Archive for February, 2008

Perverted Sciences

Posted in Reality Bites, Religion, society, The Arts on February 29, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Ah, isn’t it amazing how we look back at past cultures and civilizations and try to read into them or write about them as if we could understand them? It’s crazy enough that people from the USA try to write about Japan or China, much less the ancient Mayans or Vikings or Daoists.

I think of this as being a broader example of the same problem that comes from translating languages. For a translator to be effective, they must have the same energy as the person who wrote the original work — they must come from a similar inspiration. They must be on the same page (hilarious pun) as the author.

I’ve always considered anthropologists and sociologists to be somewhat perverted in their practices. One can’t possibly hope to understand another culture without going native. And even then it’s kinda questionable. Those folks just seem like missionaries to me. I know they’re trying to stay completely objective or whatever, but that’s a pure fantasy of the Victorian England period, of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe. Scientific objectivism comes from the attitude of simultaneous novel amusement and seriousness.

Knowing a culture is having a state of mind. I think it’s unlikely people actually get more from sociology/anthropology than entertainment for themselves. Creepy…kind of like the psychologists who have dysfunctional relationships with their friends and loved ones, but have read a bunch of books and paid a lot of money for a school to say they can give advice to insane people for money. Sorry to sound like a Scientologist there, folks.

So much has been written about foreign cultures from the white, often Anglo and athiest perspective. White(ish) Europeans happen to be the ones who threw their weight around the world and walked freely through life without stigma. This is why it’s so amusing to read their interpretations of other cultures and faiths, because their investigations cannot be anything but condescending. Isn’t an “objective” look at foreign societies a really inherently European thing? Aren’t the sciences and the way they’re presented an inherently European invention?

Eh, I’m not really ragging on anybody though (insidious lie). ‘Coz, everybody is as nasty as the Europeans, aren’t they? (And when we say Europe, don’t we mean Western Europe?) Okay, the colonial Europeans were pretty obnoxious. For all we know maybe they marauded African and Asian culture.

But a deeper subject! People talk so big about making the world a perfect place, about having peace and everyone being equal. I agree, duh, but it’s not something you can convince people of through dialog. That’s why it’s so tough — you have to cut through to people in daily experiences or by tricking them into perceiving what is good. And aren’t you taking too much of their spiritual freedom then? Ha, freedom…

It’s old news nowadays, that one can’t observe things clearly by analyzing them. (Or weren’t you paying attention to my little layman’s revelation on the nature of desire versus willpower?) You can talk all day about how the sushi tastes, but it’s not until you eat the raw flesh that you know what’s up. And then once that’s over, you don’t talk about it. Except to hear your own voice. C’mon, the reason we talk and write about things is to marvel and laugh at the cleverness and intelligence present in the description of the said thing. The item of description is not actually the focus.

Exemplified: who do you really want to meet at parties? Clever people or really smart people? You’ll only like the smart people if you’re interested in their area of expertise/arrogance. But the clever people make friends all over the place, am I right? Clever people are successful because they can adapt to other people. Hmm…

Do things exist without an accompanying selfish description? I’d say yes, but that they’re boring without the clever commentary. The key term being clever.

Sexy Culture

Posted in Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on February 28, 2008 by wizardsmoke

To see what a culture venerates, one must look to their art. The objects of veneration are the first subjects to stir artistic expression.

The real moral dilemma with modern, Americanized society is the great emphasis it places upon sex and violence. People tend to forget that ages in which sex and violence have been glorified were in fact very dark ones. Historical records of events are never as clear, life is cheaper and we are left with little to work with regarding the time period. I do not think that sex and violence are inherently good or bad, but the concentration on them as objects of worship is not a healthy practice. Many in modern society do not follow such an approach and sneer at religious dogma, as if dogma and the people manipulating it were at all related.

Over-exposure to sexual and violent imagery leads to a desensitization of strong emotions and mental states; one’s self-control is damaged and the perpetual hunger for these modes of thought has been expanded and deepened.

People should remember – the reason religion was able to manipulate so many people was because people had so much blind faith in its established body. Likewise, with science or modern medicine, a large movement of blind faith will erode the quality and sincerity of its leadership. When people kill in the name of God, or on some crusade, it is really just missing the point.

I also think the “flying spaghetti monster” issue (raised by “bright” men like Richie Dawkins) does not understand religious philosophy or beliefs in any thing other than a purely juvenile capacity. God is a perceptual experience that transcends common sensory awareness or emotional states. When people kill in the name of God, or curse God, or say “I’m God” it demonstrates the same level of foolishness as fundamentalist zealots. So! I have to congratulate Mr. D for debunking religious belief using critical thinking that’s on the level of a middle-schooler.

