perception

Broken sleep open mind

I haven’t had a lot of sleep the last few nights and it’s having a curious effect on my body and awareness. My senses seem dulled and strangely sensitive and I’m not sure why I am finding my piles of washing amusing. Noises and smells seem to move through me triggering cascading thoughts memories and ideas that seem impossible to guide or shape into anything coherent. I’m out of it but what is it that I am out of?

Had I taken something to get into this state I might be judged as irresponsible or reckless and warned against the dangers of messing with brain chemistry. We sanction the body and its uses in so many ways including what we are allowed to perceive through our physical and non-physical selves. The policing of consciousness, pleasure and desire is not always obvious and although we might know instinctively that there could be more to experience or want to learn more through experience, the fear of being ostracised, ridiculed, judged or excluded by others pulls us into line and so we publically agree ‘drugs are bad’ or if we want to take up a resisting position we must do it within the acceptable discourses available – such as legitimisation via scientific research or medicine.

I don’t know if I would recommend sleep deprivation, it’s pretty hard to sell. Maybe it could be a gateway phenomenon that leads to other natural highs like laughing lots or taking in a concert or potentially the most dangerous of both dance festivals! Oh what might the world come to if we danced all night outside in limestone sink holes to pumping music and glorious night skies.

Better stick to something safe and legal like alcohol.

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chasing rainbows

The USA is awash in colours today. The orange, white and blue of the stars and bars put aside for a moment for some to fly the rainbow flag as the Supreme Court delivered marriage equality. Not everyone will be celebrating and I’m sure within hours or even minutes the moral panic theories will be unleashed with all sorts of dire warnings of the slippery slope into legalised paedophelia, the marrying of animals or that children will now grow up deeply confused about the meaning of life, and possibly the human race will die out from lack of procreation…think we’re ok for now on that front. I welcome this kind of hysteria as it allows for the irrationality of fear to be exposed.

Here is the curious thing. We see a very small fraction of the light spectrum and assume that what is seen represents the world and what is real and true. So while the rainbow flag symbolises diversity it also reminds us that colour can be both definitive and illusory, unifying and dividing. And some might be on the same wavelength in one spectrum of life a small shift in frequency sends understanding into an invisible realm of the unknown. In the absence of visibility the invisible becomes mysterious and prone to darker shadowy uncertainty.

When flags are no longer needed to declare or announce a separation of people then love will open its doors to unseen realms. Let there be light.

Out Of Time

What is time to a fish? How do the seconds pass? If a fish was riding a bike would it notice the relative speed of the vehicles? Was I that fish on a bike today when caught in the headlights of a car at a roundabout that hadn’t been there a moment ago. The honking of a horn indicating the arrival of another stream of time and momentum. The jolt of awareness that signalled a dislocation in the fabric of collectively agreed rights of passage that I seemed to have disrupted or ruptured.

Speed, space, time, distance, colluding to segregate and define who can participate in the flow of life. If you become relocated in this and live somewhere in between there is unease and distrust – a disruption to the flow. The ability to be ‘present’ and ‘here’ ‘now’ communicating in ways that identify and signify we know where we are located defines intimacy. When people are tuned to a different frequency the ability to connect on an intimately personal level shifts and the signals we usually pick up become lost in the static hum of confusion.

Common functioning suggests we all must locate our consciousness and awareness and sense of who we are within a narrowly defined criteria. Those experiencing neurological diversity (ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorders – or – Alternative Sensory Downloads) and other forms of time/space re-location (alzheimer’s, amnesia, altered states of consciousness) highlight the pervasive normalisation of human functioning and fear associated with intentionally attempting to create those conditions – messing with mysterious interactions and perception we can have of reality.

Losing someone in time is hard. They can be physically present but elsewhere, they are not ‘around’ and the grief associated can be experienced in the same way as death. Let’s acknowledge this more instead of brushing over the obvious that they are carrying on regular metabolic functioning – AKA alive, and require people to be grateful for this experience. However my heart tells me love transcends the limits of 3rd dimensional space, we might never truly know how someone experiences the warmth of our caring but to quote Carl Sagan, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If you do see a fish on a bike, you just might want to check what is in your ‘special’ coffee. And just be a bit patient – no need to get into a flap about it and watch out for those red herrings aye.

