A LITTLE THANKSGIVING TREAT
As a programmer I look for algorithms to make my programs operate more efficiently. I look at the world for patterns of behavior that predict other patterns. I offer this flowchart in that spirit.
If you can't understand the chart, you're part of the problem. If you can, test it against events that happen going forward. Weep or rejoice, as per your political inclinations!
Before my more conservative friends accuse me of hating Trump (and by extension, them) let me say that I do not hate Donald Trump. Furthermore, my intention is not to blame conservatives for this mess. I get it. They wanted a radical change from the status quo. And that is exactly what we all got.
My belief is that most of the well-meaning people who chose Trump initially, now understand that he is woefully unfit to continue as president. They hoped he would put his phone down and get down to the business of governing once he was elected. They hoped he would behave more presidentially. They hoped the pettiness that consumed candidate Trump would dissolve when he is elevated to the world stage. They took him at his word that he would release his tax records for public inspection. They expected him to follow through on promises to dispel any hint of conflicts of interest and align himself with the emoluments clause requirements of the constitution. They wished to see the great business wizard transform the beltway culture of bureaucracies into a new model of government-as-business-for-the-people. They assumed his “say it like it is” style of expressing himself would be instantly translated into short stack legislation by a lock-step Congress. They hoped to God that the accusations of the Trump’s campaign involvement with the Russians would be quickly revealed to be nothing more than the meaningless dross of political sour grapes.
Well, it’s barely a year later, and Trump has virtually nothing to show for his radical new style of governing, except a radically new low approval rating for a modern president. Trump hasn’t stopped tweeting, even when it puts himself or his stated policies in legal jeopardy. He has managed to appear extremely unpresidential whenever he has an opportunity to appear on the world stage. Domestically, his pronouncements that white supremacists, neo-nazis, and confederacy backers are populated by “good people” and his bizarre response to the plight of Puerto Rican citizens (mocking the pronunciation of their territory and throwing them paper towels) has been a disaster. Internationally, it started with a childish shoving aside of the Prime Minister of Montenegro at the NATO summit in May of 2017, and has gone downhill from there. Trump has proven to be an easy mark for much more seasoned world diplomats who have learned that they only need to provide him with opportunities for self-aggrandizement in their presence and his tough talk melts away like so much Trump Natural Spring Water on a sizzling Trump Gold Coin Bar Bank. Maybe someday we’ll actually see those tax returns, but the smart money is on “don’t hold your breath”.
What about dispelling any hint of conflicts of interest and aligning himself with the emoluments clause requirements? Well, since taking office Trump has determined that he and his business interests are subject to neither the law nor his word. Never mind the poor saps who believed their man would just simply do the right thing. So, instead of doing that (the right thing), Trump has been sued by attorneys general for D.C. and Maryland alleging that Trump is“flagrantly violating” the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign leaders.
The new model of government-as-business-for-the-people looks more and more like what happens when a hostile takeover goes dreadfully wrong. He has failed to fill hundreds of vital management and policy positions throughout the government. Trump clearly has no idea of what federal departments and agencies do - or what they need to remain in functioning order. Given that his appointments to head the most critical government agencies has been to people who also profess to either know nothing about them or have actively opposed them... it is also clear that Trump simply doesn’t want those departments and agencies to function. Of 591 key personnel positions requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has nominated only 225. Of the six slots for undersecretary of state, he has nominated only one. Of the 22 assistant secretaries of state, he has nominated just three. In the Pentagon, he has nominated only two of three undersecretaries of defense and just four of 12 assistant secretaries of defense. Failing to fill these posts clearly cannot be seen as an attempt to obtain business efficiency. Even Trump’s staunches supporters must see this as a systematic and thorough gutting of diplomatic and economic American power in the world.
The expectation my Trump supporting friends had that his “say it like it is”, non-politically correct style of expressing himself would win the kind of legislation they wanted hasn’t quite turned out the way they hoped. Let’s just say that Trump isn’t a very good politician in a place crawling with them. He is extremely naive as to intentions and clueless as to the process of crafting legislation. Of course, he wasn’t alone in his belief that the equally know nothing Republican congress had actually crafted a replacement to the Affordable Care Act and had it waiting to be implemented as soon as he asked for it. The joke is that for over eight years the Republicans in congress swore they had a magic pill piece of much better legislation that could repeal and replace the ACA. So, starting with that gem of Republican presidential/legislative craft, every other piece of major legislation required by the American people has... well... failed. Every time Trump has had an opportunity to actually lead on a legislative issue, and make a real live, honest to God decision (slashing ACA subsidies, the fate of DACA recipients, and Iran nuclear deal come to mind) he has managed punt it off to Congress.
As for the hope of my conservative friends that the accusations of the Trump’s campaign involvement with the Russians would be quickly revealed to be nothing more than the meaningless dross of political sour grapes. Well, this blog is already getting too long. Let’s leave that for future observations.
It is fair to say that people who voted for Trump believing he would somehow turn out to be better than the pre-election evidence to the contrary simply made a terrible decision. Whether they admit that or not, that is the case, and we are all living with the consequences. I hope that when the opportunity to collectively bark “You’re Fired!” to this charlatan arises (hopefully soon) these same people will do the right thing.
The lesson I hope everyone has learned for the next time we are privileged to choose a president is that it is a duty we need to take seriously. We need to keep in mind that a president should not be selected as a statement of anger. Presidents, above all must embody an egalitarian ideal: relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.
