Archive for June, 2008

Improv

Posted in Daoism, Mysticism, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , on June 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A lot of Asian art emphasizes improvisation. Classical Indian, Balinese, Chinese and Japanese music all have enormous improvisational elements, as do many traditions of painting and martial arts. In the west we have Jazz and maybe comedy, but not much in the way of traditional improvisational arts.

But improvising within a medium, once you’re technically amazing, how is that a special feat? Yeah, I know, some people still can’t do it. What improvising really means though, is learning to see how things flow together. Or if you hate the term “flow”, it’s how things naturally connect, change and evolve. Improvisation is like, you have a basic idea and even mistakes lead to more ideas. Everything moves naturally and falls into place. Not death, because death is stagnation, the inability to change or adapt.

So what I want to know is, what is ultimate improvisation? Wouldn’t that be like, moving naturally without having any prior skill in the area one is improvising? Isn’t that the ability to change and flow naturally in every single brand new situation, without any understanding of it? That’s what I want. Ultimate improv ability.

It seems like there are exponential levels of improvisation. My level of choice is like… the total infiltration of the way of things. Or adaptation to the way of things. Merging with the Dao. That’s the ultimate religious goal, I think. And why is that even a goal? How are we not already naturally a part of nature’s fluxuating improvisation? I think we are. Duh.

Anyway, I’m not surprised that there are few improv traditions in the west. European traditions are all about precise measurements, control, distinction, reputation! Which is funny because I think of Asian traditions in that way too, but from a different angle… like everything is more group-oriented there. Of course, that’s not entirely true because people have a tendency to be greedy, arrogant schmucks no matter where they live.

Sometimes I really think humanity is composed of a bunch of “spiritual teenagers”. We think we know everything, but we know nothing, and we’re obsessed with sexual feelings and get all emotionally complicated because of them. We’re just a bunch of fleshy bits who temporarily open our eyes, see that we have a physical form which makes us laugh and cry, and then go back to sleep. How nuts is that?

Sometimes, right after I wake up in the morning when I’m still really tired, I’ll suddenly think about how incredible it is that every single one of us has this same experience of life (albeit each with a different flavor) that is so lonely, painful, scary and ambiguous in meaning.

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The Spice

Posted in Reality Bites, Relationships, society, World of Emotions with tags , , on June 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

How strange that no one ever agrees on taste! Arguing tastes is so frustrating. Sure, you can learn all the theory in the world and construct flawless arguments about film or art or whatever else, but these arguments do not convince people away from their own favoritism. I try to stray from personal tastes a little bit on this ‘blog, though it is ultimately unavoidable. I like to avoid personal taste and opinion because, for some reason, a lot of us take differing tastes too seriously.

Everybody has the experiences where something one holds so dear to the heart is seen as less significant, or even garbage, in the eyes of another. Real problems only occur when those “inferior” tastes interfere with one’s ability to choose or succeed with one’s own opinion and path in life. You know, when one’s creative talents are stunted because everyone around oneself doesn’t like a certain element (for example, the mere aesthetic, the mere packaging) of one’s creative output. Or when everybody else is threatened by its success.

I feel like bigotry and ethnocentrism work in a similar pattern. Socially, everything is always nice and groovy when there is a large amount of distributed wealth in a community or nation. In economically successful communities, only psychos or people with low self-esteem or punk kids are bigoted hate-mongers. But what happens when there is an economic crisis? Any identifiable cultural or ethnic differences, they become serious arguments for stomping out a connected group within the whole! Lessen the competing groups or individuals!

But success only comes with innovation, change, variety — with something new. And the only reason it looks glorious when other people succeed or do something well is because you’re not pursuing what you love. When people settle or compromise their lives too much, really they’re giving up the ghost.

As they say: variety is the spice of life.

Warm are the breezes;
Grass grows in sunny meadows,
Listen!
Listen, there pipes the nightingale…
I will sing:

High up there in dusky mountain forests,
Cold snow melts and oozes;
A maiden in a grey dress
leans against a damp oaktree;
Her cheeks are ill,
The grey eyes burn
Through the dusky, giant tree trunks.
“He doesn’t come yet. He’s making me wait”…

Die!
The one dies while the other lives:
That makes the world so deeply beautiful.

