Center Activities
COSMIC  VISIONS'  FAQs
Cosmic Visions
Humboldt State University
 
Dr. Stone Brusca

F.A.Q.s:  Frequently Asked Questions
about the Cosmic Visions Workshop

 

As I noted in the link, I'm thinking that some of the folks who come to this page are concerned about some issues they need resolved before they can make a decision about the workshop.  I'm assuming that these folks will appreciate me being dead serious in addressing their concerns.  For that reason, I've squashed (temporarily) my artistic and playful selves as I write this.  So . . . black and white, no images.  (I *am* listening to some super music as I write this, but you can't stop me from doing that . . . just imagine dead silence if you like.)

This section is easy for me -- people ask me questions all the time, so I just noted the most common questions I've gotten about this workshop.  If you want to rapidly cruise them and find the ones relevant to you, I noted a few key words in blue.

 

If you feel like these questions come from a bewildering array of angles,
pulling a person first one way and then completely the opposite . . .
these are just typical of the sorts of questions I get -- welcome to dealing with the public
!

 

QUESTION:  "I HAVE A PRIOR COMMITMENT FOR ONE OF THE FOUR WORKSHOP SUNDAYS.  CAN I SIGN UP AND JUST ATTEND THREE OUT OF THE FOUR AFTERNOONS?"

Partial attendance won't work.  The whole workshop is an organic whole -- each piece depends on the pieces before it, and the whole thing gets tied together at the end.  You really need to attend all or nothing.  Only pay the fee and attend if you are sure you'll come to the entire enchilada.  I'm very serious about this -- it wrecks the group energy to have people skipping.  Also, this workshop fills up, so when you enroll you are keeping someone else out who is ready and willing to attend the entire 4 afternoons.  If you cannot make any portion, then do not enroll -- just consider signing up for my entire workshop at some other point in the year.  Please understand how dead serious I am about this -- it is a big deal.

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QUESTION:  "CAN I JUST SIT IN ON THIS WORKSHOP WITHOUT PAYING THE FEES?" 

My Response:  I'm not into fascism, but my answer on this one is also going to be quite hard-ass --  I hope you feel compassion for my situation.  The answer is NO, NYET, and NUNCA.  Center Activities is being nice to me -- getting me a lecture room, a Power Point projector, giving me a structure to teach in.  The only thing they ask of me is that I don't break things and that I don't undermine their fee structure -- that I look them right in the face and honestly promise them that I will only let in folks who have paid their fee.  They have overhead costs that need to be met, so I understand their plight, and I will completely fulfill their request.  

It's easy for me to enforce this without worrying if I'm partially motivated by greed.  You see, I'm not accepting any money for teaching this workshop.  Even though I explicitly asked for zero, because of some bureaucratic legalities Center Activities has a fee structure which they insist on paying me;  but I'm using every bit of money given to me to fund various needed workshop expenditures.  If any remains, I will be donating it to causes which I feel most closely jives with the themes of this workshop.  I'm committed to not ending up with one dollar.  I honestly believe that you folks can have powerfully mystical experiences in Nature if you conscientiously use what you gain in this workshop;  mixing money with this is, to me, not right.   I want to see the human species evolve, I don't care about the goofy green bits of paper that so many people think are a big deal. 

My ending up with zero means the fee for this workshop is rather absurdly low (for 20 hours of lecture and Q&A, as well as the website), so please pay Center Activities the little that they need.  If you don't have the green bits of paper to pay Center Activities, then the local farmers need help and they will give you the needed green bits of paper while you get to enjoy helping plants grow.

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QUESTION:  "I'M WORRIED THAT THIS WORKSHOP WILL BE TOO HARD CORE.  THE MAIN IDEA SEEMS INTRIGUING, BUT 17 HOURS OF SCIENCE SEEMS LIKE AN AWFUL LOT.  I'M NOT MUCH INTO SCIENCE AND I DON'T WANT SOME OLD FART STANDING UP AT THE FRONT OF THE ROOM SPOUTING OFF MATH AND SCIENCE JARGON ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON WHEN I COULD BE DOING OTHER THINGS THAT I LOVE."

My Response:  Hmmmm . . . there are several points here, I'll try to cover each as carefully as I can, so you get a good feel for whether or not you'll enjoy the workshop.

First, it seems like what you're fearing is the image of your worst science teacher ever, boring you to tears for endless hours of excruciatingly horrible stuff that no one in their right mind would ever care about (hey, it sometimes happened to me also, when I was in school).  This workshop is NOT that.  Let's take Nova on PBS as an example of a non-boring science presentation.  Do you ever watch science stuff on Nova?  Do you find it interesting?   If your answer is that you are just not particularly interested in science so you would never watch such a thing, then definitely you'll want to run away from this workshop.

If, instead, you really dig seeing science done in such a way that it's not full of jargon, but that is done with a lot of knowledge, love, and care so it is evident to you that you are understanding the real deal, then this workshop might be a good fit for you.

