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The Tinkered Mind

A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.

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MEDITATION DRAFT SESSION 10: THE BACKDROP

January 26th, 2023

 

On Monday Tinkered Thinking releases a draft of a lesson from the forthcoming meditation app, currently called The Tinkered Mind (If you can think of a better name, please reach out. I'm not crazy about the current one, but I'll be damned if I let an imperfect name keep me from developing a good idea.) The rationale here is simply to stave off project stagnation by taking a wish to work with words on a daily basis (Tinkered Thinking Posts) and combine it with adjacent projects. This also gives regular readers a chance to get a preview of what I'm cooking up and to get feedback before the app launches, which is a tactic that has proved extremely useful with other projects unrelated to Tinkered Thinking. 

One further introductory note: The goal of this meditation app is predominantly aimed at helping individuals build a robust daily habit by breaking that habit down and tackling it's consitituent parts one at a time and aiding the process with a new and innovative way of tracking progress, the likes of which has not been seen in other meditation apps or habit tracking apps.

Again, if you have any feedback, please reach out via Twitter  

 

Session 10: The Backdrop

 

 

Take a moment to sit, arrange your posture, and take a few deep breaths with long exhales.

 

<18 seconds of Silence (3 full breathes + exhales with half-second counts>

 

Now transition to coherence breathing with inhales and exhales of the same length.

 

If you’ve made it this far, then you’re well on your way to creating a new habit and integrating it into your life. You have solid momentum with taking time, sitting, and relaxing yourself with breath. 

 

With this foundation, we are going to start exploring greater amounts of silence.  We’ll tinker with our resolution of the thoughts we find there, and then we’ll see what we can do with those thoughts and what we can do to those thoughts. 

 

To be clear, thoughts include things like emotions. Everything that is an object of the mind is roughly referred to here as a thought. Hearing a car pass by, and paying attention to it is a kind of thought process. So thoughts won’t just refer to the narrative in your mind or the abstract ideas and visualizations that populate the space. 

 

For now, let’s take a moment to do a body scan in complete silence. Remember the sheet of light suspended above you, and allow your attention pour slowly over your entire body as that sheet of light descends over you. 

 

<30 seconds of Silence>

 

Having given all the internal noise of the body some attention, let’s now turn the attention to the sound around us. Whether it be the sound of traffic outside or the ticking of a clock, or the hum of a refrigerator compressor, allow your attention to be like a bubble around you that expands to include all the sounds that arrive at your ears.

 

 

<15 seconds of silence>

 

Annoying sounds that can bother us without getting our full conscious attention, and little aches and pains in the body that also aren’t big enough to get our full conscious attention are both similar to thoughts. For a person that does not practice meditation, there can be countless examples of these things that contribute to a constant backdrop of stress.

 

But also just like thoughts, we can drastically alter the way these things effect us by simply giving them a moment of attention. 

 

Another way to think about such things is to imagine an easy but stressful task that you’ve been putting off. We all have these. These small tasks can cause us stress for hours or days and even weeks, and when we finally decide to get it over with, we find that it was easy and quick, and the relief that we experience is both surprisingly deep and a bit ridiculous because of how much procrastination preceded such a simple task. 

 

Little aches and pains in the body can function in the same way. Give them some conscious attention, and a tense muscle can finally relax.

 

It can be useful to think of this backdrop of droning annoyances as things we are avoiding. And if we simply accept them by giving them a little dedicated attention, they vanish.

 

The same is the case with many if not all thoughts. So let’s take a few moments to turn our attention onto the mind itself. The goal isn’t to think nothing, or decrease the number of thoughts you have. Just open your attention to what is there. Continue to breath and use that as an object of attention if you’d like. See how thoughts interrupt or interfere with your ability to focus on the breath. Or simply focus on the mind’s space and see what arises. 

 

<30 seconds of Silence>

 

For some it might seem like there aren’t many thoughts, and for people like this, they often find with time that there’s a flood of thinking that they simply weren’t noticing in the beginning. It can feel like beginner’s luck, and such a person can wonder if they are a natural or if this is even worth the time, but its more like a resolution problem. It’s similar to when your eyes are focused on something distant and you don’t see something right in front of you.

