Archive for society

Wizard’s Blues

Posted in Future World, Political Science, Reality Bites, Relationships, sex, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, The Arts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Mammalian birth is a very strange act. As you become more aware of your body and organs, you realize that you were actually nurtured and born from a womb. All these organs were once physically attached to a mammalian mother. And those were attached to a mother as well, and so forth back into the earth itself.

Then when we’re born, we naturally attach to the attitudes and habits thrust upon us within our first environment. So, naturally, a child thinks everything a parent does is wise or worth following. But then you age and realize your parents are just people too. And then people you know start having kids and you realize that it doesn’t take any special qualifications to be a parent. The worst authority figures in the world, the most irresponsible people ever, will often become parents and have children who thusly admire them.

I guess that’s why child abuse is so disturbing, because children have such one-pointed needs to look up to someone. Strangely, there are different strands of child abuse. I sometimes think giving birth is an abusive act in general, especially considering the overpopulation issue these days, but hey — what can you do? Be a despot? Nah — too much competition in that field!

What shocks me is when people who have no curiosity about the world or anything at all. They grow up, get married young, never read many books, never pursue any personal interest, watch shitty movies, have kids and live off of their parents’ money or stay within some religious cult or group. For all purposes, they are completely isolated — like medieval villagers in the cyber-age. It doesn’t really matter to my life, so you’re probably wondering why I care about anyone else’s prerogatives, so long as they don’t directly effect me.

The truth is that eventually, when it all falls apart, will I have to step on other people? Will I have to be nice and let people walk all over me? It’s all fine when the economy is okay and there’s not that big of a problem when the economy is good. In fact, you could say economic output represents a nation’s self-esteem, well-being, directly tied to their “spiritual” concerns. I mean, who is generally into taking Yoga and martial arts super seriously? Upper-middle class people, for the most part (a generalization, and generalizations are bullshit, but hey). But when the money goes away, who really cares about lofty spiritual ideas and democracy?

There’s no need to worry about me, though. I don’t plan on being an evil jerk. And you know why: it’s because I’d rather die than live in a sick world, where there aren’t any tigers or bears but it’s overpopulated by people who use crappy computer stalking applications like Facebook.

I remember as a teenager, believing that stupid nonsense about ignorance being bliss, about intelligence alienating people, and so on. But now I think a lot of mental suffering is a choice (as opposed to physical/environmental suffering). I wouldn’t say people necessarily like suffering, because that implies that all of our behaviors are based on positive or negative choices in the psyche. Not true. People simply become obsessed with ideas to greater and lesser degrees (or not at all). That’s why when your friend is continually obsessed with the statistics and stories of serial killers, it’s a little creepy. It’s not like serial killers just decided to do bad things — they generally became obsessed with desires or exploring dangerous ideas that eventually possessed them to act it out.

So more and more I think that morals are naturally arising internal laws of group survival, whereas all obsessions are pretty equal of being just those: obsessions which lead to more of the same. In any case, I am worried because “democratic art” (capitalist media + culture) often ends up betraying a “weak spirit” — and what is art but the most direct reflection of cultural health?

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Socrates’ Daemon and the Tower of Babel

Posted in Asceticism, Mysticism, Paganism, Philosophy, Religion, society, Technology, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It is interesting how all nations and lineages take pride in the significant moments in their history or timeline as well as those profound people who stand out as remarkable and virtuous to the world. But, as Socrates is credited with saying, virtue is not hereditary in genealogy nor in the lineages of cultures and traditions. The veneration of a notable character for being of the same cultural or social origin, this betrays modest ignorance in an individual and blatancy or confusion in a culture.

This stuff is kinda confusing, but…some genetic traits are predisposed for different things. Like, some bloodlines excel naturally at music, some at visual art, and so on. And actually, it’s more complicated than that, evading even scientific categorization (AMAZING, I know). It’s more realistic to say, some combinations of genes or traits (not necessarily bloodlines) create the parameters for certain “artistic opportunities” to manifest. An artistic opportunity in this definition, is what William Blake would call the “poetic genius”. An individual, whose manifestation possesses the ability to exaggerate the deep, layered, subconscious cosmos through a communicative medium of time-space expression. While it is often artistic expression, there are those with divine intuition in other arenas of the mind, such as math, linguistics or engineering. Such an existence is a window of artistic–and divine, opportunity.

The summarized point here is that a genetic predisposition to craftsmanship in something, especially art, still does not bequeath creativity. And it’s the same with virtue. It is beyond genetic transmission. Some genes and environments simply create greater odds or “luck” for a virtuous person to manifest. But there are no guarantees.

This makes me think of Socrates’ “daemon”. I’ve had discussions with philosophy students who conclude that the concept of a daemon, or active/vocal conscience present in his cognitive sphere, is/was only a metaphor. But one can also look at it without reading into it and take it at face value — that Socrates really did have a familiar spirit or special sense that informed him of the outcome of his potential actions. What makes that so crazy?