God doesn’t really translate into english language appropriately. Since the goal of western religious practice is to become one with God, it doesn’t make any sense at all to propose God as some sort of figure with a concrete identity. People who treat God as a distinct identity are far too fascinated with distinctions between the self and others or the environment. This goes for religious and non-religious folks. An awareness of God leads one to recognize the lack of permanent self in everything and so breaks down the barriers of clinging to God as a single identifiable thing. When people disagree with this it is because they haven’t understood this for themselves. Or maybe I’m just making it up as I go along — muahahaha….

People seem to think the holy life and the holy experience are dressed up fantasies from a long time ago. It seems pretty reasonable and smart to investigate spiritual beliefs at this point in time, where it is the only logical thing to do. You can have as much sex and violence as you want, but it never ends and your hunger grows as you lose yourself in a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. So what else is there? When you try to validate your sense pleasures as being natural or reasonable or healthy, it is just the sense pleasure arguing for its own existence in your mind. sometimes you can use these things to get the right things accomplished, but this rarely happens.

There’s an old joke that the best government is a dictatorship, but the problem is that no one has gotten it right. I think it’s related to this post, but I don’t really remember how.

Tengus, Musashi and Joshu

Posted in Asceticism, Buddhism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Shintoism, society, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What are the pinnacles of a martial artist’s path? Endless willpower (the embodiment of faith), natural, animal-like movement and an awareness of one’s place in the universe. Alternatives include trouble with the law, a bohemian lifestyle or a macho complex…

But does this come at a price? A martial artist keeps the peace by intimidating the opposition to a point of no return, by forcing potentially dangerous or malicious people to hide or change. This is admirable, but a martial path is often lonely. It is difficult to befriend people genuinely if one does not perceive themselves as equal. By becoming tough, deadly and virtuous, one is robbed of basic human weaknesses and empathies. Fortunately, a virtuous person is beyond conscious value judgments of character!

An ascetic path would say that basic pleasures and empathies are human weaknesses that cause suffering and the disorder of society. This is true, but at the same time, many people are driven to practice martial arts for very human reasons: for their jobs, to protect their families, for ego boosts (to be tough), or from seeing too many Naruto episodes.

Sometimes, people who take these factors as inspiration are driven to achieve very high levels in the martial arts. But I would not be surprised if the highest levels were achieved by people like Musashi, who had much disdain for society’s records and rules. Part of having a job or a family also involves conforming to society and adjusting to its rules. Here one can argue that this is either a further martial development, or a hindrance to one’s martial development. In other words, Musashi was something of a tengu.

Does a martial artist become so secure in his/her ability to kill or destroy that they care so little about other people to the point of no longer noticing their presence? Is this different from realizing how easy it is to kill or destory people or things to the extent that the existence of such things makes them emanate extraordinary substance and value in the martial artist’s eyes?

It’s like what Leonard Cohen said about his Zen teacher, 100-year-old Joshu Sasaki: “He became someone who really cared about—or deeply didn’t care about who I was. Therefore, who I was began to wither. And the less I was of who I was, the better I felt.”

We don’t know Musashi the man, we don’t know ourselves, but we can certainly understand that people like him, living in seclusion from society, perfecting methods of killing (and some slick painting), with nothing in the world to protect except his deep passion to know the essence of combat, are not normally functioning members of humanity. There’s no human glory in that life, which is one obsessed with violence and so far beyond driven to understand things that it eclipses a normal life. Not saying Musashi had a choice necessarily–he seems like he got dealt an interesting hand to play out in life–but it’s something to consider. Sometimes desire for this stuff can be too strong.

Do you lean towards being a tengu or some noble humanist? Sometimes you’re too far in either direction to change in one lifetime.

Check it out

Posted in Monasticism, Reality Bites, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I hate doing stuff. I’m a chronically lazy person. Except when it comes to this. Or that. Or things that are not in the least bit lucrative. Interesting? It isn’t.

I’ve never been friends with anyone who naturally liked to make money. Or pursue women. I guess I distanced myself on purpose. Because, really, that stuff takes work, right? I just want to hang out and do nothing. That’s my problem with the ladies that have been in my life — I let them down because I never want to do anything!