 

For others the flood of thoughts is all too prominent, and that flood of thoughts can be a major deterrent to starting a meditation practice. It’s like that pesky little task we’ve been putting off is multiplied by thousands, becoming something that inspires real fear.

 

The design of this program has been more for their benefit. To fill these sessions with more guidance while a habit builds and then slowly introduce time where we can engage with that torrent of thought and feeling. What becomes truly interesting is when we’ve trained the mind to the point where all of these things can be acknowledged and put aside. What is left over is a truly precious and profound experience. Certainly we’ve all had experiences where life yanks us into the moment to be fully present for some peak experience, but the ability to shed everything at will, whenever you want, and simply reside in the present moment is a true power in life, and one worth training for.

 

Tomorrow we will explore more silence, but for now transition to deep exhales. And while you finish up the session with these relaxing breaths, try to bring the ideas and the experience of those session with you into the rest of your day. Start wondering if it’s possible to have moments throughout the day where you can pause and take stock of your situation, of everything around you, how your body is feeling and how frenetic your mind is. Ask if you can take a few slow deep breaths during those moments, acknowledge everything and reset yourself for the rest of the day.

 

<10 seconds of Silence>


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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: SEIZED

January 22nd, 2023

 

After many months of non-stop work, Lucilius was finally done. He sat down, letting out an exhausted and relived sigh. He rubbed his face, and then looked out at the water. Finally, he thought. He paused for a moment, reflecting on it all. The idea had consumed him. Taken over his life. It had all been worth it, but, Lucilius wondered.

 

Had it been deliberate?

 

Lucilius chuckled. It was as if he hadn’t had the idea and then executed it. But more like the idea had found him, gained ahold of him and operated him like a zombie.

 

Lucilius thought of the fungus that infects ants, taking over their brain and turning them into mindless automatons that do the bidding of the fungus so the fungus can spread. Like a virus, Lucilius thought.

 

He chuckled some more. Were ideas like viruses? He puzzled over the answer, looking out at the curved horizon. The few islands poking up through the slate gray water.

 

An odd feeling grew within Lucilius as he reflected over the many months. Some of his friendships - relationships - had suffered. He’d not been able to give them the care and attention they deserved. He’d been.. overwhelmed by the need to get that project done.

 

Suddenly he wondered if it was worth it.

 

“Eh, I can make it up to them..” He said out loud. But he wondered if it was true.

 

He made a silent vow to do his best. Now with that blasted project out of the way, he had the time, the attention and the energy. It’s human, he told himself. We all make mistakes, and sometimes, we can get a little lost. It’s ok. We wander, we discover, and in order to do that we need to leave those normal patterns of life. 

 

He unconsciously started to chew at a finger nail, wondering if he was in denial. Rationalizing. You discover who your real friends are. Everyone says that, he thought. Maybe that’s all that happened? The solid relationships can flex, and bend to accommodate for this kind of thing?

 

What kind of thing exactly? He asked silently. 

 

That idea that had grabbed hold of him. But it was finished now. Finally. Relax, he told himself. He breathed deeply and refocused on the calm expanse of ocean.  He closed his eyes. He had time now. He would make everything right.

 

He breathed deeply. But he did not exhale. His eyes snapped open. His eyes dilated as they blurred in concentration at some pointless distance. 

 

“Yes….” He breathed. “Of course!”

 

Suddenly he jumped up from his chair and rushed back inside, back to his desk to get started.

 

Another idea had seized Lucilius.


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THE FALLEN DANCER, PART IV

January 17th, 2023

 

The Fallen Dancer is a series here on Tinkered Thinking exploring a recent shift in perspective. The resulting framework appears to tie together many topics explored on Tinkered Thinking over the years such as resilience, struggle, patience, curiosity, emotional regulation, artistry, entrepreneurship, winning, honesty, and communication. This series will be an attempt to unify them in a cohesive treatment.

 

Click here to read Part III

Click here to start at the beginning

 

 

Part IV: What’s in a Name?

