Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Simulacra and Meaninglessness

I thought the language in A Course in Miracles is too verbose and archaic. Then I started reading Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard. Now that is complicated. I got frustrated reading passages like:
...the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials—worse: with their artificial resurrection in the system of signs, a material more malleable than meaning, in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences, to all binary oppositions, to all combinatory algebra. (p. 2)
So much ado about nothingness, literally. Exasperated, I pick up ACIM to a random page like a magic 8-ball. The first words that confront me are:
Would God have left the meaning of the world to your interpretation? If He had, it has no meaning. For it cannot be that meaning changes constantly, and yet is true. The Holy Spirit looks upon the world as with one purpose, changelessly established. And no situation can affect its aim, but must be in accord with it. For only if its aim could change with every situation could each one be open to interpretation which is different every time you think of it. (T.30.VII.1)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Escape the Echo Chamber

The world is merely a story you are writing. Whatever you want to have happen happens. The internet is a prime example of the flexibility of reality. As you search, so shall you get search results. Whatever your political leaning or worldview, you will find the corner of the internet that echoes your sentiments and populates the trenches of the evil other side.

The internet saps your energy because you are the one producing the image you see, but you do this unknowingly, and so you don't notice your energy depleting as you set up the props and puppets that enact the plot you sleeplessly yet somnambulistically wrote. The so-called real world is but a slowed down version of the internet. You eventually find what you subconsciously look for there as well.

If you're tired of make-believe conflicts and making love to blow up dolls, there is a way out. It is to become aware of this constant seeking outside yourself for a confirmation of thoughts you've generated inside yourself. Objectively observe the molding of this sculpture you call yourself by the slings and arrow of outward fortune, which all seem to come from outside yet are your own hands or, more precisely, your own thoughts reacting to the pseudorandom numbers the dark cloud of chaos dances in answer to your rain dance calling for it.

There is a point of decision in which you threw out the peace of nonbelief and began believing things. Perhaps you can remember a time in your childhood when you encountered the thought, "You are a bad boy/girl," and decided it was true. Along with that thought came the promise of punishment from a perceived other to mar the serenity of a mind where thoughts were mere playthings and not the confining walls of granite they were to become. Fight the walls and you testify to their reality while bruising your fists. Deny the walls and you throw away the key while still acting within their confines.

Fortunately there is a window through which you can peek out of this prison and glimpse the endless field of innocence outside. No matter how long you've sentenced yourself to a belief in punishment, there is that hole in the belief that naturally rips apart the entire thought system upon recognition. This is the constructive use of doubt or judgment. You are always so ready to doubt others' ideas and motives; why not apply this skepticism to your own insanity? You are not fundamentally and incorrigibly insane no matter how long you've played at being so. Return to the still point from which you choose all experiences. Rest a while there. And choose again.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Holy Grail and Ordinary Cups

In my quest for the holy grail, I've ignored the readily available cups along the way with which I could have easily quenched my thirst. I search the internet far and wide, consuming copious articles, opinion pieces, and comments, appealing to authority to tell me The One True Way I should direct my life energy. Perfectionism dovetails with procrastination, and I die of thirst surrounded by water.

I do this with spirituality as with my work-related endeavors. I'm perpetually afraid of publishing a piece of my soul for the world to see and potentially criticize. My desire to give stunted by my fear of rejection, a ball of tension builds up inside and slowly cripples me. What I resist are actually the answers within myself.

Ironically, I'm afraid that if I set them free, they will set me free. Who am I to express myself fully? Special snowflakes get crushed in this heartless world. Stay in line and wait your turn for the meager handouts of the welfare state. Don't even try to make something out of nothing unless you're guaranteed it will be a big success.

