Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Acknowledging the "Ruts" of Growing Old

For a very long time, I held nothing but contempt for robots. I hated the idea of robots "pretending" to be alive or have feelings or emotions of any of that. I didn't buy it. "They're programmed that way, that isn't how they actually feel." That was enough to end the argument for me. Robots didn't have my respect and never would. I looked forward to the day when I could push a robot down the stairs (and not have to pay for it).

And then, funnily enough, the movie I, Robot began to shake things up. In a rather comical way, I shared in the somewhat cathartic journey taken by Will Smith's character. At the beginning of the film he was just like the old me -- putting his hand in the face of the robot delivering his mail. At the story's end, though, he's undertaken a journey that made him see things a bit differently.

I, Robot merely loosened things up, somehow... it didn't do anything revolutionary for me. But the groundwork was laid, and that would be enough.

The next big part of this small story happened a few months ago. I was thinking about old people (as in, grandparent-old). Growing up, we have these old folks in our lives... and little by little we realize we're on our way to becoming old people. Slowly, we begin to realize that we too are subject to having the same prejudices and seemingly ingrained stereotypes that many old people seem rampantly infected with. I think it goes without saying that most all of us do not want to be the racist grandparent, to use a classic example.

In my ponderings of being old, I had a brief thought of the future. Perhaps robots will play an ever-increasing role in society's future, I pondered. Perhaps my grandchildren will look at robots like equals, in some way. Does this make sense to me? No, not in my wildlest nightmares. But in some way, I think it certainly could happen.

And then I realized it -- I had been on track to become a racist grandfather. Not racist against blacks or asians or immigrants, but instead against robots. I understand that "racist" isn't the best word, but the baggage it carries with it makes it the most appropriate. I thought of conversations my grandkids and I might have:

"But Grandpa, they have feelings too!

"Are you kidding me! No way! They don't have feelings, they're just programmed. That is the end of it!"

What frightens me about this imagined conversation is the "case-closed" attitude with which the Grandfather is speaking. Ultimately -- that is what I don't want -- to be an old person who has shut is door to new ideas and stopped thinking.

And that is what this is really about -- it seems that the older we get, the harder it is to "learn new tricks," take up new habits, get into new routines, and so forth. This may be inavoidable (to an extent), but I don't want to go quietly. I want to keep an open mind. I do not want to be the parent or grandparent who is afraid to try something new -- all the way from eating habits on up.

This "close-mindedness" is a very devious, insidious, and tricky little thing. We might be 100% against it and positive we'd never let is "get to us"... but then, one day, it sneaks up behind us and has veiled our vision without us even knowing. The archons are incredibly crafty; we most demonstrate constant vigilance!

And it isn't just constant vigilance against "robots" or anything that we can quantify -- for that is how the infection starts. It is a more "abstract" type of vigilance, which of course is more demanding of us but is ultimately necessary.

So it comes down to right now -- today, this week, this month, this year -- in a sense, this is the prescious time we have when we're younger than we'll ever be, ever again. The ground is only going to get harder to till. We must do what we can to build the foundation for the rest of our lives. It surely won't get any easier.

And that is what this page [not actually *this* blogger page, but a nother one I have in the works], to an extent, is going to help me with (and hopefully help others with the same thing). A repository of what I've learned, what ideas I've had, and what treasures I've brought back from my personal adventures.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Recognition of Recognition

Much of my thoughts as of late have been drifting around the actual experience of recognizing or realizing something. Increasingly, it seems to me, it is one's own self recognizing that he recognizes something or realizing that he realizes something that seems to be at the heart of things. The experience of experience, really. Being in the process of something and being fully aware of such.

This way of thought seems to assume that we're always in the act of experiencing, realizing, or recognizing -- but we are (for the most part) not doing so with full awareness. I think this is where the whole "becoming human" thing comes into play, as in the light of "moving away from your animal self." A dog might realize he is hungry, but does he realize that he realizes as much? Is he aware of this sensation, or merely acting on it? This seems, at the moment, to be what our "human" consciousness seems to be all about.

Think of the story Adam and Eve in the Garden in regard to the sex we know they're going to have with each other. In the case of the story, they were just created so they will (of course) be the first two people to ever have sex in all the world. That must be an incredible experience -- not knowing about sex from TV, magazines, text-books, or even your friends or parents. It is something entirely unknown to both of them -- but they "stumble upon it" somehow (which isn't too hard to imagine). That has got to be the best stumbling-upon of all time perhaps.

But what is the point of this? I will tell you -- Adam and Eve, through their action of being the first to do just about everything that humans do -- represent the individual potential within us all to fully realize and recognize what it is we're doing each time we do it.

We cannot be the first humans ever to eat a meal or take a piss or have sex, because our forebearers surely did it before us. And their ancestors did it before them. And on and on and on, all the way back up the evolutionary ladder. But, again, when our cell or fish or reptile or early mammal ancestors were doing all of these things, did they bring a full awareness of their action with them? Were they even capable of doing as much?

(Maybe they were super-fully-100% aware -- and it is our humanity which pulls us away from this 100%-ness. Perhaps that is our job then -- to reclaim this 100% awareness that was with us for all time, up until the birth of our so-called consciousness.)

Ultimate bottom line, then -- every day, in each thing we do, we have the opportunity to bring to the table the realization and recognition and awareness that we are doing whatever it is we're doing. And in doing so, we become as the first human to ever do such a thing. Tonight when you're swallowing the first bite of your dinner, imagine that you're the first person to ever think about and realize the act and process of swallowing thag delicious warm food. This seedling of experential awareness is what it is about -- literally, being fully in the moment.

Breaking through the transient and temporal restrictions that this material world drapes over us. The answer is not to be found through moving faster or further in an outward direction -- but moving properly toward the inner-direction... and in doing so breaking through to pure, total, ultimate, and undifferentiated experience of "being alive."
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot -- "Little Gidding" (the last of his Four Quartets)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Children of the Sun

Two quotes/lyrics that have been at the very top of my favorites since high school.

This first one is from "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure exactly what it is that does it for me... and part of me is 100% happy not looking into it too much. But, perhaps a bit of exploration may be appropriate.
Mountains and the canyons start to tremble and shake
Children of the Sun begin . . . to wake
"Mountains and the canyons start to tremble and shake" -- this imagery seems like it could go two ways. First -- the "tremble and shake" could be suggestive of a birthing or creation process. The "tremble and shake" of a mother or father or source "creating" something. This is very good for dramatic effect, as movies and books have taught me.

The second, and my preferred interpretation, though, interprets this line not as a side-effect of a birth, but instead describing a misuse and/or mistreatment. What's being misused or abused is the "mountains and the canyons," symbolic to me of the land and Earth itself. Whether they're "trembling and shaking" in fear or in pain, their non-still state is a testament to the crap they're being put through. Something is wrong... something is not right... there is imbalance.

And as a result, we have the "children of the sun." Who are these so-called sun children? Again, I'm hesitant to dirty the image with my speculative thoughts, but I'll dabble. The Children of the Sun are those who will set things right. They are those of divine or supernatural heritage who possess within the ability and nature to do the job that must be done. Maybe these Children were literally sleeping (or unborn), or maybe they're already alive and walking around but unknowing of their true identity. Either way, "waking up" to the world or "waking up" to yourself -- they're now here and on their way to becoming aware and conscious of the job that must be done. And of course, having the Sun as their father, they're as prepared as they could be to do the task at hand.

The next of these lyrics is as follows:
When the true King's murderers are allowed to roam free,
A thousand magicians arise in the land
This line is from a Jim Morrison poem. I heard it on the spoken-word poetry album An American Prayer, from "The Ghost Song," if I'm not mistaken.

This imagery is essentially the same as the Led Zep lyrics above. A crime has been committed -- in this case, the "murderers" of the "True King" are allowed to "roam free." I cannot but help turn toward the symbolic interpretation of this. I don't think the "True King" necessarily points to a person or individual but instead the most heavenly, divine, holy, and sacred of statures. "He" is "murdered" -- which to me suggests not a literal killing, but instead a forgetting or a disservice paid. Maybe we are all guilty of murdering the True King? Maybe not. My personal interpretation shies away from this.