 

Years ago the idea of riding a bicycle across North America wiggled it’s way deep into my brain and took over the person that I am. When I was negotiating the logistics of exactly how I would satisfy this new resident in my brain, I took my road bike - which is older than I am - to a bike shop and told the mechanic that I wanted to outfit it with a mountain bike gear set and install racks for panniers. When the mechanic understood what my full vision for these changes was, he shook his head and said “but this bike wasn’t designed to do what you’re talking about.”

 

My idea-infected brain didn’t miss a beat:

 

I don’t care what it was designed to do, I care about what it CAN do.

 

Perhaps the quintessential component of resourcefulness is an ability to see beyond the names and categories that we give things. If a road bike can only ever be a road bike in someone’s mind, then that person will never Frankenstein it with mountain bike components and take it from ocean to ocean. Or here’s a simpler, humble example: once a friend was getting frustrated in their small kitchen and exclaimed they needed a place to put the paper towel roll because it was in their way. I noticed a plastic clothes hanger in the trash which was broken along the bottom edge. I picked up, slipped the paper towel roll onto the bottom bar through the broken part and then hung the paper towels from a cabinet handle. “This is why we’re friends,” was the response.

 

Resourcefulness is the ability to look at things for what they really are, not just what we’ve named them or what we assume them to be. Leverage is often hidden because we are blinded by the category we’ve applied to the things we see. Leverage hides in plain sight because when people see the lever, they don’t see leverage, they see something else, they see the accepted category, the traditional name. 

 

Most people would see the clothes hanger in the garbage and simply see a clothes hanger that got thrown out. A resourceful person see’s something roughly the length of a roll of paper towels with a hook and a way to usefully combine it with that roll of paper towels. To the resourceful person the clothes hanger isn’t a clothes hanger, it’s a particular organization of matter which has a shape suitable to fit the current need. Think about this for a moment, how often do you look at all the stuff around you and see all that stuff as just different organizations of matter? Usually we see a couch, a bookcase with books in it, some chairs, a table, etc. We see categories instead of seeing things for what they really are. 

 

Shakespeare put it well:

 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as a sweet.”

 

Juliet’s point in the play is that names are irrelevant. But larger point is that for most people names are terribly relevant. So relevant, in fact, that they blind us from seeing things for what they could be. We get stuck on the name, or the category, and as a result, we fail to notice how the thing under consideration could be used in a way that isn’t included in the definition attached to that name or category. The definition of a clothes hanger does not include paper towels. Unless you are willing to see things for what they really are - a particular organization of matter. The convenient thing here is that most things can be labelled as “a particular organization of matter.”

 

 

Imagine what my bike mechanic might have said if he’d seen me hang paper towels with a clothes hanger: But that’s for clothes, not paper towels!

 

Some would call this train of thought First Principles Thinking. Elon Musk talks about First Principles Thinking quite a bit and it’s particularly showcased by the birth of SpaceX. Elon realized that a rocket is just a bunch of atoms organized in a particular way. The raw materials - the aluminum, the oxygen fuel, the copper for wiring, etc. - all those raw materials are relatively cheap, so the bulk of the expense was bundled up in the process of organizing those raw materials into a rocket. But this realization didn’t occur to Elon at first when he was beginning to explore his agency with regards to outer space. At first Elon was hung up on the idea of buying a rocket for a single space mission to reignite the public’s passion in space. He could not see past the category of “rocket”. It wasn’t until Government officials in Russia refused to sell him an ICBM that Elon finally ask himself, wait, what exactly is a rocket? This moved his thinking beyond the category of ‘rocket’, and as a result he discovered an enormous pool of potential leverage: the cost of rocket assembly can be much lower. Once SpaceX actually had orbital class rockets, the next lever they sought to uncover was reusability. Traditionally, rockets were a single-use technology. SpaceX figured out how to land rockets, and suddenly the amount of work a rocket can do was amplified because it can be used multiple times.. much like our little business owner who hires their first employee and amplifies their agency because now the amount of work that can be done in the name of their vision, multiplies. 

