All posts by Immorthalia

I entered this world in April 1978, in a small country called "the Netherlands". I have always loved stories and have always asked difficult questions. I search for answers in my own way, by living, writing and loving, and I share what I can. I have experience in psychology, writing, English language teaching, children and young people, and much more, but I do not want to attach any labels to it, as I do not believe in self-appraisal and I also think out-of-the-box.

In These Times of Chaos: The Resplendent Path

We are faced with our own contemporary form of chaos: the unpredictability and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the civil and political unrest following the death of George Floyd.

 

We may feel that we are steering toward the dramatic end of the comfortable narrative of normality and social order.

We may experience helplessness when struck with illness or economic disaster.

We may not know what sources or experts to trust.

The inability to predict the outcome of these horrible events, coupled with the lack of control over most of our circumstances, is a profound stressor.

 

If we cannot control or predict our circumstances, should we just surrender to the crushing waves of our inevitable demise?

I beg to differ. We can change the way we mentally (and spiritually) respond to these circumstances. We can “embrace chaos.” We can follow what I, in my upcoming book, call “The Resplendent Path.”

For those of us who are in a position of influence, this Resplendent Path may also point the way out of the actual issues faced, not just the psychological response to them.

 

I have written about this Resplendent Path, related to chaos theory, in an earlier post.

 

Imagine a dimension. On the extreme left of that dimension we have the pole “rigid order,” on the extreme right the pole “absolute chaos.”

A wide range of psychological as well as social phenomena can be grouped under “rigid order”: strict rituals, obsessive thoughts, repression, anorexia nervosa, risk avoidance, depression, boredom due to extreme predictability, helplessness, and absolute control, but also totalitarian regimes and inefficient bureaucracy.

 

An equally wide range of phenomena can be grouped under “absolute chaos”: insanity, impulsiveness, binge eating, extreme risk taking, fear, uncertainty and extreme unpredictability, stress, and a lack of control, but also anarchy, war and revolts.

 

What should interest us most are the phenomena to be found at the golden middle between those two poles (The Resplendent Path): creativity, open-mindedness, growth, positive change, learning, curiosity, reasonable risk taking, meeting challenges, states of flow and diffuse control.

 

None of those lists are exhaustive, but nevertheless they serve to illustrate the usefulness of applying a framework of chaos theoretical concepts to explain physical, psychological, political, social and even spiritual phenomena. If this approach is embraced, we can also start thinking about using it to come up with solutions to problems stemming from inclinations toward either too much order or too much chaos. Fine tuning the system toward the optimal Resplendent Path is a daunting task, and may best be visualized by the metaphor of walking a tightrope.

 

That’s why I have sacrificed a lot of my precious time into writing a book, out of passion and without seeking any material gain, with the intention to make it available to all who may be interest (for free).

 

In this book I also dig a little deeper into more profound questions, such as “What is consciousness?” and “What is the ultimate reality?” while trying to maintain a balance between scientific considerations and sources on the one hand, and less scientific, more fantastical ones on the other. I will also expose my vulnerability by relating to my own experiences and failures, and how I learned from them – and am still learning from them.

 

I expect this book (I am, at the time of this writing, doing the final revision) to be finished before the end of this year, and it will first be available as a PDF file, which is the most accessible and workable format.

 

© 2020 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Adi_Holzer_Werksverzeichnis_850_Lebenslauf.jpg: Adi Holzerderivative work: Snaevar (talk) – Adi_Holzer_Werksverzeichnis_850_Lebenslauf.jpg, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12390712

Behind Bars: Best Solution or Better Compassion?

Criminals choose to commit crimes, and hence deserve to be decently punished and put behind bars. Good riddance and problem solved. I beg to differ.

 

When fate strikes and takes what we love most, we despair. When the fate that lashes out has a face that can be hated, we may want to seek out this threat and execute great vengeance upon the malefactor with furious rebukes. When the blood of hatred that was stirred cools down, we, at the very least, demand justice. However, is unleashing hell upon the guilty truly the cure to the disease?

