Archive for July, 2008

Love (in four acts)

Posted in love, Poetry, Reality Bites, Relationships, sex, society, Technology, Wizard Quotes, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Frankly I’m sick of hearing about love. But it’s the main thing everyone in the universe is infatuated with. No matter the flavor, isn’t everything that causes existence a manifestation of the same root? The same springboard of love? Bah!!!

But still, let’s talk about romantic love again, even though I know nothing about it.

As an immature young whipper-snapper on the quest for idealistic romance, I tended to rationalize or theorize about love, about how it should work out best, or how I might be able to find a “soul mate”. Following this blind idealistic view, I remember I tended to categorize potential mates on a grid with two axis: “X” indicated pure physical attraction and “Y” was personal compatibility, understanding, chemistry, emotional resonance, etc.

Thus my dorky teenage model was: (optimal attraction) x (optimal personal compatibility) = (love of life)

Obviously the problem with this simplistic model is that there are no clear divisions between physical attraction and emotional/individual personality compatibility. Nor is there necessarily any reason for any two people to fall in love without a pretext under which to meet or befriend each other. Isn’t this why so many people fall in love after going through a serious or difficult ordeal together? It’s the same as a bond made between soldiers who live and fight together, really.

In fact, I find that this is a real problem with online dating services, that there is no motivation and no spontaneity to breathe romantic life into potential courtships. Dating services tend to categorize matches based on shallow personal interests and likes/dislikes, when love is not something you can gauge. And the things most of us write about ourselves are too one-sided or dishonest to be particularly useful in a romantic dating service search.

But people want company. I understand. I can’t blame ’em, really, since I feel that way too on occasion. The real tricky thing about love, and life in general, is that your perspective of it changes over time. And love itself changes with age and maturity. When sexual feelings are strongest it is most related to physical attraction or emotional chemistry, and later in life it often becomes a product of compatibility or peer admiration.

In my current dorky system of love analysis, I like to separate romance into four stages, representing the four seasons:

(1) Spring/youth — Here love is driven mainly by a physical, sexual attraction and lustful urges.

(2) Summer/young adulthood — This kind of love is accompanied by emotional longing, explosive chemistry and new realizations about what makes another person sexually alluring.

(3) Autumn/adulthood — Here the idea of romance factors in one’s lifestyle, moral upstanding, personal compatibility (i.e. things outside of mere shared interests) and mutual longterm goals.

(4) Winter/old age — I think in the final evolution of romance, before it returns to pure physical attraction, it is about simple companionship. Here I think people become less critical of each other’s interests or physical qualities and merely crave good company.

These are all slightly different manifestations of love, and I’d surely have argued at one point in my life that so-called “youthful love” is just attachment to lust. But to that extent, all of these categories are lustful attachments! I think the reason so many people don’t easily fall in love for extended periods of time these days, or the reason divorce rates are so high, is because people think about their choices too much. We’re too judgmental of each other. A plethora of choices and opportunities makes the attention span suffer.

But, eventually people become old and the final stage of love descends. There’s no escape from these sentiments if you seek to “fall in love” with another human, but it becomes harder to meet people as we age, so it’s a good idea to factor in all of these long-term interests when searching for intimacy.

***

Soon I grew and happy too
My very good friends and me
We’d play all day and Sally J.
The girl from number four
And very soon I begged her,

“Won’t you keep me company?”

Now marriage is an institution sure
My wife and I, our needs and nothing more,

all my friends by a year, by and by disappear
But we’re safe enough behind our door.

