Archive for the Beauty Category

Second-guessing sexpots in a hierarchy of modern needs

Posted in Beauty, Happiness, health, love, Reality Bites, Relationships, sex, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Many who are obsessed with sex and sexual conquest will validate their own desires by rhetorically claiming that the engagement of numerous successful sexual exploits indicates they possess deeper survival instinct mechanisms, and therefore dominant, superior genes which will be likely extended to another generation.

Ha! Subtle theory. This is a very cynical view because it’s narrow-sighted, based exclusively in boring empirical analyses which assume that humans are moist automatons absent of free will or choice outside of physical drives. In fact, the cosmic view (not the same as ethical view) of sex-obsessed, narcissistic, quickie pick-up types is not far from the party-line agenda of “healthy skeptics” — or whatever other utterly annoying, arrogant label athiests and stage-magicians tend to throw around when describing why they don’t believe in things that are not physically visible and ripe for them to manipulate. (Here’s a hint as to why: stage magicians are so obsessed with manipulating other people because they themselves are deathly afraid of being manipulated. Hence they don’t believe in anything that cannot be “proven” empirically. Nice predictable, self-centered view of the universe you have there, assholes.)

But anyway — why is sexual desire (lust) the thing that yanks us back into samsaric existence over and over again? What is so great about it that it overrides other desires as the focus of our attention? Why are romantic prospects more interesting than career prospects, when we have no control over the former?

A quick hierarchy of the fundamental survival needs could go, in order of necessary (albeit situationally unrealistic) acquisition:

  1. rest or sleep (shelter)
  2. food (sustenance)
  3. physical dominance, or an acquired role in the social order
  4. sexual desire (procreation, in the case of heterosexuals)
  5. everything else (social acceptance, education, spirituality, etc.)

The first two definitely have to be satisfied before the third. The third is sort of a toss-up and could fit somewhere after sexual desire, within social acceptance, as a sort of novelty or luxury of life. In modern post-industrial, capitalist/socialist society our social role is a little more subtly defined than in, say, a tribe of hunter-gatherers, a caste-based system, or a feudal kingdom. For instance, in modern society, most people maintain shelter and food throughout their entire lives, even if they don’t work very hard. There is an infinite spread of wealth between the financially poorest and wealthiest, and there are certainly a number of homeless people, yet most have somewhere to crash and something to chow down on. The quality of luxury varies, but it’s rare that people just suddenly lose access to these basic needs (not to mention the strange preference some women have these days for skinny, weak, whiny, white guys). As I said, one can consider social identity to be a luxury outside that of “citizen”.

Of course, imprisonment is an interesting case. Prison fucks up the entire chain of priorities, because it enforces the shelter and food from above, limiting the freedoms of inmates’ survival instincts to the role of social and physical dominance. Even sexual roles are relegated almost exclusively to status games in prisons (although you could argue that sexual roles are always status games anyway). There seem to be similarities between active military service and certain brands of imprisonment actually.

Back to sex and why it’s important to us: sex is fun because it’s the ego’s ultimate feeling of power, importance, purpose, meaning. Ha! I think Freud wrote something about this. Sex is the ultimate trick of the universe — the illusory notion of self-importance. And of course, when you analyze it, and ask what makes sex, like anything, important or purposeful, you realize there is no purpose. It’s just like when you ask a girl why she loves to dance: “It’s just fun!”

So everything in existence is just fun for it’s own pleasurable amusement. And if you think about it, in society, the ultimate goal is simply procreation. Fulfilling other desires, like wealth, fame, status — these are all secondary or complementary to procreation. A lot of us will disagree with this, but it’s possible that those who choose not to procreate have qualms with the nature of the world or existence (I have one friend who thinks they are doing a better service to the world by not having kids and by allowing the world some extra space). They are a product of modern life, a luxury of modern society, though I would wager some people who choose not to procreate now would have done so in the past.

