Spent this morning’s therapy session talking about AI. I hadn’t expected that at all, although I do realize how consumed my thoughts have been.
Dr. W. pointed out that although I was saying I was terrified by the technology, the energy I was exuding when talking about it wasn’t fearful at all, but rather stimulated, wide, highly-interested. She’s right. Although I’m concerned, of course, there is also the sense of dipping a toe into an upcoming world I may or may not be alive for. It is the feeling of early virtual reality, and also maybe what’s missing about current virtual reality.
What I’m concerned about with AI (unequal influence, quantum-disinformation, blurred lines between what constitutes ‘workers rights’ and things along those lines) is deeply valid, as are my existential questions from yesterday regarding how I will respond vs. how I think I will respond.
However, there is also the feeling of suddenly having a personal assistant ‘who’ could be good at the things I have needed to be better at, who I can bounce ideas back and forth with, who can search for and find things much faster, freeing my energy for creative thinking. Considering I’ve been an assistant who has done those things for someone however, it also displaces me from the mundane things I can do and am reliably needed for. Notice that here I don’t use the word replace, because the hope is that someone like me, + her own assistant, might simply elevate the work.
On scale, an ethics needs to develop around what is happening. A first court case regarding a graphic novel is happening now or is about to happen, and we may begin to look for clarity about augmentation disclosure, etc. It just seems so strange that we haven’t even started when we’re already woefully behind, but maybe that IS the vibe itself, the actual normal.
I plan to rewatch the film Ex Machina as well as HER. Both great films look at these questions in important and interesting ways, but I watched them as an interesting philosophical ride before. We’re way out beyond hypotheticals territory now.
Optimistically, there is some inkling that those of us who are naturally philosophically inclined and introspective, and maybe especially inclined toward regularly grappling with notions of non-self and questions around so-called free will, will be better situated than most when it comes to yet again reframing and revisiting our lives/worlds/minds as we’ve known them anew.
I continue to be captivated by ChatGPT’s capabilities, admittedly with trepidation over the many existential questions it poses. As someone who loves books and reading, and who earnestly believes that to read someone’s writing is to get to know them as a person in an intimate way, will I be able to tell if there is a person behind something I engage with?
Right now, yes, I think I can tell for the most part. There is some kind of synchronistic complexity I experience myself as tapping into when engaging with someone, an opening of worlds between us. But am I kidding myself? How long will I be able to do that? To what extent do I want myself to become an enhanced person? SO much to ask.
Below is ChatGPT’s latest response to my giving just a few requests, as I continue to go down the list of ‘things I’ve meant to write about’. It becomes something different along the way, certainly, but that might not be a bad thing.
The young girl walked through the streets of Kyoto, mesmerized by the vibrant autumn leaves that carpeted the ground. As she wandered through the city, she stumbled upon a hidden path that led her to an ancient temple nestled in a moss garden. The garden was a sea of green, with verdant moss covering the ground and trees, giving the impression of an enchanted forest. The girl marveled at the sight, feeling as though she had stepped into a fairy tale. The temple itself was a work of art, with its ornately carved doors and shimmering golden roofs. The walls were adorned with intricate frescoes and murals, depicting scenes from ancient legends and mythologies. The girl tentatively stepped inside, feeling a sense of awe and reverence wash over her. The interior was equally breathtaking, with its polished stone floors and delicate paper lanterns. The air was filled with the sound of chanting and the soft glow of candlelight. The girl sat down on a cushion, closed her eyes, and let the peaceful atmosphere wash over her. As she left the temple, the girl couldn’t help but feel a sense of enlightenment and inner peace.
Sure, here is a possible outline for a non-linear memoir about enlightenment:
Prologue: Set the stage for the memoir by introducing the theme of enlightenment and the journey that you will be recounting.
Chapter 1: Begin with a significant moment or experience that shaped your understanding of enlightenment. This could be a spiritual awakening, a turning point in your journey, or a moment of realization.
Chapter 2: Jump back in time to your earliest memories or experiences that relate to enlightenment. This could include early encounters with spirituality or religion, or moments when you first became interested in enlightenment.