I would rather look at myself as one of or an aid to the "thousand magicians that arise in the land." Again, like the Children of the Sun, these are they who will set things right. These are plants rising up from the seeds planted of old. Many of these magicians may fall or fail, but their job will get done. It must.

As one who believes whose experience humbly confirms the ultimate goodness of the universe and all things, part of the deal is that forces of light will always arise to beat back threatening forces of darkness. These forces of light are (of course) not sometihng to be demanded or expected but found and experienced for those who are able to recognize and realize them. And maybe these folks, then, are themselves (or are aids/servents to) the Children of the Sun or those thousand Magicians.

I cannot help but be drawn to the idea that it is us -- each of us -- who really matters. It is each of us who must do the job. Maybe we're the last of the Sun Children or the final of these magicians. Maybe the rest have come before us, long ago, and it is up to us to finish the work that they started. It is each of us who must step up to the plate.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Where Ideas Come From

A few years back I used to surf over to www.unamerican.com all the time. The dude running that site had a bunch of subvertive bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee-mugs, and other such stuff for sale lampooning the fact that America's values were turning upside down. His site also had a bunch of his own personal philosophies spelled out -- something that really added a huge amount of bulk to the already great site. I spent many an hour reading over his rants.

That was then. Even now, as of this posting, I haven't gone back to that site in years. I don't even know if its still up. One of the many things I took away from the site, though, came in a question from the site's creator: "where do ideas come from?"

I recall him posting this question as if it was one of the cheif concerns of his life. At the time, the question didn't do it for me. Where ideas come from? Okay, sure good question, but there is more important stuff. For me at least.

And now, a few years later, I find myself in a position where I can say I understand his pondering a bit more. If we take any of the great pieces of creation that are dear to us, be they Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or The Legend of Zelda -- where did these ideas come from? A short quick and easy answer would be to say that they were "made up" or 100% inspired by other ideas. Yeah, I guess, but that seems like a cop-out answer to me.

Tim over at Pop Occulture had a recent post about the phenomenon of hearing a song in your head before hearing it come on your radio. Is your head able to recieve electromagnetic waves (the radio signals)? Or are you in fact tapping into some transpersonal "field" and "hearing" the song there, first, before happening to turn your radio on? (This brings up the question -- how many times do you hear songs in your head that are actually playing on the radio at the moment -- but you just fail to turn on to that exact channel?)

Over at his blog, I posted a comment which included the following quote. This comes from The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, one of the more eye-opening books I've read in recent years. From what I remember, he prefaces this quote by talking about Blake's idea of "eternity being in love with the creations of time."

The timeless communicating to the timebound.

By Blake’s model, as I understand it, it’s as though the Fifth Symphony existed already in that higher sphere, before Beethoven sat down and played dah-dah-dah-DUM. The catch was this: the work only existed as potential — without a body, so to speak. It wasn’t music yet. You couldn’t play it. You couldn’t hear it.

It needed someone. It needed a corporeal being, a human, an artist (or more precisely a genius, in the Latin sense of “soul” or “animating spirit”) to bring it into being on this material plane. So the Muse whispered in Beethoven’s ear. Maybe she hummed a few bars into a million other ears. But no one else heard her. Only Beethoven got it.
I absolutely love this idea. I love the idea of their being Muses or Spirits or whatever whispering ideas to us at all times -- only we're oblivious. Maybe these Spirits can only communicate the ideas through other objects -- a gust of wind, a bird's distant song, or a drop of rain hitting us in just the right spot. These Spirits can try as they may, but they must surely know that it is up to us to open ourselves up enough to percieve such messages.

And every now and then, these Spirits break through to someone. JK Rowling was sitting in a broken-down train at King's Cross when Harry Potter "walked into my mind, fully formed," as she describes. I'm sure similar stories exist for many of the great books or songs or stories of all time. The ideas "came to us," it wasn't as simple as "making them up."

And so that is the task for us -- to keep our ears open and to keep our eyes peeled for these beckonings -- for they're there at all times, I have to think. We must not look too hard (or we'll mistake every single thing we see for the beckoning), but we must also not give up on our seeking (lest we never take initiative to follow any beckon). It is a razor thin line we must walk.

However illusive, this path is certainly there. Its guardians are calling out to us, always, beckoning us to walk its gentle slopes. In a cosmic sense, this is really a responsbility of ours -- to not only listen for these beckonings but to follow whenever we're able. As a teacher once told me, "if we don't find our know-how, it is the entire world that loses out."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Woes of Orthodoxy

In case you haven't heard, there is a bit of hoopla in the news recently about "alternative" versions of the Star-Spangled Banner being created in recent days/weeks. While I cannot imagine such creations are anything new, they are undoubtedly getting paid much more attention to on account of all the "immigrant rights" stuff going on.

Certain people are very worried... and they damn well better be. Change is happening. Growth is occuring. The inavoidable is taking place. And as always, this is not going to be a pleasant experience for certain folks.

Imagine a vine that is constantly rotting on one end and constantly growing on the other. Such an image was offered by Stephan Hoeller (I think) when describing the life progression of any religion. Hoeller describes "orthodoxy" as being analogous with the rotting end of the vine, and "heresy" (if I recall correctly) as being equated to the growing end of the vine. Joseph Campbell makes the exact same statement in a lecture of his own. "Orthodoxy is the death of a religion," he says, "and heresy, really, is its life."

These quotes aren't meant to piss off anyone with long-held or respected orthodox views on religion or anything else in life. Instead, they pay respect to a undeniable fact of our eartlhy existance: the old and rotting dies out and is replaced by the young and growing.

This star-spangled banner stuff is a shining example, in my eyes. There are a lot of people pissed off to all hell about this. Flipping through the Fox-news and Tucker Carlson-esque TV shows last night, it wasn't at all tough to get a sample of these folks' point-of-view. Whether they defend English as our "common" or psuedo-official language or decry anyone for altering such an important and hallowed national song.... give it up already! Your days are numbered!

There is even some Senator (or some official) from some state pushing to pass a strictly symbolic bill (law?) that would do something along the lines of make english the "official" language of the Star Spangled Banner. Apparentley this will help people sleep at night.

What do we have going on here, aside from "the old" desparately clinging onto the way things used to be? We have new life being created. And no, I don't mean "illegal wet-back breeding" life that pisses off so many people. I mean the life sparked from the fire of the creative spirit. Life sparked from groups of individuals who believe in something. These people believe in the goodness that this country was founded on. Let me remind you of that famous poem enshrined at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
In a certain sense, and maybe on a relatively small scale, America is coming to life! These disenfranchised people -- be they poor folks from Mexico or anyone of America's ghettos -- they are finding life in this idea that America was founded for folks like them.

And they're creating their own version of the nation's "official" song (is it? I don't know). In my opinion, this is what the creative spirit is all about. Taking the old and crusty version of something and injecting it with new life. Tossing off the old shrouds of ragged weight and standing proud in newly-sewn garments of immigrant-labor-supplied cotton (or whatever).

Do you see? How can one really decry the creation of such songs without standing for the very tyranny American was founded in opposition to? I think this is great. Let these new versions of this song keep on pouring into the collective conscious. With all the bitching and whining of those in power whine on. Those playing the role of Holdfast are not to last. They cling onto what they think is theirs with no hope.

"This is how this country is going to get taken over without a shot fired," cried some guy on the radio yesterday, clearly pissed about all of this. Yup, they are. And it is in your very own disassociation with they that will seal your own fate. For it is the very same they who founded this country. Cling on to the way things are or used to be and your ass is grass.

Big change coming. The orthodoxy is nearing its end... the America of old must give way for the America of tomorrow. With hard work, it will be the same great nation that was founded in 1776... and maybe even greater. The snake eating itself. The phoenix rising from the ashes. The moon casting off its shadow. Reborn again. Pay respect to new life.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Toward a Personal Mythology


In the last week or so, my lack of active posting on here has given me some time to reflect on where I've come and where I want to go. As eerily strange, wacky, and new this whole "blogging" thing still is, I'm trying to overlook all the strangeness and blaze on mightily into the unknown.

