In the east, dull red tunnels lace the tiers of gray and black clouds: a dawn warning for sailors. But Moira is settled into the Musket Cove rookery and isn't going anywhere. The last of our New Caledonia coffee aromas temptingly on the dinette. The portholes are a cluster of gleaming rain gems, each a minuscule image of the cabin light on the blue-black background of the rainy sky and Sea.
The dinette is a tangle of wires, resistors, transistors, the dismantled intervalometer, and Olympus camera gear. I've finally got the timer working. The camera goes off with loud clack and I check my watch. Five minutes. Right on schedule. I adjust the trimmer for one minute intervals and reset my watch.
High overhead, black clouds ride the upper tissues of the great ocean of moving gasses and release their excessive water. Rain falls upon Moira, Sea, Malololailai, the trees....tons and tons of water. Uncountable, unthinkable numbers of raindrops.
My mind fills with an image of sunbeams on a sand bottom, prismatic dancing colors. This metamorphoses into a shimmering, prismatic dance of protoplasm within the amoeboid cells of corals. I open my equipment cabinet and check. OK, I've still got the microscope adaptor so I can get shots of coral cells. My microscope is ancient but it works.
My mind zooms back to catch a whole mass of cells moving in time lapse. Now cut back to show the next level of organization, the cells moving together as the tentacle of a coral. A nearly transparent tentacle. It looks justs like the sea water but prisms sunlight with the lens of coral mind.....
Yes, good. I write it down along with the needed photographic images of coral cells and tentacles.
Snap goes the camera. One minute exactly. I make a little index mark on the intervalometer and turn it all off.
Hmmm. Let's see. I'll need a 24-mm movie camera lens, reversed, to get only a few millimeters of a live coral tentacle so it fills the field of view of my Olympus. I'll attach a wire frame to aim it. Now, how to correct for the depth of field problem at that magnification? If I have a slice of light just on the focal plane, the rest of the image will be black. I need a slit strobe light. I'll mount a magnifying lens in front of the strobe to focus the light into a narrow point at the target area. Put a black mask (electrical tape?) onto the lens to let just a very narrow beam of strobe light hit the tentacle on a 90o plane to the camera exactly on the focal plane of the lens. That will produce, a nice sharp image of a transparent coral tentacle. Need to make a housing for the camera lens and modify my big camera housing.
"You got up early," Freddy emerges naked from the passageway leading aft.
"Ummm." I could transition from the coral cells to the tentacle by kaleidoscoping the image of the cells.
"What time did you get up?"
"Huh? Oh. Maybe 4? I couldn't sleep. My mind is filled with images and ideas."
"Grotttttyyy," She looks out the companionway from the ladder, her little round bottom seductively mooning me. "Looks like it's going to rain forever."
How do I film the elements of sea dancing in the sunlight? The mind boggles. "I wonder how many atoms are in a raindrop?"
"What? Is the coffee still warm?" She pours herself a cup but it's too cold so she makes a face and takes the whole pot away to reheat it.
"Lets assume there are twenty drops per gram. A molecule of water weighs something like 3 X 10-23 grams. So a gram of water has 3 X 1023 molecules of water. Each molecule has three atoms. That's 900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in a milliliter of water, 45,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in a raindrop."
"What are you talking about?" Freddy asks.
"I'm about 70% water and my other molecules are probably a little heavier than water. Lets assume my body is all water and I weigh about 67000 grams, 60,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms make up my body right now. Since I change most of them in four months, I bring some 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms into my body each second - on the average - and of course excrete the same."
"Are you OK?"
"Over a period of a lifetime - say 60 years - some 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms pass through the focus I call myself....."
"The mad scientist." She pours the reheated coffee and sits down. "So what does my crazy scientist want for breakfast?"
"I can't even imagine a way to film anything like that."
"Oh forget it. Scrambled eggs for brains."
"Sure, sweetheart, scrambled eggs are fine. The jump in levels from cells to multicellular animal, from individual animal to community, from community to ecosystem are all pretty easy to do. Maybe I could animate something somehow to get the jump from atoms to molecules."
"How would you like your scrambled eggs? Over your head OK?"
"Yeah, sure, fine. Someone once figured out if you enlarged a hydrogen atom to the size of the planet, the nucleus would be about the size of a small house where Earth's center is and the electron would be about the size of a football where the surface of the planet is. You can't even realistically animate a single atom, not to scale." Freddy does not seem hugely interested in all this and takes her coffee back to the galley to contemplate scrambling some eggs and dumping them over my head.
