Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anomalies: keys to the emerging paradigm

Marginalizing anomalies ensure that we remain stuck, hung up, suspended.

In the process of learning and observing, we will necessarily come upon anomalies—elements of experience and observation that don’t fit our current working hypothesis. Anomalies show up in academic studies as all of the data that don’t fit the expectations of the experiment or study. 

Anomalies show up in advertisements for legal drugs as disclaimers as to “side” effects. A drug has effects. A particular drug has effects the pharmaceutical company wants to market and make money on and it has effects that will make it less likely that the company will make a lot of money. It is this second group that they call “side” effects. They wish to marginalize these effects, to make them less important, to say they don’t matter. These are anomalies that don’t fit their making-money-hand-over-fist-no-matter-what-it-does-to-people paradigm.

Over time, anomalies grow in number and importance. At some point, our working paradigm will require that these anomalies be dealt with. Honesty and humility require that we keep an eye toward the anomalies, to those data that do not currently fit our working hypothesis; for, in those anomalies are answers for questions that we currently have, are in the process of formulating, or have yet to formulate.

Marginalizing anomalies ensures that we will remain exactly where we are. As long as we maintain our hypotheses despite growing evidence that change is needed, we ensure that our hypothesis will go from being a working hypothesis to an ineffectual one.

The mind likes clean, crisp lines, but the fact is, experience is full of data that doesn't fit our current conceptions.

When we go from having a working hypothesis to believing that what we have is absolute truth, we ensure that what we now hold to be true will at some point result in alienation of ourselves, both from the truth and from living effectively. We ensure a growing sense that we are light and all the rest of the world is wrong. We ensure that it will require “faith” in the edicts of an outside source, acquiescence to an external authority—text, institution, or deity. We ensure that what we want to call the “truth” is nothing more than an oppressive paradigm that likely does very little good in the lives of its adherents. We ensure that our only hope is the arrival of information that mercilessly (or mercifully, from a certain perspective) levels our machinations.

The Tower Card from the Thoth Deck -- signifies the abrupt arrival of paradigm-shifting information.

In a deck of Tarot card, The Tower Card, one of the Major Arcana, reveals that upheaval is coming. This disruption is in the form of realizing that all that one has believed is wrong, flawed, misguided, or just plain credulous. The Tower Card invites us to look at our view of the world, our view of ourselves and be open to change as we come into deeper and more expansive perspectives of all that is.

A spiritual journey is a road to transformation, one of a thousand and one paradigm shifts that get us closer and closer to knowing our Authentic Self and where we fit in the universe. To embark upon a spiritual journey is to adopt the notion that what I currently hold to be truth is nothing more than a working hypothesis. If we are honest and humble, we soften the blow of those times foretold by the Tower Card, when all of the anomalies we’ve been holding at bay crash in and require that we modulate our hypothesis. If we are open, we come to find a deeper, wider, more expansive sense of what is true, and maximize our relationship to that expanding reality.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Empty Headed--A Good Place to Start

All that we know is not all that much in light of what is possible to know.

For anyone embarking upon a spiritual journey, one of your greatest assets is the ability to know within yourself that you can’t possibility know all that there is to know, that even that which you know and feel is true beyond any question, might very well be shown at some point in time to be somewhere along the continuum from misinformed to flat-out ridiculous. In some respects, I would call the disposition to hold all that we know in a kind of permanent flux, humility. Not humility in the self-effacing sense, but in the sense that I never have a reason to assert the parameters of my current working hypothesis as anything more than a working hypothesis, certainly not the absolute truth.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If everything you believed was completely false, how would you know?” In fact, we believe what we believe because we have formulated a working hypothesis. If that hypothesis didn’t work for us personally, it wouldn’t be our working hypothesis. We would have a different working hypothesis. As far as my own personal history is concerned, and my response to that personal history, my working hypothesis is true.

Anyone else living my life with the exact same experiences would experience my life differently than I have experienced it. 

