The Freedom to Dream Differently

by Antonio Dias

But if it’s all imagination, why not dream terrible dreams with one’s creative power? Many have, of course, and this has had disastrous consequences to life, joy, creativity, and much more. Death, destruction, pain, horror. But these are all forms of idolatry and infidelity, the belief in a limited God, be this the nation, or money, or one particular “god” or dogma, or whatever else, and then forcing others to see God, which is to say, the creative potential of all that is, that way. Love, another word for (that) which is creative liberatory potential, the virtual, or what Ibn Arabi calls “the heart,” is the guide. Some imaginings further potentialize the power of all others to imagine their own, while some attempt to contain and hold it all for themselves. The difference is pretty clear.

And of course, the freedom to dream differently includes the freedom to dream terrible dreams. But without this, the world wouldn ‘t have the freedom to go beyond itself, and hopefully, to learn the dangers and suffering this causes, to itself, and other. For our worlds and ourselves always mirror each other. Those who harm others are consumed on the inside, whether they show it or not, the world and self are always in interplay.

Freedom, desire, curiosity, compassion, liberation, rather than paranoia, fear, anger, and reification. These words, such as freedom, desire, curiosity, liberation, compassion, these are easy to say, but hard to create and recreate in oneself perpetually. But that is why all these traditions see this as a perpetual practice.

Christopher Vitale Networkologies

I’ve been slowly reading this post, his reflections on the existence of God after a personal loss.

I’m continually impressed by the combined rigor and humanity, creature-hood, Christopher demonstrates in his writing. I keep hearing an internal voice say,

“Yea! Well! Now this is Philosophy!”

It’s easy to simply dismiss this ‘gut’ feeling as emotion, and hence, irrational. Neuroscience shows us that our feelings arise from the limbic system, which is tied into maps of our bodies. Our bodies react to things, our brains map these changes, and release chemicals that “modulate” the way the brain globally processes information, hence the description of these chemicals as “neuromodulators.” These are the “mood” chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine (which is moderated by adrenaline), etc. Mood oversimplifies, because these chemicals, depending on the extent to which they are released and absorbed in particular areas of the brain, then induce more specific neural shifts. Together, the symphony we call feelings emerge, and give rise to distinct emotions, like anger, fear, happiness, joy, ecstasy, and all the shades in between.

Those without properly functioning emotional systems, contrary to what many might think, turn out to be profoundly irrational people. Antonio Damasio and others recount how those with damage to specific “emotion” centers in the brain tend to make terrible decisions. They can do rational cost-benefit analyses, but seem to lack the ability to form or relate to the values that determine how and why to deploy cost-benefit analyses. If you can weigh pros and cons, but can’t figure out why you want good over bad, for you or others, you’re likely to make terrible decisions, at least, according to the criterion of most humans, and likely, evolution itself. We were evolved with emotions precisely because we are not only reasoning machines, but valuing machines .

And so to dismiss the gut level feeling that there must be something like personal immortality, or a God, is to oversimplify what is meant by ‘reason,’ (one) of the most used and abused terms in the history of human theorizing. Any attempt to define precisely what “reason” is is quite likely to use unreasonable arguments if it is to be believable, and to be unbelievable, which is to say, ridiculous or trivial, if it doesn’t. All of which is a fancy way of saying that recourse to reason isn’t perhaps the best way to address this problem.

I’m quoting him in blocks because it is an injustice to wrench a phrase out of context here and there. This is such a clear evocation of what I’ve grappled with and come to call “the organism.”

We were evolved with emotions precisely because we are not only reasoning machines, but valuing machines .

If I would be so bold, I’d only change one word, “We are valuing organisms.” I would wager this does not do violence to his conception.

What drew me to write this, and share his post, is the way he’s addressing our current topic in that first extended quotation. This is another way of looking at the dangers of dystopia. It is a “sin,” in a way I would agree to use that loaded term, to waste our creativity in producing terrors of the imagination. There is little difference between inventing a horrible weapon and fleshing out a dystopian idea in this way of looking at it. They both remove us from the flow of compassion and creativity and turn those gifts against the grain of God, or the Universe, or Creativity – however we may want to characterize that which is the font of our valuing organism’s core.