Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Der Tantrische Selbstjihad

This cartoon which has been circulating on the Internet suggests that a woman possesses many erogenous zones while a man has essentially only one. This is certainly a popular stereotype and if true puts the male at a decided disadvantage in the quest by both sexes to experience the widest possible range of sensual pleasure. But what does Science say about male and female erogenous zones?. Recently, an organization called Fleshmap attempted to create a cartography of tactile yearnings by asking 281 men and women where they desired to be touched and mapping the results.
The outcome of this Fleshmap survey seems to show that the bodies of both men and women possess a very restricted distribution of erogenous zones. And, at first glance, there seems to be not much difference between the distribution of sensual hot spots in the male and in the female--breasts and genitals and little more.

But there are several reasons to mistrust the results of this research. Why don't the lips--a primary erogenous zone by anyone's standard--light up on this map? And what about the fingers and toes? Surely most people that I know like to hold hands with those they love. And the feet are certainly a very sensitive area for sensual stimulation: but not on this map.

I suspect that the fault lies in the method itself which involved just asking people where they'd like to be touched. A more direct "hands on" survey (How does it feel when I touch you here?) might reveal a more realistic distribution of erogenous zones than would a questionnaire. One must also consider the blurring effect that results from averaging over many subjects. One woman who likes having her feet rubbed would be cancelled out by another women who dislikes having her feet touched. Similarly, any man or woman who possesses a larger than average number of erogenous zones would most likely not show up on this chart--their superior patterns of response being swamped by the greater number of mediocre sensualists.

Whatever the faults of the Fleshmap survey, one conclusion is inescapable: we humans are, on the whole, not very sensual animals. Large areas of our bodies are virtual "dead zones" as far as being sources of intense erotic excitement. But where some would see defect, Doctor Jabir sees opportunity. If the goal of tantric jihad is to eroticize the world, then what better place to start than to complete the eroticization of your own body?  Some Sufis say that the primary jihad is the conquest of self. Hence the goal of "der tantrische Selbstjihad" (the tantric self-jihad) is simply this--to make every square centimeter of the human body as erotic as the genitals. 

Good friends, good lovers and good body workers can help us a lot in undeadening our body parts and placing more tactile territory under the banner of sensual delight. Drugs can also play an essential part in this campaign. But the primary ally in developing new erogenous zones is your own imagination. Pick a body part that's usually neglected and simply make love to it in any way that pleases you and the part you've focussed on. (This morning, for instance, I made love to the pulse points of both wrists.) In a few weeks a determined tantric warrior should be able to turn his or her personal Fleshmap into a light source bright enough to read by. And the few remaining dead spots (that you might not be able to reach) could easily be eroticized by a sympathetic friend. Be sure to return the favor.

The goal of tantrische Selbstjihad is to make the entire surface of the human body into one gigantic erogenous zone. But that's only the beginning: the ultimate goal of tantric jihad is to eroticize the entire Universe. May the Universe become fully eroticized. And let it begin with me. 

The grand mosques at Jerusalem, Istanbul, Fallujah,
The precincts of Medina and Mecca, the Kaaba: the sacred Black Stone.
My sacred sites are Her eyes
Her nipples, the whorls on Her fingertips--
Are the origins and insertions of Her muscles
Are the places where her bones meet
Are the follicles of Her hair
Are the pads of Her feet, Her buttocks, the slots
Between Her toes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meeting Ms Sprinkle

This Sunday some old friends I had met in the Stanford psychology department in the '60s were checking out Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove in preparation for a conference on "sexual ontogony" to be held May 2009 under the auspices of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Before returning to Seattle my friends Rae Larson and Ann Manly planned to stop in Boulder Creek for the afternoon, presumably to visit their old friend Nick. But no, their main purpose was to reconnect with Annie Sprinkle, ex-porn star, sex video producer, now erotic performance artist who has a house in Boulder Creek. "Come with us to Annie's," they pleaded.