Hypothetically, we could postulate that anyone else living my life under the exact circumstances and having the exact same experiences would very likely come up with a different, even if similar working hypothesis. But I want to say that it wouldn’t be all that similar. This is a part of being human. We have unique, subjective experiences no matter how “common” and “average” those experiences may be.

This is why it is not as easy as we might assume to prove guilt in a courtroom with many witnesses . Subjective observations of and responses to experiences are as varied as the number of people there to observe them. And certain predispositions, such as the race and the attire of a person, or that a person has tattoos, or looks like the uncle that used to mock my early attempts to play the guitar, evokes prejudice and other patterned responses to data that taint and color subjective experience far more than is commonly expected or accepted.

"I humbly empty myself of all I think I know."

Openness to the idea that we might not know everything that can be known, especially of those matters which we may consider ourselves expert, is the hallmark of wisdom. The best way to arrive at the truth is to take into consideration all that might be said about whatever we are considering. Whom do we respect more, a judge who has a position in a bureaucracy, who doles out decisions based on “the law,” or a wise man who takes all things into consideration, listens to all sides, and approaches the truth, not as something that can be absolutely established, but as the nearest approximation we might make on all that we know? For me personally, I’d prefer the wise man to help me make decisions about what is right and fair.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Truth" as a Working Hypothesis

We might say that we have something of a working hypothesis for understanding the leading, guiding, prompting, and directing of the Authentic Self in our life, an ordered, patterned hypothesis that has certain “rules.” In the early stages of this development, this hypothesis is quite rudimentary and perhaps only the people closest to us can see real, substantive change in our lives. But as we continue to immerse ourselves into contexts, to observe, compare, contrast, and analyze, we come to see more and more clearly the work of the Authentic Self in our lives, and others do, too.

The core idea here is that at any point in time, our working hypothesis works for us in most contexts that we find ourselves, even if it is in many ways rudimentary. It is through the continual effort to continually learn, and evaluate that we succeed in fine-tuning that hypothesis. The reorienting of our hypothesis is important because it helps us mature and grow into a fuller capacity to both understand and to communicate our needs on a spiritual level. 

Remaining open and understanding that there is the potential in the universe that I don’t know everything there is to know allows room for growth, for such re-orderings when they become necessary. Unfortunately, this is not typical, especially with regard to spiritual beliefs. Rather, it appears that the common human practice is to settle upon a fixed set of ideals, beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, or teachings, and stick to them with the tenacious grip of a desperate man holding onto a half empty canteen in the desert.

Much has been hypothesized concerning the typical adult’s inability to acquire a foreign language without an accent and without interference from the languages he knows. The standing hypothesis on this is that children have some special ability to acquire language that gets lost somewhere between the ages of 14 and 20. There is no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis. 

Children seem to have a special ability to learn language, but is it not really just an openness and lack of limitation that allows them to learn unfettered?

I don't personally believe it's an ability that gets lost. The trouble with adults is that we very much like to settle upon what we believe is true, as if it is absolute, and resist any evidence that suggests that perhaps that collection of “facts” isn’t as true as we thought. There is an ossifying of the adult's mental capacities because they stop learning, often feeling they have learned all there is to learn. 

This is the pattern of behavior that you can easily observe in the world as first Copernicus, and then Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg and beyond have discovered facts that have literally turned our ideas of what the universe is and how how it works on their heads, time and again, and each time with a great deal of resistance from every direction, most especially the religious institutions.  We don’t feel disdain as much as a level of pity for someone who can’t seem to understand that adjustments are needed to any working hypothesis, but would rather believe they have found the Truth.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This one, Not that one...

The ultimate challenge:  following the promptings of the Authentic Self.

The greatest challenge of incarnating into the body is the volition to live life according to the direction, prompting, guidance, and leading of the Authentic Self. The term “enlightenment” in eastern philosophy defines a person who has come into a complete, unswerving understanding of being one with all that is, and acting solely upon that connection to the universe, regardless of the consequences that this may have.

And while one could argue that this is the ultimate purpose of incarnating and reincarnating into this body-bound existence, I am certain that no one ever said it is easy. Indeed, one reason that we may reincarnate so many times is that this is in fact such a great challenge that it takes many, many lifetimes to achieve it. And going from one incarnation to the next, the soul understands that certain exceptionally difficult challenges need to be redressed, maybe again and again.