–Alfred Mombert/Warm die Lüfte

More Feline Feng Shui

Posted in Feng Shui, Future World, Mysticism, Occult, Relationships, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I took my cat to the vet today. I didn’t tell the vet my feng shui theory, but then again, she’s actually sane (a.k.a. a machine of cold, logical western science!). One of my favorite “ultra-killing-science” instructors was mentioning the other day how feng shui is awesome and all, but it can’t make major changes in a short period of time or heal serious rifts. Like I once heard the story of a student who had a crappy marriage and bad feng shui in his abode, and radically improving the feng shui didn’t heal the marriage.

Of course, I think there is something completely usable, relevant and scientific to feng shui which makes me pursue it. I don’t particularly care for divination, though. Despite what I may have learned along the way, I never really wanted to learn that stuff. I don’t like the idea of looking into the future. I never practice tarot, card divination, crystal ball or looking glass stuff. Not interested! Well I am… just not in my own future.

But then again… isn’t medical science or practice related to divination? It’s just more concrete, so we think it’s the big kahuna — we think it isn’t so superstitious. But if you think about it, you go to a doctor and occasionally they give you a prediction: you will be healthy for a while, you have six months to live, etc. It’s not a whole lot different from a Chinese medical specialist who tells you which elements are out of balance in your body. Basically I think science is just saying, “well, if we have the evidence for this claim, there’s nothing you can do to refute it.” But evidence is only empirical data; data recorded within scientific mediums!

Not that I disagree. It’s a valid line of reasoning. It’s just that you can’t actually prove anything in life, or so the defeatist in me would say. Or I might phrase it, no matter what you prove, nothing is 100% for certain. Things always change or are subject to flukes and flaws and karmic flux.

Obviously divination isn’t a science, since it can’t play by empirical scientific rulesets. Yet I wonder what amount of divination can’t just be ascertained by expansive insight or knowledge of things. You know, an ability to perceive someone’s karmic lineage way far off into the distance, like what saints and arhats can do, or like the famed yamabushi ability to intimately perceive diseases or curses plaguing another person. Ultimately everything can be understood as karmic fluxuations. But how the frik do we get our minds to see to the very finest levels of being?

Ah, but I ramble! It is more interesting, seeing a cat at the vet. My feline in question is a house cat, which makes trips beyond the front door ever more disruptive to his psyche. I wonder how he perceives the vet. You know, the only place he’s ever been except our house is the vet. He might think the outside world is a population of veterinarians. It reminds me of that Philip K. Dick short story written early in his career, from the perspective of a dog who thought the garbage men were stealing possessions from his family. He couldn’t figure out why the family wasn’t concerned that all this delicious food was being stolen from them every week. Sometimes I try to perceive the world from the perspective of an animal, or try to feel people’s presences the way an animal would. I don’t constantly do this, but it is a worthwhile practice to empathize with animals.

Give or Take

Posted in Buddhism, Doom and Evil, Fighting, martial arts, Stayin' Alive, World of Emotions with tags on June 22, 2008 by wizardsmoke

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Nothing really tows the line. What kind of punishment is appropriate for a crime? Any punishment is too strict or too lenient. This is always the predicament. What punishment is appropriate? Sure someone may reap the metaphysical or mental results of what they sow, but society’s laws aim to keep order within society and distribute justice, or deserving punishment.

Of course, things do not come close to one-hundred percent successfully functioning in this way. The flow of the universe is too chaotic or perhaps, too relaxed, for humanity attain the rigidly pure goals of its imagination, at least in any tangible physical reality. Society generally awards lenient punishments to those with desirable resources (usually money) and harsher punishments to those without lucrative gifts. Money tends to usurp the place of talent or wisdom as the apple of society’s short-term eye. Some may speak otherwise, but what good is a talent or wisdom in the short term? When one needs food now or in crisis, potential and artistic integrity are not very relevant. Martial arts however, are always relevant, no matter how advanced our society becomes.

I wonder a lot whether continually learning martial arts isn’t totally crazy, whether it isn’t like some hell-bent black magick quest that destroys a person’s humanity. ‘Coz like, if we’re so afraid of being harmed by the world, isn’t learning to horribly maim others just another way of being manipulated by the world and joining its ranks of perpetrators? I guess I’ll let everyone know how it turns out! *wink*

Ah, but I have no regrets. I’m much better off now than I ever was. I said before, I wanted to learn martial arts because I hate violence. But you probably noticed: unless one is a completely trashy, unsophisticated being who lucked out on a vacant spot in a human womb, or a total nutjob psycho, he/she doesn’t like seeing or experiencing violence. No, like a lot of people, not only did I hate violence, but I used to really fear violence. To the point where it made me depressed and socially anxious.