It’s common knowledge that men and women who dress in intentionally revealing clothing often suffer from insecurities about their own self-image and self-esteem in general. It’s also mentioned that men and women who have excessive sexual relationships suffer from devalued notions of self-worth (although folks like Ikkyu or Baudelaire or Austin Spare could hardly be considered guilty of such things, so it makes me wonder if some people aren’t just unemotional and have inflated self-worth and excessive boredom).

So my fundamental question: those who have the viable option to procreate or have sex, and instead opt not to — do they have the greatest self-love of all? What do you think?



Posted in Beauty, Happiness, love, Reality Bites, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Each being has a fundamental impulse to have the world spinning beneath their feet, moving with their desires. But the world is spinning no matter what happens, for nobody in particular. The world spins because all it is doing, in a cosmic sense, is coming together and then coming apart — just like that. It’s really quite crazy that even the most phenomenal things are as simple as that. So no matter how slow we move, culture and the world hurdles forward, ever-changing. No time to think in this maelstrom! The more you think, the less you understand. And as you think less, as you go deeper into pure existence, experience, emotion, whatever it is that we all are going through — it starts to feel like your protective skin (both physically and mentally) has been ripped off. But then beneath that you find it’s so melancholy, warm, sad and beautiful.

I wonder if maybe this whole universe is a broad, shallow experience at the bottom, you know — because all phenomena are inherently empty of self, and furthermore, substance. But then, sometimes the most shallow or fleeting things are the most profoundly deep. To give a basic example: upon first glance, artists and creatively driven individuals seem to do a lot less for society than philanthropists or charitable organizations. But in truth, artists touch everyone on such a broad, sweeping, deep level, which further influences and inspires the way people live. In many similar cases, the more shallow something seems on the surface, the wider its grasp of influence.

And so it is with the universe, and all the fabrics of this existence. No matter how hard we try to absorb ourselves in our desires, in our passions, thirsts, needs, obsessions, loves and drives — they always go into overdrive, short-circuit, blow out, fail to satisfy. And so I have to ask, what happens if we short-circuit our samsaric experience? What if we wake up and realize nothing ever satisfies, ever? It seems like a major attachment to existence is the desire for satisfaction, or contentment. Which is an insanely selfish passion. What is existence like without passion, without individualism and human understanding? Whether or not it’s liberation, it seems to be beyond human understanding. Parinibbana, and so forth.

There are no cosmic guarantees to be handed down from above, but that is perhaps a good thing. Because it means that no one can give you orders, or the straight answer on how things are going to end up, or what you should do. You can’t just follow orders and be a disciple and expect to gain anything. You’ve gotta see it for yourself.

Innocence Faded

Posted in Beauty, Fighting, Happiness, health, love, martial arts, Reality Bites, Relationships, society, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on November 21, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Most of us, in our youth, are in pretty good health. But our bodies fall apart as we age. And this is another reason martial arts are so stupid — they speed up the injury process. Everyone who really invests something in the martial arts gets some kind of permanent injury. It’s really dumb.

As our bodies age, so do our perceptions of life, the world, society. Hormones, man… In our pristine youth, we see various aspects of our community — firemen, policemen, doctors, garbagemen, construction workers, teachers, etc. as these pure bastions of social well-being. They represent some upstanding portion of our community. They are our friends — people to be trusted.

But with age we see the frail humanity inherent to every person. Our community is made up of people, who are subject to emotions, corruption and disease and bias. It may not all be bad, but should we get caught in the jaws of the system, usually due to an absence of money or opportunity, the tide of society works against our favor. This is something that is hard to grasp for the wealthy, who may not understand the despair felt by those who are continually looked down upon by the society they live in. The disenfranchised of society are jaded very quickly.