The brain generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences.

This is what I call “karma,” a battery of lessons meant to help us get over the next hump in understanding, but that don’t pass until we “get it.” Our earth-bound existence happens within the context of a body immersed in nested and related contexts from cultural and societal to familial and local. Our brain—a part of the body—generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences. It does this by patterning—the making of groups of various “types” of experience.

By formalizing strategies based on producing certain types of experiences while avoiding other types, the mind builds a network of patterns by which to navigate through this earth-bound existence. The problem with patterning is that it, by necessity, involves marginalizing certain data while centralizing other data. For humans living in places where there are powerful and cunning predators, such as lions, tigers, and bears, this sort of patterning can mean the difference between survival and extinction. But for those of us living in the more “civilized” environs of a hierarchical society, we very rarely face this sort of danger, and yet, our penchant for patterning persists.

We tend to sort our experiences into categories of "preferred" and "non preferred."

In this way, we have a tendency to pattern our experiences, choosing at a very base level to view the world and all that is in it a certain way, marginalizing certain data while centralizing others. This includes opportunities and possibilities which we may marginalize and ignore or even turn down because of how we have constructed our experiences.

For example, if I grow up in a family with a ruthless tyrant as a parent, I may formalize a strategy of “laying low” and “keeping a low profile.” Perhaps I’m a gifted artist, but because of my patterning, I will have a tendency to hide myself even in environments where opportunities exist, such as a visitor at the school looking for early evidence of artistic abilities in first graders in order to help them develop these skills. And if these patterns are not challenged and changed—they typically aren’t—they persist into adulthood where I continue to “keep a low profile,” which is safe, but may very well keep me from following my destiny to be an influential artist. I may resist the promptings of the Authentic Self in my life in favor of my formalized strategies which no longer serve me, but in my own mind keep me safe.

As a boy, I developed the strategy "keep a low profile."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Many Voices, Many Selves

An "eastern philosophy" seems to presuppose a belief in reincarnation, among many other assumptions about why we are here and what we are doing. 

I find myself a part of what is frequently called the “eastern philosophy” camp of writers and thinkers. This term suggests a number of key factors, among them, a belief in reincarnation (even though beliefs in reincarnation exist in a wide range of cultures across time and around the world), a belief that a soul lives not only one incarnation but many, repeatedly, that the purpose of this repeated reincarnation is so that the universe, or “all that is,” might deepen its understanding of itself, and that the ultimate goal of this is oneness, that is, the soul realizing that she is not a separate entity, but connected to the universe, a part of the universe, one with the universe, one with everything.

Furthermore, “eastern philosophies” tend to teach that the “reality” that we accept as reality is an illusion and that there is an inherent sense of suffering that comes from taking this illusion too seriously, becoming attached to any part of the illusion, and coming to feel entitled to possessing or experiencing the many objects, entities, and events that form the illusion.

A key component of this illusion is the body the soul inhabits, the integration point where the soul and this world meet. The brain, a key component of this integration point, does many complex operations, including interpreting and modulating sensory data, using these to generate “experiences,” which it remembers and builds into narratives, distinguishing those it prefers from those it doesn’t prefer, thus creating a personality and ultimately a self, which strives to maintain the belief that it is complete, whole, and, most importantly, separate from everything and everyone else in the universe. This “separate self” is called the “ego.”

For “eastern philosophy,” the ego is a significant concept. The ego is generated and lives in the brain of each human. There is a saying that goes, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” Anything we can say of the mind we can say of the ego because the ego depends on the mind—the rational processes of the brain—to maintain itself, its preferences, and its entitlements. 

Television:  a good metaphor for the body as a "receiver" of the soul.

