between the ears

Something that’s difficult to appreciate is how profoundly differently people experience the world.

If you think of a human as an input-output feedback system, you’ve got the five (or so) senses as input and the skeletal muscles as output.

And then there’s everything that happens in between.

I want to specifically focus on the processing that happens between input and output and more specifically how that processing feels from the inside. And, additionally, how that feeling/experience predicts if not directly causes behavior (depending on the true metaphysics(tm)).


(*) After Phrenology book

One could make a distinction between inside and outside, here. You could even go full Ken Wilber and give the insides and outsides their own insides and outsides.

On the outside of the outside you’ve got fields, particles, molecules, neurons, brains, etc.

On the inside of the outside you’ve got “information processing” or, say, representations and dynamics.

On the outside of the inside you’ve got, say, beliefs and reasoning.

On the inside of the inside you’ve got, say, what beliefs and reasoning feel like, whether conceived of as beliefs and reasoning or not.

Or something.

It’ll be helpful to make a distinction between endorsed and professed beliefs versus like “actual beliefs” or like what actually makes you jump and cringe and reach.

So then you’ve got “the experience of being from the inside” or the “lifeworld” or what it feels like to be a person or what it feels like to be you.

Importantly, we are so fish-in-water about this. Like a flatlander trying to figure out a third dimension or a human trying to figure out a fourth spatial dimension, we can’t conceive of many, many, many variations in dimensions of the experience of being human until a few of them have shifted, giving a before and after and thereby a space where there can be locations. And even then it’s hard to generalize, though, with more experience, more and more generalization is inevitable.

And then, holy crap, language (where it “lives”, how it’s “used”, how it functions in thought and planning), the “future” (how it functions in reasoning and planning), “thinking” and “reasoning”, what’s good and bad, how the present becomes the future, how life itself can feel, what a life is, what a mind is, what experience is… And of course what you want, how you conceive of that, how you plan to get it, all that, eventually starts changes.

You might experience flickers at first, maybe a few big “pops” here and there, but you might really only start get a real taste for it a couple thousand hours in, or more.

So, some uncommonly-thought-about dimensions of this are, first, the timescales involved–as I said just above, sometimes, especially with the right kind of help, one can make big changes within an hour or two. But those changes will inside of lots of structure that will be inevitably slow to move. So one needs to think about change in increments of a hundred hours and, really, even in increments of a thousand hours at least for the first two or three thousand. The mind changes slowly. Though of course, this is a skill and a cumulative thing. The more a person untangles and preps themselves for adaptiveness, the more of the system can and will change in parallel. Though, it seems, the more that changes in parallel, the finer and finer the grain this is at, and the slower the changes *apparently* seem to be, even though change becomes more and more steady, just subtler. The changes are ultimately of higher and higher quality, though, all things being equal.

And, then two downsides, “corner-painting”, bottlenecks, and adaptive valleys.

Corner-painting, as in, painting oneself into a corner. When one first starts changing themselves, one inevitably makes mistakes, ends up in a corner, and has to somehow figure out how to painstakingly reverse.

A bottleneck is when a particular not-yet-realized change is blocking perhaps many much more felt-valuable changes.

And then adaptive valleys–two, five, ten, a hundred (a thousand?!) hours of leaving a local maximum along some dimension to finally get something better. Like, things are metaphysically weird or something about the universe is broken or something is definitely hopeless until it isn’t. And eventually, cf. “equanimity” significant generalization occurs, mind is seen as mind, a “safe zone” is created, as it were, and it becomes possible to weather weirder and weirder and more and more pervasive weirdness, for longer and longer periods, in the service of getting something better.

“Corner-painting”, bottlenecks, and adaptive valleys are not theoretical, they are everpresent parts of the experience of doing this stuff, and you can learn to conceive of them as such, and it’s very useful for figuring out what’s happening locally on your personal map.

Finally, you get a better and better understanding of contingent and global constraints on self-transformation. There are some things minds just can’t do, but it’s hilariously, wonderfully, hugely less than you think. And/but, change of mind/brain isn’t arbitrary, both in sort of, first, hardware sort of way and, second, in terms of what legal moves are allowed in any given local state. It’s a slider puzzle, a tower of hanoi problem. And you get better and better at playing it.

So, anyway, the territory is just huge. You’ve got an entire universe inside of you and the potential to experience an infinite number of universes (blah, blah but kinda yeah, subject to contingencies). And somehow one has to learn how to wayfind in the midst of that as well as decide on the destination(s). And it’s all hot-swapping, you’re rearranging the thing as you travel. Hundreds of hours, thousands of hours, with it’s risk and opportunity cost. But for some people it’ll be worth it.

perfection, exhaustivity, awareness

You have to go find a way to find the perfection and the perfectly bad, everything that’s not safe to look at; you can’t leave any of it out.


Uncertainty (1/4)

(1) You have to go find (or allow to rise) that which makes the mind quail and surrender to their apparent/illusory/veridical/felt uncertainty:

Those apparent/illusory/veridical/felt

  • extremities, immortalities, infinities, perfections, maximalities, superlatives, extrema, hyperprecisions, radicalities, terminuses, endings, finalities, infinitesimals…


Goodness (2/4)

(2) You have to go find (or allow to rise) those not yet true/realized apparent/illusory/veridical/felt to be good and surrender to to that apparent/illusory/veridical/felt goodness:

That apparent/illusory/veridical/felt

  • perfect intimacy / communion  /understanding / connection / romance / communication / honesty
  • perfect sex, kink/fetish/paraphilia, the positive taboo, the better than sex sex [sic]
  • perfect safety/handledness/certainty/knowing/prediction/experience, life situation
  • perfect transcendence, cracking open the universe, piercing the veil
  • the better than sex (not to be confused with the better than sex sex [sic])


Contradiction and Impossibility (3/4)

(3) You have to go find (or allow to rise) those things which in some apparent/illusory/veridical/felt sense just don’t work, in their contradiction and impossibility:

Those apparent/illusory/veridical/felt

  • the too good to have, the too good to want, the too bad to want, the (good and) too hard to get, the desirable unworkable
  • that which you long for but is incompatible with other longing or having or what’s currently true or going to happen
  • the ways the universe is broken, the ways the universe is metaphysically broken, unworkable


Badness (4/4)

(4) You have to go find that which is (already realized or potentially realizable) apparent/illusory/veridical/felt (to be) bad and surrender to that apparent/illusory/veridical/felt badness:

Those and their objects apparent/illusory/veridical/felt:

  • fear, trauma, rage, hatred, anguish, hopelessness, meaninglessness, resignation, horribleness, terror, critical badness, already-failed-ness, already-perfectly-failed-ness, already-perfectly-stably-forever-failed-ness, perfect forever aloneness, desolation, death, nonexistence




And then what happens when it’s safe to look at all of this? When it becomes safe to look at the apparent sun, the apparent supernovae, with naked eyes, without protection? When it becomes nondramatic, no big deal? To play in these sandboxes of the mind, because there is no spoon, it’s all representation (even though you can get hit by a bus)?

What becomes possible, putting in those lonely hours and opportunity costs, when you’ve figured out how to make it safe to give up everything because you’ve figured out what you get back after you do?