Loose Change

‘Intelligence’ and our Future

Posted in Musings by Neeraj on 07/23/2010

I was standing at the window listening to the rain as it fell on the tarp of the garage below. The trees swayed gently in the slight breeze and the sweet smell of newly-moistened soil wafted up through the damp air. It was hard not to think of how beautiful the Earth was.

That reminded me — I was watching an old Russian science-fiction movie called Solaris last night and I remembered a scene in the movie where the scientists, aboard a research station on a distant planet, hang strips of paper on the air-conditioning vents because the rustling of the paper reminded them of leaves rustling in the wind back on Earth. It’s funny how much we don’t appreciate the things that we take so much for granted. Looking at all the bits and pieces of plastic and rubbish strewn about below the window where I stood, only served to reinforce the thought. We are a remarkably gifted and, at the same time, a surprisingly obtuse species.
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Perhaps it has to do with the way our brains have evolved. We can think intuitively only on a local or a small scale, and even then we are mostly apathetic about things that don’t directly concern us or our immediate circle of loved ones. For instance, how many of us can conceive of a light year in the same way as we can think of a yard? How many of us can think of a million years the same way as of a lifetime? How many of us can think about the environment in the same way as we think of our home? It seems that our brains are just not built to function on grandiose scales. This makes sense because all through evolution, we have been struggling with problems that are limited in scope: how to jump to the next branch, where to find the best prey, when to plant the crops, how to fight the neighboring tribe, how to woo the girl next door — all local problems that we have solved with great aplomb. The only problem is that the problems that we now face — war, pollution, disease etc — are ones that cannot be solved (or even understood) at local scales. It’s as if mankind’s growth has been very unidimensional, very unbalanced. We have learned enough to make changes at a planetary scale but we have not learned what those changes imply. It’s as if we’ve learned how to shoot a gun but we don’t know what putting a bullet in someone will do. How do we make the transition from a parochial to a global outlook? Do we even have the time to make it?

Judging from the past, I think that given sufficient time, humanity can make this transition. One good reason is that intelligence is bootstrapping by nature. For instance, why are we the only intelligent (in the everyday sense of the word) species in the world? So many animals and insects have lifetimes that are a fraction of ours. One human generation could see thousand upon thousands of insect generations. They’ve had so many more chances to make that quantum  leap to sentience. Why didn’t they? The simple answer is that they didn’t need to. Given an environment, evolution only strives for reproductive success. It does not measure ‘progress’ or ‘advancement’ in human terms. But if humans were not gifted with a special environment withheld from other organisms, why were we the only species to make the jump? The answer lies in what intelligence enables us to do. It allows us to change our environment, in turn presenting us with new problems to solve: a powerful incentive for further cerebral development. So, intelligence begets intelligence.

This is the path that we have followed, and we are now standing at a critical crossroads in our evolutionary journey. The problems that we now face may be a blessing in disguise — our chance to progress to the next level of consciousness, to a more sublime level of intelligence, a deeper understanding of our place. The commensurate trade-off could be that we may not have as much time to crack this particular nut as we had to tackle problems in the past. Will we make the right choices? Only time will tell…

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Quotes to Live by – Osho

Posted in Musings, Osho, Spirituality by Neeraj on 06/02/2010

Here are some of Osho’s quotes I’ve come across when reading his various books. Some of these make sense at the first glance; others need a great deal of thought in order to to be truly appreciated. However, all are equally meaningful and equally profound — even when stripped of the context they were found in. And, all are equally relevant to our daily lives.

Every time I read one of these quotes, it gives me a deeper appreciation of existence. May they enrich your life too…

P.S. I’ve put in my own commentary in brackets.

Sannyas

Never commit the same mistake again and again, that’s true—invent new mistakes every day. Be creative. Risk in new ways. And that’s what sannyas is all about: to be risky, to live dangerously, to live without security and safety. To be tremendously in love with life is what sannyas is.

Resolution means totality, commitment, involvement, a quantum leap into something, into something which is not yet clearly known. Taking a risk is resolution. But the mind is a coward. It avoids risks; it seeks security, safety. Resolution is one of the ways to go beyond misery, schizophrenia.

We have been taught to condemn ourselves; we have been taught that we are worthless. We have been told in a thousand and one ways that we are dirt and that has become part of our conditioning. The first step in sannyas is: Respect yourself, because if you don’t respect yourself you cannot respect anybody else in the world. Not even God can be respected, because even God comes number two. Love yourself. If you can’t love yourself you cannot love anybody else.

[Sannyas is not wearing maroon robes, or clutching rosary beads. Sannyas is not dancing in public or doing Kundalini meditation. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that these are not part of it. Yes they are, but only as tools. Sannyas is an attitude. It is not defined by external appearance or external actions. It is much more subtle. I believe this is one reason why Osho said he identified most with Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu was so unassuming a person, with such a mundane and commonplace appearance, that 99.99% of humanity would miss his spark, his true beauty. Only someone equally special could spot his treasure — communion can only be among equals; everything else is dialogue. Sannyas is equally intangible. Only if you are very observant, very aware, and willing to go beyond external appearances can you identify a true sannyasin. And once you have this ability, you can also be one. But you must be willing to let go of your beliefs and conditioning in order to grow anew. Sannyas is not for the complacent or weak of heart. It is as much a destructive act as it is a constructive one, and it is always an irreversible process.]

Life

Life itself is rooted in freedom. We are not machines, we are not preprogramed. We are utter (more…)