Monday, November 25, 2013

Revealing as Metaphor

Recently the world has been revealing itself to me metaphorically. The bird is not a bird it is a representation of something more, it is a sign orienting my thoughts and actions in a certain direction. Each waking moment is slowly becoming more like a dream, in which I interpret the physical reality before me by association with stories, myths, previous experiences and the complex web of attitudes that form my belief structure. This interpretation of the world is not intentional. It is as if the world is speaking to me.
The world is never what it seems. This thesis has been confirmed repeatedly throughout history as new paradigms have been accepted. My personal experience has led me to accept a new paradigm and thus a new worldview. It is beyond the merely theoretical, it has literally changed the way I “see” reality. Understanding, and seeing the world entirely metaphorically requires and openness to an infinite range of possible meanings of symbols placed before the observer. The conceptual framework excludes no possibilities, but is shaped by prior experiences. The task is to take an inventory of these past experiences and detach yourself from them to a degree that excludes them from your conceptual framework. This detachment does not abandon them from your mind. It only relegates them to the unconscious.
Once we begin to cleanse this conceptual framework, new associations of meaning are formed when signs and symbols are presented to us. The unconscious is opened to a greater degree in order to assign meaning to things. The conscious mind operates to accept or deny such and such a meaning. I submit that there are inherent value assignments in the acceptance of certain meanings. Since value assignments are intuitive judgments, and not derived reasons (this point is highly contentious), we then have a new intuitive way of coming to know reality.

When we come to know reality in a way essentially linked with value assignments and unconscious operations exuding meaning on symbols, much of our reasonable deliberation becomes obsolete. Daily life becomes a dance of silence, it becomes an activity of the mind observing, listening and waiting for direction as to what to do next. The willful choices one has become more about what value to assign to certain interpretations of symbols, than about what actions to take, because as metaphor exudes itself upon the observer, you are guided to and from certain patterns of action. 
This is a challenging thing to write about because it is fundamentally different mode of conscious understanding of reality. Currently this new mode is vague to me, it has been exciting and scary to enter in to. But it is providing insights I never thought possible, and presenting opportunities of courses of action which are on the whole more beneficial than before. From my experience this shift in understanding requires some degree of trust in the automatic metaphorical interpretations presented, this trust is hard to exercise, but nonetheless produces some fascinating results.

Love, faith and the unknown

Recently I fell in love. I will go beyond the ends of the earth for this beautiful human being. Without serving any justice to the poetic nature of my enamored experience with this individual, here is a brief passage on a (probably confused) theoretical understanding of love.

Love is a leap of faith into the life of another, in this leap between the pillars of reason and judgment there is freedom. In fact the leap of faith is in some sense the only freedom to be found, it is where we temporarily step into the indeterminate realm of understanding, it is liberation from any preconceived notions, it is the truest expression of courage, because it is the willful determination to enter the unknown knowingly. Faith is the assent beyond belief, it is not necessarily unreasoned, but it is conscious in that there is a willingness to accept, that which may be unreasonable. Faith is more efficacious than belief and therefore more profound because it serves as a greater impetus for action. Faith often requires us to sacrifice, and alter many preexisting beliefs, habits and modes of existence. Love is requires these sacrifices most often.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The outset of renewed foundations