We might consider a television as a metaphor for the body. A television has parts whose ultimate purpose is work together to project integrated images and sound which have been broadcast to it, or sent to it through a cable, onto a screen. The body, similarly receives a signal--the soul. Nevertheless, the major difference between a television and the body is that the body not only receives a signal—energy in the form of a soul—but also generates its own experiences within the material world, ultimately creating the ego. Whereas a television only projects what is broadcast or sent to it via a cable, the body both “receives” the soul, and “projects” its own experiences from the ego.

The body both receives a soul and projects its own experiences onto the "screen" of the mind. 

It is in this sense that we see the soul, our Authentic Self, working through a body that has the capability of generating its own experiences. It is in this way that we have a fragmented self in the form of the ego and its many parts as well as the Authentic Self--the soul who has incarnated into this material existence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Earliest Memories, Deepest Beliefs

My family:  a tad off center, though I know my parent's did their best

I grew up in a family with two parents who both came from incredibly dysfunctional families, and while I understand that at any given moment while they were raising my bother, sister, and me, they were doing the best they could do, and better than their parents had done, we still lived in quite a hostile environment, rife with verbal and physical abuse, unswerving incriminations, passive-aggressive manipulations, and a general environment of anger, frustration, and feelings of injustice and unfairness.

Typical of children growing up in such an environment, each of us three kids took on roles—my brother the trouble-seeking scapegoat, my sister the favored and sycophantic mascot, and me, the lost child.

The Lost Child:  learns to survive by keeping a low profile.

I have the unusual ability to remember quite a lot from my early years. My earliest memory is of my third birthday. I stood next to one of our armchairs, one with exceptionally wide arms, and I was pushing a Tonka truck back and forth on this wide space. A parent, likely my mother, was in the chair. I speculate it was Mom because I was afraid of Dad, had by this age understood that he was a hostile, angry, and explosive man who didn’t much care for sharing his space with his kids.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them, felt they were too noisy and demanding. Indeed, I was afraid of them and didn’t want much to do with them, thus the strategy of focusing on my toy truck and hanging close to mom. Most striking to me is the feeling I had of feeling conspicuous and vulnerable. This was far too much attention for me.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them...

We form our core beliefs about the universe early, before most of us can remember. At the age of three, I had already come to understand that Dad was not someone I wanted to be near, that I wanted to remain hidden, out of sight, out of the way, and unnoticed. This suggests that by this early age, I had already formed a view of the world as a hostile dangerous place where you it is safer to be ignored.

Even at this early stage, I don’t remember making choices to view the world the way I did. I only remember feeling the transgressions of my formalized strategies by these people who’d assembled for my birthday. No wonder by the time we are adults we have so internalized these strategies that we don’t even notice we are employing them.

We tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.

Once we’ve acknowledged the possibility that it is a choice to view the world a certain way and to employ strategies to cope with this view of the world, it requires a great deal of purposeful attention and sustained effort to begin to truly see that this is what we do. 

And even then, I often stand by and watch my emotions run haywire, seemingly out of control, as events trigger these strategies and I once again inhabit the space I did as a small child in such a harsh, unloving, hateful, and hostile environment. It is not an easy mechanism to undo and reorder. It isn’t surprising that people tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Believing isn't Easy

Faith is never accepting someone else’s claim to truth... Faith is believing that what we have observed as the promptings and leading of our Authentic Self are just that.

All spiritual traditions, whether the formalized religious institutions of the West or the more philosophical spiritualities of the East, speak of the importance of “faith.” A Sunday School teacher once asked her group of elementary-aged students what the definition of faith was. A young girl perked up and answered, “Believing something that isn’t true.” From my own experience in Christianity, I have to say I can understand why a child would say such a wise thing. 

I was taught from an early age that the stories in the Bible were to be taken as literal, historical stories. I don’t imagine any child fully buys this. My daughter made the observation at the age of six that she couldn’t imagine that Samson had superpowers because of his long hair. I had such questions myself as a kid but learned early on that asking such questions created more trouble than I was willing to deal with. By the time I was an adult, I had convinced myself of things I otherwise would not believe because they were contained in the Bible. 

Samson and Delilah:  great story; probably not a true story.

