Saturday, January 21, 2017

sangha

What if self-immolation is a way of proving enlightenment?  Attempting to prove, rather.  Not that it actually proves anything.  I just encountered an idea in this podcast, that common to many religions and ideologies, essentially, "life is suffering."  He then proposes that this is because  "I think, therefor I am" does not go far enough.

To say that consciousness is the only thing we truly can know exists- this does not go far enough.  I liked his example, that we can question whether we're really happy, but when we're in acute agony, there is no question.  It is that precise aspect of consciousness that alone survives all skepticism.  Suffering then forms the bedrock of what we can safely say, that we can, just maybe, know (probably) exists.


Life is suffering, that is the first noble truth.  The path towards cessation of suffering, that is the fourth noble truth.  That is to say, these are very central elements of Buddhism.  It's practically the first thing Gautama said, when he became The Buddha, as I understand it.  "please stop being dicks to each other" came much later.

So, why fire?  It's extremely dramatic, but that's in part because we know it's extremely painful.  We know on deep physiological level, that burning is to be avoided.  At all costs.  Immediately.  It takes a whole other level of willpower to endure relatively minor burns, especially without even flinching. If suffering can be escaped, what better way to prove that you've done it.  You've achieved the very pinnacle of the religious experience, transcending that last step of what the rest of us mistakenly think is real.

The contradiction therein being that if you've gotten that far, why do you care what anyone else thinks?  Why are you trying to prove anything to anyone?  The social causes often involved would further suggest that social recognition plays a role.  Sure, it's still an amazing feat, but Jesus Christ.

As if there's an even deeper bedrock of what's real.  Some find it easier to meditate while burning alive, than to let go of what we think others think of what we think.

Yeah, yeah, I'm stoned again.  So what :p

Friday, January 20, 2017

daniel

Not to hide behind generalities, though.  I'm just not sure where to start.  My feelings towards my great uncle are complicated.  In a sense, I guess it doesn't matter now, but it never really mattered, anyhow.  I wince a little, at all the positive messages people are posting about him, celebrating his life.  Not because they remind me of him, which is of course painful, but rather because I don't feel like saying anything positive.  I'm a terrible person.

Sometimes it seemed that Dan thought as much, though he'd never put it that way.  Much of who I am and how I learned to think was influenced by the time I spent with him as a teenager, but much like my mangled interpretations of Buddhism, that influence doesn't exactly manifest in a way other people seem to recognize.  It didn't manifest in a way he seemed to recognize.  My mind puts a distinctly tortured spin on everything.

Way back when, it seemed he was starting to take me under his wing..  Something I desperately needed, growing up.. but that sort of fell apart.  He pulled back.  I was confused and kept trying to make amends for many years.  Nobody wants to hear me say anything negative about him, but I was really vulnerable and that was really difficult.  More recently, he'd commented on the darkness that was in me back then.  I don't like the way he characterized mental health issues.  He didn't understand, or try to understand, and that didn't seem particularly compassionate.  His laid back acceptance seemed in those circumstances more a shallow defense than a healthy approach to dealing with adversity.

Over the years, I tried to piece together what happened and came to feel rejected by him.  I was as welcome to visit as anyone else, but he wasn't going to take me traveling with him.  He didn't want my help with the museum.  I wasn't welcome to be a part of his life, after all.  Maybe he thought I couldn't handle it.  Maybe he couldn't handle it, or simply didn't want to.  I remember him saying that he'd wished he'd had the resources to be more help, but that was a cop out.  I didn't want anything material.  It wasn't anything material that I needed.  Eventually, I stopped looking up to him entirely.  I came to think of him as incredibly fortunate, rather than admirable.  To say this now, in particular, yeah.. I guess there is a darkness in me.

I think the truth can be very dark.  Within darkness, there can be light.  Within light, darkness.  He was a beautiful person.  Too bad we can't all be seen as such beautiful people, but we are who we are, unless we help each other become more than that.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

we will all miss you

People have different attitudes about death, how to cope with it, how to look at it positively, but how often do we stop short of all that, and ask, why are we inclined to mourn death in the first place?  Isn't that an important part of the discussion?  If we're only talking about how to deal with it, I can't help but think we're still not really talking about it.  Still not facing whatever it is we're supposed to be dealing with.

Death.  Does it get any more self explanatory than that?  Does anyone hear the word "death" and feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  That's, of course, not what we're generally going for, right?  We're talking about coping, but with what?  People tell each other stories, about how they'll see their loved ones when they reunite in Valhalla or wherever.  We want to believe that they're not really gone - this seems relatively undeniable.  We want to hold on to what we have, including the people we have in our lives.

When you think of loved ones lost, what is it that hurts?  There's rarely much emphasis on what the deceased has lost, but rather, that we'll never see or hear from them, ever again.  More generally, we might feel sympathy for anyone whose life gets cut short, all the potential that won't be achieved.  The more they've achieved, the less that plays into it, but does this really have anything to do with why we mourn?  It seems many mourn those with great lives even more.

It's really the saying goodbye that's the hardest part, isn't it?  That's what a lot of their rituals seem to be about.  Maybe if we embellish our goodbyes sufficiently, that will make up for the fact that they will never say goodbye back.  They appear to seek closure, a severing of attachment.  They're gone.  There's nothing to do but let go.