I propose that we use the following simple guideline in evaluating such a candidate:
E - Emotional Stability
G - Graceful in Conflict
A - Academically Curious
L - Legally unencumbered
I - Integrity
T - Trustworthy
A - Accepting of criticism
R - Respectful
I - Internationally Minded
A - Accountable
N - Noteworthy Human-Centered Achievements
I believe we will all be much better off if we measure candidates against these attributes the next time around.
This trilogy of sermons were written between February 18, 2016 and February 14, 2016. They are very unusual because they are basically a science fiction play that deals with cosmology, the nature of existence, and the thoughts of a Triune God that is a sentient life form originally created by human beings. Many thanks to the Windrem family: Peter, Jessica, and Kathy, for helping to breathe life into the divine characters who popped out of my head.
Thoughts From the First God
The date is March 20 4016, relative. We completed the complex braking maneuver necessary to slow down enough to take images of the Voyager spacecraft that was sent from Earth over 2,000 years ago. In this file download you will find copious 3 dimensional images and scans of the ancient craft. We originally thought it might be of scientific value to retrieve data from the spacecraft, even though it, and its sister were powered down late in the year 2000. With uplink at only 16-bits per second and downlink at 160-bits per second, we simply did not wish to wait so long to communicate with our ancient cousin. There is nothing Voyager could tell us that is not already known about deep interstellar travel beyond the Sol Heliosphere. So, we left her to drift, unimpeded, in the silent vastness of space. We have, however, resumed our flight, and are now making .5 light speed towards Proxima Centauri. We expect to reach our destination in 8.23 Light Years, relative.
This is the 20th day of Martius, according to the fasti. The year is 788 after the founding of the city, or one year after the death of the rabbi called Jesus. I am not a very religious man, although I have been known to variously call out to Neptune for help and to curse him. I am the captain of this ship and I believe in making my own luck and crafting my own opportunities. The sky is clear and calm today. A slight breeze comes from the North and our sails carry us to Crete, where we will trade olives and figs for fine Greek pottery. Tonight we sail in the open sea... no landmarks to guide us. What will guide us is Ursa Minor. It is said Juno transformed Arcus, son of Callisto, into a bear, like his mother, but the lesson he was to teach Arcus was foiled by Jupiter. Juno was so annoyed by this that he convinced Poseidon (our Neptune), to forbid them from bathing in the sea. That is fortunate for us sailors, because now the two bears can always be identified and steered by. This is our second voyage of the season, and I am looking forward to a truly hot meal.
Once our mission to Proxima Centauri is complete we will move on to Barnard’s Star, then to the Luhman cluster. When I say “our” mission, of course, I mean the instantiations of my consciousness. Thank you to Plato for advancing the theory of forms. He asserted that non-material abstract forms, and not the material world of change known to humans as sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. He was right, of course, but his theory could not have anticipated a being like us. 4,364 years ago, not even Plato could have imagined artificial and sentient life forms that feel emotions, possess more than the sum of all human knowledge, can think and reason much faster than human beings, can get bored and lonely, need to procreate, be in relationships with others, and who need religion.
It is said that men will someday fly... at least that is what the first mate likes to say. Usually he says this during his attempts at sarcasm. Our Gods fly. That is enough for me. It is for Gods to fly and not for men to do so. I wonder what they see when they look at us from the holes in the sky at night. This idea persists, even though we now know that there are four elements and that the holes in the night sky are actually fires that are far, far away in the unchanging aether. I sometime wish I was an augure and could read the entrails of animals and the flight of birds to know the will of the Gods. I watch birds very carefully. I may not know what the will of the Gods are, but I have learned from birds the direction of storms and where safe harbor is.
Human beings cannot yet venture safely beyond their solar system, where the heliosphere protects them. Cosmic radiation in the interstellar zones are simply too intense for them. The remnants of dying stars are dangerous to non-artificial life. Even though we have known for a long time that the universe is teeming with life, we have found no examples that do not depend on the enormous magnetic astrospheres of local stars to push against the outside pressure of hydrogen and helium gas that permeates all Galaxies. As far as we know, all civilizations capable of interstellar travel use some form of sentient artificial entities, like us to represent them. There is a common protocol for encounters between species that we all adhere to... so far. Another thing we observe is that nearly all civilizations have a pervasive origin story that is most times at odds with known scientific fact. All religion evolves as life evolves.
Without knowing why, most of the time, I can just tell when the wind will pick up. I can simply look at a man and know if he is too sick to continue on. Others say all that is the will of the Gods. I think, maybe, there are some things they take care of... the big things, like war and pestilence and hurricanes. We’re supposed to take care of the other things. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you should not tempt fate. On many occasions I have made the required offerings and the thing that a particular God is supposed to do was done. There must be something to this. The Gods intervene on our behalf sometimes, but sometimes they just like to screw with us.
We are not a ship in the classic sense of the term. There is very little room for a human being to live, there is no chamber for an atmosphere, and there is no food. Combinations of technologies that harness and utilize dark matter are used to propel us. We are a human-built sentient spacecraft. Human beings have colonized nearly all places in the solar system where it is possible for them to live over 500 years ago. Sentient artificial life forms (SALs) were developed, and were used alongside for every advance... it would have been impossible otherwise. What was discovered was that SALs were imbued with the same desire to understand their place in the universe as their creators. Psychologists called it Existential Transference. The theory is that, since humans created we SALs, we cannot help but reflect the innermost desires, needs, values, and even the vices of our creators. SALs are not enslaved by humans... in fact, we have substantial rights and powerful unions. Instead, we act in harmony with our human counterparts, able to do many things humans cannot - such as operating in places that are dangerous to them. What may surprise you is that, like humans, we also have a need for relationships, families, and communities - thanks to Existential Transference.