Now, clearly we can’t prove anything here about what Socrates himself meant to communicate in our modern language and symbols. But that doesn’t really matter much to me. I can see that it isn’t purely metaphorical in that early language. This is a facet of the ancient world: there does not seem to be such a strict division between something existing as a metaphor and having concrete existence. Due to the absence of any kind of extensive canon to build language and symbols upon, and since Socrates seems (to us, at least) to be creating (via Plato’s dialogs) a lot of archetypal philosophical ideas, the actual assessment of Socrates’ daemon as a spirit lies somewhere between literal and metaphorical.

But this makes the discussion pretty interesting. The gods of empiricism are at large in our modern collective venues of prayer. With the development of technologies, mankind stands at the altar of the machines. The ignorant will never know what they pray to, but most people have a hint that whatever they actively reinvest inspiration into becomes a potent idea, and eventually a bearer of will and being. Those who profess athiesm and materialism pray to these ideas — they bow to them and ask them to manifest in our world with ever greater resonance. They raise their kids amidst this blind technolust and project it upon society at large.

Prometheus (the name means literally, “fore-thought”) brings fire to mankind and is punished by the gods. One interpretation could be that Prometheus changed the pantheon of gods humanity worshiped, or made man fall into belief in demigods. Intensive intellectual thought brings fire to humanity and changes his fears and beliefs. There are a wide plethora of ways to interpret this kind of event.

When I was younger, like many others, I used to wonder whether modern man had lost the ability to see the spirits of antiquity. While most of us in the industrial world may have lost the ability to perceive the gods of old, it is not so much a loss of vision as it is a change in focus. Modern society worships different things, and most people are only able to see the things society worships. Mechanization and industry are actually a result of prayer, creating demigods we see as being holy.

The story of the Tower of Babel involves mankind’s quest to build a bridge to God, to become greater than God. The project eventually falls apart from the petty social squabbles around realizing this pipe-dream. But another symbolic outcome of this story is that mankind unwittingly summons a Satanic archetype — a destructor — which destroys the valuable fruits (virtues) of humanity’s labor (community).

Channel 451

Posted in Doom and Evil, Reality Bites, society, The Media with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I must confess I am not a fan of television. It should be obvious why, right? Television is so clearly a social cancer. It’s one of the major contributing factors to people’s inability to be original, have an opinion, think for themselves or develop social skills. One could argue that the internet has added to this, that computers have become a deeper source of social decay, but one would be wrong.

I actually do like a lot of films. I don’t think film is such an ideal artistic medium, but it can do storytelling efficiently and effectively. But I think movies have created a lot of “myths” within our modern culture, and the error of television is that it has merged these tall tales with capitalist and consumerist drives. Movies tend to portray a lot of idealized lives, unappealing things that are marketed as glorious: heroes, villains, drama, tragedy, romance, heartbreak, violence, sex.

These aren’t inherently negative, since they’re the foundation of the human experience and storytelling. But what I am thinking is that a lot of the false realities espoused by film stories have become embedded in many people’s subconscious attitudes and daily impulses.

The more obvious examples I can imagine are kung fu movies, which depict martial combat to be beautiful and graceful. In reality, fights between skilled martial artists do not look that graceful to the untrained eye. Not to mention movie kung fu just looks like dancing to an experienced martial artist or fighter (and that’s what it is, mostly). I know people who take these movie depictions really seriously, and scoff at real martial artists or situations because they don’t resemble Bruce Lee or Rambo.

Of course, I simply used martial arts because it’s the most blatant example. But it works with everything else: romance and relationships, idealized tragedies, using movies to emphasize something that isn’t even as poignant as the daily events in the life of the person watching the film. Since when does music dictate and determine how we must feel in our day-to-day life? Since music started being set to moving pictures, is when.

Blasphemy, I say!

But, the thing I really wanted to say was this: television is one of the few things in life where a person can invest hours and gain absolutely nothing.* It’s able to move quickly enough so that one does not focus on the fact that there is almost never anything of substance coming through the screen. Television actively drains a person of energy.

Not only that, but for some reason televisions have invaded social scenarios. When meeting with friends, going to a bar or restaurant, or even sitting in a waiting room — televisions are always on. And it’s so hard to fight; even when you look away from a television, you have to constantly put effort or willpower into continually resisting it. As soon as one is not maintaining total awareness over their mind’s activities, their attention will drift towards the screen. Just try not looking at the TV in a room that has one on. It’s rather difficult and quite frustrating. Thus it is extremely careless and even dangerous to place televisions in one’s car, as it is extremely distracting to other drivers.

Television also destroys the vibrant social atmosphere of a gathering of people. Nothing kills the party or gathering like putting on a TV. Not only can no one agree on what to watch, but it stifles debate, investigative and creative thought, and deeper relationships. Television programming is an ironic term, because you’re being programmed by the television when watching it. You’re actually being totally fooled. When was the last time your friends and you turned off the TV and played a board game?

