AI, Art and Life

Eric Wayne has just published a most thought-provoking post entitled AI Won. Human Artists and Humankind are Defeated. It’s well worth reading, particularly if, like me, you’re not aware of the amazing capabilities exhibited by the latest AI programs. As Eric says: “the latest algorithm from Midjourney enables anyone at all to make astounding art without any prior skill, training, understanding, or even exposure to art…” Surely an amazing statement, but Eric is an accomplished artist and I’m sure he’s correct.

So, whatever inspiration the artist puts into his/her work can be simulated by the AI forever more and in great variety. Art would appear to have really gone the way of chess, where computers can now easily beat the best human players. And of course other forms of AI are being developed by the likes of Google to make informed decisions from huge amounts of data that would be beyond the individual human being, potentially revolutionising transport, healthcare, environmental management and other sectors of the economy.

What the AI can never do is copy the inner lived experience of the human being, the pleasure of playing a game of chess with another human, the joy of following one’s own creativity, or appreciating the creativity of another, or the appreciation of the AI work itself. Yes, it can simulate all these things, but AI is all on the surface; there is no depth, no life. It is a massive simulation of what the left brain can do and understand. There is no equivalent of the right brain, other than through simulation.

So we face a world of massive change, through an artifical intelligence that has no inner world, no conscience, no morality, no intuition. In a sense this is the ultimate left brain project whereby, somewhere along the way of our development, morality became replaced by laws, the inspiration of the prophets was superseded by institutionalised religions, and now creativity is replaced by algorithms.

We cannot stop all this development, which is itself wonderfully creative. However, we are approaching a world of some peril. Consider the use of AI in warfare. The AI has no moral sense, no common sense, other than a set of rules that someone may have encoded in them. The challenge, as Isaac Asimov was telling us all those years ago, is how do we keep any sort of control on this stuff? Maybe we can’t and, in the end, good and bad things will happen…

Featured image was generated by AI in a few seconds – see Eric’s post.

The Healing Place 

Here’s another poem by Steve Taylor, which very much speaks to me. I hope it also speaks to you.

The Healing Place 
 

There is a healing place inside you 
beneath your thoughts and feelings
beyond any concept of identity 
or any sense of separation – 
a reservoir of soul-force
radiant and pure 
infinitely deep and dense
like the nucleus inside an atom.

When your body needs to repair itself 
or your energies need replenishing 
or your restless mind needs calming 
let go of your life’s demands 
and sink into the healing place 
like a diver into warm still water.

Immerse yourself in its radiance. 
Let its healing force soak into you.
Let pure consciousness pervade the cells of your body
and shine through the space of your mind. 

The healing place lies outside space and time. 
It transcends matter, isn’t bound by the laws of physics.
It’s a supernatural place where miracles occur
as naturally as the wind blows. 

And so you will emerge from the healing place 
refreshed, even recreated 
miraculously transformed 
as if risen from the dead.

Featured image is on the Dee Estuary

I Only Need To Meet You Once

I loved this recent poem by Steve Taylor. It’s about those people you meet, maybe only briefly, where you immediately feel a connection and a common understanding. But Steve expresses it so much better than I could!

I Only Need To Meet You Once

I only need to meet you once
to connect with you forever.
I catch your gaze across the room.
We recognise each other, though we’ve never met before
We have an invisible sign of allegiance;
the same shade of light shines through us.

We smile and draw together
and feel at ease straight away.
There’s no need to ask questions 
because we already know each other.

We don’t need to protect our personal space 
because we already share common ground.
Time stops as we stand together.
The room dissolves away 
as if a soft warm cloud has enveloped us. 

Soon we have to go our separate ways. 
We hug and walk away, still smiling. 
We don’t feel sad, but more fulfilled.
We feel no sense of loss 
because we’ve gained each other’s love.

Our connection transcends distance. 
Wherever we are, we’ll inform each other’s lives 
and softly touch each other’s souls
through a timeless spaceless bond.

I only need to meet you once
to know that I’ve always known you
and that I’ll always know you
even if we never meet again.

I only need to meet you once 
to know that we are one.

Featured image of cats by Panini!, via Wikimedia Commons

That was 2022 on this blog

My favourite photos from posts of 2022

Featured image is the chateau at Chinon and River Vienne.