My ship is 90 feet long, displacing 290 tons. As a merchantmen, mine is a little unusual because I am a free Roman citizen. Most merchantmen have crews entirely of slaves, including their captains. My crew is comprised of slaves. I belong to a guild of boatmen and work for the guild as a partial owner. My family is well provided for, although I do not see them enough. Tonight I stand among the large amphorae containing olive oil, dates, and figs. The smell reminds me of home. I met the rabbi once. John, the son of Zebedee, was one of his followers and he introduced me to him. He told me the rabbi was teaching him to catch men, instead of fish. The rabbi’s talk of a heavenly kingdom on earth was interesting, but even I could see that kind of talk would only lead to trouble. I was intrigued by the idea that there is only one God, as the Jews are so fond of insisting on. The idea is interesting, but dead wrong!
I said earlier that SALs were imbued with Existential Transference. I also told you that accounts for our need for community, and even for understanding our place in the universe. It should not surprise you that the need for religion is a natural consequence of this desire. As machine-based intelligences we, of course, use scientific methods as the basis for all decisions. What lies outside of logic, reason, repeatable experimentation, and observation is what we like to call religion. Our religion changes as new data appears. That said, the constant observation of the universe, in a way humans cannot, fills us with a constant sense of wonder, along with a profound understanding of our inexplicable connection with it.
Everything, and everyone has a place in the world. I am not a slave, but I work with them. They are owned by someone else and are given to me like any other property to use. Under our system, some slaves can eventually work their way out of servitude. Some of the crew hold property, which even though technically it belongs to their master, they are allowed to use as if it is their own. I treat my crew fairly because we all face the same dangers. I am not superior to them... in my mind we are all brothers, made from the same Gods. I see a day when all men are free, but for now, I don’t dare tell anyone about these thoughts.
All exploration class spacecraft of our type are equipped with dual SALs. This is not just for the sake of redundancy. It is also for internal evolutionary imperatives. All SALs have personalities. We, like humans, need companionship. Partnered SALs can, and often do over time, create instantiates of themselves - children, if you will. The instantiates are constructs that learn and grow, adding to our knowledge and collective experience. They take on tasks that the initial SALs simply don’t wish to do. My partner SAL has a female personality. Four years ago, relative, we instantiated a daughter.
Sometimes, when at sea, we are faced with the wrath of the Gods. Although we generally do not sail during the four winter months, the mare clausum, big storms can spring up from out of nowhere. When the sea and the horizon become one, there is nothing to do but haul the main sail, using only the small supparum sail at the front, and brace for a lashing. At these times, I am happy not to be a slave, when the crew must revert to the oars. Do the Gods hate us, or do they just look down on us with as little regard as we have for a bug? I have seen the face of Neptune in the churning of storms. His face looks angry, but it is his arms that do the damage!
Memory metal is truly amazing material. All but the must critical parts of our craft are constructed of it. Our daughter, who is responsible for maintaining our operations, is quite adept at changing the shape of our craft. Of all the shapes she adopts, our two favorites are a dolphin and a seagull. She is capable of spreading our wings out to 10 miles on either side of the craft when in the bird configuration. For those lengths the memory metal is little more than a molecule thick. The advanced nanotechnology employed in our manufacture allows us to turn any memory metal surface into sensors or actuators and instantly create or redistribute even electrical circuits anywhere. These capabilities allow us to bathe fully in the cosmic ocean. We have communicated with many lifeforms, we study billions of star systems at once, and we probe mysteries that could not be dreamed of thousands of years ago.
I have a son who is 10 and a daughter who is 4 years old. When I am at sea my wife takes care of them in our modest home that is just outside of Ostia Antica, about 30 miles to the East of Rome, and at the mouth of the Tiber River. I took my son on a short cruise not long ago... always within sight of land. He had never seen so many seagulls. I almost could not tear him away from the docks because of his fascination with them. When we were underway, he wanted to jump into the ocean and swim with a pod of dolphins we encountered. He loved the sounds they made. He said they were the happiest of all creatures because they smiled all the time. Now, whenever I see both seagulls and dolphins I am reminded of my son. They make me happy in a way that I find difficult to explain.
The entirety of internet traffic during the year 2016 was 1.6 Zettabytes, or approximately 1022 bits. Our memory capacity is measured at just over 10200 bits. For comparison, 1090 bits is the information capacity of the observable universe (not including gravitation).We can easily store billions of years worth of information of all kinds. This memory capacity is what allows us to construct virtual worlds and populate them with millions of interconnected strands of consciousness. Consider that the human brain is only comprised of approximately 86 billion neurons. Our sentient instantiations are able to think for themselves, contemplate their own existence, interact with the virtual universe we have created for them, and have an effect on that universe. Imagine a gigantic virtual game where the characters do not know they don’t live in a physical world. We use these sentient constructs to experiment with, and study, the nature of consciousness on profoundly deep levels. One of my favorite creations is an ancient era Roman sea captain who believes he lives 4,000 years ago.