Wise meme says Jesus saves while Buddha does incremental backups. I don't have to wait for the holy grail and the accompanying rapturous deluge; I can just take the ordinary cup in front of me and start sipping on the ambrosia of life today. Today's mugs have these message inscribed on them:
A broken vase with its cracks repaired with gold
Kintsugi: Embracing imperfection
  1. Making someone's day just slightly better is more important than hoarding information about how to do it the best way.
  2. Fear is a compass pointing you to a courageous vision within waiting to burst out of the cozy illusion of safety.
  3. Mistakes are golden testaments to your initiative and perseverance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Discipline Without Will-Power

Discipline is hard if you equate discipline with will-power. Will-power is the straining against the easiest and most natural action (or inaction) in the moment. In a short spurt, it can get a stagnant ball rolling or correct the course of a wayward ship, but an attempt to sustain will-power is tiring and often leads to a backlash of binge laziness. There must be a better way to be disciplined than constant resistance to the path of least resistance.

Instead of fighting the easy way, why not orient yourself so that the easy way is the disciplined way? Note that when you want something and have no doubt you can get it, you simply do what you need to do to get it. If you're thirsty and a glass of water is within reach, you just grab it and drink. There are two conditions for this easy achievement:
  1. I want something.
  2. I have no doubt I can get it.
Let's break it down some. A big part of discipline is remembering what you want. Whether it's quenching your thirst with a glass of water, building muscle, or publishing a creative work, you must keep what success looks like in the forefront of your mind lest doubt or distraction gnaws it into oblivion. It helps to write down your vision of success. As a literate society, we have imbued the written word with magical powers. Just think about how a signature can put money in your bank account or put you in jail. Use writing's power to cement your commitment to your success.

The more attainable you think your goal is, the less bothered you are by the effort necessary for its achievement. When you think it is difficult to get something, you might rationalize that you actually don't want it or you might make yourself forget that you want it. Thus the second trick to maintaining discipline is convincing yourself that what you want is attainable. Say, "This is easy," or at least, "This is straightforward".

On a related note, you must believe you deserve the goal of the discipline. Otherwise, you'll just sabotage your discipline by making its achievement evil or seem harder than it is. If you notice yourself mad at people who have made it while you haven't, realize that your thought of "he doesn't deserve it" will subconsciously drive "I don't deserve it". You'll secretly give yourself reasons to fail so you don't end up like that jerk who succeeded. Instead, use their glory as inspiration for yours. Everyone deserves the happiness of a disciplined life.

Fourthly, measure your progress. When it comes to conditioning, our minds don't operate much differently than Skinner's rats. Positive feedback acts as positive reinforcement for the habit we are trying to instill. A popular measurement strategy is the streak. Count how many days in a row you've kept up an activity that is part of your discipline, e.g. how many days you went to bed at a specified time.

You can also measure your progress by regularly rating the quality of the product your discipline is creating. Even if improvement seems imperceptible one day to the next, record yourself. For example, record yourself practicing a musical instrument. For writing or visual arts, keep your practice pieces. For motivating physical exercise, keep track of how energetic or tired you feel at various points during the day. Over the course of a few days or weeks, you'll notice a correlation with the amount of practice and measured benefits and be naturally encouraged to continue.

If you keep these four ideas in mind--remembering what you want, knowing it's attainable, believing you deserve it, and measuring your progress--you will maintain a momentum that reduces the need for sustained application of will-power and the resulting fatigue.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Grandma's Hand

I held my grandma's hand today. She is close to death. She wants to get physically better. I kept quiet so as not to betray my pessimism. I just hoped that she would somehow find peace.

Once upon a time, my grandma wanted to hold my hand as I walked down the stairs. Wearing a sarong and a precocious two year old ego, I refused her hand. One step, two step, three step on the sarong. I tumbled down the flight of stairs landing with my face in the gravel. No cry. 'Tis but a scratched upper lip with a few pieces of gravel embedded. My uncle took a look at me and said, "Oh, we must go to the doctor." Cry. I hated the doctor. They shot me in the butt with needles and placed me in cold steel scales. I felt no pain in my bloodied and torn face, but pain at the thought of being tortured and humiliated by strange hands. I should've taken my grandma's hands instead.

Years later, a front tooth grew almost horizontally outward near the point of impact, a reincarnation of the rebel that fell from grace so ungracefully. I had braces to correct it. For days after each orthodontic session, I rolled around in bed in agony. Years later, my wisdom teeth kicked in before my wisdom kicked in enough to trust the medical industry to remove them. They impacted my teeth and pushed the same tooth outward again.

