Spacetime, healthcare debates, being cruel to children’s authors, and other pastimes

Here are just a few bullet point updates on what has had my attention over the last few days:

  • Most important has been a spiritual breakthrough that I want to write about in a more expanded form. I just don’t have time to do it justice right now. The short version, though, is that I realized that I don’t have a self. This has been very liberating. More later.
  • I’ve been working on research for my book on the Six Elements. Currently I’m on the Space element, and I’m doing some background reading on various theories of what space is. Loop Quantum Gravity is the most interesting theory. It suggests that space is quantized — that is, there are smallest units of space, just as there are smallest units of water. And just as there is no water between the molecules in water, there is no space between the smallest units of space. The smallest volume you can have is about 10-99cm3. In this theory, the whole of spacetime is one fabric, which is interesting in terms of interconnectedness.
  • I’ve also started reading about the "Extended Mind," which is a thesis in the psychology of mind that says that aspects of the external world are part of the mind. For example, when I consult a streetmap to find my way around a new city, that’s not substantially different from consulting an inner streetmap to find my way around a place I already know. Here’s a recent article that touches on the theory.  I’m thinking of other ways in which the mind is not confined within the brain, which reminds me that I really must read the copy of You Are Not Your Brain that is hidden in a pile in my office.
  • I’m most intrigued by the weirdly inaccurate information about healthcare that’s flying around, including Sarah Palin’s "death panel" statement. Of course Palin was for death panels before she was against them. So was Newt Gingrich.

    • It should be said that we already have death panels in the US — they work in for-profit health insurance companies and they decide whether on not we will get treatment.
    • And speaking of the evils of socialized healthcare, in Britain the healthcare system is so bad that 92% of people there rate the "socialized medicine" healthcare they receive as good or excellent,
    • and 93% of Britons agree or strongly agree that the National Health Service ("socialized medicine") should continue to be funded by taxes and be free at the point of use. It’s awful. Really, something should be done.
    • Of course in Britain we love our NHS death panels. We show them on our "socialized Television" (the BBC) as game shows. You can text in your vote to get  a handicapped baby or elderly person off the ward.
    • Meanwhile, in the more enlightened US, the financial newspaper Investor’s Business Daily highlights how bad it is over in Britain by pointing out that "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

      • Oh wait, Stephen Hawking is British.
      • And alive.
      • And says he’s that way because of the NHS ("I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS," Hawking told The Guardian. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived").
      • If Hawking had been born in the US I wonder which insurance company death panel would right now be taking the credit for having terminated his health care in order to safeguard the company profits and give their CEO a hefty bonus?
  • Whoops, got carried away. You can see my spiritual breakthrough hasn’t excised my ability to be cruel and sarcastic. Speaking of which…
  • I reviewed a children’s story book about meditation. I didn’t like it. The more I thought about the book the more I didn’t like it. I feel kind of bad criticizing a children’s author who is also a meditation teacher, but I think there are unhealthy elements in the book. I don’t think my review was either cruel or sarcastic (well, maybe a little sarcastic). A few people read the review over and thought it was accurate and fair. Let me know what you think by posting a comment on Wildmind.
  • A couple of Buddhist-inspired kids books my daughter and I love are Zen Shorts and Zen Ties, both by Jon J. Muth. Neither book teaches meditation, but both teach wisdom and compassion.
  • Lastly, I put together a playlist on iTunes of music I hadn’t listened to. I was astonished to find there were 958 tunes on the playlist, which would take 3.7 days of solid listening to get through. Actually, quite a bit of that music I had actually heard (sometimes a lot) but on other computers or on CDs. I’m now, a week later, down to a mere 410 songs on the playlist, which represents only 30 hours of music. I’m rating the music as I listen to it, and deleting anything with a one or two star rating. I’ve rediscovered some gems, and also saved a couple of gigabytes of memory by deleting stuff I didn’t like.

2 thoughts on “Spacetime, healthcare debates, being cruel to children’s authors, and other pastimes”

  1. Your points US on health care reform (and specifically Stephen Hawking, as an especially illustrative example) are spot on. I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed with my fellow countrymen as I’ve become during this national health care ‘debate’ that’s been piercing new territories of absurd narcissism with every passing day.

    Pertaining to your thoughts on ‘extended mind,’ I’m just finished a book called ‘Art and Agency,’ by Alfred Gell. You might find it interesting. He seats art and art-like activities in a similar fashion, as objects which produce a sort of extended mind effect by spreading the thoughts/beliefs/concepts/perspectives of the maker (or making society). Check it out if you get a moment.

    Anyhow, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on non-self. Any idea when your new book will be finished (no pressure, of course ;))?

    Keep up the sensible discourse, this country is in desperate need of it at the moment.

  2. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I’ve been thinking about the extended mind in another sense, too, which is the way that all of our perceptions, although they take place in the brain, are experienced “out there.” This is one of the things that first go me interested in Buddhism, when I was in my teens.

    As for deadlines — as it happens I have to hand the MS in on Dec 1, so that the book can come out for (I think) the following fall.

    All the best,

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