A brief survey of the mindset of the global youth culture reveals a heightened sense of angst, discontent and disillusionment in authority. This mindset is collective and is growing. Its symptoms are wide and deep in the global society, but there is one thing that binds them, a call for a renewed sense of justice. We inherited a world in which ecosystems are collapsing and financial markets govern the world more so than democratic institutions (or any government for that matter). We have witnessed the rise of the democratic capitalistic model emerge as the dominant mode of existence and means of production. We are the first to be raised in a truly hegemonic mode of existence without any genuine challengers to its authority. At least our parents had the soviet communist model to aspire to. If not aspire to, then to compare to. We are the first generation who will have been fully immersed in the World Wide Web from cradle to grave. The emergence of the web has also fundamentally changed the means in which we produce things, and therefore by Marx’s logic changes the ways we interact with each other.
The world is fragmented. Coinciding with the disillusionment with authority there has been a definitive shift in power relations between individuals, firms and governments. This division I call the fragmentation of authority. There is a new balance being reached because of new technologies, the individual and small groups now have the ability to influence the state of affairs throughout the world at a faster rate and leverage than ever before. Governments and firms have aptly responded by developing an increasingly sophisticated security force to protect their interests from the perceived threat of change agent groups.
Young people are fundamentally change agents. The inevitability of young people coming to be in positions of power is only one reason it is the youth that is the ultimate driver of change. Older folk either accept the new ideas, designs and tools that the youth develop or they stagnate and loose their positions of power. Youth must leverage the nature of their relationship with those in positions of power by recognizing the new condition of a shifting asymmetry between the two groups of people because of the technological and historical context in which this relationship developed. I use the term “youth” loosely. Youth is not an age. Youth is a state of mind, it is the consciousness that comes in degrees at different points in time, but can nonetheless be maintained for a continuous period, in which the agent has an open, receptive, actively engaging attitude towards the unknown, new and different. Comporting with this consciousness are new ideas of fair, right and normal. Thus, what is deemed fair, right and normal is changing.
Young people today have coalesced in new and exciting ways. It was only two years ago that the Arab Spring stirred the Middle East and North Africa. It was only two years ago young people took to the streets and encamped themselves in the US’s cities during OWS. Say what you will about the faltering of these revolutions and movements, they nonetheless successfully inserted a renewed focus on distributive justice into our contemporary political debate. We also must remember that movements often take decades to climax. Recall the civil rights movement, it was over ten years after Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus before the civil rights act was signed into law.
Young people are crying out for environmental justice as well. It is not a question whether climate change is real; it is a question about how to solve the problem. Products and firms that are environmentally conscious have a clear market advantage amongst young people compare to their counterparts.
Young people are turning away from “pop” culture in increasing numbers, by choosing alternative lifestyles. The concept of getting a career after school is either not feasible, or not desired. This is because of economic factors (in many parts of the world with youth unemployment exceeding 50% in much of Europe and the Middle East) and growing disillusionment in the consumer lifestyle handed down to us from those in power. 
These movements are globally interconnected, largely because of technological changes, but more importantly because of the hegemonic paradigm of consumer capitalism and its consequences on planet and social relations between people. Furthermore, the incompetence of governments (whether they be sophisticated democracies or age old dictatorships) to solve the problems facing us today provides a common context for a certain consciousness to arise. The recognition that one struggle against oppression is fundamentally interconnected with all others allows us to be in solidarity globally.
There is not yet a name for this common consciousness, for this common uprising. Perhaps it does not yet need a name, it is still in its infancy. But it needs to be nurtured and sustained. For if we fail to continue and persist in these struggles the consequences will be dire. The power structure that we are trying to change is highly organized and global in scale. In order to counter this I submit that this movement must also do better to organize itself, to utilize the billions of young people and their corresponding allies in unison to manipulate the sea changes in the world for our benefit and the benefit of the planet.  
We can see the endgame of the current paradigm, a pillaged earth with less than 1% of the population controlling social and political outcomes, perpetual warfare on behalf of industry, and incompetent democratic institutions to protect the interests of those who need it most. The global youth movement needs to develop its endgame, it needs a common vision that we can always compare our efforts against. We all may have individual visions, but these need to be linked to something greater than ourselves. When we act collectively results emerge that we could hardly deem possible.

I am calling for new foundations, out of the ashes of the postmodern fragmentation of power. New institutions need to emerge, new foundations worthy to stand upon. WE need to consolidate our power so that there may be a legitimate counter to the powers that be. Institutions acting for the good, and foundations rooted in a collective consciousness of collective struggle. I have many ideas about how to go about this, but I thought I would lead with the why.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the spectrum of humbleness