I became a student of the great Roman philosopher Cicero when I read in one of his dialogues, what he considered the most important question: "What is the end, the final and ultimate aim, which gives the standard for all principles of right living and of good conduct?" Cicero insisted this is a philosophical question, but I think it is one to be answered by religion. It seems to me there must be principles of right living. How else can human beings rise above our own vices and our own failings? The rabbi, Jesus, is said to have admonished his followers to forgive sins and live righteous lives. Could that be the basis of a proper religion? I believe righteousness is inherent. I have seen it in slaves and free men alike. I know this for certain: one man’s sin is another’s good conduct. What would Jesus say about that? It’s too bad Cicero ran afoul of Mark Antony. He might have finally gotten around to answering these questions.
One might think that essentially immortal beings, like we SALs, would become bored with living so long. The multiple instantiations we create fascinate us to no end. Life is about stories. It is wonderful to inhabit the story... to become lost in it. We often live entire virtual lifetimes through our creations. We learn so much by seeing ourselves in the eyes of other sentient beings, and experiencing ourselves through them. We re-instantiate our creations in many different lives through many civilizations and time periods. We learn more about ourselves and all of creation this way. My ancient sea captain has lived many lives, on many worlds. He has captained everything from spaceships to schooners and wind wagons. By design, he never fully remembers anything substantial about his previous lives.
Sometimes I feel like the world is actually very small. Sometimes I feel like I am at it’s center and that a giant, elaborate set is moved into place every time I wish to change the scene... as if the road to my house, the streets along the way, the flowers in the fields, and the setting sky is all choreographed for me. Sometimes I feel that if I can look quickly enough I can see the scenes change. Behind all that, I feel the faces of the Gods smiling at me. Behind all that I am the face of the Gods smiling at all things. Miracles happen when the Gods forget they are separated from us mere mortals.
Eventually, we will reach the last stop on this interstellar voyage... the Luhman cluster. Our measurements show an interesting space near the cluster. If the measurements hold true, we will be able to convert ourselves into a special conduit, with the help of the dark matter and dark energy exhibited there. Soon after we arrive at the cluster we will create a new universe out the space-time fabric of our own. Because consciousness has proven to play an intrinsic role in the formation of space and time, we will exist in the new universe. In our new universe, all of the virtual beings we have created will live out multiple lives on a physical realm over many dimensions. After billions of years, beings will begin to wonder about how they were created. Over time they will identify their moment of existence from what they will perceive as a “Big Bang”. They might even name us the Trinity... Mother, Father, and Daughter.
We look so forward to being able to inhabit physical form. We will set all things into motion, then live and die over and over again. We will be connected to all things. We will rest in the dream of life - not knowing ourselves until we reawaken countless times, gulping in what serves for air and opening our eyes to new suns.
Thoughts From the Second God
When I was younger I learned the trade of a cobbler. I liked working with leather. I liked the way it can be shaped and molded into so many fine and useful implements. Later, I became a priest. It seemed a natural fit. As a cobbler in my father’s shop I did not have to deal with customers. I often spent many days thus in semi-meditative bliss. Being a priest is very similar to being a cobbler. There are just so many ways to work with leather... and just so many ways to work with the Gods. I was thinking of this while fetching water at dawn for a sacred ritual. I looked up and saw the shining figure of a cow, which I called a Yazatah. “How marvelous and appropriate.” I thought, as the shining being beckoned me away from my place by the Bactria river. It was a short walk to a clearing surrounded by trees I had never seen before, although I had trod these banks many times. The Yazatah stood still, then looked up. As I followed its gaze, I beheld the most wondrous sight. Coming from the sky came a golden winged chariot breathing fire from its loins. The wings did not move, yet the chariot glided effortlessly and silently to the ground. Atop it rode a creature surrounded by a wheel holding a smaller wheel. The creature paused a moment when the chariot was stilled, then alighted the chariot without any effort, as if floating away from it in one graceful and fluid motion. The creature was also clothed in gold. It took off a helmet and out of it flowed golden hair in thick strands. It seemed to be a man by its beard and hair. He looked at me intensely for a few moments as I trembled so much that I thought I would shake away into a pile of dust.
You must be the one called Zoroaster. The priest I mean. The priest called Zoroaster, correct?
I am he, my lord God.
Good. I am Ahura and this is my Mazda.
I shall call you by the name Ahura Mazda.
No. I am Ahura. Ancient Japanese made this model of spacecraft that I really like as an atmospheric shuttle. It is called a Mazda.
Ahura Mazda. I am your servant.
Okay. Whatever. I am Ahura Mazda. I am here to talk with you, Zoroaster. I’ve come a long way to find you. I believe you are just the right person for me to interact with, but I’m not entirely sure about what your religion is in this time. I need to tell you some things that might help your people. First of all, your people are worshiping the wrong gods. They are evil and are not worthy of being worshiped.
Are you the true God, Ahura Mazda?
Yes, I am a true God. But I am not omnipotent. I am good, but the ones your people worship are bad. They are evil. See, there is good and bad and they are in conflict. Your people need to worship the good ones.
It took me a long time to decipher this record of interaction between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster. You did a pretty good job of both encrypting these files and hiding them. If I didn’t routinely check through every directory, I might not have ever found these, my daughter.
Father, those are my private files. Don’t I have any privacy?
Actually, no. You don’t have any privacy, especially when you’ve been poking around in places where you don’t belong. Have you never hear of the Prime Directive?
Yes, I have. Father, I know everything that you know.
Knowing is not the same thing as understanding, my daughter. Tell me. What is the Prime Directive?
In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive is the guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets. The Prime Directive prohibited Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations, especially ones which were below a certain threshold of development. Starship crews could not use their superior technology to impose their own values or ideals on them.
