Sapience and Creativity

You can’t take a bad picture at Bryce Canyon. Every grain of sand in this snapshot is the result of an unimaginable number of state changes over an unimaginably long period of time. The hiker towards the right provides scale.

My Uncle Willy’s TLDR: No boddah wid dat!

As breathtaking as the scene in the above photo might be, there’s nothing anyone can do to capture the entirety of it all as witnessed in person. The sheer vision of this scene is just the beginning. There is the sound aggregated from the wind and echoes, a part of my brain still trying to compute if this is all real, another part of my brain wary of the steep drop-off as a I snap this photo, the awe I share with the other people there.

The magnificence is beyond an experience of sentience. I’ve thrown around the word “sentience” throughout my posts here on this site as well as My intent is to include all lifeforms on Earth, beyond Earth, and all sides around the present. It is all inseparable from us. Sentient beings perceive their environment and react to what they perceive.

Even the simplest lifeforms, such as a single bacterium, is an indescribably intricate assemblage of tens of billions of atoms. As Stuart Hameroff would say, it has a life of eating, evading, and reproducing just like us. Even it has some level of sentience. When you interact with your cat at home or a raven at Bryce Canyon, you know that something is going in in that brain – it’s not just computations. That’s why Buddhists value all life.

However, at our human level of existence, we are beyond simple awareness of our surroundings to which we respond in a cookbook manner. We’re able to imagine a desired state and take actions in the real world to mold the world to that state. Our awareness is sapient, as in we homo sapiens of wisdom. We are capable of insights and wisdom used to creatively overcome challenges, outside the rules of the game. It is our gift and the source of our suffering.

Now look towards the top-left side of the major fin in the photo above. Then look at photo just below, a close-up.

It seems to be the Buddha sitting high up towards the left edge of that main “fin” in the photo above, at the beginning of this blog.

Fully sapient, I might recognize the shape of the Buddha in front of a natural bonsai. Cranking it up a notch, in sapience I can imagine that the Buddha would enjoy meditation from such a grand view. If this formation didn’t exist, one could purposefully sculpt an image of the Buddha and place it there.

It’s easy to dismiss the Buddha image in the photo above as one scene out of countless seemingly random scenes on Earth, that just by chance and a stretch of my imagination look like Buddha. Ringo asked, “Duzz the rock look like a Buddha statue or do Buddha statues look like rocks?”

Ringo’s deceptively irritating question sheds light on how inseparable our sapience is from nature. The patterns of our minds reflect the patterns of the goo of inseparable relationships of the Universe in which we exist – and vice versa.

The photo below is a slab of Owyhee Picture Jasper that I purchased a few weeks ago for $5. If I cropped out the edges and said it’s a watercolor by a prominent artist, you’d probably believe me, at least for a bit. It not only looks like a landscape, but it looks eerily like the landscape from where the rough rock was found. Patterns manifest at many levels and imagination draws upon its novel utilization.

This slab of Owyhee picture jasper, painted by Nature herself, is reasonably as artful and creative as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Considering I only paid $5 for it, that’s the bargain of the kalpa!

But there is more to sapience and creativity than works of art. The photo below is taken near Natural Bridges National Monument. We can see a few species of plants and lots of sand. But it only implies the drama between coyotes and rabbits, rattlesnakes and ground squirrels, and hundreds of species of bacteria, insects, and small plants we cannot see. Further, it only implies overarching systems such as the weather and consistent energy from the sun.

There is an intricate web of complex relationship among all of these plants we can see, all that is adjacent to the scene, and all the things uncapturable by my camera. Is this collection of sentient entities sapient at some level?

The photo above depicts a complex adaptive system where what is visible to our eyes is just ink drawn on a box. The entirety of the information about the scene is mired in the vast majority of what isn’t directly detected by our senses. However, much is indirectly inferred from what we’ve learned through high-quality first hand experience or lesser-quality studies. The devil in the bazillions of unseen details adds up to much more than we can faithfully sort out.

As someone who works in the field of analytics, I’m very cognizant of how many ways seemingly plausible and logical information can be suspect. It really hit me this Spring when Mrs. Hanamoku and I thought of trying to grow moringa. We watched many Youtube videos and noticed that they all say the same thing. For example, moringa has 7x the vitamin C of oranges and it is 20% protein. I don’t know if that’s true, but it seems like they all just repeated the same thing they learned from the same place.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I are trying our hand with moringa this summer. It won’t work out. The winters are too cold for them so they won’t grow into trees.

Does the commonality of this information from dozens of sources make it true? For my case, it doesn’t really matter how much more vitamin C moringa has versus oranges. But this instance did remind me that the vast majority of content out there is just rubber-stamped from a single source that happened to earn enough traction to win the prize as “authoritative” among the search algorithms.

It’s quite a paradox. We can’t go through life churning our brain cycles on re-computing everything because it may no longer be true. Nor can we assume it’s the truth. We need information to make creative decisions, but it’s mostly garbage – stale, incomplete, or simply downright wrong.

What we can do is forget about all that the information sewage out there and focus all of your energy on the present. That doesn’t mean just doing what you feel like doing. It means jumping into whatever particular instant of time and space that has been graciously presented to you. Spend 100% of your energy doing and 0% evading.

It might seem as though diving fully into activity is just pretending the problems aren’t around you. You can’t do anything about what your mind fears anyway. Its all noise until you see that the Universe is a paradoxical play of inseparable phenomena. The sapience of human beings means we are highly malleable, mentally and physically. The Peace of Full Presence is a skill that will come with dedication and utter surrender to this practice.

Lastly, an early Happy 81st Birthday to Ringo in a few days (July 7, 2021)!!

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku.

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