I flourished in my humble trade
My reputation grew
The work devoured my waking hours
But when my time was through
Reward of all my efforts my own limited company

I hardly noticed Sally as we
Parted company
All through the years in the end it appears
There was never really anyone but me

Now I’m old I puff my pipe
But no one’s there to see

I ponder on the lesson of
My life’s insanity
Take care of those you call your own
And keep good company

Queen; “Good Company” from A Night at the Opera

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Poetic Doublespeak

Posted in Mysticism, Occult, Philosophy, Poetry, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , on July 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

“If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail, and his self-controlled verses will be eclipsed by the poetry of men who have been driven out of their minds.” -Socrates

In other words, a lot of people try to hide the fact that they’re boring and un-profound in their overly articulate writing. That’s what always irks me about newspaper journalists or columnists or popular “intellectual” authors: their writing is more about appearing sophisticated than actually saying anything sophisticated. They write a lot of stuff that sounds all lofty and romantic, but is actually about something boring or normal.

I suppose in the world of martial arts, this kind of pretense is like getting extremely physically strong and trying to force techniques to work. Or in magic(k) it’s like trying to think overly consciously about a ritual or technique after it has been enacted, or talking to people about it. You know, stuff that kills the natural life of the practice.

The issue I have with quotations and academia is that they are not always necessary to write a compelling argument or work. Academic work is so wrought with quotations, it becomes a real headache. It’s no surprise that there are parallels between what two people writing on related subjects would say. Not to mention, since everything in the universe functions on exponentially similar laws, how is it ever surprising to hear a related quote?

Look, it certainly works to quote things, but it seems to function poetically. Like, it adds artistic resonance to one’s writing, unless one is seeking to prove or disprove some theory (uh, then again there is science, law, history and so forth, subjects which would be completely unreadable without quotes… so maybe I’m an idiot). But! A lot of people hide behind their quotes. Complicated terminology and extensive use of quotes tends to be a way to hide shitty writing.

I think it was George Orwell who said one should always used the simplest way of expressing something to express it. Not stupidest or watered-down but the simplest. Meaning, when you write something it should be easy for people–almost all functionally literate people with an attention span–to read. This phenomenon (complicated technique hiding a lack of inspiration) is prevalent in all of the arts.

I’m sure you’ve caught the irony that, if you’re interested in that George Orwell quote, I don’t have the source or authority of its authorship! How easily my argument is de-constructed! Wahahaha!!!

Blech, whatever. Point remains: Socrates knew the score. A genius is their own reward because their own internal ecstasy can never be measured by anything the world can provide. Nothing else can even compare.

No Prayer for the Dying

Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Cults, Daoism, death, Mysticism, Religion, society, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , on July 22, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Funerals are so weird. Despite the fact that they focus on one person’s life, that person really does not have much of a hand in the process. How strange that funerals are so personal, yet at the same time very impersonal in relation to the deceased. What better argument that funerals and prayer are often for the living?

Not that this is always the case. The actual ceremony is for the living. But it’s hard to really give a good ceremony in which people have a good time. That’s what I would want for my funeral. A good fun time to be had by all! A real fun, hilarious, bitter-sweet bash! Because you only remember the good times. The bad times slip away into the shadows of the mind, only reappearing to haunt us.

I guess there are three reasons to pray for the deceased, all of which are similar in their needs: (1) rebirth, reincarnation, salvation or whatever your choice in transmigration, (2) assuaged feelings in the family, friends and community of the deceased, and similarly (3) maintenance of ceremony, ritual, and needs of a congregation or tradition.

The idea of praying as a group or having a specialist (as in Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) pray for the newly deceased seems logical enough to me. In particular, if the deceased has been careless or unprepared for their death, their mindstream or “dedicated energy stream” might not be very focused. The kind of energy a person carries around is not purely retained in some empirical physical body. People have a kind of omnidimensional presence which can get divided, whisked away, or maybe even shred up without proper guidance or practice. Yeah, at least that’s what I’ve surmised without any concrete evidence.

People who have developed their shen (spirit) are probably less in need of someone to actually pray for their rebirth. It’s still a good thing to do, if only for the sake of ceremony, but there is a point where one’s spirit has gone beyond the prayers of laypeople. Some people do not need prayers as much as others, or sometimes it is not the deceased person but their community and ancestors who require them. This is why we mourn when a truly wonderful or virtuous person dies. We need to pray for ourself, for our own future in the shadow of their lives.

