About me:

Childhood: Dreaming about planes and faraway lands

I was born in Lisbon, in 1972, and, so far, I've lived most of my life in Portugal. Between 1975 and 1999 I lived mostly in a place called "Mira-Sintra", which literally means "Look-at-Sintra", and from my home I could see, between two mountains, a third, faraway one, on top of which the Palace of Pena could be seen. The sunset would always be on that direction, and, throughout the year, it would happen either on the right or on the left of the Palace. I was always trying to find the day it would set right above it, and I took some photographs of those events. The palace was very far away, so I would mostly imagine it, although my parents bought me binoculars and I still remember my surprise when, for the first time, I say it had windows! Later, in 1988 or 1989 I was able to actually work at the palace, and to know the hidden areas from the public (there are many). I have very vivid images of Sintra, it is a reference place for me. Sometimes, at the end of the day, a special air-force group of pilots called "Asas de Portugal" (they made public exhibitions) would lift off from a nearby airfield and fly in circles making some kind of training. They would fly for hours and they passed just above my room window. I could see the long circle, the sunset and the night, all of this with the Palace and the mountains as a landscape. The view was simply beautiful and magical. Every sunset was like paradise. And when the night came I stood for hours just looking at the stars, trying to imagine the fantastic distance that separated us from them. The clouds seemed so close at those by comparison. the beautiful blue, the distant stars and planets, the sunset, the planes, everything was so beautiful and magical that I was very surprised that most people wouldn't notice it. Even today I believe that sadness and not enjoying the scenery go hand-in-hand.

Most of my childhood days were passed either at school or at home, daydreaming about planes and journeys to faraway places. I was very shy in the following of a small fight with young neighbors (it was a neighborhood with some rough spots here and there) and, after that, I rather preferred the company of books which would talk to me about many more things that I could've imagined and were not dangerous at all (or so I thought). My parents celebrated that recluse of mine as if it meant something great (today I realize they just felt safer if I didn't leave the house). The two most dear books of all time were an Atlas, to which I went over and over again, to check the pages about the solar system, the rocks and a few other space things, and The Never Ending Story, by Michael Ende, which is, by far, the book I've read more times in my life (each time learning something new).

I have good memories of socializing in school, specially with professors, and a couple of close (and very rare) friends of my age, but I don't think I've learned anything I can remember. And what I've learned in school, I could probably learned in my house in a tenth of the time. School was boring, useless and completely abstract. A good example were the kinds of books they would make us read in Portuguese classes. All by supposedly great Portuguese authors. Wow, they were really awful, at least to my taste. In biology we had to memorize names of families of animals, as if that was important! (I rebelled against that and I told my biology professor that, if he placed those kinds of questions in the test I would not answer them! Well I didn't and I remember I still managed to have a positive test because I answered almost everything else correctly.) We didn't have to know how they came to be, how life on earth appeared, what was their relation with was, if they had intelligence, if they had families, or give importance to having fun, and to travel, what kind of adventures they had, etc. Everything that makes programs such as BBC's Planet Earth (and others from Attenborough) interesting, marvelous and full of grandeur were some way ignored by the program and our teachers. For them the important thing was to evaluate us and all that was left was memorizeble stuff, easy to put into a test, even easier to forget after the test. So, most of my study was simply to memorize things for tests, and then happily forgetting about them. I remember to think at the time that it would take me about one or two weeks to forget everything I had to memorize for each test. Nevertheless I was among the "best" students of my class (and probably of the all-school) and I yearned for learning, but I would do it at home where I could revel at the mysteries of the universe.

From 2005 to 2007 I had the opportunity of teaching at both private and public schools, and I had the chance of confirming that little had changed. Students were still trained to answer to tests. They had to memorize things to get good grades. In Portugal at least school has nothing to do with the adventure of discovering what the world is about, of exploring the wonderful secrets that explain lightning, tides, engines, emotions, eyesight, society, etc. All this fun is relayed to tv programs and the internet. If you want to have fun discovering what the world is all about, how everything works or came to be, you have to find it elsewhere. School is about discipline, making tests, having grades, socializing, learning how to behave and obey, and many other things. It has very little to do with learning. Obviously there are exceptions that confirm the rule. There are teachers in love with what they teach that can really show us how the past repeats today, that can bring different cultures and civilizations to class, who resonate their passion with philosophy, etc. But for each such professor there is a swarm of others who are mainly interested in grading and "teaching" (that is, making students memorize contents), and having good status. This also happens in universities.

Adolescence and existential angst

In July 1989 I was preparing to go to the University, we were in a period of reforms brought on by a new government, a new general exam was prepared which would have a weight of 50% in the grade that allowed entering into the university. This exam did not evaluate any specific knowledge, it was just a general Portuguese and general knowledge test. The other 50% were composed of all the grades of the previous three years.

Now I had had very good grades over the years. One of the best students of all my class since I could remember. But sometimes tests would make me nervous. And this was a test that weighed 50%. In a couple of hours three years of study could be shattered to pieces! Well, that was exactly what happened. I was so nervous I could not answer in a very polite manner. I was arrogant, aggressive, with a bit of contempt and whoever evaluated my test did not like what I wrote. I had been using all-CAPS since the 7th grade (1984) because my handwriting was poor; well the teacher who evaluated this decisive test, decided every cap was an orthographical mistake! It was amazing. This test was worth three years of my life. It didn't evaluate any advanced knowledge, and my grade was crippled by it. I had 49% and was out of University for that year!