But that isn’t faith, at least not in the way I understand faith. That’s allowing yourself to be brainwashed and indoctrinated. That’s taking someone else’s word for it that something supposedly spiritual is true, even when a six year old child knows better. That’s akin to telling a naked emperor that his clothes are simply stunning. I agree with the girl in the story who said that this is believing something that isn’t true.

Faith is never accepting someone else’s claim to truth, whether that the information is from an institution, a text, or a person. Faith is believing that what we have observed as the promptings and leading of our Authentic Self are just that. Faith is trusting ourselves enough to observe these events and accept them as guidance from a higher self, from the Soul who has incarnated into this existence. 

And I can tell you that this is not easy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we find it difficult within ourselves to believe what we are sometimes led to understand from our Authentic Self. Learning to trust and have faith in the Authentic Self is a process, not a singular event, not a momentary transformation that lasts the rest of our lives.

Self knowledge is a valuable gift.

A part of the purpose of this blog is to present you with information and strategies to help you navigate this incredibly important but likewise incredibly challenging path of following the Authentic Self. The challenge begins with our general inability to tune consistently into the promptings and leadings of the Authentic Self. 

The path to discovery often puts us in direct conflict with the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of people who mean a great deal to us.

Once we begin down this path of discovery, we face doubt within ourselves, often for what appear to be very good reasons; often because we crave the validation and encouragement from people who are less convinced than we are that what the Authentic Self has revealed is a valid consideration; often because the path we are destined to follow puts us in direct conflict with the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of people who mean a great deal to us; often because our destiny may lead us down a path that results in rejection, alienation, and persecution from others; often because the path to our destiny is not easy and demands more of us than we could ever have imagined in ways that we never conceived.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Quiet Voice of the Soul

The Authentic Self...a very quiet, though often persistent voice that works outside the conventional modes of mind and senses...
When you, as a soul, were on the other side, making plans for this life, making decisions about the relationships you would form with other souls, where you would live, on which day you would be born, what forces would be present to help contribute to the personality you deemed most helpful for this life, your soul’s purpose was clear. 

Coming into this incarnation and walking around in this material world, working with the significant interference that comes from the body moving and experiencing within this material world, the soul, the Authentic Self becomes a very quiet, though often persistent voice that works in ways outside the conventional modes of mind and senses that the ego prefers. Further interference comes in the form of the pressure the ego feels to exist in this world, its belief that it needs other people to survive, to get what it needs, and thus formulating strategies for surviving. It holds tenaciously to these often contradictory strategies that become formalized as “voices” in the most important aspect of the body to the ego, the mind.

The mind never shuts off. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows what I'm talking about. 

The soul that incarnated into the body is ever present, ever aware, and ever cognizant of it’s purpose and destiny in this life, the destiny she mapped out before incarnating. The supreme challenge in this particular incarnation that we find here on earth is that the ego and all of its various formalized strategies make a damn lot of noise, are pushy, insistent, and unrelenting. 

Indeed, the mind never shuts off. Try to sit for just one minute without thinking a single thought, without making at least one internal commentary. Anyone who has attempted to meditate knows exactly what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter what you do; you will never shut of this incessant stream of blather that will go on and on and on with its reactions, observations, mindless blather, or gut-clenching worries. And whether its commentary or images or impressions or observations, the source of this steady stream of blather knows nothing but the body and its experiences in this incarnation. 

The mind, a great machine that, unfortunately, cannot know beyond its bodily experience in this life, in time.
These may be formalized into strategies, or formalized into memories and narratives the brain has grouped into experiences and invested with significance, or formalized into an entire framework of a philosophy of life. This steady stream may also include relatively harmless observations, such as “itch on bottom of thigh,” or “thirst.” The range of possibilities is wide, but no less tied and bound to this body and its experiences in time.

Under this steady flow of babble, quiet, patient, waiting, is the Authentic Self, that part of us that knows, that understands that existence is more than the physical body and its experience in the material world, that remembers its purpose and its destiny. And if we make way for this Authentic Self, make space, make time, make opportunity, we will hear it, feel it, understand it, and tune into it.