 

Both as a father and a son, I experience how hard it is to change the course of the torrents of emotions and behaviors, set in motion by past conditions.

I understand it as a psychologist, I understand it as an armchair philosopher, and I understand it as a reader of Shakespeare’s tragedies. If my children ever fall prey to an irrevocable enmity toward me, and oppose me, should I just throw them into Dante’s Inferno and let them know that I am their father, when I lay my vengeance upon them?

 

The call for punishment of crimes has echoed through history from ancient times until the present. After experimenting with various forms, most societies finally settled on imprisonment. In a Harvard discussion series on Athenian Law (2020), it is argued that, “Modern citizens are notoriously fixated on imprisonment as the central penalty and just as notoriously unable to reach consensus on whether retribution, deterrence, or reform should be the central principle of punishment.”

 

Imprisonment is now the ubiquitous promise that silences the anguished screams of victims. If we look at the situation in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2020), though in decline, the number of prisoners was still 1,465,200 in 2018, in any case still a “notorious” number. In fact, how effective is robbing a million souls of their dreams, designs and dignity? Not so much, as it turns out: prisons do not make us safer (Harding, 2020); prisons do not work as well as alternatives might (Bartle, 2020); and prisons do not prevent violent crime (“Why Alternatives to Imprisonment are Needed to Prevent Violent Crime in America”, 2020).

 

And when the judges of mankind reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished, do they truly understand what caused the unjust to act the way they did in the first place? The single most important foundation for the justification of punishment would be the pillar of free will. However, as has been demonstrated (Jones, 2003), discoveries in the field of genetics have made experts question this. And an even stronger case could be made that the treatment of people with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness would be more humane and cost-effective than imprisonment (APA, 2020). Moreover, Stefanakis (2008) asserts that compassionate responses could be more effective and peace-inspiring than the punitive framework.

 

As many of our fellow beings seem already imprisoned in a mental hell, why not show some understanding, compassion and forgiveness? Or to put it in the words of the poet George William Russell (1913): My soul was black as night to me; To her I was a wounded thing. Are hearts not more important than bars?

 

© 2020 Marcel van Delft

 

References

Bartle, J. (2020). We know that prison doesn’t work. So what are the alternatives? | Jarryd Bartle.

 

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – Prisoners in 2018. (2020). Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6846

 

Discussion Series: Athenian Law Lectures. (2020). Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/1192

 

Harding, D. (2020). Do Prisons Make Us Safer?. Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-prisons-make-us-safer/

 

Jones, M. (2003). Overcoming the myth of free will in criminal law: the true impact of the genetic revolution..

 

Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/alternatives

Russell, G. (1913). Forgiveness.

Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/16/we-know-that-prison-doesnt-work-so-what-are-the-alternatives

 

Stefanakis, H. (2008). Caring and Compassion When Working With Offenders of Crime and Violence. Violence And Victims, 23(5), 652-661. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.23.5.652

Why Alternatives to Imprisonment are Needed to Prevent Violent Crime in America. (2020). Retrieved 23 May 2020, from https://scholars.org/contribution/why-alternatives-imprisonment-are-needed-prevent-violent-crime-america

Image: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/25/9f/411e105fc1a4ecfdd9aacee98526.jpgGallery: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0031137.htmlWellcome Collection gallery (2018-03-23): https://wellcomecollection.org/works/wfacvjhv CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36044546

Troubled Times or Great Opportunity: Embracing the Unknown

Image: By Hans Thoma – cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28406642

Many of us are plagued by the violent whispers of fear and apocalyptic visions of death, loss and economical demise. We are imprisoned in our own homes, condemned to utter solitude and sentenced to isolation and helplessness. The seemingly contradicting messages sent out by either experts or politicians do not bring relief either. And then there are those who believe that panic is the true pandemic, rather than the true malefactor: the lethal adversary that cannot even be seen with the naked eye.