I started out by getting into Buddhism and meditation and all that stuff and it didn’t help me with that fear. Because I was really trying to walk away from it. Not that those approaches won’t work (and they did to some degree), but it’s more a matter of how your teacher can affect you. Even today, I absolutely hate and fear hurting other people, even when I actually have to do it. But I’ve learned how to let it melt away when it’s necessary. Hurting others, watching others be hurt, or hurt themselves — it’s so humiliating and horrifying. There’s no pleasure or virtue to be found there. I think I hate it all so much it makes me pursue the things I’m deathly afraid of. That’s why I play this game. Or so I tell myself.

</emo>

The Way of ‘Smoke

Posted in Buddhism, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Religion with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It’s un-Buddhist to be a martial artist, right? Everyone should live in a vanilla-flavored paradise where we all get along for ever and ever, amen. There are insecure macho types, as well as sadists, who become fascinated with martial arts and wear it on their sleeves for all to see and televise. Eventually these people become experts. Some of them even claim to say violence is bad — when they themselves are obsessed with violence!

But… isn’t religious doctrine a response to the way the world is? Isn’t that a similar indoctrination along the lines of what martial artists are teaching, that one should not get carried away by the aggressive nature and activities of the world? Sure, there are messed up martial arts teachers, maybe more so than religious teachers, but I don’t think that’s any more surprising than the amount of crappy people in any profession, social group or hobby.

It’s just worrisome that fighters physically hurt people. Even when you go to a class to learn or practice fighting, you feel violated after someone hurts you unexpectedly; even after you’ve heard a million times that you should expect to get injured in learning a martial art.

I think just as many people become evil lawyers, businessman, politicians, gangsters, pornographers, oilmen, mercenaries, or spies. Some of them are probably attracted to the martial arts too, but the arts themselves are neutral — insofar as they exist. Practicing over the years has never made me enjoy violence or think about it more. Instead, I don’t react very emotionally to actual physical pain, I’ve learned to sense intents right away and I yield or react very naturally and smoothly when someone or something is about to hit me. But some would say, certain professions are devoid of neutrality, right? Like being an assassin, or an oilman, or a mercenary, or a gangster. How can these people be neutral or decent? Some people will actually say the same thing about martial artists or anyone who practices these things seriously, or tells you Taijiquan is a violent martial art (which it is).

Sure, the Taiji forms usually emphasize movements that old people and sick or injured people can do too. But it’s because the person’s ability and structural strength is built up over time. At Weakness With a Twist, a bunch of good posts were made regarding the subject, that muscles often develop to make up for a structural imbalance creating stiffness and pain. Cleaning up one’s structure melts away excessive muscles and allows one to move without relying on them.

That’s the “magical” part of Taijiquan that makes doctors or Buddhists or whomever else approve of it. But it’s pretty freakin’ hard to get the full benefits of Taiji without learning the full martial skillset. A lot of people decry martial arts because they find the stuff intimidating or dysfunctional. They don’t want to put the hard work into practice. Doing some kind of meditation every day is pretty hard in itself, just like doing anything everyday is pretty hard. Yet I find it’s easier to be a little lazy with meditation practice. With martial arts practice, if you don’t put total effort into it every time, you’ll immediately realize you’re wasting your time when somebody (your buddy) smooshes your pretty-boy nose. One perfect nose, ruined forever! Bam!

Blah blah blah, gong fu (lifelong virtuous work) is amazing. Not really. It’s like blogging. Who’s in it for the long haul? Blogging everyday, even when you feel like shit, just because you have to is more gongfu-relevant than the people who go on meditation retreats once a year and then just sit with a group once a week the rest of the time.

Friggin’ Tagged!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I was pleasantly horrified to find myself tagged with a blogging meme by Mr. Parallel Sidewalk. Thanks, bro. I don’t even know seven people in real life, much less on the “blogosphere”. Ahahaha!

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

Being nuts (or inclined toward the obvious — you be the judge) I set out to discover the source of this meme for myself! I started by stupidly trying to open each prior meme-tagger’s blog in a new Firefox browser-tab, which eventually gave my computer arthritis. After a fairly long journey through hyperspace, akin to the warp at the end of Space Odyssey 2001 (but not as cool), I arrived in the universe of *shudder* LiveJournal.