As to the level of science, if you like and follow science on Nova, and if you have ever at least started college, then you are ready for this workshop.  Oh, it will get deeper into science than Nova has ever gotten, but I will ease you into that.

Second, as to the 17 hours of science.  I am crazily in love with a scientific view of reality -- a view that I rarely see portrayed in our media.  So, if it were up to me, I'd keep going for 17,000 hours.  But no one is going to come for that -- heck, after 1,000 hours even my dog walks away from me talking about science.

I created a workshop containing 17 hours of science, because that was sufficient time to present a coherent picture that has the distinct potential to completely blow the minds of folks in attendance (you'll see).  After 17 science-hours you'll be ready to change your perspective on your existence.  I am well aware that having it listed as a workshop with 17 classroom hours of pure science, automatically eliminates 90% of the people who look at the description.  But that is a *good* thing -- I am looking for people who feel that they *want* to learn 17 science-hours, if it is presented passionately and with a pervading sense of wonder.

Actually, 17 hours is just our science time in the classroom.  Remember I will also be putting up a massive website, available to all students enrolled in the workshop.  It will be devoted to making our lecture ideas more complete, and allowing you to soak these ideas up at your own leisure.  You will be "assigned" ~ several hours total of viewing certain "1st Priority" webpages in the days between workshop-Sundays, but there will be enough images on the rest of the site to keep you captive for many more hours if you love outrageously beautiful images of Nature.  If your interest in science is so scant that you'll barely be able to keep alive in the 17 hours of classroom science, then there's a danger that you won't take advantage of the website (remember it is a science website).  If you miss the website experience you will be missing a significant portion of what this workshop offers.  So if you are super-wary of the amount of science you'll be exposing yourself to, then perhaps you should listen to your inner voice and run away from this workshop.

For those of you who do want to drink up the good science but you have a small bladder, don't worry about the 5-hour sessions in that regard.  We'll have two breaks so people can stand up and get their blood circulating and their pee flowing.

Lastly, as to math.  I taught Science G.E. at HSU for many eons.  I totally get it -- that many people, as far as math goes, are the walking wounded.  Many folks had some emotionally awful experience with math in grade school.  I'm a physicist and so I am wildly in love with math; moreover my hope is that maybe someday you might even consider exploring some of the wonders of math.  But that is someday, not in this workshop.  I won't be using any sort of math other than spouting out some interesting numbers.  That's right, no algebra, geometry, trig, integral calculus, complex variables, differential equations, etc. (I don't even care if you know what all those goofy words mean).

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QUESTION:  "I'M WORRIED THAT THIS WORKSHOP WILL NOT BE HARD CORE ENOUGH.  CAN'T YOU PUT SOME EQUATIONS IN IT?  ALSO, SINCE I KNOW SCIENCE IS BASED SOLELY ON EVIDENCE, I CERTAINLY WANT TO SEE ALL THE HARD-CORE DETAILS OF EXPERIMENTS WHICH SUPPORT THE SCIENCE YOU GET INTO."

 

My Response:  No, I definitely won't have any equations in it.  If I were new at this I would thus be afraid that my qualitative approach would drive off folks who were in the more rigorous sciences.  However, so far I have had three of my ex-G.E. students become physics majors and go on to get PhD's in physics (two at Brown University and one at M.I.T. -- very top-flight Universities).  All three have come back and visited and sat in my classes again.  Each of those three claims that my qualitative course taught them more Physics, and science in general, than they learned in any of their undergraduate and graduate physics courses.   This actually makes sense to me because dropping all quantitative details we can dive directly into the central, incredible, findings of cutting-edge science.

After these three PhDs' comments, and also reactions from many more who have pursued hard-core science degrees, I am confident that there is much to be gained by hard-core science people in experiencing this qualitative workshop.   (Oh, don't get me wrong, there are a zillion workshops out there that do qualitative *pseudo*-science -- proclaiming ideas that have no basis in objective experimental verification.  Those are indeed a waste of time, in my opinion.  Here, instead, we are discussing *this* workshop that qualitatively gives key findings of cutting-edge, experimentally-determined science.)  

If you are a hard-science major and you have feelings of wanting to stick your nose up in the air when you hear about this qualitative science workshop, I would suggest that you examine your mind carefully.  Look to see if there are any fear issues coming up, perhaps a fear that you are in a special science-club with very restricted membership.  Perhaps you resent your esoteric knowledge being proclaimed to the public?  I don't know, but I suggest you work on this issue.

Your other point concerning evidence is extremely well-taken.   In our 17 hours devoted to scientifically describing the entire Universe, all we will have time for is the coolest scientific *results.*  We will have no time to go over the massive evidence that exists for each and every sentence I'll be speaking in the workshop.  Moreover I won't have time to show you the scientific process -- where one gets seemingly puzzling experimental results, then one continually refines ones experiments, makes new hypotheses, and finally gets a sense of how Our Universe works.  It's the most effective way for us humans to try to get a handle on what is actually happening out there in the objective world.  But, again, in 17 hours we can't get into that at all.  I feel terrible about that, but time doesn't allow it.