There are times when there is nothing we can do to change our fate, and when we do not know what is going to happen.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist who had survived the holocaust and had to deal with both the suffering in a concentration camp and the loss of his loved ones, wrote that in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Were his circumstances more severe than ours? It most certainly appears that way. Yet, he found a purpose and meaning where most others could not find it, and because of that he persevered.

So, what can we do in these troubled times? I would say that this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to embrace unpredictability, uncertainty and the unknown. We are forced to face things we most likely can neither predict nor prevent, and more importantly, as we are no longer distracted by normal life’s many attractions, we are forced to face OURSELVES. Furthermore, as our natural tendency is to follow habits that lead us away from facing hard truths, changing ourselves is of paramount importance. There are certainly methods that help, from counselling and meditation to mindfulness and breathing exercises, but at the core, I believe, it all comes down to learning how to sit with the chaos of our own emotions and uncertainties, non-judgmentally and without trying to avoid the experience of suffering. There is simply no better way, and we will come out of it stronger and wiser, not just individually, but as a people, of that I am very certain.

© 2020 Marcel van Delft

The Invisible Veil of the Veiled and Unveiled

Image: By Adina Voicu – pixabay.com, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86641330

For those equipped with it, sight is foremost among all the senses and as such plays a profound part in the theatrical play of social life. Appearance, especially including all manner of artificial and augmented alterations, is an investment strategy, a statement about oneself, an outward philosophy, a ladder to higher social echelons, a protective guardian, a vessel to a higher spiritual plane, an irresistible force of attraction, and a deception technique.

In many ways it is a weapon, however, one could ask whether it is the wielder who is wielding it, or whether it is the weapon that is wielding the wielder. Does the woman following the latest beauty standards use them to further her own personal philosophy of life, or are the beauty standards using the woman to further the agenda of those invested in them, to the woman’s detriment?

Does the bodybuilder with his perfected-beyond-reasonable physique overcome his hitherto assumed insufficiency, or is his outward caricatured masculinity masking the insecurities hidden deep inside?

Does the veiled woman shield herself from the exploitation, intrusions and temptations hindering her from obtaining a deeper connection with God, or is the veil actually unveiling her perhaps unconscious inclination to conform to the standards of those whose approval she thinks she needs?

We all play our parts, but do we do so out of free will, or are we simply subjected to the totalitarian rule of expectations and delusional ideas? The characteristic most notably defining humanity is the ability to choose freely between what is right and what is wrong, and yet most of us are not aware of that ability and choose to submit ourselves to what seems to be a free choice, yet what in fact it is nothing but an act of voluntary submission to psychological slavery.

Only through a nonjudgmental, mindful awareness and embrace of what reveals itself in life and in the mind, will emerge the elusive treasure of true free will. Only then can it be said that our altered appearance is our own free choice.

© 2020 Marcel van Delft

The Malignant Spirits of the Addicted Mind

They come from the unexplored cave of the unconsciousness, emotional turmoil born out of the lava pit of the unexpected, unleashed into your far too convenient and comfortable world of self-contentment. Those foul hellions are sent with one purpose: to haunt you, to morph into suffering, tragedy, fear, anger and the seed of corruption: change. You run away to escape the chaos of this experience, only to find out that the stress, the umbilical cord of tension, cannot be cut, and will pull you back into the cesspool of psychological agony.

Then along comes a notorious savior: the deceitful succubus, with her whip of obsession, whispering sweet promises of blissful escape, through a tunnel of forgetfulness, away from the chaos, luring you to what seems the perfect order of ecstasy and fulfilled desire. Only then do you find out that no paradise lies on the other side, and the tunnel transitions into a loop of reinforcement, keeping you stuck in the same nightmarish cycle with ever-increasing desperation, and ever-decreasing relief.

Is there a way out? The grasp of the whip is tight, and the charms of the succubus are hard to resist, but once you figure out that all the shimmer and shine are actually chaos and stress incarnate, you can embrace the tension of this instrument of chaos and, knowing you cannot really fight this supernatural creature, you just endure, allowing the corruption to spread and threaten to overwhelm you, but holding on to the idea that this grotesque being may have manipulated you, but never truly owns your very core.