Actually, I found some interesting stuff along the way. Nothing to, as they say, “write home about” but a decent exposure to different internet circles. That’s what I think is cool about this tomfoolery. Isn’t that the point of it all? Who gives a freak what I listen to?

But alright. Okay. We’ll play this game. Never mind the fact that I already covered this in greater detail elsewhere but still… what songs doth a questionable creature such as myself listen to?

  1. Tangerine Dream – Rolling Down Cahuenga
  2. Ihsahn – Misanthrope
  3. Racer X – Heart of a Lion
  4. Krishna Das – Mountain Hare Krishna
  5. Judas Priest – Reckless
  6. Mike Oldfield – Innocent
  7. Meiko Kaji – Onna no Jyumon

As far as the whole tagging thing… I’ll just tag the three four other people I know in this blog universe: Benjaminista at Head Wide Open, The Electric Hermit and Cirellio. Oh, and Jonbro. He makes these things interesting.

Victim of Changes

Posted in Daoism, Mysticism, Religion, society, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , on June 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What are people looking for in a religion? It’s probably true that, if you’re seeking a religion or tradition that you don’t naturally practice (not the same as being one that you were born into) you’re looking for something somewhere else — somewhere outside of yourself.

‘Course, Buddha or Jesus or Lao Tzu or David Blaine or whichever human MVP is your choice, does not speak of mystical stuff in an otherworldly sense. It seems all mysterious to hear a sage say where someone will go upon their demise or how their actions will bear fruit, but that’s just because (at the moment) we’re freaking samsaric stooges! With a clear perception, some of these things become straight-forward insights or observations.

The same realization can be said of great talents. So often you’ll talk to people and hear “buzz buzz, ballet is really hard! buzz buzz” or “blah blah, being an athlete takes so much hard work! blah blah”. Big surprise there! As if getting good at anything doesn’t take serious work. The point is, skills are very ordinary talents that come from hard work (and maybe possession by the daughters of Zeus, hahaha!). Coming into peak awareness of the universe arises from the same kind of dedication. We love those stories about people born to inherit the vessel of supreme realization, but they’re still people who come from prior causes.

In these cases of prior causes we often see the reason some people have natural gifts–people for whom hard work in certain realms of creativity or labor is natural or even necessary to their contentment. Such are the cases of great artists. Hard work is certainly difficult for anybody, but an inspired person finds their work flows naturally. I think this is what Hatsumi refers to as “riding the shinobi winds”. This is what we want to develop from religion/ritual and so on: an ability to flow.

Flow is a primordial skill that comes from practicing serious ritual. At Weakness With a Twist the other day, the point was made that:

Ritual is action taken with out consistent meaning. Ritual practice itself is not a defense against dogma; however, the practice of ritual has the capacity to reveal the way or mind seeks to lock on to a particular way of perceiving our world.

Ritual, particularly early on, can be very difficult to do consistently. But as this quote points out, to practice as such is making one aware of the distortion or discord in the environment or rhythm of one’s life, those things which pull one away from ritual. A ritual composed of weak desires or paths of no resistance does nothing to “enhance” or strengthen the spirit. It will merely contrast one’s weakest desires with everything else.

One more interesting thing from the same post is:

For heaven’s sake, ritual is not a discarding of reason. It is a good thing we use reason to manipulate our environments for pleasure and power. But reason is a form of aggression which itself can cloud our vision. Ritual has the capacity to re-pose the question: How important is reason?

This reminds me of how so many modern atheists or materialists or “naturalists” in modern society decry religious values as being some kind of primitive belief set or pure fantasy. However, religion is not identified as a “religion” or fantasy by those who originally practice it. Religious concerns very often come from past methods of reasoning used to determine meaning or ways of doing things productively and constructively to one’s community and self.

The way so many materialists talk about discoveries of science or the benefits people will receive from modern advancements away from religion, it’s like they miss the objective of doing hard work. Modern scientific advancements which make our lives more luxurious are nice, but they actually can work against us by catering to our basest pleasures and urges. Not a good devotion. It’s similar to the base idea that anyone who converts to Christianity, Islam or Buddhism will go to heaven or be reborn in a better place purely because they associate themselves with the religion (as opposed to doing the hard work of ritual and self-improvement). High-fallutin’ poppycock rubbish tomfoolery!