Ah, Willie B, what did he say? “The busy bee has no time for misery”. True enough, but the busy bee also misses out on wonder, on wandering through the realms of imagination that make life worth living (or create life in the first place). Philosophy is stupid if you’re just out to discuss it, but if you really are down to wonder for the long term then…hey, you’re in the club.

That’s what I meant about men of letters. Who cares about being famous or rich or popular or attractive? Those things just happen. I can’t believe anyone pursues that stuff. For reals. As a certain wise older fellow once told me when I was in a psychedelic induced state a long time ago (FYI: it wasn’t that long ago), there are things in life you can and cannot control. If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it.

Ah, but people have such a hard time determining whether they’re in control. They suffer because they weren’t primed to be rich in this life — they weren’t given the stupid genetic disposition to be a sociopathic business lecher, but they just refuse to accept it. If you want it bad enough, I guess you could get born again into a situation that’s set up to suit your fancy. But look out! That next life might not be you, and you might have some serious karma accrued for the phantasm tollbooth!

This mysterious wise man also told me thus: all the stress in life tends to come from money and possessions. He had almost no possessions and never locked his door. He was also not argumentative or sarcastic like me (grrr…). It all seems pretty obvious, but then I remembered that all my life I’m always stressed out. Yes, even me! It’s true, I’m always looking for something else… Funny, since I never want to do anything, that I’d be looking for something to happen in life, right?

Just having a wallet with IDs, and a car and a computer and musical equipment and people you love. That is stressful! Augh! That’s why monks give it up. They die. They disappear, they are reborn. As monks, head shaven, name changed, they’re all equal inside the pen.

So…since you die in the end, and you don’t take anything with you to the next world except the stupid choices you made in life which left you unhappy — I think it’s more important to die without regrets. Live every moment to the fullest! Which doesn’t mean having sex while sipping champagne and reveling in your mansion, (okay, maybe it kinda does a little) it means to recognize that all the stuff you expect and look for in life is actually here right now.

I guess everyone does the money/sex/power angle because they already figured this out. I’m behind the ball, as usual.

*sigh*

The Answer to Philosophy: Empty Universe!

Posted in Buddhism, Occult, Philosophy, The Arts, World of Emotions with tags , , , on February 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Well, I thought I’d point out that Empty Universe is an absolutely killer website. Every thing’s laid out really well in big fonts, all easily accessible, with a bunch of philosophical explanations and translations of Buddhist texts from various traditions. Oh, and not to mention nice, smooth, refreshing energy coming from the whole thing.

Sorry to sound like a schizo/new-ager with the energy angle, but I had to describe the site adequately! And I hope one day someone will put up western philosophical texts on a similar web site, with energetic vibrancy comparable to say, Access to Insight or the aforementioned site. Philosophical texts are just so dry!

I suppose that’s in line with the inherent nature of western philosophy. It’s an academic form of expression. Here the soul is imprisoned and, in some cases, even sacrificed for its very ejaculation! Why, just look at Nietzsche…

And what’s the role of western philosophy? I know a few folks who really tried to assuage all their mortal insecurities by accumulating an encyclopedic knowledge of the philosophical canon. You’ll run into a lot of occultists and religious folks who did this too. Hee hee, I’m not completely innocent myself…

The problem I concluded upon is that philosophy doesn’t propose a concise method or a practice – it’s just rumination upon all of the lines of forethought that exist. And it’s getting more complicated over the years. It’s the art of thinking and expressing it. It’s literary art, rather than any compendium of answers to life’s mores and woes.

It’s hard to be a philosopher these days. And a lot of philosophers can get too caught up with being a man/woman of letters: they care too much about being esteemed. For, what can you do in society with philosophical expertise but be esteemed and teach at a university? Go on to study law, or maybe be an “astral duelist” (they’re the same thing, right?).

I like philosophy. It’s enjoyable reading, but it’s also kind of dangerous. It can make your mind complicated! Unlike television.

Ha!

Channel 451

Posted in Doom and Evil, Reality Bites, society, The Media with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I must confess I am not a fan of television. It should be obvious why, right? Television is so clearly a social cancer. It’s one of the major contributing factors to people’s inability to be original, have an opinion, think for themselves or develop social skills. One could argue that the internet has added to this, that computers have become a deeper source of social decay, but one would be wrong.

I actually do like a lot of films. I don’t think film is such an ideal artistic medium, but it can do storytelling efficiently and effectively. But I think movies have created a lot of “myths” within our modern culture, and the error of television is that it has merged these tall tales with capitalist and consumerist drives. Movies tend to portray a lot of idealized lives, unappealing things that are marketed as glorious: heroes, villains, drama, tragedy, romance, heartbreak, violence, sex.

