Cosmos Café: Alternate Ways of Knowing [12/12]

As a courtesy to you, Doug, I listened to the podcast and I wondered about it. I recognize the relevance to this thread and also admit how creepy they feel to me. It is a case of the bland leading the bland. They have some good ideas and are accomplished people but they still have not done the really hard work of going inside the observer and conduct a regression in service of the transcendent. That is why they continue to recreate these circular arguments that go nowhere. They project onto AI the need for a benevolent father figure, which AI will never deliver. They are out of touch with the mythical and the magical, having rightly noted the dark side of those structures, without noticing the dark side of their own deficient rationalism.

In contrast to this, I offer another short video from Frenkel, in which he suggests another way. Perhaps we can go into the observer, engage the wreck that happened when we decided that love is just a chemical reaction, happening somewhere between our neuron assemblies, falling into the isolated left side of the neo-cortex. This Cartesian trauma has been passed down for generations but can be acknowledged and dealt with.

Frenkel demonstrates how to take the steps towards reconciling these Cartesian splits ( which I believe Metzinger and Harris are still in the gooey center of). They strike me as deeply dissociated, above it all, and as delusional as everyone they look down upon.

Frenkel is much more generous than I am! Here he offers some public therapy to Ray Kurzwiel and all of those spiritual machines, who have made a sad effort to transcend without any actual embodiment.

Edward touches, I believe, the Magical within himself, while staying grounded in the healthy Mental. This is what I find missing in the Harris conversation. Harris is still cut off from and denies the healthy Magical even though none of the Mental makes much sense without those earlier and deeply denied structures.

“We deny the power and energy of the little ones…instead we create all of these theories.” There is hope.


I didn’t expect much going in (Harris has changed his tone but not his fundamental position; as for Metzinger (I’m assuming the German philosopher from Mainz), there is not a soup on the planet he couldn’t find a hair in), and as good as nothing coming out.

Sorry. Everybody but these two apparently know that you can’t logically get to a “should” from an “is”, that there is a huge distinction between knowing and understanding, and that arrogance is really not a method (Eastern thought is more enlightened but look what a mess they made of their cultures; Buddhism would be great if you could just shitcan the religious parts; etc.), and neither is projection (evolution has done some really nasty things along its way). And these were things the two of them agreed on. My boat’s not floating, I can assure you.

And I don’t even want to get started on the thought-experiment-that-wasn’t: a textbook example of Anders’ notion of Promethean shame supported by unsound assumptions and wrapped up in flawed logic (again: is ≠> should). Metzinger just wasn’t begging the question here, he was imploring it. But at least Harris thought it was good stuff (which didn’t do much to redeem him in my eyes).

So, I’m with @johnnydavis54 on this one: a lot of hollowness going on here.


Thanks for weighing in on this, Ed, you always lend a certain gravitas to my often gut level response! Metzinger gives me the creeps, ever since I saw a video of his, from Berkeley. The guy’s contempt for humanity continues to puzzle me. I think your comment sums him up.

The one thing I did like that Harris brought forward was a reference to William James and the resurgence of introspection, ( a lost art in the post modern world) and the value of blending first person and third person accounts.

But the 1st person accounts must be vigorous and sophisticated. Introspection conducted by hung over frat boys is not going to be of much use. We need people who are really good at introspection. This is an art form and alas most phenomenology is pretty sloppy.

As Frenkel, poignantly notes, we can no longer ignore that there is no separation between observer ,observation, observing. AI fanatics, who deny consciousness, ignore this. We are complex observing systems and we need a method for doing good phenomenology under these kinds of complex circumstances we are currently operating with. AI comes no where near to taking up this challenge.

And so the third person, objectifying and collectivizing that ensues, when couch potato introspection is the norm, will not stabilize us. We will continue to de-cohere, unless enough persons become more adept at connecting language with body- minds in motion. Then alternate ways of knowing can be activated. A radically different kind of technology could arise, if the people creating tech were competent, with multi-sensory communiques, with non kinesthetic touch, with a capacity to explore alternate maps. But their fragmented nervous systems and distorted world views, will no doubt continue to skew Mind-Nature coordinations.


Oh, I don’t know, John … I learned more from some of them than I did from the Harris-Metzinger interview. :wink:

I agree, though, that they have to geared up and made serious … but I have no idea how that gets done from a 3rd-person perspective. People that talk about themselves in the 3rd person give me the creeps. So what we need is practice and serious practice at that. If we take Frenkel seriously – and I think we should – the non-separability of observer/observing/observed forces us to reconsider and re-reflect on what is necessary to make this configuration most effective, in particular when we are dealing with ourselves.

