ὅλος (holos) is the greek word for whole, all, unity. It is from this, holos, that we derive our word holistic.

When I hear or read the word holistic, my mind is instantly presented with associations of granola eating hippies that live in nature without anything man made, and of people with alternative views on health and sickness than what is conventionally (which is to say, what is agreed upon by the majority, ie. held in convention, ie. convenient) upheld by Western medicine. Perhaps you have the same associations as well.

But there is nothing of the sort that is intrinsic in the word holos, or holistic. Holistic is grounded in ‘the whole’, and makes reference to the fact that in order to understand the parts, (whether that be function(s), role(s) or what have you) the comprehension of these parts are intrinsically connected and explicable solely by reference to the whole.

When an organ does a certain function, x, we can not say that it is behaving properly or not, rightly or wrongly in and of itself. We ascribe a function to that organ solely by how it serves the whole, ie. the body. It is only when the whole suffers, which we recognize by a shift from balance (health/homeostasis), that we determine and make the claim that the organ is not functioning properly.

I have been teaching, both in classes open to the public and in private lessons, for a little while now. I have found that there are some people, people who I am not interested in teaching (and who are not interested in learning), that are perhaps ignorant to the concept of holos, or are too impatient to learn in a holistic manner. Let me provide an example.

I remember one day while I was at Ronin MMA a big man came into the school and had some questions so I talked to him. My coach, Wade, was teaching an MMA class, covering some basic wrestling techniques. The man mentioned to me that the technique he was showing at the time was good, but would never work on him, because he would just do ‘x’. This was not someone who saw things in terms of holos.

In martial arts, especially before the rise of MMA, there has always been an almost esoteric or occult inkling that there existed, somewhere out there, but not currently known, a body of knowledge of a singular unstoppable martial arts technique. Myth would have it that there existed a single technique, the Dim Mak (death touch), that if done correctly, though it appeared painless, would lead to the death of the recipient. Lots of stories like these, always about someone else, exist, where somebody who trained with somebody knows a technique that is just so powerful, it is illegal, or whatever other claims that would make it sound ridiculously powerful.

Though perhaps I am simply ignorant of such a move, I would venture to state that such a move does not exist. If such a technique existed, surely it would rank highest on the hierarchy of moves within combat sports, and from there existing a highest, surely the next best move would be one that lead to the highest, and so on.

And so, in martial arts there is this sense among many that there are some good techniques to learn, and that is it. You don’t need to know them all. This is not holos.

My approach to martial arts or combat sports (fighting) is quite different. Every technique has an advantage and a disadvantage, and those advantages and disadvantages are predicated and can only be understood when you look at the fight as a whole. A jab serves a specific purpose, but shouldn’t be used in other instances. Likewise, a certain wrestling move has its strengths in one scenario, and its weaknesses as well. There is no perfect move in general, or even in a specific scenario; each moment of a combat situation calls for techniques that which each have their pros and cons, and the pros and cons of those moves can only be weighed and understood in terms of the fight as a whole.

When the man said that the technique was no good because he would just do ‘x’ to counter it, he wasn’t demonstrating knowledge of holos. We could have every martial arts or fight expert demonstrate, one by one, each technique known to man. And one by one, we could look at them and say “nope, that wouldn’t work because I could just do ‘x'”. The truth is, if you reduce each technique to itself, they have no meaning, value, or strength. In doing so, we could state, with confidence, that there doesn’t exist a single effective or valuable martial arts technique. We could say that even of the counter techniques, and so on.

But we know this is not true. We know that people, whether highly skilled or not, do actually defeat each other in combat. The reason this is so, is because reducing the system to single instances doesn’t provide meaning. It is through the holos, a holistic approach, by understanding the whole, does true knowledge of the technique, its meaning and value, become understood.

I wanted to use the example of holos in martial arts and combat sports as an analogy for how we come to understand and get meaning from health and fitness. I am quite emphatic and convinced that what is most useful is a holistic approach to healthy living.