These aren’t inherently negative, since they’re the foundation of the human experience and storytelling. But what I am thinking is that a lot of the false realities espoused by film stories have become embedded in many people’s subconscious attitudes and daily impulses.

The more obvious examples I can imagine are kung fu movies, which depict martial combat to be beautiful and graceful. In reality, fights between skilled martial artists do not look that graceful to the untrained eye. Not to mention movie kung fu just looks like dancing to an experienced martial artist or fighter (and that’s what it is, mostly). I know people who take these movie depictions really seriously, and scoff at real martial artists or situations because they don’t resemble Bruce Lee or Rambo.

Of course, I simply used martial arts because it’s the most blatant example. But it works with everything else: romance and relationships, idealized tragedies, using movies to emphasize something that isn’t even as poignant as the daily events in the life of the person watching the film. Since when does music dictate and determine how we must feel in our day-to-day life? Since music started being set to moving pictures, is when.

Blasphemy, I say!

But, the thing I really wanted to say was this: television is one of the few things in life where a person can invest hours and gain absolutely nothing.* It’s able to move quickly enough so that one does not focus on the fact that there is almost never anything of substance coming through the screen. Television actively drains a person of energy.

Not only that, but for some reason televisions have invaded social scenarios. When meeting with friends, going to a bar or restaurant, or even sitting in a waiting room — televisions are always on. And it’s so hard to fight; even when you look away from a television, you have to constantly put effort or willpower into continually resisting it. As soon as one is not maintaining total awareness over their mind’s activities, their attention will drift towards the screen. Just try not looking at the TV in a room that has one on. It’s rather difficult and quite frustrating. Thus it is extremely careless and even dangerous to place televisions in one’s car, as it is extremely distracting to other drivers.

Television also destroys the vibrant social atmosphere of a gathering of people. Nothing kills the party or gathering like putting on a TV. Not only can no one agree on what to watch, but it stifles debate, investigative and creative thought, and deeper relationships. Television programming is an ironic term, because you’re being programmed by the television when watching it. You’re actually being totally fooled. When was the last time your friends and you turned off the TV and played a board game?

People can disagree all they want (and they do, overwhelmingly so) but television has no deep substance to any of its programs. I think it was Marshall McLuhan who always drove home the idea that, “the medium is the message” — which argues that everything within a medium (in this case television) is limited by that medium. Everything on television is imbued with a handicap, one which halts it from creating a concise message or artistic expression.

I think it has gotten worse over time, with the size of the population and economy inflating, and the expansion of the internet and digital cable TV. If one watches the news, or the cable news channels, there is nearly nothing of substance that is being delivered to the viewer. It is true, the media are naive fools, but one can at least gleam deeper details from a newspaper or internet site.

If one watches other shows on television, nearly all of which glorify violence, sex or vulgar comedy (with a few exceptions, which I will touch upon in a moment), one will recognize the lack of cohesive plot structure inherent to the show. So many shows are based upon smarmy banter between lead characters, creating unrealistic situational comedy which does not exist in real life, is pretentious and alienates the viewer. If the viewer is not alienated, their own social lives are misconstrued by these situational fantasies, which hold much more influence over the public than most of us seriously consider.

There are then “reality shows”, which vary from complete lust-fests catering to shallow male horniness and female insecurities developed by the fashion industry, to reality shows which somehow manage to succeed in feigning educational entertainment. I can vouch that the “edu-tainment” shows are the least mean-spirited of the reality shows. After all, most other reality shows revolve around laughing at the contestants sardonically, for they might be like us, but yet they are not us and so it is funny. Or something to that degree.

Oh yeah, and laughing at shows ironically is bad for your soul. Just watch “The Soup” on E! once a week and be done with it.

To be somewhat fair, I have seen decent things on TV, but not nearly as many times as I have seem good movies. Substantive shows are typically on public broadcasting like PBS or ridden with commercials. But usually these are just much much better on DVD. Also, I don’t think these things are better than movies, and television should serve no purpose to an idle single person. Watching TV is only valid as an excuse for couples to snuggle on the couch or for defeated bachelors/bachelorettes to eat their microwave dinners in melancholy silence and darkness; hence the term, “TV dinners”.

I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant, because I’m just expressing how tired I am that a social plague like television is infiltrating the lives of everybody around me and just how I’m overwhelmed by people who think I’m the one who is mistaken. It feels like a preview of Orwellian hell or something. And I’m pretty damn sure I’m not wrong: it feels nasty to watch an hour or two of TV. I’ll do it occasionally when I’m really tired and I immediately realize I would’ve better spent those hours having real regrets by looking at pornography.