I'm certainly not doing this "just to do it," but rather because I feel certain that I have something to offer... something to share... something to bring forth that has not yet been realized. Arriving at this destination is the constant goal... a goal that is perhaps never fully reached, but increasingly approached with well-spent time. Mine is quest to avoid "being like everyone else" and instead embracing the path that is mine alone to follow. Somewhat feeling I've "lost the path" in recent weeks, I've taken some leisurely time to collect thoughts before pushing on.

My most recent realization in regard to this has to do with my interest, focus, and fascination with personal mythology. This is a term or concept that is still raw and unrefined and being thrown around in my head, but the "direction" from which this call comes is as real as anything. It is to adventure in this "direction" which is my concern; not merely the term I use to describe it.

"Personal mythology," to the best of my recollection, is a term I first heard used by Joseph Campbell. In recent days I've been scouring my mind, thinking back hard to the time when this concept first took root in my mind. I don't have the definitive answer yet, but the seeking is well underway.

"Mythology" I might loosely desribe as the story we tell ourselves to put our life experience into metaphorical context. A keyword here is story -- a word I hope to explore thoroughly in future posts. I've come to realize how intertwined the concept of storytelling is with our human condition -- whether we're consciously aware of it or not.

What brings the "personal" to this term "mythology" has to do the system of metaphors we personally choose to make sense of our individual lives. This is, as I currently may surmise, something that is done far more or far less by each different person. For some this is done consciously, for some it is done unconsiously. For some, I think, there is nothing "personal" about their mythology (religion, etc) at all -- it exists strictly as something inherited by them by their family, culture, society, etc.

I want to focus on the self-lived mythology created by the individual to make sense of their life. This is what concerns me. This is what I want to focus on. This is the direction I plan to go. As vague as my previous paragraphs may be, my concern exists not with them (at the moment) but in the direction in which I plan to go. Toward a personal mythology and musings thereof.

Monday, May 01, 2006

changes coming

An obvious lack of posts lately. Been working on some other things and doing some digestion. The light of a new day is not far off. In the near future I'm going to be moving this blog over to my new web domain, but I don't plan to make that launch official just yet. Sometime in the next week or two. Hang in there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Animals Crossing the Road


Yesterday, on the way home from work, I had to hit my breaks a bit when a little groundhog/gopher/woodchuck ran out in front of me. Thankfully, I had plenty of time to react, and the little guy made it across the street with no problem. He did seem a bit chunky and out of shape... but perhaps that's just the god-given hardware.

The important thing about this experience was the process of thoughts it got going in my head. Countless times in all of my years, finding myself in similar situations, I cannot help but wonder "come on you stupid animal, look both ways!" And of course, this is a ridiculous thing to expect of such an animal. A "road" to them perhaps doesn't even conciously exist... it just happens to be a part of the ground that is strangely hard and cold and occasionally loud. I cannot expect animals such as a groundhog to have any understanding of what a road is or the thousand-pound flying-steel danger that is to be found on roads each and every day.

At this point, it might have been easy for me to think "well, if I was a groundhog..." ... I would probably look both ways. Or at least demonstrate some semblance of "smarts" in regard to crossing the road. But would I? It is probably very haughty of me to think so. This hopefully begins to get at the place I want to go with this.

We are all groundhogs crossing the street. Only, we're probably not too aware there is even a "street." We're just following our whims, or instincts, our routines, our culturally-given and biologically-given intuition. And while we may not be fully aware of the danger of "fast moving cars," the things that occasionally "hit us," we probably have some inkling of an idea that in every moment there is danger. There are things that can wrong. And what can we do? If nothing else, bust our ass to "get across the street" as fast as we can.

Those groundhogs might not know what a car is, but I'm guessing they're probably programmed to avoid spending too much time in open spaces. Such behavior got their ancestors where they are today and is probably ingrained in them, to an extent.

While I seem to have lost the freshness of this idea from yesterday, I shall push on -- at all times, there are forces in the world "whizzing all around us" which could surely make our life hell at any moment. A tree could fall on us, our house could catch on fire, the building could collapse, a jet engine could fall on us, etc. Or maybe these forces are much more immaterial and sublte -- waves of frustration, doubt, fear, anger, deception may sweep over us. So deceitful are these foes that we may not be consciously aware they've even hit us -- we just suddenly go under their spell and may likely not wake up.

Just as we might find it totally unreasonable for every groundhog to realistically look both ways, it may be a by-and-large notion amongst us all that such "forces" are entirely unavoidable... or even worse, don't exist. I can easily imagine a storybook groundhog who, after having a vision, returns to his burrow to tell the other groundhogs of these things called "cars" that drive on the "roads" who kill our kind all the time. And of course, he would probably be laughed at, scorned, and not taken seriously. Or at least maybe so.

One more stab at it -- say this afternoon, when we all drive home from work or wherever, we too are little groundhogs scurrying across the road. All we know for sure is that we want to get to the otherside -- the safety of the underbrush. We might not consciously be able to name, describe or even see coming the forces that would destroy us... but maybe we have an idea that they're out there. So, perhaps we're simply to run as fast as we can and just hope.

Or maybe not. Maybe there is some higher destiny of perception that is available to each of us. Just as a groundhog is surely "able" to look both ways, even though most of them probably never even think about it, perhaps we too are able to "see" or "sense" or "percieve" these potentially thwarting forces in our lives. They are otherwise unnamable, undescrible, and probably formless... but that doesn't mean they're not out there.

Hopefully you got an idea of the point I'm trying to get across. So don't only look both ways when you go home today, but on that deeper level look both ways. Or at least think about it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Cured from the Plague of Ideas


For the last year or so, my primary creative and intellectual endeavor has revolved around my recording of what I've come to call a "personal mythology." Essentially it is a story, which I sometimes refer to it as (along with "book" or "novel"). In the end though, I feel that my primary purpose in this effort is to create my own mythological world which is created from and sustained by my own personal experience. This has become my "task of tasks," as Jung described a similar effort in his life, which most every hour of my life is somehow devoted to.

The analogy I have grown fond of using is the following: given a huge rectangular slab of granite, I've been bestowed with a "vision" of a yet-unformed sculpture within. I feel it is my duty to bring this sculpture out of the granite. This involves sculpting, carving, planning, and so on. Little by little, the sculpture takes form. From head to toe I go, over and over again, chipping away bits and peices of the rock as I go. From a short-term perspective, the progress seems trivial and almost futile. Yet when examined from afar, inklings of definite progress can be seen.

This project has made me very attentive to the ideas that fuel it. These ideas, in some sense, might be said to be "made up" by me, though I'm not entirely happy with that description. Somehow, I feel the ideas are "out there" and it is my job to capture them, like lightning in a bottle or a firefly in a jar. In this sense, I am almost like a servant to these ideas.

I once heard a story about JRR Tolkein describing the first thing he ever wrote about what would become his Middle Earth mythology. It was a cryptic poem describing a journey over the sea on some boat or something. The poem was based on a dream he'd had. He read it to a friend, who asked him in return, "What does it mean?" Tolkein thought for a moment, and then answered: "I don't know... I'll have to find out." That is what I'm talking about. To "make up" an idea is suggestive of forming it out of nothing. I don't know if I can believe this. Experience suggests to me (as does this Tolkein story) that the ideas are already there... it is up to us to go find them, go track them down and bring them into the light. The idea, then -- these "master" themes or forms exist beyond us, and it is merely us who bring them into the world. And in doing so, perhaps we attach to them a bit of our "cultural" experience. This, to me, sounds like a key definition of myth (or at least part of the definition of myth).

Anyway -- back to the ideas. I have grown near obsessive in my attempts to ensure the recording of these ideas as they come to me. For the most part, this involves writing them down. I've become increasingly effecient at writing down as little as needed so that I can later recall the idea in question. This sometimes happens on note cards or napkins, but for the most part is done on my laptop. A recent saving grace has been my cell phone -- in just 4 button strokes, I can be 2 seconds away from leaving a voice memo to myself. This has been invaluable.

At times, however, the ideas can be too much. While engaged in a conversation with a friend, colleague, or family member, (for instance) I might find myself struck with a priceless idea. Writing it down is one way to go about things, but that would be a disservice to the current obligation in which I found myself (the conversation). If you forsake the current task (the covnersation, in this case), than what is life for? If the "current task" is always to be sacrificed, what are we left with? Not a good life. Life cannot be all about writing down each and every idea no matter what the expense.

