Wednesday, October 18, 2017
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Humanism & Overcoming Evil

'Deep Mind' painting dichotomies

'Deep Mind' is a huge painting that explores the World Within, the Mind, and prompts questions such as What are we? Who are we? Why are we here? How do we balance and control the dichotomies within us of light/dark, human/animal, good/bad, peace/passion, joy/anger, love/hate, altruism/greed?

This indeed is an ambitious painting, my first attempt in Art (in 2007) to address the big question about Life, the Universe and Everything (the answer to which according to Douglas Adams’  “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is simply “42”). I have painted a further version but a Loved One who is my most trenchant critic says that she loves this later version but it looks better rotated 90 degrees - perhaps after 42 attempts (hard work painting huge paintings  this size!)  I will find the Answer.

This reminds me of the Buddhist parable about an illiterate peasant who asks the Master: “I am just an ordinary Man, I toil hard for a living, I am untutored  and I do not know how to read – how can I find the Answer?” The Master replies “Take a bag of rice on your back and climb to the top of the Mountain and you will find the Truth”. The peasant does as he is instructed, climbs the Mountain and finally reaches the top, casts down the bag of rice and takes in the enormous view. The Master was Right – he has Arrived.

Agnostic humanists such as myself approach Ontology (the Science of Being) through the Popperian Scientific Method involving  the critical experimental testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses, refining our models of reality and then repeating the process. Theists give up on the objective, scientific approach to the Answer and typically accept ancient stories from our ancestors as metaphors for reality. However Humanists, Theists and Buddhists can find a common ground in Art which all three accept as valid metaphorical, poetical and Artistic attempts to get to the Truth of things.

Let me give you a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the World of “Deep Mind”.

Technically, this is a huge painting (1.3 metres by 2.7 metres) painted in acrylic on high quality doubly-primed canvas. The dominant underlying geometry is the classical Golden Rectangle employed by the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians and also widely exploited by painters since the time of the Italian Renaissance.

Arising from this fundamental geometry (mathematically, a Fibonacci Sequence of  0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13, 21, 34 …; the so-called Da Vinci Code) are elements including:

(1) the Divine Sections (that divide the Golden Rectangle to form a square and another Golden Rectangle, these Golden Rectangles having the property that the Length is 1.618 – or phi – times the width);
(2) 2 dominant circles (encompassing the obverse dichotomies referred to in the first sentence of this essay);

(3) the central Vesica Pisces symbol from the overlapping of these Circles (a simultaneously sacred symbolism for the Christian fish, the Son of God in the Human Womb, the Gothic Arch and profane symbolism for the female vulva and  the male penis and thence phallic bombs, bullets and missiles); and

(4) the Sacred Flowers from the intersection of the Circles with the Diagonals of the Squares into which they fit exactly (these cruciform – cross-like -  structures are sacred in representing the Cross and the Christian Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit plus the Blessed Virgin and profane in that 4 is “lucky” and they resemble Paris quadrifolia or Truelove, the aphrodisiac and poisonous European plant that was used to bring “luck in Love” in Chaucer ‘s “Canterbury Tales” and in Chaucer’s Medieval Europe).

However “Deep Mind” also draws upon the Artistic Metaphors of Islamic culture. Thus underneath the classical Italian Renaissance Golden Rectangle symbolism is one of the patterns used in the wonderful Tile Art patterns of  Islamic Art  from the Alhambra Palace in Spain to the glories of Isfahan, Samarkand and Bokhara. There are generically 17 such kinds of patterns (defined by my great uncle mathematician George Polya of the Swiss ETH and America’s Stanford University as 17 plane symmetry groups and exploited by the great Dutch lithographer M.C Escher who was in correspondence with George Polya for many years).

The Islamic Tile Art patterns were created when Muslim civilization was a light in the World at the time of the European  Dark Ages. These patterns arose from the Biblical and Quranic prohibition of graven images and always included an Imperfection as a metaphor for our imperfection as compared to the perfection of the Creator. I have described this cultural conflation by the acronym PEACE – which stands for Polya, Escher, Alhambra Cultural Ecumenism.

Yet Man’s attempts to deal with the Inner Reality of the Mind and the Outer Reality of the physical world date back to the figurative  cave paintings by Europeans  and Indigenous Australian aboriginals of 20,000 years ago. Such figurative elements can be seen in “Deep Mind” at various levels – behind the complexity one can see large figures that in the upper, sunny, light, “good” zone are Ascendant and in the lower, darker, subterranean, ocean deep “bad”  half of the painting are Descending like Fallen Angels. In addition there are smaller figures that repeat this theme of Ascendant Good and Descending Bad, a dichotomy first explored by the early agrarian Persian proto-Zoroastrians  in Iran as early as 6000 BC.