Sooner or later, the succubus will grow bored and tired of seducing you, and you will have to face what you had been trying to escape all your life: your true antagonists. These hellions threaten to lay waste to your mental landscape, but now you know that they are no true enemies, as they are simply the harbingers of change, who have come to urge you to get out of your self-imposed prison of comfort and convenience, and to embrace chaos, to grow into the great human being you are destined to become. You bow politely, and gladly let yourself be taken away, on the endless voyage towards the magnificent unknown.

The flame of hope can never be extinguished unless you surrender her to the long, cold night of forgetfulness.

© 2020 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Boaworm – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10025261License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Pain is Your True Soulmate

It is the first day of a new beginning. Time for celebration, or to follow up on resolutions made?

How about we make a toast to pain? What we might be celebrating is in fact a life that haunts us every step, a life that enslaves us rather than sets us free: we try to fit in with our social circles, keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians), stay up to date through social media, follow our “true” passions, make needed career changes, get married, ask for that promotion, become an entrepreneur, listen to our parents, surround ourselves with comforts we think we need, escape sorrow by means of indulgences, try to change the world, or go on a quest to find our true self.

I say, let the the sirens of today’s madness sing of wants and needs, let the ghosts of yesterday wail of regrets and the demons of tomorrow threaten with fears. I say, sit down and let them howl, rage, pull at you, and attempt to tear you to pieces. Could this instead be the moment you choose change, and through change freedom?

All those voices from inside your head and from the influential social environment, telling you what to want and what to need in order to achieve happiness, assert themselves as being indispensable to a free life, yet they are the very opposite: they are Machiavellian creatures seeking domination over you by exploiting your biggest weakness: pain.

Pain.

There, I said it. Suffering. Let it summarize all that you try to avoid and fear to acknowledge: guilt, tragedy, insecurities, trauma, fear, loss, mistrust, loneliness and other psychological turmoil. Breathe it in, bravely endure it, and even embrace it like you would your true soulmate. Let all hell break loose in your head but do not identify with any of it: it all comes, makes an awful lot of noise, but eventually passes. You are NOT your pain, but it is crucial that you go through it. I am not just telling you, I am urging myself to do the same, as it has always been my challenge too.

Then do something wild and creative: write, draw, paint, sing, dance, or do whatever makes you feel a free soul for the moment it lasts – as long as it does not harm yourself or others. Let all the pain be the energy that drives you to new extremes, until a thing of beauty emerges, a rare gem that would otherwise have been lost to mankind. Do not rationalize it, choreograph it, formalize it, describe it, or in any other way allow it to confine the untamed primitive flame: just go wherever it guides you. And when the dust has settled, exhaustion has finally caught up with the wild intoxication, and wet pearls trickle down the worn landscape of your tormented face, only then start trying to make sense of it all, and the result, a true masterpiece beyond any externally imposed standards – as it just IS – should be the perfect equilibrium between that wild untamed freedom that lies behind all that pain and the orderly form of you that exists in a relatively orderly universe.

Do not fear your pain, as the world is full of those who cannot handle their own pain and therefore seek to exploit your pain, and your pain will set you free, raise you to new heights of creativity and self-realization. And again, you will not need to dwell in pain indefinitely, but the sea of sorrow must be crossed to reach the other side.

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27187241

Ephemeral Phenomena: A Haiku

I could have written a hundred sentences about this topic. Instead, I have chosen to be parsimonious with words, and now I let you puzzle over the meaning of the haiku I have written instead:

Wizened old witness,

Of growing and withering,

Sheds her last leaves. Peace.

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Gabrielle Merk – Own work, Blossoming old-growth fruit tree on Mount Zugerberg, Switzerland, https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Fruit_Tree_in_Bloom.jpg

Dare to Be Bewildered

The forest sets me free. Among those solemn wooden beings I find myself again, innocent curiosity and utter bewilderment leading me along the path, toward the great unknown. My footsteps in a world oblivious to them make me feel insignificant, yet this is a liberating experience. It humbles me, restores the child-like nature stolen from me by life, a nature driven by asking bold big questions with too much of an imagination to be able expect reasonable answers.