This is a realization I've grasped on some theoretical level, but the practical and thorough understanding of it has yet to come. Until the other night. For it was then when I found myself in one of the best covnersations of all time with my betrothed, while at the same time having arguably some of the "best" ideas I've ever had. (The older I get, the more and more everything seems to be "the best"... I suppose I'm merely learning how to appreciate things).

During this great conversation, which I was fully engaged in on a delightful level, I came to full realization (or at least the fullest realization yet) that it is okay not to write all the ideas down. In fact, there are bound to be more ideas than we could ever write down. I came to peace with this. After all, what is more valuable -- the experience of having a great idea which informs your momentary action? Or the ability to be able to write the idea down?

The transference of ideas is secondary. The having of the idea is primary. Let them inform our experience. That is what they're meant to do. And maybe one day, if we're lucky enough to have enough time, we'll be able to "get them down" and convey them to others. And I close, now, with a brief excerpt from my personal notes about this general concept.
Find peace with the fate of these “undelivered” ideas – for they will surely remain for another Hero to one day discover, and with any luck, successfully retrieve where you had failed. In this sense, we might be seen as the potential rescuers of the ideas our ancestors could not fully rescue... just as our own descendants will bring light to the ideas that we must pass up.

There is always more we can do, and there is never enough time to do it. Once we realize this, we’re finally free to enjoy the right now from which the ideas stem. Freedom, inner-peace, liberty, are emancipation become ours.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Glimpse of What's Coming



Over the past 2-3 weeks or so I've been incredibly busy learning Adobe Illustrator. The little kid inside me who loves to draw and color has been resurrected, and it is quite glorious. There are so, so, so many things I imagine myself doing with this. Coupled with web design, these first serious steps into the realm of graphics have me greatly excited. I certainly have more to say about this in the near future.

In the meantime, check out a new graphics blog I've started. It is being hosted over at my new web domain, fireflygrove.com. This blog will soon be moved over there... probably sooner than you think. Anyway, check it out. Its a far different blog than what you see here -- but tons of fun in its own way.

PS -- So, I just checked out this aforementioned blog for the first time in Internet Explorer... and it looks like total shit. And I'm not about to change it right now. So, if you're using IE, be warned! It looks horrible. Problems with the .png transparency and the width of the central column.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Coffeeshop Adventures

Throughout the past two months or so I've found myself visiting the local coffeeshop several times a week. This has not been to hang out with friends, meet people, perform social experiments, or otherwise be cool. My aim has been a creative one, for the coffeeshop serves as the perfect local spot for me to go about my creative pursuits (usually writing) in relative peace.

I've probably made it to the coffeeshop between 15-20 times in this time, and above all things I've come to appreciate the meaning and importance of "ritualizing" whatever experience you're seeking. For instance, I could most certainly do my writing (or whatever) at "home" -- the noise distractions might be less, I'd probably spend less money, and I'd be quite nearby all of my personal possesions should I require them.

But these are the exact things I'm not looking for. In fact, it is these very things I'm trying to get away from.

When it comes down to it, it is adventure I seek. While many may look at a 3 hour trip to the coffeeshop as a poor excuse for a creative adventure, I am certain they are mistaken. For it is a journey frought with its own sort of peril, unpredictability, and mystery. By putting yourself out there into the unknown, you open yourself up to the forces (of both good and bad) that may help or hinder your creative quest.

I don't want the peace, quiet and comfort of my home. Too much peace stifles one's inner-drive for action. Too much quiet makes even the smallest disturbance an avalanche of frustration. And too much comfort invites distraction at every moment. In setting myself away from these things, I'm "putting myself out there" and forcing myself to use my supplies, knowledge, and wits to deal with any and all situations and predicaments I might find myself in. You must leave the comfortable confines of the village if you're to bring back to the flame from the depths of the forest.

And so, in each journey to the coffeeshop I do find myself on an adventure. Will I get there okay? So far so good, but I can never be certain. Will it be crowded or empty? I've seen both ends of the specturm, each of which have their relative ups and downs. Will I find a seat alright? Far from trivial and meaningless, one's seat can make or break the adventure. Will I spill my coffee, get my laptop stolen, or get into a fight? All things are possible.

Perhaps I'm going overboard in my dramatization and glorification of these things... though on some level I speak the truth. It has, for instance, been a beautiful thing to watch my comfort-level and confidence slightly swell with each visit. Slowly and little by little am I learning the menu, finding my preferred seats, recognizing the regulars, and noticing the small differences that can boost an experience from routine to majestic.

Rather recently, for instance, have I recognized that this very coffeeshop holds in it all the things I loved about the University of Maryland Food Coop, which (until recently) had been my most treasured little hang-out throughout each week. I realize now that it was not the Food Coop I was in love with, but the meaning and ritual that I found therein. This same meaning and ritual has been rediscovered at this local coffeeshop, and will surely be rediscovered in various different disguises (and facilities) as my life rolls on by.

Most importantly, it is the magic of the small things that bring enchantment to my each and every visit. Last week I found myself sitting in a new seat in a new room and noticed a bookshelf tucked away in the nearby corner. I had never noticed this before... had it manifested itself out of nowhere? I found myself imagining the hundreds of different readers of the dozens of different old and tattered books. In each reading of a book, I've always believed, the reader transfers something back to the book (just as the book transfers something to the reader). This spirit or energy remains, and lies dormant and waiting for all who might next open the cover. Sitting next to this bookshelf, I allow its gentle winds to rush over me, perhaps guiding me so that I might find the treasure I seek.

Another great thing about this coffeeshop is its beautiful lack of conformity in its decoration. Everything clashes to an extent that there is total union and harmony. Each chair is different, for instance, and this is another thing I have come to love. For it is in picking your seat when the nature of your forthcoming adventure is decided. This is something I've become aware of and grown to respect enormously. I think of all others who have sat in this chair before me on their own adventures. Be they writing a poem, drawing a picture, planning a murder or starting a religion -- something of their journey has been left in this chair, and (for better or worse) is waiting to be conferred to me. I too, I know, have something to give back to this chair at the night's end. And so it goes, continued by all for the many who've yet to make it this far along.

And lastly, we have the prescious and ever-important beverage that defines my each visit to the coffeeshop. In a recent conversation with a friend, I commented on the fact that I have yet to visit the coffeeshop without purchasing something to drink (coffee or tea). [Note: the coffeeshop in question is certainly NOT a place where you're at all forced or in anyway pressured to buy something. They're simply happy to have your company] I find myself wondering, is this healthy? Is this showing a sign of weakness -- that I am unable to find the worth of an adventure without a little boost from a cup of coffee?

Ultimately, we decided the answer was no -- this was not unhealthy. From a financial standpoint, spending $2.25 three or four times a week is quite sustainable, especially considering how mUch I might spend at a bar or at other places instead. From a health standpoint, knowing that the only caffeine I ever ingest comes from these visits has me without worry at all. From a social standpoint, I totally realize that my "identity" or "image" is not at all defined or dependant upon me questing to be this "cool townie post-grad artist who drinks exotic coffee at the local dive coffeeshop." That isn't what its about at all.

The answer is this -- just with the coffeeshop visits in a wider scope, it is the sheer ritual of each cup of coffee purchased that brings meaning and importance to the table. In this cup of coffee (I have grown to see), the fortunes of my adventure are to be found. The wisdom lies not within the coffee or the caffeine... the wisdom lies within me. And it is this coffee (and perhaps the caffeine) that help guide me to this inner-wisdom and retrieve it from the depths. Just as mythology describes for us countless tales of the Hero who braves the darkness in hopes of stealing the fire, I too -- in my every visit to the coffeeshop -- utilize the quite-satisfactory aid of my worthy guide (the coffee) to help me retrieve the fire from the darkness within.

And in doing so the treasure is found... treasure that remains when the last sip has been consumed, after the coffeeshop shuts its doors, and the sun has set. Even after I am long gone, the to-be-Heroes among us may hear my hushed whispers of guidance still sounding in the chairs I've sat in, the cups I've drank from, and the coffeeshop where adventure was had and treasure was found.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Internet Explorer and the Archons


In my novice understanding of Gnostic mythology, the archons are the forces who act to keep us all trapped and shut away from the "transcendent source" we all inherently seek (whether or not we're consciously aware of it). The best pop-culture example of the archons would be the Agents in the Matrix -- their primary purpose is control -- keep us blind, occluded, unaware of what is really going on. In Stephen Pressfield's book The War of Art, I would say his thoroughly-defined concept of "resistance" is a pretty-much exact summation of what these archons are all about (i.e., the internal forces acting to keep us from becoming who we're fully capable of becoming).

