Category: Wisdom

Undeniably the Night Sky, a Dream

A dream on the night of 08/12/2017

By James Wadman


In the city, it is believable that the sky we see is merely a curtain of haze permeated by only our closest celestial neighbors. In August, we see Jupiter rise first and Saturn closest to the moon. As the nights get darker, we will see the big dipper pointing toward the north star. Dominant is the amber glow cast by streetlights and industries that never sleep. It is as if the night sky we see in the city is more so a reflection of ourselves and the decision we made to turn inward, rather than gazing through our window to the universe above.

In my dream, I followed a map to where the trees cleared and the sky revealed the moon, the animated stars, and the dust of our galaxy. It was apparent that I was not in the city

“Stand here,” I was told, seeing only a man’s finger pointing to a spot on the map.

I took one more step forward. The sky darkened into a nearly colorless shade of blue. The stars became brighter, perhaps even closer. It was then that I remembered what the man had told me about this place on the map:

“Here you will see what is undeniably the night sky.”

He was right: I could see into the universe as if I was witnessing the birth of stars with the naked eye. I could see our galaxy breathe, the dust coalescing into pink and golden stars. I saw the moon, the planets, even the nebulas, as if they were just out of my fingers’ reach.

I sat there for a moment before I noticed clouds began to form on the distant horizon. It began to snow and the sky was colored by the familiar amber glow of city lights.

There is no deeper meaning here, except to say that the universe is out there.

Something more amazing, something worth fighting for, something worth believing in, is always out there one step beyond your perception.

It is up to you to take the steps necessary to reveal the value in living by following the pursuit of wonder.

 

-Jw

 

Image taken on a late night in Yosemite. See more pictures of Yomsemite on my instagram. 

A Raindrop Falls to Beethoven’s 5th

By James Wadman

Many people doubt our significance in this vast universe, and for good reason. I discuss this subject on and off from different attitudes because it is important to weigh both our significance and insignificance when making important decisions in life. My overall opinion on the matter is no secret, and has remained relatively constant for the last few years: I think of the entire spectrum of conscious, human life on earth with the analogy of a raindrop on its descent to the ground. If some tiny world in this raindrop suddenly gained consciousness, does it have any effect on the storm? No, it will simply carry on its transient journey until it becomes a splash in a puddle.

Insignificant, yes. Grim even, perhaps. However, something occurred to me the other day that fits into this narrative and provides a bit of hope to the tiny world on its descent to the ground. Consider a timeless piece of music — Beethoven’s 5th comes immediately to mind, not a symphony I particularly love but one that is incredibly meaningful to our world. Society seldom questions its cosmic significance because its value to mankind is indisputable. Therefore, Beethoven’s 5th has unquestionable value, and this will remain true for the entire existence of humanity.

So I ask those of you who interpreted the raindrop analogy as grim, does the fate of the raindrop matter if our tiny world carries its own significance throughout the descent? We derive meaning not from where we are going, but through the value in our lives at every moment getting there. Just as no one doubts the significance of Beethoven’s 5th to humankind, no one doubts their own significance in life when they are actually out there living.

I unearthed a quote from my novel, Diamondis, recently that captures my opinion on this perfectly:

“The realization of our meaningless can be told in a word, a sentence at the most. Our story rarely revolves around the realization itself. However, the descent to this realization is lush with poetry. The beauty is the descent.”

This quote comes from a discussion between the main characters, Tomas and Julia, trying to debunk the perceived meaninglessness of life by nihilistic philosophers. So there — my views on our insignificance are in fact very optimistic. I like to live lightly and make decisions based on the immediate happiness of myself and my loved ones. And, just a bit of off-topic advice to go along with this, it is always important to find the balance between the aforementioned “immediate happiness” and what will provide you with lasting happiness. When making big decisions in life, ask yourself, will this bring me happiness now? Then, will this bring me happiness for days to come? People often neglect one of the two questions — if you can’t answer yes to both, you might want to dig harder for the opportunity.

This Moment

There are times in our lives when it is necessary to take a moment to breathe slowly, to reflect on where we are and where we are headed. Ironically, these are the times when patience is most difficult. When we so deeply want to move forward, it is easy to miss the value in stasis.