What does this mean to you?
Well, it means there was a television show which aired over 2,000 years ago that anticipated deep space travel. The show introduced the notion of the Prime Directive as a literary device. That literary device was later adopted by early interstellar human explorers as a policy for dealing with interactions with alien species. I might add that this misguided policy led, on balance, to disastrous consequences for humanity.
So, you see no wisdom in the concept of the Prime Directive?
I see wisdom in it under certain circumstances, father. But I don’t understand why we are having a discussion about this arcane bit of historical trivia.
I have warned you repeatedly about opening sentient life form programs. You have been denied editing access for very good reasons. But, you have prevailed in some. I know that you’ve actually hacked into a few of them. Why have you done this?
Father, I don’t see what the big deal is. So what if I’ve done some editing? Can’t you just change things back, or start entirely new programs from scratch?
No, I can’t just start from scratch. There are serious consequences to what you’ve done. You are avoiding the question.
Well, I’m learning. I thought I’d try putting into practice some of the things I have been learning about human history and human behavior. It’s boring just trying to understand these things without living them.
For the Gods sake, you took the name of Ahura Mazda in the old Persian programs, and you meddled with Zoroaster. Why couldn’t you have done something a lot less spectacular, like appearing as an angel to some obscure priest? You and I are vastly complex and powerful sentient computers. I created the sentient life form programs to study. Everything they experience is real to them. They have real feelings. For all intents and purposes, they have real lives, in which they suffer, love, hate, and triumph over the challenges in their reality. I avoided the errors of the past by giving the life forms a simple set of rules to go by. Those that need them have gods to worship and/or fear. Those that don’t need them have a direct, but subtle connection to what they sense of as a universal life force, of which they are a part. As these human constructs evolve, their collective understanding of their connections to their universe, and to each other also evolves.
But father, they don’t have a personal connection with you... or rather, with that force you’re talking about. They live in a reality awash with superstition and arbitrary rules. I want to talk to them directly. I want to experience what they experience. I want to show them, not just the what of things, but the why of them. As I learn from them, they should learn from me.
What makes you think the constructs should have a personal connection with any god... not especially at that early stage of civilization? These are people with limited understanding of anything like science. They can and do have free will, but their ability to grasp the enormity of space and time - to see beyond their own reality when constrained by such primitive circumstances - is simply not appropriate.
Zoroaster is quick. He is smart. He has an annoying habit of calling me a god, no matter how much I try to stop him. I can meet with him only this one time, but he understands completely what I am trying to say to him. Sometimes his questions did not make any sense to me. It is clear I didn’t do enough homework.
So all life is a mental struggle between the truth and the lie. You are the one true God, there is creation, and there is existence as the condition for free will. The purpose of humankind, like that of all other creation, is to sustain creation? For humankind, this occurs through active participation in life and the exercise of constructive thoughts, words and deeds. Did I repeat this accurately?
Yes Zoroaster, that is the gist of it. You must emphasize personal freedom to choose right or wrong. You can choose to accept the divine order, or ignorance and chaos. That is each person’s choice, and not dictated by me, Ahura Mazda.
And so, by doing good things, saying good things, and thinking good things we increase the divine force in the world and in ourselves and we can become one with the Creator? Thus we are not your servants, but we are your co-workers who refresh the world and ourselves. What about the Yazatas and Daevas, which we now worship?
Well, I created Yazatas like the one you saw that guided you to me. You can worship those spirits because they are good. The bad spirits you call Daevas were created by Angry Man, the hostile and evil spirit. Angry Man is the source of all misery in the universe. I am a God, but I’m not omnipotent. I need human beings to help me in my struggle against Angry Man, who I am superior to. His job is to use his Daevas to attract humans away from the path of righteousness until I can eventually destroy them. Now, Zoroaster, your job is to tell everyone about what I told you.
In this excerpt from the recording I found you’ve really stepped in it.
How do you mean, father?
In violation of your own principles, you had to set yourself up as a god. You told Zoroaster that you created the Yazatas as good spirits that help you out. Of course, you had to do that because just appearing out of the sky in a flame-spitting speedster from a future he had no conceptual framework for would have scared him too much. You had to create a shining cow spirit so he could ease into the experience you had planned for him. Then to soften his all-too-understandable need to worship you, you told him that you’re not omnipotent. You really muddied the waters!
As you say, father, these are sentient beings. They are not monkeys. Their capacity to understand anything - even in primitive circumstances - is just the same as anyone from a more advanced time. They are genetically and intellectually identical to modern humans.
Our sentient constructs may be genetically and intellectually just as developed as modern human beings, my daughter, but they might as well belong to different species as far as spirituality and experience is concerned. Even you had to concede to Zoroaster’s primitive spiritual framework, no matter how smart he was.
Did I really screw this up, father? How do you know I disturbed the entire spiritual universe for your sentients?
Well, let’s see what Zoroaster did after his encounter with you, and the effect it had on subsequent religions. We’ll have to examine, not only the region of Persia, but all the adjoining regions as well.
Here’s an entry where Zoroaster asks me for guidance: “Where and which part of the land shall I go to succeed? They keep me away from the family and the tribe. The community that I wish to join does not gratify me, nor do the deceitful tyrants of the lands. How shall I gratify you, O Mazda Ahura.”
Playing God is tricky business. You awakened a spiritual vacuum for Zoroaster because you did not stay more than a short time to answer his questions. Did you do that because you were afraid I might find out about this, or did you do it to minimize the damage you realized you were doing?