For example, one of my G.E. classes explored the processes in the Big Bang.   We spent the entire semester, 15 weeks, with my students and I meeting for 5 - 7 hours per week, and we were barely able to sample and comprehend the huge mountain of evidence for our current understanding of Big Bang Cosmology.  Moreover, this workshop covers a wide range of big subjects, with the Big Bang being only one out of dozens.  There is no way we have the time to even lightly scan the evidence for all these findings in this tiny 17-hour workshop.

So I understand very well if you are totally saddened by the fact that I can't present all the evidence.  I even understand if it means that you won't be taking the workshop.  The evidence is rather complex, but if you are interested, then I highly suggest you pursue it on your own.  For example, if you want to know some of the evidence for the Big Bang, go to the HSU bookstore and buy the textbook for one of the upper division astronomy courses that includes cosmology.

 

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QUESTION:  "I KNOW THAT CRYSTALS GIVE OFF HEALING ENERGY, THAT ASTROLOGY PREDICTS HUMAN BEHAVIOR, THAT SOME PEOPLE CAN LEVITATE, THAT PEOPLE HAVE AURAS, THAT WATER FREEZES IN DIFFERENT PATTERNS DEPENDING ON WHAT PEOPLE NEAR IT ARE THINKING, THAT I CAN ONLY BE PHYSICALLY INJURED IF MY MIND ATTRACTS SUCH INJURY, THAT ALIENS ARE STICKING ANAL PROBES IN CATTLE AND PEOPLE, THAT THERE ARE ANGELS AND SPIRITS CRUISING AROUND CHANELLING AND DOING THINGS TO US, THAT THE ASTEROID APOPHIS IS CERTAINLY GOING TO DESTROY EARTH IN 2029, AND THAT IN 2012 WE WE ALLIGN WITH THE CENTER OF THE GALAXY AND THIS WILL RESULT IN AN APOCALYPSE.  THERE IS ABUNDANT EVIDENCE FOR ALL OF THESE CONCEPTS, IT'S JUST SUPPRESSED BY THE MAINSTREAM SCIENTISTS.  ARE YOU GOING TO COVER ANY OF THIS COOL NEW-AGE STUFF IN YOUR WORKSHOP?"

My Response:  I want to handle this with care.  Being a G.E. teacher at Humboldt for so many years, and getting a reputation as someone who can sit and *listen* to folks and their beliefs without belittling them -- I've had a fairly endless line of people who believe such stuff show up in my office hours.  Altogether, over the years, literally thousands of them -- no kidding.  I have three distinct main points to make here:

1)  Science is the process of open-mindedly examining all phenomena, and then skeptically demanding that such phenomena are verifiable with experiments.  If anyone comes up to me and tells me that their concept is unmeasurable by science, then I simply bow to them, showing my respect for their humanness, and then I literally have nothing to say.  (My left brain doesn't believe their concept, because my left-brain knows that the only chance it has to grok the objective world is through evidence, but I have nothing to say to these other people who want to base their belief systems on unverifiable stuff.  It's their prerogative.)

2)  In all the examples in the above question, experiments *can* be done by objective people imposing rigorous testing procedures.  Despite the *thousands* of books and internet articles claiming that such things have been verified, they most decidedly HAVE MISERABLY FAILED EACH SUCH OBJECTIVE TEST.  None of them are verified scientific results and so I won't be mentioning any of them in my workshop.

3)   (now I get a chance to be positive) . . . What I have noticed with most of these folks who carry around these beliefs, is that they have a very wonderfully strong yearning in their heart to be connected in some very special way with their Universe.  They intuit (correctly) that there is something that has not been told to them about their natural connections.  Also, they have a super hunger for feelings of wonder and awe about existence on this planet and in the Universe. 

They also have a wariness about establishment concepts, they see how there are aspects of the mainstream American medical establishment that have steered down an unnatural path under the banner of science.  (In actual fact, despite advertising that they are at all times scientifically motivated, the American Medical Association's biases are at times clearly at variance with science).  These hungry folks see that governments have taken some of our knowledge of physics and made nuclear weapons.  And so these people are understandably very wary of mainstream concepts.  Well, I emphatically share all these concerns, but I also can read the literature and clearly see that a wealth of new-age beliefs are simply not holding up to the light of objective experiments.

So, what might you do?   I see two choices:  (1) conclude that I am just a brain-washed establishment scientist trying to suppress the truth, or (2) just maybe realize that you are totally *correct* that awesome connections exist between you and your Universe, but these connections come from verifiable physics, chemistry, and biology, and maybe you've just never heard someone, who knows the science game, open the lid for you to see the wonder of it all.

