Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Storytelling Age: Information butand Quantum?

            Overall, I like the message of the four-minute video “Wisdom in the Age of Information” and resonate with Maria Popova’s lines like: “The great storyteller is the kindly captain who sails her ship with tremendous wisdom and boundless courage, who points its nose in the direction of horizons and worlds chosen with unflinching idealism and integrity.” Check out this Future of StoryTelling's video.
         But—you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you, or there wouldn’t be a blog. No one, no story, says it all. We need the dialog of voices; the dissonance of honest conversation speaks true in our quantum age of multiplicity. So perhaps I should say “and” instead of “but”; or better yet, we might make up a word like “butand.” 
         My reaction comes in my sense that situating wisdom atop a ladder with information as the base is missing something.  Like Resonance. Popova's video references direction as North-South-East-West. What about those authentic other ways known to native peoples like up, down, and inner. Those directions are not found in data.
         The Age of Information works on the scientific method with its assertions of supposedly generalizable conclusions, and the subsequent transfer of “facts,” that is, information. We need storytellers for the Quantum Age where travelers at the edge of consciousness might need facts butand also feel (and that includes suffer as well as thrill) the loss of significant meaning. For at least a hundred years, the search for destiny has been looking for guides who acknowledge the validity found in quantum discovery: uncertainty and indeterminacy.
         The compass for today’s age gets forged in developing inner sense, and even the old old stories tell it.  For example, I vibrate on the strings of the search told by Rumi (~1250) about the “Lost Camel” (Mathnawi, Book 2, beginning about line 2970, depending on the translation) where the time spent in imitation gets acknowledged and then surpassed. The search is not straight-line, not directed by information; but it’s made meanderingly, yet true to passion, inner vision, companionship as well as individual integrity.
          Destiny doesn’t drop on persons who sit (like grad students choosing the back row) and wait to be titillated by a bit of information, drugged by the thrill-a-minute entertainment culture, and motivated by the get-off-your-butt video/movie/blog… The Information-Ager might catch a cruise ship with 24-hour entertainment and might even make center-stage on it. Butand that age no longer commands my quest and it doesn’t reflect the base of the storytelling I care about.
         A ladder doesn’t seem to fit the quantum age. It’s too linear, too authoritarian, too presumptuous. I like Rilke’s poem of the ancient tower with circling spirals and uncertainty of whether I’m a hawk, a tempest, a story, butand a horserider. “Horserider” makes a special translation of the poem because it’s where my resonant field intersects. A good story makes a space that opens for the participant to enter, to make a telling translation. The telling gives a reading of the magnetic field that rights destiny.
         In the field of terms needed for storytelling that trues our lives, I value experience, resonance, and circling destiny. Good stories locate the space that often grumbles “Nonsense!” The quantum storymaker turns the edge of consciousness from nonsense toward “not-yet-sense” by playing resonance into the scent. This play builds a feel of fit, butand it’s not a steady state. It’s a balancing act, like centered riding with a magnificent horse.