The general idea, then, is that we're pretty much required to stand up to and face these archons (or agents or resistence) if we're to make it to the destination we belong. And it won't be easy, for their primary concern is to keep us down and shut-off from this destination. In The Matrix, the entire character development of Neo is based upon this very notion -- he must stand up to the Agents. It takes him the entire movie and even a few near-failed attempts. But in the end, after he "begins to believe," he achieves this goal. Their bullets and kung-fu (ie, their means of control) have absolutely nothing on him. In a sense, Neo provides a metaphorical example of what we must all do.

In my dabblings into Gnosticism, there is a certain idea or philosophy about the archons that is come across quite frequently, and it is this: even though they seem to be against us, evil, and entirely antagonistic, they're actually on our side. How could this be? How could forces who seek to maintain control and power over us be working alongside of us? The answer -- they're there to push us, to test us, to bring the best out of us. They may not (and probably don't) realize they're on our side, but that doesn't matter. For indeed, without their constant and all-pervasive threat, they would not help us become the individuals we're capable of becoming.

Back to The Matrix, for a second. In the second film in the trilogy, we learn that there have in fact been many previous incarnations of "The One" (Neo) who have all successfully reached the Source. This is, in fact, what "The Architect" (the creator of the Matrix) wants (so he can somehow improve/perfect the Matrix). But hold on a second -- if this guy wants Neo to make it to this door, why the hell did he make his life hell with all of these Agents? Why not give Neo a free ride to the Source and get on with it already?

The answer is not simply "because we wouldn't have a movie." The true solution has to do with the Agents -- the archons -- existing to help Neo. What is more important -- Neo being told he is "The One"? Or instead, Neo going through a long process of trials that -- in the end -- leave him 100% believing he is the one? I would most certainly go with the latter here. The Agents, then, are of primary importance -- through their trials and tests they ensure that the individual is 100% worthy of his destined throne.

At the end of the day, then, we can thank the archons -- for without them, the cakewalk that would be life would be without challenge, test, trial, or tribulation. And we would consequently be lesser folks because of it.

Now to Internet Explorer. In the past few months I've been rather heavily immersed into the webdesign world of HTML and CSS. And what have I found therein? Through experience, I've found personal verification of the whispered rumours that have been heard for many long years: IE is a royal pain-in-the-ass when it comes to design. In fact, I daresay it sucks. I've always heard people say this, but never had a reason to agree. But now I see exactly what the big deal is.

Ultimately, there is incompatibility after incompatibility in regard to IE's handling of CSS. And this has been the case for year after year after year. In the incredibly rich and dynamic world of CSS style, techniques, layout, and desgin -- it seems that IE is always the browser that crashes the party. It is the thorn in the side. It is the pain in the ass. And with almost 85%+ of the population using IE, the answer is not as simple as "then don't design pages for IE." For if you're a web designer of any sort (for fun or for business), IE-users are invariably a huge bulk of your audience and cannot be ignored.

So what has happened? Well, it has made the HTML and CSS community that much more resilient. Hack after hack has come along -- which aren't really dangerous "hacks" as much as lines of code that "trick" IE into behaving as it should. As an excited student of webdesign, this has proven to be very frustrating for me. As hard as it is to learn any new language (or whatever), it certainly is a bummer when irrational and illogical rules are frequently stepping on your toes and keeping you back. But I've recently found peace with this.

For, just as the archons or Agents (or whatever) seem to be there to stop us, control us, and keep us held back -- in the end they only make us stronger. And so it is the same with Internet Explorer. As much as part of me wishes I lived in a land without IE telling me what I couldn't do, I'm glad in a way that it does exist. For me and for all the CSS students and experts out there, the best thing about IE is that it makes us better at what we do. It forces us to adapt, evolve, and figure things out. And as the new challenges and trails show their ugly faces (as they most probably will), we all will be there to figure out a way to get around them. Where there is a will, there is a way. So as much as many of us may hate IE, let us ultimately give it thanks and a small grin for forcing us to become better folks.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Talking About the Weather


I noticed today, upon running into the first co-worker of mine to arrive after I opened the office, that our 3 seconds of passing conversation consisted of two things: a mutual greeting and a comment on the weather. Then we went our seperate ways in the hallway and got to work. At least in this office world of quick and passing conversations, this seems to happen a lot (the weather part).

Thinking about this conversation and all the countless ones like it had me laughing to moyself. The weather. Countless jokes have been made about the weather being the most over-used fall-back conversation of all-time, perhaps. For a while (up until just now, actually) I wrote this off as a "safe" thing to talk about for people who otherwise have seemingly "nothing" to share with each other (for whatever reason). This seemed to cover it for me, but today I have a different take on it.

Lets go back, way back, to a time around the birth of what we recognize as language. On some level, birds and bees and dogs and mice have some sort of communication. Would we call it language? For the most part no -- though I hope this doesn't imply that their communication doesn't work or serve a meaningful purpose both for survival and even an artistic purpose. But happy or sad whales singing to themselves aside, I wanna get to the meat of our human language -- whatever that may be.

Survival seems to be the most basic need of language. They talk about this in Waking Life, using the example of "SABER TOOTH TIGER RIGHT BEHIND YOU," which would surely do its job in helping people survive. In those rare but reoccuring circumstances where quickk and precise communication was necessary, this would certainly raise one's survival merit.

But all these life-or-death circumstances aside (which I cannot think would make up a sizable amount of time in ones day-to-day life), our ancesters were left with an intellect that was capable of communicating (with mutually understood words) but might have had nothing survival-worthy to say. But did we keep quiet? Do all of our musings today have to do strictly with our immediate survival? No, of course.

So, the image I get when I think way back into the past, is that the social beings that were our ancestors, for 95% of their waking life when they were NOT in life-or-death situations (requiring their saber-tooth tiger warnings), were left saying nothing -- but they most certainly had things to say. What would you talk about? When gathering berries, collecting firewood, gathering stones, scouting the hills, or weaving a basket, what remains constant? What is there to comment on?

The answer to this question -- one answer, at least -- is based off the of the foundation that the socially-constructed terms of "inside" and "outside" did not exist for our ancestors. They were always "outside," as we would call it. Paying attention to "the natural world" (which was just "the world" to them) was probably quite an important thing. And with this in-grown instinct to pay attention to the natural (outside) world, what is a by-product?

Well, making comments about it, of course! And "it" most certainly equates to the weather. So there is my argument -- while "talking about the weather" is something we joke about, I throw out the argument that this is perhaps the most talked-about subject in the history of humankind.

Nowadays, we live in climate-controlled environments ("inside") that is cut off from the "outdoor" world which 99% of our ancestors spent 100% of their time in. So when we go to fill up our water battle at the water cooler and catch a glimpse of the sunny spring day outside the window, let us not feel bad about our inner-urges to make a comment about the weather. Really, there isn't much that would be more properly human to talk about.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Suburbia & the Hero's Journey


Over the last two weeks I've been listening to Green Day's American Idiot album relentlessly. It is quite awesome. I haven't gotten this into an album in probably over a year.

If you're not aware, American Idiot is a so-called "concept album" or "rock opera" or consistent story in which each song is related to the whole. The overall setting is American suburbia. And who better to tell this story then Green Day?

I don't know much anything at all about the people in the band, at least no more than I did in 7th grade (when Dookie was all over the place). In a sense, it seems Green Day is the exact same band they were back then. It is cool to know that they made it out of the 90's... along with Pearl Jam, can we say the same about anyone else? Maybe, but I cannot think of anyone.

Anyway, it seems that Green Day has somehow transcended time. I mean that in the sense that they sing about suburbia as if they're American teenagers. They haven't lost the memory the inner-sense of "what its like." This is the same feeling I get when I read book 5 of Harry Potter... JKRowling, it seems, remembers 100% what its like to be a confused, frustrated, and angry teenager.

