Archive for the Philosophy Category

Baseless

Posted in Asceticism, Buddhism, Fighting, genius, God(s), karma, martial arts, Monasticism, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, society, tai chi, taijiquan, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on January 21, 2010 by wizardsmoke

So, the big question on everyone’s my mind is whether or not martial arts teachers, yoga instructors, and their religious gurus are “enlightened”. In stuff like Tibetan guru yoga, you are supposed to view your teacher as enlightened — sometimes even if they aren’t. It’s part of the practice. I don’t do it, but it makes sense as a practice, in order to discover your belief is malleable and useful to that end. There is no god(s) if you don’t believe in them, and vice versa.

Although Taijiquan is my big psycho-physical investment at the moment, I am willing to believe it’s not the same spiritual ace-in-the-hole for other people. How could it be so? People need to be unique, independent. But at the same time, the big problem of human existence is social friction. How do we deal with other people? This is a big portion of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy: the existence of another creates a new perception of oneself and one’s surroundings. They are no longer a portion of selfless existence, but exist in contrast to oneself.

Amidst others, we seek to validate our own views, yet for what reason? There is opposition to all views, and human reason and rationale is endless. It is supremely difficult to co-exist with others in peace. And peace is a difficult subject to address, because the moment it is broached and given our conscious attention, it ceases to exist. It is simply the absence of conflict, and the absence of selfish views. But that’s too often misconstrued as being a doormat.

The other strange thing is that, although Taijiquan or dream yoga or Alexander technique or Zen or Sufi or Benedictine chant or whatever else may work for some people, these practices are not guarantors of ability or insight. They are more like rocket boosters that can change one’s mental, physical or spiritual trajectory, but the original trajectory for real insight has to be there in the first place. Those are prior causes, the manifestation of which is natural genius. But then for some reason, hard work seems way more important.

Open heart forgery

Posted in Fighting, martial arts, meditation, Mysticism, Philosophy, Powermongers, propaganda, Reality Bites, self-help, The Arts, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by wizardsmoke

I am a fan of Hatsumi’s books. He is a good writer — an artist; he is able to make you think existence has a purpose. Cool stuff, I admire his work.

I remember I showed his books to a friend and then took him to a Bujinkan class, to which he responded like a real wise-ass: the Bujinkan that can be spoken is not the true Bujinkan. Hatsumi writes beautifully and shares his dream narrative with you; he can make himself desirable to others; he is an artist. But the budo he teaches does not bestowe the same skills as his ability to appeal to you, or yours to accept him.

In social status, and especially in business, much of what makes a person successful is their self-presentation. The rock star’s charisma is what makes them a success, not the music. The music is the background canvas that works once people are receptive to the personal spectacle. In society, talent alone does not create status or ensure survival. What is more useful is ambition, energy, the ability to make people comfortable and laugh, and to speak to their heart.

The bodily arts are interesting, for they take root in the heart immediately. They quickly effect our social presentation.
Martial arts is a discipline which, like dance, is kinesthetic. And the kinesthetic learner is the genius of the arts. And martial arts have mostly become arts, rather than trades, in danger of dying out for lack of necessity.

And so I have seen tons of great artists (martial and otherwise) without the clever endearing qualities in which they can sell themselves to the masses. How strange, that the ability to successful endear oneself to others is an artistic quality, and has no bearing on one’s actual talent or skill in the field being extrapolated. But people without a desire to sell themselves are less likely to seek financial gain from your interaction.

The entertainer does not merely entertain, but rather creates an illusory personality for the world to desire. And like in the world of business, where a compromised upbeat persona is created to angle profitable transactions, the conjured entertainer becomes a necessary function of the art, and soon one loses track of where their own identity lies.

But, whateva.

Liar’s lies

Posted in Buddhism, Mysticism, New Age Baloney, Philosophy, Reality Bites, society, Ultimate Reality on May 15, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As a kid I remember loving movies that had a distinct twist, or a mystery that gradually unraveled itself. And I think the mainstream film-going audience really loves that kind of stuff – knowing manipulation. There is no objective moral ground for enjoying manipulation, there is only obsession. People both want to be manipulated and see behindthe manipulations.

At every level of being, people are being manipulated or lied to. In Plato’s Republic, this is done to people “for their own good.” So every manipulation is held with the measure that it is for our well-being that we do not understand everything. And why is that? Because when illusions are dissected, we cease to care. The game and the illusion are the same.

Demons become grotesque because they look for the heart of these things. Not like I have much judgment to pass around here, and I don’t want to really think about the moral implications of these things, but… for some reason I can’t shake the notion that the self and its quest for desire, meaning and purpose are just self-fulfilling schemes to create yet more self and experience — rather than any kind of understanding of the whole samsaric schemata.

Old news. I guess it’s like they say: questions which bring total neurotic meltdown — total madness of the heart:
-Why?
-What is real?
-What is the point (of anything)?
-What is truth?
-Who am I? (+ all other comparisons with others).

Firmly grounded in the…

Posted in Buddhism, death, God(s), Happiness, health, History, Mysticism, New Age Baloney, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As other more astute and accomplished individuals have pointed out on their blogs, it seems that religious scenes and groups are more frequently populated by middle-aged and elderly folks. Sure — why not, right?

