Relay: The Divided Brain

I felt compelled to break into the normal Blogging Borgmann schedule to share this wonderful video from the RSA (who puts on some amazing talks and sometimes has them animated in creative ways). It communicates a new perspective (from psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist) on the meaning of the left/right hemisphere division in the brain. As someone who is slowly recovering in life from the left-brain myopia McGilchrist describes, while trying to retain a (more integrated) view of what my intense focus and categorization of reality have to offer, I found this video very resonant.

In particular, I hope ideas like this allow for greater freedom for the right-brained people who tend to get lost or squashed in the system as it has historically evolved. And I hope that recovering left-brain myopians like myself can recognize the beauty and life available outside of our frameworks, especially when it comes to the people who just don’t make sense to us. But enough of me; watch the video, and let me know your reactions!

Things That Are True

As I noted in my Greece / Prague travelogue, I kept a list on my recent trip to Europe, which I named “Things That Are True”. Disappointingly, the content of the list had little to do with philosophical truths or anything which would be of interest to your average human; instead, this was a list of things that were true mostly concerning myself (with the occasional random observation). It was a special list more because of the concise nature of the statements, the self-perception achieved, and the relatively high degree of honesty. So what follows is a very incomplete but nonetheless good summary of, actually, my identity as it currently stands, phrased in terms of struggles, loves, hopes, observations, and more.

Here it is, exactly as I wrote it out over the 10-day adventure (any editorial additions or comments will be italicized and in brackets):

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Inspiration from Game Design

The list of bloggable topics on my mind is currently very long, and (I am thinking) very good. Prominent on said list are (a) a long discourse on spiritual discipline and its effects, and (b) an explication of a home-brewed, possibly-heretical theology of creation that Nick and I have been kicking around for a little while and are pretty enchanted by, which seeks to resolve intuitions of a good pre-fall state with what evolutionary history says about nature being “red in tooth and claw”–i.e., vicious and cruel–long before humans arrived on the scene. However, something I saw last night on digg inspired me to push these topics yet further back, and that was a demo for an upcoming game by Maxis (creators of all the Sim games–of which the early SimCity and SimCity 2000 were the most groundbreaking, in my opinion–incidentally, you can play SimCity Classic online here if you have a PC).

Now, I want to preface this whole entry with a bit of history, since to many of you it may come as a shock that for most of my life I have considered myself and been considered by others a “gamer”. If you want to skip the history and get to the point, scroll down to “The Reason for this Entry” below.

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New World Record

Some people I know have world records in sports, and what have you, but I have just today earned the assuredly-awesome distinction of being the first Standpoint user to reach 1000 beliefs. What is Standpoint? Standpoint is an online community started by my friends Justin and Gentry, which I’ve been having a lot of fun with recently, and have been able to help along in some small ways.

Basically, Standpoint is an online community organized around formulations of, and reasons given for, beliefs. The basic unit of Standpoint is a “claim”, or a proposition, towards which you can take a few attitudes, including belief, consideration, or “disbelief” (which is more complicated). You can create your own claims, believe ones others created, disagree with people, and in general try to have discussions using very short, disjointed, and atomic sentences. At least that’s the idea–in practice, people aren’t very good at keeping things short, atomic, or well-formed, so it gets interesting (and at times frustrating to the logician-philosopher inside me).

Anyway, I thought that making it to 1000 beliefs was a fun landmark in the short existence of Standpoint–if you want to check my profile out, go to jlipps.standpoint.com. Please do sign up, play around, add your beliefs and reasons, ask to be my friend, etc! Some new features should also be rolling out soon that will greatly enhance the Standpoint experience.

Recreation is Difficult

Since it’s the title of this weblog, one might guess that I am good at (or otherwise enjoy) recreation. However, I’m experiencing some problems with it. I’ve just returned from a community dinner up on Skyline (where it snowed briefly for the first time in my six years in this part of the Bay Area!), and have a few hours to spend doing something. My problem is, there are a lot of options. Here’s what I’ve thought about doing so far:

  • Read Reality by McGrath
  • Work on a song / play guitar
  • Play Half-Life 2 on my newly reconstructed PC
  • Go next door and watch the Olympics
  • Watch a movie
  • Sleep early
  • Clean up / organize my bedroom
  • Work on my constructed language Enaselvai
  • Keep working on my modern Greek lessons (in preparation for trip to Athens)
  • Write overdue e-mails
  • Taxes
  • Put my new budget into Quicken
  • Drink alcohol
  • Get my old reconstruction of English letters out and re-learn it so I can write in “code” again
  • Write a weblog entry on the relationship between physical and spiritual training
  • Test the current e4 client
  • Get my piano (keyboard) out and play beautiful droning melodies until I am lulled to sleep
  • Listen to the new Paste sampler

…and I could keep going. You can see I have literally dozens of options. Unfortunately, I’ve sat here in front of my computer for over 30 minutes just thinking about what to do–and so drain the sands from the hourglass of opportunity. All of these possibilities range from work-related to completely fun/useless, from productive to escapist, but I’m finding it impossible to settle on one thing. Maybe it’s the pain of not being able to do others that keeps me from doing one? I’m not sure. Anyway, I thought that while I was sitting here experiencing that pain I might as well chronicle it, so that the absurdity will be made known to the world.

