06 November, 2015

They talk by flapping their meat at each other.

They're made out of Meat

by Terry Bisson
On YouTube here: They're Made Out of Meat

"They're made out of meat."
"Meat. They're made out of meat."
"There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars."
"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they're made out of meat."
"Maybe they're like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."
"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take too long. Do you have any idea the life span of meat?"
"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."
"No brain?"
"Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat!"
"So... what does the thinking?"
"You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat."
"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?"
"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
"Finally, Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."
"So what does the meat have in mind?"
"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the universe, contact other sentients, swap ideas and information. The usual."
"We're supposed to talk to meat?"
"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there? Anyone home?' That sort of thing."
"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."
"I thought you just told me they used radio."
"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."
"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"
"Officially or unofficially?"
"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"
"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say?" `Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"
"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
"So we just pretend there's no one home in the universe."
"That's it."
"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you have probed? You're sure they won't remember?"
"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
"And we can mark this sector unoccupied."
"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."
"They always come around."
"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the universe would be if one were all alone."

© Copyright Terry Bisson -  Terry Bisson's Website

05 November, 2015

The Practice of Meditation

~ Alan Watts

The practice of meditation is not what is ordinarily meant by practice, in the sense of repetitious preparation for some future performance. It may seem odd and illogical to say that meditation, in the form of yoga, Dhyana, or Za-zen, as used by Hindus and Buddhists, is a practice without purpose – in some future time – because it is the art of being completely centered in the here and now. “I’m not sleepy, and there is no place I’m going to.”

We are living in the culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, and will be any other experience than present experience.

We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions, and ideas. Meditation is therefore the art of suspending verbal and symbolic thinking for a time, somewhat as a courteous audience will stop talking when a concert is about to begin.

Simply sit down, close your eyes, and listen to all sounds that may be going on – without trying to name or identify them. Listen as you would listen to music. If you find that verbal thinking will not drop away, don’t attempt to stop it by force of will-power. Just keep your tongue relaxed, floating easily in the lower jaw, and listen to your thoughts as if they were birds chattering outside – mere noise in the skull – and they will eventually subside of themselves, as a turbulent and muddy pool will become calm and clear if left alone.

Also, become aware of breathing and allow your lungs to work in whatever rhythm seems congenial to them. And for a while just sit listening and feeling breath. But, if possible, don’t call it that. Simply experience the non-verbal happening. You may object that this is not “spiritual” meditation but mere attention to the "physical" world, but it should be understood that the spiritual and the physical are only ideas, philosophical conceptions, and that the reality of which you are now aware is not an idea. Furthermore, there is no “you” aware of it. That was also just an idea. Can you hear yourself listening?

And then begin to let your breath “fall” out, slowly and easily. Don’t force or strain your lungs, but let the breath come out in the same way that you let yourself slump into a comfortable bed. Simply let it go, go, and go. As soon as there is the least strain, just let it come back in as a reflex; don’t pull it in. Forget the clock. Forget to count. Just keep it up for so long as you feel the luxury of it.

Using the breath in this way, you discover how to generate energy without force. For example, one of the gimmicks {in Sanskrit, upaya} used to quiet the thinking mind and its compulsive chattering is known as mantra – the chanting of sounds for the sake of sound rather than meaning. Therefore begin to “float” a single tone on the long, easy outbreath at whatever pitch is most comfortable. Hindus and Buddhists use for this practice such syllables as OM, AH, HUM {i.e. HUNG}, and Christians might prefer AMEN or ALLELUIA, Muslims ALLAH, HOO, and Jews ADONAI: it really makes no difference, since what is important is simply and solely the sound. Like Zen Buddhists, you could use just the syllable MOOO. Dig that, and let your consciousness sink down, down, down into the sound for as long as there is no sense of strain.

Above all, don’t look for a result, for some marvelous change of consciousness or satori: the whole essence of meditation-practice is centering upon what IS – not of what should or might be.
The point is not to make the mind blank or to concentrate fiercely upon, say, a single point of light – although that, too, can be delightful without the fierceness

For how long should this be kept up ? My own, and perhaps unorthodox, feeling is that it can be continued for as long as there is no sensation of forcing it – and this may easily extend to 30 or 40 minutes at one sitting, whereafter you will want to return to the state of normal restlessness and distraction.

In sitting for meditation, it is best to use a substantial cushion on the floor, to keep the spine erect but not stiff, to have the hands on the lap – palms upwards – resting easily upon each other, and to sit cross-legged like a Buddha-figure, either in full or half “lotus” posture, or kneeling and sitting back on the heels. “Lotus” means placing one or both feet sole upwards upon the opposite thigh. These postures are slightly uncomfortable, but they have, therefore, the advantage of keeping you awake!

In the course of meditation you may possibly have astonishing visions, amazing ideas, and fascinating fantasies. You may also feel that you are becoming clairvoyant or that you are able to leave your body and travel at will. But all that is distraction. Leave it alone and simply watch what happens NOW. One does not meditate in order to acquire extraordinary powers, for if you managed to become omnipotent and omniscient, what would you do ? There would be no further surprises for you, and your whole life would be like making love to a plastic woman. Beware, then, of all those gurus who promise “marvelous results” and other future benefits from their disciplines. The whole point is to realize that there is no future, and that the real sense of life is an exploration of the eternal now. STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN ! Or shall we say, “Turn on, tune in, and drop in”?

A story is told of a man who came to the Buddha with offerings of flowers in both hands. The Buddha said, “Drop it!” So he dropped the flowers in his left hand. The Buddha said again “Drop it!” He dropped the flowers in his right hand. And the Buddha said, “Drop that which you have neither in the right nor in the left, but in the middle!” And the man was instantly enlightened.

It is marvelous to have the sense that all living and moving is dropping, or going along with gravity. After all – the earth is falling around the sun, and, in turn, the sun is falling around some other star. For energy is precisely a taking of the line of least resistance. Energy is mass. The power of water is in following its own weight. All comes to him who weights.