Archive for the Cults Category

Martial Arts Time-LARP

Posted in Cults, Fighting, martial arts, Paganism, Religion, self-help, Shintoism, taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by wizardsmoke
Something to note about Japanese martial arts is the CEREMONIALISM. For instance, what really is the difference between the presentation of Japanese koryu (samurai-era schools) and sport arts like judo? Mostly the ceremony. And between those two groups of arts lies modern gendai budo like the Bujinkan, Genbukan, Jinenkan, Iaido, Aikido, involve pseudo-free-form small patterns that are derived from ritual. Unlike Systema or Taijiquan where you have basic fundamentals demonstrated on their own, in koryu-derivative arts, you have symbolic patterns, which are neither specific techniques, nor are they extended kata or forms.

To me this feels like a culturally distinct Japanese process, where much of the transmission takes place in the subtler cues and the practitioner’s ability to read between the lines or perceive the information along cultural lines. But I guess that’s the gist of EXISTENCE eh? That’s how you figure out anything, no matter how seemingly clear-cut the language. My problem is that I don’t understand cultural cues from Japan! So everytime I find myself in these totally sweet Shinto-esque training environments, I don’t really know how to bypass the ritual itself. Ah, but that’s the game I guess. It just sucks when I don’t get it and I get straight rude injured by the practice. SO IT GOES AHAHA

But the truth is, I find martial arts to be kind of lame and nerdy. Not nerdy in a geeky sense, but nerdy in that there are a lot of people who obsess over the stuff without any bigger use for the material, save for their ego. I find myself TOLERATING a lot of the people I meet in the martial arts, rather than really enjoying their company. HEY HEY not that I’m some great company myself but… the issue is that with annoying nutjobs, crazy or angry people, etc. their presence comes with a higher price. You have to actually physically fight with these people, even if only an exercise. Not as much of an issue in music, business, academia, etc. where you generally just deal with the stupid non-violent status war shit that all groups have.

And that’s the other thing: sparring, fighting, etc. When are you going to get in a dirty streetfight, save for someone surprise assaulting and destroying you? When will you need to use your god-given right to firearms, except to commit a crime? I don’t know, I guess if it happens, the training is worth it. And good survival/martial training will certainly show you WHEN you’re coming close to those situations, since you lookat them more directly (if you’re not retarded), but when do you walk into those things? Very rarely. Time is an expensive commodity, and I would imagine most people don’t have that to spare for this survivalist shit.

To me martial arts ends up being a kind of “violence ritual”. This is something along the lines of what Scott Philips talks about. I just think it’s a way of warding off the negative emotions and fears that come with thinking about violence without first-hand knowledge of it. So, by exposing yourself to it on a regular basis in a safer environment, it’s easier to tame within one’s psyche; it is not as much of a severe control factor in dictating one’s life.

Pop maestro

Posted in Cults, Doom and Evil, propaganda, Reality Bites, society, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on October 1, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As a skilled (some generous folks might even say professional) musician, I do not take other people’s musical opinions too seriously. I generally just don’t care that much. Does a financier or banker or Fortune 500 director or CEO care what the average person has to say about finance? I would wager he/she does not.

Having admitted to this, I got a call the other night to go see U2 for free. Ahahaha! I declined. “But,” my friend protested, “you’re a music guy. This is your thing.” As I told him, that while U2 does amuse me in a painful manner, the band does not bring me listening pleasure in any capacity (also, I am not sure that I trust that Bono guy. He hides behind sunglasses a lot. Really, what’s with that? No eye-contact? Eye-contact is the most direct form of non-verbal communication, pal, and your music sure doesn’t have any communicable message…).

One fun way to test your mental concentration, is to listen to some music, and whilst listening to it, mentally recall and listen to some other piece of music in your head, singing along to it. It gets harder to do the more accessible and catchy you find the music that is actually coming through your speakers. It can strengthen the kind of concentration you need in performance, magic or martial arts, or any other discipline in which you need to convince the ego’s insecurities or fears to temporarily conform with the will. I.e. you create a strong center of concentration which is unperturbed by direct sensory influences.