In any case the year I was out was the one that allowed me to work on Sintra's beautiful Palace. I passed both the crystal days of Summer and misty days of winter there. The beautifulness of the place however, coupled with a few amorous tragedies, did not save me for enter into a big depression. I thought: «either I am crazy or the entire world is. Why do people live in this way. They work so much, they sacrifice so much, for what? What is the purpose of life, who are we, what is this world, and don't people think about these things. All they want is to be occupied, to have a sense of achievement. Don't they want to get out of this machine of desires and blind ambitions? Don't they want to actually ask: why is my life worthy? What makes it worthy? Is it simply me who must give it some value, or is there some objective, universal value which it has, independently of what we may think about it? Is there life after death? Is there some mission I should accomplish? Is there something I should accomplish?»

Now, these were not new questions, I had them since I was 13 or 14, and I thought about them almost obsessively. But what was getting me most depressed was the loneliness I had to face in these kinds of inquiries. No one else I knew thought about these things. And I genuinely considered people around me crazy. Craziness is doing things without purpose, without a reason, without rationality. And most people I knew were doing that. They watched soccer games because everyone else did, if they had born in the US they would see basketball, or football, or whatever people see there. The same with opinions: work is important because everyone says it is. You have to have children because everyone else is having. People did not question what they did, they simply observed others and did more or less the same. Usually they would identify with a group, let's say of rebels or well behaved or fair people, whatever. And they would watch closely how the great examples of these groups would proceed. And then they would copy them. Executives would try certain suits and matching ties and shoes, rebels would try certain mottos on the t-shirts, with matching brands of snickers, and accompanying drugs. But it was all the same. For everyone it seems the strategy was the same: «find your herd and hide in it. The questions don't matter, you just have to hide your head in the sand and just pretend that this life has the meaning you are trying to paint in it.»

To me that sounded craziness. It was no different than collecting stamps all day long and then destroying them, and then collecting them again the following day. the only difference between this kind of madness and the one that you can see in mental hospitals is that the first is socially acceptable, while the second for one reason or another, does not function well in society.

Well... it was hard to imagine that everyone was crazy. But because people would not give up their lifestyle, and there were so many of them, and apparently living so happy with their impulsiveness, that, after a few years, and specially after being defeated into entering into University, I just began to think the other way around: perhaps I am crazy. Perhaps there is something these guys are seeing that I am unable to see. And so I become adamant I would find their secret, I would try to understand how was it that they were satisfied in simply going to the disco, having many "friends" and living through the romantic adventures with which lovers, and family, and friends present us. I thought that was so little. But I tried hard to forget my questions, that in any case I could not find an answer for, and to simply quenching my thirst in having a work, money to buy things, and so on.

Inside the University

That could have been my end (I almost did went crazy). Fortunately I was able to enter into University in the following year (1990) and to a philosophy course. To my great surprise and joy, the philosophers were like that. Plato, Aristotles, Kant, and others were also debating the same things. They had not found the answer, but they had found many possible answers. They had found the ways in which these problems could be thought of and addressed. Each answer by itself could be considered a dangerous dogma, a creator of conflict and confusion. But the set of possible answers is releasing. Not only it allows to understand why some people think in some ways, and some other people think in some other ways, it allow you to actually talk and understand all these persons. It gives you a much larger and consistent view of the world, contradictions transform into different aspects of the same thing. Different ideologies, ethical systems, ontologies, all stem from the same problems, the same mysteries. But different choices regarding premises, or merely a different emphasis, or, sometimes, just the choice of words, makes people battle against a rival system and for their own. But mostly, we are all thinkers and each philosopher is grabbing at some part of reality, although sometimes it is just the desire to be famous and make an impression. We should grab at all the bits, all the possible solutions, and then this will be the landscape that is the response to a particular problem. In most cases that is the best we can do, describing the landscape. But that is a lot, and it is difficult to imagine a fight between two persons who could see all the different ways of seeing things. This is not relativism, it is the what results from an attempt at ultimate clarity and truth in a field where there is one single final answer. This too happens in science, whenever competing theories try to explain the same phenomena. The goal is not to defend one and attack the other, but to understand their strengths and limits, in what they reinforce one another, and in what they are incompatible. We could give as an example quantum indeterminacy, or the difficult relation between quantum theory and general relativity. We have no clear way of combining them (M theory is still in its infant stage), as we have no clear way of understanding how the continuous psi wave of Schrödinger equation gives way to discrete events. What we can do is understanding the landscape of possible solutions to these problems, at least while an obvious solution does not appear to convince us all. So, I am not proposing relativism but a syncretism, which encompasses relativism and objectivism, seeking to explain the strengths and frailties of both, and I also think this syncretism  and is an ideal that I never saw achieved (and it is perhaps impossible to achieve where knowledge has room to advance) although it serves for me as a reference, as a guide that indicates the minimum kind of reply I am willing to strive for (I would prefer the truth of course).

Philosophy did not saved me from that dichotomy of thinking either me or society as a whole had to be nuts. For that I would need Kung Fu, but I will tell that story later on. In the first years of University I strived for clarity above all. I thought very long about each sentence I wrote, I wanted to go as deep as I could. One of my professors (Pedro Viegas) told us that we should not expect making the course in less then ten years (officially we should take just four)! I took that more seriously than I should have, and I took all considerations of time aside and just concentrated on the hard problems. Why did we exist? What is to exist? What is knowledge, how far can it go? For some years I avoided ethics altogether. My main goal was to pursue epistemology and ontology. I think I was afraid of going into ethics for I instinctively knew that it would shatter my basic (unexamined) ideas about why it is worthy to live.