I... No, we. We take in untold billions of earth atoms and mold them into our forms.
We take untold billions of sensory perceptions and mold them into our visions of order and beauty and life.
We are within the surface layer of Planet Earth, raised up in a fantastic fandango of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, calcium and a pinch of other elements. We are elements of the planet, activated by sunlight, filtered by awareness, forming a perceptual system. We are a complex part of a still more complex information net: a web built on harmonic waves of behavior.
The key is in the vast numbers involved in all this. The ability of mind to catch differences in the billions and billions of events happening over a spectrum of infinitely variable intervals....
There is a limited number of patterns of behavior, and ginormous numbers of individuals and selections. Numbers are digital: one, two, three. Patterns are analogue: a spiral can be as small as a molecule or as big as a galaxy. The word analogue originally meant 'according to ratio.' It implies a comparison of different individual signals or objects and finding resemblance, similarities, classifications. Sensory metaphors. Today, computer engineers use the word analogue to mean a continuously varying signal as opposed to a discontinuous, on/off, digital one.
My body is composed of zillions of atoms. It is an analogue mix of about 80 kinds of atoms. My body is an analogue mass of trillions of individual cells of about 250 kinds. Quantity, mass, is analogue. You can have exactly 10 million atoms of water but never exactly one liter of completely pure water.
How the hell do I photograph concepts about digital versus analogue?
"Breakfast." The plate comes down hard on the dinette. I look up, startled. Freddy has her mad face on.
"Oh, sorry. Sorry. I, uh. Hey, looks great. What's happening today?" I begin eating the eggs. Freddy isn't talking. "What's wrong with you?"
"You act like I'm not even here," She still hasn't put on any clothes. "And the boat is a mess."
"I'm sorry." I look around. She's right. The camera and electronics still litter the dinette, shoved to one side to make room for the breakfast plates, coffee cups and coffee pot. Half a dozen books and untold scraps of paper clutter the settee. The gear cabinet is still open with assorted bits of electronics piled on the deck. My desk is a tangle of camera cases and strobe lights. My crap has somehow crept into the galley, too. As a matter of fact, I can feel a book and some wires under my toes. "I'm sorry."
"We have people coming for dinner tonight." She sips at her coffee, her hair all tangled from sleep. I can still see the sheet marks on her breasts.
"But Sunday is my day of planning and catching up on writing. We never have people over on Sunday."
"Today is Thursday." She laughs, "You should see your hair, the perfect wild scientist touch."
"It is?" I check my watch. It says Thursday. "You're right it is Thursday. I thought it was Sunday. I'll clean up right after breakfast, OK?"
"OK. So what's with the atoms with all the zeros?" Freddy asks in a provisionally better mood.
"I thought it was Sunday so I was working on the script for This Magic Sea. Trying to work out images for various aspects of it."
"You going to photograph atoms?"
"Don't laugh, it's been done. At least with big atoms like uranium. And you know what? They move. All by themselves, I mean. Move all around the place. Maybe I can get some of the footage.
But no, I'm not going to photograph atoms. There's something nagging me. Something about the pattern of huge numbers of individuals focused together to create the next layer of being. Something about singularities made from vast numbers of smaller singularities."
"Like all the crap on the dinette?" She quips.
"No, I mean making something orderly from a big chaotic mess, not the other way around. I see all these atoms coming together, moving into me from a huge portion of my environment," I demonstrate with my arms, "Once they enter my body, my mind choreographs a very exact dance of motion for each atom. When they are me, the atoms create something completely brand new and different."
"That's for sure," She grins. Big improvement.
"Yeah, but look at the overall pattern. I see the same pattern everywhere. Like myriad sensory inputs forming singular thoughts. Everywhere I see mind ordering vast numbers of entities into new planes of organization. I see this big vortex of entities funneling down from a broad area, sucked in, and," I clap my hands, "whack, a new singularity is formed. Once created, the new entity, exists for an interval, sucking in atoms, ordering them into very specific movements, and then ejecting them. I can see this as a funnel-shaped vortex spinning into the being and then fanning out of it again. It's hard to describe, harder still to photograph."
"What a thing to say over breakfast," Freddy shakes her head.
"Think of hydrogen atoms making stars... You have any idea how many atoms are in a star like our sun?"
"Oh my God, here he goes again."
"The mass of the sun is about 2 X 1033 grams. Its about 75% hydrogen and 24% helium. Since hydrogen is 16 times lighter than oxygen..."
"OK, Stop. Stop."