Standing in the middle of a lavish nothingness, surrounded by the boisterous silence of infinity, I remember seeing the world as an unsolvable puzzle. It often just dumbfounded me. I was struck with sudden perplexity, admiring the intricate beauty of the universe, while at the same time abhorring it for its horrible tendency to defy full understanding.

Growing up, understanding came as a manipulative trickster, taking on ideas as disguises, answers by too many people to too many questions that all begged answering. Soon my mind became soaked with thinking, the sickness of endless cycles of self-defeating ideas that traverse generations like an ineradicable epidemic. No matter how many answers were administered as medicine, it was never the cure I was looking for.

Sometimes answers did provide some comfort, though. The scientific method taught me to better approach questions and answers, question what needed to be questioned, but also came with the relief of realising that many of the tragic things happening to us humans are due to psychological, genetical, and epigenetical histories, a cause-and-effect dance from which it is often hard to escape. Perhaps that meant I should not hate myself for my wrongs, but rather try to understand the causes, learn from them, and show forgiveness.

Still, there remained this uncharted land, the great unknown of the unexplained. Consciousness, especially self-consciousness, seemed to be one of those logic-escaping demons: The Great Defier of Scientific Understanding. And the darkness, the emptiness, the bewilderment which was both a great joy and terror to me in my younger years, kept making itself known, through mere whispers and, as I failed to pay attention, it became symptomatic instead, resurfacing as everything it was actually not.

Along came a fresh wind of religion and the spiritual, inviting the unknown in a more purposeful way into experience. However, in many instances, there seemed to be too many attempts to deny the void of the unknown as well, by offering alternative answers, moral ones, or pseudo-scientific explanatory ones, and institutionalised rituals of dealing with questions, or rather refraining from asking questions altogether but rather surrender to the answers revealed, and those only. Revelations which, however, came in various flavours, just as many as there seemed to be people claiming to know answers, and it almost seemed a sin to just crave again that innocent bewilderment, that wonder, to just admit not having any answers. Is it a terrible mistake to question default answers to unasked questions about the divine? Or to question the logical fabric of reality when the weirdness of nature at the deepest quantum level makes questionable those scientific frameworks that no longer seem to allow any place for mystery?

In the middle of a forest that asks no questions nor has all the answers, I stand, wondering whether the wilderness that bewilders me is telling me a profound truth: that the true path is to surrender to the eternal questions, the questions that defy answering, as they are beyond answering, forcing us to let go of the need to find answers. That we, spiritual people, religious people and science-minded people, should all stay bewildered, and marvel at how questions unfold by themselves, without expecting reasonable answers, when we submit to them.

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Takkk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10059906

The Resplendent Path: Embracing Chaos

Ships in distress: a storm

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” Words attributed to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Insomnia. Sleep seems a vague reference to a faint idea masked as a memory of what should have been a real thing. Now wakefulness is your reality, your ONLY reality. Family, friends and sanity have long abandoned you, as you lost touch with hope. Days and nights you spend glued to the luminescent screen of that relentless monstrosity of a laptop, doing ghostwriting jobs – receiving zero recognition – by the virtue of which you can continue paying the bills and that pitiful excuse for a condo you call home. You are nothing more than a machine, just waiting for the latest updates in order to be allowed to shut down . . . forever.

Now imagine fear. You are a fugitive, on the run for the long arm of the law, representing the ignorance of the crowd. Only you know the true value of the secrets they are trying to take from you. Who can you trust, with assassins lurking behind every corner? Even your once formidable reasoning skills are starting to desert your cause, leaving you high and dry. And all of a sudden the men in white coats finally take you by surprise, wrestle you into a van, and with vicious intent bring you to their agency, which they euphemistically call “mental hospital”. When they force dangerous chemicals into your bloodstream, and you are sure it is a truth serum that will allow them to finally get the information you had been protecting all this time, they call it “treatment.” You wake up after a rough night of sweating, swearing, and screaming. What that so called psychiatrist calls “schizophrenia” is now starting to become a state of total confusion, fear, and desperation. Everything is falling apart . . . even your conception of self, your identity as a world-class spy.