Legacy says: Not-yet-sense is good focus for Good Stories. She imparted this affirmation in our time together this week by giving a movement that boggled my system. She offered a strange bump in the midst of our ride and it just didn’t compute. In other words, we entered the mist of nonsense. I was muddled with uncertainty: Had I just felt a half-hearted buck? Butand, might we have made an inarticulate shift toward a higher-level position?
         Given the context described above related to Good Stories, I interpret Legacy’s message as affirmation of not-yet-sense. That’s helpful because it’s difficult to engage positively with experience that doesn’t flow into meaning. Yet sometimes the space to create new meaning, especially advancing consciousness, simply needs holding until the wiring adjusts to different frequencies. The shout “Nonsense!” offers a convenient escape hatch from the discomfort of developing. That’s dangerous if we take nonsense as a turn-off or run-away signal rather than possibly as hold-on-here.
         Breathing into dissonance instead of bolting or shutting down takes courage, patient courage not the heroic kind. In our Good Story this week, the much-needed development of feminine leadership depended on suffering the still point. It extends our first Good Story, “Visit,” when the Old Woman made Ivan into a pin and stuck him on the wall, a still point needed to get the direction necessary to continue the quest for the Beloved. In this week’s “Golden Water,” the character had to stay in a hut just outside the holy place and endure the criticism of the masses for a long time. Our inner as well as outer critics may fuss loudly when we take the time needed to integrate developing sensitivity. Dragnet still sounds: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Significant advances in evolution have taken centuries, but a year’s internship may sound intolerable to us.
         The Information Age supported many advances; butand it also risked loss of certain kinds of knowing. The world of stories creates a category of “nonsense tales.” Some storytellers, especially ones in an information age, require a stated moral, and some versions make a nonsense tale into silly entertainment. Others, perhaps ones sensitive to a quantum age, hold a space for nonsense to transform into not-yet-sense with generative capacity to support voyagers at the quantum edge of consciousness.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Destiny. Is it crushing or joyful?

         In a way, that’s the same question blasted out by the Baba Yaga to the traveler in quest of the beloved: “Are you here because you wanna be or because ya haf’t’be?” While anyone awake vibrates in the question of destiny, the devil and other merchandisers specialize in sleeping spells, addictive sells, seductive lies, religious shells, workaholic half-truths, and bookoo distractions.
            College is supposed to be the quintessential questing-ground for destiny; not surprisingly, then, any authentic campus abounds in sideshows going A (academics, animal house, athletics) through S (sex, slum dwelling) to Zzzz (sleeping-in and feel free to fill in your favorite seduction). Amid this circus, Good Stories offers a destiny-detector as we learn to discern signal from noise by recognizing when a story strikes a resonant chord. We call this attending to the point of resonance.
         In our initial Good Story, we set sail on a Russian folktale with the youth on a fishing boat accompanied by a tutor. Often titled “The Maiden Tsar,” we call it “The Visit” because the story features a visitation from the beloved with an encounter that compels the journey. Of course, what is life but the journey? For destiny is more about direction than destination; it’s really about increasing integrity, becoming more true, more whole. (Thanks to Marion Woodman for elaborating on wholeness in relation to this story.)
         But those are too many words, the philosophical kind that risk putting us back to sleep, or that might provoke a drink, a binge, a lifetime off the real path of attraction. Decoding destiny depends on stories more than abstractions because the stories, the true ones, have the nectar of the gods.
         We just have to decant them. Decant: transfer from one container to another without disturbing the sediment. In other words, our bodies want/need the spirit from the bottle without dead words and without hangovers. From “The Visit” bottle, how do we engage the beloved and the firebird so our bodies are vitalized with the arousal of destiny? How do we, like the traveler, pass the want-to/have-to test and get rewarded with the ecstatic whirl on the firebird?
          Not so fast. Let’s remember it’s the journey, not the destination. In Good Stories, our initial tasting of the swich liquor might simply offer relief. Let’s take time to appreciate that we’re not going crazy. In today’s world, we’re often told one thing when our bodies are crying something quite different; and that’s crazy-making. While our heads are stuffed with dead notions from mis-taught books and hegemonic organizations, our inner sense knows we’re in a quantum age.
        This quantum swirl around uncertainty (Heisenberg), indeterminacy (Bohr), and about wave/particle and observer interaction might first appear disorienting; yet chances are our bodies can appreciate such concepts that acknowledge the turmoil our senses give us. The feel of uncertainty has an honesty and the quantum confirmation of it allows our meaning-making system to say, “Ahh. I’m not crazy. So how do I hold together contradiction, paradox, and constant change?” Quantum multiplicity sooths us when we know everything is changing, including our brain; it tells us that being perfectly clear is an illusion, if not a deception.
      We’re making sense of stories through multiplicity because they yield truth mainly when we work them on multiple tracks, when we connect archetypes with personal experience, when we bring together historical happenings with today and even engage the future. Quantum multiplicity is acknowledged in the coined term: timespacematter/ing.  Yes, it’s easy to feel crazed; but with hard work/play involving stories we can connect with inner knowing and we can trust the resonant compass that’s implanted in our beings from birth or before. That’s destiny.
       Baba Yaga demands us to respond to the question we’d rather avoid: “Wanderer, are you here because you want to be or because you have to be!” When we engage this question seriously and when we invoke the quantum gift of multiplicity, we are able to see it’s a trick question.  As we articulate the miasma, this dispels the oppressive fog that we feel much of time, especially when we look into the deeper waters around destiny: What am I here for anyway? Which way am I going? Is that all there is? And the perennial one, if “God is Love,” how can there be so much suffering in the world?
      In Good Stories we escape from being consumed by our wish for simple answers through serious play; and like the traveler, when the time is right, but not before, we have to blow our own horn, loudly and yet louder! So we get confirmed that we live in an age of multiplicity, necessitating “quantum” consciousness and navigable by quantum storytelling. Still, hearing their names doesn’t make it easy.
      So when we think destiny: Do we get the pin in the neck putting us to sleep? Do we wield the sword that frees us from oppression? Do we soar on the firebird? Do we finally get to embrace the Beloved! Well, it doesn’t have to be that old way of testing with only-one-right-answer or you go to hell. When the trick questions come, let’s learn to take a good breath, say “YES&NO” and connect with resonant inner knowing?

