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 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.