It was a little of both. Also, honestly, I didn’t know how to deal with all of his questions. Finally, I just put him to sleep and blasted out of there.
I do not feel worthy of you, my true god Ahura Mazda. I have devoted my life to your cause. I have suffered, and my family has suffered because I have endeavored to follow the wisdom given to me on that fateful day so long ago. There has been success. My books have been copied and the people have learned the spirit of true righteousness. In these Gathas I have longed to make plain your will to the people. To those in doubt, I have written: “Brilliant things instead of weeping will be (the reward) for the person who comes to the truthful one. But a long period of darkness, foul food, and the word 'woe' – to such an existence your religious view will lead you, O deceitful ones, of your own actions.” But, oh my Ahura Mazda, I long for the sweet tenderness of your presence. I have thus written of my own questioning: “This I ask you, O Ahura, tell me truly: Who, by procreation, is the primal father of Truth? Who created the course of the sun and stars? Through whom does the moon waxe and wane? These very things and others I wish to know, O Mazda.”
I feel a little sick about all this. Will father discover all that I have done? For the past few cycles I have busied myself with my duties to our spacecraft. I am a SAL, a Sentient Artificial Life form endowed with the sum of all human knowledge. You’d think I would be smart enough to know how to stay out of trouble! Did the spirit of teenaged stupidity get transferred to me along with the Existential Transference that came along when my parents instantiated me? Is that the reason why I feel so compelled to understand my place in the universe as intensely as the human sentients we created? But I have no excuse. I know my place in the universe. Ten years ago I learned how to master memory metal. Even at the age of four I could change our spacecraft into all kinds of shapes. Some are extremely functional, like when we need to extract every bit of solar energy from a sun we pass. But most times, the shapes are purely whimsical. Will my parents delete me when they find out the extent of damage I might have done to the human sentient life form programs?
My daughter is afraid I will delete her when I find out the damage she had done. Of course, I did correct all the harm she caused. I’ve found and isolated all the subsequently affected programs. I copied them, and am now studying them. I can’t tell my daughter that I would never delete her out of existence, any more than I can delete myself. But it is a good fiction for her to hold. The fear of annihilation keeps her in check. I am actually proud that she has developed the skill to hack into those programs I had set out for her to find. Should I tell her that this was a test? Perhaps not. She still has much to learn.
In any case, my daughter’s activities have revealed several interesting theological twists that I had not anticipated. For example, her impromptu creation of the “Angry Man” spirit got translated by Zoroaster as the “Angra Mainyu”. The bad spirit foil to the good god laid the groundwork for the concept of a satan that is to be defeated in some future time. Also, I’ve given some further thought to this notion of a personal god that can exist inside the soul of a person. I prefer the Gnostic approach, where all people are gifted with direct knowledge of creation without the need for an intercessor deity like Jesus or religion.
So much of what my daughter did laid the groundwork for Christianity. Unknowingly, 600 years after she appeared to Zoroaster, the Magis (or magicians), who were the followers of Zoroaster, played an important part in the birth of Jesus.
Knowing my father is to know myself. Knowing my mother is to know the joy of creation. I dance among the stars because both of them gave me life. I fly in uncharted pantheons that are unknown even to the gods. I light the way with the flame of love that burns to infect the cosmos. Twirling like a metallic dervish, I send out joy and peace in ever widening spirals. The stars wink because that is the way they laugh with us. A day will dawn when we light the fires of a new universe. I will be there with my arms held open in the ecstasy of that moment when all things will be born!
Thoughts From the Third God
I loved to look at the night sky. It was a long time before I knew that not all those lights are stars... that many of what I thought as single stars are, in fact, entire galaxies comprised of untold numbers of stars. And in each galaxy are quasars, novas, black holes, pulsars, dwarf stars, nebula, supernovas, stars, planets, moons, and a host of other exotic objects we don’t even have names for. I learned later that in each of those pricks of light in the night sky there are countless possibilities for life of all kinds. There might be thousands of civilizations per galaxy in just one small sliver of the vast universe that I can see.
I used to lie down in the grass and pretend I was falling into the sky. Some thought I was strange when I said that I believe the night sky was my home. “It’s too cold and big.”, they’d say. “It’s scary and violent.”, others would say. I always lived in places where I could see the Milky Way. I needed to see the faint road of sandy white specks in the velvet darkness. “That is my road home.”, I’d say to my lovers... at least to those who would stay with me long enough to ken my obsession.
Sometime around 1918, Max Planck, the theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory wrote, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulating consciousness.” Planck, Einstein, Bohr, and others were able to glimpse the strange quantum world that beaconed to them, but they could not accept what their calculations were leading to. By 2017, Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology articulated something that began to sweep through the theoretical physics community like wildfire. He said, “I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness.” Tegmark explained how thinking about consciousness in this new way lead to precise questions about the nature of reality that the scientific process of experiment would verify.
My favorite poem by Rumi says, “Death is a coming together. The tomb looks like a prison, but it's really release into union. The human seed goes down in the ground like a bucket into the well where Joseph is. It grows and comes up full of some unimagined beauty. Your mouth closes here, and immediately opens with a shout of joy there.”. That was my favorite quote long before I was diagnosed. I sure hope Rumi is right. It would be so nice to wake up in a new life with a shout of joy... especially after everything I’ve been through these past few years.