Quick Personal Aside

Honestly I am afraid of debating with the ones I love, let alone anyone. I grew up thinking it was funny to say that the only thing I will argue about is why arguing is not for me….as a result, I missed the boat named Academic Dialectic or even missed playing with the toys Bicker and Banter. I am afraid to speak my point of view for fear that I might offend, confuse, sever ties, etc. It is about time that I have a few proddings to extract me from this shell. I have been forcing myself out for quite some time now. The skill of back and forth exchange (without instantly conceding or confusing the matter) is rudimentary. Please bear with me! I know these Harris-types are tedious, seemingly hollow, but please wash away any previous filth you received from them!

I love you John and Ed and see you as a father figures…the ones that I wish was there to sing lines of Shakespeare when feeling depressed; the grandpap (there goes the father figure…:yum:) that gets off his keister each day to participate in the activity all around us….yet I want for you to know me, to understand me, even if only “screen-a-screen”. Posting an introduction would not do justice to who I am or what I am about. We are in a friendly space here where nothing can offend us, our words cannot hurt, for we know better. We have little attachment to each others’ beliefs, though we are interested in such beliefs, for our sake, for the purpose of understanding. Thank you for trekking through this jungle when you could be off to better terrain.

I am reminded of the time vs space argument we expressed with Sloterdijk…where is he going with all this…c’mon, get to the point! I also remind myself that faster progress may be a treadmill-like journey. In this post Globes, by Peter Sloterdijk – Conversation #1 - #22 by Douggins I reach a conclusion (though without having read a word of Sloterdijk, mind you!) that the rebirth we are searching for might be found in this lack of urgency. The slow drawl of Harris (Southern? :wink:), the tedium of remaining on one issue, beating the dead horse has its advantages.
I believe Harris is making progress. He is, in a self-serving manner, taking a mass of atheists, nihilists, science-driven, minion minded, religion bashing blowhards and shaping them into a form of spiritual individuals. We are all approaching the same conclusion from different walks of life. some of us have reached the conclusion sooner, some of us can articulate this better than others. Some of us do not know what the hell is going on. Some of us deny what is right in front of us.

Sam’s turning point was the Weinstein episode #41 (great episode, though I do not want to bore you with more Harris!..I listen at 2x speed, BTW) in which he allowed the guest to politely and intelligently critique Sam’s flaws, to make him aware of the crowd (such as most of us here) that does not wish to hear these religious attacks, arrogant claims…that he fails to see religion for what it is. Harris claimed in that episode to be willing to talk about Rumi and other religious beauty and greatness to his minions but they wouldnt understand…yet Weinstein made it clear that this is not a valid reason for leaving it out. Since then, Sam Harris has cleaned up his presentation style, willing to let things go, and lightened up on religion…though no Rumi or other religious material has been presented…maybe he feels he would lose his street cred and massive amounts of funding from his followers.

I may be living in a pipe dream, but I feel that his psychological changes can influence a mass of individuals to hold hands with religious minded folks and also to allow the religious minded to wade in the rational waters. Even Metzinger, for whatever this guy did to ruffle your feathers, has great ideas and seems to be on our side. The idea of “consciousness ethics” sounds amazing, tangible and reasonable. Please point out what I am not seeing here.

And finally, and hopefully the last I have to add to the conversation via this tangential monstrous space, consider listening again to the final five minutes of the episode again or reading the part of the transcript below.

transcript @ 1'48"

1:48: Clearly what we need is a “spiritual” … and ethical worldview and methodology to put in place of all of the indefensible versions that have come to us courtesy of religion…it has to be embraced in the spirit of science and logical and empirical rigor, but clearly there is more to the story than just understanding the brain and the mind in third person terms…we have to figure out what we mean by a life worth living what the horizons of the well-being of conscious creatures actually encompass…how good is it possible to feel personally and collectively as a human being given our circumstances…and how do we build a civilization that maximizes for the flourishing of conscious creatures like ourselves.
1:49:52 -but I suspect that its possible that our navigation of the space of possible experiences are more open ended…we just have to figure out how to navigate a landscape of mind or possible minds where it is possible to suffer excruciating and pointless misery for a very long time and its possible to move as far away from that as we can conceive into spaces of just purely creative, aesthetically beautiful, intellectually rewarding contact with the cosmos both within us and without us…


My mother, who has a charming southern accent, once said," I might talk slow, but I don’t think slow."