This emotional despair is much like the melancholy and hopelessness felt when our bodies are first permanently damaged or injured. Injury is very upsetting, and in some ways I wonder if this isn’t the point of the martial arts: to injure you and then teach you how to keep practicing regardless of this injury. A perverse conscious idea, but a prevalent theme nonetheless! Anyway, it’s a matter of still living as a good person despite the terrible misfortunes that fall upon you. This is not possible for some people.

And perhaps worse, or just as bad, is the pain we feel when hurting another. Injuring another person is a terrible feeling and excessive damage to others creates a terrible catatonic state in oneself. In ways, this is like when people become corrupted by the corruption they see in society. Or when people become like the things that have abused them: parents, gangs, fraternities, cults, etc. I would like to think that I have devoted my life to not becoming like those negative people or things which shaped who I am. I could never write off hurting other people.

I don’t know if people are inherently good or bad, but some people have very big problems. Greed, anger, lust, laziness, anxiety and aversion — these things overtake the mind and isolate us from others. I really wonder if loneliness isn’t just a result of an emotionally consumed mind.

Painkillers (+ Love)

Posted in Beauty, Drug Abuse, Happiness, love, Mysticism, The Arts, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I am routinely amazed by the utter incompetence with which people recognize artistic and emotional depth. My guess — no! intuitive reasoning, is that all people feel the same emotional sensibilities but have different poetic capacities for experiencing them. So a person with lousy taste in music does not need particularly good music to satisfy their emotional needs (or maybe they don’t care about music, but whatever — adding that variable to the discussion just makes things complicated).

For me, the best music that I have found makes me feel like I’m on some opiate-type painkiller. You know the drill — total basking in the emotional depths of ecstasy and melancholy simultaneously, with complete tolerance and compassion for all creatures and situations in existence. Everyone, absolutely anyone, who takes painkillers will feel this way under their influence… and yet when the same emotions are evoked by music, art, literature, social interactions, etc. many people will either consciously attempt to suppress them or dismiss them as completely cheesy, saccharine, trite and so forth. Whyyyy is that?!?!?!

As soon as I perceive a piece of art, a person, a location, a picture, anything, I’ll sense the energy coming from it. It’s the most basic thing a human being does. I guess the ecstasy I describe as emanating from some really great, “virtuous” music is similar to the cliche description that most people adhere to when they mention that they get a “natural high” from meditative practices. That natural high is pretty good: a cross between psychedelics and opiates. Absolutely fantastic. But it takes so much work to maintain! Not that I mind, but…

I once read a Kurt Vonnegut interview where he points out that Freud’s famous comment about how religion is “the opiate of the masses” would be better translated as “the aspirin of the masses”. I agree with that general notion, that religions are just medicines for headaches. It just makes the headaches tolerable, it doesn’t necessarily delude the person. But then again, what if religious practices bring the opiate-induced pleasure I was describing? Then maybe Freud was right. But I wouldn’t have expected him to have any understanding of that…

Dogen said there’d be days like this…

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, Cults, death, Monasticism, Mysticism, Religion, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The flowers, although we love them
Fade and die;
The weeds, although we hate them
Grow and thrive

Dogen Zenji

As I said the other day, at the end of the path, religions are actually obscuring reality, or keeping us attached to the world of suffering. They become like fences in front of the final destination, fences which we can see through but are encouraged to climb over in order to reach paradise or whatever. Yet if we know what we’re doing, we can see reality without putting up a fence to climb.*

But really, I don’t think religions are so crazy. Because all cults are just manifestations of the desire for concrete meaning, the basic impulse for tangible deep understanding. This cyclical search for meaning is a fundamental, natural occurrence — which makes it some kind of mysterious truth or idea in of itself.