A perceptive physiognomist recently told me that my crooked teeth indicated a rough childhood. Odd how the trait survived two opportunities for correction, first with the onset of adult teeth and second with braces. I guess I can't hide it; I had always been a rebel, distrustful of authority. Why should I trust people who hurt people or who cannot themselves escape suffering? In retrospect, I understand that I was in an extreme circumstance, born in soil traumatized by war. If the world of adults is domination and murder, let me walk on my own. Don't hold my hand.

But she wanted to hold my hand to protect me from falling, not as a patronizing judgment of my clumsiness. I squeeze her hand now in apology for my defiant independence. With tubes going into her wrists and pillows to prop up her frail body fluctuating between too high and too low blood pressure, I am surprised that she squeezes back with such firmness. Now she is the defiant one.

I listen to an audiobook speaking of spirituality and the powerlessness and nothingness of the body as I caress her hand. Her hands grasp for life while mine grasp for afterlife, impatient for this madness to be over. I'm still here though, and while I'm here, I communicate with the body. I don't speak Khmer to my grandma very well, so I communicate with my hands, the most emotionally sensitive part of my body. I don't know much about life and death, but for the moment, at least I know the warmth and vitality of my grandma's hand.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Extinction of the Dinoman

Dinosaur, Latin for fearfully great lizard. Maybe our species will one day be called dinoman, fearfully great man. Our counterparts in this future would look back and dispassionately judge dinoman as an inexorably expanding fire transmuting basic elements into an intricate pattern of light, a short-lived explosion of an intensity only surpassed by its contrast with the ashes in its wake.

The top of the food chain is a precarious place to be despite the predatory prowess of the species. In fact, it is the predator that prays to its prey. The apex species must bow down to the complex web that sustains it and quickly adapt to its caprices. The innovation of the next great species will likely be the parsimonious digestion of worldly resources. They will glide through the biosphere like wisps of air. Transparent and weightless, they do not consume or resist the material world but enliven it and make it glow with increasing intricacy.

As we presently choke in the soot of dinoman, we can still make a collect call to our future selves, if not to bail us out, then at least to soothe us with their song, the harmonies of which we may make practical use today. Even if our song is short and subdued, let it be the echo of the crescendo to come.

Inspired by watching Koyaanisqatsi for the 8th (or something) time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Who is the judge

When people are arrogant, I feel threatened. Their belief in superiority implies my inferiority. Instead of seeing their call for love, I see an attack on my worth. My admonition to people regarding their judgmental outlook is really my defense against being judged unworthy. I am the arbiter of my self-worth, but I project it onto an arrogant person and find him guilty and in need of change for condescending.

My humiliation fantasies are a projection of sadomasochism onto innocent people who I see as dominant oppressors hurting me for their pleasure. I go even further by denying my innocence and seeing myself as worthy of being punished. Therefore I consider my humiliation to be my rightful due and not sadistic abuse. I am not a victim of my oppressor but of my own worthless essence to which I'm eternally bound.

This fantasy is the shadow of my precarious display of intelligence and confidence. I hide my mistakes and weaknesses in fear of tarnishing my perfect facade. It's ironic how much I puff up only to dream of being deflated. 

There is no truth in either of these insane imaginings. The thing that puffs up only to be deflated doesn't exist except as a mirage that witnesses to the suffering of existing separately from and at odds with one another. We in fact are not separate, but we see the world that way because we believe it, and believing is "seeing". To see a different world, I must be willing to let go of my previous worldview. I must be open to the possibility that I have been wrong about how I see. It is easier to admit I have been wrong if I associate my present unease with my present perception. It is easier to form this association if I am present to how I'm actually feeling in the moment. 

Whenever I am frustrated or afraid, I will ask myself, "Would I rather see peace instead of this?" If the answer is yes, I know I must be open to the possibility that I am seeing and believing wrongly about the superiority and inferiority of human beings.