The first four years of University were very productive for me. I've really learned a lot, but they were not good at a purely scholar level. I was still half in the second year with a little bit on the third. My grades were not that good. And all my work seemed to me so shallow. Eventually, in 1994 perhaps, I decided to give up on studies, after a particular disastrous year where I did not complete a single class. I started working, in a bank, and that was completely terrifying. A senseless life, trying to gain money just to keep alive, keeping alive just because... Well, it was really awful. So I worked just in the summer vacations and went back to the university with a different frame of mind. Now I wanted to pass every year with good grades. That became the main objective.

Actually, I don't think I've learned all that much in the following years, but my grades improved significantly. Because I placed less effort in my works, they were much simpler to read  (we did not do exams in the Universidade Clássica de Lisboa at the time, generally we'd wrote monographies for each class), and I tried not to go against the convictions of the professor that was judging me. In general this provided very good grades, and, at the end of my course I was able to get a doctoral grant to continue my studies abroad. Just like in previous years at school, trying to get to the truth was not a good way to get good grades. The professors at the University were very competent, and sometimes very demanding (like professor Trindade Santos), but in general they did not want to criticize philosophers or check the value of their ideas in today's world; the emphasis was for the most part on the history of philosophy rather then in the attempt to find the truth - philosophy per se. In most classes we had to learn what a philosopher has said and understand it to the most minute aspect. To criticize a philosopher in most classes did not generally provide a very rewarding experience. The most glaring exception was with "analytical" inclined philosophers. In these classes we could discuss the problems, and the philosophers and their ideas were just there to help us understand the problems (professor Franco Alexander was in that line, among others). This difficulty in bringing ancient ideas to amore modern setting and the almost absence of discussion of current topics in today's philosophy (like topics from philosophy of physics, mind and consciousness) made some students very angry, and it had some side effects. For instance, today in Portugal there is a group of analytical philosophers who argue that "continental" philosophy is to English philosophy as astrology is to astronomy! It is just "pseudo" philosophy. This, I think, stemmed from the fact that some professors excluded discussions from their classes (with notable exceptions like professor Nuno Nabais, who always tried to attract us for lively discussions).

After the University - scholarship

After I left the University, in 1999, I embarked on my doctorate thesis. I really thought I could change the world, when I begun. My thesis was called "The Scientific Nature of the Mind-Body Problem" and it stemmed from a conference gave by Putnam, probably in that year, where he argued that, due to what our scientific picture of the world, we had to consider people as automatons. This was a direct consequence of the determinism of physical theory that precluded free will (conceived in an incompatibilistic manner). Now I had spend a lot of time studying quantum mechanics, and one think I knew for sure was that it was not deterministic. Obviously, it provided deterministic behavior when very large numbers were at hand. (For instance if you play the lottery for billions of billions of times, that it is certain you are going to win the main prize - thinks that seem impossible in a certain number of attempts will look certain if those attempts are augmented sufficiently - the same happens with the chances of a big comet hitting earth - almost impossible in the next thousand years, almost certain in the next thousand million years). The same happens with quantum mechanics, the indeterminacy at the quantum level is softened by the gargantuan numbers involved. But there is a catch here. If there would be an advantage for an organism to amplify those degrees of uncertainty, it could. We can easily create physical mechanisms that amplify the uncertainty from the quantum level to the macroscopic level. So could have nature, in the mysterious mechanisms of the body and brain, implemented such mechanisms.

I thought that by bringing quantum physics to today's philosophy I would be bringing a big contribution to the debate, not by declaring that we were in fact free (I did not know that) but merely by stating that this option was "on the table", it was not denied by current physical models. By the contrary, current physical models would integrate well in a world picture where indeterminacy had a role rather being just a paradoxical nuisance. Indeterminacy would give a place for choices to be made, it would turn reality flexible, it would make the future open (and not fixed like it seems conceived in the context of Einstein's general relativity). I wanted to make free will a plausible, acceptable, serious idea in the current scientific picture of the cosmos. Well, I started by studying the brain and confirming that in fact we have no precise idea how it works, and even less how it generates consciousness. There could actually be a role for quantum indeterminacy amplified by some unknown mechanism in the brain. I even stayed for some time in Tucson, close to Hameroff's team, who argued that microtubuli in the brain would amass these quantum indeterminacies, transforming the brain into a quantum computer.

Well, what I found in Tucson was a discovery that would actually end my research. I found out that, in the beginning of the XXth century, just after Plank made his discovery, there were a lot of arguments saying precisely what I was trying to say. In France and England and Germany lots of people were saying that determinism was over, and now was the time to put free will back on the line! Well, how did this end? Well, there was this guy from the Vienna Circle named Philipp Frank who was completely opposed to this kind of talk. He felt that this was a chance for the return of the Dark Ages of obscurantism and religious dogma. He thought that his kind of talk would bring superstition, that rational explanations of the I would be abandoned, that free will would simply be accepted as a mysterious dogma, something to be believed. Well, with the war, many members of the Vienna Circle, including Frank, came to the US where they remained very influential speakers. Today, like before, there were many people speaking about the contribution of quantum mechanics, but the status quo of philosophers in positions of power would annihilate those kinds of discussions. It was simply out of fashion to indicate quantum mechanics as a having a functional part in brain. I was quite amazed in how coherent the philosophical community was in the US. In Portugal there were all these different schools of thought, who almost denied each other's existence. But in the US there was only one way of seeing things. Even if physics was not deterministic for the last hundred years, we still said it was. David Papineau presented this view in the extreme. He started out by saying: "we must look to science", and then in practice he ignored it completely. "Science" in the mouths of these philosophers, was not science, it was something they had invented for the sake of their own theories.