 

Whether it be reusing cheaply built rockets, or hiring an employee, or seeing a clothes hanger in the garbage, the point is that hidden levers exist all around us, and they are often hidden because of the way we see them. We see them not as levers, but by the names and the categories that culture has given us.

 

The resourceful person does not take the language given to us as the final word about what things are. The resourceful person looks at the elements of their situation and sees more than the traditional way of describing those elements. The resourceful person sees an entire imaginative territory for interpreting each element, like a child who can create a whole world of adventure out of the most mundane objects. This is the reason why we admire the creativity of children and bemoan our departure from childhood. That departure is an acceptance of the larger culture’s view of reality. The names and categories of things become static, and we fail to see things as anything other than what we’ve been told to see. 

 

Creative and innovative people are often described as iconoclast because resourcefulness requires a bit of rebellion against the way we are told to interpret the components of reality. For a cog in the system a van is always a van, and a a couch is always a couch. But this is not so for the creative and innovative person. A couch can be flipped end-on-end against a wall and turned into an impromptu ladder to reach a high (and annoying) fire alarm, and a van can be a sleeping space and a mobile office.

 

So what is in a name? 

 

A limited way of seeing the world. That’s what. Certainly it’s part of a highly effective and functional way of seeing the world, because names and categories allow us the ability to agree about what we’re seeing, but that solitary task handed to Adam from God pens in our imaginations just as much as it enables us to communicate and collaborate.

 

What does it mean when someone is called a “visionary”? It means they are seeing something the rest of us can’t see. They see something that’s apart from our common view of reality. They see hidden leverage. And more importantly, they are willing to see things as more than just the categories we place on them. Take Einstein for example. What was his profound realization? It boils down to the same thing. He realized that space and time might not be separate things. We have two words for them, and think about how those two words constrained our thinking about the concepts they represent. Einstein came up with spacetime, which is just space and time without the categorical border between them. And his famous formula E = mc2 ? Well here the same thing is happening again. The equation basically means that matter and energy are the same thing. C is a constant, in this case the speed of light, and m stands for mass. So Mass equals energy. Energy equals mass. This is a revelation that requires a deterioration of the borders of category, and look at the power that alteration of category created: years later that formula was put to use in the development of nuclear weapons and we literally turned mass into energy - a lot of it.

 

So what’s in name? Yesterday. The past. The traditional way of thinking and seeing.

 

The future and the innovations that lie hidden inside of tomorrow depend on the ability to see past a name and a category, to abandon the perspectives handed to us in order to see some kind of leverage no one has ever seen before.

 

But this also applies on a personal basis. Luck can be as simple as realizing that an opportunity has been hiding in plain sight, right in front of you, this whole time.


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MEDITATION DRAFT SESSION 9: STATE VS. TRAIT

January 16th, 2023

 

On Monday Tinkered Thinking releases a draft of a lesson from the forthcoming meditation app, currently called The Tinkered Mind (If you can think of a better name, please reach out. I'm not crazy about the current one, but I'll be damned if I let an imperfect name keep me from developing a good idea.) The rationale here is simply to stave off project stagnation by taking a wish to work with words on a daily basis (Tinkered Thinking Posts) and combine it with adjacent projects. This also gives regular readers a chance to get a preview of what I'm cooking up and to get feedback before the app launches, which is a tactic that has proved extremely useful with other projects unrelated to Tinkered Thinking. 

One further introductory note: The goal of this meditation app is predominantly aimed at helping individuals build a robust daily habit by breaking that habit down and tackling it's consitituent parts one at a time and aiding the process with a new and innovative way of tracking progress, the likes of which has not been seen in other meditation apps or habit tracking apps.

Again, if you have any feedback, please reach out via Twitter  

 

Session 9: State vs. Trait

 

Take a moment to sit and arrange your posture. Maintain a straight back with plenty of space for the abdomen to expand.

 

Once you’re ready begin breathing with deep exhales. We want a relatively quick inhale and a slow, longer exhale. I’ll count out a few 4 count inhales followed by exhales with a count of 8

 

 

Inhale till 4, starting on 

 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

 

hold for a moment and then exhale  

 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1

 

Then..