And so it is the same with Green Day. They've got to be 10+ years older than they were when Dookie came out, but when it comes to the voice from which they sing -- "age" doesn't matter.

American Idiot has made me realize a few things.

First, it has brought to my immediate attention how stories permeate all things human. From cooking to music to sports to poetry and everything in between -- it all has to do with stories. Take Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, for instance. For me, this song tells a story. I imagine a guy walking around a lake, his mood and thoughts and internal feelings being expressed by the haunting beauty of the song. (Perhaps I choose this Romantic era peice of music because it is so far removed from contemporary stuff -- that is, we're able to see it more clearly for what it really is).

Same deal with sports. The process of a single play, a single game, a single tournament, a season, or a career -- it is all a story. In recent weeks/months I've grown to learn that sports fandom (as far as I'm concerned) has to do with being in the midst of the story as it unfolds. Its recognizing, realizing, and seeing the universe unfold. In a very real sense, it is another example of the universe becoming aware of itself (and the intrinsic beauty found therein).

Cooking -- same deal. Each meal, each ingredient, and each bite has to do with a story, great or small. Poetry -- same thing. Writing -- yeah. And on and on and on. I could write about this forever, but the bottom line -- it is the overall story of American Idiot which makes it the great album it is.

Second, American Idiot has provided me with another cultural example of the mythological "hero's journey" told precisely. This has nothing to do with whether or not Green Day did this onpurpose -- when it comes to mythological themes and motifs and all that, the "intention" of the artist is thrown out the window.

I would love to write pages and pages about this, supplimented by tons of research, but I have better things to do. So what we have now is this quick post before lunch. With what remaining time I have, let me generally recap the Hero's Journey sequence of events as it pertains to American Idiot.

Joseph Campbell, in his most to-the-point summation of the Hero's Journey, describes it as "a departure, a fulfillment, and a return." It is a process that unfolds -- a leaving some place, a finding (or not finding) of something, and a bringing it back (succcesssfully or unsuccessfully). These "places" where these "departures" and "returns" happen -- don't be forced into thinking they're concrete places (like this desk or that bathroom). Indeed, they can (and often are) real and tangible places, but they're not limited to the realm of the geographic. Thinking about it like this can be harmful.

American Idiot tells the story of a character who starts out in suburbia. Suburbia could be anywhere from Columbia, MD to Encino, CA. The exact suburb doesn't matter. Point is, he is unhappy. He is unhappy with America ("redneck agenda", etc) and he is unhappy with the place he is stuck (the suburbs). As is often the case in the Hero's Journey, the Hero is somehow in a society/place that is not fulfilling... something is missing... something is wrong. And he has to go out there -- leave the known world behind -- cross the threshold into the unknown.

If the first track ("American Idiot") sets the stage for what is wrong, it is the second track ("Jesus of Suburbia," I believe its called) that expresses his boiling-out-of-the-pot frustration -- which leads to action. If there is one lyric from this song to sum this part of the journey up, it would be: "To run, to run away / To find what you believe." The threshold is approached with enthusiasm, confidence, and seeming readiness. It will be crossed and nothing can hold him back.

The third track ("Holiday") describes the postiive mood as the threshold is crossed. Tremendous energy in this song! Sample lyric to sum it up: "This is the dawning of the rest of our lives... on holiday." The fact that he sings "the dawning of the rest of our lives" goes to show that the threshold is being crossed with no reservations. There is no looking back. There is no mixed feelings or regrets. He is leaving the suburbs for good, if need be. It is worth that much to find a meaningful way to live. So he goes to the city (as it says in one of the next songs).

...And there, he finds more emptiness (track 4 -- the Blvd of Broken Dreams). Everything is not seeming to be as perfect as he thought it would be. It looks like there is a lot more to learn. The answer will not be found quickly or easily. The internal emptiness he had with him in the suburbs is still there. Perhaps it was not the subrubs that were the problem... perhaps it was something inside. A great Arab Proverb -- "it is not the long road ahead that wears us out, but the pebble in our shoe." The rest of the album is about him figuring this out. Sample lyric: "I walk a only road, the only road that I have ever known."

At this point, we're well past the threshold. The main character did not instnatly find the life he thought he would, but he is out there and not about to go back. I am not familiar enough with the rest of the album to continue as I've been, but the general journey is certainly visible from what I've seen.

Track 5 -- ("Are We the Waiting?") is the characters internal affirmation ("we are") that the great meaningful life we're all inherently promised may not come instnantly. It might be right around the corner or 80 years away, but life is still going to remain painful in all of its ways. The realization that life is sorrowful is blatantly mythological. Hero is getting used to this new phase of the journey. And from this new-found calm, action will arise...

Track 6 -- "St Jimmy" -- another infusion of energy. He is in the city now, and ready to find whats out there, even if it takes a while. This new energy is good, and even necessary, but it isn't enough just yet.... again, he burns out...

Track 7 -- "Give me Novacaine" -- dealing with mroe tough times, trials, and tribulations. When we think we've got something figured out (track 6), the pitfall is to think th at all problems will go away. Not the case. There will always always always be more problems. Realizing this is important. But once its realized, it allows true progress to be made. And it comes in the form of a girl.

Track 8 / 9 "She's a Rebel" / "Extraodinary Girl" -- I like both these songs, but they say the exact same thing (at least, I think). But who cares -- the point is that Hero has found inspiration. The inspiration is not the posession of the girl (as Hero believes), but more what the girl represents -- a coming-together (integration) with the unrealized opposites within. Jung had a term for this -- the anima figure. It is frequently (always?) represented by the opposite sex. It is us chasing down the half of us we've yet to realize. Think Trinity in the Matrix. Think Marla Singer in Fight Club. Think Leia in Star Wars. This concept is sort of fluid, but it is certainly prevelant here.

Now, a danger when it comes to inspiration -- we can get caught up thinking that the thing that inspires us (the girl, in this case) is equal to the inspiration itself (which is intangible). Track 10 is called "Letterbomb" and is my current favorite. "She said I can't stand this place I'm leaving here today." The girl left him. ANd he mistakenly freaks out -- he doesnt realize that the true treasure that he found was in himself, it wasn't her.

Track 11 -- "Wake me up when September Ends". I read that this song supposedly isnt directly related to the story (it has to do with billy joe's loss of his father when he was a child). But the tone of the song fits perfectly to the story -- life has once again tossed the world upside down. "Wake me up when its over," it seems to say. When will it be over? Will it ever be over? Change is rough... perhaps St Jimmmy didn't learn that lesson well enough. Or perhaps none of us have and never will.

Track 12 -- Homecoming. I dont know this one at all yet. But the story part of it is clear -- he comes home. This is the return. It might not be the return he hoped for, but you canot escape the return. Just like death. Life itself is the biggest Hero's Journey we can fully witness. Departure -- we leave the womb. Fulfillment -- we live life, decide what we're looking for, and maybe find it. Return -- we go back into the womb (tomb). The cycle. The return is unescapable, ALWAYS. The tighter you grip sand (trying to avoid the return), the more sand slips through your fingers. Chug all the beers you want, but you're 100% to return to being sober eventually. You get high now, you'll be low later. Inescapable.

Track 13 -- "Wahtsername" is final musings on this girl and the last song on the album. I dont know this song well enough to provide context yet, but ther eis one curious lyric at the beginning. "Thought I ran into you down on the street / Then it turned out to only be a dream." Okay, maybe he saw h er but it was really a dream. Or maybe not. Maybe he thought he saw her again -- which means, maybe he got a glimpse that this inner-treasure/inspiration still exists as potential within himself. But, then he realized she was gone and that "it couldn't have been that good-feeling" (the inspiration), so it is written off as a dream.

Bottom line -- the album/story ends on sort of a low note (for the Hero). Things didn't work out as he hoped. He didn't get the victory he expected. And often this is how the Hero's Story turns out -- he returns to the village, only to find the gold he collected turned to ash. This is the equivalent of anyone of us thinking we've got it all figured out (with an artistic endeavor, say) -- but the public hates it. What went wrong? Is it my fault or is it there fault? The answeer is always different. But there is hope for the Hero, just as there is always hope for us all.