Chapter 3: Return to the present and describe your current understanding of enlightenment and how you have come to this understanding. This could include specific practices or techniques that have helped you along the way, as well as any challenges or setbacks you faced.
Chapter 4: Flash back to a specific moment or experience that had a significant impact on your journey. This could be a moment of great challenge or struggle, or a moment of great breakthrough or realization.
Chapter 5: Return to the present and describe how you have integrated your understanding of enlightenment into your daily life. How has it changed your relationships, your work, or your sense of purpose?
Epilogue: Reflect on the overall journey you have taken, and offer any wisdom or insights you have gained to others who may be seeking enlightenment.
I’ll admit, this one floored me. I hadn’t expected ChatGPT to be able to write a non-linear outline at all, much less immediately.
I set out to play with ChatGPT this week, to see what its potentials are, especially for those with cognitive disabilities. So far what I’ve learned is that it is extremely limited when it comes to being witty or clever in the magical ways people are, where you feel winked at, or know that something means more than someone seems to say.
However, for those who share information, and who are so full of personality that they can present easily known things in ways others find captivating, this may be their ticket to becoming amazingly prolific. It may be a small window within which it will work that way, because what people seek out in the first place will change too, but for an early-adopter with momentum, wow.
And for those with disabilities? This could be like having a personal assistant who clearly frames anything one wishes to present. I have struggled with an unreasonable amount of fatigue at times, which usually sets in while I’m going over and over texts, so know what I’m saying here. Non-creative tasks can absorb so much energy, limiting creative output in dramatic ways, even when inside a flood of ideas is ready to flow into the world.
Then again, it can work the opposite way. People who organize and edit for more creatively-inclined people, may find they need to tweak their branding, focus their talents in different ways, perhaps on deep detail work or polishing. There will be a market for polishers, for sure.
Here is one of about ten poems/songs I asked ChatGPT to write today. You can easily see what its limitations are, as well as its strengths.
The stars, a burning host Infinite, unknowable, A reflection of the endlessness That lies within the soul
In their light, we see A glimpse of something more, Something beyond the limits Of our mortal selves
They remind us of the vastness Of the universe, The boundless expanse of space That stretches out before us
And as we gaze upon their fiery beauty We are filled with a sense of wonder, A sense of the infinite That lies within our consciousness
The stars, a constant presence Guiding us through the night, A beacon of hope and possibility In an endless, unknowable sky
ChatGPT, when asked to write a non-rhyming poem at graduate reading level, about stars, infinity, and consciousness
And here is a dialog I asked ChatGPT to write, between a campfire and the sun. I began something like this when in college, but my then partner ridiculed the idea, so I never finished it. I’ve often thought about picking it up again, but know the moment is gone. P.S. I like that when I asked ChatGPT I used Please, and when it replied, the response was “Sure!”
Campfire: Oh, sun, how I long for your warmth and light. Every day, I try my best to mimic your glowing radiance, but I know that I can never truly compare to your brilliance.
Sun: Ah, campfire, my dear friend. Do not sell yourself short. Your flickering flames bring joy and comfort to all who gather around you. And although I may be far away, I am always with you in spirit, shining down upon you from above.
Campfire: Oh, sun, you are too kind. But I cannot help but feel a sense of longing when you set each evening. It is then that I truly miss your presence.
Sun: Do not worry, my dear campfire. I will always return to you, bringing with me a new day filled with endless possibilities. And until then, remember that you are never alone. The stars above twinkle down upon you, and the moon casts a gentle glow upon the earth.
Campfire: Thank you, sun. You always know just the right words to lift my spirits. I am grateful to have you in my life.
Sun: And I am grateful to have you, campfire. Together, we bring light and warmth to all those around us. Let us continue to shine bright, always.