 

Inhale again till 4, starting on 

 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

 

hold for a moment and then exhale  

 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1

 

Continue this for a couple more breaths, and feel free to allow the exhales to be as long as you want. And once you are ready let your breathing transition to coherence breathing where inhales and exhales are the same length.

 

Even a few simple slow breaths is enough to alter our mental state. Long exhales slow down the heart rate, and these changes in the body in turn effect the mind. After a few breaths we feel a little more relaxed, a little calmer and clearer in thought. It’s because of this impact and the fact that breathing is so easily accessible by the conscious mind that it’s often a primary focus for meditation. We invoke the physical body in a certain way in order to have a particular effect on our mental experience.

 

But the mental state created by these changes in the body is just that: a state. The quality of calmness and clear thinking isn’t necessarily a trait of the person experiencing that state. But with a prolonged practice, these states can become personality traits.

 

After years of daily meditation, I consciously decided to take a break form the practice. The reasons behind this decision were numerous, but a key question I had was whether the practice was still having any kind of effect. Had I permanently changed as a person, or was the practice still having a real and necessary role in my mental life?

 

Another reason was to prepare for the composition of this very program of meditation. I felt there could be a lot of benefit starting again, much like a beginner, or a personal trainer who purposely gains a bunch of weight and then goes through the process that their clients go through by training the body in order to regain their previous physique. If the challenges of the beginner can be vividly experienced again, then there might be some benefit to the way this meditation program unfolds as it’s created.

 

The results of this experiment were fascinating. For almost five months I felt very much as though I’d been meditating daily the whole time. But after that five month mark, subtle changes started to roll back. 

 

The plan was to restart the practice after six months, but I didn’t manage to make that happen. It’s easy to say that life was busy and stressful, but in reality the habit was simply gone. It was no longer a daily reflex to sit and train the mind.

 

And the longer time went on, the more it seemed that my mental life was regressing, and the kinds of emotions and thoughts that started emerging were very reminiscent, if not identical to the sort of mental life I’d experienced previous to my years of meditation. 

 

Now this is of course just one person’s ancedote, and it would be great if a rigorous study of this kind existed, but this kind of “ancedata” is still quite powerful, especially since I’ve seen it replicated in other people.

 

Last year I reconnected with a friend who I had introduced to meditation. Before developing a practice this person had experienced tremendous anxiety and dealt with issues of anger and rage. About half a year of daily practice had improved these issues to an impressive and noticeable degree. But much later when we reconnected, I discovered this person had started taking medication for anxiety.

 

I asked about their meditation practice, and as it turned out, they had fallen out of the habit several months prior. In the same breath, this person commented that the should get back into it.

 

After a few fits and starts with trying to reinstall the meditation habit in my own life, I finally managed to make a dedicated and disciplined go of it. And once I had some momentum with the practice something else interesting seemed to occur. It was as though I was reliving my first  couple years of daily practice, the subtle milestones that I experienced during those first two years were arriving again but this time, much quicker. It wouldn’t be much benefit to try and describe these mental milestones at this point, but I believe it’s worth pointing out this part of the experience. If years of practice could be likened to a song, then it was as if I was hearing the opening melody and picking up the beat faster than when I learned it the first time. So even if practice sputters and stops, there does appear to be a lingering affect of the practice, and not only that, every session of practice compounds that effect. It’s my guess that these traits linger in proportion to how long a person has maintained a practice, but of course that’s just a hypothesis.

 

Regardless, the experiment was valuable mainly for that second reason - for becoming a beginner again and experiencing the same frustration that can arise when trying to start something new and failing to make it stick.

 

Installing a habit in your life is difficult. A fair amount of discipline is needed in the beginning to gain some momentum, but the interesting thing is that well established habits require virtually no discipline whatsoever. No one has to goad themselves into brushing their teeth, it just happens. And it’s because of that difficult initial period of installing a habit that this program has been designed to hopefully take away some of the strain by piecing the habit apart and tackling it in stages, and gain a little momentum while the mind can be preoccupied with the sort of content you’re listening to now.

