deloved Distance CoverLast weekend was a full one. I’m still recovering from the marathon work session. Final edits all typed up, final formatting for the interior done, cover (shown) sorted, and now I wait for the proof copies to show up.

I’ve run six different versions, each with a different typeface. Yep, it’s that important to me. I want to choose the right font, and I also want to make sure all the images are as clear as possible. It’s challenging to tell from the soft copies, as well as from the interior approver app on CreateSpace, because the way something comes across digitally doesn’t ever match exactly how it will look in print.

That whole ink-on-paper thing… and never knowing exactly what quality the paper will be, or if the print job will be done to perfection… all that.

Yep, just have to run a bunch of copies and see what’s the best.

I’m currently in the process of sorting out the Kindle version. That should be ready to go by early next week.

For now, it’s all about wrapping up the loose ends — getting promotional materials together, perfecting the “elevator speech”, fixing the website(s), and getting ready to roll.

One step at a time. One step at a time.

On track to publish, a week from today.

Yes.

Why write? Why think? … Why not?

glowing light bulbI’ve always gotten in trouble for thinking the way I do.

Not necessarily for specific thoughts I’ve had, but the manner in which I think.

While some people think / philosophize / study in order to master a subject, establish their expertise, or carve out a corner of the intellectual landscape as their own, I think to explore.

Life is absolutely fascinating, and there’s so much to dig into… connecting the dots… seeing the correspondences… finding out what leads to what and what else is on the horizon.

Frankly, I’m more interested in asking interesting questions — with or without decent answers — than I am in reaching definitive conclusions. And that’s true, all across the board.

It gets me in trouble. It always has. And it’s probably not going to stop, anytime soon.

Some of my most dramatic troubles used to happen with a guy who’s now one of the up-and-coming stars of American philosophy. He’s published a number of books and a bunch of papers, and he was invited as a guest lecturer at a British university not so long ago. He’s apparently a pretty big deal in certain circles, and I’m really happy for him. The last time I saw him was about 10 years ago, and he was amiable — a lot more amiable than I was expecting, actually.

See, he and I used to really go ’round. Our families were connected, and we ended up in each others’ orbits repeatedly. On good days, we had some amazing discussions. We could talk about just about anything, and when we were on the same wavelength, our exchanges were some of the most invigorating I can ever remember having.

On the other hand, if we were out of sync, he had a bad habit of attacking me. He’d get really intellectually aggressive, pressing me on points, not giving me much room to think… even physically attacking me on several occasions.

Of course we were something like 8 or 9 years old, at the time.

Back in the day, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal when we kids scuffled.  I often tussled with other kids — from the neighborhood or my own family. It was just one of those things we did. But the scuffling that happened with my philosophical compadre was… different. It didn’t seem to happen just because he wanted to horse around. It felt more like it was a direct physical attempt to dominate me, to put me in my place, to establish superiority over me, when intellectual attempts fell flat. If my self-created rival (who I always thought of as a friend) couldn’t win his point with words — because he was arguing to win, whereas I was thinking out loud to explore, and there really was nothing to win — he’d use his larger size and heavier weight to overpower me.

Literally.

Supposedly, he nearly killed me, once… according to my mother. She said something about him trapping me in a closed space where I could have smothered? I have a faint recollection of that, but it was really just one in an extended series of attacks from him.

He’s famous, now. He’s got a wife and kids, and he’s all set. I’m happy for him.

I’m also happy I’ve gone my own way. Far from that counter-productive sort of exchange, where there have to be intellectual winners, there have to be losers, and anyone who doesn’t participate isn’t worth the breath of arguing with them.

To be honest, I don’t have much use for that approach. I understand how people can be into it. I understand the draw. I’m just not interested, myself. I’d much rather find a meaty problem and dig into it, exploring all the nooks and crannies, ruminating, marinating, celebrating the intricacies of life on earth. A wide open world where there are no absolutes doesn’t intimidate me. It invigorates me. I figure, I’ll find out in the end… or not. Either way, it’s just how life rolls.