Well, it looks like salvation has come in the form of a phone call–turns out ski jumping is on the Olympics now, and I’ve been saying all week how I want to watch it, so my choice has been made. But we can make this entry fun yet–out of the list of options I listed, which one would you have picked? Don’t be shy now!

Life in the Ocean

Some random experiences from a few days in the Bahamas (from which I am now in the process of returning) spawned this poem, which spilled edit-free from my pen yesterday:

Shapes in clear water when moving
are blurred and the fuzz provides fear
For unknown says death's always seeking
and will in the end become near

So sun and life soon are forgotten
if only for a space of seconds
Heart and mind illusion-smitten
propel the soul back to the sands

From the shore heartbeats are slower
Embarrassment looks like the heat of the day
The water is clear, it seems fear need not tower
O'er a reckless rejoining the fray

But horizon reveals, dark symbols appear
Omens or fins? both blacker than sky
Recklessness checked, the imagined is here
It seems a more rational soul would have died

The King And His Castle (A Parable)

Once upon a time, there was a king who lived in a castle in the mountains. The king loved his castle more than anything else in the world, and all the people who lived there took pride in it as well. Not only did it provide protection against enemies and a sense of shared identity for those within its walls, it was quite possibly the most majestic castle ever constructed. On a clear day, the sight of the castle’s sparkling, sun-dazzled walls and its boldly colored turrets was wonderful to behold, and the sound of its many pennants snapping joyfully in the brisk wind was prone to making people’s hearts beat faster. The king loved his castle for all of these reasons, but more still because its splendor was such a far cry from the squalor of the mountain village he had inherited. The king and his people had been an unimportant and crude tribe not so long ago, but through his rule and because of his wisdom, a beautiful castle with bustling markets and many artisans was his people’s legacy.

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Adventures In “Consumed” Mode

For the last three nights, I stayed up till an average hour of 5am…working. In fact, working on the finishing touches for the site design which, unless you’re reading this in an RSS reader, is now before your eyes. So you’d better like it. Anyway, the reason this is somewhat noteworthy is that there’s no technical reason I had to do this. Well, a while back I decided to switch servers, which is about a week-long process, and so I set myself the goal of going live with the new design on the day that I’d have to cancel billing for the old server, namely yesterday. It was a somewhat arbitrary goal, but one I knew I would probably need if I was ever going to get stuff done.

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iPod Culture and the Weight of Consumerism

Since around October, the relentless marketing machine at Apple had been hammering away at the (admittedly thin) walls of my financial restraint such that, a few weeks after Christmas, I decided I absolutely needed a new iPod–a video one. My then-current 60gb iPod, with a color screen and the ability to show photo slideshows just wouldn’t cut it anymore. So when I got back to California, I began once again a charming love-hate relationship with craigslist SF. You see, however much I knew I needed the $399 video iPod, I knew that I should be able to get it cheaper. A few days of monitoring craigslist via keyword RSS confirmed this, and I was flooded with ads for new-in-box video iPods, all between $300 and $380. Of course, a large portion of these are scams, and a larger portion are sold within 25 minutes of being posted (supply of unopened and unwanted iPods was high because of recent gift-exchange-based holidays having occurred, so the prices were pushed very low). Nevertheless, a few days and many failed deal attempts later, I found someone willing to meet me somewhere in the east bay to trade a still-shrinkwrapped 60gb video and agent18 case for a price which, when all was said and done, would save me about $100.

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Quantum Community

In physics, there is what is known as the “wave-particle duality” of photons. Sometimes, light behaves like a particle, and sometimes it behaves like a wave. It seems occasionally to simultaneously follow the rules for particles and waves! This confounds physicists (and me).

Recently, I have become aware that community is much like this. One might think that a community is just an aggregate of particles (individuals), and so it should behave like an aggregate of individuals. Another might think that a community is like a wave–it behaves like a single extended entity. These people will treat community differently; the first person will place ultimate foundation in each individual, and will argue that their motions (i.e., the influence of God’s will in their life, and their response) qua individuals define the epiphenomenal motions of the community at large. Those of the wave persuasion will argue conversely that God directs the community as a whole according to his will, and the motions of individual members follow like crests and troughs in a wave–all very connected.

It is hard to know within which paradigm I should be viewing community right now. Are we fundamentally separated, and therefore at the end of the day we must discern our calling from God as pertaining to ourselves alone? Or are we fundamentally connected, and must therefore all collectively submit our motions to the movement of the larger group?

Right now, it seems appropriate to view the motions of some as following the particle paradigm, and others as following the wave paradigm. Are we therefore separate entities (i.e., in separate communities)? Or are we exhibiting the true essence of community and just failing to describe it in classical sociological terms, exactly the same as physicists failed to describe quantum phenomena using Newtonian language?

We have been gathering data for a while now, but I think we still need some more. Anyone else have any data worth sharing?