We can all imagine such scenarios because of the movies we see and, I would say, more profoundly due to the novels we read. Though it is not likely that our lives resemble those of the main characters in these two short narratives, I assume that you have had periods in life when your felt “stuck”, and periods when you felt “confused.” You might have had a monotonous job with no perspective, but which you could not give up because of financial reasons. Or you might have been overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and challenges as a new mother.

Whatever the case, and whatever the extent, those fluctuations between what I would call “order” and “chaos”, are very common.

The concept of chaos has its roots in Ancient Greek philosophy, possibly starting with Orpheus introducing the term, “Chaos condenses into the giant Cosmic Egg, whose rupture resulted in the creation of Phanes and Ouranos and of all the gods who symbolise the creation of the Universe.”

“Yet they have a nature that can be interpreted, for in all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order, in all caprice a fixed law, for everything that works is grounded on its opposite,” Carl Jung said in Archetypes of the Collective Unconsciousness.

The concepts of chaos and order are also familiar to physicists, like for instance in thermodynamics where it is referred to as entropy. There is a distinct field called Chaos Theory, which has been very helpful to me in more methodologically describing the ideas which I have already wrestled with philosophically and intuitively.

Let’s describe it in more imaginative terms, as I have done in an earlier blog post. On the extreme left side of the spectrum you may imagine a perfect block of ice, completely inert. On the more extreme right visualize a wild stream, a ferocious river, a waterfall if you will. The block of ice represents order, a static state of being, unchangeable (for the sake of the argument, refrain from thinking about the possibility of melting or other exceptions). The wild river represents chaos, it is never the same, ever changing.

Now, if you would carefully examine snow flakes from up-close, you might marvel at their wonderfully complex pattern, which is unique and intricate, but with a sense of order to it that clearly distinguishes it from randomness. That snowflake represents complexity, the optimal mean (resplendent, as it is so miraculous, if you think about it) between order and chaos, between inertia and random change.

Snow flakes are just snow flakes, however, ice blocks are nothing more than ice blocks, and rivers, however important for the sustenance of life, are merely rivers. Complexity in our universe is infinitely more profound – and I think it even describes things like intelligence and conscious growth – so why should we care about the different states of H2O? Because it can help us understand the three concepts which I want to use to describe not only natural phenomena, as is the domain of physicists, but also psychological growth, the dynamics of society, and the spiritual – though the latter requires quite a leap of faith.

Complexity in a static universe is just that: complexity. However, movement, and change, are an inextricable part of existence. In a system that allows for change and movement, order might also mean “cyclic”, “linear”, “predictable” or “continuous”, whereas chaos (which I intellectually conveniently, but perhaps incorrectly, equal to “disorder”) might also mean “random”, “alinear”, “unpredictable”, or “discontinuous”. In the same way, complexity might be called “growth” or “dynamics” in such a system.

Complexity, dynamics, and growth are, as I said, the optimal mean (a moving equilibrium if you will) between order and chaos (between continuity and discontinuity). This is the hot spot where miracles happen: intelligent life that evolves, and all else that is complex and dynamic. In its most optimal form, it is the ideal path, the resplendent path (Yes, I know it sounds like your average new age fluff, but bear with me).

If you use such denominations, it is easier to apply them to other fields, like the ones I mentioned earlier – which is, of course, a mere intellectual exercise of imagination, if not warranted by sound argumentation and proof. In the book which I am currently working on, I will establish more sound reasoning to back up my claims where possible and desirable. Backed by science and philosophy or not, I am confident that such intellectual exercises are very helpful in approaching the many challenges which people, from individuals to societies as a whole, are facing every single day.

I will just share various examples for the three different aspects of complexity, for different fields: psychology, sociology, the spiritual. Just the terms, as I want you to draw your own conclusions.