Back to Portugal

After staying in Paris from October 1999 to June 2000 and in Tucson, Arizona, for most of 2001, I returned to Portugal quite in a crisis. I participated informally in several philosophical discussions while I was in Lisbon but my dissatisfaction with philosophy was augmenting every day. I asked myself: "what do you know about freedom to write about it? - what have you lived, experienced, to make you an expert on the mind?" My answer was, well, nothing! I was in the dark regarding all these problems, I didn't find myself worthy enough to write about these things. Then something happened!

Looking back I see that my adventures in philosophy are part of a larger group of adventures oscillate between conceptual clarification (philosophy proper) and a more existential experience. Without this existential experience we would have no material to do philosophy, science or the arts. It is the angst of existence that leads us into ontology, it is the experience of free will that makes us want to understand what it is, and how it can relate to the body. If we are for a long time immersed in a pure conceptual environment our thoughts become empty. Although articulated they became detached with reality. Scholastic philosophy in the XVII century is a good example of this, as certain schools of today. They have great accuracy in the use of their concepts, but for all their elegance and rigor, they are far off the mark, because the people that make these elegant conceptual architectures do not live, existentially, the questions to the full. So they see just a small part of the problem. They paint a beautiful picture, but, the subject is not there, it is an imagined picture, a fantasy.

What happened in Portugal was Guilherme da Luz, who showed me the doors to an inner world towards which I was blind. I met Guilherme as a teacher of Kung Fu, Kung Fu means, among several things, Time and Energy. It means that when you apply time and energy you become a virtuoso, you master what your attention focus, you become fully conscious in that activity. Kung Fu, in Guilherme's classes, was the way to remain conscious in situations when we generally shut off. For instance, in a situation of fight, where fear and anger can overcome us. Instead of fighting fear and anger we should let them come and observe them silently. As we observed them they would become transparent, instead of devouring us, they would simply became a tool for consciousness to use. This brought consciousness into a new light. It showed, not so much in a theoretical sense, but in a practical sense, what consciousness was. More than that it developed consciousness. In philosophy, at least in the analytical way of doing it, cognitive ability is highly praised. What is necessary is to be extremely clear and coherent. You must use the words in the right way, etc. But if you end up looking like a machine, a computer, well, that would not be surprising, because there is really no incentive to expand your consciousness which is something quite different from the mind. "Mind" as I am using the term, is just a collection of cognitive procedures, it is just like a computer. "Consciousness" by the contrary, is that without which there would be no meaning, no experience, nothing, just mechanical actions. Sometimes, for instance while we're driving, we do these mechanical actions. When we walk we also do them, I writing at the keyboard, and, most of the time, I am not looking at the keys, I'm not event thinking about them, much less about the motions my fingers have to make to reach for the right keys at a certain time and sequence. Of all this happens automatically, mechanically, without the intervention of my consciousness. The same with reading. I am reading these lines and I am not aware of the effort made by my eyes to follow the lines or decode the black and white pixels to actual content. Most of the cognitive processes that happen in my mind only necessitated consciousness to be learned, to be programmed. Consciousness points the way, somehow it knows when the correct answer has been achieved. But after that, the process can just go on, unattended, in the automatic way we all know about.

Now philosophy, at least in my experience, demanded consciousness in the beginning, to understand the problems, or as a solution to problems pointed out by conscious experiences. But, as we entered philosophy and it became more and more specialized, more and more a game of words and concepts, consciousness was striked out and replaced by the mind. Just like a professional player seems to slumber in a game he is proficient in, so a professional philosopher, after years and years of study, seems to know the game by heart. Now, Guilherme's Kung Fu led me straight for consciousness. His main goal was not efficiency but awareness. We should always be aware, and of everything, inside and outside of us. We should not repress anything. The things most repressed by society (and with good reason, by the way) was the animal inside. So, slowly, we were also waking up the animal, anger, all this repressed energy was coming out, and we were becoming aware of it, instead of controlling us, we were beginning to understand it, to be able to deal with it, or use it in whatever form we might see fit. But the main point was always consciousness, as full and wide as it could be. We should be here, now, awakened.