People can disagree all they want (and they do, overwhelmingly so) but television has no deep substance to any of its programs. I think it was Marshall McLuhan who always drove home the idea that, “the medium is the message” — which argues that everything within a medium (in this case television) is limited by that medium. Everything on television is imbued with a handicap, one which halts it from creating a concise message or artistic expression.

I think it has gotten worse over time, with the size of the population and economy inflating, and the expansion of the internet and digital cable TV. If one watches the news, or the cable news channels, there is nearly nothing of substance that is being delivered to the viewer. It is true, the media are naive fools, but one can at least gleam deeper details from a newspaper or internet site.

If one watches other shows on television, nearly all of which glorify violence, sex or vulgar comedy (with a few exceptions, which I will touch upon in a moment), one will recognize the lack of cohesive plot structure inherent to the show. So many shows are based upon smarmy banter between lead characters, creating unrealistic situational comedy which does not exist in real life, is pretentious and alienates the viewer. If the viewer is not alienated, their own social lives are misconstrued by these situational fantasies, which hold much more influence over the public than most of us seriously consider.

There are then “reality shows”, which vary from complete lust-fests catering to shallow male horniness and female insecurities developed by the fashion industry, to reality shows which somehow manage to succeed in feigning educational entertainment. I can vouch that the “edu-tainment” shows are the least mean-spirited of the reality shows. After all, most other reality shows revolve around laughing at the contestants sardonically, for they might be like us, but yet they are not us and so it is funny. Or something to that degree.

Oh yeah, and laughing at shows ironically is bad for your soul. Just watch “The Soup” on E! once a week and be done with it.

To be somewhat fair, I have seen decent things on TV, but not nearly as many times as I have seem good movies. Substantive shows are typically on public broadcasting like PBS or ridden with commercials. But usually these are just much much better on DVD. Also, I don’t think these things are better than movies, and television should serve no purpose to an idle single person. Watching TV is only valid as an excuse for couples to snuggle on the couch or for defeated bachelors/bachelorettes to eat their microwave dinners in melancholy silence and darkness; hence the term, “TV dinners”.

I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant, because I’m just expressing how tired I am that a social plague like television is infiltrating the lives of everybody around me and just how I’m overwhelmed by people who think I’m the one who is mistaken. It feels like a preview of Orwellian hell or something. And I’m pretty damn sure I’m not wrong: it feels nasty to watch an hour or two of TV. I’ll do it occasionally when I’m really tired and I immediately realize I would’ve better spent those hours having real regrets by looking at pornography.

By the way, remember that scene in Terminator 2, when the kids are staring at a TV screen and the camera pans around and the TV set is broken, and there’s just a fire inside of it? That’s a pretty potent commentary: that the television has replaced the fireplace as the communal gathering and arbiter of storytelling and the imagination.

If you really want to explore these polemic ideas on television by more accomplished writers and thinkers than myself (can you believe any exist?) just go read Neil Postman or Jerry Mander. If you already know about them you probably didn’t finish this article. Also scary, is that I don’t expect things to change, but I expect one day television viewing will be mandatory. Keep it off while you still can!

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* I realize drugs and sex can do this too, and that this may be more potent commentary for TV in the USA.

O! What a world!

Posted in Buddhism, martial arts, Reality Bites, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , on January 23, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The world isn’t perfect. It’s samsara, baby. A one-way ticket past every station on the line and then some. If you want to get off, you have to really earn that freedom. I’ve heard someone wise say that the gods respect a quiet mind…

People are always out to get you, it’s true. You can’t trust ’em. But if you see everyone else as a threat or try to prey on them, you’re making the world worse. You’re a part of the problem.

You can trust some things: good, well-chosen friends and close family, plants and animals, upstanding courageous people. Oh, and karmic law. This isn’t grim either — it’s nice to have some things to depend on! Plants give without asking for any compensation, whereas animals live by basic instincts and have predictable emotions and loyalties. It’s humans who (in their current formation) have the ability to differentiate between virtuous and non-virtuous deeds, and whom often choose ignorance. This is why a wasted human life is such a miserable mistake.

Society seems like a vicious beast, out to crush you. Like a mob, it operates without compassion and has only eyes for a certain kind of result: society just pursues opportunities. But what are opportunities?

Society works this way because everyone is a part of it, and everyone needs to survive. If your subjugation is an opportunity for someone else in society to get ahead, an attempt will certainly be made to compromise your position. This is why careers in politics/organized crime are lunacy. You have to be a real sociopath to pursue those avenues, because they consist of stepping on everybody else whenever the opportunity arises, and constantly mingling with people who are in no way close to you. Everyone else in that business has the same strange dreams of commanding others. And while everyone needs to survive, a person doesn’t need much power or wealth to do so.

But I digress: society is out to get you because everyone in society is looking for opportunities to get ahead in society. This includes you, presumably. Remember that any time you present an opportunity for someone else to get ahead, they’ll take you up on it.

This is alluded to in the finer martial arts: a real martial artist doesn’t look for openings or opportunities in combat, but creates them by presenting illusory openings for the opponent/uke/duifeng to enter, thus temporarily (and naturally!) creating an opportunistic space to move into.