      Here’s what my horse sense tells us this week. Legacy’s message for us: If you’re going to dance with me, get in the flow. Because a horse has reaction time far faster than humans, we’ll need to live in the future. Slide on into that next step. In order to do this, we have to act in the perfection of the step we’re in. The one we just asked for is already happened/ing! And don’t forget the importance of follow-through. In that spirit of multiplicity, part of us also has to swirl out in the wake, streaming into the sunset. Horse power takes us into timespacematter/ing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quantum Storytelling for Summertime

Summertime’s riotous!

The hummingbird-truth:
wings blur.

A real peach, 
likely as not, 
runs overripe to green.

In summertime, 
We pray sneezing, 
   See snakeskins, 
      Firefly lightning

The brutal honesty of summer,
Side-by-side ripening&rot,
Wonders of spring:
Fairytales, true, not? 

Does hard truth fall
Into winter?  Might the lie,
Lazy like, lust of one-right,
Illusion heaven, idol idle god.

Instead, I’ll believe every season
Holds all four, and more.

photos taken July 24-25 by Joseph McCaleb here at home

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wood Thrush Poets

5:10 AM Jun 7 West Virginia home
The wood thrush calls early Saturday morn’n,
Bird books call the song “ee-oo-lay”
While fog rolls out roses along the northern horizon,
Telling it, as those dead, some just born,
Poets and lovers do: “Seize the day.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

june first promises

June first 
promises summer
the brilliant bloom
in early morning rays
the doorway
a darkened 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bloodroot Consciousness

Photo of Bloodroot just budding, April 6

                              on the temple bell.
                                    Buson, ~1750
                                     in The Essential Haiku
                                     R. Haas, Ed. p.108.