Under the torrent of the mind and ego, our soul ever waits, speaking softly if we are willing to take time to listen. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Interesting Stories

Sometime in my twenties, I had a realization that has helped me cope with challenging situations, even as they are unfolding in the present moment. That realization was that difficulties give us more interesting stories to tell. What we call a “normal” day is about as boring a story as you could tell. Indeed, if someone has had what she considers a normal day, she might well say something like, “Got up, got ready, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV.” Ten hours of life are reduced to a series of macro events communicated in less than 30 seconds. 

A "normal" day is about as interesting as watching toast in a toaster.

But when challenges come in, such as a flat tire, an accident, an illness, or any other difficulty that interrupts this routine, suddenly, we have more to say. And the more challenging a situation, the longer of a story we have to tell because it is these experiences that help make a good narrative. I’ve often been in very trying and challenging situations in my life, both in this country and abroad, and these have afforded me the oft repeated reaction to renditions of my life-story, “You’ve lived quite an interesting life.” Indeed, there have been many occasions along this route that I have said to myself or others with me, “This is going to make an interesting story later.”

I lived and worked in Ethiopia a few years ago and a colleague of mine at that time used to say as I’d be leaving for a trip somewhere in the country, “May you have a boring trip.” And what he meant was a wish that nothing would happen that would later make an interesting story. It was a funny way of wishing a “normal” experience upon me as I traveled the country.

All blocks and challenges ultimately have their source within ourselves.

All challenges ultimately have their source within ourselves. This is provable in the very fact that what some people consider complete drudgery, such as hauling one’s carcass up the side of a mountain, someone else finds invigorating, inspiring, and fun. Whatever challenges we face, it isn’t so much the event and circumstances as our reaction to them that creates the difficulty. This is a tough pill to swallow. It suggests that we create our own misery and likewise that we have far more control in our disposition and attitudes than we believe and have been led to believe.

What for one person is absolute drudgery, for another person is invigorating and fun.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not as True as You May Think

Western Rationalism in a nutshell:  "seeing is believing"

In the culture of Western Rational Realism, under which we find ourselves, the definition of objective truth is a hypothesis which can be shown to be true repeatedly under identical conditions enough times to make it statistically improbable that it’s not true. What this means is, basically, you have to do something the same way at least a hundred times under identical conditions and get identical or nearly identical results most of the time. The greater number of times and the greater the percentage of identical results, the more substantial is the claim of this kind of event establishing “truth.” 

As you can see, we already have problems because experiments rarely achieve identical results 100% of the time. Most of the facts that we hold as undeniably true have never been subjected to such rigorous experimentation, but even those that have have only been shown to be true beyond the shadow of doubt, meaning that they may be shown at some point not to be true. If you know anything about science, you know that what is held to be true in one generation is often exploded by the next. Giving the example of the progression of our understanding of the mechanics of the universe from Copernicus to Newton to Einstein to Heisenberg and beyond is something of a sardonic gesture by now.

If science has revealed anything, it's that "objective truth" is a slippery concept indeed.

Furthermore, the only fields where these conditions can even pretend to establish truth is in the so-called “hard” sciences—Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology, and Physics. Note these are all fields where measurements and observations can be made with the eyes—including apparatuses and meters that measure sound, temperature, texture, chemical reactions, functions, operations, and sensations that can be observed with the eyes

This is critical because those fields that are not so-called "hard", namely the Social Sciences--including Psychology, Anthropology, Linguistics, and Sociology--lack this ability to reproduce measurable, observable (with the eyes) data in closed, repeatable experiments.

Missourians aren't the only ones who base objective truth on the eyes.

Out from under the umbrella of Science are the Humanities (which are not held to be Science in any degree), including Literature, Language Studies, Philosophy, Theology, Art, Law, and History. While academics in these fields may attempt it, they have a much more difficult time establishing objective truth in the same sense as it is established in the so-called "hard" sciences. 

What this means is that postulating the existence of an authentic self is no more outlandish than claiming, as Plato did, that all items in this world have an ideal representation in an ideal world. It’s an idea that, if thought about and considered, might be taken to reveal some aspect of the truth, yet cannot be proven in any objective sense to be any truer or falser than anything else someone might claim. It’s just an idea that resonates with some people while not resonating with others. 