By the way, remember that scene in Terminator 2, when the kids are staring at a TV screen and the camera pans around and the TV set is broken, and there’s just a fire inside of it? That’s a pretty potent commentary: that the television has replaced the fireplace as the communal gathering and arbiter of storytelling and the imagination.

If you really want to explore these polemic ideas on television by more accomplished writers and thinkers than myself (can you believe any exist?) just go read Neil Postman or Jerry Mander. If you already know about them you probably didn’t finish this article. Also scary, is that I don’t expect things to change, but I expect one day television viewing will be mandatory. Keep it off while you still can!

______

* I realize drugs and sex can do this too, and that this may be more potent commentary for TV in the USA.

The Infinite Beauty of Woman!

Posted in Beauty, History, Reality Bites, Relationships, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Back in the day, in classical Western art, the presence of the female symbolized divinity and purity. The female form is a work of art and perfection (“woman – perfect in her imperfections!”) so it figuratively was a centerpiece for a lot of the ancient and old masters. With modern art, we first saw movements toward landscape, then later expressionism, and then later again, woman becomes a purely erotic symbol. And this time, in the modern empirical sense: she’s not just the divine or the vision of the infinite. She’s the vessel of infinite erotic pleasure, the only reason for life in modern times (a generalization, sorry!).

Interestingly enough, in Japan there has been pornography since over 1,000 years ago. And it wasn’t considered necessarily filthy the way it is in the West (which might have changed with the internet, since apparently “everyone” looks at it). And in China, where art has largely been influenced by Daoism — with classical structures venerating isometric landscapes and calligraphy forms, the female form was not really artistically emphasized until China’s westernization and modernization (19th century).

That kinda sucks for (almost) two reasons, if we look at this from a position of an modern existential crisis. First — Chinese and Japanese societies are typically more formal and more patriarchal. Which makes things weird, because the female form has to be introduced slowly, is not a romantic staple of the arts, and immediately is relegated to objectification. So the second reason is that — the female form only appears in (mainly Chinese) art right around the period when the country is going through commercialization. Hence, objectification again.

Now, call me crazy, but modern, skinny, scentless, pale models seem a little uninteresting when compared to chubby, uh… scented, pale ones from the European Renaissance. My intent here is not to perv around, but to ask whether patriarchal society, culture, civilization always viewed women in the classical romantic sense until modern times. My guess is that old paintings of women as being the pinnacle of perfection were the romantic musings of aristocratic patrons and educated stoics. And in modern times, that’s not as lucrative an image as one based on pure lust and desire.

Historically, only the loftiest of concerns and ideas of the nation were committed to record. Today, society commits to record anything that can spin a profit, regardless of its moral integrity (for the most part, but there are fortunately still a few exceptions). And you know what spins a profit? Aesthetically enhanced hot babes! But it’s not a contemplative kind of desire being spun, it’s based purely on animal pleasures.

And it’s not just marketed to guys; women are manipulated by the image of feminine beauty too, by being sold on the idea that they need to achieve some kind of ridiculous, surreal level of perfection in their looks to appeal to men. Which is obviously nonsense.

So I’ll break this down for you: Woman’s western cultural image has largely been reduced to some kind of pornographic image of lust and desire. You can argue that things like ballet and opera don’t do this, but these are classical traditions which have not progressed in years — they’re like museum pieces. A lot of art that comes out now: theater/film, music, fine art — it views woman pornographically or is given from the perspective of a woman who satisfies herself with power over men or others (see those “sugar daddy”-type networking sites!). I don’t think either one is any kind of progress.

And as I said, commercials sell some kind of totally false image to men and women, which even if broken down and discussed, has still embedded itself in the public consciousness, and forced society to depend on products that use the image. Now, people create society and history based on what they buy, which is a scary thought in a consumer economy that is not contemplative and has no time to be as such.

Sometimes women say that men are dogs. I think it’s largely true: men are weak, but have strong desire. But without this blind desire, things wouldn’t conditionally exist. This is why one gives up desire to be fully realized and why there’s all this sexist stuff in religious doctrines saying a man is the one who becomes fully realized.

A woman lives a lonely life. And things exist because of desire. Maybe the universe is a chauvinistic illusion? And don’t misinterpret my views as sexist, because I love women more than the next guy. Enough to never hurt them again.