This kind of concentration is similar to what practiced musicians are doing all the time during ensemble performances, especially between more complex and seasoned folks (surely you can imagine this exercise is what I do when some kind of trinkety U2-sounding pop music schmaltz is invading my surroundings.). Skilled musicians, like people skilled at anything else group-oriented (military, sports, business, dance, monasticism, relationships, etc.), are responsible for covering their own asses throughout the performance, not listen to or watch the whole band at once the way the audience can. That’s the only way the whole thing stays together.

Ah, but what is pop music anyway? Just the self-willed capitalist propaganda of the masses. Oh yeah I sound cynical, but capitalist culture is just the dictatorship without the dictator. And pop music is the really boring, blatant, thoughtless music product made entirely to consume. There is no high art in pop music — it’s catchy in order to get stuck in your brain and further duplicate itself in sales. It is just like film in that sense (everyone knows a film is an advertisement for itself, I mean c’maaaannnn).

The sole purpose of a pop song is to get stuck in your head. There is no other point, no greater pleasure to be derived from it. It is meant to occupy your mind when you are not listening to it.

Huh, but no matter, ‘coz I’m sure you don’t care what I think of music either.

A Humbled Pos(t)er

Posted in Cults, Fighting, martial arts, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , on August 30, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As a martial artist, I’m nothing special (err… probably not as a wizard either, come to think of it). This is something I think about in a sober frame of mind. I consciously think of my limitations — not obsessively, as some self-esteem issue, but so that I am aware of what I am capable of and where I can develop and grow as a person. This thought process is why I like effective self-deprecating humor because, when done effectively, it actually reveals the person’s self-awareness and comfort within that awareness. A person aware of — and comfortable with, their own limitations is socially attractive.

Now, in society, a lot of people think martial arts means something other than it does. To describe them objectively, martial arts are mostly an aerobic method of maximizing body efficiency in movement, balance and physical contact (not violence). This kind of training leaves out a lot of emotional, environmental and sociological variables that are involved in real conflict and violence. Controlled sparring, even at fairly high levels of physical contact and danger of injury, is still radically different than sudden violence in any other situation. Most of us should be wise to this by now; it’s Animal MacYoung 101!

To use an analogy: sparring is like jamming on guitar with your friend, whereas real conflict/combat is playing a live concert. You can certainly get really good at jamming with your friend and gain high levels of ability, but when playing a concert there are so many variables that could mess up your show and mess with your confidence and performance: the electronic equipment, the crowd, the venue, the way your bandmates perform, your physical or mental health, your actual preparedness with the material being performed, and so on. And because of all those variables, each concert is different in it’s own way. The stuff you practiced with your friend is only a sized portion of the concert, but it is the part over which you have the most immediate or consistent control.

When around people who are more learned on a conversational subject, it is courteous to defer a temporary conversational authority to that person. But in certain situations, such as people who are irresponsibly physically violent or sexually manipulative, it’s better to abandon the situation or confront it. These are people who are seeking to establish complete control over the situation at hand — it’s a bullying control mechanism.

I know people who are violent criminals who, out of their own insecurities, need to blatantly establish their imposing physical dominance over every social environment they are in. They will not become involved in a social environment unless they feel they are the supreme physical dominant (not to mention such people feel it necessary to receive a vocal affirmation from others). These people are dangerous, because inevitably their irresponsibility and narcissism will lead to a situation in which their fragile psychological needs will engage in violent activity and override the group’s safety. For instance, such a person would be an ineffective bodyguard or soldier because their personal issues mean they would engage in violence at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons.

One important thing to learn in life is humility. Religions and martial arts groups parrot on about how important humility is, but don’t give a full explanation of the subject, while also ironically expecting an inappropriate amount of subservience from the individual. Humility is simply being subservient to those who deserve your respect and walking away from those who do not (this in lieu of confrontation). Subservience is feigning much personal responsibility, whereas arrogance often creates the exact kind of violent criminal I mention above. This approach includes dealing with your own teacher(s) sometimes. If someone insists on being “right” or dominant in a situation, you have three choices: you walk away, you confront them, or you submit to their authority. Teachers are certainly to be socially deferred to within the realm of their expertise, but as soon as someone seeks to dominate your position outside of the area you have agreed to allow them authority — it’s time to confront it or walk away.