One of the things I discovered that was most incredible (even today I find it difficult to believe) was the so called "chi" energy that is at the root of oriental healing and martial arts. It was amazing to me how it could be felt, transmitted and use in a large variety of situations (Guilherme didn't talk a lot about the chi, this was mostly my personal enchantment). I also become connected with shiatsu and other forms of massage that use this kind of Chi approach (Reiki is also a even weirder application of chi principles). The amazing thing was that this actually worked. We could use this kinds of "mysterious" energies in real situations. the most obvious one was in fighting. In almost every class there was a period of fight. Free fight, no rules, nothing. The only limit was not to hurt in any way your partner, and you should make a rewarding experience for all participating in the fight (generally it was one-on-one). Now, this fighting period is a good chance of testing, in practice, whether you are seeing something real or not. You actually test the reality of what you experience in your mind. In physics you make a theory and you test it by drawing predictions. In this case you have a vision, and you test it by making predictions too. If that mysterious vision is false then you will see it in practice because things will not develop has you anticipated. After hundreds of experiences like these we being to have more and more trust in consciousness, you begin to understand it better, to see, in practice, how different it is from the mind. how limited the mind is, how, in fact, the mind is just a tool used by consciousness to deal with the world. Consciousness directs the mind, it teach us it, it programs it. Without consciousness the program would never know when to end, when it was right or wrong. the program simply runs. It is consciousness that has the power to assess it. It is consciousness that gives things their meaning. Of all these things that consciousness is the root of: sensation, meaning, value, etc., are things that are not really explainable or sharable through conceptual content. Guilherme's experience of consciousness cannot be easily transmitted, much less by words. It must be wanted, searched for in an existential manner, it must be experienced, tasted, done. It is like hearing music or savoring a cake, words will not make you advance in that, it must be experienced in a completely different way.

After a few years going through Guilherme's classes I began to understand that the other thing that I should search for was truth. For some years I had striven for clarity, but I did not ask myself how things are truly like. I think that most advances in physics and astronomy etc, are because scientists are asking what is this really like. The strong desire to go beyond appearances or easy or comfortable explanations and to search for what is really happening is, I think, what allows mankind to go beyond merely religious or superstitious explanations. Sometimes these explanations work! But that should not be enough, at least, it is certainly not enough for me. I want to know what is really happening, and somehow I guess consciousness has the ability to guide us towards the right reply. Obviously, it might take many generations to advance towards the truth. But, without that desire to find out the truth, even an unlimited number of generations might end up repeating the same old dogmas and self-satisfying responses. That's what I don't like in the eastern culture. They have found out a lot of things, but, as long as it works, they don't question it. They don't try to understand it fully. They want it to work, they want to feel good. If acupuncture works then it works. No need to know why. If astrology works, well then that's sufficient. Well, perhaps it does not work, at least not in a rigorous manner, and perhaps it just a buch of crap. But, if it does work, then we want to know why, how, etc. But the oriental mind is more about well-being. If you are having pleasure, then that is quite enough thank you. For me, that is not enough!

So, in the last couple of years (after 2004) I have been trying to be realist, to develop my consciousness, my awareness, to go as far as it can go, to be awaken, to be clear, to try to have my concepts, my mind, rid of rubbish and confusions. Unfortunately this is more easily said than done. I have had so many experiences that it has been very hard for me to incorporate those in my mind. This might seem weird, and in fact, you cannot really explain it entirely because it pressuposes that your consciousness is far wider than your mind. Which means there would be many things I know through the development of consciousness that I ignore from a cognitive point of view. This is trivially true for all of us, but most of us don't recognize it. For instance our consciousness gives us access to the meaning of Mozart's music! Some of us are not interested, and so they hear it without really letting their consciousness see it. They listen to it, but they don't contemplate it. But when you do contemplate the music reveals itself to you. Mozart's vision is somehow encapsulated in those melodies. You can understand its beauty, its vision. However you cannot explain it. There are no concepts that can describe it. You may say: it's joyful, but that doesn't really say it. Bach's music is also juyful in many occasions. But each occasion is different and all of them have a distinct quality that is different from many of Mozart's joyful melodies. We simply don't have words to explain it, even to ourselves. Another example, you look at yellow. You close your eyes. Now, how do you explain to yourself what yellow is? You know what it is, you have experienced it, you would be able to recognize it, you may have even savored its warmth, its gentleness, you know what it is, but you cannot explain it, even to yourself. The same is happening with me. I have had so many incredible experiences that I feel I have grown a lot, I am not the same man who has begun in doctorate trying to change the world, and yet, my mind cannot really accompany this change in my consciousness. Therefore I am trying to develop my mind to, at least to some degree, become able to explain, at least to myself all that I learned but cannot put through words.