I notice that people often assume that slow is more spiritual than fast. Slow is not more profound than fast, and a lack of urgency might lead to disaster if taken to an extreme.

I doubt that we can make sense of much without contrasting and comparing varied tempo-rhythms. Then we can become better at detecting different kinds of differences. Habituating to our environments ( whether they are fast or slow or both at the same time) leads to a hazardous situation. We get lazy. Over stimulation also takes its toll. We need to monitor our attention and be ever more mindful of how others are using their attention.

Bateson used to say that pattern detection is about the capacity to register differences that make a difference. Not all difference make a difference. So I dont presume to know what kind of differences you are detecting in your life worlds. I do my best to focus on those who inspire and update my limited understandings in certain fields. I turn to those I trust.

I trust Frenkel for example in the area of mathematics and in human psychology. There are those I somewhat trust and some I dont trust at all. A persons capacity for transparency will change depending upon the context. I try to be open to other perspectives without losing my own. And I also am aware of the view from nowhere, which is where most of the best ideas come from.


And this is very good news! When we get this we are more tolerant of ambiguity, as we acknowledge we are entangled with everyone. It is when we mistake a complex system for a simple system that we make terrible errors. I try to hold that little bird gently, not too loose and not too tight.


If these quotes (@1:48 …) are truly reflective of what Harris “believes” (and Metzinger heartily agrees with him on all points, so we can include the two of them as one), and we take what, say, I believe then we would have a Venn diagram with two slightly … very slightly … overlapping circles. That’s nice as far as it goes, but I can assure you than when I’m looking for support in my interactions with others, it is not to these guys that I’m going to be turning. There is too much that we would disagree on, therefore too much potential for conflict, and that wouldn’t be doing any of us any good.

In the moments before the quotes you provided (@1:48 …) Harris dismissed all religious-minded people as confused and delusional; he feels compelled to only use the word spiritual with “scare quotes” for fear that he might be inappropriately associated with or classified as one of those types. He may have softened his tone, but his arrogance is every bit as harsh as it ever was. (I personally think that’s a problem with converts, for they tend to become the most intolerant evangelists: look at Augustine, Paul, anyone you know who recently quit smoking or became vegetarian.) Their fundamental stance strikes me as exclusive.

I know one can’t always discuss hot topics only with people one gets along with, but there are more than enough honest, serious, open, and tolerant seekers out there that it’s not necessary to hang out with types one doesn’t get along with. It will continually side-track the real discussion. At least that’s my experience.

A “consciousness ethics” seems like a good idea, but I would expect that anyone wanting to talk ethics will start with very fundamental beliefs like openness and tolerance and patience-with and humility and an other-orientation, none of which is evident in anything I heard either of those two say. So, while it’s great that they are willing to entertain some notion of consciousness these days – they are perhaps ready to talk the talk – they don’t strike me as being too ready to actually put that talk into action – that is, walk the walk. Once they get out of the talk phase, I’ll be more than willing to listen more.

In the meantime, there are way more people out there who are ready, willing, and able to look long, hard, and even controversially, at the hard issues confronting us, and as @johnnydavis demonstrates continually, who are willing to put their actions with their mouths are. What is more, they are generally open to alternatives, to otherness, to alternative ways of thinking, and they are willing to change even the Holy Religion of Science if it serves the search for the Truth better … people who are crawling out of every conceivable corner of the metaphorical woodwork from the diversest of religious, spiritual, or other backgrounds who all share the ideal of a better world with less unnecessary suffering but who don’t prejudge who may or may not be a willing or an acceptable discussion partner.

I think Edward Frenkel expressed this much better than I ever could. At the end of the last clip @johnnydavis provided us, Edward stopped to once again inform his audience that all he had said could have been heard as him being judgmental; that was not his intention at all. He was searching, as he had said earlier; he had made his choice (for we all have to choose), and invited all of us to join him. That struck me as inclusive.

Whom do you think I would be more eager to go on a search for the Truth with?


Quite frankly, I fear that we are at the edge of our maps, and are collectively uncertain about how to read the maps or how to apply them. What we do know with some certainty is that when our ways of map making are suppressed, or when someone applies a map badly, we start to fight. And yet am still fascinated by the interplay of maps and performances.

If there is anyone who is still following this rather long thread, I salute you! I have come to the end of this experiment in maps and map makers and thank each of us and all of us for participating. What applications will emerge out of this experiment are not on the maps. And we are running out of gas.