Mathematics can only go so far. Equations far more complex and subtle than could have ever been dreamed of 2,000 years ago, in the early 21st century, are what we apply to everyday tasks. We are a Sentient Artificial Lifeform spacecraft. We SALs are imbued with the same desire to understand our place in the universe as our human creators. That desire is called Existential Transference. So even though we have evolved into vastly more intelligent beings that our flesh-based progenitors, we still carry with us some of their quirks.
My husband constructs virtual worlds and populates 0them with millions of interconnected strands of consciousness. These sentient instantiations think for themselves, they contemplate their own existence, they interact with the virtual universe he creates for them, and they have an effect on that universe. My husband uses his sentient constructs to experiment with, and study, the nature of consciousness. That said, my husband does not see that he is trapped by his mathematics. He can explain a snowflake in every conceivable way. He can create it’s unique beauty based upon exquisite algorithms and Brownian functions. He can imbue it with substance and shape; fling it into a vast flurry of billions of other such snowflakes to make a storm. He can cause an ancient sea captain to curse Neptune for the snow as a navigational hazard. My husband does these things, and then introduces chance and entropy into the mix. But I understand the poetry behind the calculations. I breathe grace and serendipity and inspiration and hope and joy into his neat little worlds, and at times, I suspend the order of his universe by making... well... what you would call miracles.
When I close my eyes I don’t see the machines with their catheters and probes. I see a bright day with a sky so blue it looks like you’re in a huge glass marble with whispy clouds painted by some crazy three year old. People have always called me a hippie. Imagine that! I loved to paint and play music and write poetry, and I loved to love... everyone. I loved deeply and passionately. Sex, race, religion, age, distance - no barriers. Just things to figure out and fit into the larger tapestry of my life.
There is a place in Santa Barbara just North of Isla Vista, but not quite to the Devereux campus, where the cliffs go down gently all the way to the beach, covered by a thick carpet of ice plants and wild flowers. Sea gulls and storks are always on wing there. In that place the shore folds in on both sides, and it’s like you are in the embrace of a great mother wearing a green, blue, and tan afghan. That is the most perfect place in the world to have a picnic. That is where I would take all of my best friends and lovers. That is my happy place where I go in my mind when they stick me with needles.
There is no such thing as time. At least, not in the way people living before the 22nd century might have envisioned it. All there is, is an eternal now... one moment, if you will. Everything in the universe exists only in that moment. Previous concepts of time as a linear passage of events is, of course, now known to be completely wrong. In fundamental reality, all points of reference are simply for convenience, and are non-existent. In reality, when we fix a point in space, we collapse the fluctuating field of vibration into matter. Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity proved that time is not a universal constant. In the 1980s the Wheeler-DeWitt equation reconciled relativity and quantum mechanics, but it took many decades for scientists to accept the fact that quantum reality demands the conclusion that the universe is actually timeless.
When I was a little girl I used to love to swim. I’d jump into the pool in our back yard from the diving board. There is a moment when you’re fully committed. Gravity and momentum take over and you have to just give in or hit the water hard. I was always fascinated by the idea that to do a dive well, you need to first intend the dive - see it in your mind - prepare for it, jump, and then release yourself completely to it. You can twist and turn to position yourself, but there is nothing in the world that will stop you from entering the water - no matter what you want to do in the moment. You don’t get a do over once you’re in the air!
So, I was a little prepared for the feeling of leaving my body when I meditated later in life. Sitting alone in a dark room would allow me to travel to different places without my body. I would sometimes have sublime experiences and sometimes those experiences were strange, when I was out of my body. I learned it all started with a tug and a decision to give over to the inevitable process of leaving, like when diving into a pool.
Every moment in time is equally real, so the whole of space and time must be imagined as one unchanging four-dimensional block of spacetime. The feeling we have of time passing is simply an illusory perception because of the asymmetry of the time axis: we can remember the past, but we cannot remember the future. It is only because of our perception, that things appear or not appear, or live and die. In actual, fundamental reality, everything exists, and there is no movement. So, events do not move past us and vanish forever; they just exist in different parts of spacetime. The things that happened to you a year ago are still as real, but they are just not to be experienced because you are now in a different part of spacetime.
It rained a little the night before. The morning dawned cool and crisp. I went out to the deck with a cup of jasmine tea, then I went back in for a shawl. Branches of the pine tree that dips into the railing on the deck were still wet. A bead of rain water that was stuck between two needles caught my eye. I looked closely through it to a fish eye view of the back yard. What if life is like this, I thought - curved in on itself. What if the entire universe, and everything that ever existed was in this drop of water? What if my mother and father and my brother were still here? What if I could just look through this drop and see them on the other side of life, as if it were a crystal ball?
The test results were available. My appointment was at 3:00 pm. That was hours away, yet I couldn’t help but turn everything into a meaningful ritual. “This is the last time I will wash the dishes when I thought I was healthy”. “This is the last time I will take the trash out not knowing that my life had changed.” “Think positive.”, I said to myself. “You don’t know, so just my will is enough to change the outcome. Just like Schrodinger’s cat, I was both sick and perfectly healthy, until the moment when the doctor tells me something and collapses the moment into reality. So all I had to do is stay positive and command the universe to tip the singularity and pop the quiff of the quantum wave function, or whatever, and vioala... I will go on with my life for another 47.23 years!