"Huh? Sorry. Every time I start to see the pattern I get pulled off into the details. Overwhelmed with facts. Anyway, the atoms come together from a vast area of interstellar space to create this gigantic sphere - the Sun - plus something brand new and different - radiation. Sunlight. Get it? The interaction of hydrogen atoms create light in darkness. Light is a brand new behavior created by the formation of a star. The interaction of huge, statistical, analogue quantities of entities creates new behavior. Populations interacting. I can't figure out how to film populations interacting to show what I mean."
"It's OK," She points to my eggs. "You'll get it."
I eat the eggs.
Sunlight and Sea sparkle through our cells
Cells dance to become our larger form
We are one acting as many
We are many acting as one.
This is really about digital/analogue/digital/analogue nesting of information.
It's also about singularities as a condition created by analogue fields of communication versus context as the digital selection and interpretation of the information/differences within/between the analogue fields of communication.
Style. Quality. Goodness. Context. These relate to mind selecting from the huge number of environmental events. Quality is concerned with skill in selecting. Context has to do with readiness - preset conditions in a being for the selection or rejection of an event.
A being is a concept. The original meaning of the word concept is to "take together". Context means to "weave together". The original meaning of the words hits the essence of the difference between them. Outside forces form the vortex of conditions leading to the formation of a concept, context is a network of forces inside the concept, maintaining its existence.....
"What, Ah Ha?" Freddy looks up, startled.
"Conditions of the environment form concepts. For instance, the relative movement and interaction of atoms forms a concept - a take together - called a star. Or a fish, or any being. Anything can be a concept. A concept is a singularity, a decision knot forming the network of communications." I weave my fork at her, like it is tracing threads in a big net, make little circles with it to show where singularities form knots.
"Context is the size and shape of the mesh in the communication net. It determines the size and shape of which environmental signals will catch in the net and create awareness. Context is a relationship between concepts, made by the interaction of many concepts. You can't make a net with just two knots.
"A concept is the form of the knot, and the form of an entity is actually its behavior in any specific context." Freddy starts to say something but I hold up my hand, my head tilted to the side listening hard.
"Wait, wait. I almost have it.... Context - weaving together - creates mind in a timed sequence of development. The behavior of concepts creating one level of context generates the signals for recognition in the next higher level of being." Freddy is looking confused.
"Hang on, I see it, I just have to figure out how to say it. A being, a concept, selects from the zillions of analogue sensory impressions captured in its perceptual net. The selection process creates context - a vast set of digital signals that weave together into a higher order anologue - meaningful story. The result is a continuous mental image where the parts have residual feedback relationships."
"Woa." Freddy tilts back her head and shakes it, "that's awesome, sweetheart."
"Come on, this is important. When the hydrogen atoms first came together, squeezed down to form our sun, something brand new, different, completely unexpected happened. Sunlight, the omnidirectional radiation from the solar fusion explosion, appeared. Think of this as new information, OK."
"OK." She sips her coffee and leans back.
"If the sun had no planets, the light would just go off into space. But when sunlight strikes the spinning planet in orbit around the sun it creates night and day. But night and day are meaningful, have context, only to the planet and things on it. There is no night and day from the standpoint of the sun."
"I know, it's always high noon on Sunday from the viewpoint of the Sun. And?" She yawns.
"The interaction of sunlight with the elements of the planet, and the alternate heating and cooling during night and day, created megazillions of combinations and recombination of Earth's elements. Each new combination created new information in the form of electromagnetic fields surrounding new kinds of molecules. In turn, this newly created information changed other molecules - acted upon them.
Eventually, the formation and reformation of a replicating nest of gigantic molecules created and recreated a whole new kind of information. We call the replicating molecule DNA and we call the nest of molecules, bacteria. We call the new kind of information produced by these nests of molecules mind.
"Mind is a new level of context, wholly different from any preexisting condition: like sunlight is wholly different from darkness. Mind is based on context recognition: an on/off digital perception/recognition/response match between between a recorded set of conditions and a perceived set of conditions."
"What? Jesus, what are you babbling about? Slow down. Think it through. You're not making sense."
"Yes I am!" I stop. Obviously I'm not communicating so she's right, I'm not making sense. "OK, I'm not."
"OK" She agrees.
Stepwise. "We go in layers. First layer. We have to start somewhere, so we start with me. I exist like I am now, OK?"
"Oh Christ," she giggles, "this is going to be good. You really should go look at yourself in the mirror. Stark naked, your hair standing straight up, this wild look in your eye..."