Dressing Down

Well what about THAT DRESS if you missed it then clearly you are not on social media or have a healthy filter on what you see. The blue/black or white/gold debate revealed the curious way ‘how we see’ is a function or a combination of interpretation by the brain and physiological aspects such as photo receptors. The next thing circulating online to challenge perception was a bunch of skeletons on a giant screen hugging and kissing then revealing themselves as….humans! shock horror. The idea was to explore how genuine love is unconditional. The conditionality is mapped on by socially constructed expectations of ‘who is behind the screen’. But I’m not convinced it was all that clever or challenging, although it did manage to make my eyes leak.

Quite simply, we don’t walk around as skeletons – ok some people look skeletal – but our framework is universally human. The homo sapiens sapiens kitset pretty much all looks the same. But I think it would’ve been more interesting to have people with different limb combinations or implants, pacemakers replaced joints – like terminator only the lovinator…don’t know if that’ll catch on.

So while I respect the intent it kind of missed the mark – and perhaps missed the level of perception that is about filters other than visual. People seem quite comfortable accepting that our inability to perceive certain colours might be to do with structures in eyes and light and various other biological features, there is no ‘discrimination’ or injustice – it just is. But the layers of meaning that come with the coverings attached to our bones is not quite so simple. Because while our skeletons might be semi genderless and ethno-neutral each layer after that creates these which are then located in culturally constructed meanings of ‘difference’ blinding us from the simple truth that human beings have created these meanings – therefore we can uncreate them at any moment we wish to. Do we want to or care to? Well that very much depends on how the meaning of your human vessel you are currently renting has in the location in time, space, history, country, planet you live on. Certain containers located at these various locations have forms of privilege and power and are able to experience their identity as less ‘problematic’ or contentious.

Putting bodies behind screens for a warm fuzzy moment does plenty to push social media buttons but we need to be having conversations and thinking in ways that reveal these social constructions on a daily basis.

Quite frankly stick me in any coloured dress and I will just hope I am invisible. No bones about it.

Sink or Swim? It’s a current affair

It’s tragic. Another life lost in the waters off the coast of NZ, it’s almost a daily occurrence at the moment. Kiwis have an affinity with water that runs deep. It represents so much of our identity as a nation. It feeds us, we play in it, compete on it and in it, enjoy it’s sounds and being an island nation, there is quite a lot of access to it. Do we respect it? Do we have a collective arrogance or sense of entitlement around our water ways?

The few times I have ditched my preferred agnostic spiritualist beliefs and fully embraced Jesus have been in the sea, usually the west coast. I’ve had a couple of ‘OMG I’m going to (or someone I know is going to) die – moments’. Panic is perhaps one of the biggest risk factors, that and a lack of ability and competency in the water. Personally, I believe we have a tendency to confuse water ‘confidence’ with ‘competence’. I think being a ‘strong swimmer’ is a very lose definition that can range from ‘I can doggy paddle across a pool so long as I can touch the bottom’ to ‘I can swim a couple of km while carrying a sack of bricks’.

But what about the organisations charged with providing the information to help people understand the risks? Well I checked out the Water Safety New Zealand site and I have to say it’s a bit wet. The Water safety code gives 4 guidelines that are in my opinion pretty weak and non specific.

1: Be prepared – simply learn to swim, survive, set rules, use correct equipment and know conditions
2: Look after yourself and others – play ‘close’ attention to children, swim with others and between flags if patrolled. We could do better NZ supervising children in the water.
3: Be aware of dangers – enter water feet first and obey signs, don’t swim if drinking alcohol– that’s it?
4: Know your limits – probably the most subjective and problematic guideline

So what is it exactly that people just don’t ‘get’? Well I have a hunch that many people rarely consider the hydrodynamics (beyond rips) of water to be lethal. A lot of the worry and fear about swimming in the sea is about sharks or sting rays, when realistically the chances of death by shark pale in comparison to drowning. We should just break water safety down into pure science. Here are my personal choices for addition info:

1Litre of water weighs a Kg (roughly…there are a few variables to consider). Extrapolate that to 1cubic meter we get 1000kg or a metric tonne. So when water moves it has momentum – mass x velocity. I think Tsunami are perhaps the best example of the concept of inertia to devastating effect. I’ve struggled to keep my footing in water below my knees at Piha, and I am not lacking mass, imagine how a small body would fare. Now if you are struggling to visualise that you could think of the ocean as a sea of vehicles. Some have heavy traffic-heavy trucks for example, some light-cars, motorbikes, some just bikes and skate boards. If you heard someone telling kids to go play in front of the trucks or on the train tracks, I’d hope most people would find a way to politely suggest it isn’t safe. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to tell from just looking.

