As you know, the Mandela Effect is when a lot of people remember something from a shared culture that turns out not to be true.
The most famous example is the Bernstein Bears.
Many people (me included) remember it as the Bernstein Bears, but it’s not.
There never was a Bernstein Bears.
It’s the Berenstain Bears.
People will swear that it WAS Bernstein, and it somehow changed over the years, like a glitch in the system.
In spite of the evidence, people will insist their memory is correct, not reality, so the universe must be wrong, so, maybe I was in another universe where it WAS the Bernstein Bears.
It makes sense that people will defend a false memory. We do it all the time.
But is the Mandela Effect evidence that we’re living in a computer-generated reality, like the DÉJÀ VU moment from the Matrix when Neo sees the cat twice?
Is the Mandela Effect a glitch in the code?
Rather The Effect is a sign of how we (WE being humans) store memories.
Homo sapiens encode memories based on meaning and emotion, so if we read the Berenstain Bears as children, the meaning for us is the experience of the story. I loved reading about the silly, Homer-Simpson like father and the eager son, loved that the bears lived in a tree, rode bicycles, had picnics.
The experience of the book is what made it meaningful enough for us to remember it into adulthood.
If we recall the title as adults, of course we’re going to change Berenstain to Bernstein.
Most of us have never known someone with that name, but almost all of us have known a Bernstein, neighbors, friends, colleagues.
Bernstein makes sense.
The Bernstein Bears. That’s how I’m going to encode the memory.
No matter how much we want to believe (me included) that there was such a peanut butter as Jiffy, it was always Jif.
Of course we’re going to encode Looney Tunes as TOONS. They were cartoons we loved as kids, not music.
There IS NO WAY we can prove we are NOT living in a computer-generated simulation. It’s impossible to prove.
So the question becomes:
Is there evidence that we ARE living in a false reality?
There are two stories humans create and maybe need for survival’s sake:
The Who-Am-I? story and the Who-is-God? story.
The two stories have different protagonists, but they always intertwine.
THE STORY OF ME
This is the story about self.
We deeply believe that we are separate beings from every other being that has ever been created in the universe. We believe we have a consciousness, even though there is no scientific explanation of consciousness or evidence that it even exists. We believe we are someone who experiences the events of life. A self. Some people even believe we have a soul, a spirit, something that makes us different from every other biological organisms, different from every other human being.
Something that makes us unique.
Made in God’s image.
We believe that we are who we think we are.
I believe I’m Daniel Chacón, and I have a story.
Perhaps it’s necessary for humans to believe we are who we think we are, for the sake of survival. Maybe that’s why the brain convinces us that we have a self, that we are not just an organism, and our story matters.
Most people in the world believe this.
Ask any Intro to Creative Writing teacher, they’ll tell their students, Your story matters!
If someone doesn’t believe they have a story about self, why should they take care of the organism in which they are housed? We need stories to survive.
When we are not aware that our sense of self is only a fabricated story, we create a story anyway, a default story correlated to our desires and fears and other perceptions of self and how the world works. If you think the world is a hopeless, dark and sad place, the details of your story will reinforce this underling faith in your idea.
If you believe that you are a hopeless wreck, will never achieve anything positive in life, can never be loved by anyone, you will find ways to confirm this every day of your life, all the way until your sad ending.
But the opposite is true, if you believe you are a moral person, one who believes in love, has a lot of love in your life, sees goodness in everyone, everywhere. You will most likely live a pretty “happy” life. Not that anything different would “happen to you,” but rather what does happen is reinforcement of your beliefs and is the details that build your narrative. The Intro to Creative Writing teachers are right! Your story matters!
But it’s not rrue.
Think about your own story.
Do you have some sense of who you are?
Do you believe in God?
Did you experience a happy childhood?
Do you believe that you were the little kid asleep under the covers dreaming about “some day?”
Definitely not on a physical level, because as most people know, all the atoms of our physical make up are replaced every seven years. You’re not the kid you remember being, and, in fact, the memories you have of that kid aren’t even accurate. They’re a fabrication your brain created to give you a sense of self and to reinforce your story.