And life should be free to roll. No necessarily in ways that flatten others without regard for their well-being (because that would impact my well-being in turn), but in ways that widen the world and expand our options. In ways that add meaning to life and flesh out our purpose, that shine a little more light into the corners of our experience that often go unnoticed or undervalued. We’re learning so much more about neuroanatomy, so much more about biochemistry, so much more about how our “wiring” works — that electrical / chemical network that helps make us who and what we are.

The whole point of thinking and writing and publishing, for me, is to expand. My mind is pretty open, but it could be even moreso.  My options are pretty extensive, but wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what else is out there? My understanding of life is finite and human, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow in all directions. There’s a whole lot else I’m interested in finding out, and thinking, writing, philosophizing, are just some of the ways I have at my disposal.

So, why not use whatever tools and resources I have available, to see what else is out there?

Why not?

“Perceiving at a Distance” – The Conference that kicked off Beloved Distance

stone building with archwaysBack in February, 2016, I was roaming around the web, looking for interesting subjects to read, study, explore. I was particularly interested in neuroscientific and philosophical topics, and I came across mention of a conference called “Perceiving at a Distance”, to be held in Antwerp, Belgium the following June. As I read through the Call for Papers, and I explored the (now defunct and re-absorbed into the forgetful vastness of cyberia) it occurred to me that I might write something on “the fundamental ubiquity of distality”.

Huh?

Well, why not? I’d been fascinated by the nearly impossibly small gap that separates each of the trillions of chemical synapses in our bodies and brains. And I’d been doing a ton of thinking about it. Noodling about it. Pondering it. Exploring the concept spatially and non-verbally, as well as in my own written notes. It had been some 3 years, since I’d clued into that, and I thought for sure I had something interesting to contribute to the conversation.

Namely, that as uncomfortable as it might make us, the basic nature of our existence is separateness. Everywhere you looked, everywhere you searched, you’d find distance — distality. On the outside. On the inside. It’s everywhere.

Yeah! The fundamentally ubiquitous distal nature of human existence.

What’s not to love?

So, I outlined a paper.

And I sketched it out.

And I filled in the gaps.

And the more I explored it, the more I realized was actually there. I was onto something, but I’d just begin to scratch the surface.

So, I kept reading. I kept writing. I kept thinking. June approached, along with the CFP deadline. June passed, along with the deadline, but by that time I was in too deep… in too far… and I still had a ways to go.

It’s a pity the materials from the conference aren’t still online. I think I have a soft copy of them somewhere. But there’s also New Directions in the Study of the Mind is a new research project at the Faculty of Philosophy in Cambridge, supported by the John Templeton Foundation. And as I recall, I spent a fair amount of time on that site, reading what they had to offer, so if you’re so inclined, you might want to pay them a visit, too.

Anyway, time passed. The book concepts developed. The ideas gelled. And now I’m less than six weeks away from publication of a book that sprang from that original thought — that distance is very much a part of who and what we are… and rather than it being a bad thing, it can actually be a very good thing.

I’ll be posting pre-order links for the book in the coming week or so. Watch this space, to reserve your own copy of Beloved Distance.

Coming in January.

Which is sooner than it seems.

Penultimate draft of Beloved Distance is DONE

Beloved Distance proof copy cover
Beloved Distance – coming in 2018

I just finished the next-to-last round of edits on this book. I started it in the beginning of 2016, which isn’t so terribly long ago. But it’s taken me a lot longer to finish than it probably should have.

It’s not a long book. Roughly 150 pages. With a pretty straightforward (albeit radical) premise:

We crave Unity and Connection, believing that Separation is an illusion.

The thing is, Separation and Distance are very much an in-built part of our lives, and we can’t reject them without rejecting our fundamental selves.

But if we look within at how our microscopic neurology handles separation we can learn some useful lessons on how to productively deal with Distance on a macroscopic scale.

Heady, perhaps. Yeah, that’s my thing. But it’s worth the effort in thought and consideration

Anyway, I’m pleased with how the book has wound up. The Conclusion is particularly satisfying for me. It just has a good feel. Complete. Wrapped up. Concluded — with an invitation for where we can go with this new understanding of ourselves.

Now I need to type up the handwritten edits, get the galley formatted properly, and forward review copies to my waiting readers (some of whom have been waiting patiently for months).

But first, lunch and a nap are in order.

And a shower 🙂