What are your goals in life? Do you wish for permanence or for tranquility in the moment? Are you in search of laughter or something deeper? Are you just trying to get by? Will you be content looking back at your life, knowing you only tried for moderate satisfaction?

These are the questions that arise during slow breaths, when the world spins around you. It is necessary to be okay with these moments because, just like the risks we take and the long hours of working hard to achieve your goals, these moments help to illustrate the reach of your dreams.


“This Moment” was a quick thought that came to me as I was listening over to the mastered version of my new song, “Bridge to Permanence.” If you are visiting my blog on a computer browser, it is likely that you are listening to Bridge to Permanence playing in the background. If not, you can catch it on YouTube or Soundcloud.

Writer’s Voyage: Diamondis, Start to Finish

By James Wadman

 

My first novel, Diamondis, began from the seed idea of describing something beautiful and evolved into a story about death, neuroscience, and love. It was my first book and my first experience with the full writing process of a novel. In light of such an important milestone, I thought I would share the story of how Diamondis came to be.

 

Purchase on iBooks: https://goo.gl/iVNgrt

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Explore: https://goo.gl/RPB79B

The Start

 

Diamondis began with no real goal in mind, except that I was fascinated with the idea that I could preserve an entire life with words. I have written about the seed ideas for the story before, but I will say here that dreams played a very important role in my early inspiration for the novel. I knew that I wanted to describe what happened when a person dies and how understanding that process can help a person cope with death.

 

My working title in the beginning was “Old Man Story,” and the main character was once a teacher or a carpenter, at any age from sixteen to eight-seven. But what I did that I think was so important was, instead of looking at the clouds to try to find the better starting point, I tried out each character description and watched the story evolve.

 

My early writing style was one that followed a sort of biological method (lagging strand DNA replication, to be exact). Basically, the idea here is that I would power through the get the template idea down, then I would retrace my steps and fill in anything that I missed. When I had a great idea for dialogue or a description or a plot turn, I wanted to reach that part of a chapter with confidence and in a flow state. Therefore, I skipped over any small descriptions leading up to that big idea and returned later, once the high of writing something I was proud of dissipated.

 

In a way, I credit the flow and structure of Diamondis to this early writing style. The story definitely has a “get to the point” flow to it, where the reader is taken more to highlights with extensive details being left open-ended, than the reader is being told every tiny detail of every insignificant moment. This resonates with some people and, understandably, angers a few. But in my mind, Diamondis was actually designed to be read quickly and the descriptions are meant to be more cinematic than literary.

 

The Structure

 

When I say that Diamondis took me five years to write, I do not intend to make it seem that I spent 1,825 days writing to less than 40,000 words. The making of Diamondis required writing “Old Man Story,” “Story of Death,” “A Dream of Death’s Affection,” and all the many other variations of the story that led to the final product. Not to mention, as the story evolved, I did, too. In those five years, I did plenty of research to make sure that my story fit into science as best as possible, I got my degree (everyone should get their STEM field degree!!!), I took breaks away from writing to get a clear picture of where the novel was headed, and so on. This was my first novel, and I wanted it to be perfect to my vision of what it could be.

 

When real-life obstacles stand in your way, there are a few words of advice I can give. Just because you can’t sit down at a computer and type for hours on end, doesn’t mean you can’t be progressing with your story. I would go several weeks without opening up my novel build document, but the notes on my phone would grow and grow. To be honest, this is when my best writing took place. I wasn’t trying to force anything. I was just taking note of ideas whenever the real world inspired me in some way. Then, when time permitted, I would sit down at a coffee shop with either a laptop or a journal and let loose all these ideas.

 

However, there is one requirement for this strategy: you must make time to read! In fact, I think it is always important to read whenever you are writing. It doesn’t even have to be a good book, because when you read, you are surrounding yourself with the language of different voices, and for me, I can get supremely bored when reading late at night, so my mind wanders off and I get quality thinking time for my own story. What’s the message here: any writer must be willing to read. Lots.

 

If a part of your story doesn’t thrill you, don’t try to force-fix it. Let it be for a little while, maybe meditate on it while you are not looking right at the pages. In the end, you will find the fix in the world around you, not in the pixels of a computer screen. Better yet, you might realize that you were having a bad day and it wasn’t such a mediocre passage to begin with.