"Come ON!" She stifles her laugh and tries to look serious. I close my eyes and start again.
to change with change and thus survive.
I jot down the phrases. "This is about awareness. About mind. Awareness is the error of expectations. Mind is what awareness does. Mind is perception, memory, response."
"I think we need some more coffee." She gets up.
"I'm just starting."
"Well cut the crap and get on with it. Come on."
I listen to the rain falling on the overhead, look around at the disorder in the cabin. Sigh. OK. "First we black box the process. I look at a world full of information. The world around me is made up of great quantities of information - analogue waves of data in all intensities, sizes and shapes. I expect the world to stay like I see it. Something changes in the pattern I observe - the octopus moves on the otherwise frozen coral landscape - and the error of my expectation creates awareness. I compare this awareness with my previous experiences, recorded in my memory, and react accordingly. This sequence is what I call mind; perception-memory-response. OK?"
"Mind." She nods.
"Now, we look closer at the process. First, a vast, continuous analogue assortment of radiation washes over a retina cell in my eye. The contextual molecular net of the cell only detects a small portion of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation striking it. In addition, the molecular context net of various retina cells detect very specific conditions. Some respond to abrupt changes in light and dark, some to slow changes in light and dark, some to variations in color and so forth."
"How much of this are you making up?" Freddy asks.
"I read the mechanics in Scientific American, the pattern I'm discussing is ad lib."
"Well it's hard to think, talk and get interrupted at the same time."
"Sorry, go on, I'll be quiet."
"So, in here is a perceptor cell," I point to my eye, "exposed to an analogue field of information - communications, really because the radiation hits the cell with billions of shifts per second. The molecules of the cell form a net to filter all this information. The chemical structure of the net is structured, preset, ready for a certain condition. The steady stream of information flows right through the net. Suddenly, there is a shift in the steady flow. A shadow passes over the cell. The shift, the change in the expected, is caught in the molecular net and the cell reacts by sending a digital signal.
"The signal passes along the retina cell's axon as a pulse of electrical current. The cell has transformed the incoming analogue information field into a digital pulse of information." I look at Freddy and she just looks back, deadpan. I can't tell if she understands or not.
"Analogue in, digital out. Perception," I say. No response. "Well, thousands of retina cells send signals into a mosaic of vertical columns of interconnected nerve cells in the brain. The digital signals from the field of retinal cells combine to become an analogue field of information sent to millions of these vertical columns.
"At the second stage, the columns of cells make up a second level context net. They sift the analogue field of communications from the retina cells for specific kinds of information. The second perceptual net compares the incoming analogue field of communications from thousands of retina cells to traces of previous retina communications recorded in the DNA or RNA of the column cells. Most of the data simply flows through the net. But when a pattern matches a prerecorded one, the net snags it. The column cells detect meaning, context, from the analogue field of information. This second level analysis of the perceptual field of communications is part of what we call memory.
"Each level of analysis follows the same pattern. An existing context net, woven by concepts, filters an analogue pattern of signals. When the net catches any change, any difference in the incoming field of communication, awareness awakens. Awareness sends digital signals to the next layer of brain cells. This results in a hierarchy of classification moving from huge numbers of interactions to a higher class of fewer interactions.
"At each stage, there is a shift in classes of information. Retina cells deal with fields of pulsed electromagnetic signals flowing through them. The column cells, deal with an incoming analogue field of digital/chemical signals from many lower level neurons. They swap information with their peers to build up a larger class of information about changes in motion over the whole retina.
"This creates a new set of digital signals passed on to the next level of visual processing where the neurons examine the analogue field of many incoming signals to determine how the moving lines and angles interact to form shapes. Shape recognition causes this part of the brain to send out digital signals to a higher stage where the neurons coordinate the analogue information to recognize how the shapes interact with other shapes in the field of view.
"At each level, the signals are assembled into a new class of information. The higher the level, the more complex the awareness of the final image. As organisms evolve, as the brain gets bigger, new levels are layered onto this chain of processing, each level gives the organism a whole new vista of understanding about what goes on in front of its eyes.
"Finally, a section of the brain integrates the fields of information from the auditory section, the touch section, the taste section, the smell section. The integration level of the brain, probably located in the anterior temporal cortex, works like all the other layers. It has a context net to compare the end-signals from the different areas of the brain to memories of past patterns. Signals caught in the context net create awareness. This results in a digital set of signals relayed to still higher, perhaps conscious levels of the brain for response."
"How do the neurons compare signals to memory?" Freddy asks.