In angsty youth (and in angsty adulthood too, sometimes), many deride the religious for being fearful of the afterlife. But I think what is equally true is that people become fearful of the past as they age, athiests or not. If, supposing there is nothing after death, our life is all we did, why wouldn’t we want to reflect on living the best life possible? Errors are inevitable, but not necessary. If this life is all there is, well then what is the point of living a miserable nihilistic one? (Not to mention, only young people have the consistent energy to resist and deny feelings of remorse, regret, or guilt: denial leads to mental illness in older folks!)

The interesting thing is that this kind of thinking, where one questions the point of cruelty or despair when it has no purpose or punishment, actually leads toward a sense of compassionate martyrdom — later Greek philosophy and eventually Christianity.

However, basic ignorance does pervade all of this, for all concerned. The power of denial is undeniably strong with too many of us. And it’s a very fine line to cross at certain times in our lives between becoming total subconsciously self-loathing scumbags and people of integrity. Often it’s because we’re afraid of what we might lose: our family, our friends or social acceptance, our money or property, our rights, our anonymity, and so forth.

Compassionate acts are interesting, because in the wrong hands they easily become catalysts to vain behavior. I’ve had friends who did not believe in selfless charity (nor have I, at times in my life). In the early 20th century, after both World War I and World War II had ended, there were serious debates in the United States media and art communities over how best to honor fallen servicemen in the war effort. The big stand-off was between “Traditional Memorials” and “Living Memorials”. Traditional ones are like plaques and art pieces; living ones are like parks and dedicated buildings or facilities. The big debate commonly came down to which one better left a stoic message that all would respect and remember.

But who cares about that? A person who is proud of their legacy shouldn’t care about their personal data. Who cares if you are worshiped forever? None of this leads to anyone’s happiness or satisfaction. It is far better to leave something that improves the world (how exactly, I have no idea whatsoever). This is the preachy message Kurosawa’s film Ikiru is hammering into the viewer’s brain over it’s insanely long runtime.

Since everything fades from memory, and memory is such a transient and unreliable device (history is forgotten or unknown by most of the public, anyway), what does a concrete, identifiable legacy matter? That’s why I like the idea of gods of compassion, or virtuous people, or totally enlightened Buddhas and their badass retinues — everything such an individual would do would be selfless compassion. Not giving oneself up to others, but giving up the notion of one-self, individualism altogether — compassionate activity with no regard as to individuals whatsoever. A total generator of compassion.

Such generators do exist, but I suspect they are beyond identification and not worth discussing much more. And there are similar generators for every possible cosmic experience. So I don’t know if any particular experience “wins” or whatever, but if it’s a matter of looking back on one’s life in the future and being satisfied with how you lived it, it’s worth considering.

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.

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.

Don’t Tell Me!

Posted in Happiness, health, love, Magick, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2009 by wizardsmoke

If love isn’t a choice, it isn’t love. Love is only special because it is directly in opposition to our best survival-based interests. And I don’t mean love as in sexual desire, because that’s the impulse to procreate. Love is compassion for other people who are actually a threat to our survival.

Thus spake the ‘Smoke on a dorky post to one of his goofy Google groups. Not that anyone paid any attention, but nor should they. People need to follow their hearts! Ha! but you didn’t hear it from me…

Anyway, one confusing issue is that there are no actual correct or right answers to anything. There is only more of the same in any given direction. In the famous scene from The Matrix (already looking so dated!), when Morpheus says that he can only show the door, but not open it for Neo, he’s implying the idea that only you can decide what you want to do. There are no universally correct answers, because you have to live with yourself and your decisions. It’s all relative. It’s like dating someone who alternately wants you to be their slave and boss. As long as we have someone telling us what to do or doing things for us, we won’t be satisfied.

But what is satisfaction anyway? It’s just the absence of craving in the mind. That’s why camping in the wilderness (if you can find it these days!) or periods of extended vacation or retreat are so nice. The environmental humming — the distractions — that the mind feeds on in our daily routine, it all fades away and the mind no longer has any garbage or junk food to cling to. Even if you aren’t actively seeking out some kind of deep meditative experience, you’ll begin to relax and rediscover forgotten memories.

In the entertaining book, North Toward Night, the writer/international sailor Alvah Simon spends a year by himself, living in his small sailboat, in the frozen Arctic passage between Canada and Greenland. During the winter, he finds himself in nearly 24-hour darkness for months. Sitting there in the dark with nothing to do except read a few books and eat, he describes how his memory and imagination grew incredibly strong and potent. And there is no mention of religious practices or meditation or other stuff so many people will often attribute to these psychological events (not to mention, the author’s interpretations of other events as magical or willed by God is pretty charmingly naive). He simply spent so much time on his own, without any other individuals (“social distortion”) to feed upon or supply his mind with choices or actions to mimic.

Actually, what’s so crazy is that our actions reflect our environments and surroundings and social spheres even if we consciously make an effort to resist being affected by them. But there’s no escape — it’s like advertising, you don’t consciously buy into the ads — they infiltrate your subconscious. But you can certainly chill out, see what’s going on around you, and choose what path to follow in best accordance with your desires.