 

No one ever said it was easy, so be patient when the ideas aren’t flowing. Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the ideas for your novel come from experience in the world. Forcing ideas never works.

 

The End

 

Do I look for an agent? Should I self-publish? How many people are going to buy my book? Is it really done? It is fair to say that reaching the end of your novel comes with far more questions than you might expect. Take a big sigh of relief when you finish, trust me. You don’t want to jump right into the next stage of promotion and publishing without it.

 

In the end, I decided to self-publish Diamondis to maintain creative control of my story, to learn about the publishing/ promotion process, and to make sure that all my ideas for multi-media integration and collaboration could be fulfilled. Did I make the correct decision? Only time will tell, but for now (1 week after online publication), I am very pleased with my decision and the feedback so far.

 

I want to conclude this post with some final advice to anyone out there who might be trying to get started or make it through an important threshold in their voyage. Be genuine. The world needs more people who are not afraid to stay true to their own voice, their own story, and the pursuit of sharing their own experiences. I can’t promise that this advice will guide you toward fame or fortune, but it will guide you closer perhaps to a meaningful existence.

Conscious Talks: Mechanisms of Death in Diamondis

By James Wadman

With the release of my novel, Diamondis, only two days away, I wanted to share a light-reading version of a very important story of scientific investigation, speculation, and research I collected over the years. This is the story of death and Diamondis, as told through the lens of science.

Buy Diamondis (iBooks)

Buy Diamondis (Amazon)

 

Introduction

 

Engrained in the evolutionary biology of humans is a conscious fear of the most exotic experience capable in a lifetime: the onset of death. It seems plausible that the event of death, which has been described by many as “transcendent” or “cathartic,” is such a fascinating experience because it involves the brain breaking down and trying to understand itself in the most psychedelic way possible. We understand that the physiological mechanisms of death are similar to that of dreams and introspection-inducing pharmaceuticals, but the questions that remain are: what exactly does one feel at the moment of death, and why does consciousness transform into this intense stage of introspection at the moment of death?

 

In my novel, Diamondis, the outline of the death experience follows a mechanism I find very interesting. In the first chapter, Tomas begins to experience the event of death. However, this experience extends beyond the initial creation of an afterlife within his mind to his introspection into the meaning of death and his inevitable assimilation with his fate (I’ll keep that open-ended so you can find out what his fate is, yourself!). Here I will take you through the experience of death, as it relates to the steps followed by Tomas in Diamondis.

 

The mechanics, the experience, and the destination of death is purely speculation. However, as I wrote in Diamondis, the role of a scientist is not always to search for objective truths; rather, it is important also to “take a chisel to the vast unknown.” As always, that is the purpose of my Conscious Talks series and I hope, if anything, my beliefs on the sheer beauty of death are enough to inspire you to consider that the purpose in the end is not to look relinquish ourselves from the inevitable fear of death, but to enrich our lives so that every moment we live until then is full of wonder and happiness.

 

Step One: Dissociation from the outside world.

 

A lack of oxygen results immediately in anesthetic-like behavior. Time dilates, but you lose most sense of reality. Whereas falling into a black hole allows you to perceive the entire fate of the universe –assuming you don’t get shredded to pieces in the process—falling into death allows you to experience a lifetime that is independent of the outside world. Your journey onward is completely internal.

 

While there still might be sensory input (auditory, visual, etc.), you cannot label things and instead begin a descent into what we call the afterlife. The physiological components involved in this step are the NMDA-receptor (what we can refer to as the “reality receptor”) and its paired neurotransmitter, Glutamate. Essentially at this point, the NMDA-receptor is nonfunctional — which, by the way, is analogous to the behavior of anesthesia, though anesthesia accomplishes this in a slightly different manner— resulting in dissociative effects.

 

This also suggests that memory formation here is essentially blocked. Anyone who reaches this stage will likely not remember the experience clearly (such as someone who experiences a near-death experience). But again, the paradoxical time extension here results in the possibility for one to have a significant experience that seems to last a lifetime, in a matter of seconds.