Just so we end this section on a lighter note, check out New Age Talk (then remember to hit your "back button" to come back).  This woman is very smart, fun and talented. (Full disclosure:  I eat chlorella and spirulina, don't eat soy, always eat organic, detest chem trails, faithfully read Eckart Tolle, meditate, and do Quantum Physics;  I've also have worn a feather crimped into my hair.   Gosh, should I be worried??)

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QUESTION:  "I KNOW THE UNIVERSE NEVER HAD A BIG BANG, BUT INSTEAD IT WAS CREATED IN A PERIOD OF SIX DAYS -- AND THAT GENESIS HAPPENED A FEW THOUSAND YEARS AGO.  MOREOVER I KNOW THAT EVOLUTION IS NOT A FACT.  SO I SURE HOPE YOU DON'T MENTION NON-BIBLICAL WORDS LIKE 'BIG BANG' OR 'EVOLUTION' IN YOUR WORKSHOP."

My Response:  People of all sorts of religious and philosophical persuasions study modern astrophysics and cosmology.  Even though the scientific explanation of the Genesis of Our Universe is quite clear (it naturally follows from the principles of Modern Physics we observe in labs today), still the BIG questions remain (e.g. Why are there such principles?  Did some Being or Divine Force set up such principles?, etc).  We stick to the science in our workshop.  It’s true that our topics strongly invite people to ponder the big philosophical/religious questions, but people come up with a huge range of answers from their own inner search – it’s not my business to intrude in this inner quest.  (Indeed, how could I possibly intrude?  I don’t have an answer to my BIG questions, never mind an answer to your BIG questions!)

About the only people I could see this workshop offending would be the small fraction of Christians who are extreme fundamentalists -- who are angered by anyone thinking that the Bible is an allegorical account, and who are angered by anyone thinking that the Universe did not go from {nothing/nada} to {Eve, Adam, fig leaves, Galaxies, dolphins, dinosaurs, banana slugs, and all that} in a total of 6 twenty-four hour periods.  They get quite mad when I speak of the Big Bang and evolution as *facts.*

I think it would be best to be fairly blunt in my answer to this question -- I've found that if I answer more gently, this is sometimes interpreted as an invitation to the questioner to attempt to badger me into their position.

Would it help you if I told you that we have taken *photos* of the Big Bang?  Not computer simulations, not artists conceptions, I mean *photos* of the actual fireball of the Big Bang (I constructed a webpage of such photos -- if you enroll in the workshop and read the "Spirituality and Nature" topic, you'll see it).  The Big Bang is a fact, it's just as factual as the existence of the air you are breathing.  Do you know that we watch evolution in the lab?  Do you know that dog breeders use evolution constantly in their profession?  Do you know that there does NOT exist some supposed embarrassing gap in the evolutionary fossil record?  That our present species came about through evolution is a fact, it's just as factual as the existence of the food you eat.

I was intrigued by the recent 5-week trial involving the Dover Pennsylvania School District.  The School District's Board had declared that Intelligent Design should be presented in classes.  To justify their decision in court, the Board (aided by unlimited funds and experts from national fundamentalist foundations) sought to prove in court that evolution was flawed and thus Intelligent Design should also be taught as an alternative.  The judge, a George W. Bush appointee and a Lutheran, carefully listened as the top experts in Intelligent Design attempted to show gaping holes in evolution.  Their arguments were then addressed by some of the leading experts in evolution.  After these presentations, the judge issued a scathing 139 page decision stating that:   "The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial."  This bears repeating so we are crystal clear on this point -- for 5 weeks the leading Intelligent Design people spent an enormous amount of money bringing in their most convincing "experts" to present a case that there were glaring problems with evolution -- so Intelligent Design theory was needed as an alternative rational explanation of the Genesis of Our Universe.  After all this testimony the judge, who was *not* biased against their case, ruled that not only was their case without merit, but that it was INANE.

In fact, there is overwhelming physical evidence that Our Universe is nearly 14 Billion years old, that our Earth is 4.5 Billion years old, and that the diverse life-forms on our planet evolved from very simple organisms which first existed on Earth over 3.5 Billion years ago.  It is extraordinarily clear that a *literal* interpretation of the bible's explanation of Genesis is wrong.  Our Universe did not arise in six 24 hour periods.  I have no argument with those who believe that the Bible is a rich *allegorical* account of how humans and banana slugs and redwood trees got here.  I have nothing but respect for any Christian whose intent is to live the central message of Jesus of Nazareth, and I have nothing but respect for all other religious beliefs that don't involve hatred of others.  But I'm perplexed by the literal-interpretation-of-the-Bible crowd.  I understand that the literalists think the bible has been channeled directly from a god-being and that each and every word is infallible truth, but aren't there some enormous problems with this position?