On top of this complexity I have represented molecular, microscopic and macroscopic aspects of the reality of “Deep Mind”.

Thus at the molecular level (perceivable by highest resolution electron microscopy) we can discern a dominant geometrical theme resembling a DNA double helix of the genes that program our existence. The individual helical strands can represent the alpha-helices of the DNA-encoded proteins that make up most of our physical reality (together with water and thousands of other small and large molecules – for a rapid guide to this complexity see Chapters 1 and 2 of my huge pharmacological text  “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. A pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and biological effects”, Taylor & Francis & CRC Press, London & New York, 2003).

At the microscopic level I have represented neuronal connectivities, the neuron cell bodies (the blobs) and the axons and dendrites connecting neurons to each other in such a way that “the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts”. Indeed if the World survives George Bush, Bush-ite-driven global warming and the nuclear threat perhaps in a century there will be robots whose connectivities are such that we will have created true Superman intelligences vastly superior to our own. These neural net representations are indeed disturbingly anthropomorphic like the medieval Mandrake Roots to which great superstition was attached.

At the macroscopic level the two dominant circles represent the fundamental dichotomies of Deep Mind -  the light, human, good, peaceful, joyous, loving, altruistic Person  shadowed by a dark, animal, bad, impassioned, angry, hateful, and greedy Alter Ego. Just as there is no escaping our shadow out in the sunlight, we cannot ignore the remnants of our animal evolutionary history (Tyrannosaurus rex and ourselves have common ancestors). However our intellectual and moral evolution does not simply involve natural selection of hard-wiring genes (DNA) – it also involves the selection of “memes”, or ideas and cultural elements through societal selection of words, writing, music and art (see Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene”).
Indeed  “Deep Mind” illustrates this selection of “memes”, encompassing perceptions of Mind and Reality from 20,000 year old European and Aboriginal cave paintings, Zoroastrian, Greek and Egyptian elements, Medieval and post-Medieval Islamic Art, Renaissance Italian Art and post-Renaissance European Art combined with molecular, microscopic and macroscopic Scientific images of the Human Mind – with the overall, “order in chaos”  Big Picture resembling post-war American Jackson Pollock Abstract Expressionism.

In 2007 I was invited to take part in a public panel discussion of Australian Humanists over the question “what does Humanism mean to me?”  In reading and thinking about this question I stumbled upon this definition of the Humanist Ideal from leading Australian philosopher Professor Brian Ellis:  “to respect equality in the dignity of everyone”.  Hopefully the silicon-and-steel (or possibly carbon-based Buckminsterfullerene-, organic semiconductor- and carbon nanotube-constructed)  Superman of the future, conscious of his ontogeny (the history of his development) will “respect equality in the dignity of everyone” and obey Biochemist  Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics: “A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm”.

“Deep Mind” is a cultural conflation of many views of the Human Mind that summarizes its animal past and bubbling, interacting good/bad dichotomies.  In a sense we have already arrived at a version of the robotic Superman. Recent “memes” from the outstanding Australian bioethicist Professor Peter Singer (author of “Animal Liberation” and now at Princeton University, USA)  instruct that human beings are obliged “not to injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” or , if you like, “Harm not Humans”. Indeed he has extended this ethical imperative to not inflicting avoidable pain on any sentient creature.

However this First Law (whether for Robots or Humans) is being grossly violated in the 21st century -  in 2003 it was estimated that 16 million people died avoidably each year from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease (with about 9.5  million being infants) on a Spaceship Earth with the First World in charge of the  flight deck. The number of avoidable deaths annually is now about 22 million. The Bush (now Obama) wars of the last 2 decades have been associated with about 10 million avoidable deaths, so far.

Central to my “Deep Mind” painting are the ideas of Higher and Lower Minds and that Memes (socially selected ideas) can overcome the animal nature endowed by our Genes. However we have a long way to go and, as dramatized by the desperate G77 pleas at the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, we are badly running out of time. The  avoidable death rate (currently 22 million people die avoidably each year) is expected to reach an average of 100 million avoidable deaths per year due to unaddressed , man-made global warming (see "Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide": and "Climate Genocide": ).

However the World remorselessly ignores the horrendous carnage of the American Asian Wars, an Asian Holocaust that is still continuing and which has already consumed 10 million people (see my books “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007 and “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998, 2008 ).

We currently see daily violation of Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics (“Harm not humans”) as American Robot Predator Drones destroy travellers, wedding parties and whole villages in Occupied Pakistan and North West Pakistan.
Send the image of “Deep Mind” to everyone you can with the message that Peace and Love is the only way, that we must try to understand ourselves and others and “respect equality in the dignity of everyone”.

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