"She said she wanted a 'platonic' relationship. Does that mean 'an ideal male/female relationship'? Well, an 'ideal' relationship would mean lots of sex. I think I could live with that."

You can’t prove Plato’s proposal or disprove it. You merely consider it as a reasonable or unreasonable possibility. Nevertheless, so much of the Philosophy, Law, History, and understanding of Language under Western Rationalism is based on these nonobjective proposals by such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche to name but a very small few. If we are looking for something to believe that has proof, we are indeed in deep trouble because ultimately all truth is founded in what we choose to believe.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Journey: More than Just a Trip

"Journey" implies adventure, challenge, and overcoming odds.

The human psyche, it appears, is primed for hearing of adventure, for tuning into narratives of difficult experiences, challenging circumstances, and trying ordeals that contribute to someone’s growth as a person as that person strives to achieve something important to her personally. This is why movie-goers flock to blockbusters season after season to watch a hero or heroine face incredible odds in order to accomplish important personal goals. 

Countless studies by film experts have confirmed that the more a film includes aspects of the archetypal hero’s journey, the more likely that film is to be wildly successful at the box office. You could go so far as to say that any film that you loved and found a deep sense of satisfaction from watching likely was the recounting of a story that closely adheres to the patterns of a hero’s tale. 

Historically, the most popular films tell the story of a hero overcoming obstacles.

My theory for this disposition in the human psyche relates to my understanding of destiny. I hold the common belief that we exist as souls before coming into this life. Before incarnating into a body in this world, we make plans and goals, choose spirit guides, choose important relationships, and set challenges for ourselves to overcome in order to learn, in order to experience growth as a spirit being. My “destiny” then, is not something set out for me by some entity outside myself, or even some sort of blind fate, but the very goals that I set for myself, to face the very challenges I choose for this life. 

In this theory, I regard karma not as some unseeing hand of fate that doles out a kind of perpetual reward and punishment based on my deeds in this life or a previous one, but the process of acquiring knowledge and experiences that I have set for myself based on whatever it is I have deemed I need to learn. In this sense, we might see karma as a kind of fate. If I don’t get on to the job of accomplishing goals I set for myself in this life, karma steps in to send things my way to get me on the track I set for myself, my destiny. 

Destiny:  a map I made for myself before I incarnated.

This is indeed the hero’s tale. The hero is lost in a pointless life, mired in various problems, ineffectual in the areas he wishes he were excelling in, and trapped in circumstances that seem insurmountable. Along comes some catalyst, the hand of fate (or karma), to remind him of his destiny, the goals he set for himself as a bodiless soul on the other side. At first he resists these promptings, but as life moves on, karma doesn’t let up and eventually he either willingly or unwillingly embarks upon his journey. And this is but the beginning. 

Having embarked upon this journey, he has certainly undertaken far more than he ever bargained for and will be pressed to the very fabric of his being, perhaps even to death or near death in attaining those goals. Karma brings one lesson after the next, which appear as overwhelming challenges, and at times we—and even the hero himself—think he won’t succeed. But eventually, finding his resolve, he reaches deep inside himself and there finds the most important thing he will find in this life; he finds that he is the author of his own life, one with all that is, and capable of creating that which he has destined himself to create in this life.

The accomplished hero:  capable of creating that which he has destined himself to create in this life.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Pledge Allegiance to the Republic...uh, I don't think so :P

Brainwashing through ritual--not especially classy, but effective.

When I was a boy, each day at school until some time during my first grade year, we would face the American flag that hung in our classroom and the principle would say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag over the intercom. We would chant along with him. I didn’t know what the Pledge of Allegiance meant. I didn't know what a pledge was and I didn't know what allegiance was. It was just something that they taught us to do, so I did it.

