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I had a dream… but not like MLK’s!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love MLK and his dream.

I believe we should all strive daily to make it reality. Not just for people of color but for all kinds of marginalized groups and individuals. Sometimes people are discriminated against merely because they are different.

This is sad.

I suppose animals have always herded, flocked and swam together, picking on those who fall behind or to the outside. But we are human beings, not animals. We have the brain capacity to reroute and overcome our animal biases. At least, some of us do. Others seem so entrenched in their rigid or pathetically elitist ways that they just seem unmovable. But let’s hope that’s just how they seem and not how they are.

Image via Wikipedia

So in the title of this blog entry, I am talking about a nighttime dream while I was sleeping that was not like MLK’s visionary dream.

Mine was not a dream about the way things should be. Rather, it was a kind of realpolitiks dream. A dream about struggle, cunning and power.

On the other hand, when I think about it, maybe my dream isn’t totally dissimilar to MKL’s “I have a dream.” After all, the results are based on merit, not on prejudice about size.

Here’s the link to my dream. You decide:


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The old New Age, hippie saying “Be Here Now” taken to the extreme

Today’s tweet caught my eye not because I believe it. Cummon. The idea is that a large chunk of history never happened and we’ve just artificially filled in the gaps.

From a commonsense perspective this is rubbish. A quick web search brings up all sorts of historical persons and acts during this “phantom time.”

We have lots of records. Physical records.

However, I mention the idea today because, well, it did give me pause over something maybe related.

Some schools of metaphysical thought claim that we can’t be sure of anything but the present. For all we know, they say, the universe is huge, flickering bunch of “presents.”

So this present that I’m writing in is really – according to the theory – just a present with a lot of true, false or simulated memories.

The next flicker could be an entirely different present (with an alternate set of history and memories) and I wouldn’t know the difference.

This next present would be just as real as my current present. And then in the next flicker, who knows… an entirely new set of memories, history, beliefs.

Image – cwamkid.blogspot.ca

For those adhering to this idea, each moment is just as true, false or simulated as the next. And there could be countless flickering streams, all happening or possibly alternating at once.

Freaky?

Yeah, a bit.

But I think the notion is intellectually impossible to disprove.

If you find it hard wrapping your head around this, consider a computer processor. When multitasking, the processor alternates bits of data at super high speeds. Data flies through the processor so fast that tasks appear simultaneous to the user (for example, streaming music, transferring files and blogging).

But again your data is alternating at great speeds.

Could we be the same?

Obviously this is not a question to make the headlines in a 21st century where we’re mostly worried about lunatics with bad haircuts bombing us into oblivion.

But in the 91st century, who knows?


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A Little End of Summer Arts and Culture

Last night I had two scary dreams. One was that some burly stooges posing as workers for a home security company came to my childhood home to physically abduct me. I awoke startled.

The second dream had me back in university. My dorm room had been changed from a distant, satellite dorm at the edge of town to another room more central within the university village. All the books and items in the room looked vaguely familiar but not quite right. Next thing I knew, some creepy people came in, began to set up a portable operating table, and told me I was scheduled for an operation. When I asked an attendant “What operation?” she replied “I don’t know.”

Sensing serious danger, I asked to make a call and woke up, thinking I would have had to be like that guy in The Fugitive to escape something horrible.

Truly scary dreams. I hope they just mean slow down and take it easy for a while, which is what I intend to do today. Everyone else gets summer holidays and, although I’m not going anywhere physically different, I think I’ll just take in some arts and culture for a while, and post my discoveries here.

The most recent discovery is tweeted at the top of the page. I like this painting. Notice how the more important guy has better, more ostentatious clothing and bigger, more expressive eyes. What really struck me, however, was the larger globe in the picture. Fascinating how mythological creatures are intertwined with the scientific mapping (zoom in to see). We’ve lost that mythic connection to science, although some writers like James Hillman suggest that we’re just fooling ourselves. The mythic is still present and even science is a kind of mythic pattern.

I guess that’s in line with what I’ve been arguing all along here at Earthpages.org and Earthpages.ca. But as I said, it’s my holiday, of sorts, and I don’t feel like going into it any further right now!

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora...

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora Stock during Mozart’s visit to Dresden, April 1789 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other discovery, made last night, is something I’m listening to right now: Venice Classical Radio. I almost feel like I’m living in some little flat in Venice while listening to this excellent station. The selections are accessible but relatively uncommon. I’ve only heard one Mozart staple, which I enjoyed anyhow (pretty hard not to like Mozart).

 


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Seekers’ reality check – We all need one

Looking back on my life I see a funny dynamic. Many times I thought I’d found “the answer,” either through a partner, a job, a scholarship, a religious affiliation. And usually when I have found the apparent “answer” I’ve become a bit full of myself and maybe overly enthusiastic about my new path. God and life, however, have this way of auto-correcting. Stuff happens… and what a great way to regain humility.

Deep thought

Deep thought (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking it’s nice that I don’t take myself as seriously as I once did. Yes, if someone steps on my toes I will still let them know. I don’t believe God wants us to be doormats.

But at the same time, getting older means that I can appreciate all the twists and turns my life has taken, and just as importantly, how everyone else is just as “valid” as me. Are just as valid as me? Whatever. I don’t feel like checking out Grammar Girl right now. 🙂

The tweeted article spells out some of the reflections I’ve had over the past few years in this area. I think it does a good job.