For example, examining other passages in the bible, do the literalists honestly think that it is wrong to eat shrimp or crab (Deut. 114:10), or that handicapped or disfigured worshipers must be barred from churches (Lev. 21:17), or that it is morally wrong to yoke an ass and an ox together (Deut 22:10), or that one has sinned by eating uncircumcised fruit (Lev. 19:23)??  If not, then why do they seize on the Genesis account as something that should be strictly believed by people in the 21st century?  

Or let's review the well-known story in Genesis of Noah (which was actually derived from the Babylonian myth of Uta-Napisthim and also known from the older mythologies of several cultures).  Do the literalists truly believe that each sentence in the biblical account is infallibly and literally true?  Their god-being killed every human on Earth, except for one family?  Killed *every* human, including multitudes of innocent children?  And also killed all the innocent animals except the ones on the arc?  That is the infallible, literally-true account of how this god-being acts?  Of course, theologians will protest that we don't take the accounts like this literally any more. But that is the point!  If you believe we must fully accept the 6-day accounting of Genesis because it was described in the bible, then you can't pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, and which bits to write off as symbols or allegories.

The early chapters of Genesis painted a monotheistic theme on a background that compares closely with early creation legends from other cultures, especially ancient Eastern cultures.  The writers of Genesis thought the world was flat;  they had no concept about the true nature of stars, nor did they know of the existence of galaxies, atoms, and quantum mechanics.  In other words, they had utterly no concept of the true nature of deep physical reality.  Does it make any sense for us 21st-century humans to take their cosmological writings as an accurate portrayal of the physical events that transpired, rather than as an *allegorical* account of the emergence of our physical plane of existence?



( . . . deep breath . . . ) . . .  As you can see, I just don't get it.

 

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QUESTION:  "I AM GOING TO LOVE ALL THE SCIENCE IN THIS WORKSHOP, BUT I DO NOT WANT YOU TO GET INTO VISUALIZATION EXERCISES.  I THINK THAT'S SUCH A WASTE OF TIME, LET ME JUST HAVE THE GOOD SCIENCE."

My Response:  I think the aspect of mind that is analytical, often referred to as the left-brain mind, is really wonderful and useful.  Early humans would have all just been breakfast for saber-tooth tigers if it weren't for our useful analytical mind.  It's a great tool.  I bet you have an analytical mind that you use a lot.

But have you ever noticed how wonderful it is to have a vacation sometimes -- I mean a vacation in which you allow your analytical mind to rest for awhile?  Maybe it happens when you travel to a distant place, or maybe it happens in a 1-hour vacation when you go for a run in the woods.  Note how the vacation allows your analytic mind to get refreshed and thus become an even better tool for your use.

These visualization exercises, and perspective-shift exercises we will do, are a vital and refreshing vacation for your analytic mind.  You will find that you will come back, after a few minutes, able to nicely use your analytic mind -- if you choose to do so.

The vacation idea is important, but there is an even more vital reason to use other parts of your brain.  Analysis is fine in its place, but life consists of much more than that.  You consist of much more than that.  The analytic mind is not the tool to use to appreciate the power of music, or the primal power of an overwhelming thunderstorm.  The analytic mind is not the only tool to use to make a long-term love relationship work.  Nor is it the right tool to enjoy sex, or sports, or mystical experiences.  In fact, the major juice of life flows into us from other parts of our brain.

If you only regard yourself as a hammer, then all you see in life are nails.  Instead, if you realize that you have a hammer as one of your tools, then you are free to see whatever life presents to you.   If you over-identify with your analytic mind, you will miss some very wonderful aspects of life.

In this workshop we will spend major amounts of time on science, but then always proceed to spend time developing the non-analytic, the non-dual, the mystical aspect of our mind.  If your image of self is tightly wrapped up in your analytic mind, you need not fear that I will be inducing you to lose your self.  Our point is not to have you go into a mystical trance for the rest of your life.  Instead, our goal is to make the non-dual aspect of your mind available to you -- at moments when you want it and need it.  You will still possess your fine analytic mind, it will be available on command.  We can then include and transcend both the relative and absolute aspects of mind, to become a more fully functional human being.

In actual fact, we will not be having sessions during my lectures where I softly murmur slow visualization phrases, while everyone goes on their visualization journey.  (I would *like* for us to do this as a group, but I have *way* too much material to present in our three sessions for us to have the time for it, and -- more importantly -- I think I am utterly incapable of softly, slowly murmuring.  [You will understand this once you hear my 300 words/minute lecturing style!].  However, our workshop will indeed include substantial visualization work -- it is described and assigned numerous times in our web material.]   It is a very important component of our overall workshop experience.

 

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QUESTION:  "IF YOU WANT TO GET PEOPLE INTO MORE INTENSE NATURE EXPERIENCES, THEN THIS WORKSHOP WHICH WILL SPEND 95% OF ITS TIME TEACHING SCIENCE, IS THE WRONG WAY TO GO.  INSTEAD YOU SHOULD BE GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR LEFT-BRAIN.  DON'T YOU AGREE?"