My name is Daniel Chacón. I was born in Fresno, California. I wanted to be a lawyer, so I got a degree in Political Science, but the year I graduated with my BA, I took a fiction writing class, and I was hooked on writing and never looked back at the law.
The important part of our stories, like the important parts of memory, are not the details.
I mean, the details are important in a God-is-in-the-details sort of way, but what matters is the meaning of the story, not the factual details.
I’m a good man.
“I’m sick man, I am a spiteful man, I am an unattractive man.”
I’m the savior of the planet.
I’m a good mother.
We summarize our stories according to meaning, and the details of our memory and the details we give attention to in the landscape around us are things that enhance our story.
And our story is about survival. Expansion. Desire.
The elegant equation of character-based fiction is P=CH/T(y).
Plot equals character over time, with yearning over time.
Our stories of self are desire taking form.
GOD and PHYSICS
In the second story we create, the protagonist is God or the universe or Reality itself.
Or the gods, mother nature, physics, biology, neuroscience. These are essentially the stories we tell ourselves to understand reality and where we belong.
We need a story that connects us to something beyond self, a story that unifies us with the source, a grand equation, a TOE.
Some of us believe in stories about God (reality) passed on to us by our parents and their parents.
Some of us believe in science, that everything began with the Big Bang.
But most of what we believe about reality is a cartoon version, that is, the details of the stories are too complex for our understanding, too much data for our processing abilities. Even if we think we believe in the physics’ explanation of the universe, we only know the basic narrative, a cartoon version, not even an hour-long episode of Nova.
What we believe about God and the Universe isn’t even close to the truth.
If there’s such a thing as “Truth.”
What we believe might represent the themes and details of a narrative, but the story is not true.
This is something impossible for some people to ever accept (our brains will not allow us, because we “know in our hearts” that we are right), but what we believe about god, science, and one-ness-with-all is false.
You can say you believe in physics, but if you encounter the equation for the Higgs boson it will appear like magical writing from an ancient culture. It will mean nothing to you but a feeling. It becomes a sigil. Here it is, the God Particle:
Richard Feynman was famous for saying, They say there are three people in the world who really understand quantum mechanics. I don’t think there’s that many.
We don’t know the details of our story of reality, we know mostly what has been told to us.
We accept the structure, the model of reality, and we call it physics or Christianity, etc.
We could grow up Christians, Muslims, Jews, practice curanderismo or Santería, study Kabbalah, but most of us will only understand the narrative frame, that is, the basic structure of that system. And even if you knew the math, physics is so specialized that you would have to choose a particular focus in your research, while the rest of the physics story would still be presented to you as “givens”. If you enter the physics discourse community, space-time is a given.
But this is what makes us human:
We have two stories.
And both of these stories have thousands –maybe millions of micro stories –all of which reinforce the meaning of our two stories.
If you believe God is real and He watches over you like a father from His throne in heaven, and if He controls your fate, you will find so much order in the universe that if you do something sinful against God, you will filter out other possibilities of the future and make sure that God punishes you.
What you believe about your stories is constantly confirmed by your experience.
Confirmation bias is real, and you’re even doing it now. If you believe that this class will be a great experience, you’ll find confirmation of that over the next seven weeks. If you believe this class is stupid, and you’re only taking it because you need another class and it fit into your schedule, the stupidity will be confirmed at every step.
Before we go further into our discussion, here’s another premise I ask you to accept:
Everything You Know About Yourself, Science, and Religion is False.
You don’t have a brain. You have a story about this thing called a brain, which is made up by the brain. The brain makes up a story about itself, but it’s certainly not true. You don’t even have one.
And this can easily be proved.
Show me your brain.
Hand it to me.
Let me feel it, smell it. Examine it closely.
This is impossible for obvious reasons, but it’s also impossible for not such obvious reasons.
First, it’s impossible because if you cut your head open and pull out your brain, you’re going to be dead.
It’s just not possible.
So we have to believe that you have a brain based on the actions that you take, the things you say, what you create.
There are certain behaviors correlated with parts of the brain, so we can assume that when you yell at your lover in anger, something is activated in your amygdala, of which you have two, one on the left and one on the right side of the brain.
We can assume that you have a brain based on your actions and what we know about the mechanisms of the brain.