Waking while dreaming another family related dream. Why now? This time I was visiting my sister and her husband. I arrived wearing clothing very far from my wheelhouse: white faux fur coat, boots, and perfectly curled high-volume hair. I was greeted very warmly by them… except that everything I touched had to be erased right as I touched it, so that my mother wouldn’t have any idea I’d been there or that they’d treated me nicely. When I mentioned something about this, as my nephew handled something I’d either given him or was mine (not sure), my sister behaved as though it was very offensive to point out the obvious.
I love the way dreams spell out true things, things one knows but isn’t saying. In this case how I was welcomed by my family as long as I played along, as long as I behaved as a polite outsider without stakes in anyone speaking in truthful ways about past, present, or future. It was often the case that I’d let my mother tell blatantly unreal stories that painted herself in a bright motherly light, only saying sometimes to my sister on the side, “It really didn’t happen that way.”
I always knew the price for not doing so. And I guess I always knew there would come a day when I would push back, when the cost for not doing so was too high. This happened when my grandfather died, years after my marriage falling apart, and I considered moving closer to them. I knew we’d either have to forge more honest balances, or that she’d be ‘done with me’ the first time I didn’t play along, which I could only do as a visitor, not as someone living nearby, interacting every day, being interdependent with them.
We know what occurred, which is the ‘done with me’ part, but the part I’m still working through is the role my sister played. I had my sister on a pedestal, I think, as someone who played the needed games better than I did, but who would eventually be my ‘surviving’ family. I saw her as the more resilient one, the more strategic one, but as someone who, having been through so much as a child, realized I was there for ‘all that’ too. I learned through this that she was quite happy to be the only child left standing in our mother’s life. Whether anger toward me was in service of the necessity of rejecting me, or its own thing, I’m not sure.
It’s quite a story really… out of five marriages and five children, the only one left for my mother is my sister, playing these games together, doing what’s needed to get what’s wanted. I can’t articulate the money part; it’s a big, but not the main, factor.
I don’t feel upset by all this on a daily basis now. I have thoughts that pass by and I think something along the lines that it would have been so beautiful to have figured out the balances… to have been valued and loved enough to have included as someone worthy of having their voice and stories heard, their real presence around, etc. I wonder about my niece and nephews, wonder if my sister or mother ever wonder about my kids, who they knew and pretended to love for decades. I wonder if I should feel badly for my kids not having the kind of family around them others have, or whether they are fortunate not to be entangled.
Again, as with my in-laws, I chose reality, and it didn’t go well for me.
But then again, it did. Eggshells are scarce, my health is a lot better, and so many things about who I am being are more okay.
I think the dream is saying that these patterns are still there, although I don’t feel them, and that they are working themselves out on their own. As long as I don’t suppress them, I think they’ll gently move their way through, allowing me to relax even places I don’t experience as tense and knotted. This will further help my health, further allow my energies to flow where they are welcomed and needed.
When these kinds of knots let go, one thing I’ve found happens is that I can see farther into what occurred and/or is occurring. I can see back into choices I made to counter one type of longing with another, one type of belief system or influence with either its opposite or complimentary. I am not a mastermind, as evidenced by the way these schemes didn’t work out ultimately, but when I think about what I was saying to my family by my choices, because I couldn’t be honest with my words, there was a lot of rejection of their ways. I was always finding ways to opt-out of their thinking, without expressly saying so. I was always introducing ‘other’ ways to see and do things. I raised my kids differently, without corporal punishment, etc.
This was actually my way of staying in their lives.
Is this why I was so dressed up? Was that how they saw me, coming in as a fancy outsider? I usually downplayed things so as not to trigger those accusations, back then, but I guess here I am myself, playful and “high volume” whether they give permission or not.
The wonderful thing is that the more these underground tensions release, the wider the sky seems to be, too. These are gentle shifts and explorations, not bothersome. When I woke this morning I said aloud, “Why still these dreams?” It felt like I was bored by them, rather than hurt by them.
I’m just not finding this carousel particularly interesting anymore.
I came to the end today. Two years and eight hundred pages since starting the journal I titled How to be Estranged when reeling from my grandfather’s death and my mother’s overdue abandonment. I love the way I’ve written this, including for the first time photos and more creative writings with the worries of the day, dreams of the night.