My Response:  Certainly my greatest hope in this workshop is to encourage people to get more into Nature, and through this bond to get more in tune with themselves.  But can I truly portray the avenue of thinking, of understanding natural phenomena, as a valid means to do this?  Am I encouraging this avenue simply because I am an astrophysicist and that's what I was trained to do?  Would my students be truly better served by pursuing other ways of bonding to Nature?

I honestly, and strongly feel that this workshop can help its participants get more deeply into Nature, even though I will be spending the large majority of our time appealing to their left brain.

I have observed that, unfortunately, most humans’ range of perception of Nature and reality is narrow, and this range narrows further over time.  I would propose that widening our means of perception makes for a more balanced, healthy life.  There are countless ways to describe the human experience;  let me organize my thoughts here along the same lines as Gurdjieff:
-- that humans seem to have three natural rivers that flow within them:
--> a natural curiosity and desire to think (use of the rational left-brain);
--> a natural desire of the body to move -- to sweat, to breathe fully, to dance;
--> a natural emotional river -- the desire to feel deeply, to cry out, to feel joy.

Many folks have gotten into a pattern of mechanically dealing with Nature (e.g. for many car drivers, when they notice the last colored rays of a sunset, their sole reaction is to turn on their headlights in anticipation of darkness).  They perhaps have never felt the excitement of *understanding* the natural phenomena around them.  Such an understanding could entice them into entirely different avenues of appreciation.  Stimulating the thinking river's connection to Nature can lead to an opening up of the senses, especially in the context of our workshop where we follow up with visualizations and directed perception shifts.  One can then more deeply feel and appreciate the power and beauty of what lies around us.  

Most people do not have a good rational sense of the relationship they have to the trees, the aliveness of their planet, nor the basic structure of their Universe.  Such knowledge can be transformational. Here's a quote I like:  

“The Ultimate Picture that People Form
of Their World and Their Universe,
is Their Most Fundamental Possession.  
It is the Decisive Factor in All Thinking.”
-- E.A. Burtt

Your wariness has some validity, however.  Quite frankly, to those who presently deal with Nature solely through their rational left-brain (e.g. I know some people in physics whose sole relationship to Nature is staring at equations and maneuvering around lab equipment, they almost never go outside!), then I would strongly encourage such a person to NOT begin this workshop at this moment.  Instead I would hope that they leave right now to go run in the woods -- run until they are breathless, and out of thoughts -- just flowing with their movement river.  Or get right in a thunderstorm when the lightning is exploding all around them. Or stand at Wedding Rock when 18 foot swells are smashing it.  Or go into the Humboldt forests when we are having a windstorm and the trees are bending and cracking all around them.  Feel the Energy around them, feel the primal emotions within them.  THEN they are ready for our workshop.

All three of our rivers yearn to be strong, and each enriches our life when all three are in balance.  I have joyfully taken as my profession helping predominantly non-science folks in their quest to understand Nature, and this is part of what I shall be doing in this workshop.  My hope is that through the river of understanding, we will re-awaken to Nature's dance;  and this re-awakening will strengthen my students’ quest to make the other two rivers run just as strong and deep within them.  The visualization exercises we will be doing, the images I will be presenting, and the perspective shifts we will be practicing, will all strongly encourage participants to not just soak up the good knowledge, but deeply FEEL the underlying messages . . .  to feel the other aspects of their self that lie undiscovered.

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QUESTION:  "WHY ARE WE HAVING THIS WORKSHOP IN A CLASSROOM INSTEAD OF GOING OUT INTO NATURE?"

My Response:  Great question.  Theoretically, your idea seems so appropriate and utterly ideal.  I definitely have tried this sort of thing many times outside.  The problem is that the reality often does not match the theoretical.  You are completely correct that our workshop's goal is for the participants to go out into Nature, but it gets to be a logistical nightmare if I try to make the workshop outside (weather, transportation, people hearing me in a group outside, lack of visual aids and writing, etc.)   Oh, I've had a few totally wonderful viewing sessions out in Nature, but more often significant problems arise.  This workshop is so precious to me that I am reluctant to gamble.  I'm concerned enough that our Power Point projector make it through all the images I want to show.  Gambling on Humboldt County weather, getting everyone together smoothly, making myself heard outdoors without my acting like a nazi, . . . it is more than I am comfortable with.

Another aspect is that I'm hoping that folks regard their use of these ideas, as they dance with Nature, with some sense of sacredness.  For some this will mean walking very slowly and quietly out in Nature;  others are much more gregarious and fast-paced.  Some will use our classroom work as a general background that just floats silently in the hidden realms of their consciousness, others will be using our classroom facts much more explicitly.   I think their actual Nature experiences should be more personalized and are not ideally suitable for a group experience.  I love teaching, but for me personally I love being silent in the forest and it doesn't feel right for me to be walking along yelling at a bunch of folks.  So it will be a classroom thing.   I am sorry if this hang-up of mine disappoints you.

