Archive for the Doom and Evil Category

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.

Shyboy

Posted in Doom and Evil, Fighting, Happiness, love, Reality Bites, Relationships, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by wizardsmoke

The times in my adult life that I’ve actually cried were not from periods of grief, calamity, extended depression or “sadness”. No, I’ve often found that tears come in times of last-minute catharsis. Sure, you could say an excess of joy weeps, but I think it’s more like, reassurance in the face of impending despair. That is, the happy or joyous things that make me cry do so because I realize suddenly that they almost didn’t happen. Considering how much of life is rough around the edges, cold, lonely, prickly, and so forth — when something really nice happens it’s such a spiked contrast. Really horrible things, they simply rob a person of emotional output — they’re catatonic experiences.

Watching a film like Barefoot Gen makes me want to cry. Ah, I’m no stranger to sad or depressing movies; but Barefoot Gen is like if you combined the two Ghibli films, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro — both totally heart-rending films — into one horrific account of the Hiroshima bomb blast.

Anyway, truly nice things and people are pretty rare. It takes a lot of strength to do things selflessly, being able to do good things without freezing up or letting oneself become drained or emotional. I admire people who can do that, even if I have trouble expressing it. But I wonder where this all contrasts with the necessities of the world today. Israel/Palestine, Russia/Georgia, US/Iraq, African genocides, indigenous peoples, etc. How nice can you be when you’re forced to choose loyalties between military powers or states or religious conflicts? People talk all big about principles and ethics and morals, but I think everyone fundamentally chooses their family and friends before ideologies.

I guess really nice people have no loyalties to anyone in particular, just a particular set of moral qualities. But that is directly threatening or at odds with nation-state laws. And that’s why some things are so tear-jerking — because they’re so rare. After all, to reign people in, to keep order and live in organized societies, we need brutal laws which punish people inappropriately to their actions.

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!

Do your worst…

Posted in death, Doom and Evil, Fighting, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Relationships, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , on September 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

In times of moral crisis
the darkest places in hell
are reserved for the neutral
–Ihsahn

A well-known idea espoused since ages past by various individuals is, you’re only as good as you are at your worst. It is particularly relevant to the martial arts, where our skills are likely only going to be tested in the worst of scenarios. And that’s true in general — our survival instincts, the tough decision-making, our moral integrity, that faith (in ourselves) in the face of fear — they’re all tested during absolutely shitty situations when we have no food, no friends, no money, are stressed-out, are tortured, are intoxicated, etc. etc. A personal Sir Gawain and the Green Knight if you will… or Spirited Away… or The Game … or… ah whatever, you get the point. It sucks and 90% of people would seriously compromise their integrity right away.

Thing is, most people in society are fairly upstanding human beings. Because they’re… sorta neutral on issues. After all, it’s hard to make decisions when you’ll be blamed for the outcome, isn’t that right? So most people are fairly friendly and somewhat charitable when times are remotely good. But when times become hard, when the economy suffers (hint hint) and when tough decisions have to be made, it becomes much tougher to be a good person.

A good person though — what is that? It’s a pretty abstract term. I guess I’d say “good people” do not actively scheme or go out of their way to take advantage of others. A good person has chosen not to act unnaturally, not to act without a prior cause to respond to. A good person doesn’t mug someone else because they don’t have the emotional conviction to believe in such a cause. Sorry if my descriptions are pretty vague and generalized (not to mention biased), but that’s how it is.

It’s more reasonable to say we all exist somewhere on a “moral” scale, on a scale of Nietzschean drives. But drives don’t seem morally relevant except in hindsight. For even seemingly good people — don’t they sometimes have to choose to ignore the evils of their state or society in order to feed their families? Are they bad people too? Yes, they probably are. Maybe it’s a bad example, as I never understood the whole family-over-friends thing in the first place (I’m weird like that).

Still, there is no “worst” or “best”. There is only the present moment, young grasshoppa. But I do have to wonder… is it when people are at their worst, or when they’re neutral, that they’re dead?

Neighborhood watch

Posted in Doom and Evil, Fighting, History, Reality Bites, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , on September 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What makes people turn on their neighbors? Economic hardship, starvation, limited resources. Perhaps it can all be summarized thusly by this quote about treatment of Allied POWs captured by the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines. Some POWs were forced into submarines to be shipped north to prison camps in Eastern Asia. As Ronald H. Spector quotes an eyewitness’ account:

When it was nearly full, guards came down and with whips began beating us farther back into the ship’s hold until it looked as if no more men could get in… Yet, more and more were coming. The ceilings were low, only about five feet high, but we were made to stand…we were crammed so tightly that if a man fainted he could not fall to the floor. He would be packed between them. . . . The men began screaming and fighting. They tore at each other, they fought and pushed. Their screams of terror and their laughter were terrible things. Suddenly, there was more room. The fainting and the dead were sliding down until men littered the floor underneath our feet. We had more room to move in. But under our feet were the bodies of dead men.

-Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan

Come unto me, sycophants…

Posted in Doom and Evil, Reality Bites with tags , , , on August 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Looks like I’ll be out of the office for a week, starting tomorrow/today. I’m going on vacation — someone from my trusted inner circle has offered to whisk me away; I’m off to beautiful, remote Atlantic beaches to partake of dangerously delicious samsaric delights!

Hey, pipe down! I’ll only be gone for a week! Here….take my hankerchief. Sorry, it’s just…. even I need a vacation every once in a while! I can’t be pampering and spoiling you with all this high-fallutin’ self-absorbed nonsense 365 days a year. After all, when you’re in trouble, you’re on your own. I won’t be there to hand you your opinion.

On that note: the best way to avoid mental suffering is to avoid making conscious value judgments. Finalized opinions on things are always wrong. They always bring regrets. ‘Coz everything changes: abilities, opinions, perceptive range, influences, and so it goes forever. I mean, isn’t it totally useless information when someone else says “Mr. Wang is a good person” or “the new Batman movie was bad”? Totally insignificant information. It’s not really information. The best you can hope for from these comments is cleverness or comedic entertainment.

In fact, only lazy people genuinely want to hear broad “value-based” opinions from other people. I’ve tended to believe that the act of asking another person a question is a way of trying to shirk personal responsibility. It seems like an attempt to place one’s own well-being in the hands of another. Religious salvation!

But yeah, at the same time, having an opinion is important, right? You can’t just dance to somebody else’s tune all the time (ahem!). Then you’re only half-alive. I guess value judgments are just emotional reactions or exaggerations of how we perceive other things in the world. I think this is where academic critique comes into the picture, as something that attempts to be more objective.

Ah, but really my point is that pretty much every decision brings some potential for regret, all sympathies are manipulations, one can always be nicer or meaner, and all conscious intentional actions are arrogant ones. And so I rave.

House of pain

Posted in Beauty, Buddhism, death, Doom and Evil, Fighting, Happiness, Reality Bites, sex, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , on August 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I actually find the writing aspect of this whole “blog” thing to be monotonous and unsuccessful. No matter how fast I write, it’s never fast enough. Just like everything else, it in itself can’t actually satisfy me or communicate anything properly. I always want more, more, more! ‘Spose I’m just another human who wants to bite off more than he can chew. But maybe that’s the wrong phrasing, as even eating is such a dreadful bore!

Yeah, even eating occurs to me as another thing I just have to do which I’d rather not do (almost all the way up there with excreting waste). Like everything else, it seems really wonderful at first (consuming the food, when you’re hungry) but then becomes uninteresting, and even painful, as you continue doing it. How depressing that is! It reminds me that all things are like that: sex, violence, eating, excreting, using ‘n abusing, music, art, movies, vacations, work, friends, countries, money, blogs, sleep, reading, etcetera ad infinitum. They’re all satisfying, temporarily, only in contrast to these other things that also eventually become tiresome chores.

But surely we all know why all the things we do are unsatisfying. It’s because they’re all conditioned phenomena. They’re all doomed to die and fail. Isn’t death just total failure? Totally unimaginative (in)activity? Fortunately it makes life look sorta beautiful, because if animals just walked around and shat everywhere and ate food and fought amongst themselves for all eternity, this would be a purely hellish existence. At certain times, death is a blessing.

It seems like everything is manifestation of desire — of violence. That epic drive to soar: that’s violence. It’s in each and every one of us. Not that the desire itself is inherently bad, but typically we point our desire at a stupid target that doesn’t yield permanent results. And to get the results of your desire, you have to make sacrifices. Sacrificing good things to get a stupid desire (like a lousy spouse, a high-paying job, a higher position in the cult) is really just sad — IMHO, LOL!

The quest(ion) then, is this: can the “epic drive”, the fundamental “violent desire” that causes the universe to exist via some sort of sexual and explosive penetration — can this drive be used to cut the fabric itself? And if it can, what the hell was the point of creating the fabric in the first place? Probably no real reason, since everything that exists is arguing (aggressively) for its own existence. Just more explosive violence.

I think when you realize this conundrum, you understand the whole “samsara is actually nirvana” thing they always chant in describing the Buddha’s enlightenment.