"This whole thing is like a series of logic gates - preset by trial and error either in the learning of the individual or at some point in the genetic past. Pretty much the same as a parallel processing computer."
"A computer made up of lots of computers working in parallel. Some of them learn and improve their own performance through a logical feedback.
"Memory, the context net, works in two, maybe three different ways in the brain. Habits - perception, memory, response sequences repeated again and again - are handled in a different way than processing information for the first time. This is why you can drive a familiar route and have your mind busy working on something entirely different. Habit, repeated exposure to a particular pattern of perception, makes the gates easier to open and the signal flows quicker, gets recognized easier, and the digital signal out of the cell cluster comes faster than an unrecognized signal pattern. The first signal to reach the next level of brain architecture is the most important."
"I made that part up."
"That's OK, it sounds fine."
"Also, there are feedback systems in the brain. If a snake makes a grab for a bird but the bird gets away, the bird will remember the snake next time. Pain and fear associated with the image of the snake is produced by the release of emotive chemicals from the deeper parts of the brain. These emotive chemicals alert the whole brain system, 'Hey, this signal is important, record it!"'
"Yeah, how does it do that? Record it."
"Again, there must be at least two ways. Mechanical, a change in form or architecture, and action, a change in the flow pattern of signals relayed to higher centers. Some of the chemicals causing emotions make the neurons grow new tentacles. This makes a permanent context net for the particular pattern. Highly important signals probably increase the output of chemical translators at the neuron synapses.
"I don't want to get off the track. Lets go back to the shift from analogue patterns of vast numbers of signals, recognized by memory traces or preset architecture, followed by a digital signal out."
"Analogue/digital/analogue/digital," she sing-songs. "Is this our sunday sermon?"
I glare at her, because I now know it is Thursday. She subsides. "The final output from the brain is a series of digital signals pulsing down the axons to the muscle cells. These digital signals move the whole creature in a smooth analogue way."
"What happened to context?" Freddy asks. "I thought this was all about context."
"Before you can understand context you've got to understand about this analogue/digital/analogue/digital shift and how at each level the error of expectation creates awareness."
"Because context is the filtering of the analogue field of communications into discrete, similar chunks of information. Mind creates context, creates meaning, creates a story, from the environment. Context is the readiness of the singularity, the concept, to split a continuous bombardment of diverse information into Ah ha! recognition of analogies.
"Context is an ability. The underlying structure - the net of memories - is learned. The parallel architecture of the brain allows both the highest, most evolved decision making parts of the brain, and the oldest, least evolved part of the brain - the brain stem controlling emotions, joint control in forming context nets.
"At each level of organization, the context, the meaning of experience, changes. What might be on/off data to the retina cell becomes a quick moving shadow to the column modules in the cortex becomes the vision of a striking snake in the decision making sections of the brain. The context changes significantly with each increase in levels of awareness and so does the ability to respond."
"But if the top level does not know anything about snakes, there is no response." Freddy notes. "Like the birds on Guam just sat there and got gobbled up by the Philippine Tree snakes some idiot imported."
"Correct. But stay with me one more minute, OK? I'm getting there. A scientist, trained by university knowledge, is researching evolution. The need for food and shelter alerts the scientist from one end of the brain. The conscious link with other scientists alerts the scientist from the other end of the brain. The context net is woven with lots of patterns of evolutionary evidence. The scientist tunes out most of the flow of information from the environment, but when a pattern of information snags in the context net prepared by the scientist, the Ah Ha! goes off. The scientist sends off a series of digital signals - writing - to the greater body of science. These signals pass through columns of other scientists in the next section of data processing. They compare the incoming signal with what they already have experienced. They might file the incoming signal as inconsequential or they might also say, 'Ah Ha!' and route it to a much wider audience. If passed on, the pattern goes out with most of the original information plus a digital add-on note. Scientific bodies of greater and greater influence and knowledge review the pattern and respond accordingly.
"From there the concept enters the mainstream of mankind's thinking and may even result in changing the direction of movement of the whole immense population of hominids." I grin. "See, it works on all levels."
"What about a single cell?" Freddy asks.
"Well, a single cell is not really single. It's a committee of bacteria, a concept made by a huge population of molecules. It works with a molecular awareness system. First there must be a way to detect differences in the analogue field surrounding the organism. This means a cell wall with breaks in it of some kind."
"Why? Why not a nice spherical cell wall with no breaks?" Freddy interrupts.
"Because without some kind of break there is no way to distinguish differences. Even a virus, with its limited amount of DNA and protein shell, has angles or edges to its protective wall."