Truthfully, if I were you I would not be satisfied with my answer.  It's just one of those things that you have to live through to understand.  After several of my Nature outings with my 150-person Cosmos class crashed due to last-second (literally) weather changes, and after repeatedly having to deal with the logistics of telling 150 people not to come, I found that my viewing sessions each semester were the only stressful thing in my teaching life.  I don't want to go through all that again.

We have sacred forests and beaches so close to us, we'll just get enthused in the classroom and then you can wander off, as soon as a workshop session ends, to your favorite spot.

I realize that I am addressing my needs here -- to be able to run a workshop I can count on.  I haven't addressed your need to share the feelings our workshop's knowledge gives, in a social context while moving through a beautiful natural environment.  I would urge those of you who are social beings to link up in class and then later head out in groups of 2, 3, . . . 10 into your favorite Nature spots.  

 

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QUESTION:  "CAN YOU SAY MORE ABOUT THE WEBSITE YOU WILL BE PUTTING UP FOR WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS?"

My Response:  Sure, I'm very excited about it.  I am doing it for several reasons:
(1)  I *LOVE* images of Nature.  I have never met anyone who comes close to having as many high-quality images of Nature at its most beautiful, as I do.  Maybe such people exist, but I haven't met them.  And they certainly aren't putting their collection up on the internet.  Oh, there are sites out there with *huge* numbers of Nature pictures, but they throw in bunches of mediocre ones for every good one.  I just deal with clean, inspiring images.  I want to share this beauty with you.  I think the skeptical aspect of science is fine intellectually, but it is a drag if one does not also sensually writhe in the wonder of it all.
(2)  I am well aware that I get intensely into my lecturing, and the information comes at you fast and furious.  It is very good to have an avenue where you workshop participants can review the concepts, surrounded in beautiful relevant imagery, at your own pace, listening to your own music, when you feel ready to do so.

(3)  That is the place where I will be giving you all the crucial visualization exercises from each of the topics we cover in class.

I am working on the website already, and my plan is to have it be quite extensive.  I think you'll find the dazzling images nicely illustrate our classroom concepts.   For example, I've just completed polishing up a webpage illustrating the Energy ideas that I'll introduce in our first Sunday.  That one webpage will feature over a hundred stunning images of clouds, and the surrounding text explains our Energy concepts in terms of what you are seeing in cloud action.  It works very nicely.

In our first Sunday I'll offer you one webtopic as an assignment to read over, and to practice the visualizations involved, prior to our 3rd meeting.  There are four other webtopics that I list as "first priority" and which I dearly hope you read.  But all I can do is offer it, you decide how much you want.  I hope to complete nearly two dozen webtopics in all (a rather mammoth undertaking!) which are yours to examine as you wish.  I think you'll find yourself drawn to the images' beauty, and then I'll seduce you into deepening your science experience.

I regard the website experience as equal in importance to our classroom experience.  I truly think it has that much potential to enliven your Nature experiences for the rest of your life.

I'll keep the website up for a lunar cycle, (~30 days) following our first meeting -- so that those who have the time and inclination can view one per day and complete them all.  (But I assume most people won't have nearly that much time available -- I just offer it as a gift, take as much as you wish to.)  I'll have over a dozen webtopics open during our first meeting, and then additional ones will open during our second Sunday.  I'll tell you how to access them when we are in class together.  Enjoy . . .

 

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QUESTION:  "I NEED PEOPLE TO TALK VERY SLOWLY WHEN THEY TRY TO GIVE ME NEW INFORMATION -- WILL YOU BE ABLE TO DO THAT?"

My Response:  Gosh, that seems like such a reasonable request.  You'd think I'd just say: "sure!".  But I'd be lying to you.  I get very high energy when giving a workshop and the information and concepts flow out at a rapid clip.  I've tried to slow myself down on occasion, but it was a failure -- I'm just too happy and flying high.  I've come to realize that it is simply a fundamental character trait I have, and for most people it is a positive trait because they appreciate that the workshop stays high energy.  I do realize that it's too fast paced for an occasional soul.  If this is an issue that will really bother you (and I very much understand that it might bother you if you've had this problem with other speakers), then I think you would really dislike this workshop.  

To repeat, I acknowledge that you are being reasonable in asking that I slow my speech in the way you would like, and if I were teaching a class of folks identical to you then I'd grit my teeth and change.  But in fact people are highly varied, and no teaching style works for everyone.  I know that my teaching style works for most people, which is the most I can hope for.

Your responsibility then is to realize that fast speakers annoy you and you should not sign up for this workshop which is taught by a wildly excited fast-speaking guy.