In close, this album is a suburban epic. If know of no peice of cultural creation/art that speaks more to the life that myself and millions of others lived (and are living). It is the subtle keywords that make it what it is -- "7-11" "parking lot" "ritalin" "mary jane" "i dont care if you dont" "grafitti in the bathroom stall" "shopping mall" and so on and on and on. ANd who better to tell this story than Green Day. Hail to them!

So there we go. My rush through. Like I said, maybe one day I'll come back to this and do it more justice, but for now this is going to have to do.

big storm coming

i am still alive. big changes coming soon. new this, new that, whole lotta new stuff. got no time to say more! stay tuned.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
-Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

South Park Scientology Showdown!

Tonight at 10:00pm -- new South Park episode. Should be a good one.

The creators of the show are set to "fire back" at their opponents in the whole Scientology showdown that is going on. I'm not much at all one for keeping up with all the gossip in the TV, entertainment and media world, but all this drama has caught my attention. And I think it is awesome.

When it comes down to it, I realize that I love a good and messy fight. It is out of the chaos, destruction, and mess that creation emerges. I don't just mean the "creation" of news articles or new episodes of a TV show, but rather the "creatioin" of new norms and memes (?) and experiences for society and all individuals involved. For instance, I am pumped about the Da Vinci Code movie coming out this summer. I don't care how accurate or inaccurate Dan Brown's book is (or his many opponents "defending" their Christian faith) -- I just want to see some mud thrown around. So many Christian people are going to be pissed about this movie and the "blasphemy" it will be spreading.

I cannot wait. I think little skirmishes here and there can be a very good thing.

Here is a little new roundup to catch you up on everything that has been going on:

'South Park' to Fire Back in Season Premiere [article]
The creators of "South Park" appear ready to fire back at Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology following a dust up earlier this month that included soul singer Isaac Hayes quitting the series.
Did Cruise Shut Down 'South Park' Episode? [source]
Tom Cruise forced Comedy Central to cancel a repeat of a controversial South Park episode lampooning Scientology after telling Paramount that he would refuse to promote Mission Impossible 3 if the show aired, according to the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip column, which in turn cited the website hollywoodinterrupted.com. However, a spokesperson for Comedy Central insisted that the episode had been yanked so that the channel could air a different episode that would serve as tribute to Isaac Hayes, who, like Cruise, is a Scientologist and who left the show (where he played "Chef") assertedly because of the Scientology episode. It originally aired last November.
South Park declares war on Scientology [article]
“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!” the South Park creators said in a statement Friday in Daily Variety. “Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!”
Scientologist Isaac Hayes quits ‘South Park’ [article]
Last November, “South Park” targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called “Trapped in the Closet.” In the episode, Stan, one of the show’s four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.” [right on!]
Episode Video [link]
Here is the original episode is available to watch online. This is probably illegal and totally awesome!
There we go! Should be awesome. Hopefully I'll remember to watch.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2020 and Beyond?


One of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of V for Vendetta was the picture painted of the near future. If I'm not mistaken, the film takes place sometime between 2020 and 2040. Unlike most other futuristic "dystopias" (which is apparently the opposite of a "utopia"), V takes place in a future that is by no means far away and removed. Watching other the-future-has-gone-to-shit movies like The Matrix and Equilibrium have a comfortable "distance" to their created worlds: things are so far into the future that we cannot really connect the dots from here to there. Instead, the future worlds they create are just cool to think about on a thematic or philosophical level.

V for Vendetta was quite different and very refreshing in this regard. Whether it was 2020 or 2040 -- the point I'm making is that it was right around the corner. Its already 2006... we're closer to 2010 than we are to 2000. Things are happening faster and faster. Technology accelerates at an exponential rate. Human population is doing the same. If my memory serves me correctly, the units of fossil fuel we've consumed has increased exponentially, as have the number of species driven to recent extinction. For better or for worse (and it seems for worse), "its all happening" at a quicker and quicker and quicker rate.

Where are things going? That is up in the air, of course. Back in 2001 me and my roommates took a most excellent class in college -- a class we simply referred to as scarcity. It might have been called "Sociology of Scarcity" or "Scarcity in Modernity" or "The Impending Global Age of Scarcity" -- I cannot recall and it doesn't really matter. But it was awesome. Essentially, the entire class revolved around reading the ideas and theories of many social scientists (and others) whose findings and research suggested some rough times were in store, mainly on account of resource depletion (in its many guises).

At the end of the semester we were required to compose a term paper on how we thought scarcity might go down (whether or not we believed it would). This was quite an awesome assignment. It is one thing to sit around and talk about how bad things are going and how screwed we all are... but it is quite a different thing to describe exactly how the shit might hit the fan. Of course there is a chance that we'll have a smooth and painless transition into the future... but in the light of this assignment, this possibility wasn't important. We had to imagine a total collapse and describe what lead up to it and what happened as a result.

And so here we are 5 years later. We're still around, and I'm sure many would argue that things are quite worse than ever in a global sense. Are they really? Who knows. The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is the immense amount of possibility and potential that stands before us. While things could go on more or less quietly, there are also 20 different ways everything could get horribly out of control and disasterous.

Today while reading over the blog Taognostic, I was delivered to the essay "Fall Down Six Times" by RanPrieur. In it, he describes six different outcomes for the coming future. These vary from different types of ecoptopias to sci-fi utopias with no shortage of crashes and civilizational breakdowns in each. In a sense, each of these predictions could be described as "totally unrealistic." But when you say that enough, you start to realize you cannot possibly know shit about what you're talking about. Anything could happen, and it could happen in countless different ways. As bad (or good) as things are now, they could definately get a whole lot worse (or better!).

Back to V for Vendetta for a second. For those of you who didn't see it, the movie takes place in London some 20-40 years after the year 2000. On one hand things seem totally the same they are now. On the other hand, we see elements of the nightmare world of 1984 having crept into our lives. And importantly (in regard to the urgency with which I post this), America is described on a news report as totally fallen, weak, and ravaged in a civil war. "This is a country that had everything," a fascist news reporter says early in the film, "and look at them now." Could things end up like this? We'd be foolish to dismiss the possibility.

So I encourage you to check out this essay. Takes about 5-10 minutes to read and is good for quite a few laughs. Each of the six scenarios starts right now in Spring 2006 (the essay was written March 15 of this year). Here is a brief run-down of the version of the futures described:

1. Worst Case Scenario -- imagines the Iran situation boiling to the brim and overflowing in the worst possible way. Everything falls down from there. Hopefully this one doesn't happen, as its probably the worst imaginable situation (hence its title).

2. Ridiculous Best Case Scenario -- the total opposite of the first one. Man, this one would be awesome. Ecotopia. The promise and potential for meaningful lives for all. This would be nice.

3. Naive Sci-Fi Utopia -- for those who put their total faith in the salvation of technology, this is that one played out. Seems terrifically unlikely (and undesirable, in my opinion). However, who is to say it is any more or less possible than either of the first two?

4. My Sci-Fi Utopia -- ("My" = the author) -- This one is sort of a mix between the ecotopia and the naive sci-fi utopia. It is also insanely ridiculous... but in a rather "that probably means it could happen" way (in regard to the role of technology). The mixing-pot style of this one suggests to me that it is probably going to be quite close in comparison to how things turn out (if nothing else, for its wild fantasy and imagination).

5. Playing the Odds -- The title of this section might refer to the strategy of each and every individaul in society striving to stay alive. Things get increasingly worse little by little, and everyone reacts in small ways to up the chance for their survival. The title could also be interpreted as the "most likely" scenario for the future if, say, you were a betting man. As a result, this scenario is quite boring and very undesirable. Humanity seems described as lacking no proaction at all (for better or for worse), being instead ruled by the whims of their surroundings. Boooo...

6. You -- this final one is quite like "Playing the Odds" in that it avoids any ridiculous predictions (of the first 4 scenarios) and keeps things quite reasonable (in as far as we're able to imagine). The difference between this and #5, however, is the role played by each member of humanity (i.e., you). Instead of being reactive to all situations, the opposite is the case. Things may be changing fast and getting worse, but initiative is taken. Not the idealistic "change the world"/"revolutionary" initiative, but the more realistic making-a-difference-in-your-own-way sort of thing. Quite the proper scenario to end with.