Hee hee, it’s kinda like in SIT: Zen Teachings of Taisen Deshimaru when a student asks why they’re doing a kito (commemorative prayer service) for the Pope. And then whether they should ever do one for Deshimaru himself. But he’s like, “I am beyond a kito, but if it makes you feel better…” Haha, Deshimaru had the most annoying, hilarious, charming way of talking to people. I guess a lot of recent generation Zen masters from Japan are like that, yeah? So off-the-wall goofy and arrogant it becomes funny.

Man… I better cool off with the Deshimaru, though. What am I, some kind of cult member? Pshh!!!

Ninja Melt

Posted in Exercise, Fighting, martial arts, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’m not one for traditional aerobic activity. I don’t jog or go to the gym or road bike or fight bulls. I certainly have done those things, but in my experience they seem like a lot more trouble than they’re worth. Plus, I cannot stand to get all sweaty and hot in front of a bunch of staring strangers and their smog-inducing cars (apparently I’m OCD/Social Anxiety-prone, hee hee!). Gross!

No, for me rolling is the sweetest exercise ever. I feel like I’m 7 years old all over again, every time. It’s so much fun! The thing is, you have to be careful when you roll. I actually used to intuitively tumble as a kid, but I picked up a wide variety and knowledge of rolls from throwing down with Bujinkan classes over the years. Some of those guys (along with maybe Systema) teach a crazy variety of rolls. Much more than in Aikido or Judo, where a lot of people get exposed to the idea. I’m actually surprised Dave at Formosa Neijia hasn’t talked much about rolling or roll-conditioning, considering he’s a true chameleon and full-time blogster on “soft” martial arts.

Rolling functions as an aerobic exercise that builds up the muscles on the back. Oh, sure, if you do it incorrectly or when you’re tense you will shred your back but that’s part of the fun, amiright? Point is, if I just work on rolls and (my half-assed attempts at) handsprings for a half-hour every day, I become incredibly powerful. Although! I should point out that I pre-empt and finish each practice session with some serious zhan-zhuan or zazen-type muscle relaxation meditation activity. Rolling incorrectly a few times can tense up your back pretty good.

If you already do Bujinkan/Systema/Aikido/Hapkido or whatever else curriculum that incorporates this rolling stuff, my advice is not that special. But, since nobody reads this blog anyway, what do I care?

Some precautions:

  • Do not drop onto your shoulder as you roll! Just as you smoothly transition between steps in Taiji or any martial art, the weight transition from the feet to the shoulder and then the back is like slowly pouring water into a glass. If you drop on the wrong part of your shoulder, such as where the collar bone connects to the shoulder, you could do some serious damage or pain to yourself.
  • Relax throughout the roll! The more worried about the roll, the more you will tense up. Even a little tension at the beginning of the roll will build up and create giant gaps in movement by the end of the roll.
  • Work on them slowly! Learn to do them with little momentum or slowly. Learn to feel your way through the roll, as though the muscles on your back were tire treads.
  • Never pre-meditate a roll or act when excited. Just practice rolls slowly until they are a natural part of your movement.
  • Don’t finish on your knee and don’t push with your head. If you practice on concrete this can really mess you up! Don’t do that until you’ve mastered this.
  • Practice on concrete or a hard surface once you’re getting good. This will let you see where you are too stiff or where you are relying on your hands/knees. It will also strengthen your back and smooth out your technique.
  • Go back and break down the fundamental basics and watch them as you go through a roll slowly. I.e. make sure it’s always going shoulder-to-opposite-hip and that you aren’t placing impact on any portion of your shoulder blade.

