Archive for February, 2009

The Sound and the Fury

Posted in academia, Philosophy, Technology, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , on February 27, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Science is the analytical description, philosophy is synthetic interpretation. Science wishes to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the obscure into the known. It does not inquire into the values and ideal possibilities of things, nor into their total and final significance; it is content to show their present actuality and operation, it narrows its gaze resolutely to the nature and process of things as they are. The scientist is as impartial as Nature in Turgenev’s poem: he is as interested in the leg of a flea as in the creative throes of a genius. But the philosopher is not content to describe the fact; he wishes to ascertain its relation to experience in general, and thereby to get at its meaning and its worth; he combines things in interpretive synthesis; he tries to put together, better than before, that great universe-watch which the inquisitive scientist has analytically taken apart. Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war; but only wisdom — desire coordinated in the light of all experience — can tell us when to heal and when to kill. To observe processes and to construct means is science; to criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy: and because in these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For a fact is nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.

–from the introduction to Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy

Since this book was first published in the 1920s, I guess by “sound and fury” Willie D. was referring to crazy new inventions like the telegraph and jazz music. It’s kinda like when Dogen tells us not to be too enticed by pretty flowers — at the time it was a major distraction from the time one could be spending on (non)attaining nirvana, or exploring the superunknown.

Will was a funny guy — a fine writer, and full of interesting quirks. For example, in the first few lines of Chapter 1, he discounts 20th century Asia Minor as “quiet and apathetic,” and goes on to say that Socrates’ bust is so hideous, he looks more like a porter than a philosopher. ZOMG dude u r so judgmental!!1!

Cool book, though a little wordy. Durant wrote a bunch in this series, giving a chronological rundown in the major events of history, philosophy, great civilizations and thinkers, etc. They’re certainly better than the dime-a-dozen history books you can buy on Amazon on any subject and be absolutely mired in poor sources or a lack of inspiration (I’m looking at you Stephen Turnbull and Thomas Cleary).

Still, I cannot even begin to assess the can of worms that the quote above opened. Better to zip my lips. For once I’d like to write a post that doesn’t generate boatloads of hate mail.

Godspeed, Jizo-sama

Posted in Buddhism, death, love, Mysticism, Religion, Storytelling, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Sorry if my blogging rhythm is totally screwy. I have had some other projects going on. It’s also not like I haven’t been writing for this blog: I’ve got over a hundred drafts for this site, many of which are almost finished, but I just can’t get around to finishing them when I’m at home.

Anyway, is there really an Amida Buddha, Kannon, Jizo Bosatsu, or Mary? That archetype, does it really exist? Sure it does. Just watch almost any movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki and you’ll be exposed to some of the deepest love that exists. And I don’t just mean like, he puts a deep love into the direction of these films — I mean, they actually exude incredibly deep cosmic love. Very powerful stuff — sorcery perhaps, on the level of only a handful of artists and visionaries in existence at any one time.

Who else exudes such high levels of love? There are many, but here is just a small handful:

  • Jason Becker
  • Susumu Hirasawa
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • ABBA

The irony here is that guys like Miyazaki and Kurosawa supposedly either work their staff like dogs, or picked mercilessly on certain members of their crew. So what’s the deal with that? Furthermore, Miyazaki is pretty rough on his son, as far as I know. But at the same time, I sort of understand… I’ve definitely had teachers who were great to me and the other students, but were neurotic and crazy on their own, or known really good people who are awful to their own families, and vice versa. Isn’t that so strange?

One of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, My Neighbor Totoro, subtly incorporates the theme of Jizo Bosatsu into the storyline. The patron of unborn children, stillborn children, dead children and orphans — the Jizo is a protectorate of the helpless who drown in the samsaric sea before they even get a chance to swim in it. I like that idea. Miyazaki’s films are primarily aimed at young children, particularly girls, hoping to inspire them with a sense of compassion and self-worth while they are still young, providing them with positive role models. Although the protagonists are not orphans, they encounter the carefully placed Jizo shrines in the story, at pivotal plot points. It does not seem so apparent at first, but upon a second viewing I felt pretty sure that this was significant to Miyazaki’s message.

Many children are orphans, and at the very least many children do not have good role models. Even if there is no tangible, concrete protector deity floating around saving them, I like the idea quite a bit. It’s one worth drinking to. And Miyazaki’s body of work comes pretty close to embodying those ideals. It’s too bad that his recent film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, is to be his last. But really, in this foaming sea of chaos, where we swim around looking for purpose, it’s very nice to know that someone like Miyazaki made his vision become reality.