 

So, in this last minute, again bring your attention to your posture, make sure the back is straight and note any difficulties you are having with the seated position. Simply thinking through the mechanics of where and how your body’s weight is or isn’t being supported can help you figure out nuances about how best to arrange your body for the practice. Feel free to do a quick body scan as we went through in the last session, imagining a sheet of light above you descend and trace a ring of attention down around your body…

 

Then, take a few slow deep breaths through the nose and reflect on how far you’ve already progressed with this habit. If you’re listening to this session then you’ve racked up a solid number of days, and already there’s a strong momentum gathering in your habit. This momentum will continue to grow with each day and each session, and it will be this behavioral foundation, this habit of taking time to sit, where we will have the space and the tools to experience new states of mind, and eventually work towards turning those states into traits that we carry with us into the rest of our life.

 

Let’s transition now from coherence breathing back to deep exhales, and try to notice any thoughts that pop up as we go through out counts.

 

Inhale till 4, starting on 

 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

 

hold for a moment and then exhale  

 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1

 

Then..

 

Inhale again till 4, starting on 

 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

 

hold for a moment and then exhale  

 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1

 

 

Continue like this for a few more moments while the session ends.


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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: TECHNO-SHUNT

January 15th, 2023

 

Even though he’d now known these parents for years, Lucilius held it together while delivering the news. He left them with that solemn prognosis and did not return to his office. He found a secluded stairwell where he sat and buried his face in his hands. Lucilius sobbed, the image of the child’s face torturing his mind, his understanding filling with fire the story he knew was playing out behind that child’s face, in the blood. It was quite a while before he was able to collect himself, and when he did he was grateful for that reflex of distraction: mindlessly grabbing for his phone.

 

An old friend had messaged him.

 

Boy do I have something to show you! Wanna stop by tonight or whenever your crazy shift is over?

 

Lucilius tapped to reply, an excuse already lined up to bail and delay any potential meeting for some other time. But he caught himself. Thinking about the stress he was under - the news he’d just delivered and that despite all his knowledge and research he was all out of answers. He was at the end of his rope and there was nothing he could do.

 

Be over soon, he responded.

 

Lucilius slipped the phone back into the pocket of his long white doctor’s coat and stood, gathering himself further. He reflected again about how unfair it all was.

 

“I need a drink,” he said out loud to himself before turning to go button up his department and leave.

 

When the apartment doors opened he saw a black sphere sitting in the center of the loft. Thousands of wires bound in a huge rope snaked across the floor from a computer and split off, each wire reaching up connecting to a different point on the sphere.

 

Lucilius slowly walked toward the black sphere, wondering what on earth his friend had done. Circling the sphere, looking at the different lights as they blinked, Lucilius guessed the enormous sphere to be nearly 9 feet in diameter. Luckily the loft apartment had high ceilings.

 

Suddenly a strange shifting sound emanated from deep within the sphere and then a loud click. The top half of the sphere spun about half a foot and then the sphere cracked, the top half lifting, the wires bound to that hemisphere pulling their slack from the floor around the base. 

 

Lucilius bent over to look inside and saw a man’s torso. The man bent and looked at Lucilius.

 

“Lucy, you made it!”

 

“What on earth…” Lucilius barely muttered as he watched his friend spread curtain of wires and gingerly step through and out from the narrow opening.

 

It looked like the man was wearing a pair of cycling shorts. Lucilius just shook his head, confused.

 

“You gotta try this out. Hold on, let me get you a fresh pair.”

 

Minutes later, Lucilius was crawling into the split sphere wearing just some cycling shorts.

 

“It’s better naked, but whatever.”

 

Lucilius gave his friend a strange and skeptical look. “Exactly WHAT is better?”

 

His friend simply wore a wide smile. 

 

“You’ll see.”

 

The ring of light around Lucilius began to shrink until it blinked out of existence and he was in complete darkness.

 

When the dark sphere finally split again nearly an hour later, Lucilius was in an amazed state of shock.

 

The face of his smiling friend was nodding in the ring of light where the sphere had split again.

 

“What did I tell you?!?!”