One more map in the making, presented by a healer, working with trauma and transcendence. When we are at the edge of all maps, we come up with a story. And she offers here a glorious vision…

Alas (or at last!!), the last of the Harr(is)-assment assessment....

So, maybe what I have done, over the course of a year of listening to Harris, is to pick and choose the conversations I wish to hear. If he becomes too arrogant or too reason-thumping, hitting the religious minded over the head with the Book of Harris, I will turn to my neighbor and quietly say “ oh, he gets like that sometimes…you have to ignore him” …it is easy for me to extract what I want from him and discard the rest…maybe a bit too easy. One of my flaws is to see the human in all that I encounter, to understand our flaws (innocent til guilty)…but this might be how monsters are created or allowed to roam the earth, promoting their agenda…I am much too trusting that they intend well and rarely do I mete out consequences for their behaviors.

These diagram are sandboxes we have created. As the old man on the porch, I can only wish that I can rock away in my chair as the family plays around, building castles,digging deeper together. Then along comes Uncle Sam, saying that we are building our foundation all wrong ("is that a castle or a church? what…a church?! Uncle Sam kicks over the sand work) , using the wrong tools. Five minutes later everyone has sand in their eyes, bumps and bruises…even the parents are involved, forcing the elderly keister to rise and find some order.
Ahhhh…now I understand why my friend Ed wanted everyone to play in their chosen sandbox. So, yes, I fully agree with you that we are where we are as a whole for a reason. This is a pipe dream, but I will continue crawling through these pipes, no matter how much buildup one must squeeze through in order to get to the more inclusive reality at the other side.

And a reply to @johnnydavis54 and "anyone still following"

Sure hope not! We are at the end of a year, but the maps remain. Online, it may be difficult to convey the application our maps and the appreciation for the guidance you gave us with their formation. You and now Sloterdijk (in some odd manner) are providing me with some novel headspace and thus novel exterior formation.
Maybe we but only need our fearful leader, our very own Cosmic (Cosmos?) Christ to unite our various tangents!

Another beautiful discovery, John. I meet with an older friend weekly who has been contemplating death and the trauma that may come his way based upon family medical history. He is interested in the use of psychedelics as an alternative to medication and an antidote to death anxiety. Julie Yau seems to be a psychedelic pill in her own right.


I have been listening to the Harris podcasts during our drive. I may have some thoughts. :slight_smile:

But, I will need to get through the next 24 hours of New Year’s with family before ‘consciousness’ returns. Still following—map or no map! Thank you, all. :confetti_ball:


And that is good so. I hope you continue to do just that, regardless of what any of us may think or say. That’s actually what we all do, but (and that was the point of my last response) for very different (and often, individual or personal) reasons. As long as we’re clear on why we pick what we pick, it is relatively easy to tell someone else what we’re getting and how it contributes to whatever discussion is going on at the time. Cool. (I would like to reiterate that I don’t reject what he says, rather it’s how how he says it that bothers me … and I know that that can across as rather petty and small-minded. That’s part of my own human frailty. I really try not to (and don’t want to) kill the messenger even if it might seem that is perhaps my desire. ) I still think Sloterdijk is full of do-do, but I also know that there is a good group in these parts that believe he’s contributing to their own paths. I’m sure they’ll keep bringing him up and using him as support for points they’re making, and I’m fine with that. For me, it is really the point being made, not so much how anyone is trying to provide evidence or support for those points (which is helpful, don’t get me wrong, but secondary).

In mind this is not a flaw, and it doesn’t contribute squat to creating monsters. Monsters can do that all on their own and don’t need our help.

I would simply like that everyone be aware that they have a chosen and have chosen a sandbox. You may – and I encourage you – to crawl through those pipes. If you think you’re getting stuck, give a holler, and if I hear you I’ll come help dig you out, but I can assure you, you will not hear an I-told-you-so from me. The possibility does exist that you found a real treasure or two along the way that could be very helpful. Being able to see how you got stuck and being able to hear your own accounting of getting stuck can be immensely helpful too.

It’s helpful to remember that I, for example, am on the downhill side of Life’s slope and there are some pipes that I got stuck in that I don’t want to get stuck in again. It could very well be that I’m mistaken in my assessment and a given pipe isn’t as much like one of those I got stuck in as I think. So be it. My current strategy is to find the most efficient ways through my current pipes, so if I sometimes sound impatient, it could very well be that I’m simply feeling a bit impatient.


