Friday, April 8, 2011

What are we?

It has been a while since I blogged so I might as well jump into a subject that has taken up a few of my mental cycles over the past year or so.  What part of you is you, exactly?

I'm not going to try and dig into this question using any psychiatry or psychology because frankly, those fields are a bit too open to interpretation for my taste.  Instead I will try to present this from a more mechanical point of view, which is the way I usually prefer to assess this kind of subject matter.

First, what are we physically?  We are human beings.  Homo sapiens.  We are unique in many ways in the animal kingdom.  We are also, arguably, the dominant species on the planet.  We mostly consist of water, and we are carbon-based in terms of molecular structure.  We have a fairly complex system of organs, bones, and muscles that keep us mobile and fueled up with energy.  We are far more advanced than anything that modern science can come close to in an artificial being. 

We are also the hosts to all kinds of bacteria and other microorganisms that call our bodies home.  Supposedly, our body mass contains more non-human life than human cells.  We are our own eco-systems for microscopic life.  We are seldom, if ever, aware of this though. 

So now let's look at our mental awareness.  For me, self-awareness seems to originate somewhere between my eyes and my brain and of course extends out, to a more limited degree to my furthest extremities, my toes.  I believe, like other humans, I am not aware of most things happening within my body such as my internal digestive system, my cardio-vascular system, my immune system, or my regenerative/healing systems.  Of course I am aware that they exist but otherwise seem to have no control over what they do or how they do it. 

If I have no control over these things, then exactly what part of me (my body) am I?  I can control motor functions such as walking, grabbing things, speaking, eating, etc, but there seems to be so much of me that I have no control over.  Even when I seem to be completely unconscious and unaware, like during sleep, my body goes on without me.

One thing I have noticed about my own awareness of myself is that it often has nothing to do with my physical body but instead is more of an abstraction of my mind and body in various imagined situations.  For example, rather than only being aware of whatever I happen to be and what I am doing, I am constantly projecting my abstract self into imagined plans for later such as my plans this weekend to work on my bathroom remodel.  I imagine my abstract self doing the work and going to Lowes to buy supplies and so on.  Similarly, when preparing to go in front of an audience to give a presentation, I can both imagine myself succeeding wonderfully which gives me a good feeling, and also failing miserably which instills fear and uncertainty.  So although my actual physical self has not done either of these things, I can experience feelings as if it had.

So my question remains: What exactly are we?  Are we the whole of our physcal self, another organism in the vast cosmic ecosystem, just trying to survive?  Or are we something else, some separate consciousness, along for the ride in this physical vehicle, only partly aware of the physical and more adept at operating in the metaphysical world of our own imagination?

Until next time...  


Friday, January 21, 2011

Great Expectations

I saw the movie "Twilight" for the first time last night.  I have intended to see it for a while now but it was very far down on my Netflix queue and seemed to only be going further down as I added new movies to the queue.  I sometimes borrow movies out from the library, however, and I vowed that if I ever saw it there I would borrow it.  That happened this week, so I watched it.  Contrary to the title of this post, I did not have great expectations for the movie but I must say that I enjoyed it.  It got me to thinking about how expectations affect our perception.

Now, I have heard many things about "Twilight" since the movie and books were first released but mainly about the movie.  I should point out that I have never read the book nor do I intend to read it or any others in that series.  Most of what I had heard about the movie was negative and had to do with the portrayal of vampires or that it was primarily a shallow teen romance.  I did have a problem with the way vampires were portrayed in the film.  Typically vampires are portrayed as mysterious supernatural beings with some fantastic powers but who also have many restrictions such as not being able to tolerate sunlight, holy water, crucifixes, or garlic, not being able to cross water, not being able to enter homes uninvited, and not appearing in mirrors.  The vampires in "Twilight" had all of the fantastic powers but not really any of the weaknesses.  This was disappointing but it did more easily allow for the romance between Bella and Edward to advance quickly without any of these classic vampire problems getting in the way.

