Overcoming the Amygdala Part 101
Data, data. Data, data, data…
Everything seems to depend on data, and we seem to be surrounded by it.
What exactly is ‘data’?
According to the dictionary, data is the plural of datum which means simply ‘a piece of information'. It’s a mid-18th century word, from Latin, literally ‘something given’, from dare ‘give’. But that ‘something’ could be just about anything: a fact, a picture, a moment, an experience, a person, an activity, an opinion… anything that can be ‘given’.
In fact, how we determine what a ‘datum’ is to us is very interesting: we do so subjectively. A datum is anything that we care to define as a datum. So, for example, a datum can be a fact, like ‘It’s sunny today’, to a picture (the trees outside the window), to a moment (brushing your teeth), to an experience (driving to work), to a person (your boss) to an activity (a football game) to an opinion (your friend thinks ghosts aren’t real). All of these things are presented to you, given to you, and you define them as individual ‘items’. You can break them down into smaller data — each individual tree, the halves of the football game, your boss’s habits, and so on — or group them together — ‘what happened today’ or ‘2020’ or ‘people I know’. You can combine or deconstruct them ad infinitum.
The point is that they are there, they happen, they exist, even imaginary data that have being only in your imagination.
If you were a robot, all these data would flow into your recorded memory banks without comment or significance — but, as you’re human, each datum is assigned a degree of meaning. Your daughter’s face has more meaning than yesterday’s newspaper; your interview with your boss has more significance than the fact that you have run out of toothpaste.
How do you assign significance?
Significance is assigned based on projected ideals.
Your daughter’s face has more meaning for you because you project an ideal relationship between yourself and her onto it; yesterday’s newspaper has little meaning because you don’t project much onto it. Your interview with your boss, likewise, is against a backdrop of projected outcomes from you; your lack of toothpaste barely registers by comparison.
A robot would simply scan and record, according to its programming — no significance would be tagged, unless it has been assigned to tag such-and-such significance by its human programmer.
Significance, the projection of meaning, the beaming out of ideals through which the data of Life flows, is what makes us human and not mere machines.
It’s also what gets us into trouble.
Data flows into our senses and memories and much of it is recorded, robot-like, without noticing — but some if it is tagged with significance.
Which bits are tagged with the most significance?
The bits which are projected with the strongest ideals.
Thus your daughter’s face gets labelled ‘highly significant’ because you tag your daughter with powerful parental love; your boss’s interview with you gets assigned a great significance because you project the ideal situation of keeping your job and being seen to be doing well at it. A stranger’s face or an interview with someone who means nothing to you would be nowhere near as significant, not in themselves but because you would not be projecting any significance onto them.
What makes the significance ‘stick’ to the datum?
The gap, the vacuum, between the ideal you’ve projected and the item.
Love your daughter a lot and the meaning of her face will stick solid; place a great deal of importance on the outcome of a job interview and the significance will be pasted to it like super-glue.
The size of the gap between a datum and the ideal you’re projecting onto it will determine its adhesiveness.
An easy example is physical pain: when you’re in pain, you feel it strongly because it is back-projected with ‘normalness’ or the ideal of a pain-free state. Had you no idea of what ‘normal’ was, you wouldn’t feel the pain as pain but just as a set of meaningless sensations.
Mental and emotional pain is much the same: you feel a particular emotion precisely because you’re projecting an ideal state onto something. When you lose a loved one, the grief you feel is in direct proportion to the ideal, how much you want that person to still be around. Deaths of complete strangers hardly touch us; deaths of those we love can almost destroy us with sadness.
How do we use this to live better lives?
The first step is being aware of data. From the moment you open your eyes (or even before if you’ve been dreaming), you are bombarded with data: some of it is meaningless because you’re not projecting anything important onto it. The wallpaper opposite your bed, the air in the room, the drone of a distant aeroplane, all these things and a million more are simply recorded like a robot. But the photograph of your daughter on the wall, the time on the clock, the temperature of the room, these all possess slightly more ‘sticking power’ because they are backdropped by projected ideals. So as you get out of bed and go about your daily routine, you can begin to notice the often-subtle differences in the data which flows by you — some is bland and unimportant, other parts are of some interest, and other data are highly attention-sapping: the background traffic barely registers, the newspaper headlines on the newsstand are only mildly absorbing, the lateness of your train is anxiety-laden.
Every datum which possesses a higher level of significance is back-projected with a greater ideal.
Conversely, data which seems to possess no significance has little or no projection involved.
You can apply this to your external surroundings, as above; you can also apply it to your stream of consciousness. Thoughts flowing through your mind are also ‘data’. Some are of no consequence, others are highly charged. Their level of importance is determined by the amount of significance you project onto them in the form of ideals. Your lunchtime sandwich possesses far greater significance for you than the paper plate upon which it rests; your upcoming appointment with a client absorbs much more of your mental attention than your slightly loose shoelace.
The data stream is constant and comes at you from all directions. Sleep is often your only relief and even then you may be haunted by dreams, in which random data is thrown up and assigned significance almost outside your control.
No wonder then that most people have trouble stepping back and assessing their lives sanely or logically. Most people are so used to just accepting this infinite flow of data, reacting to bits of it and ignoring other bits. This is called ‘Life’ by the bulk of the population.
But being able to observe the stream and see which bits are important and why can lead to sanity and freedom in ways almost inconceivable to anyone unacquainted with correct thinking.