Aristotle thought that virtues were means between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Although humbleness was not a virtue to the ancient Greeks (it is rooted in the Christian tradition), I submit that it is an important value to uphold and strive for. Before more of an explanation of this particular virtue, let me make some remarks concerning ethics and virtue in general.
The question “how to live a good life?” does not haunt us, but sustains us. Recently my life took a radical and unexpected turn, withdrawing from college and leaving behind so many things I had worked diligently for. Coupled with the constancy of the unknown of the future and the impending oncoming of that unknown, and all the anxiety that comes along with such thoughts. Perhaps this change is not radical, but the example is supposed to be an instantiation of periods of flux in our individual lives. It is easy to imagine these periods. Asking ourselves “how to live a good life?” during these times allows us to see change as opportunity, it drives us forward. The Japanese word for crisis most closely translates to opportunity. Flux is akin to a crisis.
In periods of flux doubt arises. Doubt is the precipice of new beliefs and new habits. Doubt allows us to drop certain beliefs and habits for others. However, one can be passive or active in this process. Passivity would be not thinking, and questioning the self and its proper role within certain contexts. These periods of flux are essentially a change of context. Activity would be the contrary, thinking and asking questions in order to guide the process, rather than letting the process guide you. Therefore, the questions one asks are going to be of paramount importance. I submit that the most fundamental of these is that one aforementioned. But what is good?
There are sparsely enough pages in the world to fully comprehend, let alone answer this question. Let me say very briefly my view. It is called pluralism. This is the view that there is a plurality of things that we can consider good, such as happiness, flourishing, virtues, autonomy, communal well-being, and fair distribution of inequities. While some theories privilege one of these things over others, I take a nuanced approach that takes into account many, if not all of these factors when determining what is good and worth pursuing. Weighing these factors against each other is messy, but ethics is a messy science, and accuracy like that found in other fields may be too high a bar to set. However, when asking about how to live one’s life virtues are going to play a very important role.
In contemporary philosophy not much time is spent asking the question how to live one’s life best. Philosophers often ask more abstruse, abstract and technical questions. Those types of questions I often find deprived of any real consequence and void of any reigns of practical reason that the average human being could latch on to, let alone have any use for. It is the task of the philosopher is to love wisdom, that love entails a love for her fellow humans. She must therefore ask questions of pertinence to them, not just those understood by a few. Enough about philosophy and ethics in general, back to the virtue of humbleness.
On one end of the spectrum is self-worthlessness. On the other is Narcissus, complete arrogance. Humbleness is the mean between the two. If you are anything like me then you swing from one end of the spectrum to the other continually. Seldom stopping for a moment to glimpse what it may be like to be humble. This pendulum action brings forth the question; how would we know when we are in fact exercising the virtue? First some more remarks on the virtue itself.
My last entry spent time discussing self-worth and its corollary. The subjective nature of these things shows that what is worthless for some is worth for others, the same holds for the vices and virtue here. The spectrum has a different range for individuals. One person’s humbleness may be another’s arrogance, and vis-versa. Let us then define self-worthlessness as an inappropriate application of pity, and arrogance as the inappropriate application of a sense of grandiosity. Humbleness is those the appropriate application of these two things. Appropriateness is going to be very context and person relative, contingent on a myriad of factors. Nonetheless a continuous medium will arise out of different mediums throughout a span of time.
What makes humbleness good? It is easy to say what makes the corresponding vices bad. The misapplication of pity leads to antipathy. The misapplication of grandiosity leads to scorn form others and failed endeavors. Humbleness helps us avoid these things. It leads to material success, because of the proper application of ones talents lacking apathy and receiving the proper praise from others. Humbleness inculcates a sense of confidence in the self, and through the confidence in the self, confidence in others. Humbleness allows others to perceive you as reliable and honest. All these being good things, so is humbleness.
Now to the question of knowing when we exercise the virtue, I am inclined to say intuition is the guide here. We are intuitively attune and in sync with ourselves more so than any other piece of reality, we therefore are going to be well suited to intuit when an appropriate application of grandiosity and pity is reached. However, it is going to require much more than this. It is going to require active reflection on the application of such things, as well as open curiosity with others for feedback. The other must be used as a sounding board and mirror in order to understand the self. Preferably those that are close to you so that honesty can be a principle to guide the reflective conversation.

The best way to know is to practice humbleness. There will at some point be an intuition that you have arrived, the more it is practiced the more that intuition will arise. Soon it will become such a habit that it will become like recalling a memory, and it is silly to ask why we know that we remembered such and such. You have all the justification you need for that knowledge. Virtue is similar, you become humble, you do not need to know that you are, you just are, it is apparent. Just as apparent that you are a person.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On self-worth