Still Guilherme's Kung Fu - From dilemmas to flourishing

Before I begin to scrabble into a draft that makes my current inner experience of things conceptually intelligible (at least to myself) let me just say how Guilherme's Kung Fu saved me from the dichotomy of thinking that either me or everyone else was just nutty. Well, I hadn't been thinking about that lately, but I still devided people into good and bad. Bad people were unfair, they would not search for truth (at least my truth), they would have preconceived notions, fears, etc. Good people were the heroes, fearless, aiming for justice, etc. This obviously strengthened a view of the world in which there were good and bad people. Now the main problem was not so much that some people didn't want to think about what was existence all about, but more about hunger in the third world, or how animals were being treated as inanimate objects, even by scientists whose main research field would implicate they knew they couldn't be so different from us (especially with research with primates and other mammals, but I was also chocked with the carelessness devoted to animals which were raised with no consideration for their mental well being). Now, Guilherme's classes had a lot to do with raising awareness or consciousness, during those classes you would have to "get in touch", to apply your consciousness both to yourself, and to the other. The fighting was actually an exercise in communication. You listened and you talked. And what talked in you came from a voice you couldn't really understand. You just let it flow, you would be inspired, just as when you are trying to help someone you love and words just come to you without you really knowing how (sometimes surprising yourself), or when you are inspired and start to write a book, or compose a song or some such thing. Those efforts in communication were what saved me, because I started seeing people in a better light. First of all, because I knew how to defend myself, I wasn't so scared. I faced my fears of being hurt. Sometimes I had been hurt, and it wasn't so bad, I could deal with it. It was worst just staying alone in fear of being hurt. So, slowly, the fears would start to disappear, and be replaced by communication and by the pleasure, sometimes ecstatic pleasure, of communicating. Slowly I began to understand, to feel, to know, to see, that we are all the same. We all the same freedom at least. We have no definite shape, none of us, we play some roles, we do some parts, and they usually change over time, although some people identify with this and that, and they start to believe that they are that shape, that attitude, etc, that they would loose themselves if they were to loose that. But, when you look from the point of view of consciousness, and you pierce through another's eyes, what you see inside is the same freedom, the same ability for joy, to be inspired, to communicate, that you have. The difference is in the cover, in the way each person chooses to complete the destiny that she creates by her successive choices in relation to her environment. So some people will be bitter and other people will be grateful. Some people will run for cover while others will be adventurous. But in the end, what animates all of them, all of us, is the same light and search for joy and encounter. So people are not crazy for just wanting to have money and friends and a good time generally. No! They are fed by their pleasure. The pleasure they feel because they obtained something that they craved for, or because they are in the company of someone they enjoy, or because they are simply watching something beautiful, or because they feel they are growing, etc. All this is a reflex of consciousness, of infinite consciousness, being in contact with a part of the world (that the body can experience), through a part of the world (the body). This interaction, more or less asleep, gives rise to all the familiar experiences that animals have (including intelligent animals). They can be expressed in emotions, thoughts and other kinds of actions, or reflected by habits, concepts and other constructs. Our conscious experience is a game, a contact, between the infinite and the finite, and we are all examples, instances, of such a contact. Although some of us are able to express it in ways that others cannot understand (through music for instance).

In a very real sense we are indeed crazy, because, ultimately, our motives for action  cannot be entirely explained rationally. Even if someone wants to appear as a very rational person, he is, in the words of Sartre "condemned to be free". And freedom has no rational explanation. You just choose to live, and that is a crazy decision, not because it is below rationality, but because it is beyond it. There are things in life that reason can simply not explain.

So, which is better, to give up pleasure in the name of righteousness of to give up righteousness in the name of pleasure? Well, when you look at a person reality seems so different than these abstract questions. It's much more complex than that. You should aim for everything not just what's right and pleasure, but everything, because consciousness is akin to every part of the universe. There is nothing it cannot get in tune with, all we need is sufficient time and energy to reprogram our brains, led by the "light" of consciousness, into understanding. This is what physics is all about and all the other true sciences (pseudo sciences are glad to get results, "true" sciences aim for the truth - in a Popperian sense, a guiding goal). Dilemmas are often created by seeing things from a superficial point of view. A game of words, intelligible to the mind, but disconnected from reality. For instance you might ask: should I sacrifice a life to save ten (a utilitarian approach), or is killing always forbidden irrespective of the consequences (a deontological approach)? Well, when you look it from a conscious point of view, that means when you contemplate the problem long enough for it to become entirely clear, you understand that both the utilitarian and the deontological approach are saying important things: results are important, but there are things which are more important than results. Now these things are not actions, sometimes it's good to kill, when you kill a virus, or a terrorist who was going to blow up hundred of people, etc. So what is above all consequences? Well you cannot really say it. It's like Kant's moral law. It's there, you know what it is, but it does not have an object. It is not a thing, or a particular action. It is a principle, perhaps similar to love or searching for the truth, but not exactly that.  That stuff, which cannot be said, is the most important thing, and that stuff cannot be relegated to a second plan, it cannot be bought or traded. Perhaps we could call it freedom, in lack of a better word. Perhaps we could say that freedom is something that should not be traded. But even that word is prone to misinterpretation.

So you see, going beyond the dilemmas involves giving a step that goes beyond the mind. You know what it is, it's all very clear, as clear as Mozart's music is beautiful. You can see it, it is right in front of you. You might recognize it, it might have changed your life, but you cannot explain it even to yourself. This is where philosophy fails, by not recognizing that there are limits which reason cannot surpass, but that must nevertheless be surpassed if we want to know who we are. Only consciousness can helps us with that in a world where there are no words to guide us. In that world dilemmas are just food for growing, ways in which consciousness gets involved with the part (the concrete).

A draft of my current philosophical views

Well, so here is an initial draft of my current philosophical views: After many years of going through the philosophies of many people, I begun to understand that life is much more complex and rich than we can conceive. Homo sapiens has had many successes in science and technology and the arts, but what these successes show is that the world is very vast, we are just begging to understand how life works. We can not even simulate, with our best super-computers, the simple folding of a molecule for a few milliseconds. We can't understand anything fully! All the laws of physics are undermined by the questions such as "why did the big bang occur? what happens at a singularity?". Even our best theories, like quantum theory and the theory of relativity seem to not go along so well. We don't understand consciousness, how sentience relates to the physical world, we have no idea what is the place of mathematical entities like "prime numbers" in the "real world" (are they just our mental creations? mere conceptual abstractions? what would it mean to say that they are "Real"). Even simple everyday concepts like "free will" seem to escape our conceptual abilities. What is it for something to have free will? We imagine it to be something that not at random, and yet it is not determined. But this is not something we can clearly conceive from a logical point of view. From a logical point of view, something either has a cause or it hasn't. The concept of "being it's own cause" is something for which we can find no model.