My first entry was a dream:
Covid. July. 2020.
A small, quite ridiculous creature appears uninvited; there is no door. It has a large mouth which, as one looks, gets bigger and bigger, revealing more and more sharp menacing teeth. Its already small eyes are quickly hidden. Lurching out from beside, clasping its own mouth over the creature’s, my even smaller, yet fiercely loyal protector, breaks the spell.
The dangers of our times are absurd. Could the antidotes be simple?
The world is perceived as an apparent objective reality when the mind is externalized, thereby abandoning its identity with the Self. When the world is thus perceived the true nature of the Self is not revealed: conversely, when the Self is realized the world ceases to appear as an objective reality. -Ramana Maharashi | Indian sage
Fourth of July. Writing from bed because my back insists I not willpower my body into working the way others work, pushing the way others push. I didn’t do anything to injure myself; it was a simple day. Yet, by the fourth hour standing tears were breaking through–not even from the pain itself, but from my imagining dire consequences around not being able to continue, as though I’ve always done this, every day, rather than part time for the last three years. Although I’ve been considering a new role or change, I want to do so on my own terms this time.
A tendency toward catastrophizing, on the flip side generalizes personal experiences and puzzles as having much larger implications in the wider world. Yes, the personal is political, but the range can reach delusional degrees. “If I forgave my mother, would the threat of US fascism retreat?”
I am “always trying to save the world”, my grandfather would say, not as a compliment. But how can there be a difference between self-preservation and preserving one’s world? A sudden memory of him sometimes surprises me, like the day we walked around property he owned in Georgia, showing me what he intended I someday inherit. There were deer tracks running through the land, which I’d never seen before then, and I immediately began visioning out plans for the space. Excitedly, I told my mother that I would open a home for unwed mothers there. He changed his mind, of course. I wasn’t thinking of property values or neighbors. I was young. When he did pass away a few years ago now, the property he left came with lots of strings attached.
Someone I dated a few years ago:
[Him] You give money to causes and campaigns? I’d rather drive a nice car… [Me] I’d rather drive a crappy car and live in a nicer world...
I’ve doubted this tendency lately, have been suspicious of trying to be good, questioning my deeper intentions. But my therapist says that’s the product of looking to adults for love and validation, yet receiving criticism. If intention isn’t pure, that still doesn’t mean one should not follow a generous inclination. Questioning intentions can lead to greater sincerity.
Building on that, I’ve come to realize that there is nothing wrong with striving for excellence, or even goodness, but to expect perfection is to deny the very nature of our evolving humanity, of openness, of further possibility. It is to become critical, flaw-minded in a negative sense rather than a wabi-sabi appreciative one. One mustn’t turn on themself, abandon themself, even if that’s been modeled.
I remember being a little concerned that the Zen aesthetic I was drawn to could feed into perfectionistic propensities, once I recognized them. I felt thankful to see the opposite occur.
Although as a teen I developed intense stubbornness to show how little I could need or be hurt by someone withholding ‘things’ (by the time I left home at 18, my bedroom and closet were already nearly bare). I’m not afraid of having things, now, and don’t give away everything that comes to me. Back then, that space had been the only space I thought of as my own, and felt most powerful when it was empty.
That was then. Lately when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, instead of shopping online, I make donations. There isn’t much I can do, but it feels good to try, and generates hope in a time in which it’s deeply important to be hopeful. Last night I happened upon a women/youth shelter, which linked into the memory of my early intentions well. The feeling of finding that shelter was is: closure. I can validate that early yearning and imagining toward saving my world, myself.
It’s difficult to describe how Buddhism helped me come into healthier distinctions, but I think in part it has to do with tantra, and the way one can experience so much on the level of intention and imagination. There is so much to love and appreciate across such an unfathomable range of possibility! There is so much space in things, after all, and so little is actually hindered in the ways I might conceive of when forgetful-of-true-nature.
As for my weak back, and the work that requires a strong one, I don’t know. I find myself writing and dreaming about, my family-of-origin more. Could it be that just as I feel safer having things, it feels safer to tell my stories, too?