There is a gnawing sense of restlessness aching through me as I sit and fill my days with contemplative practice, artistic expression and study of philosophy and literature. All these things seem to be worthwhile endeavors, but what is worthwhile? And why is it so?
I first must note that this line of questioning is nothing novel, for it is one of the most common questions ascending in the cannon of great thinkers. I therefore have no illusions that my contribution to the subject will have any time withstanding propriety. However, I can offer what I see to be some original insight.
The sense of restlessness arises out of a lack of self-worth, somehow by filling the void of time with things I deem worthy I feel incomplete. This is so because these activities, my art, are not producing anything of value external to me. (These claims are not necessarily true. They are only descriptions of an internal psychological state). What I deem worthy is thus weighed against what others deem worthy. Not only what others deem worthy, but what they also designate worthy. This distinction draws our attention to internal and external states. Deeming something worthy is an internal state that does not need to be stated or expressed in any concrete way. One may deem a piece of art worthy, but never act on the worth of it, or make decisions consciously that are grounded in some way on the worth of it. Designation of worth is contrary to this in that it is the deeming of worth coupled with the conscious activity of acting on the worth of said object, or though, or belief. An object, for instance a poem, is designated worthy when the perceiver of it acts upon it. That is, they utilize their recognition of the worth of the poem in some decision-making procedure.
Hopefully this distinction draws out the internal/external difference between worth. In this way, because of my solitude of expression (this is in large part why I have decided to blog) there is a sense of self-worthlessness. This leads to a sort of antipathy, and paralysis in decision-making, exactly because I am not designating these activities of any worth, although I deem them as such.
We all get caught in this frustration, always searching but never finding worth. It stems ultimately from a lack of self-worth. What would it mean to designate you worthy?
Simple, one must act on the primacy of the self. One must become self aware enough so that you act on that which is you (as an infinite being as noted before), while deeming that thing that is you of value, of worth. We all do this in a certain sense, but it becomes hard to do so when there is little reciprocity from others that what you do is of value. When the reciprocity lacks we often choose to do what others designate valuable instead of ourselves, we then become reflections of those actions and fall once again into self-worthlessness.
bread not bombs sticker on unexploded american ordinances in Laos 
The word responsibility comes from the word response. What is the proper response to one when they are expressing themselves as themselves, so that they may feel self-worth? In other words what is our responsibility to others so they may feel self-worth? The answer should be apparent from the assumptions made prior. We can choose to designate what they are doing as worthy. This would entail a sense of admiration for the unique expressions of the other, because in so far as it is an expression that they deem valuable and of worth it ought to be designated as such.
Are there limits to the designation of worth? I will leave this question up the tacticians of logic. My remark would be that the human spirit is of such an inclination that the designation of value aligns with our inner most selves, these selves being fundamentally good, worthy things, the limits are not transgressed by the multitude plurality of designators of worth.

Letting this argument unfold allows me to better understand why there is this gnawing sense inside me. What it fosters is a sense of self-confidence. Patience must be exhibited by those of us that choose to use their art to express themselves patience for others, but most importantly for the self, to designate their art of value.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Further remarks on the intuition and its relationship with the intellect

Living at your parents house is a bit like being on a sail boat, with lots of amenities, in the middle of the ocean. However, this boat has no apparent destination. Meanwhile, fabulous blossoming islands float by on the horizon, yet the captain of the ship refuses to steer towards one of them and anchor. 

This ^ was my facebook post this morning. I am living at my parents house. The need to do so arose after the determination was made for me to leave college for a semester. There were some pressing family health issues that required me to weigh two sets of competing responsibilities. One the one hand, the responsibilities to college, my dear friends, and my position as student body president. On the other, the responsibilities to familial health and personal well-being. 

In The Gift of Death Derrida speaks about having sets of obligations and sometimes you will have to sacrifice one for the other, upon doing so a sense of remorse is felt. Well, this situation I was a perfect example of Derrida's writing. 

Being a senior in college and being the student body president precipitated a lot of stress, coupled with the family issues in the background the stress became dominant in my daily life. I exhibited lack of sleep, racing thoughts, erratic behavior, all being symptomatic of stress. This connects with the earlier posts, because as my intuition to spirit grew out of a personal integration, my intuitive understanding of the world seemed to lead to an exponentiation of itself. This understanding placed under the proper conditions and environment can become conflated for, and in conflict with the intellect. 

The intuition expresses and immediate  understanding of the world, while the intellect mediates to its understanding of the world. This is why the intellect is so poor at understanding the world as it is, as spirit. The intellect has many more links in the chain of understanding, whereas intuition is linked directly with the world. The intellect is therefore more likely to loose its way. For a full understanding there must be both the intellect and intuition in agreement. There is generally a stronger confidence in the assertions of the intuition in the mind than those of the intellect. This is so because of the nature of the more direct connection between the intuition and reality. However, when the intuition is mistaken and one tries to commensurate the intellect with a mistaken intuition an anxiety develops in one’s mind.
We can imagine cases where the intuition impresses a very strong association with a certain mode of reality, and where the intellect already has an established understanding that is contrary, even contradictory to this intuitive understanding. Anxiety will develop when these two understandings attempt to reconcile themselves to the degree that their respective representations of reality differ.
This is the type of anxiety that arose during my first two months of my senior year in college. As stated before my intuition began telling me things about the world, my intellect then attempted to commensurate itself (which had a vastly different understanding of the world) with this new reality. While I have always claimed to believe this newfound mode of reality, I never had a full understanding of it. That is my intuition and intellect were never aligned on the matter. I suppose this anxiety was inevitable considering my integration process.

