Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Positive Desire

The problem of seeking happiness is that it's always a step out of reach. If it were present, then there would be no seeking. We are always looking for a future situation that promises better feelings than the one we have right now. As soon as we get that situation, we imagine a better one just out of reach of the present so that the cycle of dissatisfaction continues. From the emaciated poor starving for food to the anorexic rich starving for attention, there seems to be no escape from this mental wiring of insatiable desire.

It's not exactly desire that is the problem but its tenor of dissatisfaction. What if there was a way to desire happily? Positively expectant salivation over a meal is qualitatively different from a hunger pang though they share the desire to eat. At the other end of desire is fulfillment or the failure to fulfill. Can the failure to fulfill be reliably avoided or prevented from causing disappointment? Failure loses its sting when you know it's temporary. It's just a mistake that can be corrected. The mistake could be in an intermediate step toward attaining the goal or even a mistake in choosing the goal. Disappointment occurs in proportion to the perceived permanence of the failure state.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I had a good discussion with a friend yesterday about boundaries, a word I've avoided because of its confrontational tone. Based loosely on her description of what it means to her, I've come up with my own provisional definition that a boundary is an explicit description of what behavior in another or circumstances make one uncomfortable. It's not intended to lay blame but to inform the other person that one may react poorly or leave if those circumstances occur.

I think part of the reason I didn't like to think about boundaries is that it puts emphasis on external circumstances for one's happiness. I believe in ultimate oneness, and boundaries seemed to be a delusional separation. I think I may have been too idealistic. Upon entering the physical world, we have "signed up" for separation as a vehicle to learn how to reunite. We grow incrementally, dissolving one boundary at a time, but to do away with the boundary concept all at once denies the structure of the school in which we find ourselves.

Boundaries do presume and uphold separation but for the greater purpose of enabling relationship. A lonely Creator can be seen creating an independently willful Other, whom He can love. Not satisfied with just satisfying Himself, he allowed multiple Others to feel separate from each other and so that they may potentially experience a microcosm of the original love that created them.

In order to experience true relationship, people must allow for the will of others to remain independent of their own. Otherwise, what they experience is a premature merger, a destructive consumption of another. All forms of control seek to consume or subsume another. Love, on the other hand, plays with that illusory gap between selves in a way that enhances and enthuses (i.e. puts God in) both the individuals and the whole.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dream on, kid

I just did my favorite education/public outreach demo so far to a high school class in Chile. The kids were really good at driving the rover, not getting stuck on rocks or driving crazy because of the 4 second delay between a keystroke and seeing the result of the motion on webcam. (The delay simulates the logistics of off-planet exploration.) I loved seeing them smile as they operated the rover. They looked so happy. I would be too if I was 15 years old driving a NASA robot on another hemisphere. The applause at the end of the session was heartwarming.

When I was in 3rd grade, the teacher had us draw or paint a nearly life sized body and put a photo of our face on it. I drew an astronaut suit. My parents still have it. When I was in 2nd grade, I etched and painted a psychedelic shuttle on a clay tile. When I was a toddler barely able to walk, I fell asleep on a hammock with a small picture dictionary on my face. The page I was on was one depicting planets and space related words. I still have both the clay tile and the picture dictionary. And now, where do I find myself? Near a world famous observatory with a beautiful view of the heavens every day, rain or shine. Here I am tearing up again at the sheer brilliance of destiny or whatever you call it. I still feel like I'm dreaming as I walk into my room in solitude.

I have so much to tell my young self. I would tell him not to worry so much about what other people think of him because it'll ironically just make him less attractive because no one likes a phony trying to conform. As I grew older, I began to fear the difficulty of projects. I would tell him to continue doing impossible things without a care for how long it takes or how hard it is. I would tell him that romantic relationships are one of those impossible things but to take care not to assume it will eliminate all of his problems. I would tell him to practice self-love now because it doesn't get easier if he habituates in the other direction.

Now at 31, reading this as if my 50 year old self were admonishing me, I have trouble accepting this advice. "Yea, right, old man. You've forgotten what it's like to be young." So instead of further giving answers to life lessons, I would just give him a calm smile and a fearless hug. I would express through my demeanor that things will be all right. I would tell him yesterday's dreams that I'm living today and my dreams today that I know will be fulfilled tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Inner Being

Who is this inner being?

It is the part of me that knows of eternity. It has no fear of death. It understands this physical reality as a subset of reality. A fun game. A play.

It puts obstacles in the way as part of the game. Every problem that arises is exactly the problem I need, is exactly the contrast I need to clarify where I want to go. The going is as enjoyable as the getting to. Desire is as endless as eternity, and that's a good thing to the inner being, who enjoys fulfilling each and every one of them.

The inner being knows that everything is as it should be, just as it is and just as it is changing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


When I was watching the YouTube video of Karen Carpenter playing drums, smiling so big and enjoying herself so much, I felt jealous. She's so pretty, musically talented, and adored. Songs like Superstar and Yesterday Once More were ironic in that in singing them, she was speaking of stars as if she wasn't one. In an attempt to feel better about myself, I thought, "There must be something wrong with her life. It's too damn perfect." I was ashamed at my schadenfreude when I discovered the circumstances of her death. On the other hand, I wanted to find proof that being admired like her wasn't all that great, and it was good to find that evidence. The admiration of entertainment stars is often for superficial and unstable reasons. It's much better to be validated just for being human rather than for any particular accomplishment or gift because conditional love isn't really love and can only sustain you temporarily.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


There is no such thing as fairness or unfairness. It is a line in the sand of human imagination drawn to motivate balance between equally imaginary parcels of the one true whole. Instead of engendering balance, thoughts of fairness or justice sometimes instigate war as one side imagines being deprived by the other.