The analogy would run something like this. In martial arts there is this underlying sense that there are some techniques that are more valuable than others. These techniques, or the existence of them, are esoteric forms of knowledge, and the existence of them have an almost occult quality. This is quite similar to our belief in our scientific study of health. We believe and operate on the perspective and paradigm that there are distinct, finite things that we can do to reach a state of health, as if it is a state to be reached and has some finality. This body of knowledge, of course, we believe is ‘out there’, and we are hoping to get a glimpse of it. The holders of this knowledge that is ‘out there’ are of course scientists and those pursuing scientific study of health and fitness. This knowledge is passed down through news articles, as most of us do not have access to scientists to share with us their findings in person (unlike martial arts). Articles such as these make claims to the effect of that by doing these 3 things or eating those 3 things you will acquire health. These health articles are heralded as truth, and are often ‘grounded’ in some scientific claim.

We keep holding on to this belief that if we just do this one thing, eat this one food, stop doing this one thing, that we will be healthy, whatever ‘healthy’ means to us in our conceptualization of it.

This is the Dim Mak. This is a myth.

Our scientific approach to health is much like us looking and dissecting each individual martial arts technique one by one, and attempting to gain some sort of meaning or knowledge from it. We believe that if we do a study and control all the variables, and just alter one thing (the addition of this food, of this exercise, of this practice, or deletion of one of these things) that a certain distinct outcome will occur, and that this outcome can be translated into our daily lives, of which, an infinite number of variables exist and are constantly in flux.

Just as the results from the study and analysis of martial  arts techniques one by one in isolation has no meaning, neither do these studies of diet/health/etc.(*Additionally, though it is claimed to be scientific in the sense that all variables are controlled, not a single diet, human or health related study can ever control all the variables.)

We need to take a comprehensive, an integrated, a holistic approach towards health. What this means is that health isn’t an end goal that can be reached and then forgotten about, it is more like a direction one moves towards, a way of living and being. It, like the fight, involves all aspects of your life. The whole has to be taken into account, the whole is the measure of the parts.

Does a meal make you feel more energetic or lethargic? Does a meal give you mental clarity or not. Does interacting with a certain social group or setting provide mental stimulation, support and positivity, or do you feel judged and anxious? Does your job or performing a certain event bring fulfillment and ease, or is there stress and suffering? Can someone be healthy with a balanced diet and exercise, but is constantly suffering from anxiety and is unhappy? What does health look like? Is it aesthetics? Is someone healthy when their physical body has acquired physical curves that are represented as attractive in the media? Is someone that spends all their time exercises and is obsessed compulsive about their food intake at the expense of other aspects of their life (social, mental, spiritual) healthy?

I think health is definitely something that can only be comprehended through holos. I don’t see how anything, in itself, in isolation, could ever meaningfully be comprehended as healthy or not, unless it is presented in terms of the state of the whole.

And with that, I must say that I have no witty ending to this blog post. I simply think that a holistic approach and perspective of health is probably a good thing.


September Monthly Challenge

Happy with how last month’s challenge went, I am moving forward and going to keep the ball rolling!

Reflecting on the month challenges, as well as the weekly challenges I did last year, I really enjoy doing different things like this. Whether it is challenging me to get out of my comfort zone and do something new or to entertain self-imposed austerity, the experience teaches me about what I can and can’t do, what I am and am not comfortable with, and challenges my concepts of what I want, what I need, what to do and how to live.

As someone who can have the tendency of overdoing things, I have given myself another 3 difficult challenges for the month of September.

  1. No hot water showers
  2. No use of furniture at home
  3. Exercise and/or yoga every day


No hot water?

I don’t think I have any real reason to be trying this out, to be honest. While travelling last year it was pretty rare to have hot water. I found those showers to be intense, refreshing and pretty great at waking you up.

The way I would shower went something like this: jump in and quickly get covered in freezing cold water. Turn off water and lather up. Turn water back on, jump in and rinse. What I experienced was that the first initial water blast was freezing. But after lathering up and jumping back in, the water would feel much warmer, and wasn’t that bad at all.

I think this will be challenging from a comfort stand point. Just yesterday I took a nice hot shower. I took my time. It felt nice. I thought to myself, “Could I really give this up for a month?”… we shall see!