      The butterfly, prime archetypal image for transformation, sleeps as if consciousness is not fully availed; perhaps the wings will spread and flight begin when the resonance with the deity sounds.
      Antonio Machado in Spain offered a similar summons a hundred and fifty years after Buson was writing haiku in Japan. Still a century ago, Machado said that all Jesus’ words were one word: Velad.  Robert Bly translates that word as “Wakeup” (Times Alone, pp. 108-109). Velad might also be interpreted as keeping a vigil, even the watch set “before the holy sacrament when it is manifested” ( ). 
      Yet more recently, but still forty years ago, Robert Ornstein in Psychology of Consciousness elaborates the resistance to coming awake: the scientific study of the possible alterations in human consciousness still evokes many misguided ideas and unfortunate opinions . . . Others reject the idea of alterations in consciousness immediately. For them, a true and agreed-on “common sense” reality exists, and anyone deviating from their version of the external reality is either foolish or “insane.”
      Ornstein references evidence that “normal” consciousness: is not stable and is not unitary at all. Both the mode and the contents of ordinary consciousness alter radically due to situational factors like hunger and other needs, and to more enduring factors such as a person’s language, training, and profession. . . we should consider the differing continua of experience that vary on one scale of arousal from sleep to full awakening, on another scale from linearity to simultaneity, and also from internal control to external. . .
      Today, our study in Good Stories aims to advance consciousness, and we assert that human progression can move toward increasing peace and justice; but this does require Waking Up! We read Brian Boyd’s interpretation of The Odyssey telling of the evolving capacity to defer immediate gratification: refusing to stay with the demi-goddess, not choosing intoxication, and not giving up on the eternal return home. In deliberately engaging the continua of experience, concrete to symbolic, of making connections internally and socially, we work toward quantum consciousness.

      Strangely enough, to wake up often means to dream, to imagine worlds that are inspired by good stories, and to play across the multiple tracks of composing digital media. Velad! Spread butterfly wings again--Spring.
April 27, 2013
July 23, 2013

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quantum Consciousness: A Blossom at Dawn

Lenten Rose, photo on taken 3/30/14
                                                         More than ever I want to see
                                    in these blossoms at dawn
                                             the god’s face.

                                                Matsuo Bashō in The Essential Haiku
                                                            (Robert Haas, Ed. & Trans., p. 37)

         While the term quantum consciousness has recent provenance (e.g., the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has been tracking it for the past decade, ), its roots go back much further than the century-old scientific explorations of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and others. Still, this work in quantum physics has importantly advanced the presence of this kind of knowing into our collective consciousness.  Quantum consciousness distinctively contributes to contemporary meaning-making because it resonates with and validates our vital need to come to terms with living in multiplicity and in making commitments within uncertainty.
            I believe even young children turn off schooling when their authority figures carry an outmoded consciousness. A learner’s lie detector goes off when a teacher or a text fails to resonate with the tenor of today’s reality. We are now living in a quantum age. Like the child who saw through the lie of the emperor’s new clothing, 21st century learners recognize, even if they cannot articulate, the fake in the old epistemologies and in so-called research that sounds presumptuous because it does not acknowledge the uncertainty and indeterminacy that has now been clearly pronounced in quantum study.
         The Age of Reason may have advanced civilization beyond manipulations of superstition, but educators still stuck in logical analysis risk losing the breath of creativity, the validation of feeling, the inner affirmation of intuition, and the joy of holistic apprehension. Underdressed educators include teachers who still assert that nonfiction is true and fiction is false, as well as those who are unaware of the Common Core silliness about rebalancing the distribution on this dead division. Such practices need illumination.

         The long, though shadowy, presence of quantum multiplicity can be traced in the work of the artist, of poets like Bashō shown above who wrote in Japan in late 1600s, in the classic court jester whose role was to temper the conscience of power, and also in science. As a prime example, Darwin modeled multiplicity as he recorded levels of thought ranging from public reports on his voyage on the Beagle to his secret journals that reflected private thinking.  As portrayed by Peter Sis in a format accessible to young as well as older learners, Darwin’s work and very life would have been threatened if his edge of consciousness had been published too soon; his evolutionary knowing required multiple levels: public, private, secret.