My favourite wordy posts of 2022

  • 1965 Kiev – reflections on visiting Kyiv in 1965, at the start of the still-ongoing Russian invasion.
  • Fens overview – overview of a series of posts on a journey through the Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
  • The Matter With Things – Review of Iain McGilchrist’s masterwork, vital to understand where humanity is at, psychologically.
  • Trauma and the Body – Review of Bessel van der Kolk’s excellent book The Body Keeps the Score.
  • Letting Go – the need to let go of old attachments, both for living and for dying.

Most viewed (2022)

  • Mint Moth (2017) – amazing furry moth, also in 2021 list.

Most liked (6 years)

  • Trauma and the Body – Review of Bessel van der Kolk’s excellent book The Body Keeps the Score.

A happy new year to you all!

Hope you enjoyed at least some of it, and maybe learned something from it.

Thanks to you fellow bloggers for your comments and likes!

Compassion is Great Intelligence

Beaautiful post by Tom on compassion, with superb photograph and ee cummings poem. Compassion – a symptom reflecting wholeness.

Tom's Nature-up-close Photography and Mindfulness Blog

One may ask, “Is compassion very significant in life?” Yes, compassion is immensely significant because it reflects and is a wonderful radiation of the whole. That whole has its own intrinsic, organic intelligence (of which compassion is a very big component). A fragmented, isolated consciousness, that merely perceives with self-idolizing boundaries and cold distance is, unfortunately, not of compassion. Such a debilitated mind is distorted and is not of the whole. Such a mind is isolated and apart. It may be intelligent in a very mechanical, crude, and limited way, but it is not intelligent in a living and wonderfully dynamic way. The isolated mind’s intelligence is — being limited — like that of a programmed, mechanical, robotic computer.

A mindful consciousness is of the whole. Such a dynamic, living mind sees beyond “learned distance” and learned isolating patterns. It is not like a left hand that is attacking the…

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At Chester

Chester is one of England’s most historic cities, established as a Roman port on the Dee Estuary in the 1st century AD, and very prosperous in the Middle Ages. The Roman walls have been largely maintained over the centuries, providing a scenic walk around the central city and its modern shopping centre although the port silted up many years ago now. The large number of historic buildings makes for a fine High Street, photographed here from the central pedestrian bridge on the wall walk.

The 11C Chester cathedral has a chequered history as Saxon Minster and Benedictine Abbey. The sandstone used in its construction is characteristic of many religious buildings in the area.

Chester – one of our favourite days out.

The guide from beyond

I just came across this poem by the 13C Persian poet Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, giving inspiration on meeting the unnexpected – appropriate for these uncertain times. The effect is to raise the response from the level of ego to that of the Higher Self.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Quoted from Muehsam, Patricia A.. Beyond Medicine (pp. ix-x). New World Library.

Image composite of Milky Way centre by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Crossing feature

Limeuil is just one of those pretty little Dordogne villages. notable for its dramatic location overlooking the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère. The bridge over the river Dordogne was asking for something to feature crossing over. The cyclists were first to appear. (Featured image.)

Next came the walkers.

And finally, a horse and rider.

I wasn’t quick enough to capture the 2CV!

Chatellerault abstract

On a long journey by French autoroute, we’d detoured into Chatellerault to eat lunch by the river Vienne. Something about the pattern of weeds under the water surface caught my eye, resulting in this photograph, taken quickly but long forgotten, until I eventually caught up with the backlog.

At least, I think that’s what it was!

Playing Favorites Leahy

Not often I blog music, but these pieces by the Canadian family group Leahy (from Older Eyes blog) are quite refreshing!

Older Eyes

leahytooYears ago my wife Muri and I used to take a mini-vacation every Valentine’s Day.  I’d pick a place that wasn’t too far from home then search the web for things to do there: museums, concerts, tours … and, of course, restaurants.  This all stopped when our first grandson, Reed, was born on Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day became Reed’s Birthday.   The year before Reed was born, we spent a long weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In searching for entertainment for Saturday night, I found a group named Leahy performing at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.  I’d never heard of the group, so I navigated to their website to find that Leahy is a Canadian folk group made up entirely of family members from Lakefield, Ontario.   The eight member band features fiddle-based music that ranges from traditional jigs and reels to their own folk-rock compositions.  All the members…

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French reflections

Along the French rivers Loire and Vienne are quite a few castles/chateaux that make good use of reflections on the slow moving waters. Those at Chinon and Amboise are particularly striking after it’s fallen dark – a great time for a walk with the camera.