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Do we REALLY create our own reality?


The Alchemist and the Sacredness of Following Your Dreams

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is an inspirational fable about a Spanish shepherd, Santiago, who sets out on a quixotic quest to find a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way he learns various spiritual lessons.

Read More: The Alchemist and the Sacredness of Following Your Dreams


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Can listening to music help you sleep?

Sleep

Sleep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph F Chandler, Birmingham-Southern College

By now, you’ve surely heard that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep.

In our always-on society, a solid chunk of nightly rest seems, well, like a dream. We shave the edges of sleep to keep up, exchanging extra waking hours for compromised health, productivity and safety.

Despite this, we actually know how to sleep better; the list of empirically supported, low-cost, simple behavioral tweaks is extensive, whether it’s avoiding alcohol as bedtime approaches or just going to sleep at a regular hour. Though changing habitual behavior is easier said than done, one of these tweaks may be as simple as putting in your earphones and pressing play.

Recently, British composer Max Richter released an eight-hour-long composition titled Sleep, which he has described as a lullaby, meant to be listened to while sleeping.

The composition ranges from sweeping, airy selections called Dream to the heavy, trance-inducing Space sequence. Indeed, it is an ambitious, impressive piece of conceptual art. But could it actually improve your sleep?

Conflicting results

Research on improving sleep with music is filled with methodological mistakes.

Self-reported sleep quality – the metric of choice for many music studies – often doesn’t correlate with objective measures of sleep: people will often think they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep (best defined as an unmedicated, uninterrupted night somewhere between seven and ten hours). But in many cases, they haven’t.

On the other hand, when objective measures are used (like the industry standard Polysomnography), true control groups (like a placebo group in a drug trial) are often left out.

With these drawbacks in mind, it’s easy to understand why the literature reads as equivocal. Some studies claim music can have a positive effect on sleep quality, while others cite no objective benefit.

A recent, methodologically sound meta-analysis reported an overall positive effect of music for improving sleep in those with a sleep disorder. This is promising, but even the article’s authors admit that more precise work is needed to reach a clear conclusion.

A carefully choreographed cycle

Perhaps the answer is hidden in a more basic question. Given the way sleep is structured, can music even influence it to begin with?

The answer is yes and no.

Sleep is not a gentle slide into unconsciousness. Rather, it’s a complicated ride into an alternate conscious state, where reality is actively created from internal information, rather than external sensation.

That transition from “outside” to “inside” happens in four distinct steps. The sleep process manifests as a non-REM (NREM) phase (which is divided into three parts: NREM 1, 2 and 3) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

Imagine you’ve turned on Richter’s full Sleep composition and have just gotten into bed. As your eyes get heavy and your attention wanders, you are entering early NREM 1 sleep. You are deeply relaxed. This lasts for a few minutes.

A selection from Sleep’s Dream sequence.

At this point, the research suggests that Richter’s work may be having an effect; anything that contributes to your relaxation will help induce NREM 1 sleep. Richter’s Sleep certainly has relaxing qualities, like many of the classical pieces often used in music and sleep research.

As you continue to relax, your brain begins to exhibit what are called “organized theta waves,” which slowly switch attention channels from the outside environment to internal cues. At this point, you may feel as if you’re floating or lightly dreaming; if someone says your name insistently enough you may still respond. This lasts about 10 minutes, after which K-complexes and sleep spindles appear in your brain wave pattern.

This is where it gets tricky. K-complexes and sleep spindles – brief bursts of high activity on an otherwise slowing brain wave pattern – actively shield external stimuli. That is, during this stage your brain purposefully blocks the reception of and response to outside sensory information.

This hallmark of NREM 2 sleep means that, for all intents and purposes, you are no longer hearing Richter’s work. The auditory cortex is still receiving the sounds, but the thalamus – essentially the call center of the brain – stops the signal before any memories or sense can be made of the music.

NREM 2 lasts for about 20 minutes. Then your brain waves become very slow and very organized. These are called delta waves, and they indicate NREM 3: a state of near-complete nonresponsiveness to the external world. After 30 minutes of NREM 3, you briefly travel back up into the lighter stages of sleep, at which point you may again hear the composition. In fact, if it’s loud enough, unusual ambient noises at this point may actual wake you up, disturbing the carefully choreographed cycle.

With time, all external stimuli slip away, and you recede into your dreams.

If you remain asleep, however, you quickly slip into the REM portion of the cycle: your body becomes paralyzed, and your external senses get rewired to pay exclusive attention to your memories. You are essentially awake, but feeding off an internally derived reality to create the crazy dreams associated with REM. At this point I could walk into your room, call your name loudly and leave without you even knowing I was there. In other words, the external world – including what is being piped through your headphones – doesn’t matter for those amazing few minutes of REM sleep.

As the night goes on, the cycle will repeat itself many times, and each time the proportion of REM will become greater. By the end of the night, you are spending most of your time in your own internally created universe, for which the current external world has no bearing. For a grand total of 60 minutes of the eight-hour period, you will be able to hear Mr Richter’s beautiful work. The rest of the time, only your memories matter.

So for all its merits, can Max Richter’s Sleep help you sleep? The answer is probably yes: it could make falling asleep easier. But you’ll be missing most of the show.

The Conversation

Joseph F Chandler, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Birmingham-Southern College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.