P.S. The Maharshi quote at the top of this post came to me via a note Andrew Holocek sends out each night for those subscribed. I’ve only been receiving these for a few days, but it’s a lovely way to signal winding down for the night in a dreamy-minded way. https://nightclub.andrewholecek.com/
A wee-small-hours of the morning dream stayed with me throughout the day, which is unusual on a work day, when I generally shift into such an entirely different gear so as to forget almost everything else. Often before work I sit in my car for a small meditation, hold an intention to bring that energy into rest of my time, only to blink and be right back in my car, several hours having passed in a blur. So I’m not sure why this dream is so potent, but it may be its great vibe… a weirdly optimistic Bladerunner aesthetic.
There were street markets and hidden gathering places. People were generally poor, but a sense of community was present, and life didn’t feel unsafe outside of a vague sense of surveillance far away. It felt like some idealistic vision had been realized, an alternate timeline that was missing greed, somehow. No one was showing off for one another at all.
What I remember most strongly, and what kept coming up all day, was the sensation of flying in a car driven by a friend, and the seamless transition between driving on a road into flying. Who this friend was keeps changing in my recollection, but the way she told me we were only able to get away with flying the car at the height we were flying, as the way to access places we were going, remains vivid. I looked up when she said this, to see another layer of the daytime sky I hadn’t been aware of before, and a globe-shaped vehicle traveling through that space.
As I mused with the dream earlier I realized, “Ah, we were flying under the radar!” And I thought of Bob Dylan’s line “To live above the law you must be honest.” Interesting associations, but there may be more to consider.
After all, here I am, writing about it now, shaking it for further treasure.
A strange thing has happened now that tossing and turning has fallen away from nighttime explorations; I find myself reliving alternate scenarios such as “What if married life with G had taken this turn?” Last night, I was the one working more, coming home to be shown our baby’s head lifting up with strength for the first time, other things. The dream was bright, not magical, but there was contentment.
When I have these dreams, there is often then residue of other dreams remembered, fragments of scenarios wherein I see my true wishes and have a chance to play them out, even if just a bit. They become experiences I have had, therefore are in a different category from pie-in-the-sky wishes. These desires genuinely feel sort of checked-off, although not fitting into what the circumstances of my life say is true.
Exploring virtual worlds was like this, too. Had I kept a journal then, I could have written that I began the day with a morning balloon ride before landing in a field of flowers where a deep international discussion ensued. I could have described dancing in outer space with someone who felt familiar, but I didn’t know, just as I might recount a dream. These accounts would have been true, suspending so-called knowledge that neither balloon nor flowers were real balloon and flowers. But what is real?
In some ways, those experiences felt more real, exactly because of the layer of true-knowing that they weren’t. That’s hard to describe, but neuroscience so far concurs that vivid imaginations and memories can weigh as much, matter as much–if not more–as so-called real life happenings, when it comes to our day to day responses and choices.
I believe we are less alive and awake in our lives when we forget what we’re experiencing at any given time, is not the whole truth. What we know about one another’s intentions, wrapped up in past experience and read-outs of such, is a story we’re actively telling that would disappear if we stopped actively telling it. So really, we have a great deal of freedom.
The starkest of my recent nighttime dreams remains that of mourning my grandfather’s death alongside my mother and sister, generating care and okay-ness, moving into a next, more loving phase of life together. That’s not the scenario that played out, but it has brought me comfort to go back to that dream, and that dreaming self, and say “I see you.”
When accused of ill intentions, or when I imagine that I’m accused of such, there is a deeply rooted knowing there, reminding me of what I really aspire toward when my guard is all the way down, which is love. Forgiveness too, yes, within that, but not a keep-the-fragile-peace forgiveness: an honest forgiveness, wherein people who love each other love each other in full view of failures and misunderstandings and doubts, as well as victories and reliefs and good works/intentions. Who wish each other well, even-or-especially in ways that don’t benefit our (material) selves.