Chinon chateau by the Vienne
Amboise chateau by the Loire

If you’ve seen the Amazon Prime series Bosch, this will remind you of the introductory scenes.

Featured image shows a bridge at Amboise.

The Messenger

Readers of this blog will know that I occasionally post poems by Steve Taylor, from his regular newsletter. Steve has a knack of getting to the heart of things, such as in the following poem, essentially about learning to trust our intuition, which is very consonant with James Hillman’s ‘acorn theory’ of the daimon (see this post).

The Messenger

It’s not for you to decide
the direction of your life.

It’s not for you to determine
whether your life has meaning.

It’s not for you to deliberate
over whether you’re following the right path.

It’s not for you to doubt
whether your efforts are worthwhile
then grow despondent and give up.

It’s when you deliberate and doubt
that you overrule your intuition
and confuse your inner compass
and lose touch with your purpose.

You have to step aside
and trust the wisdom that is guiding you
even if you can’t comprehend it.

You have to step aside
and let your purpose flow through you
even if you can’t see where it’s heading.

You have to step aside
and leave your channel empty and open
so that your message is clear and unbroken.

Then you have to remain open
through indifference and admiration
through failure and success
until the whole of your message is delivered.

Then your message will make sense
and your meaning will be manifest.  
 

Never Enough

Here’s another of Steve Taylor‘s poems, expressing aptly the accumulative tendency of the ego. The rich man never has enough money, always tries to make more; he wants the biggest yacht, or to get to Mars, or to control another company. The tyrant at the centre of Empire always wants more land, more people under his personal control. The espoused lover of freedom wants no obligation, no attachment to others, no rules, no common good. You know who you are, and who they are. But it will never be enough…

Steve’s poem expresses it so well.

Never Enough

All the possessions that you collect
and all the wealth that you accumulate 
will never be enough. 

All the success that you achieve
and all the attention that you attract
will never be enough. 

No matter how far your empire stretches 
no matter how absolute your power grows
it will never be enough.

Desires never sleep for long. 
Once they’re satisfied, they rise again, like waves,
faster and stronger than before. 

Every new desire is more difficult to meet
and brings more shallow, more short-lived fulfilment 
until eventually we become numb to happiness
and feel nothing but a raging frustration 
that consumes us inside and makes us hate the world. 

It will never be enough
until you give up the outer search for happiness 
and turn inside yourself. 

Beneath the restless surface of your mind
there is a natural harmony –
the radiance of pure consciousness 
softly vibrating, glowing with warm vitality 
like the freshness of a forest in spring. 

The harmony of your deep being 
never fades or slips out of reach. 
The more you attune to it, the more intense it grows.
The more you touch into it, the closer it moves. 

It can’t be exhausted because it’s immaterial
as intangible as air or light.
It can’t be exhausted because it’s eternal
and endlessly renews and refreshes itself.

Be still, and rest inside yourself.
Let your mind settle, and your thoughts slow down
until desires and fears dissolve away.

Then you’ll enter the deep space of being
and harmony will immerse you –
always present, and always enough.

V2

A fascist dictator is losing the war that he initiated. With one last throw of the dice, a brand new and unstoppable weapon, he aims to turn the tide, but it turns out to be one last defiant gesture.

November 1944, the Nazi armies are in retreat as the Allies advance across Europe. But the Germans under Werner von Braun have developed a rocket that can send bombs across the channel, but without accurate aim. A launch programme aims to terrorise the population of London.

In his book V2, Robert Harris tells the story of the ‘successes’ and failures, particularly from the point of view of an English woman trying to track down the launch sites, and a German man somewhat half-heartedly engaged in the launch processes. Their two stories are effectively interweaved in a compelling narrative – Harris is a great storyteller.

At the end of the war, the engineers under von Braun were of course transmitted to the USA, and became the core of the subsequent space programme, leading to the first Moon landing in 1969. They were always more interested in creating rockets to fly into space than they were in warfare.

The consequences of war are many and unpredictable.

Featured image is of a V2 rocket awaiting launch.

The Deep Self 

Many today seem to have ‘forgotten’ the essential truth that, within us, behind the surface world of the ego, there is a deeper self that is connected to the whole – the essential spiritual approach to life, the source of our morality and creativity. Steve Taylor‘s recent poem expresses this beautifully.