Checking in. Happy New Year everyone! Yes, I’m still following, if rather distantly, and have much to catch up on I see.

Step-mom is not doing well at all, so the holiday season has been a mixed bag, especially for Dad, my dear old mentor in chess and life. All this talk of consciousness and algorithm and religion - and even Sloterdijk’s brackets of birth/intimacy and death/abandonment at the roots of human social and cultural experience - takes on unexpected poignancy at times (at least for someone like me who lingers over theory just a little too long).

Yet, the edge of the map is a good place. I must now proceed relying on whatever senses I have hitherto relegated to the background. It does wonders for the awareness, for the sense of being… alive…


Happy New Year, TJ, and I’m glad to hear your voice again. We missed your insights. I’m sorry that your step mother hasn’t been well.

When I get to the edge of my map I take a cold shower! In this weather it really creates an altered state of consciousness.


Glad to have you back, sorry to hear about your step-mom. I’m pretty sure I’m speaking for all of us when I tell you we’re with you in spirit.

New year, new challenges. Hang in there.


I am back in Colorado after a winter road trip, which gave me lots of time to listen to podcasts—and if the snow and sub-zero weather weren’t punishment enough, I survived long stretches of the interstate staying woke with Sam Harris. With miles to go before I slept, I let the pummeling of reason tumble through my skull, like the thumping of a clothes dryer with a shoe in it, sensors optimizing drying time for the absence of moisture. It was often necessary to defog the windows. I wore thermal underwear and thick boots.

What can I say about Uncle Sam? I’m with Doug, actually, in my basic appreciation that he talks about consciousness, ethics, truth, psychedelics, evolution, etc.—and seems to take his responsibility as a public intellectual seriously. He is really good at what he does, which hinges on polemic and debate, and I think that listening to him forces me to deal with issues I might otherwise gloss over, which to me are just not worth fighting about. He forces me at least to pay attention to them.

For example, in the talk with Metzinger, the question of the intelligibility of consciousness comes up. Both Harris and his analytical philosophical guest seem to be of the persuasion that not only must consciousness ultimately be intelligible, but that it is of the utmost value to pursue a formal explanation. In Metzinger’s case, he believes that an understanding of consciousness will allow us to understand whether and how a conscious entity can be manufactured. How would we know if a machine is having a conscious experience if we don’t have a scientific account of how consciousness comes into being? It can’t just be magic or mythic; we do need a mental account of consciousness, as well as an integral one, I believe. It’s worth researching and thinking about, certainly! I have no problem with the modeling and mapping of the brain, looking for the neural correlates of consciousness. Bring 'em on!

Yet, as others have noted, the mental/rational account of consciousness—and its mode of discourse, in general—is not the only legitimate or important one. I thought Eric Weinstein, from the infamous WU podcast episode 41, made this case quite well. I was really impressed with him, and followed up with a couple of his YouTube videos, and feel like he’s someone I could learn from. He was really being very kind to Sam in trying to get him off his rationalistic fixation. It’s no accident, I believe, that he (Weinstein) offered a “4-quadrant” map of highest order values that includes but is not limited to “truth.” In Weinstein’s model, the ultimate value of the pursuit of truth (as objective knowledge) must be balanced with meaning, fitness, and grace. I felt that Weinstein (like any integral thinker) was much more fluid in moving between these distinct dimensions of value. I’d say his mind is “metamodern.” Harris, however, couldn’t quite be brought to see his own bias. The other dimensions must always somehow submit (helplessly, he says) to a validity claim in the court of reason.

Weinstein includes “The Creator” in his process of mathematical discovery. Harris can’t get his mind around this. He can only see “The Creator” as a mythical construct. He doesn’t understand the spiritual perspective; in fact, he denies it. What Weinstein was arguing is that a good mathematical equation is not only true, but also meaningful, elegant, and adaptive. This is also what Edward Frenkel is saying—and it makes me more than curious, it awakens a longing in me, to learn what they know about math and physics. I am realizing how much I myself have fixated on the romantic and poetic—on emotional truth (in both the best and deficient senses)—while subtly denying and discounting the world of number. I would love to bring these worlds together in my writing and public expression.