People make fun of the Bujinkan sometimes because there’s so much cheesy ninja romanticism that goes along with it. Fair enough — there are many guys (including teachers) who have simply spent too much time playing Tenchu: Stealth Assassins and Ninja Gaiden. But a lot of practices in martial arts are mistakenly discarded because they take too long to implement into one’s natural movement. Rolls are sometimes thought of this way. But with rolls, if they’re practiced every day for a couple of years, they become one’s natural movement. This means: no more fear of falling on pavement, the ability to jump from greater heights by channeling the momentum into a ground roll, and the ability to leap out of the way of gunfire while saving hot babes (this is the Roger Hamburger technique).

There are some truly legitimate videos of the Bujinkan Shihan demonstrating basic techniques that have finally weaseled their way onto the internet. Also, there are some Kadochnikov Systema examples that are slick: the dude just melts into the ground!

Dehuman condition

Posted in Doom and Evil, Film, History, Reality Bites, society, Technology with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Do a person’s harmful or negative actions disqualify their artistic or social endeavors? Do the ends justify the means? I mean, if someone is a wretched wife or a nasty person or an abusive father or a bully, does that make their art or philanthropic social contributions more or less worthwhile? Or do we have to separate them from their work? Like, in the famous case of Wagner, is his music held accountable or penalized for his anti-semitic views? Do we consider Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi’s extra-marital affairs to be impediments to admiring their virtuous causes?

On the individual level we can say the ends justify the means because an abusive spouse doesn’t directly effect the larger social group. The individual’s contributions to the broader human experience can somehow outweigh their atomic family damage. Or so we tell ourselves, when incubated from dealing with the suffering of the afflicted.

Ah, but if we excuse some people, how do we consider folks such as Joseph Mengeles or Unit 731 if they actually come up with valid research? What about the medical advancements of wartime conflict? Do the ends justify the means? I say fuck ’em, but I guess each one is a totally individual issue, isn’t that right? And from an economic viewpoint, the cold evanescent waves of society, only one thing matters (guess what that is?). Where we stand on the issue morally doesn’t seem to decide things. Political and social morality seems like a feigning stance sometimes. Moral issues — since when have those actually mattered in the economic progress of society? It often seems like morals are defined by economic conditions. *shiver*

Genocide, the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, Unit 731, African-American and South American slavery, colonization, the killing and displacement of the Native Americans or the Ainu or the Saami — they all functioned via one initial political policy: dehumanization. Treating the group in question as if they were less than human.

Yeah, we all know that’s what it means. It’s in the history books, dummy. But think about it: the reason for these groups to be dehumanized was not an individual choice made person-to-person (well, it was but they didn’t each spontaneously arrive at that choice). The decree was given from above, by the government and religious leaders; the idea was given that these groups were a threat, were the other, were out to get us, that they were not like us, that they were not human.

See, dehumanization is the first step in committing mass genocide. It just takes propaganda and a lot of straw-man building. Once people have a higher authority telling them it’s okay — nay, even good — to commit heinous murder, because the other is a threat to one’s people and culture, it becomes morally acceptable (and sometimes rewarding) to do so amongst members of the dominating group.

How people let themselves fall into believing this kind of sinister propaganda crap I don’t wanna know, but if you convince yourself of something for long enough, eventually you’ll believe it. Likewise, as soon as you’re convinced some person or group is being manipulative or has a veiled agenda or that there is a conspiracy theory afoot, everything they do will seem to validate your suspicion! Not that these suspicions are always wrong, but you see why it’s so risky…

Dehumanization, that’s bad. But that’s implying only humans receive quality treatment! What about the animals? Doesn’t a good human being treat all beings with the same kindness? Are the scientific achievements that result from experimenting on animals worth the price any more so than when the test subjects are humans?

Hrmm… the thing that worries me is what happens after we kill off all the animals. With no one left to kill or eat, we’ll turn on each other or validate individual existence by ethnic background. Isn’t that right? Once things get competitive enough, at the very least we’ll be designating an individual’s value by nationality or caste or whatever. Ha, as if we didn’t do that already!

Anyway: I don’t know if I want to live in a world without wild animals, and in which humans meet their friends and mates on computer-exclusive social networks. It’s starting to make me cry!