Anyway, some obvious facts that have to be realized with the body in order to mean a thing:

  • what’s happening now telegraphs what is happening in the future
  • people die, get injured, and get sick every moment; eventually it will be your turn
  • the simplest things that we take for granted are also often the most mysterious things in life


*Wizard Smoke assumes no responsibility whatsoever for potential spiritual damages incurred by his advice

This is it

Posted in Beauty, Buddhism, Happiness, Monasticism, Mysticism, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It can be difficult to see things as they are. Most of us, upon looking at anything within our sensory perceptions, do not actually perceive our environment but only our thoughts about the environment or our perceptions. This kind of thinking surely falls into some form of (post) existentialist philosophy, but what I’m concerned with is how to drop this kind of perception, how to drop this mistaken association with our thoughts and perceptions.

Without lines of thought distracting our awareness, our perceptions become clear and even lucid. The universe is only composed of a handful of ideas and elements. It is not so complex when taken apart. But therein lies the mystery and the beauty — the way these simple ideas evoke so much, cause so much color and experience. The world ripples as foam on the cosmic sea.

You can study biology and medicine, but unless you actually sit and contemplate your body on a regular basis, you will never truly live in your body. “Living in your body” is an interesting concept. It sounds like a Zen mantra (which it kind of is) or maybe a tenet of real martial arts practice. But to live in the body means to intimately know the nature of the body — its impermanence, ability to heal and function; the way it came from the earth and one day will disappear; the way it reacts to emotions and mental phantasms. And what remains after the body passes away?

Zen is interesting as a Buddhist doctrine which (apparently) strove to separate students from attachment to ritual, idolatry and dogma. Which is an admirable goal, though certainly this has led a number of modern Buddhists to disassociate themselves with traditional Buddhist ritual. But the reason I like this “Zen idea,” and surely it has appeared in other religions and sects, is because it reminds us that a religion is just another filter imposed on top of our perceptions. It is another layer of complexity preventing many from seeing reality as it is.

Perhaps many people need religions or ethical philosophies which they can put their efforts into and thus use to achieve a more lucid or painless awareness of the life experience. This I can understand. But many people think religion is some kind of Masonic lodge that can be worked through, or something that has increasing levels of awareness. But the levels of awareness actually work in reverse, stripping one of levels of mental complexity.

Not that a person should no longer think. It’s just that thinking has more to do with the ego’s desire to entertain itself. Thinking is a little fantasy or pleasure we create for ourselves, a ripple of insecurity against the threat of something we don’t want to look at. It’s all very flowery and nice, but ultimately it means very little in terms of actual awareness.

A naturally talented artist or musician or fighter or businessman is able to see things in their fields of ability as they actually are. This is what makes them experts — their amazing ability to see things as they actually exist. But it is not an adult-like, profound, learned expertise. It is seeing the potential of things before they take place, seeing them arise and pass away before they actually do. It is the most unpeeled layer of the mind. I would like to extend this “natural vision” or ability to the root of existence, revealing what things originally are.

Summer Grass

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, death, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Poetry, Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A good Basho poem, one which Hatsumi is prone to quote (or have translated), goes:

The summer’s grass
all that’s left
of the warriors’ dreams

Which I kind of like. ‘Coz so many people are obsessed with violence and combat to the extent that it holds them back from upward social mobility. And then some people are so obsessed with power that they forget about the world around them. Strange that it is so hard to actually live in the world as it is, even though that’s all we can do.

Like the good quote on Whiskey River the other day:

In the tea ceremony, the expression “once in a lifetime, this one encounter” is often used. The usual way this is interpreted is “a one-and-only encounter.” In Zen, though, we interpret this expression in the following way: In the course of our lifetime, there is one person we must meet. No matter through which grasslands we may walk or which mountains we may climb, we must meet this person. This person is in this world. Who is this person? It is the true self. You must meet the true self. As long as you don’t, it will not be possible to be truly satisfied in the depths of your heart. You will never lose the sense that something is lacking. Nor will you be able to clarify the way things are.

This is the objective of life as well as of the teaching of Buddhism – to meet yourself. –Sekkei Harada

But you know… the quote would have really blown my mind had one line been slightly different: “This person is this world.”