Wonderful time. Annie and her partner Beth Stephens, chair of the Art department at UCSD were making plans for a participatory marriage celebration in Croatia, but invited us all to join their preplanning luncheon and gave us a tour of their quaint redwood enclave. In addition to the delicious food and extraordinary company, Annie gifted me with her legendary Amazing World of Orgasm DVD, which surely qualifies as potent ammo for anyone planning to wage serious tantric jihad.

After sharing a meal with this remarkable being, I proceeded to google her and discovered that she is the author of a most informative essay on the relationship between sex and psychedelics, published in the MAPS newsletter. An excerpt from Annie's article:

"When I was fourteen (a full three years before I was to lose my virginity), I had my first psychedelic drug experience. I went to high school in Panama City, Panama in the '60s. My father, and most of my friends' fathers, worked with the American Embassy. We were good responsible teenagers, so on the weekends our parents let us go up the coast to Panama's beautiful tropical beaches and stay overnight in beach huts. Those spectacular beaches became the laboratories for our innocent drug experiments. All kinds of inebriants were available; opium, speed, Panama Red Cannabis, mescaline, cocaine, magic mushrooms, LSD, etc. One evening a friend, also fourteen years old, offered me a hit of blotter acid, to "expand my mind." There were no instructions, no warnings, and no rituals. I tripped my brains out all night long. Totally unprepared for lysergic acid diethylamide, my teenage fears became magnified a thousandfold; the beach crawled with snakes, people morphed into previously unknown life forms, my heart beat out of its chest, my eyes bulged out of my head, I did not surrender, but endured, and could not wait until it was over.

Rough as the night was, the next day I was a wiser person. I had experienced alternate realities, new dimensions, other ways of seeing and feeling. I discovered that life was not necessarily as it appeared. I learned that I had the power to radically change my consciousness, and hence the world around me. This was excellent information to have on my way to becoming an adult--a sexual adult. During subsequent beach weekends I took more LSD trips, usually with a sense of dread and imagined peer pressure, mixed with curiosity."

Read more here. Thank you, Annie Sprinkle, for making this world more sane and delicious.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Steven Hawking joke

My car broke down the other day.
So I took it to a garage
And the guy says that he's a quantum mechanic.
I asked him if he could fix my car or not.
And he shrugged and said:
"I don't know. I have to look at it."

This esoteric slice of YouTube humor refers of course to the notorious Quantum Measurement Problem. In quantum theory (which has never made a wrong prediction) before you look, the world exists as a wave of possibilities. After you look, it's actual particles (called "quanta").

Also physicists are not really sure what they mean by "looking".

What does it really mean "to make a quantum measurement"? We certainly know how to make such measurements but don't know what aspects of the measurement process are necessary to bring the world into existence. "What does it take to turn quantum possibility into actual fact?" is still an open question in physics.

Quantum theory does not tell you what exists but only what you will measure. Furthermore the theory says that you cannot measure everything so you must make a choice (the so-called "Heisenberg choice") what observable you will look at. Only after you have made this choice does the theory give definite predictions for the probability of observing particular values for your chosen observable.

Next you deploy an instrument to measure your chosen observable and a particular outcome occurs--a choice that Nature makes (called the "Dirac choice") of one actual result out of the many possible results allowed by the theory.

In order to physically exercise your Heisenberg choice, you must somehow acquire a real instrument that is able to measure your chosen observable. This instrument may be as simple as a cell in your retina or as complex as the ATLAS particle detector (pictured below) at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. But if the quantum world is made solely of possibilities, where do such real (not merely possible) measurement devices come from? When and where in a purely quantum world, did the first measurement occur that was able to turn lots of mere possibility into some real actuality?

No one has expressed this paradoxical situation so well as Harvard professor Wendell Furry who said, "The existence and general nature of macroscopic bodies and systems is assumed at the outset. These facts are logically prior to the interpretation and are not expected to find an explanation in it." In order to work, quantum mechanics needs to assume the real existence of measurement instruments but is powerless to explain how their existence comes about.