            In contrast with Darwin’s need to hide the multiple levels, quantum physicist Richard Feynman openly acknowledges the degree of uncertainty that characterizes cutting-edge work in science: “laws are guessed laws; they are extrapolations into the unknown” (p. 24 in The Meaning of It All). I think I might have believed more in science if my teachers could have admitted how Darwin explored and how Feynman embraced doubt because then science could have resonated with the deep knowing I had inside. When researchers claim the certainty of pseudo-science and teachers proclaim exploration as absolute truth, the curtain around the Wiz of Oz goes transparent and would-be learners grow more cynical.
         As a literacy educator, I don’t want to study quantum physics much; but I contend that quantum consciousness needs to be advanced, particularly within the teaching profession at large. Reviewing basic psychology and philosophy with a quantum perspective makes a good start. For example, Robert Ornstein in The Psychology of Consciousness interweaves Idries Shah’s accounts of Nasruddin with the tricky tangle around personal consciousness. Problems often ensue if we think and act in the illusion that personal constructions must align with external reality in producing a single truth. Multiplicity allows space for variation, paradox, contradiction, and doubt. Ornstein also threads William James into the conversation blending educational psychology with philosophy and showing again the roots of multiple-layered consciousness.

            In relation to literacy education, the work of Robert Bly has been invaluable to me. Perhaps most obviously connected with changing consciousness is his News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness. Bly offers further development related to quantum consciousness through his translations and his account of the process of translating (Eight Stages of Translation).  These reveal how poets and poems are crossing levels of knowing. In an interview, Bly tells of the movement of consciousness: “by trying to translate something like that [Tranströmer], the poems come deep inside you, the images come deep inside you. . .You feel yourself, because of the work you've done on the image, invaded by the image. You feel that it has become a part of your house like someone who's moved into your house, and your house is changed then. Your house has changed because these images have come in. So that's the way I feel about translation. It's a blessing.” This movement is also evident in Bly’s Leaping Poetry and in his more recent work with the ghazal.
         In the past few years and related to this arena of literacy education, a few of us have begun mucking about into quantum storytelling.  David Boje has been forging the way in his writing, with blacksmithing, in hosting a conference, and in co-editing a volume soon to be available: Being Quantum: Storytelling and Ontology in the Age of Antenarrative.
           In a course I’ve developed titled “Good Stories: Teaching Narratives for Peace & Justice,” we practice holding multiple levels of engagement with the story and experience it in multiple modes: oral, print, & digital. Our work/play with narrative and in constructing digital media links to Bryan Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, & Fiction. I especially choose Boyd’s text because he builds the link between science and narrative.
          In our work/play with narrative, a major step in our engagement is Amplification. The purpose of amplification is to nurture the garden of leaps. As we engage with our developing capacity for quantum consciousness, we hold and negotiate multiple levels of knowing. Connections spark across levels with potential both to light up insight as well as to burn destructively.
         Robert Hass, cited at the beginning of these comments, points to one danger: “I think it was DH Lawrence who said that the soul can get to heaven in one leap but that, if it does, it leaves a demon in its place” (p. xv). Earlier on that page, Haas remarks on multiplicity and the relationship between Zen and haiku. “Zen provided people training in how to stand aside and leave the meaning-making activity of the ego to its own devices. Not resisting it, but seeing it as another phenomenal thing, like bush warblers and snow fall, though more intimate to us. Trying to find this quality in every haiku, however, romanticizes them and the culture they came from. It tends to make one rush to their mysteriousness and silence.”  From this multiplicity involved in an objectivity that is also subjectivity, Haas builds to the conjecture he attributed to Lawrence of making the soul leap that leaves an earth devil.
         Quantum consciousness, like haiku, offers leaps; but, like the alchemy noted in Boje’s video, it works best in tempered handling, like a blacksmith who knows the elements and loves the matter, the tools, the process, and, of course, the art produced. Quantum consciousness has a dangerous side in the rush, perhaps like Icarus lusting for the sun, like the premature leap of lovers, not yet tempered for the demands of Love.  But power always carries risk; and knowing the danger, we’re better prepared to engage the fire within quantum consciousness that tempers us to meet the challenges of advancing peace and justice.