______

*I should point out, the two most disturbing movies on the Holocaust I think I’ve seen are The Grey Zone and the documentary Shoah. They’re so draining you can’t even shed a tear.

Tears of Sylph

Posted in Beauty, Happiness, Reality Bites, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , on July 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The two things that make me cry:

(1) Mental illness — I’ve seen several people close to me lose their mind. I also have some relatives who have always been mentally ill. Insanity is the ugliest thing in the world. It isn’t visible to the eye, but it contains a truly hideous presence — a purely ghoul-filled manifestation. Didn’t HP Lovecraft write that the darkest, most frightening thing is madness?

(2) Impermanence — The big kahuna! Every single thing fades. Life is just a fleeting glimpse of the ghost of creation. This is the real thing to absolutely realize. It’s where compassion and all that stuff comes from. The realization of impermanence is like the most pure realization of the dichotomy of sadness and joy.

***

Sure, other things do really bother me — such as: murder, rape, cruelty to animals, environmental destruction, exploitation, ignorance, and love-sickness. But those two things I mentioned, to me they cause the ultimate heartache. Heartache is different from anger or emotional disgust. Heartache is blameless, isolated and without any answer or possible solution. It is deep and, as it reads — aching.

The most surreal thing about people dying is the fact that our experiences with the deceased were never conclusive or epic the way we’ve been led to expect (been programmed) by movies, stories, television, and other propaganda. People expect a pinnacle of poignancy.

In the vein of madness, I also know some people who voluntarily pursue insanity. Truth is they don’t realize that’s what they’re pursuing. To anyone with a serious interest in crazy people and ugly emotional situations, all I can say is — good luck in the next world!

Loser Takes It All

Posted in Doom and Evil, Fighting, History, Reality Bites, Technology, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two of the ugliest–if not the ugliest–single acts of violence in human history. I can think of no greater symbolic shameful event for any nation than that of being the only recipient of an atomic bomb attack. What a deathblow to the collective psyche! For Japan, a nation with a strong sense of honor and pride, this must have been unusually horrific.

Everyone is a loser in war, but the people who really understand it are those who actually lose or are defeated, overtaken. After all: “He who has been harmed by you, knows you.” (Blake) That’s one of the main themes in the classic ninja film, Samurai Spy. There are other good themes in that one, parallels to Cold War espionage, etc., but this is the meat of it. The film’s director, Masahiro Shinoda, makes a strong point: sometimes the person whom is most alive is actually the one who dies.

As he says in an interview, the victor can be the real loser sometimes. The victor is forced to live on without intimately perceiving the conflict. The victor, though blessed in good fortune, does not truly understand the price of war. And what is a war without knowing it intimately? I don’t mean the fighting itself, I mean the price of it, the toll it takes on the loser.

Grave loss and tragedy are not helpful to one’s well-being, but they can create a legacy. The A-bomb (along with going to the moon) is one of the single most memorable events of not only the 20th century, but human history (funny how though we often look back and only remember the best of times, memorable history is forged by humanity’s worst moments). Here is where the director’s point resonates. We can say that no one else but the Japanese understand the atomic bomb — just as no white person really feels the effects of black slavery, nor any man understand a woman. Oh sure, we can speculate, imagine and theorize. But the rest of us do not know it for ourselves.

For the moment, only one nation has experienced a nuclear blast upon its population. But… how many weapons have only been used once and then discarded? People are so irresponsible and selfish, it really makes you worry. World War I was the end of chivalry, but World War II brought mass civilian deaths and a lack of humanity unlike any previous war: it featured weaponry that proved we can actually destroy our entire planet. War has always been hideous, but modern weaponry has made war the combat equivalence of a lab sterilization. People are treated like bacteria.

I suppose in the aftermath of such carnage nothing is accomplished by a focus upon individual blame or faults of the participatory parties. This only exacerbates the damage done. And revenge doesn’t heal the hole left in your heart. Only time can fill that one in.

Nagasaki aftermath