In sum, according to our best models, to our best science, summing up more than 2000 years of accumulation of knowledge, we have come to understand our enormous, gigantic, gargantuan ignorance. We are just the first animals on Earth that have begun to use their little grey cells to accumulate mental pictures of how things work. Our greatest gift was a very developed symbolic language. With it, and contrary to other animal, we were able to accumulate knowledge from one civilization to the next. Written language has been most important in that respect. We have created a culture heavily based on parallel processing of information, not only between the living brains of our species, but also based on what the dead brains have left us. From synthesis to synthesis we have grown. Each time gaining a little more knowledge, each time understanding that we are just in the beginning of opening our eyes to the extremely wide and complex world that surrounds us.

So, the only philosophy that seems possible to me is that which propounds curiosity, honesty and a big "sense of adventure" (an expression found in Carl Sagan's Contact). We have no definite picture of the world, but we know for sure that there are mysteries there that can be unraveled (some already were - and they are all our science). Why should we? Well, I have no rational answer to that. That is why this philosophy is valid for me only. If someone wants to be a nihilist and think that suicide is the only ethical way out of a world where God does not appear to tell us unequivocally what is worth doing, well, why not?

Today this view is not highly regarded. There's supposed to be some ethical principals that can be rationally justified. So that we could rationally condemn say, the nazis, the radical muslims and many others. And that would not be merely our point of view, it would be, you know, the right thing to do, really, from an objective point of view. I understand why this perspective appears. It's a great chock to contemplate what the nazis did for instance. We want to say that they were wrong, not just because we say so, or we think so, or we feel so with all our heart, but because, even if would agree with them, they would be wrong, and we would be wrong to have agreed, etc. Well, I'm just a homo sapiens, an animal, I accept that someone might have access to some divine law, a way to know what's wrong and right apart from what we see as wrong and right. Personally I don't have access to any such thing. I am able to love and to forgive and understand. I am able to hate, to condemn, to despise. However, to judge? Who am I to judge? What do I know about the universe, about who I am or what the other is, what lies beyond what I can see? If I see so little I cannot judge. I may merely try to help, to help myself and to help others to live in harmony, in the measure in which that is possible at all.

So how do I justify this search for harmony and knowledge. Why do I prefer to exacerbate curiosity and understanding of one another? Well, I can't really justify it. Let me give you an analogy with music. Let's say you are hearing one of Beethoven's symphony. Let's say the fifth (the ninth would also do, or any other melody in fact). Now you year the first four notes, and then they are repeated again. Actually we can represent those notes in a very straightforward manner:

We could represent them in many different ways, for instance, we could record the frequencies and amplitude of the sound waves as the symphony is played, or we could produce a much more elaborate musical notation, etc. We can speak about that, we can logically determine if this is a correct description of Beethoven's fifth beginning, we can count the notes, we can measure their distance in terms of tone, time duration, or volume, we can say many, many things that are actually describable. What no one I know of can describe is the music's beauty, and only the beauty makes it so valuable. Now we could reverse the notes, they would not be as beautiful, but the informational content, what could be described, would be the same. The same number of notes, the same relation between them, we could establish infinite relations, develop all these connections. From an informational point of view you can't really distinguish the beautiful one from the meaningless. However there is something we cannot explain that makes one beautiful and the other just a sequence of sounds. This, I think, for all that I've heard and read about music and art, is beyond reason. We simply don't know how to explain why some sequences of sounds are beautiful and others are not, or why some have a particular kind of beautifulness while others seem to belong to another world, but are in fact as beautiful as the others (in a different context). We cannot even describe their beautifulness to some that doesn't see it. It is like explaining yellow to a blind person. You might be able to describe the electromagnetic frequency of yellow, its relations to other colors, how you can produce it from certain chemicals, or how you can create the sensation of brown with it, in a tv set, to the human eye. A blind person will be able to perfectly grasp all the mechanics of the colors. He may even build a perfect tv set, he may understand the biochemistry of vision (like in Jackson's example) etc. But he will obviously not know what "yellow" feels like.

The same is true, I think, regarding the gargantuan beautifulness I see in every part of the world. When I think about explaining it to others I immediately give up. But, nevertheless, it is this beautifulness that makes the world valuable. Just as someone would think that it is worthy to learn how to play the piano because the music is so beautiful, so I think it's worthy to dedicate myself to study physics, psychology, esotericism and spirituality, astronomy, biology, art, the history of the world, including the human species, etc, because it is so beautiful. Beautifulness is not only a pleasure, we also learn something from it, but we cannot explain what. After hearing Beethoven's fifth symphony, or Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", or Bach's BWV 565 (it's not clear whether this particular one is indeed from Bach, given its unique style), one's life can be changed. Just as reading a book can change our life, our way of seeing things and dealing with the world and our daily events, so hearing to a music can change, to the deepest foundation, who we are. But how do we explain it? We can show it. People close to us will understand that something has changed, and it will reflect in our philosophy, in the ways in which we deal with others and things. But that is not to explain it, for in that beautifulness, in what some may call «that vision of the Divine» we have found something that inspires us, but which we cannot explain fully, even to ourselves. It's too large to be explained.

So too with the vision of the beautifulness of the world, it touches you, it gives you something well beyond pleasure. But you cannot really communicate with others. People would have to hear Gershwin's work to see it too, or Bach's, etc. And, of course, all this is part of the world. Gershwin's melody is as much part of the universe as a solar flare or a rock in a river. We tend to distinguish things, but we are just another part in the unimaginable vast history of what there is.

