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Archive for June, 2012


even a thorough systems thinker like skinner still from time to time picked up the language of cause and effect. the question here is not whether he or descartes or newton or anyone else was right to do so. the question i’m raising is the question of whether cause and effect is a useful metaphor anymore. could we contemplate another metaphor like the buddhist concept of dependent origination (emptiness) which directs attention to whole systems rather than discretely identifiable parts? how do we want to describe the system now and in the future? the description is itself a creation not a discovery, a part of the emptiness that it is looking at. and how does the system look back at its own description?



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einstein showed us that as soon as we start to move, we start to slow down. taken to its extreme of course this means that if we move fast enough, we will stop completely. is this a recipe for nihilism? absolutely not. it is a recipe for letting go of our common sense prejudices about the way things should be and allowing ourselves to slip back into the river of life, to live again in the house of being.



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today i am very grateful for what my higher power has taught me over the past 5 years: that i am powerless over alcohol and that my life is unmanageable.



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over the past hundred years we have learned to reconsider the raw data of our sensory experience and recategorize it as something called spacetime. isn’t also spactime now then to re-name our bodyminds? for i have noticed that there is no difference between therapy and medication. every visit with every patient to discuss their medications becomes a spacetime to shape new behaviors, becomes indeed a therapeutic session.



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why did i become a doctor? i had this strange idea once that it would lead to something called happiness. what is that now anymore? also once upon a time i met a child whose mind filled me with fascination and joy. she wandered in and out of my life for a time and then was gone. i knew in that moment i wanted to spend my life helping children grow up healthy. i never saw her again.



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last night i dreamt that i was a suitor for the affections of a friend of my youth, a woman who i was once really in love with. in the dream, she ultimately rejected me, as she did in life, and married someone else. i left their wedding and returned alone to find that a storm had collapsed the roof of the hotel on my room and destroyed everything in it. the symbolism of the dream is fairly obvious, given both my life long dis-ease in matters of love, and my sister’s pending wedding next month. so what? there is a common misconception that behaviorists don’t notice symbols. on the contrary, we notice them. we just don’t think they represent anything particularly “special” or “causative.” we don’t think that by describing the events we have understood their causes. description is just the beginning of the analysis, not the end. it has been proposed that one of the active ingredients in behavioral therapy is the ability to accept what is and has been, to weep over the losses of one’s life, and move on. in this context, dreams do not point to the deeper causes of anything, though they may facilitate grief and discovery.



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what was:

words and sand
coast and ocean
a brazen brine smell
a licking wood fire
raw and open.

what you brought:

wave prayer and
a rock,
shell layer
upon layer
of saved up things.


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i dreamt a honeymoon of stars
beneath a convulsive sky that
we took to be our
guardian of eternal strife—
it failed us and our love grew
to a tune of overcoming, a song
of the impossible.

where is my love in the night?

where does she rest?
am i the last of my breed?
am i undone?

deaf ones i ask don’t
you know the fiddler of your morning feet,
your trumpet warrior, your

blazer of morning light?


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Consider this: when you stand up to cross the room to get your morning coffee, first you have to go half way, right? Continuing your journey, you then go half of the remaining distance, finding yourself now a quarter of the way to your destination. To continue, you then travel half of this quarter of the original distance, completing 7/8 of the trip (1/8 left to go). Thinking about it this way, one wonders how anyone ever gets anywhere, since you always have to travel half of the remaining distance to get anywhere, and then half of that and half of that and half of that. It seems as if to get where you want to go you have to travel over an infinite number of “half distances” thus leading to the perplexing conclusion that to get “anywhere” you have to travel “everywhere” which would, of course, take “forever.”

Such were the paradoxes considered by a group of ancient Greek philosophers 2500 years ago (the “Eleatic School”). One could choose to model this set of cultural habits by stating the following heuristic: “The most knowable is the most real.” Since based on our previous analysis, we cannot give a rational account of how to travel an infinite number of half distances in a finite amount of time, motion must therefore not be knowable and therefore not real. Welcome to the cave of the solipsist – the one who believes in nothing but her or his own existence. We’ve been practicing these habits for a long time. Practicing other habits is going to take some real effort.



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Zeno’s paradoxes raise the question of: if motion, then how stasis? Or if stasis, then how motion? Forcing us to choose between a set of dichotomous models, motion is abandoned (Zeno was a student of Parmenides). Later on the British Empiricists of the Enlightenment held up the other side of the paradox: embracing the perpetual motion of the senses and abandoning the stasis of reason as mere metaphysical mysticism. But the history of the 20th century can be written as the history of dialectical synthesis. For example, Einstein clearly demonstrated how both motion and stasis exist at the same time. We just have to drop the common sense “prejudices that we acquired by the age of 18.” Therefore, in “space-time,” objects simply move until they don’t. Everybody can do as they please until they hit the cosmic speed limit “c”….stasis and motion are synthesized at last….How cool is that?



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