I like to think that I am flexible in many of life's aspects, but there's a few domains (particularly as regards a style of teaching which works for most folks) where I just am who I am, and I am very clear and content with that.   Are you clear on that?  So, be ready for my personal quirks, e.g.  I talk fast, I don't like wasted class time, I don't care if my informality makes me seem like less of an academic, I *like* birkenstocks and don't care that they went "out of style" eons ago, etc.

 

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QUESTION:  "I TOOK COSMOS FROM YOU, AND I LOVED IT.  WILL I GAIN ANYTHING FROM TAKING THIS WORKSHOP FROM YOU, OR WILL IT JUST BE A REPEAT?

[First, so that we don't confuse everyone . . . "Cosmos" was a G.E. course that I created, named, and solely taught for 20 years.  Once I left, HSU didn't listen to my advice -- they kept the name and still offered the course, but it is *radically* different than when I taught it.  This question is only relevant for people who took Cosmos when I was its teacher.]

Let's see if I can describe this workshop in terms of the Cosmos course that you knew.  Imagine Cosmos, but remove the following:
==>  Hubble's Law equation describing the expansion of the Universe,
==>  the equation describing, for the expanding Universe, the inverse relationships of Energy and Temperature,
and
==>  in quantum mechanics, delete the equation describing the inverse relationships of Energy and time for virtual particles.   

Are you imagining this?  . . . What are you doing????  Oh, I get it, you need a few minutes to stop rolling on the ground and drooling with envy at these workshop people.   Anyways, remove all those equations . . .  hey, you really need to stop acting deliriously happy, it is getting bothersome . . .  

Also, remove a main emphasis of Cosmos, which was to carefully explain all the intricate details of Big Bang Cosmology.  Oh, these workshop people will learn the main idea of how Our Universe arose, but there won't be time to explain all the details and the experimental support.

So, what is left?  Well, remember all those lectures where your breath was taken away by the incredible scientific vistas we visited?  Those vistas are what we'll be featuring here.  Those exciting experiences will be reinforced through our explicit visualization and perspective work.  If you have kept those vistas in your heart since our course together, and you have been consistently using them in Nature, then it's quite possible that this workshop might just be superfluous for you.  On the other hand, if you'd like to revisit those vistas, then you might be interested in this workshop.  

Also, since you already know where this workshop is going, then you have a sense of who could be most affected by these insights.  Who among your friends and lovers will gain the most by coming along on our journey?   Tell them about this website -- having hungry, interested people like that in our workshop is its lifeblood.

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If you are rabidly wanting to come to this workshop but there is some enrollment question which this FAQ's has not sufficiently addressed, then here's a remedy.  I have set up an email account at CosmicVisionsWorkshop@gmail.com      I promise to check it every couple days starting at least a month before the workshop.  Please use it if you have a question about whether the workshop is suited for you.   I will answer all such questions.  Please do NOT use it to ask me physics, astrophysics, philosophical, or religious questions.  It's not that I don't love interacting about such things, but I want to do it face-to-face.  It's the human interaction thing that I dig about teaching, and besides, I don't have much time available right now to sit in front of that email account (because I'm busy creating the workshop!).  So I won't be responding to emails asking about those non-enrollment things -- I hope you understand.

Your non-enrollment questions will be addressed if you enroll in the workshop.  It's true that during our 3 lecture Sundays our time will be rather structured.  If you have anything during our session that you are unclear about, then I'll remain in our room after 6:30pm for such questions.  More importantly, on our 4th Sunday we'll have a Workshop Wrap-Up powerpoint presentation for 40 minutes and then we open up for questions from all my enrolled students -- absolutely anything that you want to discuss, irrespective of whether it was a topic in our workshop.  This post-workshop Q&A session will go as long as people want to stay (I basically have an infinite amount of metabolic-Energy, I'm crazily in love with the cutting-edges of human knowledge, and interacting with interested people is the most wonderful thing a teacher could ever desire).   No one should feel "obliged" to stay -- after three full Sundays and the Wrap-Up, you'll have put in sufficient Energy.  But, if some of you do have further questions that you think I could be helpful with . . .  it'll be fun.  Even if you don't have questions, you can learn a great deal from others questions when they are thoughtful enough to make them of general interest.

Any subject in physics, astrophysics, earth science, and the spiritual quest -- any of them are fair game.  String theory, quarks, quasars, the Big Bang Fireball, how rainbows happen, Brane Universes, Holographic Universe, why there's dew on the grass in the morning, Zen, Vipassana, etc.  I'll just be there with no media, no notes, and we'll go with whatever you want to ask.
(Only exception:  I've found in every Q&A that huge numbers of people would ask that I do a Workshop Review that might be helpful to a person walking along in the forest, hungry for a deeper relationship with Nature.  The 40-minute Wrap-Up will include that and quite a bit more.)

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End of FAQs.   I hope your own questions have been addressed here.

 

I've stayed serious for this entire webpage, my inner child is screaming to get out -- at least for one little picture.  Sorry.

 

 

 

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