Some strange rule

Posted in death, History, love, Reality Bites, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, Storytelling with tags , , , , on February 11, 2009 by wizardsmoke

I’ve got some bold feelings right now which, rather than put into some sort of quaint “emo” rant as-per-usual, I’ll replace with this snippet from a nice (depressing) story, The Idiot, by Sakaguchi Ango, the WWII-era, anti-establishment, Japanese author.

(In the following, replace “200 yen” with “money” or even, “money during trying circumstances” and it’ll make a little more sense)

His way of living was unbearably trivial and he himself lacked the power to resolve this triviality. War — this vast destructive force in which everyone was being judged with fantastic impartiality, in which all Japan was becoming a rubble-covered wasteland and the people were collapsing like clay dolls — what a heart-rending, what a gigantic love it represented on the part of nothingness! Izawa felt a desire to sleep soundly in the arms of the god of destruction. This resignation to the force of nothingness had the effect of making him rather more active than before, and when the air-raid alarm sounded he would briskly put on his leggings. The only thing that made life worth living each day was to toy with the uneasiness of life. When the all clear sounded, he would be thoroughly dispirited and once more would be overcome by the despair of having lost all emotion.

This feeble-minded woman did not know how to boil rice or to make bean-paste soup. She had trouble in expressing the simplest thought and the most she could do was to stand in line to get the rations. Like a thin sheet of glass, she reacted to the slightest suggestion of joy or anger; between the furrows of her fear and her abstractedness she simply received the will of others and passed it on. Even the evil spirit of the two hundred yen could not haunt such a soul. This woman, thought Izawa, was a forlorn puppet made for him. In his mind’s eye he pictured an endless journey in which he would roam over the dark moorland with this woman in his arms and the wind blowing about him.

Yet he felt that there was something rather fantastic and ludicrous about the whole idea. This was probably because his external triviality had by now begin to erode his very heart in such a way that the frank feeling of love that was gushing up within him seemed entirely false. But why should it be false? Was there some intrinsic rule which said that the prostitutes in their apartments and the society ladies in their houses were more human than this feeble-minded woman? yes, absurdly enough, it looked as if there really was such a rule.

What am I afraid of? It all comes from the evil spirit of those two hundred yen. Yes, now when I am on the point of freeing myself from the evil spirit by means of this woman, I find that I am still bound by its curse. The only thing I am really afraid of is worldly appearances. And what I mean by “world” is merely the collection of women who live here in the apartments — the prostitutes and the kept women and the pregnant volunteer-workers and the housewives who cackle away in their nasal voices like so many geese. I know that there is no other world. Yet, indisputable as this fact is, I am completely unable to believe it. For I live in fear of some strange rule.

translated by George Saitou

Five, six, pick up chicks

Posted in Fighting, love, martial arts, Relationships, sex, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2009 by wizardsmoke

The other day, I found myself on some Pick-Up Artist blogs. I think I got there via some links on Open Your Heart to the Love, a nice blog that links to mine. Pick-up Artistry sells for the same reason anything does: false mystique built on basic insecurities/needs. But social advantage is all built on basic principles: good presentation, clever first impressions and social deceptions, taking advantage of the lulls in social interactions (using one’s will to overpower another), consistency and camaraderie, etc.

The tips Pick-up Artists give are nothing new or special (though their open embrace of sexual manipulation is a little questionable). The same rules apply in all contexts of social presentation, most notably when confronting potential predators or romantic partners. So here are the rules to dating and survival in a nutshell — the tenets of social presentation:

  • Rule #1 — people will determine whether they are physically attracted to one another within the first few seconds of meeting just as two people (or animals) will determine who is the more dangerous predator within seconds (it’s largely intuitive)
  • Rule #2 — present yourself well; don’t immediately reveal your weaknesses or give in to neurotic behavior and don’t rely on others to guide you
  • Rule #3 — do not get emotionally involved in the social situation; maintain a persistent, persevering attitude, but only say half of what you want to say — be “professional”
  • Rule #4 — maintain good posture; back straight, head up, knees/shoulders relaxed — stay somewhat sober
  • Rule #5 — Be a real person: be genuine about your likes and dislikes when necessary, and have healthy (social) hobbies to pass the time in life.

So of course, since many people have monogamous relationships, and people who know how to fight are not all psychopaths looking for rumbles, most of us ignore these factors in our social scenarios except for those times when we’re on the prowl.

But none of this matters anyway, because the most important things in life are finding food and shelter. New Agey magical crap is for rich people with too much time on their hands, and on some level, the same goes for romance, haha! And even if you disagree with me, you gotta admit, the modern notion of free-choice romance and marriages (as opposed to fixed marriages and so forth) is only for people with extra time.