In the absence of real instruments, the Heisenberg choice cannot be carried out. But assuming the existence of such instruments (which have somehow mysteriously achieved "self-actualization") what properties of such instruments allows them to actualize another quantum system--the system being looked at? How exactly do such instruments provoke Nature to make the Dirac choice?

Physicists don't have good answers to questions like these which lie at the very foundation of our quantum science. CCNY physicist Daniel Greenberger has compared quantum physicists to high-steel workers who are feverishly completing floor after floor of an enormous tower while the bottom of the building is supported by precarious scaffolding that no one wants to examine too closely for fear that the whole structure will collapse.

We house broke quantum reality
Taught Schrödinger's Cat to purr
Now ordinary life's as uncanny
As atoms ever were.

The quantum measurement problem: it's no joke.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

William B O'Shaughnessy vs George W Bush

In the 1840s, Irish physician William Brooke O'Shaughnessy had the distinction of introducing products of the cannabis plant into the British pharmacopeia on the basis of medical experiments he had conducted in India. 

According to Wikipedia, after graduating from University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1829, O'Shaughnessy joined the British East India Company and moved to Calcutta where he studied botanical pharmacology, galvanic electricity and underwater conduction. He validated folk use of cannabis in India, discovered new applications and ultimately recommended cannabis for a great variety of therapeutic purposes. A man of many talents, during the years 1853-5, he installed 3500 miles of telegraph across India and wrote numerous manuals and reports on his telegraph inventions. In 1856 O'Shaughnessy was knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on the telegraph.

Modern experience has amply verified and expanded on O'Shaughnessy's pioneer work demonstrating the medical efficacy of cannabis and its relative safety compared to synthetic drugs. However, in blatant contradiction to scientific fact, the US government insists on classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance "having no currently acceptable medical use".

The American War in Iraq is based on a lie: that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs.

The American War on Drugs is also based on a lie: that marijuana is useless as a medicine.

If an order to fight or a law of the land is based on a lie, is a citizen still bound to obey it? And what sort of country would compel its citizens to obey laws based on lies?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doctor Jabir Declares Tantric Jihad


The pious Muslim bathes himself
Prostrates five times from dusk to dawn
Submits himself to Hidden Mystery
That can be neither named nor drawn.

At home Omar recites the verse 
                                               of Rumi and Hafeez
And after Fate cuts short the little life he leads
He'll rule a harem full of virgins: 
                                     at least ten times seven
Or so the editors of Time 
                                   would have us all believe.

To me a few score virgins seems so paltry
We're talking about heaven after all
Where absolutely nothing is impossible
And anything you wish--it will befall.

So here's the tantric Challenge of Two Cultures
Here's one place where West and East come home.
Can you invent a sexier Heaven than the Muslim?
Can you design a more voluptuous pleasure dome?

O Western he-man, show me your hottest fantasy
What turns you on so much you've got to scream
And sophisticated Western woman also
Step forth, show off your deepest sexual dream.

And Eli Lilly, Sandoz, Merck and Pfizer
Please motivate your captive PhDs
To invent new sex drugs so hot and pleasurable
They'll even bring Dick Cheney to his knees.

Challenge our Western artists, 
                                         cooks and courtesans,
Physicists, tailors, engineers and dharma bums:
Dream us a heaven, we can build it.
If we can build it, they will come.

Rise up!
Cast off your chains, creative friends, 
Unleash your deepest dreams of heart's delight
We'll show those benighted 
                                     Grandsons of the Prophet
What a truly joyous Western paradise is like.