Verbal grapplage

Posted in academia, Buddhism, Christianity, Cults, death, martial arts, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, society, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Although there might not be any ultimate goal or super high pinnacle, I do think there is a “great death” that one can undergo. How you get there beats the hell out of me, but I suspect it has to do with meditation. That’s my hunch. But then you could meditate on anything you want and not get there, so there must be some kind of specific instructions. Problem is, you’d need to make sure the person teaching you had already been “destroyed” by their awareness and experience, and it’s impossible to prove that empirically. Surprise!

I’ve known a few people who really loathe Christianity and all other religions. Their argument being that religions are the cause of mankind’s greatest evils (Crusades, Holocaust, etc). Any teenager will be glad to share their theory on this. And the logical response could simply be: (A) the evils committed under the influence of religion or religious differences were by people who did not follow the actual religious code (too literal, too loose), and therefore were not actually properly religious and (B) all organizations of all kinds are capable of, and have committed, some sinister practices. Religion is one of many such schemes, of which modern capitalism and consumer culture is quite similar.

Throwing away the idea of salvation, God, and everything else, it seems religion is just another way of socially separating groups and creating demographics; creating differences amongst people. People are separated from each other by their identifications, their labels, their distinctions. And you could attack any demographic of any type of linked assumed identities: sex, social strata, skin color, intelligence, religious association, athletic ability, the healthy, the technological saavy, those born with aggression and natural competitiveness, etc.

The first argument, that religious violence does not represent religion, is also very similar to the belief that systems of practice or belief, as well as tools, are neutral and devoid of moral principles in themselves — that it is the individual who decides the moral make-up of their systems and actions. I.e. the morality of guns, martial arts, religion, science and experimentation, is all explained by the individual approach and not the practice of the thing itself — that people do things for different reasons.

But if we say that the systems and tools of our civilization are neutral, but we set the moral grade, doesn’t that dismiss every practice? That means all large groups supposedly do not speak for the whole group should they behave in a socially unwholesome manner. And so it all comes back down to the politically correct mentality that we cannot make generalizations.

But everything is a generalization. Almost anything out of my mouth is a generalization. Or at the very least, an unscientifically provable assumption. The worst is when we describe a person. How can we do that without generalizing everything? We send off the thought processes of other people in wild directions because we cannot actually hone in a person’s “true” attributes and thusly convey them. The only true statement a person can make is a silent presence.

I do think that people make true statements all the time — statements true to their character. That is, the things we actually say, are not true. But anyway, my point was that social sciences are actually, at the end of the day, chopping stuff up in a very similar way as the actual physical sciences. No point — just more data to combine with lines of reasoning.

No kool-aid for me, thanks

Posted in Christianity, Cults, Happiness, love, Reality Bites, Religion, society, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by wizardsmoke

For some strange (albeit predictable) reason, religious nutballs are never content to keep to themselves. I mean, they do sometimes; but then they do crazy stuff that goes against national laws, like polygamy, or they infiltrate the government from their affluent, influential-yet-isolated temples. All the rest of us non-religious people supposedly envy their blind faith, which makes everything easy and happy for them. Except if that were the case (them being happy), why are they so dead-set on converting every last one of us non-believers?

It’s not like I could give two smokes about Atheism/Brights/materialists/empiricists and whosits either. I think those guys are possibly just as nuts. But the religious people — their logic just doesn’t add up (ha, big surprise!). They rarely come off as happy, just as pleasantly stoned or something. Which seems to be the marketing trend in convincing people you’re enlightened — act blissed out and stoned and smile with big groups of the kool-aid drinkers.

Crazy thing is how slick some of the religious evangelical-conversion types are at what they do. Some guy in a tie comes up and asks if he can help you move the table out of your apartment complex and the next thing you know you’re sitting in a Mormon Death Star, wondering whether you can get the magic underpants without paying the joiner’s fee (you can’t, and the Mormons are amusingly the closest to happy people I have had try to convert me).