 

“Wha… how… This is incredible… What just happened?” Lucilius barely muttered, astonished, as he regained his bearings and crawled out through the parted curtain of wires his friend held aloft.

 

During that hour, Lucilius had been transported to another world. He’d certainly played video games before, but this was on an entirely different order of magnitude. He had actually been there, and now that he returned, he was under the impression that his body had been actually transported to the world he’d visited. The smells, the heat of the sun, the feeling of the grass between his toes as he walked around and down to the beach. The weightlessness as he’d gone swimming. His skin had been still damp when he was transported back but now he was dry, as though nothing had ever happened.

 

“Ok, explain it to me. Now!” Lucilius said.

 

His friend laughed with an extreme delight.

 

“Can you guess?”

 

Lucilius looked back at the dark sphere. “I mean it truly was like I teleported to another reality, but if I had to guess… I don’t think I actually left the sphere, nor this room.”

 

His friend nodded. But Lucilius shook his head. “I have no idea how this thing works. It just seems unlikely that you teleported me to a place I can’t identify.”

 

“The actual reality was just something that I generated with a Chaotic Diffusion Model. Nothing special there. That’s what they’ve been doing with all video games since Stable Diffusion got the Chaotic upgrade last year.”

 

“Ok…” Lucilius said. He was marginally aware of what was happening in the AI generated space and new that breakthroughs were happening all the time.  

 

“Wait, so, you’re saying that entire experience was AI generated?”

 

“Yep?”

 

“But… it’s more than the video game stuff. It’s not just a visual and spatial world, I could smell things, and touch them, and there was heat and cold and I even pulled at a few blades of grass and chewed on them because I just couldn’t believe how real everything was, but against all reason.. I mean.. even the grass tasted like grass. How… how does that happen with a Chaotic Diffusion Model that people have been using to just generate the visuals for video games?”

 

“It’s the sphere man.”

 

“The sphere? What the heck is it?”

 

His friend smiled. “The sphere generates a plasma that fills all the space between you and the inside edge of the sphere, and based on the world generated by the Chaotic Diffusion Model, the plasma will reconfigure to support and interact with your body.”

 

“Support and interact? What on earth does that mean.”

 

“So when you went swimming… you went swimming right?”

 

“Yea.”

 

“Your body was actually making those movements. The plasma gets denser where you see water in proximity to your body, and when you were actually swimming, your body was actually making those movements inside the sphere, but the plasma move in accordance to your movement in the simulation. Or rather the plasma reconfigured in accordance to physical changes in the simulation so you’re body actually feels it. Heat, cold, texture, even light, the plasma is reconfigured for all of it.”

 

“Light? Wait are you saying that it generated all the light I was seeing?”

 

“Yes, but it’s optimized just around your eyes. 99% of the sphere is dark but there are two hemispheres cupped around each of your eyes where the plasma generates light. And of course heat and texture, hence the feeling of sea water on your eyeballs when you open your eyes under water.”

 

“Holy….this is… crazy.”

 

“Well a lot of it has to do with my advanced access to Chaotic Models. The publicly available models can’t generate much beyond the visual spatial world. But the one I’m using is cutting edge since I’ve been developing the plasma sphere.”

 

Lucilius thought for a moment. “Wait, that was a pretty basic world. How fast does the Chaotic Model generate?”

 

“Oh it only takes a few seconds. I actually figured out a way to make it make further renderings based on what the person inside the sphere does.”

 

“Can I try to design a different Chaotic Model?”

 

“Oh for sure, it’s pretty wild what you can do with it. Just over here, type whatever.”

 

An idea has pierced Lucilius’ mind, and the single-minded determination that dominated most of his working life had come alive. He rushed to the computer and started typing away. His friend looked over his shoulder, brow furrowed until it went soft and his eyebrows lifted.

 

“Whoah, what?”

 

“Oh yes,” Lucilius said. He stood up from the computer having generated the model and walked back toward the sphere.

 

“Are you sure you…”

 

“-Yep, I have an idea how this might help my work.”