Monday, January 16, 2017

སྤྱན мани パドメー 吽

In Buddhist terms, as I've understood them, all things are temporary.  Tibetans paint these elaborate mandalas out of sand, only to sweep them away.  This is what I've read that it means.  If I'm co-opting or mangling anything, I apologize to the people of Mallarashtra.  I don't know what other words to use, to describe where I learned to think the way that I do.

I've been told by various people over the years that I focus on the wrong things, that I have such a depressing view of Buddhism.  Gautama was such a cheerful sort, right?  That impermanence is what makes everything beautiful, and all that, but this is not the problem Siddhartha was trying to solve.  It's not a problem, unless you focus on it too much.  It's as dualistic and reductive as anything else.  Still, it was the theme of a painting I did, when I was 15.

Impermanence is not the same as noting that all things die or eventually cease to physically exist, although that is also generally the case.  It's to say that everything is changing, always.  Every moment gone forever.  Everything that we experience, everything that we think, all the meaning we put into everything,  This is all fluid.

Humanity may exist for a very long time, but that's not to say it will be recognizable as anything meaningful to us, given the belief systems of our time.  Even should we personally exist for a very long time, "we" are just a culmination of circumstances in constant flux.   The you that existed yesterday is just as dead as you will ever be.  We just aren't wired to see it that way.  This is incredibly beautiful, and horrifying, and no more or less dull than the dust of an exoplanet that hasn't moved in millions of years.

Time, as well.  A concept, and interpretation.  Only "gone" in the sense that we won't experience it again.  The way our eyes see shapes and colors, where there's really only molecules, photons, and a whole lot of empty space.  It is nothing like we see it.  An image our mind creates, because it's representative enough of the world we've evolved for, to help us survive.  This doesn't mean I can meditate my way to seeing it any differently than I do, however.  Literally seeing, i.e., this is just how the physiology of the human eye works.  I don't understand how that aspect of Buddhism is supposed to make any sense, but to be clear.  I don't understand.  I try to keep an open mind.

I have some weird ideas about where it all might be going, but that's just because I like thinking about these things.  The Fermi paradox is probably described in a variety of ways, in different places, and it may even be yet another thing that I'm co-opting and mangling, so maybe I should explain it.  First of all, I don't take it 100% seriously.  It involves assumptions about the probability of a few things, that could turn out to just be way off.

The premise is that given how vast the universe is, how many billions of billions of stars - there must be a whole lot of life out there.  That's almost certain, but also that a fair percentage of it might technologically advance similar to the way humanity has  (As opposed to planets teeming with life, but no technology more advanced than beaver dams and bee hives.)  That's decidedly less certain, but if true, then given the age of the universe, a fair number of those technologically advancing species would be extremely advanced by now.  Humanity has only been around for the blink of an eye, and look how far we've come.  Imagine a people who have been expanding for billions of years.

This being another assumption, though a little more scientific than it might seem.  It's what life does, not just by chance, but because that's what makes life happen.  From single celled organisms to billion year old aliens, that which expands, expands more.  That which doesn't, gets left way behind and disappears, as other species fill every possible niche by expanding against all that can keep up.  The mechanics of it just drive it faster and faster, until what?

The Fermi paradox then assumes that this would mean these very old aliens, technologically advanced way beyond anything we could ever even imagine, would be extremely prolific - and in those billions of years, need an insane amount of space.  Possibly even entire galaxies.  Likely using and producing insane amounts of energy.  Basically, that it would be damn near impossible to miss them, if they were out there, anywhere within millions of light-years, given our current technology.  The paradox being that we're not seeing anything of the sort.  If there's anything out there, none of it is doing what seems reasonable to guess life would do, given enough time.

Unless technological advancement is just that rare.  Could it be an evolutionary mutation that's nearly unique, all throughout the universe?  There are lots of ideas on why Fermi is just wrong.  What it gets wrong, or fails to account for.  Maybe technology and/or evolution does plateau somehow, or maybe it inevitably ends in self-destruction.  Maybe they take what becomes the obvious and indisputable step (said, tongue in cheek - of course it's not, but it's the premise of another example I'm giving) by converting themselves into technology and descending into nanospace, where everything can be done exponentially better and they'd be immortal.  I read a whole article on that one.

It was mostly about the physics of how things would function if technology could operate at subatomic levels.  You know, because of course that will be doable, in a few hundred years.  Or maybe not.  Who the hell knows, but abandoning our physiological interpretations would be quite the paradigm shift.

Maybe they realize that there is no immortal, there is no better.  Not by mindfulness or insight, but by scientifically understanding every physiological process of the human mind, and what makes it all work, exactly as it does.  A gradual multigenerational process, utilizing countless discoveries along the way, in which people tweak their brain function more and more.  No different than how we drink coffee or take SSRIs.  Over time, more and more, until the illusions just cease to make any sense.

I don't know why this sounds sad when I say it.  Maybe it's because I'm a sad person.  That puts an unintended spin on it, but it isn't supposed to be sad.  I'm just playing with ideas.  Layer upon layer of interpretations and assumptions.  Almost certainly, getting it all ridiculously wrong.

If I were me, I would just laugh about it.