"Reciprocity" can also be used as a club to beat the other into giving back. Such a demand needn't be verbalized; one can signal disapproval with the body, mood, or even more subtle ways.

Balance doesn't require justice. Balance just is. When a ball drops into a pool of water, the water splashes upward in a balanced response. Every moment is a moment of balance even while the quantities involved are still changing. Equilibrium is no more balanced than the movement toward equilibrium.

We may push forcefully to secure a certain outcome we consider fair. If worry accompanies the push, the outcome will likely bounce back the opposite direction. If the weight behind the push is greater than the either your hand or the object you're pushing, you will effect a more durable change. The largest weight is the weight of the world. Hence it is the complex interactions of the entire world that determine where the scales tip, not some man-made sense of fairness.

It would do us good to observe with humility the hugeness of the universe and let it determine how the galaxies and atoms should dance with each other. Atlas, let down your rock and let it roll.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trusting the clarity of the mirror

She looks at me with disgust as I refuse to do what she says.

I look at her with disgust as she demands me to give.

The thoughts that arise from the dispute are meaningless rationalizations that only serve to empower the feelings of righteousness and contempt. Thoughts like:

She is so ungrateful.
She is so spoiled.
She is so lazy.
She is so weak.
She is so incapable of happiness.

Simultaneously, she has a volley of negative thoughts toward me.

He is so lazy.
He is so inconsiderate.
He is so weak.
He is overly sensitive.
He is so selfish.

We are reflecting each other's negativity. We don't see the hall of mirrors, only the infinitely reflecting images of hate.

Until now.

Others are just perfect mirrors of ourselves. Paradoxically, we are perfect mirrors for others, even though as the subject in the experience, we must think of ourselves as the generators of the image, not the mirror. In other words, when I look at others, I see only my reflection, me in turn being any image I dream up in that moment. There may be some artifacts in the reflection, like the right and left sides being reversed, but the underlying relationship is the same. For example, if I hate being told what to do, what I see in the other person won't necessarily be disobedience. It would most likely be bossiness.

As we are but mirrors, if we want to see a better picture, we must be that picture first. This requires thorough trust that the other will mirror it back to us because we don't want to waste energy projecting for nothing. Unfortunately, we think their image is coming at us from outside us; the mirror analogy is too much a leap of faith. They are independently mean and selfish, and so I must defend myself or avoid them. In so doing, I lose the opportunity to change a part of myself that would've benefited from the feedback.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Practical Solipsism

Whereas the philosophy that all we can know is what is in our own minds is often ridiculed as being impractical because it denies the objective existence of others, there is practical value in noting that our values and judgments are indeed subjective and thus changeable.

Our minds hold a pattern, which ostensibly corresponds to an "external" reality. It is a map of a territory that we can never sense directly because sensing necessarily filters information. If we had a direct, unfiltered experience of so-called external reality, we would receive one huge chunk of information, unorganized and unmanageable. It would be like downloading the entire content of the Internet as one large stream of ones and zeroes without a method of decoding it.

Objectivity is consensus and relative repeatability mistaken as fragments of absolute truth. The illusion of absoluteness leads us to a problem in judgment of right and wrong in human intentions and behaviors. When we think, "He should have done this," or, "She shouldn't be this way," there often arises an uneasy feeling of annoyance, rejection, or distaste. We automatically blame the other person for causing this disturbance when it really is our mind's signal that we are encountering a contradiction in our mental map of the world. Before we can even consider that our map needs correcting, we must be open to the possibility that our judgments are not absolute.

The feeling of judgment signals a contradiction between what we expect the other person to do and what we observe them doing. Ironically, it's easier to assume that our expectation is more correct than observed reality. This is simply a habit, a repeated pattern of thinking that has served us in the past. We ignore the fact that it does not serve us now out of sheer laziness: it requires thoughtful effort to adjust our mental map of how the other person should act. We would need to ask ourselves why it is the most beneficial course of action in their minds and hearts to do what they just did that annoyed us so.

What can we control?

A practical solipsist does not deny that his values and actions affect the conditions of his experiences even if he denies the metaphysical independence of such conditions. The practical question then is, "What can I control to achieve happiness or less disturbance?" In the case of judging people, the answer is to elaborate upon or otherwise change your model of how the other person should be. In other words, justify their behavior with adjusted "laws of the universe" (mental model). The alternative is to resist your observed reality, a tiring and futile endeavor.

As a bonus, when you understand more deeply and more consistently with your observations why a person values or acts a certain way, you can more easily organize causes and conditions for them to act in a way that is mutually beneficial. You can spend your energy where it actually matters instead of just frustratingly grinding on why they are the way they are.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I don't need anyone's praise

I don't need anyone's praise. It's not important to me. They have
their own values, which may be different than mine.

I don't need to judge others. They have their own values with which to
judge themselves. Mine are irrelevant except when I mistakenly believe
that others are pressuring me toward their values. In that case, I
remember that only my values need to be factored into my choices.

This is not to say that I ignore other's desires and preferences. In
fact I am closely observant of them, and in my striving to fulfill my
own values I see the multiplicative power of mutual benefit.

This is not to say that I'm a calculating sociopath. My keen
observance of other's values stems from the joy of connecting with
others' joy. I do not need their praise, so I am well prepared to
receive it in the form it was given rather than requiring the gift to
conform to my own design.