The truth is, religious nutballs are just conspiracy theorists. And conspiracy theorists generally operate under the same set of principles, which are that they have the goods and nobody else does, especially not other conspiracy theorists. But here’s where it gets interesting: rather than shut up about this fact, or reside quietly and self-satisfied, they can’t shut up about it. They have to talk you and everyone else’s ear off about how they figured out this amazing truth that is so incredible, and they want to share it with you. They’re absolutely terrible at keeping a secret.

Aren’t they all like that? The Yogis/Yoginis, religious people, Illuminati conspiracy nuts, New Agers and 2012 people, Alcoholics Anonymous, political nerds, metaphysicists, Athiests, philosophers, psychedelic drug users, teenagers, people-who-read-the-news, and so forth. They cannot shut up. It is amazing, really.

It’s a lot like desperate romantic love. It’s this exciting thing that is cooked up in the mind and becomes this meaning for existence because it has been cooked up in the mind for so long, but in reality it (the person being fantasized about, or in this case, the religious delusion) is just another boring human being or boring fantasy.

The other thing is, religious/conspiracy people will absolutely not be satisfied by everyone chiming in with their story or tune. That’s not the romance of the whole shebang; the romance is found in the valiant, tragic, martyrdom of the lone wingnut preaching to a world that won’t hear of it. But they wouldn’t admit that for a second. Because they’re addicted to the chaos.

If you’re thinking I hate religions from all of this, you’re wrong. I think religious are just fine (or bad) like anything else. But one thing that interests me is what Thanissaro Bhikkhu said: when he went to teach English in Thailand after college and met his future Theravada Buddhist teacher (Ajahn Fuang?), unlike everyone else he had met in life, this guy seemed genuinely happy.

And that’s the clincher, the results of the adopted practice should genuinely be happiness. Not sudden explosive, placebo, faith-healing happiness, but genuine happiness that accumulates momentum over time. If the practice or religion does not produce this, if it is not reflected in the students of the practice/religion, why should I take any interest in it? Even if you smile or laugh or post pictures of yourself smiling and hugging everyone on your website, if you’re desperate to convert people to your way of thinking, you are not happy. And ironically (but not remotely surprisingly), the happiest people I have met were not peddling anything spiritual, nor were they trying to show everyone how happy they were.

Dragon’s tears

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, Doom and Evil, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Religion, Stayin' Alive, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

You know, practicing the martial arts always make me want to cry. I feel like a little kid every time I think about it. Because although the stuff is there to make you stronger or more self-sufficient (supposedly!), the teaching method is so harsh at the end of the day. Sure, maybe we’re all friends, or brothers, or whatever else, but I still feel like the opera kids in the classic modern Chinese film, Farewell My Concubine. The ones who are horribly beaten into submission by their master. But that agony makes them into the most amazing, beautiful performers in existence: true national treasures.

One character sees adults performing an opera and cries: “how many beatings does it take to become a star?” In other words, how much pain does it take, how much suffering must be transformed, in order to become great, appreciated, brilliant or realized? And how many people are destroyed or stray on that path? Too many!

But if something happens to you in a fight, in the world, in martial arts, in anything at all, the underlying conclusion a person has to understand is: it’s your problem. It may not be your fault per se, but you are the one who has to deal with it — alone. And this is where the idea of modern (post-pagan) religion has stepped in, to provide answers for this, to provide practice strategies to deal with the mental agony of it all, or maybe just comfort and a shoulder to cry on.

I suppose if religions or martial arts are actually creating positive habits in our “spirit,” they do so in the way phrased in Buddhism: a person cannot remove physical pain, but a person can remove the mental association or attachment with that pain. When a person is hurt or harmed, the real pain comes from the concept of being harmed, that another person could do such a thing to another. If you actually think about it, it really is a horrible idea. As soon as you empathize with someone being tortured or maimed or killed, it becomes impossible to do it to anyone else.

And yet in some twisted, sick way, in studying fighting we learn to hurt others without thinking really empathizing with their pain. What a disturbing thing. Someone once pointed out to me, there are three lessons in fighting: (1) Being seriously injured; (2) Injuring someone else and (3) you’ll find out!

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

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