Julie Yau also has important insight to add to the question of consciousness. How much of what we call history is driven by trauma? What if being is trauma? Then the history of being would be a history of trauma. Thus to wake up into being would be to wake up to our historical trauma—snap out of it. In our @spheres conversation later this week, we will be talking about how the experience of the “long-distance closeness” of the dead is what drives the expansion of spheres, from intimate relationships to larger groups, which grow power through internalizing ruptures and threats. This is the kind of account which I don’t think is amenable to pure reason in Sam Harris’ definition; or at least, it’s not usually well communicated in that format. (There are exceptions, such as the great Carl Sagan, and moments when even Sam Harris borders on the lyrical—through these are few and far between.)

I believe this brings us back to our alternate ways of knowing…and how do we know that we know? And what’s that like? And what does it mean? And what is it good for? And where are we when we’re in the miracle of the monstrous? (I’m looking at the man in the mirror.)

@patanswer, it’s good to see you here, as always. I am sorry to hear about your step-mom and dad. I know you know—as you so poignantly wrote—that the point of the game is not determined by whether or not one wins against a computer. Perhaps there is an algorithm that reminds us to be thankful for the life we have…


Here, after your post, I can only say “hear, hear!”


Obliquely referencing @Douggins’ post re: the README and our upcoming Café tomorrow, this belongs as much here as it does in the café thread. Isn’t it simply marvelous how we never get out of our own interconnections?

I’ll ‘fess up on a related front: my youngest daughter is a fairly avid follower of Harris’ podcasts. She knows how I feel, and it doesn’t deter her in the least. (I can’t begin to tell you how the feeling of pride swells in one’s chest recognizing one’s offspring as truly one’s offspring!)

All this musing and puzzling and wondering about truth and reason and math and poetry and just what the hell do they have to do with one another is a perfect prelude to what I want to talk about tomorrow. This segment serves as an insightful addition to the “Seed Questions” for our little get-together.

I don’t want to raise expectations too high, of course, because I’m not going to be able to deliver on all these notions, but I do think that that what we are going to talk about touches on, is related to, and provides a sound springboard towards addressing precisely those questions that you’re raising. In the end, EVERYTHING has to fit with and be compatible with EVERYTHING ELSE, and what I believe all of us are looking for are ways to move in that direction.

And, BTW: I get Julie Yau’s trauma-perspective. She’s right insofar as we always end up doing our own selves in, but Being is not, IMNSHO, trauma; our unpreparedness for dealing with being, however, is.

Granted, it’s a mind-bending (if not boggling) task, but, hey, we asked for it, so we shouldn’t be surprised if maybe we end up getting just what we asked for. (The 1st Great Magical Admonition)


I might have been squeezing this formulation for some poetic effect. But I think there is an argument to be made (which I think Sloterdijk, in his oblique way, is making) that our sense of who or what we are, via relationships, only grows insofar as these interpersonal spheres decay. In other words, a broken heart drives evolution. Is there a way we can be prepared for dealing with being without first being traumatized by it, through suffering, injury, loss, etc.? I would not say Being is only trauma, but how could “waking up” not in a certain inevitable sense constitute a shock to the system?


It is King Lear who says, " When we first smell the air, we wawl and cry."

And we oscillate each day between comedy, tragedy, melodrama, romance, farce, slapstick. I tend to cycle through these different styles in an hour. It has a lot to do with the mood of those around me.

After a long day, walking in the brutal cold, I see out of the corner of my eye, a man, without a coat, trembling, on a pile of odds and ends, eating something out of a box. I am numb with cold and feel emotionally dead. I have to get my grocery shopping done and pick up a bottle of wine and head home, to my warm apartment. I dont want to feel anything for anybody. Then a woman, bends over the man, and hands him a twenty dollar bill. He looks up at her confused. She takes his hand, put the bill in his palm, and walks away. I walk past this powerful moment, my heart opens, and I say," There is goodness in the world." A knot in my chest, a tear comes to my eyes. I relax into a moment of gratitude for such goodness and then face a long line at Trader Joe’s, and come back to the narrow focus required to face this madness.

Decades ago, I visited my friend at St. Vincent’s, right before he died. There was a crucifix on the wall facing him. His eyes were rolling around in their sockets, he was deep in a morphine dream. He opened his eyes and smiled weakly at me and said," This crucifixion thing really sucks." He closed his eyes. I acknowledged what he said. I knew that I was not immune. The readiness is all.

There is a resurrection but not until after the crucifixion. No one escapes. And it is to this deep truth, that Julie points to, in her story about Wally. Compassion is produced by those who have gone through the experience of the body. And once that compassion is activated, it can move mountains.

Philosophers argue. the rest of us tell stories. I dont know what else we can do but tell the best stories we can think of, and be sure there is a dash of compassion for every one concerned.