"Look. You can be on the right or left side of a point, a corner, and there is a difference between the two positions. But you can't be on the right or left side of a perfect sphere. That's why, for example, a spherical egg divides along the meridian where the sperm enters the egg. The sprem entry point gives the spherical shape of the egg a point of difference and enables the egg to decide right from left."
"What about amoebas they don't have any definite shape?"
"Well, like most single celled animals, amoebas have complex protein molecules floating in their cell walls. These are the sense perceptors and are asymmetrical. They detect food molecules over on this side but not over on the other side and send Ah Ha! digital signals into the interior of the amoeba. This is transmitted via a web of intracellular proteins to the nucleus where DNA keeps memories of past Ah Ha's. DNA is the basic context net. Like all such nets, it is made of the knots of molecular linkages but it can't do anything by itself. A critter called a ribosome and a molecule called transcriptase need to interact with the DNA. Transcriptase acts like a spider on the DNA context web. Awareness awakens, Transcriptase responds, when the net vibrates with an incoming pattern recognition. It unzips the key part of the DNA molecule 'reads' the code, generates second order formation of messenger RNA that takes the DNA memory pattern to the ribosomes where the pattern is used to replicate new proteins.
"The combined field of digital messages from the perceptor molecules become an analogue interior potential indicating where the food is. This field of information, exposed to changes in protein and enzyme conditions, alters the binding of the phospholipid molecules in the cell wall, making it soften on the side closest to the food. Protoplasm streams into the softened area to form a pseudopod. The amoeba moves in a nice smooth analog glide towards its prey."
"Ok, Enough! I get it. It works on all levels. Didn't we go through something like this with Yves? All this analogue/digital stuff?"
"Sure. With logic systems, classification systems, feedback controls. It works with everything, that's why it's important."
"I don't see why it's important." She says.
"Because it's what mind is. How it works. Perception, memory, response. It's the creation of awareness. It's the same pattern throughout everything at all levels, jumping from analogue patterns into context nets and generating the digital responses of awareness. It's the process of leaping from quantitative to qualitative, from concepts to context, from numbers to quality, from the individual to the whole. It's the answer to the mystery of evolution.
"It solves the old paradox about the individual versus the community, don't you see? The individual and the community are part of this same sequence of information flow: they are both manifestations of awareness as it develops through stages of perception, memory and reaction. Both the individual and the community are the physical result of mind. WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT?"
"Oh ha, ha, ha, ha" she gets up and grabs me by the arm and drags me into the forward head. I look in the mirror and burst out laughing too. There we are, not a stitch of clothing, me with hair standing straight out to the side, eyes wide and earnest and slightly crazy. Oh well, what the hell.
A sheaf of air ten thousand meters thick, hundreds of miles wide, crosses the ten mile gap between Fiji and Malololailai. Sea, in the lagoon, ripples under the impact of the massive churning gasses, wave crests snap into white foam. The wind smacks the coconut trees on the island, roars over the hill and plunges into the anchorage. Moira weathervanes to present the least surface area to the blast of air. I look out the porthole, past the little rain gems, and see the windswept yacht rookery rotate past. My eyes reflect back at me and I wonder if I'll ever get out of the gray confusion of my mind.
Creativity feeds upon the random. The essence of epigenesis is predictable repetition. But never completely predictable. The essence of learning is the change in change. Explanation is the process of mapping presumed cyclic epigenetic beliefs onto ever changing new coordinates.
My mind chews endlessly on context and concepts as I help Freddy straighten up the disarray on Moira. When we finish I'll go out and take my daily coral photographs.
"Wow! Hey, look at this, look at this!" I wave the letter at Freddy.
"What? Let's see?" She takes the letter from Olympus and reads while I dance around the cabin. Olympus has agreed to my proposal and is sending me all the camera gear I need, including another OM2n, a 250 film back, magazines, ring flash, 16-mm lens, and on and on.
There are also two boxes of developed slides. I open them and go through the images. Super fantastic terrific. The shots of the coral tip, taken each day, are razor sharp. Beautiful. I can see the changes in the coral cups between every 4 frames. Slight, but they are there. It works! The soft coral photos are stunning, really stunning. I look at each slide in the hand held viewer and pass it to Freddy who oooohs and aaaaaahs until I grab it back for the next one.
I put another slide in the viewer and peer into it. Oh, this is the absolute best of the best soft coral shot. The definitive ultra shot. The light goes out in the viewer and the image vanishes.
"What?" Freddy's hand reaches for the now dead viewer.