Then there is the density of water. There is a curious thing about water, when it is full of bubbles (aerated) it loses it’s ability to keep things afloat like bodies. So when the surf is pumping and there is lots of white water – it is bubbles and so you sink due to the temporary lower density! Those not wearing a wetsuit or using a board of some kind will definitely find themselves struggling to keep on the surface. This little piece of info is sorely lacking and probably explains why those who are generally ‘strong swimmers’ come to grief especially if alcohol is added in.

Alcohol and swimming do not mix at all. But I need to put my hand up and say ‘I’ve done it’. Aside from the decision making impairment, alcohol does interesting things to blood, but specifically it reduces its ability to carry oxygen efficiently. This is kind of important if you need to do some serious swimming.

More explicit information needs to be available in many languages…including drunken westie. Ok enough making waves for today.

Being kept in the dark can be illuminating

I am an amateur astronomer – emphasis on amateur. I do own a telescope and make use of it on clear nights. We have spectacular views of the celestial treasures in fact they are ranked as some of the best in the world.

Many people assume that viewing a full moon through a telescope would be the ultimate. However with so much light being cast over it’s surface, the effect is to lose some of the more interesting effects of shadow which often allow other features to stand out. When searching for positive metaphors in life we often find them associated with light, illumination, shining, radiance…you get the idea. Darkness doesn’t get such a spin, and yet could be one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood concepts because of its relationship with light in polarity.

We don’t like talking about darkness or are at best limited in the ways we value what the absence of light can bring forward. In fact we over do light with most things, trying to shed more light, find the light at the end of the tunnel…etc. What if we were just to be in the blackness a moment? Our eyes are remarkable, and adjust to varying degrees of light unconsciously. At very low levels of light the eye manufactures a pigment called rhodopsin that heightens the sensitivity of the retina. It takes 20-25 minutes but the effect is to allow your eye to pick up faint light. Another peculiarity with the eye is the distribution of photosensitive nerves. The majority of colour sensitive cells – cones are in the centre of the retina. Rods are distributed away from the centre of the retina and are sensitive to all visible light – and as such lower levels of light. What this means is if trying to distinguish a faint object, not looking directly at it improves your ability to ‘see it’ as the eye activates more rods. When you get good at this technique it is amazing what you can see.

I’d like to see the absence of light explored more. We could ask questions and be more curious about what we might be missing when we stay with what is most visible, bright, that draws our attention immediately. My sense is we are flooding our experience of life with ‘lightness’ without questioning what this could be obscuring or devaluing. One outcome of this I think is our current obsession with happiness, positive thinking, and general discomfort of expressions of sadness, frustration, anger and resentment. When I think about the most significant learning or turning points in my life they have almost always come from being immersed in darkness. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or enjoyable at the time but the time mattered. Like the iris opening – parts of our awareness, consciousness and spirituality emerge and develop strength through exposure to ‘darkness.’ I’m not a big fan of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ but perhaps we have become too protective around life experiences where the outcomes might be less than pleasant but not necessarily life threatening.

Not all darkness means the presence of a black hole – with all the emotional gravity this implies. Perhaps we have an opportunity to rework another cosmic phenomenon. Lets go with astronomy again! Black holes invoke a sense of annihilation, being so powerful that light cannot escape. But at the event horizon remarkable, strange and incredible things happen to light – blasts of X-rays, gravitational lensing, it’s awesome!

You don’t need to know anything about the night sky to enjoy gazing up and wondering. If you need inspiration – check out this:

Sometimes I’d rather be kept in the dark. I’m all-light with that.