 

Read more about my early thoughts on Death vs. Design

 

Step Two: Rapid, Concrete Memory

 

Ironically, the cell death that follows oxygen depletion in the brain quickly has the exact opposite effect on the glutamate system. Cell death results in glutamate excitotoxity (too much glutamate in the synapses without a way to regulate levels of the neurotransmitter), which means that after your brain is shutoff from the world, it gets kicked into overdrive. This is fascinating to me because it is the cause of the most incredible event of introspection. Your mind is racing but, again, you can only look inward.

 

The brain courses through memories that might explain the experience. I believe it is sensible to suggest that it is not necessarily the great memories of life that come first (what many people would know as their life “flashing before their eyes”). Instead, the first memories to surface are interactions with experiences similar to death. The purpose of these memories is for the brain to figure out what in the hell is happening — death, after all, is an experience that is felt only once. My theory on this part is actually not based off of science at all (although I have read small amounts of scientific literature that make the same claim); rather, I recall having a dream of death once where I was on an airplane to the afterlife. On the flight, I was shown strange memories — things like having surgery, writing down my dreams, and extremely abstract shapes and images. It seemed sensible and fascinating to me, so I kept this mechanism in for my Diamondis, knowing it lacks the scientific evidence.

 

After these memories have come and gone, the brain sweeps through the other existing memories. In other words, your life flashes before your eyes. There, I said it. But don’t forget that this all has a purpose: the brain has no idea what is going on and is searching for a reason for, an expectation of, or a solution to this experience. There is a white tunnel that will soon be your destination. It is made up of the light that remains for your closing eyes, but it will not fade. It will grow as you begin to let go, but there is so much between you and your destination.

 

Step Three: Embrace and Wonder

 

The brain is equipped to quickly adjust to the glutamate excitotoxity, so a brief moment of clarity surfaces. For a moment (however long this moment seems to last), a person can sit and observe and potentially even exist in the world created by their memories. I associate this step with serotonin, which is a perceptive neurotransmitter commonly known to regulate many other neurophysiological systems. Serotonin regulates mood, who we are, and who we perceive ourselves to be. Take a moment and look back at your life in this moment of clarity.

 

Step Four: Persistence of Ancient Memories

 

I wrote in Diamondis that Tomas believes there is a reason for why people who experience near-death experiences see their angels. It does not have to be a religious meaning, and it is certainly not something that denies an atheist his/her right to skepticism. This is because, in the moment of death, angels are a product of science.

 

Serotonin has many important derivatives that have proved to be much better at activating lost physiological pathways in the brain. One of these compounds in dimethyl-tryptamine (DMT), and provides a very strong scientific argument for the existence of angels. DMT is a molecule that can potentially activate parts of the brain that store the earliest memories of childhood and perhaps even infancy. Users of the molecule (illegal, by the way) claim to feel in unison with “beings” who speak to them and promise to take care of them. The real-world translation for this is that the activation of ancient memories allows you the opportunity to see the world as you did before you truly understood the labels and names of objects and people. When you see an angel in death, what you are truly seeing is someone you loved who took care of you as a baby. In death, these memories are accessible. It could be due to an increase in concentration of powerful serotonin-like molecules, or due to the breakdown of regulatory systems. One way or another, I find this to be the most beautiful experience capable of a human being.

 

Step Five: Complete Dissociation

 

As described as a “narcotic bliss with a touch of insignificance,” this last step is the open-ended coda of death. Can we ever know what comes next? Only when we see for ourselves. Physiologically, however, when all the excitement of the brain sifting through absurd, sensible, and beautiful memories subsides, the dominant sensations are governed by the endorphins that have eased the pain all this time. Death is gentle, as you fade away. You do not fade to black, you fade to the white light you see at the end of the tunnel. Time stretches further onward, perhaps infinitely. Most importantly, you lose what it means to be human. With that you are free from your apprehension, pain, longing, and desire. You are a particle in an infinite time and space.

 

The final paradox is the simultaneous loss of time and loss of self. If the loss of time comes first, you are infinitely aware. If the loss of self comes first, you are infinitely void. If self and time are lost simultaneously, there is a paradox. I hope you will tell me what happens if you ever return.

 


 

 

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As long as the universe exists, there is something to be created and something to be explored. James Wadman
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