So check these out! They are quite worth reading, as I said earlier. Here is the link again. And that is about it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Using Lies to Tell the Truth: V for Vendetta


Here we go. Besides my belated musings on the gnostic themes in Garden State, these words begin the first movie "review" written on this site.

The film in question is V for Vendetta. After considerable thought, my review might summed up as follows: if there is any part of you that plans to see this movie or thinks that you might enjoy it -- definately make sure you go and watch it. I feel quite confident you won't be disappointed.

As for descriptions of general plot details, character development, cinematic techniques, theme and all of that stuff... you'd probably be better off checking out a "regular" movie review (I recommend browsing the field at Rotten Tomatoes or checking out my personal favorite critic, Roger Ebert). To talk to you about these things is not what I'm here to do. Others can surely do a much better job than I, and I certainly do not even want to try to be something I'm not.

This gets to the very issue I'm concerned with. What is it to "review" a movie? Who are any of us to say if a movie is "good"? Why exactly do I feel confident you'll enjoy this film? In the 20 hours since leaving the theatre, these are questions I've been thinking hard about. The answer won't be quick and it won't be easy, but it is something I must work through.

On one hand we have our personal experience of viewing a film. Undoubtedly, this varies greatly from person to person. For me, this aspect of fillm viewing seems to be what it is all about. Whether or not a film is declared by the public to be "good" or "bad" has little relevance if we are in fact moved or touched by the experience. Really, can the critical lambasts of others -- the rest of the world, even -- take away from a genuine and authentically rich film-viewing experience? What do we become if we compromise that little part deep inside of us because of what others say or think?

As filmgoers, as we all are to some extent, this is the challenge we are faced with. On one hand we want to pay attention to the objective quality of a film -- note its techincal and perhaps "artistic" acheivements (directing, acting, style, and so forth). This, I would say, is the primary concern of "the Academy" and most critics. To an extent, this is quite a necessary function. At the same time, though, we must remain true to that inner-part of us whose experience of a film must (ideally) remain untouched and uneffected by our deeply rooted ideas of "what others think." In this sense, the terms "good" and "bad" (when used to describe the seeming worth of a film) only exist in terms of our experience. Otherwise, they're totally out the window.

Before moving on, I offer the following excerpt from Carl Jung's autobiography Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. Put together toward the very end of his life, Jung dictated the following statements in the opening paragraphs:
"I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem. [...] Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjectively variety of an individual life." p. 3
Just as Jung states he cannot experience himself "as a scientific problem," I feel the exact same way about crticizing a film. Quite frankly, I cannot approach a film in a strictly objective manner. Sure, any one of us might be able to note a films good acting, witty dialogue, or any other empirical or measurable quality. But ultimately, these aren't what is most important when it comes to the experience of viewing a film. It is where the film takes us that matters above all else.

As great of a time as I had watching this film, I would certainly be reluctant to recommend something to people that I wouldn't expect them to similarly enjoy. Was my enjoyment based on something entirely subjective? Was I merely having a good day? Had my relatively long drought in movie-going left me primed to enjoy the next movie I saw no mater what? These are all questions I've wrestled hard and long with. And yet my recommendation for V stands. If there is any part of you that is interested in seeing this film -- go and see it. It was the best time I've had watching a movie since October 10, 2003 (Kill Bill, volulme 1).

You know how people always say professional wrestling is "fake"? Well, to an extent, they're 100% right. In a way, it is fake. Just like Seinfeld. And Friends. And Star Wars. And Harry Potter. And The Matrix. All of these are mere stories with made-up characters in made-up situations. They're all lies, each and every one of them. But in these so-called lies, something greater can be found. A breakthrough can occur. We identify with the characters. We may find ourselves relating to the characters, far moreso than we relate to 99% of the people we see in "real" life. Through symbol and metaphor --- themselves sterile, dry, dead, lifeless -- the deeper stores of life-energy are connected with and broken through to. In a sense, then, all of these stories are arguably "more true" than many of the things we see and touch and are surrounded with on each day of our lives (in "reality").

Above else, V for Vendetta is just another story. In the film, it is discussed how artists "use lies to tell the truth." This idea is hinted at exactly in the Jung quote posted above: "myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science." The metaphor that is at the heart of any story, tale, fable or myth is, to some extent, not actually true... yet at the same time is more true than any scientific mustering we can come up with.

My rambling muses about this film are tapped for now... perhaps it is too soon after leaving the theater to really say what I have to say (if I didn't say it already). More to come? Perhaps. In the meantime check out Tim Boucher's entries [1, 2] about V for Vendetta over at Pop Occulture. Good stuff there.

Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason, and plot
I see no reason why gunpower treason
Should ever be forgot

Saturday, March 18, 2006

At Peace with the Process


Amidst the earthly turbulence of change and loss we must find peace in this very moment. We can work hard throughout all of our days to bring the light out of us, but there is no guarantee our goals and dreams and wishes will ever be fulfilled.

“Like all Axial teachers, Laozi was not simply concerned with the practicalities of survival, but with finding a source of transcendent peace in the midst of earthly turbulence. He aspires to the ultimate reality, the Dao, which goes beyond the gods, and is the ineffable basis of all existence. It transcends everything we can conceptualize, and yet if we cultivate an inner emptiness, without selfish desire and without greed, and live in a compassionate manner, we will be in harmony with the Dao and thus transformed.” Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth, p. 91

I’m writing a story. 150,000 words so far… perhaps a million more to go. Will I ever get to the end? I cannot say. But that won’t keep me from pushing on. A jet engine could take me out at anytime. The overwhelming futility of the mission must not keep us on our asses.

We must do all we can, but we must not expect the time to see our quest through. That is not up to us. Does it mean we can be careless? Not at all. I will do all I can to preserve my progress.

Should this laptop get jacked, I have my story backed up on USB. Should my memory stick get flattened, I have it all backed-up on gmail. Should the entire net get wiped clean by a global EMP, I have it preserved in my head.

Should I find myself gone before my time, it still lives on in my friends and family. And should we all be wiped out in a cosmic wave of fire, than so be it.

For it is in this moment – right now – where I can say 100% that I’ve committed myself to doing all I can. In the realization of this – during this very moment – time is transcended and the goal is reached. For any of us to realize this (even for a moment) is the infinite universe realizing itself… and what could be the point further than that?

For mine (and yours) are the eyes of the universe… and these are the words of the universe… and as half-formed as these thoughts may be, the inkling of impression that *this* is *it* is all that matters.

Does this mean the work is over and done with? No! Push on! Keep it up! Give up not until the last breath has left your body. The path is yours and mine to walk – we must trek it as we’re best able. And so I push on – and no matter what happens, I’ve found peace. To find peace in the moment – in the process – is to transcend this transient realm of space and time and find peace with eternity, in all of its indescribable and unspeakable glory!

Go now and do it!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Where Things are Going


Here we go again. Once more, I thought I'd break the silence.

An interesting insight about my blog's progress -- I'm noticing that, genernally, I seem to expect my posts to be of a certain length. So far the standard seems 2-4 pages. On one hand, this is well and fine and good -- it allows me to say what I want to say, keeping my ramblings as developed as I expect them to be. Yet, at the same time, I find that this standard I've created for myself is preventing me from posting much shorter entries.

The solution? Well, in the next month or so, I plan on getting my own web domain. I want more flexibility. At least right now, I imagine this theoretical website of mine to include -- among other things -- genernal "articles" or "essays" written by me. Pretty much everything I've written so far would fall under that category. At the same time, I'd have a sectioin with more random, rant-like, short and quick posts -- perhaps like this one. What I'm interested in at the time, what I'm reading, what movies I've seen, etc. This will allow me to post short entries without feeling bad for not spewing out a 3 page well-developed essay.

Another big thing I hope to include is an archive for guitar tabs. For any guitarists out there, this will be primarily influenced by the Cosmic Kitchen, which in my opinion is the best guitar tab-site on the entire internet. I've been collecting self-made guitar tabs for a few years now, and the genernal guitar-learning public is in dire need of what I have to offer.

I also hope to have sections of the website based on other lifestyle explorations -- mainly cooking, working out, and my grand top-secret writing project. All in all, this all deserves its own website. I don't even want to attempt to bother with a standard blog template (such as this).

Anyway -- some thoughts for now. Another post coming soon.