What I write is not new or revolutionary, it might even be rooted in the very ancient foundations or western culture and philosophy, like for example the origins of the concept of chaos I have referred to earlier.

However, what I do hope to have demonstrated through this writing – and I will do so in much more details in my upcoming book – , is that these ideas, although à première vue  they might seem overly simplistic, are an amazingly helpful framework to approach the complex issues in psychological development (and pathology), in the dynamics of society, and perhaps even spiritual growth.

One might even go as far as to say that the ancient question “What is the meaning of life?” may simply be answered with: “To find and follow the golden mean between order and chaos: the resplendent path, where miracles happen and everything falls into place.”

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: Ludolf Bakhuizen – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6259173

What Does the Future Hold in Store for Us?

Greetings, pioneers of the future!

It seems fairly fashionable to fantasize about the future. A regular appearance in the reality show of wild futuristic foretelling is Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions are said to come true with exciting, or, if you are a pessimist, frightening accuracy, give or take a few decennia. 

The mysterious abyss between mind and body will, if we follow his optimism, be bridged by many body-mind integrating technological developments, perhaps even leading to eternal life, a metamorphosis into a digitized entity.

Technology will then also become smarter itself: “2029 is the consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence.”

Famous modern philosopher Sam Harris shares this idea that superhuman intelligence will emerge, but is perhaps a tad less hopeful in stating that “it’s the most worrisome future possible because we’re talking about the most powerful possible technology.” He fears that AI will improve itself, leading to a runaway effect.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurial and technological prodigy Elon Musk, on similar lines agreeing that there should be constraints on AI to prevent such a runaway effect, keeps building his brave new world of automated cars, affordable Lego brick houses, flying cars, Starlink global internet through satellites, increased solar power, Neuralink implants and SpaceX reusable rockets, with serious intentions of colonizing Mars.

What else, if we may believe the digital prophets of our time, are marvels of science just waiting around the corner?

Zero-size intelligence?

Neuro-hacking?

Quantum Computing?

Surrogates?

VR and augmented realities that cannot be distinguished from the real thing?

Cheap 3d printers that can create just about anything?

Will we see a decline in simple jobs that can be automated and an increasing demand for “deep work”, as Cal Newport argues in his book of the same title, all in an age of increasing distractions?

May we embrace an era of peace, because “the decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon,” as Steven Pinker has argued?

“You can see it over millennia, over centuries, over decades and over years.”

Will man be able to take (epi)genetical manipulation to the next level, a salvation from illnesses and handicaps – or creating its own kind of threats?

Will robotics help advance our society, make us inferior and dependent, or will it, together with the parallel development of AI, lead to a Terminator Judgment Day style of apocalypse?

How will  the sciences advance, will they help increase our understanding beyond what our fallible minds and senses allow us to currently experience, or will they become corrupted by market forces, or perhaps turn into instruments of death, as had been forseen during the creation of the atomic bomb?

Will we see the end of our planet, solar system, universe, or just our species? 

Or will we finally unequivocally uncover the fabric of a final reality, beyond current scientific and spiritual reach, something that will unite us all and disprove the assumption of individual existence?

I am no futurist or storyteller. Nor do I have an outspoken opinion about the “good” or “evil” of future phenomena and inventions. New technology has always raised suspicion, and that must have been the case even in the Stone Age. And now we are comfortably reading this post on a digital screen, a technological feat made possible by the manipulation of electricity, a force of nature which frightened our dear ancestors so.

My concern is of a different nature: the search for meaning and our true humanity. Cal Newport warns of shallowness in work and focus, I warn of shallowness in existentialism, in spiritual experience, in morality, in wisdom, in philosophical inquiry, and in the critical thinking and intuition required to distinguish the truly beneficial from the irrevocably harmful. Whatever the conditions, whatever the substrate of reality we will inhabit, let us not abandon the path toward realization of our greater selves, and by that I am not referring to physical or technologically greater selves, but spiritually greater selves – however that expresses itself in your own unique experience!

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: Kyoto Station, by Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53618739