 

“Lucilius, it’s not tested for that kind of - “

 

“-I don’t care. I’m out of options. Fire it up.” Lucilius said as he crawled back into the dark sphere.

 

“Are you sure you’ll be ok? This is a…I haven’t tested it for anything like this.”

 

“Punch it.”

 

His friend turned back to the computer and with a few keystrokes the sphere began to contract, the ring of light shrinking until it blinked into darkness.

 

The next day, Lucilius knocked on the front door of a house he’d never seen before. The door opened and a woman was started to see him.

 

“Oh, uh, doctor! Um what are you doing here- - I’m sorry, please come in,” she said, swinging the door wider for Lucilius to enter.

 

About half an hour later, with the child safely out of ear shot, the parents finally understood what Lucilius was trying to say.

 

“A.. mystical experience? But a placebo?” The mother said.

 

Lucilius nodded. “I know, I know it sound like pure fantasy. And I cannot promise that it has even the slightest chance of having any effect, but as you both know - painfully - we’ve tried absolutely everything, and despite how fast modern medicine is progressing and how powerful it is, we simply won’t have a cure for this any time soon and when tested against any drug that hasn’t proved to be a complete cure, placebo still works better. As amazing as that fact is, and this kind of experience could induce a placebo-like response. Your child is still young enough where the realms of the real and the realm of the imagination are still blurry enough that he might. Just. Truly. Believe it. But in order for this to work I need to do some very unorthodox things. He’ll need to be sedated, transported, and all of this is not within the scope of my medical license, but I of course I don’t care. If you understand and you’re willing to try…”

 

The parents looked at each other and then back at Lucilius. “Yes, of course we’ll try anything,” the Father said. “We’ve trusted you completely, and we’ll trust you till the end.”

 

“If this works, there won’t be an end,” Lucilius said.

 

Several days later the sedated boy was placed within the dark sphere, and it slid shut. The parents held each other as they watched it close.

 

Lucilius had spent the intervening time working on the Chaotic Diffusion model, designing it, fine tuning it with the help of his friend.

 

“Are you sure the boy will wake up?”

 

“Of course, general anesthesia has come a long way in the last two years. It’d been fully vetted. He’ll wake up in exactly…” Lucilius checked the count down on his phone, “almost exactly 2 minutes. And he’ll fall back under in exactly 62 minutes.”

 

“Ok,” his friend said. “Well, let’s see how well this experience that you designed… works.”

 

Although Lucilius was now working as a medical doctor and researcher, he had spent years studying the varieties of religious experience. It had been a hobby of his for many years before he’d decided to become a doctor and he was quite well versed in the kinds of perspectives and experiences that people had prior to the rise of scientific rationalism. For all it’s tremendous advances, there was still something within the human mind that contained a strength and a power that could not rival medicines that were short of cures. Lucilius knew this on a truly deep level, and he had designed a tremendous experience for his young patient, one that explored every facet of mystical experience Lucilius was acquainted with. He’d not just read and researched the topic. Lucilius came from a very old tradition of experience, and he drew upon this deep memory to design an experience that would reach deep down into the very core of what made the boy human, and shake it. It was vital the boy would be convinced it was real, hence the need for timed anesthesia. The boy would wake up in a world that he recognized, his room with his parents, and then it would slowly, effortlessly transform into something Lucilius truly hoped might reach into the deepest recesses of the boys brain, with the aim of triggering the body’s most far-reaching powers. There was just so much that Lucilius knew science had yet to uncover. He knew that a cure for the boy’s condition was perhaps only years away given the incredible advancement of medical knowledge using machine learning. But it was still a couple years away, and the boy Lucilius raged to save had mere weeks at best. Lucilius knew this. The parents knew this. And with no hope in any of the traditional nor cutting edge solutions that Lucilius had tried, there was nothing to loose. It was a hoax, but Lucilius knew that a hoaxed believed with the power of a human mind behind it could alter the reality of that boy’s body.

 

“It’s going to start in 10 seconds,” Lucilius’ friend stated.

 

“You have readings on body position, right?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Ten seconds later, Lucilius’ friend stated. “The boy has woken up. Its starting.”


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