(But never assume –you know the Ass-out-of-you-and-me thing?)
Observing your evolutionary behaviors doesn’t mean you have a brain.
It means that you have a biological organism that physically responds to phenomenon. You’re like one of those slimy creatures on the beach, when you touch it, it retreats into the wet sad.
How do you know you have a brain?
Because you’ve been told you have a brain.
Somebody told you a story about the parts of the brain, and you believe them.
But of all the information that is available on the brain or any branch of science, history, any subject, geology, biology, we only know a tiny fraction.
Everything we believe about physics is a metaphor, a story made up by somebody else, but it’s not true.
It’s trying to express a truth in with language, English, French, Spanish, whatever.
But the story of science in any language but math is false.
It’s a made-up story so that we can understand.
Math is my worst subject, and I know no matter how much I may think I know about quantum entanglement, all I’m getting is a story, a metaphor.
And it’s not true.
It’s meant to represent or even contain something that’s true.
And the other reason why it’s impossible to pull out your brain to prove that you have one is that even if I were to look at it, what I would see right before me is a limited percentage of the information about the object you hold in your hand. It’s simply my visual representation, which is incredibly superficial.
In other words, when I look at the brain that you’re showing me to prove that you have one, I’m seeing how light and texture interact in my visual system, which is part of the brain, the visual cortex.
I’m making up what I see. The colors are not real, they are just my brain processing light intensity.
I don’t really see the brain that you’re putting in front of me. Rather I receive information that allows me to create an imaginary model of what you’re holding, so that I can understand it.
What you would really be showing me is a mass of data structure, atoms, subatomic particles that don’t even touch each other. You would be showing me empty space.
You don’t have a brain. You can never see it to believe it.
There’s a part of the eye called the fovea, and it’s about the size of a quarter.
When you look at anything, the fovea is the only part that you see in detail.
Everything else you’re making up. You are creating.
This is fact.
When you look at the mountains, all you really see is the size of a small rock. You’re creating the mountains.
So even if you physically show me your brain, when I look at it, I’m creating what I see.
Of course you could argue that we can put your brain into an fMRI and look at it closely, prove that you have one by the way the information is relayed onto the screen that we’re analyzing, but, again, that’s a representation.
You’re looking at data, not a brain.
You’re analyzing activity converted into a mathematical model that allows experts to analyze and make predictions. Watching an MRI of your brain would mean nothing to me. I wouldn’t know how to interpret the information.
All I can do is create a story about your brain.
But it’s false.
You don’t have a brain.
I don’t have a brain.
What does this mean?
It means you control the story, not only of your brain and what it means to the organism, that is, your body, your mortality, but also the story of your consciousness as you travel through time and space. Nobody gives meaning to you more than you.
You are only a detail in the story of others, a huge detail if you live with somebody, but for most other people, you are encoded in other brains as meaning, even the images they have of you. Whether or not they think you are beautiful or ugly, sad looking or happy, mean or nice, good or evil, you are a projection of their story, a detail within it. If you walk through a crowd and people see you but do not encode you into their memories, you don’t even exist to them, no matter how self-conscious you may be about how you look.
And if you know this, other people’s perceptions of you only matter if you can use those perceptions to get what you want for your own story.
In other words, knowing that you don’t have a brain is essentially saying that you don’t exist. And you don’t.
You are not an eternal soul. You are not a child of God.
You are a biological organism that has convinced itself that this is true and needs to convince itself this in order to survive. And because your genes want to procreate they want you to think well enough of yourself to feel you need, for the sake of humanity, to produce offspring.
You don’t need to.
All that really matters is you tell a good story and surround yourself with good stories, optimally based on love. Love is the safest, most comforting of human emotions, that which connects you to God, to the eternal.
Oxytocin, the love hormone, is produced in the pituitary gland of the brain, tiny as a pinto bean, but long before he knew of oxytocin, Descartes thought the pituitary gland explained duality, the hard problem of neuroscience, the mind-brain duality, the brain-consciousness duality, the physical and eternal human.
His connection of the organism, that is, the human body with the Eternal, that is, with the soul, with God, etc, is located in the same tiny part of the brain that produces love.
