On the Work of Love

When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves.

True love is unconditional, but to truly flourish it requires an ongoing commitment to constructive struggle and change.

-bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

The Self, the Mind, Time, the Brain and Reality

The question is, what precisely makes something what it is; and what makes it the same thing with the passage of time?

Phenomenal consciousness is about the temporal “depth” of the present moment. The subjective “now” is, paradoxically, extended in time: it is “temporally thick.” We experience it not as an infinitely thin sliver of time but as a moment in which times present, past and future overlap. We travel through life as if in a “time ship,” which “has a prow and stern and room inside for us to move around.”

There is no clear dividing line in the brain between inner imaginings and perceptions of the real, solid “world out there.” Reality and fantasy are built into the same neural circuits.

It takes roughly seven billion billion billion atoms to build a 70kg human being. Adjust this figure according to your weight. The bulk of you (93 percent) is made up of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, with nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus atoms accounting for most of the remaining 7 percent of your mass. Hydrogen has been around since the Big Bang, but the other elements are spewed out from the fusion factories of dying stars.

Neuropsychology is the study of the relation between brain and mind. We know what the brain is. It’s an organ located in the head. But what is the mind?

What Is Magic?

What is magic? There is the wizards’ explanation, which comes in two forms, depending on the age of the wizard. Older wizards talk about candles, circles, planets, stars, bananas, chants, runes, and the importance of having at least four good meals every day. Younger wizards, particularly the pale ones who spend most of their time in the High Energy Magic building,* chatter at length about fluxes in the morphic nature of the universe, the essentially impermanent quality of even the most apparently rigid time-space framework, the implausibility of reality, and so on: what this means is that they have got hold of something hot and are gabbling the physics as they go along…

What is magic? Then there is the witches’ explanation, which comes in two forms, depending on the age of the witch. Older witches hardly put words to it at all, but may suspect in their hearts that the universe really doesn’t know what the hell is going on and consists of a zillion trillion billion possibilities, and could become any one of them if a trained mind rigid with quantum certainty was inserted in the crack and twisted; that, if you really had to make someone’s hat explode, all you needed to do was twist into that universe where a large number of hat molecules all decide at the same time to bounce off in different directions. Younger witches, on the other hand, talk about it all the time and believe it involves crystals, mystic forces, and dancing about without yer drawers on. Everyone may be right, all at the same time. That’s the thing about quantum.

Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies