Archive for March, 2008

Food for the Gods

Posted in God(s), Happiness, love, Mysticism, Paganism, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2008 by wizardsmoke

In pagan mythologies, it is acknowledged that humanity is simply food for the gods. People think they act of their own accord, not knowing that they’re merely instruments of heaven. Or something or whatever paraphrased from Hatsumi again. What does this all mean? It’s kind of interdependence, in a way.

One reason worship of gods is not my cup o’ joe, is ‘coz gods are always in a process of change. God today, gone tomorrow, ya know? But even still, we all worship the old gods every now and then, or venerate certain ideas. And any kind of emotional state involves a kind of submission, doesn’t it? Aren’t there people that are obsessed with certain emotions and experiences, be it lust, fear, hate, melancholy, or arts and techniques? Many people pray to these things, often without recognizing it. This is why so many hermetic, eremitic and monastic traditions espouse the view that one should be aware of when any disturbance or emotional shift is occurring within one’s mind.

I’m not talking about the big “G” of course. That’s a different expression of “god” altogether. As I’ve said before, “God”, as referred to in the Judeo-Christian/Muslim religious view, seems to only exist as an ecstatic experience, as the overarching mental waves of all existence. At least this is my take on that whole ordeal. Seeing God or what-have-you — it refers to a state of absorption in which one perceives the manifold layers of all creation. The pantheon of old gods themselves are more like…ideas or archetypal manifestations of beliefs. Hence the wheel of the gods changes in importance as human history marches on. Is a god even a god without a medium (human worshipers) through which to feed?

Old religions (or at least, “pagan” religions) come from a time and place where survival required a more fervent physical effort — a more physically inclined will. Basically, these days we have less individual space and a much larger population. Before, people had room or space into which they expanded their spirit and mind. This is clearly not the only cause of the disappearance of the old gods (for instance look at Scandinavia or Russia, with wide open spaces), and the literal belief in the old gods seems to be accompanied by the presence of forethought, as in the story of Prometheus. But then again, there are people or spiritual mystics who wake up at all times, so we can’t assume that people are now spiritually inferior. Especially since we’ve moved beyond things like human sacrifice and so on. Well, at least physical human sacrifice. You know, the classic kind…

Ah but maybe that’s because we don’t have the gods anymore, huh? As you can see, this is a complicated conversation that is replete with only speculation, no real answers. To really understand we have to listen. Nothing new here, or under the sun. To get the big picture a person has to stop looking for things and just stay quiet and listen really, truly deeply. Or so I’ve heard/read/realized a bajillion times.

One could consider natural disaster to be a manifestation of the gods, a sign that humanity has forgotten them and worships demigods of reason and technology. Whether or not one actually can believe in gods, one can agree that the results of these natural disasters probably have to do with mankind’s effects upon the Earth, problems which arise from ignorance of environmental conditions and importance.

Sounds like the same thing to me. The truth is at least somewhere in the middle, where gods are not just metaphors, and metaphors are a convenience of language and thought to describe divine manifestations. Actually, in the Norse myths, the approach of Ragnarok (the apocalyptic battle of the gods) is signaled by serious movements and rumbling of the earth. In other words, good ol’ natural disasters!

As I’ve mentioned, I like the body of work attributed to Plato. I am a fan. Plato was known to describe existence as manifestations of ideas, which are beyond form but continuously are represented by forms. I find Plato to be fascinating because his philosophy appears in an era that maintains belief in the old gods, but possesses modern advancements in thought and academics. In other words, this period is at the beginning of the western academic canon, so there have not yet developed a metaphorical lexicon/thesaurus for gods and mental phantasms and experiences.

Plato’s synopsis of ultimate reality parallels the view of all supposedly realized people across our short human history: the deepest layer of realization bathes one in total selfless love!

I’m right there with ya, Plato buddy! To the soul-sauna!

Woody Allen Contemplates His Own Existence

Posted in Film, Happiness, love, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, sex, The Arts with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I just watched Crimes and Misdemeanors by Woody Allen. It’s actually a little more depressing and bleak than Match Point, if you can believe it. The characters are somehow more pathetic and there’s a little more typical Allen comedy thrown in. And there is obviously a fairly consistent 1930s jazz soundtrack the whole time.

Woody Allen is interesting because he’s a prolific and talented writer with a real sense of dialog and character development. Specifically he knows the upper crust Manhattan socialite like no other, and gives us endless windows into the dimensions of their desperate — often shallow and confused, romantic lives. Allen sometimes seems like he’s one of them but is too observant and critical to ever fall into such a stereotype. If anything he seems rather jaded by seeing through it all, and having read interviews with him in papers, it sounds like my hunch is correct.

Not that the things he sounds jaded about in interviews are all that profound. A year or two ago, he mentioned his regrets about not getting knockout groupies because he wasn’t the alpha-male, or how sad it is that he’s too old to check out gorgeous girls (he called it a favorite pastime of his, to check out young girls in skirts, I believe). Haha, as if this was a terrifying tragedy! It’s more like a bittersweet reminiscence, right? But yeah, that’s where a lot of the best art comes from — reflecting on one’s experiences as an outsider.

In his really poignant and heavy movies like this one, Allen reveals someone close to nihilism, despite his philosophical meanderings in religious ideas. He seems to conclude that religious persuasion is a fictitious belief that people create and live by, and that some people don’t see it at all or believe in its importance, and the people stuck in the middle (him) are left jaded or betrayed by their lack of blind drives. Kind of reminds you of those tales about people who are horrified by prematurely looking in the face of God, doesn’t it?

Not that I think Allen is actually nihilistic or any of the things I describe here. Particularly since his movies are ever more touching or hopeful or funny or dark and sinister than anything angry guys like Spike Lee or Werner Herzog and other “acclaimed” writer/directors manage to produce. It’s just that Allen’s movies seem to reveal someone who has seen through life and how empty it is but who lacks the energy and harmonious passion that comes with ecstatic union. Isn’t a major stepping stone of spiritual experience when one has “kensho” and wakes up to the inherent emptiness of all phenomena? Of course, it’s not a depressing realization in such a case (although it can be scary) — it’s a step towards liberation!

Woody Allen’s insights strike me as intellectually advanced and probably superior to my own. But the intellectual realization of the fabric of existence leaves one very sad and sometimes crazy. However, sometimes the resulting depression of intellectualism can be overcome by developing an intuitive realization into phenomena and approaching life’s questions in a more simplified way.

Not that I’m dissing on Woody. His movies rule! Two of my favorites have to be, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and Sweet and Lowdown. Sweet and Lowdown is one of the funniest, most touching movies I’ve seen, and has the best soundtrack of any Allen movie!

Delete Yourself (Part II)

Posted in Asceticism, death, Doom and Evil, Fighting, Future World, Mysticism, Paganism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, sex, sex and violence, society with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2008 by wizardsmoke

As I said the other day, in a lot of old societies with warrior classes, the meaning of life was found in death. It seems that the old world value structure venerated, or at least wrote down in its history books, an attitude that usurped fear of death. It goes against the typical human response to life, which is to hoard it.

In On The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche writes an allegory of hawks and sheep to explain the creative structure of human morals. As is expected of Nietzsche, he determines that an individual or group’s strongest drive takes priority and primary function within one’s will and lifestyle. In the case of the hawks that drive is preying upon the sheep and for the sheep it is submission and aversion to the hawks. Thus the sheep deem the hawks to be evil, because they are preyed upon by them. The hawks, on the other hand, merely believe the sheep to be bad or pitiful for their inferior drives. The hawks (i.e. politicians, noblemen, business moguls, military overlords) don’t even assess a moral judgment over the sheep. They are just sheep to them — they’re livestock. It sounds like Nietzsche believes this too or he wouldn’t be writing about it. He later points out that there may have been a point when the hawk’s drives were not deemed evil, but considered good. Or that they might be considered good by other groups preyed upon by sheep. Thus, the nature of good and evil moral values are in constant flux and neither is permanent.

For me, this brings to mind constructs like religion and the church, and also the old “masculine” ideals that wealthier nations have pushed to the subsconscious in modern times — concepts such as physical strength and power. Society represses these latent desires, channeling them into violent sports and art, while replacing them with ideas of democracy and political correctness. Further, modern society pushes everyone to rape the earth and gain material wealth and hoard their lives over those of others — but as friends!

(As an aside, my main concern with environmental pollution and climate change is that everyone’s greed for power and wealth far outweighs their passion for peace and health. Not that I don’t try to do my part, but it looks pretty grim…)

So, is life pathetic when the goal is to hoard possessions, health, relationships, sex? In European folklore, dragons always appear where too much treasure is accumulated. They’re accompanied by a foul stench and are death to all who come near. Serious calamity follows those who hoard far too much wealth.

I think the attitude that is striking about our most recent generations of human culture is its rank nihilism and blatancy. The romance found in death metal, black metal, gangsta rap, gang culture, black magick, punk, hardcore, etc. sounds to me like an exhaustion with life’s luxuries and social organizations. It’s all a romantic tribute towards death and yet an affiliation and obsession with the grimy, self-destructive nature of urban life today. It also sounds more than ever like a generation cloaked by ignorance and distrust, while yet plagued with the desire to understand things; a drive to transcend the newest, shallowest quality of life which is ironically so much more ideal for humans — at the great expense of nature and aesthetic beauty. It’s truly quite sad. Ah, but dry those tears! No ideal society ever existed, remember?

Strong desires in modern society seem to be pursued in different ways than they once were in older times. Business has largely replaced all other elements of life. Everything is a business, as that’s how members of democracy sustain “freedoms” and functions — by not conferring power to the state, which ends up tied together with business anyway. I think the old values placed on virtuous death also stemmed from the fact that life is so boring. And it used to be so slow and devoid of distractions! Really, what better thing to do than give one’s life for one’s god or ideal? After all, aren’t we only really alive when we look at death? I think people like Jesus, Socrates, the Cambodian monk who burned himself alive, real deal bodhisattvas and samurai realized that life isn’t worth clinging to or hesitating over; there is no reason to hoard it.

Delete Yourself (Part I)

Posted in death, Fighting, History, love, martial arts, Philosophy, sex, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , on March 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’m prone to write about violence and sex, and what a love/hate relationship humanity has with these topics. Without them, existence seems boring, with them it seems painful. As I said before, there’s no sexual desire without violence. It’s why they’re paired. Ah, so maybe you can tell what kind of a person an individual is when they refuse to give up sexual desire! Or what kind of contribution to existence they’re making. Is there no pleasure without pain? Just that question is painful, and you can’t solve it by asking it.

Even in modern times, people treasure good storytelling. People desire some kind of tragedy or drama in their lives, as long as it doesn’t get too close or serious. If it does affect them too deeply, then they might go on to be normal people, if they don’t have new mental problems, who lead boring lives. It works kind of like that old samurai parable about enlightenment: first the samurai saw a mountain and it appeared to him that there was a mountain. Then later there was no mountain, but then after enlightenment it was a mountain again.

Since we started talking about samurai, why not continue? In traditional Japanese society, there are Confucian ties that create obligations to one’s superior. Back in the day, the highest commitment of the old warrior class was to dedicate one’s utter being to one’s lord. And any disgrace of oneself or one’s lord usually ended in seppuku, whether voluntarily or by lawful decree. Like everything political, it quickly became a way to humiliate subordinates or blackmail them, as portrayed in the movie Hara Kiri with Tatsuya Nakadai. Similarly, the chilling lead character of the Lone Wolf and Cub franchise, Ogami Itto, was supposed to have the position of Royal Executioner. In other words, he was the “second” or assistant to all subordinates and vassals of the Shogun ordered to commit seppuku by decree.

My point is that seppuku is pretty dramatic. But it had a purpose and perhaps was a more fundamental level of old romantic, violent idealism. It certainly created contemplative circumstances for the samurai class. The way a person died was a total indication of their character (they also wrote “death poems”) and so it was incredibly shameful to be afraid to commit seppuku. “To live to die, or as if already dead.” Yeah, that’s how they had to think of it. Sure, it sounds grotesque and exotically abstract to westerners or foreign cultures (not to mention almost every major/organized religion in the world considers suicide to be sinful) but maybe that’s due in part to the inherent fear of death most people have. The role of seppuku was to eliminate that fear of death, while simultaneously imbuing one’s life with a sense of sincere dedication, resulting from awareness of one’s fleeting existence.

Seppuku as a custom seems to project into real life experience the intellectual romantic sentiments people like to entertain through sex or stories or violence. It just takes that romance to an extreme, which most people are not ready to accept sincerely. Fair enough, I guess. I’m glad I don’t live in a society where people have to commit seppuku, but we have other stupid modern obligations which we think are totally reasonable.

Interestingly enough, back before the Japanese warrior class was allowed to own land or have any influence in politics, chivalrous behavior may have been more common, or it existed in a way that was not so blindly romantic. Without any opportunity for advancement or mobility within society, warriors were literally born to serve. The really early accounts of samurai battles started not so much as wars, but simply formal skirmishes — games to the death. The opposing sides would line up and square off two at a time, in duels, until one side was vanquished. Total formality. It brings to mind the Spartan and Olympic legacies of Ancient Greece, or the Aztec (or was that Mayan?) basketball games where the winners were sacrificed to the gods.

Strange that people today simultaneously romanticize about violence and also decry it. Isn’t the scariest part about old societies the way they treated death? How could everything be a manifestation of pure love if people actually seem to look forward to violent deaths? But I guess when one doesn’t fear death and also wants a virtuous one, it totally destroys the lazy, complicated mental handicaps so many suffer from.

I’ll write more about this tomorrow, as I am utterly exhausted but have more to say on this theme.

Very Hot Yoga

Posted in Fighting, Future World, martial arts, Reality Bites, sex, sex and violence, Technology with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I really wonder about Yoga marketing. A while back I saw a blog post (I think I found the link on Formosa Neijia, but I don’t remember) that posited a very relevant question, asking why Yoga, instead of Taiji, was more popular as a marketable, new-age, meditation, health and fitness practice. The gist of the article was: Taiji is not sexy.

Yoga is sexy. You can do it in skimpy outfits, it requires sweaty endurance training, it creates obscene flexibility, it tones and shapes the body (or the booty? Haha! No seriously, there are nutty fake Yoga videos about developing the buttocks). On a purely empirical and physical level, it’s such an obvious cash crop for an adult female demographic! And of course I can see why more dudes are more attracted to martial arts or whatever here. Same supposed/promised results (inner peace, toned body, flexibility, athleticism, and of course booty) but it’s tough! Grrr!

Thing is, whenever I go to Yoga sites, they’re chock full of instructors in totally scanty outfits, sometimes in the most extreme asanas/poses! Yowza! Just who is their intended audience? I mentioned this to a friend, saying that some of those poses would be uncomfortable to witness a woman performing up close! That is, either a really attractive or unattractive woman… hahaha! Anyway, my friend is really politically correct so he didn’t think that was funny. He seemed to insinuate that I was a blasphemer for even conceiving of the idea (even though I didn’t – it floated by my psyche and I decided to attach to it, but I digress) Unfortunately, I was pseudo-serious: what male is going to a Yoga shala and isn’t completely blasted, completely awed by the sheer massive amount of female energy around them? In fact, maybe it’s dangerous, now that I think about it. Although going to one of these places could make a male less nervous around females in a social context, if a male consciously has that in mind when thinking of these places, they’re a slimeball. So, in other words, don’t let me near any shalas, haha!

But honestly, the real reason I don’t get involved in Yoga is because I’m naturally flexible. In a way that’s actually almost unhealthy. Over-flexibility is not that great if it hasn’t come from gradual strengthening. So, I don’t think yoga would be of huge benefit to me. And I’m pretty set into my own MA practices, which incidentally, take a lot of time out of the week.

Still, I’ve noticed a number of martial arts hombres who have taken up Yoga alongside their longtime martial arts practice. There have been a number of blog posts about it over on big Taiji-related blogs like Formosa Neijia and Weakness With A Twist. It seems like most of these guys do the martial arts first, though. I don’t really get it, since to my knowledge, it isn’t necessarily helpful or good from a fighting/combat perspective to be yoga flexible. Of course, some Shaolin-type training will do similar stretching, but whatever. We’re talking entirely different fundamentals for that kind of training. And I feel like that’s mostly athleticism (which is still awesome and useful). But straightforward martial technique generally calls for opened hips and good fluid dynamics (springing from the root, moving from the waist, moving and rooting, yielding and neutralizing, etc.), not limbs stretched beyond the socket or torso. (Remember, I don’t do Yoga or Shaolin, so don’t rage at my posts)

But! I’m very interested to see how yoga classes are set up. I just would not have any long-term commitment right from the get-go. So… I must stick to my guns and not check it out. And yet I do think if many more girls did martial arts it would be interesting. I wonder how the male demographic would react to that one?

Martial arts often lose out to Yoga in ethical reasoning these days. Why learn how to maim someone? Although martial arts might seem dangerous or unhealthy from a mental perspective, one should remember that like all technological progress, the techniques and teachings are only available because they’re no longer new or even openly useful. Whenever something is open to the public like that, it means it’s such old news it practically belongs in a museum. Nowadays, the only real culture is technology, and that’s obsolete as soon as it comes out. It’s like what that lesbian hitchhiker in Five Easy Pieces kept frothing at the mouth about, that everything is just a bunch of crap. Crap, crap and more crap. These days you can’t escape all the crap. She was nuts, but somehow also right!

I <3 the Beast

Posted in Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, sex, sex and violence, society with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Why are parents so proud when their kid likes the same thing they do? Does it reinforce their egotism or does it fool them into thinking their loves are more righteous than those of others? Whenever my dad would catch me reading books as a kid, he’d say periodically that he was proud of me. He’d say that it was good that I was reading books. Okay, but why is reading or writing good? I ask in the ultimate sense. Because aren’t the things in life that we deem to be “good” just those things we happen to love? The things we think are good are the conclusions or experiences that we attach to for ourselves and as ourselves. It’s problematic though, because how much of what we experience and attach to actually has anything to do with free will? How much of it isn’t just emotional or samsaric brainwashing?

Another thing I thought about as a kid (this is turning out to be quite the autobiography!) was how society views its carnal passions and goals. You know, the crazy fact that everyone is not-so-secretly an animal in origin, but we like to think we’re more than animals. Men and women hang out together and act all formal, but then they go home later and behave like animals! Not that people should publicly do this, but every member of humanity is trapped upon the gradient of animal life to some degree. It’s not like the aggression of wall-street investors or business majors are much different from that of wolves and gangsters. They’re just wearing a different mask, playing by society’s rules and formalities, and appear more sophisticated. And maybe they are, since they fool (some of) us!

Surely I am not so base as to advocate that people just embrace their animal instincts, being violent or aggressive or giving into desires whenever they want. That would be kind of dumb because it would make us blind. That’s like, stuffing the eyes and ears and forgetting those senses exist.

And yet everyone does that! Seriously, our society profits off of this kind of thing! Funny how the message to the masses back in the day was, “shut up, do your work, don’t ask questions, don’t desire much” but now it’s “follow your nose to all the power, money and sex you can accumulate!”. The new ideal is stupid because it totally blinds people to everything but their own carnal drives.

At some point, society used to agree that power, money and sex were unwholesome life pursuits, but now that everyone in power loves those things and thinks they’re “good” and wants their kids to pursue them too (they want them to be just like Pops!). Ah, but I guess people have always done that, it’s just that at some points in prosperous nation’s timelines that the masses don’t publicly/openly venerate the concept of striving for power and sex. Uh-oh, now I’m making generalizations I’ve been known to criticize — talking about the existence of some ideal past civilization. Never happened!

Hence I am left to wonder: why do people get so emotionally attached to their animal drives, and why are we so afraid to give them up? The difference between humans and animals is that humans try to reason out some emotional or intellectual virtue (ha!) behind following these drives, and they thus believe they have some modicum of control over them too. But isn’t the only real control — real freedom — not giving into them? And how do we escape this conundrum of imprisonment?

Wisdom from the Village Idiot

Posted in Happiness, karma, Mysticism, Philosophy, World of Emotions with tags , , , , on March 23, 2008 by wizardsmoke

People take the goal and meaning of life from varying, obscure practices. Some people like to play music or make art. And some people like to fight. Or they achieve a feeling of accomplishment from exposure to violent interactions. Some people get all their energy from being alone and contemplating their existence. Some people jog in the morning or decide to have kids. Some people follow their greed or lust for power. If it exists under the sun, it’s someone’s religion.

Really, people are so conditioned by so many factors in life, shaped by karmic circumstance. How much of it is a choice? The only choice we make is to say yes or no to mentally (sometimes physically) participating in activities. We tend to forget we’re our genetic dispositions, our environments, our inheritance of merit and intuitive wisdom. We all think we know what’s best for us, but no one really knows. Not that there’s no free will, but everything is connected. So you can’t blast off away from everyone or your past or your inheritance.

To get somewhere astrally good, ya gotta have faith in yourself, but I’ll be damned if most people even know what they’re doing day-to-day, much less in life and the universal scheme (you should be able to assess your trades, talents and volitional qualities by the time you’re 25 as far as I’m concerned). It’s only okay to have faith in yourself if you’ve got some nice comfy insight into your existence on this endless wave. Ah, again though — everyone thinks they’ve got it, don’t they? What a tricky situation! It’s like that high-larious joke I’ve heard: to be a ruthless dictator you’ve got to have really good taste.

As I’m prone to say, the real trick to being satisfied is just getting up early in the morning and getting stuff done. That’s your base on which to build energy. And then on top of that, there’s the pleasure of having little satisfactions.

Little things that make life fun. Like, for example, the way everyone is so excited when they have a package coming in the mail. It’s just so universal — everyone loves it! Nobody hates it! It’s seriously like hitting the first jhana, every time you’re anticipating a package! Other examples of these pleasures include digging into a good new book or watching a great new movie or reading a great new Wizard Smoke post, etc. You know, little things. And they’re obviously not only materialistic, but these are cool examples because they’re minutely materialistic. They don’t have materialism as some goal.

The opposite of that, when life sucks the most, is when you get up late and neglect to do the important daily functions and errands of life. Work, school, the things we love — when these are neglected and slept through, a person feels like crap. Energy gets zapped! And then the drained misery is accentuated by the bothersome little things in life, right? Like, when you go to the store for a little audio adapter and drive all the way home to discover it’s the wrong one. Or when you start a band practice and break a string right away and have no replacement, or when you anticipate eating your favorite cereal (usually Corn Pops) and discover your little sister ate it all first! Augh!

Yeah, I guess it’s all about anticipation, right? When we anticipate things, our very contentedness, our very happiness hangs in the balance! Our happiness relies on the success of the object of anticipation! It’s a good thing I cleared that one up. Your lives should be smooth sailing from here on out.