"Bulb went out. I'll put in another one." I get up to find my jar of light bulbs, but my mind is still on the vanishing image of the soft coral.
I had a dream last night. I can't remember what the dream was about but I woke up suddenly and saw the dream vanish. It was like the bulb going out on the slide viewer: quick, surprising, final. The dream didn't just vanish. I saw the dream withdraw to where it came from. It was like seeing the communication web of the dream and it reminds me of a vague idea I had about the communication web of the soft coral out on the reef the other day.
I look through the electric locker for a new light bulb. I look over the idea of the dream as a creature, a concept, an animal tracing its behavior into the sea of my mind.
The vanishing dream looked like a cross section of the tips of a soft coral bush. A two-dimensional section viewed as a slice across the ends of the animal's branches.
As I woke up, the glowing vibrant colors of the dream retreated down the branches like a light moving back to its source. I saw the plane of awareness - the field of awareness - snap back from layer to layer.
At each layer it had fewer and fewer branches right down until it reached the single trunk of the creature, the bright beginning, the small larval thought who settled on the reef of my mind some time during the night.
"I don't have a 3-volt bulb. I'll have to rig it up for 12 volts so we can just plug it in to Moira's batteries." I pull out a 12-volt bulb and select some wire and a plug to modify the viewer.
It's almost the reverse of the pattern I worked out about how mind works from perception to conscious response. In the dream, the visual array of light, color and sound was touched off by my own brain, not the inflow of sensory information from my environment. The dream started as an idea and webbed out to excite all the context nets of all levels of my brain.
The final dream image was made up of tiny little glowing dots of color the way the dies of my slides make up an image on film. Each dot is a collection of millions and billions of tiny memories .... both in the film where the emulsion records differences in light intensity and in my mind where the image is recorded in differences in the chemistry of my neurons. The film/neuron memory is a latent image developed by context of light passing through the emulsion and then, through a system of lenses, focusing on the retina of my eye. The image of the soft coral does not 'appear' until the recorded memory pattern is illuminated by light/awareness and observed by the next highest link in the chain of mind.
But the other parallels between the soft coral and the dream are what excite me. The larval concept (either of a soft coral or a dream) lands on the substrate of my mind, finding conditions just right there.
It begins as a complex little concept, an idea with a life of its own. It spreads its context net to capture nourishment from the oceans of my thoughts. Currents of memories eddy past and the context net selects the ones corresponding with the needs of the growing dream. It divides and grows and expands, branching out, building into a story about a soft coral growing in my dreams.
There is a fundamental and highly important difference here. When sense perceptions form a mental image, the pyramid of information flow comes from outside the system and is captured by context nets at one stage after another until a peak of conscious awareness is reached. In the dream formation, however, the flow goes the other way and a small concept matches the existing context nets at all levels, exciting awareness and the construction of a mental image controlling the whole population of entities in the system. Not any idea will work. The idea must excite recognition in the context nets.
Put another way, concepts from the higher levels of mind can be pre-adapted to environmental context nets and make them work to spread and develop the idea.
This is part of the feedback loop in mind. The dream acts as reinforcement. It refreshes and rehearses the context nets. It amplifies the importance of certain aspects of the context nets and ties the whole system together. But, on another scale, the dream can grow from a very small concept to a highly successful mode of behavior. The way a good idea can meet economic needs and generate a whole industry modifying the behavior of nations or the whole world. Electricity, for example.
"You want to turn on the plugs?" I ask Freddy and she does. I plug in the newly installed cord to the slide viewer and it lights up nice and bright. "Success!"
She sits down next to me again and we continue looking at the slides. How I can get the ideas about mental images into the context of the fantastically beautiful red and white, glowing image of the soft coral I see in the viewer? I pass it to Freddy. Her eye looks at the image of the soft coral. Her mind, her context net, does not perceive the link between the development of thought and the form displayed by the soft coral or the image encoding process in the color film.
At each level of growth of a thought, there is (for that level) a complete concept. Just as there is a complete soft coral when it is a fertilized egg and at all stages of growth. Just as my retina cell is a complete entity and I am a complete entity. And at every level, the entities existing there have a different context net and therefore are aware of different aspects of the incoming signals. The retina cell is aware of changes in light intensity or particular wave lengths. My consciousness sees moving images and lots of colors.