Today I would have to say that I am more than a very happy person. To tell the truth I'm an ecstatic person, I'm always like living the greatest dream I could ever imagine. Biologically I appear just like everyone else, I'm as normal as I could be, but on the inside, what makes me live, it's always better than spring. I am now here and the music of stars, of distant civilizations living in clusters of stars and many galaxies, give me rhythm. I am in love with the world, I love rocks and mountains, and and man, and myself, we, everything, are a part of the biggest mystery, the most beautiful story ever told and that encompasses all the others, including of course this one, and everything I will ever say, do, write, feel, imagine or desire, and yours too, and everyone else's too, and everything, that there is or will be.

Most people will say, so what, there are still dishes to wash and dinner to be made, there are wars, and diseases and suffering throughout the world. Can you say that cancer is beautiful, that suffering is beautiful, along with pain, death and loss? Obviously you can't say that. Only when you look at the whole will you see it, how it all makes sense, how it must be that way, because, well, because all these other things. All these other stories, interconnected in so many different ways and scales. And when you look at the all picture, yes, then Hitler made sense, because he was crazy, and the all nation was crazy, and England and France were crazy, not only the politicians but the people too. They had longed for power, that had colonized the world, they had invented nobles and aristocracy, and monarchy and the Reich, and everything was going to war, it was meant for war, it was inevitable. The Second World War was not the work of madman, not even of a small number of madmen, or dictators, it was the result of a whole civilization. After the second world war colonialism subsided a little more, empty aristocracy gave a little more space for free thinking throughout Europe, weird ideas of eugenics lost their ground (including in England and the USA), for a few decades people was a little less nutty. The UN gained power, freedom was revered, open societies flourished! Probably, nothing of this would have happen without a war. So, when you look at things through a wide angle you understand that actually, those things had to occur. Just like disease. You might thing, oh well, that child did not deserve to die. But that's because we are not seeing the whole progression of the disease. If we could see it from the beginning we would see that it had to occur, not to chastise or reward someone but because of some others kinds of events, probably not at all related to human actions. But the world is not only about us. It has billions of billions of stories, sometimes events that have had nothing to do with us, simply start to interact. There's a logic about it. certainly not a logic centered on humans alone, but that encompasses humans in a very large array of things.

Think of a painting, like Klimt's The Kiss, now, suppose that the neck was complaining: «oohh, it is so unfair! I did nothing wrong, why do I have to be in this position?» Well there is a reason, just look at the rest of the painting, at the whole! If a child is born with spina bifida, that has a reason, it is because there was a malformation, and there was a malformation because the events that lead to the formation of an embryo are extremely minute and fragile. And this happens because we have bodies that have billions of cells, that have to be created by a single cell. And this process is so complex and subtle that no human mind was able to understand it so far, but we know it is extremely subtle, and that it is very easy to go wrong. It is as if we had manage to put your entire life story in just three letters. Now these letters will have to be combines and recombined and recombined, over and over again in such a way as to recreate your whole life story again. But if you have just one combination wrong, then this error will be amplified over and over again. Somehow a single cell inside the womb, the egg, as all the information about the construction of a human being made of trillions of cells. But this information has to be so densely packed that it is only too easy for something to go wrong. What is amazing is that there is so much "rights"!!

But, because we were taught that we were at the center of the world, and that everything gravitates on rewards and punishments for our actions, we actually believe that when something like that happens, it was a "punishment" and we also believe in "rewards". We forget that we are a small part of a very large world, and that there are many things happening beyond our fights beyond good and evil. Rocks tumble and electrons spin, and they don't care about us, they don't even know us, although they can affect us! If we want to live well we must understand the world, we must understand how it works, trying to be worthy and expecting to gain the lottery is without doubt exercising our right to be blind and egocentric. We try to hid it showing how generous our actions are, but we are in fact looking avidly for a reward of our bravery and humility and we will be very disappointed if we don't get it. Actually sometimes disappointment will do more good than harm for through it some of us will understand that we are not the center of the world and we will start to open our eyes instead of seeking shelter in amazing tales.

We often admire a work of art by its detail, by the attention given to detail which means that every part of the work is in harmony with every other part. We admire works of art by their diversity, by the scope of feelings or kinds of realities they are able to capture, by their ambiguity or richness of interpretation. Well, there is quite nothing like the world, which not only encompasses every work of art ever made, thought of or merely desired, but also every thing, from molecule to galaxy. And in all of this there is a deep coherence, detail, everything we admire in a work of art. But when it comes to our personal interest, we ask for miracles, it's like the neck in the painting asking: well destroy the painting, I don't care about the grand idea of The Kiss, I just want to sit straight. We ask for miracles, but the true miracle lies in existence itself, and the door to it is by contemplating the whole.

In the real world this desire of being special, this rebellion against conformity, is of course also an important part of the world. It is part of the world to want to be a rebel. In fact, there is nothing you can think, desire, act on, that is somehow out of  the world. From the deepest acts of hatred and sadism, to the furthest acts of love, courage, and altruism, everything is part of the same universe, and carries in it the mark of the utmost perfection, just like every part of Klimt's painting brings the mark of a masterpiece, even if it's just a small speck of black paint or the finest gold. In themselves they might look this or that, but integrated in the whole they gain a very different sense that applies equally to each and every one.