Now, I knew how the vampires were going to be portrayed going into the movie so I was able to focus on the story and performances.  Although the vampires were somewhat wooden and lacked depth (you might expect more from creatures who can live for hundreds of years), this behavior did serve to make them "different" along with their pale complections.  This worked to help you identify who was human and who was vampire even before it was otherwise revealed. 

The Bella character was a little problematic as she was a somewhat introverted personality which is hard to do well as a main character in a film without a lot of internal dialogue or alone time with that character.  Because of this, you really miss out on any internal thought process as she first suspects and then learns that Edward is a vampire and her love for him develops.  I guess I would have thought she would have been more conflicted about these things but she isn't and since I don't really know what she is thinking, I just had to go along with it.  And somehow that seemed to work too.

Okay, I am getting caught up in the details here.  My point is, my expectations were set in such a way that I was really able to enjoy the movie, even though I suspected I might not given the negative feedback I had heard.  I don't believe I would have enjoyed it had I seen it without all of the feedback I had already gotten about the film.  Expectations seem to have a big impact on how I experience things and I am pretty sure this applies to everyone.  Our expectations for things we have yet to experience greatly affect how we experience those things when they happen.  Our expectations are set by both our own past experiences and past experiences conveyed to us by our fellow humans.  We could see the same experience as either a disappointment or a pleasant surprise depending on how our expectation are set going into it. 

This doesn't mean you should always lower your expectations so that you are always pleasantly surprised and never disappointed.  There are certainly many cases where you should have a certain level of expectation for yourself or others and where disappointment is appropriate.  If we lower the bar all the way to the ground, we'll never achieve anything.  Just like with everything else in life, we need to moderate our expectations with the most information and reason we have or we will fail to see things as they really are, but rather only how they compare to what we expected.

Well, that was a lot of words.  I hope I made some sense in there.

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Theory of Relativity

The Theory of Relativity that is atributed to Albert Einstein is an application of a more general theory to both particle physics and astrophysics.  The more general theory could be summed up in the old saying, "Things are not always as they seem."  More specifically, the reality of what you observe depends on both the position and "state" from which you observe it.  The state you are in could be any number of things such as being in motion, being excited, being distracted, and not the least of which, being prejudiced.  Let me try to give you a real-world example.

Let's say you are at home on Sunday afternoon, watching your favorite NFL football team playing a game.  A contoversial call is made by an official.  Upon viewing the play that resulted in the controversial call, you could have been in any number of states but the one that may most affect your observation of the play may be your prejudice toward your favored team.  Since we have a number of camera angles available these days for slow-motion instant replay, you are given the chance to observe the play from a number of different points of view.  One or more of the ways you observe the play may lead you to conclude that the outcome of the play benefited your favored team while other ways of observing it may lead you to conclude that the outcome was to the benefit of the opposing team.  Ultimately, you decide which of these observations is the one that gives you the most "real" outcome. Therefore, the outcome, as you undertsand it, is relative (or related to), the way you observed the play.

Now this concept of relative observation can be applied to other concept such as space and time, which I will not go into at the moment (we'll save that for another post) but I want to leave you with this more general theory.   Your way of observing the world is relative to you and you alone.  You can exchange ideas and observations with other people and come to consensus about certain principles that sort of define the way things work (or more appropriately, the way things are "supposed" to work), but you personally have a unique view of the universe and you should not take this for granted.

You are special, if because of no other reason than your relative point of view.

See you next time.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Hello, my name is David Paquette. 

If you already know me, you know that I live most of my life inside of my own head.  A good friend of mine once said this about me, "Dave is always thinking.  About what, I have no idea."  I'm not a great socializer.  My mind races and I have a hard time making meaningful conversation with another person because my mind is often not on what he/she is saying but simply processing tidbits of the conversation in my own blender of thoughts.  It's not personal.  I don't mean to do it.  I don't want to do it.  I haven't been able to train myself to do better.  So, I decided to try a blog to share some of my thoughts with you, whoever you may be, and we'll see what happens.

Well, this is my starter post.  I'll try to post regularly and if no one reads it, well, maybe it will be a good exercise for me anyway.

Blog at you soon,