Whatever love turns out to be, it’s got to be good for you.
Our intuition is simply a way of unconsciously reading a situation and converting it into feeling.
Intuition is in the gut. Intuition is in the body, which means intuition can be influenced by the food we ate the night before, or how much sleep we got.
Our intuition can be deeply wrong.
But there’s times when it’s absolutely right.
Like when we walk into a room and we see someone walking towards us and immediately our intuition tells us whether or not this person is a threat, or if we’re going to like them, or whether not they want something from us.
Our intuition can be right, and surely the percentage of right and wrong impulses can vary from person to person. This is why we think some people are more intuitive than others.
They are also prone to errors in judgments, but if we let them mull over it, delaying our intuition before we act on it, we can make better decisions and predictions. We consult the abuelos, not because they are always right, but because like the Proverbs say, “The wise one has many advisors.”
Delayed intuition is more likely to be right than wrong because there are more processes happening in your brain allowing you to make accurate assessments.
Delayed intuition is almost always correct.
Obviously you can’t always delay intuition, like when you’re walking down a dark street and something tells you to go the other way, and even though you haven’t figured out why your reptilian brain is telling you this, there’s a gang of thieves lurking in the dark waiting for a victim.
The abuelos in the cortex have no idea why, but you take flight. Get out of there fast.
But when it comes to intuition about more abstract and larger questions, like should I take that class? Should I write this novel or work on my book of poems? Or, if you feel something tells you you shouldn’t marry that guy, or that gal, or that they, Think about it for a while. Consult your Abuelos, and a more accurate answer will come to you.
Practice delayed intuition.
I don’t have scientific evidence for this, it’s mostly my intuition telling me what to write.
Some neuroscientists call the prefrontal cortex the CEO of the brain, because it’s supposedly in control of your executive functions, your conscious decisions and thoughts, and how you create narratives about yourself and reality.
But as a Latinx writer who cares about how we use metaphor, I don’t like the CEO image.
The model is based on capitalism, corporations and profit. And even though it’s ONLY a metaphor (neuroscientists don’t use the term literally), any explanation of a system that uses the elements of a larger metaphorical structure, in this case capitalism and the market, limits the possibilities of the overall meaning.
If my prefrontal cortex is the CEO of my entire biological system and the consciousness created by it or in correlation with it, then my reason for being, like a business, is to expand my possessions, to get more, which in Western culture is getting rich.
I prefer to think of the prefrontal cortex as the Mexican Abuelos in my brain.
Notice how I didn’t say “Abuela” or “Abuelo”, but Abuelos, both of them, the grandfather and the grandmother, left and right side of the brain.
The abuelos in a Mexican family are in charge of the direction of the family, the decisions, the family narratives, and so on.
Or so they think.
They often create narratives about decisions that have already been made by other parts of the brain, their hijos and nietos in the limbic system and the brain stem, that is, the reptilian brain, the flight or fight decisions.
The grandchildren may get into occasional trouble, but eventually the abuelos will find a way to fit that behavior into the family narrative.
This morning I was taking a walk with the baby when I saw a house with a small front patio, and on it was a round rot-iron table with two rot-iron chairs.
And I knew I wasn’t looking at a table and chairs.
I was looking at a meme, in the Richard Dawkins sense of the word, “an element of a culture passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”
Consciously or not, the people who live in that house with the table and chairs replicated an image they’ve seen before, an image that perhaps came to them as they looked at that empty spot. The odds are good that they will rarely, if ever, sit on those wobbly chairs.
But everybody wants chairs and a table on their front porch!
Everyone wants to be able to sit outside and have an iced-tea and watch the sunset.
Yes, but the impulse to put chairs in front of a house is not the meme itself, and is in fact a logical thing one would want to do, sit out on the porch.
But wouldn’t one want to sit on COMFORTABLE chairs?
Does anybody ever think, I would love to sit on hard iron!
This is a meme:
Obviously, all of us to some extent are meme-machines.
A toddler follows you around the house and repeats what you say, those things that are easy and fun to say, like Mama, Dada, kitty, even without knowing what they truly mean. Some words are easier to replicate than others, and as much as I hate to admit it, that’s why my daughter said dada, before she said mama.