God Farm Tenth Birthday 8/8/08

My Boulder Creek neighbor Bruce Damer would modestly deny the title "genial genius" but I know Bruce as a remarkable being who in one person combines the psychedelic idealism of the sixties with the nuts-and-bolts practicality of the Silicon Valley hardware whiz. Ten years ago Bruce purchased a beautiful rural property with plenty of plans to realize his heart's desire. One of Boulder Creek's little-known gems is Penny Slinger's Goddess Temple located in a canyon adjacent to Bruce's spread and we jokingly referred to Bruce's new home as "The God Farm"--a stout masculine counterpart to Penny's delicate temple of femininity. Bruce's place is known by many names, corresponding to its many-handed functions not least of which is the Digibarn, a computer museum (next to the pig pens) which tracks the development of electronic minds from the ancient Altair to modern supercomputers. Bruce is pictured above standing in the core of a Cray supercomputer at the Digibarn. Although Bruce routinely hangs out with Air Force generals and NASA scientists, he dresses, as Allan Lundell once remarked, like a character out of Shakespeare who just got back from Burning Man.
Chief among Bruce's accomplishments is his work creating virtual realities, simulating for NASA and other agencies, the novel environments of space travel and inventing new realities that humans can practice inhabiting before they actually go there. Bruce is the author of Avatars!, the definitive description of virtual personalities circa 1997 and Bruce manages many consortiums of individuals whose job is turning fantasy into (computer simulated) reality.

Ten years after the founding of the "God Farm" Bruce and his wife Galen Brandt held a birthday party catered by the legendary Jia, photographed by Allan Lundell and Reno DeCaro and attended by the very cream of the San Lorenzo Valley Digerati. The party also celebrated the completion of an octagonal performance deck and a meditation hut built by Jim Rintoul and Steve Mauer. More pictures soon at site.

The party featured a participatory mediation on the number eight led by Bonnie DeVarco, as well as several inspiration musical numbers. The 8/8/08 party was also the historic occasion of the debut of Doctor Jabir's declaration of Tantric Jihad, a radical challenge for the West to imagine new paradises commensurate with our new technical powers.

Nick was the last to leave the party and a happy but exhausted Bruce Damer accompanied him to his car. The moon had set and the brilliant arch of the Milky Way bisected the sky above us. As Bruce and I admired the stars, Bruce confided that he knew more about the Hubble telescope, our latest and most sensitive human sense organ directed into the external universe, than anyone should have to know. For he had recently participated in a computer simulation of a project (see below) to repair the Hubble and refit it for new missions.  
But better than the Hubble simulation, better than Bonnie's Ceremony of the Eight-Fold Way, better than Michael Moore's portable Electroscope, better than the private tour of the God Farm, better than the past-midnight Milky Way Galaxy arching over our heads, was my memory of the closing ceremony, Galen Brandt playing keyboard on the octadeck, surrounded by a circle of her friends, singing to her husband Bruce: singing to her husband Bruce love's old sweet song.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Office Kama Sutra

Bopping down to Capitola to experience the pelican frenzy--so many pelicans feeding near the shore and birdbathing in Soquel Creek with the local ducks that fishing from the wharf was cancelled for fear that a pelican might end up on somebody's line, I sauntered (with August O'Connor) into Avalon Visions where I discovered this little gem "The Office Kama Sutra" which among other modern variations on the classic tantric text offers advice on the daring practice of "Desktop Commerce".

"The desktop environment, though hardly a cushioned dais strewn with pillows and silken draperies is entirely suited to congress as long as both lovers are in the grip of a feverish passion and are sufficiently limber. The computer monitor [CRTs only. Don't try this with a flat screen.] is good for anchoring firmly between the legs when bending backwards or forward; like a sturdy scanner tray, the keyboard tray offers an impromptu massage to the recumbant partner; and a closed laptop or dictionary makes a trusty support for raising the hips."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Psychedelics and Consciousness

A few weeks ago Andrew Rutajit and Jennifer Marie Zeares interviewed me at Bruce Damer's Digibarn in Boulder Creek (see First Exposure) about psychedelics and consciousness--two topics that lie at the very edge of human knowledge and consequently are of great interest to those scientists who are attracted not only to the bright lights of mainstream technology but also to those dark and dangerous places where our ignorance is greatest. This YouTube video is a brief excerpt from a larger work in progress. Enjoy.

"Each moment
 is an unutterably beautiful miracle
 surrounded by thorns."