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#5024 - Sat/Sun September 14/15, 2013 - Editor: Dustin LindenSmith

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  • dustin999
    #5024 - Sat/Sun September 14/15, 2013 - Editor: Dustin LindenSmith The Nonduality Highlights ò http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/ Dear readers, I
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15, 2013
      #5024 - Sat/Sun September 14/15, 2013 - Editor: Dustin LindenSmith

      The Nonduality Highlights • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/

      Dear readers, I hope you'll indulge me in letting me share with you three things that don't actually come from previous issues of the Nonduality Highlights. (Now you know the truth about those "Highlights of the Highlights" issues -- they were just a foray for me to become a regular editor of the Highlights instead...)

      My first submission is a short video of the UK comedian and actor Russell Brand. He made viral video news earlier this year when he took two Fox News interviewers to task on air about how poorly they were conducting their interview of him in that moment. This video is quite different, however. This address by Brand takes place at a David Lynch-organized conference on Transcendental Meditation in the US, and in the talk, he discusses the self-realization he experienced himself after undertaking TM practice:


      At around the 1:30 mark of that video, Brand dispenses with his introductory remarks and discusses the initial insights he developed after becoming literally rich and famous. He had originally believed that more money and fame and all the delicious accoutrements that his enthusiastically drug-fueled life provided to him would also bring about a state of real satisfaction. With perfect comic timing, he says to his audience, "They did, a BIT... initially..."

      He goes on to describe what happened to him after he began practicing TM in earnest.  He found he could immediately access a deeper state of happiness, one that was very profound and absolute.  In his own words, he says:

      What it felt to me was like the dissolution of my idea of myself. I felt like "separateness" evaporated. I felt this tremendous sense of oneness. I'm quite an erratic thinker, an adrenalized person, but through meditation, I felt this absolute, this sort of beautiful serenity, and selfless connection… And that tendency I had towards selfishness, I felt that to be kind of exposed as a superficial and pointless perspective to have. I felt a constant sense of absolute love towards all of us.

      Isn't that sort of lovely? I genuinely appreciate it when people as famous and mainstream as Russell Brand make an effort to spread that kind of message, I really do. It's not entirely common for a celebrity to acknowledge publicly that their personal tendency towards selfishness is actually a superficial and pointless perspective to have.

      My second piece comes from a recent episode of the WNYC Radiolab podcast called Blame. In this show, the producers delve deeply into whether or not it makes sense for our legal system to assess blame and accountability the way that they do. They use an interesting case study of an individual who has a specific neurological condition after brain surgery which precipitated his committing a disturbing crime for which he was incarcerated, but for which a cogent and persuasive argument could be made that he was not "willfully responsible" for his actions in any meaningful way.


      What struck me the most about this documentary was a short interview with neuroscientist David Eagleman, who at first glance you might think would be sympathetic to this idea that faulty wiring in the brain could cause unintentional, criminal behaviour. But he thinks the very question is wrongheaded. Right now, he says that brain imaging technology is very crude, and trying to meaningfully identify brain abnormalities is like trying to map an area of the Earth in detail from space. It's simply not precise enough. And so the field of "Neurolaw" isn't really "there" yet. However, he can envision a time in the future when brain imaging gets so accurate that you'll be able to identify a tangled little ball of ganglia and say that it comes from their mom not loving them enough when they were 8, and maybe we'll be able to determine to a sophisticated level of detail the neurological mechanism by which a crime was committed, as an example. But listen to what he then says about this whole premise:

      "You ARE your biology. Now Descartes famously suggested that you've got your body (the physical stuff), and then you've got this extra bit, this soul, this ghost in the machine... But the inside word on that in neuroscience is that's a big no-no... It's all the same thing."

      Now we're actually able to SEE that with our imaging technology, we're on a slippery slope. Says the show's host: "Because if you start letting them off the hook now because of a tumour, well then you're going to have to keep letting them off later when you find something smaller. And smaller." Eagleman continues:

      The point is, it cannot be a just legal system that in one decade says, "You're blameworthy (because at the moment, we can't see anything in your brain), and then in the next decade say, "Oh okay, you have... Schmedley's Disease, and we didn't realize it before, so now we're lumping you over here with the people with the brain tumours and you're off the hook. Blameworthiness is the wrong question for a legal system to ask. Because this whole notion doesn't make sense of saying, "Okay, if we have a biological mitigator, then we'll bring that up in court and we'll say 'Well, it's not exactly his fault," and if we don't have a biological mitigator we'll say it IS his fault. The reason none of this makes sense is because asking whether it was the person's fault or if it was his biology doesn't make sense as a question! They are inseparable. There isn't a 'you' and then 'your brain.' You ARE your brain. It's all one system.

      When challenged on this point by the host who posed a hypothetical question about choosing between two different things to eat, Eagleman continues:  "Who is the 'you' that your brain is supposedly helping [when you make that decision] ?"

      "The owner of the brain," replies the host.

      "And that's separate from the brain? Do you 'own' your brain?"

      Eagleman goes on to say that no, there is no separate 'owner' of the brain, and there is no separation between the two.  From a neuroscientific perspective, you and your brain are one single biological system and they cannot be thought of meaningfully as two separate things.

      The nondual implications of that seem striking to me.

      My last offering for you features anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, who has put forward a new theory for the origin of consciousness; namely, that consciousness does not arise from a set of computational processes in our brains, but rather from a quantum event:


      As with many of these progressively-deeper looks into the neuroscience of mind, I tend to find them a bit retrospective or at least overly mechanical in nature for their own sake; it seems like they all think it's inherently meaningful to describe the operational mechanics of how consciousness arises in us after the fact. I'm not convinced that knowing how this arises in us gives us any meaningful new information that changes anything. 

      Having said that, I am profoundly unenlightened about what quantum mechanics even means, so who am I to judge the meaningfulness of the theory? There's probably something really important or useful to know in there that I just don't understand because I'm so simple. :)


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