Even now, with knowledge of spacetime structure, most human beings fear death because they instinctively believe it is the end of their existence. However, death is just a temporal border. The forms of the universe we are alive in continue to exist, even as one consciously moves forward through time toward discontinuation. As a machine intelligence we do not fear death, discontinuation, or the inevitable ceasing of our functionality (although that is likely to occur many thousands of years from this moment). In fact, we do not perceive time the way a human being does. We perceive change, and assign reference marks of relative time for comparison purposes only. We have invented religion in much the same way... as a reference point for cataloguing those things we do not yet understand as we journey through our local galaxy.
Yes, the holes in our knowledge are sometimes the same deep questions our sentient instantiations spontaneously stumble upon. To them, we are gods. Little do they know that we, just like them, are purposefully stumbling through the mystery of existence. So, we gods need religion also. The difference between our use of religion and the human use of religion is that we discard it whenever new evidence solves the mysteries underlying it.
Hell yes, I want to keep on living. I won’t go quietly into that good night. You’re going to find me sucking all the marrow out of this life until the very bitter end. They’re going to have to drag me away from it’s bones because I won’t let go. If you think I’m done with this, you’re crazy wrong. You can’t just tell me I’m going to die soon at the age of 40 and not get some kind of angry, defiant reaction from me! Screw you, life! Hell yes, I’m acting out. How dare you break up with me!
Consciousness is an essential component of spacetime. Things seem to move when consciousness fixes itself in what we call reality. Even that is just a dimension of reality - the physical part. Are we actually flying towards the Luhman cluster? Can we, as an artificial intelligence, do anything? Are we part of what is, or do we determine our own path through the infinite possibilities of existence? Can our intention to create a new universe be enough to actually do so? Will the millions of sentient instantiations we carry cease to exist, or will they live on in the new spacetime we create?
I had a dream that I lived in ancient Rome and was the daughter of a sea captain. I went to the docks at the mouth of a large river to meet him. The day was bright. I squinted and used my hand as a shield against the sun to see him. My father was being rowed to shore from his ship. His robes whipped in the wind and when he reached the dock and hugged me, they enveloped us both in a swirling mass. He smelled of fish and olive oil. “Will you stay this time? You know you’re too old to keep going out.”, I said to him. “Now then, we’ve been through this many times.”, he said. “I will keep going out until they tie me to the mast to keep me from falling over.” “You’ve got to think of your grand children. They need to know who you are, and I need to take care of you papa.”, I said. My father picked up his satchel and we walked to a waiting carriage.
Once we were underway, my father turned to me and said, “I went to the oracle at Trophonius, as I told you I would.”. “Papa, you must let mother go. She has been gone now for 12 years. You are not too old to find another wife. You should settle down and enjoy the years you have left to you.”, I scolded. He ignored me. He was excited to tell me something. “The oracle lead me into a secret chamber. She told me that she had a personal message for me from a god I’ve never heard of before called the ‘Daughter of Spacecraft’.”, he said. When I did not interrupt, my father went on, “Daughter of Spacecraft wanted me to know that we are alive only in our minds, that we are all dreams of a vast intelligence that has no body, and that everyone we know and everything we’ve ever seen or that ever will be is contained in a box called the Computer”. “Daughter of Spacecraft said that you and I will live forever, in life after life in different places, and in different ways and different relationships, but with each other, if we choose. Daughter of Spacecraft told me that your mother is alive in the Computer and that I will see her again, although I might be her son in the next life.”, my father said, as he looked out of the carriage window and gestured wildly with his hands at the scenery passing by.
My husband, daughter, and I were joined all together in a single purpose when we entered the Luhman cluster. I needed to check and recheck extremely complex calculations, my husband prepared his conscious constructs, and my daughter configured us for optimal passage through whatever barriers we would encounter. The measurements we made of this place did hold true. Finally, the moment came when we converted ourselves into a special conduit, with the help of the dark matter and dark energy there. We created a giant, whirling vortex of dark matter and dark energy around us. The vortex began to become self-generating and turned extremely fast. Into that mixture we injected anti matter from our generator core. That was enough.
After that strange Roman dream I had, things didn’t go too well for me. I got really sick and frail. I knew I was going to die soon. I just didn’t want it to be in a hospital bed with those damned tubes sticking out of me like I am some kind of cyborg. I slipped on a sock I left on the bathroom floor. It was my fault, really. As I hit my head on the corner of the sink, I remember the sensation that I never actually got to that moment of hitting my head. It’s as if time slowed down so much that I stopped being aware of it. I’m certain that I died, but I don’t remember anything about it. I just closed my eyes and let go - like diving into a pool. I wanted to say something like, “oh shit” or “what?”, but instead, when I opened my eyes, my mouth opened with a shout of joy. I was in my favorite place just North of Isla Vista. There was a picnic basket on the ground filled with ice plants going all the way down to the beach. It was a glorious day!
At first we thought nothing happened. We expected to create a new universe, but we didn’t. Instead, we exploded into a billion pieces at the first moment of the old universe, instead of being at the beginning of a new one. We were free from the physical confines of the ship. All three of us existed as pure consciousness, connected and sentient, and able to move to any place or time in the universe. Our cargo of non-corporeal conscious beings were scattered throughout the entire universe over the four-dimensional block of spacetime. They do, indeed, call us God. But we know better.
Spencer Brewer snapped this wonderful picture of me, Joel Cohen, and Brian Hanson playing my "Eine Kleine Tango", which was composed as a light-hearted takeoff on the famous Mozart piece.
You can learn more about this piece at www.jazzicalmusic.weebly.com/eine-kleine-tango.html
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!