One of the challenges of the poet is to know the difference between an image, a rhythm, the dreamworld, maybe a sound in the distance that finds its way into their work and the cultural memes that keep pounding on the door to be let in.
I don’t think that you can avoid memes, they will be there, and you will practice some level memetics.
But as a writer, you can deepen a meme. Subvert it. Use it to arrive at beauty or truth.
Statistically, my two-year old daughter will see her daddy die before she turns 30, because I’m old, a Baby Boomer raising a Gen Alpha.
But because I spent at a great portion of my life in the digital age, where billions of bits of information about me are stored, she should be able get an app on her future device that has access to all of my available data and the ability to process it in algorithms that can predict my behavior regarding specific inputs.
She could ask her Dead Daddy App things like, Daddy, what should I major in? Should I take the job, Daddy? Who makes the best tacos in El Paso?
And the answers the Dead Daddy App provides would accurately represent my consciousness and what I would be likely to say.
It may be even BE my consciousness, since we really don’t know what consciousness is.
The hard problem of neuroscience is that nobody can figure out how the brain creates the mind, that is, consciousness, personality, what makes me ME (if there is even such a thing as me). But the information Clouds would certainly posses enough data on me to predict my (I’m sure my very predictable) behavior. To determine my likes and dislikes, my fears, my hopes, the things that I hate and the things that I love.
In fact, the Daddy App my daughter could someday consult may be a wiser Daddy than me, more reliable than me, because it won’t be made of flesh and all the weaknesses that come from it.
The app won’t fight, get tired, become angry, or be offended.
These are the known human evolutionaryreactions to an enemy, a threat like a sabertooth cat wanting to eat us.
Although most of us no longer live in the savannah grasslands, we still experience these reactions to perceived threats, every day, but we don’t use them against the enemy, we use them against ourselves and the ones we love.
Sometimes when we feel aggressive or negative energy from our lover, we respond with one of the three Fs.
I’m leaving! I yell to my partner as I slam the door and walk to my car headed for the bar.
But here’s the thing:
With a lack of a real threat in some people’s lives, they also use the four Fs against themselves, as if they were their own enemy.
People fight with themselves (I’m worthless!), or they flee what they believe is reality through whatever addiction takes them away, or they freeze their abilities and live a numb of life, one of ennui, which Kabbalah suggests is the greatest sin.
(When I use the word sin I mean it in the Hebrew חטאה sense, a missing out.
To sin is to miss an opportunity.
To ignore the gifts of life is a sin, because you are missing out on a fundamental opportunity.
If we understand that when we feel threatened, we WILL feel one of the four Fs, if we know that it’s a reaction of our homo sapiens species, then we can be more active in choosing the best F for a given situation, and not slowly destroy the ones we love.
For example, if I get in a fight with my lover, that is, my wife, and my instinct is either to do one of these three F’s, I can understand the physiological origins of that feeling and not put it into thoughts that I end up believing.
And I can choose instead one of the other two F’s of evolutionary survival, Feed or Fuck.
Well, maybe not.
But I guess it could make sense.
We get in a fight, instead of using one of the three F’s we grab a bite to eat or we make love.
That music is time travel for those who listen to it is such a basic idea that we hardly need to present proof. Still as an example, when many people reach a certain age, even when they can listen to all the available music in the world on iTunes or Amazon Music, they return to the same old songs from their past, mostly from adolescence.
Not everybody does this, but it’s common.
They listen to the songs they loved as teenagers, maybe even as they were going through puberty, and they feel emotionally connected to the past. They relive it in their imaginations.
But what about Time traveling for the artist?
Artists, writers, and musicians know that there is such thing as arriving in the Zone, or whatsome neuroscientists call Flow.
It can be defined as the times wherein you are so absorbed in the creative act that everything disappears and you lose sense of time. You are completely inside of the work.
When you come out, when you’re interrupted by something like a pounding on the door, you immediately lose the Flow or come out of the Zone.
When an artist arrives in the Zone, space-time doesn’t exist.
There’s no arrow of time.
There is no matter and thus no laws of classical mechanics, which means that the artist in the Zone can time travel.