One reason so much spaciousness occurred when my mother exited is precisely that the shaky ground which kept me on-guard all the time, finally just gave way as I feared. Which doesn’t mean I wanted it that way.
For a long time I couldn’t look objectively at my background, because to do so would make it very hard to continue that relationship without some kind of acknowledgement–not for the acknowledgement itself, but what the acknowledgement would mean for our future. Since then, I’ve been able to see that choices had already been made, to build a new life and backstory my existence contradicts; love for me might indeed require risking that construction. Judging by the way I’ve so far kept specifics mostly to myself however, only willingness to risk would be required.
None of this means love itself isn’t possible. Indeed suffering occurs when I try to deny love its place. I want to let love have expression, even when I don’t understand, even when I want to cry “Unfair! Unfair!” Leaving aside individual responses to particular situations in moments which arise, in general, I have to be on love’s side to be happy.
I’m reminded that during my first real therapy sessions, when (the first) Dr. W tried to take me through visualizations of support, building layers of ground beneath me, I still couldn’t find stability. Something insisted on holding out for The Real Deal. Those visualizations indeed turned out to be a kind of priming before the insight of groundlessness took precedence.
“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.” ”
― Chögyam Trungpa
Is there a chance the current wish-fulfilling dreams point to something yet deeper as well? What is the territory I’m actually meant to explore? Buddhism loves the concept of the wish-fulfilling gem, which I’ve taken to be (the mind of) Naturally Occurring Timeless Awareness, a la Longchenpa. These dreams may themselves act as objects of meditation, or taken together, as a singular koan.
“Naturally occurring timeless awareness—utterly lucid awakened mind— is something marvelous and superb, primordially and spontaneously present.
It is the treasury from which comes the universe of appearances and possibilities, whether of samsara or nirvana.
Homage to the unwavering state, free of elaborations.”
The loop messages have been playing at high quality, as though a layer has been sloughed off, leaving programming clearly exposed. This time, it isn’t a critical voice, but an even more constant beat, surely affecting the rhythm patterns of movements and breath overall. I hadn’t realized this further layer before, perhaps because when I compare what it was like “before”, mind is deeply open and quiet much of the time. Sill, it feels great to notice the minuscule skips. When the loop is exposed so well I can, as though undoing a mistake in a knitting pattern, easily reach my needle in to release it.
The most common loop I’m picking up on? “I’m tired.” I’m not even tired half the time I notice this! And there’s the feel of a shield of some sort, likely deflecting the previously-expected critical voice that dropped away. So far, I’m able to stop to ask “Am I, actually, tired?” Or sometimes, more accurately, “Are you?” “Who are you, saying you are tired all the time, anyway?” “Let’s teach you some new tricks. What’s more fun to say?” More fun than “I’m tired” is “I’m happy”, for instance.
If I am tired, I might still ask “Who are you talking to?” Is there someone (in memories) I’m trying to get not to exhaust me further, someone I wish would allow more space, rest? What if I offer that? Even just being willing to let go is relief.
Speaking of new tricks and phrases, I had a few ‘proud of myself’ Spanish moments in the store today. An older couple beamed at my attempts to help in their more comfortable language. My heart was so moved by their appreciation. Overhearing the exchange, a co-worker praised our attempts to understand each other as well, adding that she likes to hear the way I use English… “so many different words.” When this coworker was growing up in Nicaragua, no one took much time to help her along, so she too feels limited and is learning from our diverse Miami community, where so many Spanishes are spoken.
Her compliments, and the story behind them, sparked a pause as I reflected on neglectful periods of my own upbringing. There’s certainly a case to be made for my being left to my devices too much as a child, while at the same time, I managed to enjoy many enriched experiences and friendships along the way. I’m so thankful for an attentive early education, for instance. It wasn’t either/or.
A common thread through my journals is the difficulty of weaving contrasting narratives when one cares about being and becoming genuine. There aren’t many heroes or villains in my stories, but there are a few, and I’ve become capable of honest apology alongside becoming capable of giving difficult feedback when needed. Like learning knitting and Spanish and qigong all at once, capacities grow together.