She passes me the viewer and I put in another slide. All of these images of the soft coral are completely obsolete from the standpoint of the real soft coral sitting out there on the reef. But by becoming color slides through Man's technology of cameras and film and processing, the images take on new potential in a larger mind system. When published and viewed by many people, the images will generate an even bigger concept than the tiny little soft coral on the reef. Just as the retina cell generates part of a larger consciousness in me through the biologically grown technology of my mind.
"Hey, you stuck in there?" Freddy pulls the viewer out of my hand. "Ohhh, a beauty."
But the soft coral doesn't know Freddy is looking at its image. Just as I might be reading something by Bertrand Russell about logical typing but he's dead. He doesn't know I'm reading his ideas. He was like a retina cell, forming concepts and feeding them into the consciousness of Man by digital marks on paper. Those marks became analogue fields of understanding over a longer interval of awareness. They are now fields of understanding shifting the behavior of great masses of hominids: most of them never knowing how or why their behavior is shifting. To them, the coordinated movement of mankind is a mysterious, unpredictable destiny.
All this keys in nicely with evolution. Creatures, individual beings, adjust their context nets according to their abilities and the signals from the environment. Their awareness invents/selects a new way to respond to survive in a difficult situation. If the new behavior works, if they do survive, their offspring are the digital messages passed into longer intervals of awareness. The whole population of individuals creates an analog field of behavior within the larger being of the ecosystem. The new field of behavior is a concept with its own context net to relay signals into the ecosystem.
The concept (a species), and its ecosystem context, interact to form an actual visual arrangement of individuals on the surface of the planet. A reality-scape, not a dream-scape.
Like a dream, the larval concept of the species is an actual change in behavior of individual organisms. The new behavior excites already existing context nets of the ecosystem. It's spread alters the reality-scape, changing context nets to its own advantage and thus shaping how future generations must behave.
From the chaos of vast numbers of possible genetic possibilities, only the ones conforming to the context nets at all levels of the mind-scape survive. This is true of ideas, behavior systems, and genetic memories.
The evolutionary tree looks like a soft coral because it grew like one. The behavioral concept (species) went through a series of stages of interaction with the environment: new forms of behavior, new arrangements of dancing cells, new context nets.
Each new layer in each stage of development remains in the existing reality scape. Like the cross sectional view of the branching bush of soft coral or the developing mind image or the growth of science is layered with still existing patterns of behavior. At any interval of awareness, the observed section of the reality-scape reveals a pattern of dispersion, an image of being. The image moves, changes, evolves as our awareness filters the myriad little points of information into a vision.
From an evolutionary view, the variations of DNA encode the developing awareness of life. How do these variations happen? Catastrophic environmental events, from cosmic rays to chemical damage, cause a few. But most of the variation is the sorting and resorting of existing combinations of `genes' until they form behavior patterns matching existing context nets in the environment.
Gene isn't a bad word, actually, it comes from a greek word meaning "to become" as in "to appear" or "to be born". But what is appearing? What is becoming? Genes are interactive concepts, memories of how to behave, context nets monitored by the composite community of the cell. Genes don't become anything by themselves. They are manifested only when taken in context as part of a story made by the myriad other members of the cellular concept.
An organism can't change its own DNA codes. Just as it can't change the way it perceives. Just as it can't alter the digital/analogue/digital/analogue shifts in building mind. What we - either we collectively or singularly - do is SELECT from myriad environmental events. And based on our selections, the dream blooms into a wonderful full color reality or dissipates. We survive, or we die.
If a life form is too rigid in its behavior - makes exactly the same selection over and over again - it is unable to adjust when the environment changes. If it is too flexible - selecting loosely, taking hold of everything - there is rapid change: uncontrolled change, cancerous change, insane change. It's a question of style, quality, skill.
Evolution is the composite story of the mental process of perceiving, recognizing, reacting to select the correct components of chaos so as to have coordinated change. It is a judgmental process.
Judgements are made at each level of mind, based on the traditions and customs of past knowledge. Cells make judgements, organisms make judgements, societies make judgements.
The kinds of behavior life selects at one level are signals to the next largest layer of mind, and are also behavior and control systems to the smaller layers.
Hominids map dreams onto the surface of the planet the way eyes map visions onto the cortex. Not in a metaphysical sense, but in a very real three-dimensional encrustation of roads and buildings and forests and farms. The changes our behavior make in the physical structure of our planet are memory traces of our passage. We call these memories culture and tradition and they control the pathways of our children.
"Not bad, they're looking good." Freddy gets up and stretches.
"You went through all the slides without me?" I look up at her surprised.
"You, sweetheart, were gone somewhere, so I just went ahead. When do you think the olympus stuff will arrive?"