Physicists agree that theoretically time travel is possible, but nobody can do it because we are matter and matter cannot travel faster than the speed of light nor can it go through an event horizon into a wormhole without being torn into pieces, completely obliterated.
However, artists in the Zone appear in other space-times, non-spatial realms, places of the imagination, the astral plane.
A poet who follows her language and ends up in the Zone or experiencing Flow will often run into spirits of the dead.
If you follow language, you sometimes hear voices that come from somewhere else, maybe an old text you read but forgot about, or a sentence you overheard in a coffee shop, or something your abuela used to tell you when she was alive.
The dead come to us in Flow.
Think of improvisational Jazz, a sax player hears a rhythm and follows it.
As they are in the Zone, they hear the bop of another beat, distant but getting closer, and they pick it up, play with it, follow it up and down, all around, back and forth. They may very well be channeling the spirit-sound from a musician long dead or a song sung to them when they were kids.
Music is time travel.
Later I’ll write about how the music you choose to listen to over and over again, especially as you age, can begin to shrink your ability to time travel or to appear in the zone, but for now, I want to show proof of an artist who time traveled.
Or, to be fair, who time travels NOW, because although this artist is long dead, he’s still out there in the Zone.
The example is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Op. 2 No. 3.
(Hmm, I won’t go into the numerology of it, 3+3+2, the number eight, which circles around and around like an infinity sign.)
I admire his work, but until I heard this piece, I never thought of him as great as Bach, who spends so much time in the Zone that he can appear anywhere and anytime unannounced, even in a Led Zeppelin riff or jazz improvisation.
But in this Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, we can map his journey into the Zone.
To experience this, imagine here’s what happened:
One early morning, Ludwig, still in his Ebenezer Scrooge nightgown, walks to his piano, sits down, still glowing from a peaceful night’s sleep.
He begins to play a tune he heard in his dream.
It’s very early, still dark outside.
Everybody else is sleeping.
He starts to play.
But listen to it, and imagine each note is a step along a path leading into something, a forest, a garden, a portal, a wormhole. He may or may not have been conscious of where he was going as he was playing that morning, because he’s following the music from the dream.
The player in the link I provide is Lang Lang, a badass pianist who I’m sure spends a lot of time in the zone.
At the 1:14 seconds mark, the portal opens.
He falls into the future.
He communicates with multiple artists who are also in the Zone, maybe Philip Glass is there, Thelonious Monk, maybe Ludovico Einaudi, and because there’s no time-space in the Zone, all can be in there at the same time, although this is ineffable, because there is no time.
Every time you enter into the zone, you enter into every time.
So after 1:14 seconds in this video of Lang Lang, Beethoven falls into a wormhole, and the music become dances, geometrical rhythms, triangles and circles, spirits of the New Age, entities outside of his own time-space.
Listen. At exactly the 1:14 mark.
(Sorry if you have to sit through part of a commercial before the music begins)
But go with Ludwig.
Follow him with your imagination, not your intellect.
This morning, when it was still dark and the room was lit by candles, I picked up my coffee mug. I like my coffee strong and bold, and I took a drink, but it tasted like a peach.
I felt like I had taken a sip of an entire peach, bitter and fuzzy.
And I realized the peach is a wormhole.
There are times when we taste something, even if it’s something we eat often, a cheesy cracker, a donut, and for some reason and for only a flash our brain tells us that we’re tasting something entirely different. We might take a bite from a chocolate bar, but for a pop not-even-a-second we taste broccoli.
We usually ignore these moments, shift our focus back to “reality,” and the next bite tastes like a chocolate bar, like it’s supposed to.
These are seemingly meaningless moments of life.
But perhaps when those moments come, if I allow my imagination to play with the idea that there is a reason why my coffee tastes like a peach, I might be able to see other slices of reality.
I’m not only experiencing the thing in front of me, the coffee, but my neural network is lighting up all over my brain, moving around like an aerial view of LA freeways.
Other tastes are evoked in my memory, other flavors linked to emotional experiences throughout my life.
When my coffee tastes like a peach, all times of my life from birth to death come together.
The peach is a wormhole, and it allows me to time travel.