For instance, intellectually my obligations lay with professional and academic work. Intuitively, they lay with family. The strong understandings of these obligations on both sides needed to commensurate, one needed to be dropped for the other, the intellect thus needed to shift, now intellectually my obligations also lay with family. No easy shift however. Perhaps this would have been easier for another.

I am utilizing personal experiences to better explain the philosophical concepts I hope to elucidate here. Ideally this strategy helps tell a story to the reader that is more communicable than simply speaking wholly abstractly and theoretically.

Til next time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

an intuition to spirit

To answer the questions at the end of the last post. 1) Blogs a valuable if they are intended to be valuable and they are received by at least some as valuable. As far as I can tell, this is going to hold true for just about every blog out there. Since it would be rather perplexing if most people blogged without the intention of their posts being valuable. 2) By the answer to question one, we can see easily the answer to question two. The criteria is just ask the blogger and anyone who has read it if they perceived it as worthwhile.

A piece of the journey thus far

The past few months of my life has seen an unfolding of events that can appropriately be deemed miraculous.

It began with an earnest cleansing of personal values and deep commitments made to God during a spiritual experience, the details need not be told (inquire if interested). Determining these values began an integration of the self and the world around me. However, when the world is seemingly so disassociated with my values a sort of cognitive dissonance was created.

Freud defines the normal primary cognitive process as one that does not hold contradictions. Cognitive dissonance is just that, a set of contrary, even contradictory beliefs one simultaneously holds.
One the one hand is this newly integrated self, one the other is an entirely non-integral world. On the surface, the world we live in claims to be predictable, controllable and understandable, let us call this surface world the surface. But the surface, as goes without saying is entirely mitaken. The surface is manifested and makes itself apparent vis-a-vis the claims that we make about it. In so far as, what we as communicating beings of this world say about it, reflect at the bare minimum our perception of the world, and therefore a perception of the world, then other's claims may rightly inform my understanding that the world on the surface is like surface.

Now, moving to the deeper, non-surface world. Let me speak some about the nature of human and the non-surface world and the relation between the two. We must begin from the assertion, one that is grounded in contemporary physics and has also be aptly argued for throughout history, that the universe is infinite. Since the world is infinite, any predictions about its behavior will only be short-lived, any attempts to control it using finite methods will be in vain, this though is contrary to the surface understanding. Furthermore, we are infinite beings. Perhaps this means we have infinite particles in us, but that is not how I am intending for the concept to be applied. I am applying it first an foremost to thought, the life of the mind is infinite, it can never reach its own limits, because it has none. The infinity of the mind is compounded when we think collectively, but is of infinite magnitude individually as well. To illustrate this, imagine anything, now imagine that same thing with the tint blue, now imagine that same thing twice as large with a yardstick to compare sizes. We could play this thinking game ad infinitum. Thus, since the mind has no limits and we are fundamentally our mind, or soul, or thought, or whatever the popular nomenclature of the day is, we are fundamentally infinite beings.

This infiniteness is to a scale, yes there are scales of infinity, that privileges us with the possibility of a certain connection to the infinity of the universe, a type of understanding as to the determining effects of the causal structure preceding us and proceeding us. This connection is reached when we align ourselves with our own infinite structure, once our minds reach a certain level of self-awareness and willingness to adapt to external stimuli by way of pure intuition changing one's noetic structure without interference from personal preference, but from intuition alone. This alignment process, with the infinite self and the infinite universe surrounding us, further perpetuates itself.

This is one way I can describe what began to unfold for me as I furthered my own integration, this is one of the realizations I reached. This realization surprised the hell out of me, non-logical in many sense and non-predictable because of the intuitive nature of the mode of coming to know, and the vast assumptions needed to be made to even articulate the experience. But a deep visceral feeling has succumb me that these experiences are indicators of some interesting truths about reality. While this feeling may not give you reason to believe any of what I say, it does provide me justification for believing these things.

This is only some of the theoretical background one needs to step into my mind and begin to understand the path that has lead me here and the depth of serendipity that I am able to recall within this journey. To leave for some HW, I leave the reader with this affirmation of the infinity of the world and spirit.

The well of spirit is infinite, conflict both internal and external a brought about by the illusion of abundance and scarcity, when the world is in fact infinite spirit, there is no abundance, nor scarcity.

Boy monks in Bankok train station. They gave me a statue of Ganesh, the god of luck and travel. I was worried about my solo journey into the hills of Laos.