The Deep Self

There is another self inside you –
not the restless self that always ruminates 
about the future and the past 
not the fragile self that craves for attention 
and is wounded so easily by disrespect
not the anxious self that can’t live inside itself 
and is always reaching outside for distractions. 

There is another self inside you 
that doesn’t consist of concepts 
that isn’t sustained by thought 
that isn’t enclosed inside your body 
and doesn’t feel separate to the world.

There is a deeper self that rests 
quietly, almost imperceptibly
behind the tumult of your thoughts 
like the still blue sky behind dense, swift-moving clouds. 

And your deep self is always ready to emerge 
whenever you release your attention from thoughts 
and let your awareness spread gently around you
opening your senses to the world. 

Then your surface self grows softer, more porous.
Spaces appear between thoughts 
and the deep self slowly seeps through
like sunlight through dissipating clouds.

As you become your deep self
you sense a shift of perspective 
as if dust is falling from your eyes 
and a landscape is becoming more distinct –
brighter, more spacious, less dangerous.

You feel relieved, as if you’ve woken from an anxious dream. 
The problems of your surface self
and the dramas of your surface life 
seem trivial, almost comical. 

Now you feel connected to the world –
not an observer, but a participant
as if your being is fluid and permeable
flowing back and forth between you and the world 
sharing the essence of everything you see. 

You’re no longer restless and anxious
now that natural harmony flows through you. 
You’re no longer fragile and incomplete
now that the wholeness of the world includes you. 

And you feel the joy of self-recognition 
of becoming who you always were  
since your deep self is not another self –
it is simply you.

Fleeing Ukrainians – why does it never stop?

Jane Fritz gives insight into the history behind Ukraine’s current suffering, with some superb Chagall paintings included.

Robby Robin's Journey

When we think of paintings by the famous French painter Mark Chagall (actually Russian-French), we typically think of his dreamlike themes and brilliant use of colour.  Always imaginative.  Often free-floating.

But he also painted powerful paintings that didn’t dance and weren’t dreamlike.  Powerful, yes, but free-floating, no.  One such powerful painting has been posted many times on social media recently, and appropriately so.  It’s entitled La Famille Ukrainienne.  The Ukrainian Family.

UkrainianFamily

Only, of course, Chagall didn’t paint this work of art in the past 6 weeks, since the Russians invaded Ukraine and started unleashing such devastation, brutality, and death.  He painted it sometime between 1940 and 1943, when Ukrainians were fleeing the war and destruction brought about by another Russian, Stalin’s “Great Terror”.  It is uncanny – and heartbreaking – to realize that this scene could just as easily be depicting what is going on right now, 80 years…

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All is well

Those of us who reflect on the affairs of humanity can sometimes get the feeling that things are not going well at all, which can get a bit depressing. So here’s reminder from Steve Taylor (again) that here, in the present, the only place we can be, all is well.

All is well

You have to remember that all is well
even if you feel overwhelmed by the chaos of the world
and menacing dark thoughts swirl through your mind.  

You have to remember that all is well 
even if you feel encircled by enemies 
and your life seems a futile struggle.

You have to remember that all is well 
beneath the turbulence and confusion
like the deep stillness of the ocean
beneath roaring, surging waves. 

You have to remember that all is well.
Then your faith will sustain you. 
Your confidence will strengthen you.
    
Then the radiant stillness of your soul 
will calm the turmoil of your mind
and guide you through the darkness, like a compass. 

And soon the chaos and stress will subside.
You’ll return to natural harmony
with the deep inner knowing that all is well. 

Featured image is a sunset at Barmouth.

Follow them

Wondering whether to jump in,
or await the tide at flood,
the inviting vista of the new horizon.
Ahead are the pioneers,
already well on the way,
towards the depths and that new horizon.
The new world beckons.

Figures at Antony Gormley’s Another Place, Crosby beach, Sefton – the gift that keeps on giving.

The man

The men comprising Antony Gormley’s Another Place on Crosby beach are ever-evocative, depending on tides and weather.

Here man stands alone,
having taken tentative steps through the shallows,
faced by turbid depths of watery emotion,
his own and others,
with storm clouds on the horizon.

Yet beyond calls the light,
reflected in current surroundings.
He knows that all is well.