I knew what the flag was, a symbol of the USA, and something for which we were taught to be proud. I felt proud. I felt the USA was superior to every other country. I was taught this and had no reason to question it at the age of 6. Sometime around that era, they stopped making us say the Pledge of Allegiance. To be honest, I didn't notice. I didn't miss the ritual. I never really paid attention--just rattled it off like the Lord's prayer at the end of a 12-step meeting. 

I honestly wonder how far away from this we truly are.

Some years later, I heard about a kid whose Jehovah’s Witness parents felt it was immoral to pledge allegiance to anyone but Jehovah. I was raised in church to discriminate against Jehovah’s Witnesses because they didn’t interpret the Bible according to the correct theological paradigm, so I took this as a lot of bull hooey. I was in high school, and sad to say, still hadn’t caught on to the implications of living under a propagandist state. 

It wasn't until I was in grad school that I came to understand why any parent--not only Jehovah's Witnesses--might not want their kids mindlessly pledging allegiance in what appears to be a harmless ritual.  In a random moment, while wandering the University of Texas at Arlington campus, it occurred to me that the grammar of the Pledge is a tad stilted, and carefully puts the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the USA in there before getting to what the pledger is really pledging to:  the republic for which it stands

"I pledge allegiance to the republic of the USA, and to the flag that stands for this republic." Stilted grammar cleverly hides the true intent of the Pledge.

It wasn’t until that moment, nearly thirty years after I’d last said the Pledge of Allegiance in school that I understood the point those Jehovah’s Witness parents were making. I wondered to myself, in that moment, why it took some common people from a somewhat spurious and obscure religious group to figure out what every Baby Boomer hippie should have figured out long before.

Lenin's Tomb -- the former Soviet leader's body is preserved for visitors to adore.
When I was in seventh grade, my Geography teacher showed us pictures of his trip to Moscow. Several shots displayed the scene of Linen’s tomb, where countless Russians ("Soviets" in those Cold War days) were lined up to adore his corpse, preserved and visible behind glass. My teacher was incredulous and disdainful of this practice, pondering what would drive people to do such a thing. I ask, "What's the difference between that and having USA kids recite the Pledge?"

They have kids recite the Pledge in schools again, and I've seen my own kids do it in church as well--pledging allegiance to this republic and the flag that stands for this republic. What does that entail? What does that mean? To consider the things this republic--this group of people who call themselves a "democracy"--is doing in the world, I shudder at the implications and I wonder if it is my turn to do as the Jehovah's Witness parents did so long ago, that the hippies should have noticed, but didn't. 

Something to Think About...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shadowy Character Next to My Bed

The character was but a shadow, though was clearly wearing a fedora and a trench coat.

I was in between wakefulness and sleep the other night. My room was lit up in a strange, ethereal way, and standing right next to my bed was a character, but I could only see a shadow and an outline. He seemed to wear a fedora and trench coat, and from what I could tell, was looking right at me.

I felt no sense of malice or ill intent from the visitor, and truly felt a sense of wonder from him, and imagined he was smiling at me. But no sooner had I become aware of the being, he vanished in a shadowy wisp, like in a cartoon character, toward the door of my room. When I woke up, my room was dark and the shadowy character was gone.

Journeys to "other realms" reveal that the true nature of
Self far exceeds our "normal" experiences in this life.

As I lay thinking this experience over, I only wondered why the being had fled so quickly. I had a couple of ideas:  that perhaps this was a visitor from another time, or another dimension, or that perhaps it was me, in some future time traveling back to my current station in life. I also considered that perhaps this was a spirit guide, or some other being sent to help me.

I later looked up “shadow people” in an image search, and the first picture in this post came up. I was struck by how well this drawing seem to depict my own experience, that clearly I had experienced something that you might call "the usual unusual."

This was my first, real paranormal experience.

When I saw the drawing, I was really shocked. I might have continued thinking this was a dream, but now, I am pretty sure it was some kind of an out-of-body experience. And that being the case, I realize I've had these experiences before and they tend to be the "dreams" I very much enjoy.

This was my first "paranormal" experience, at least that I remember or that I understood was paranormal. It is a part of this journey, to understand the full scope of our existence and place in this universe. It felt like a step in the direction of my destiny. How very cool.