The roman statesman and stoic philosophy Seneca would write about how extravagant and unnecessary bath houses and spas were. It is a common theme in stoic philosophy that anything in excess is almost surely not healthy for the soul/spirit.

No furniture?

This is inspired by my few visits to Japan. While staying there with a friend I would sleep on a thin bamboo ‘mattress’ on the floor. It was quite comfortable. I am also conscious of the fact that in many cultures the family will sit on the floor, or on pillows or mats/rugs within the living quarters and eat their meals like that, off the floor.

I am going to make use of my pillows, my stretching machine, and my yoga mats for this month. I will sleep on a doubled up yoga mat (wish me luck!), on the floor. My dog knows not to jump onto the bed, but I wonder if she will come lie on my chest if I am on the ground :)

I think that being unable to lie back in my reclining couch that I will be forced to do different things. Perhaps go outside for a walk, perhaps be more active, perhaps stretch more, do more yoga in the house, play with my dog more, meditate more, etc.Essentially, if I removed the ability to lazily lie back and read/watch something, will be daily life become more active/productive? What will it look like?

I will, though, use furniture outside my house. I will allow myself to use my outdoor picnic table as well.

Exercise/Yoga everyday.

Pretty simple. I want to be more consistent with my physical exercise. I haven’t been too bad lately, but I think by forcing myself to do it everyday I will 1. create a healthy and active habit and 2. force myself to be creative and practice new ways of exercising. I never go outside for jogs, but I can see myself doing that, or exercising in a nearby park, rather than going to the gym, simply for variety.


This month should be fun! I am going to go take my last hot shower for the month. Wish me luck!

First Monthly Challenge Done

For the last month I gave myself 3 challenges to stick to. They were:

1. Have no sugar in my diet aside from some honey with my Greek yogurt.

2. Get rid of a possession every day of the month.

3.Stick to my morning/night routine.

How did it go? 

Not bad. Not bad.

As far as having no sugar goes, I was motivated because I was getting out of hand. Consistently having one, two or four cheesecakes in a given week as getting to me. Once I made a firm desire to stay away from sugar the desire went away. I only had sugar twice during the month. Once when a friend brought me a sugary drink as a gift and I didn’t want to be rude by refusing her gift. The other was when I did cave and bought myself a corn bread. It looked so dense and moist.

Other than that, I didn’t have any sugar in my diet aside from natural sugars in fruits, and the honey that I would use sparingly now and then when I would eat some plain Greek yogurt.

What did I get out of it? Well, I have a tendency to binge eat when it comes to sweats and pastries. I will eat and eat and eat. The idea of having enough or being full is just not available. The result of that is feeling like garbage and lethargic afterwards.

Without sugar in my diet, I wasn’t binge eating and my energy levels were a lot more stable. This was hardly surprising.

Bye bye possessions.

‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’ ~Henry David Thoreau

In that span of a month, this is what I got rid of. (Keep in mind, I already consider myself a minimalist)

  1. Giant Chalkboard
  2. Leather jacket
  3. 2 pinup boards
  4. Glass jars/containers
  5. BBQ set
  6. Hackeysack
  7. Tea pot/plastic juice bottles/thermos
  8. Glass coffee table
  9. Fire place (electric)
  10. Crockpot
  11. Toaster
  12. Neck pillow
  13. Microwave
  14. Bag of clothes in my room
  15. Popcorn tin
  16. Old tv
  17. Set of old blinds
  18. Old cabinet doors
  19. Random things in my cupboards (chocolatini mix)
  20. Other random things in drawers
  21. Candy dish
  22. Random metal poles that have been in my house for years that I have no idea where they came from
  23. Some dvd’s
  24. Black end table
  25. More old clothes
  26. Collectors item
  27. Water bottle thermos
  28. Kitchen utencils/tools
  29. Fan
  30. Couch
  31. Video camera and tripod

Did I learn anything?

Well, I have lots of stuff. Much much more than I need or require. Much more than I was aware of. Some of the things that I threw away I had used consistently (couch, table, microwave), but really don’t require and can easily do without. Most of the things I got rid of I haven’t touched or used in years, or since the last time I moved.

With this also came quite a bit of re-organizing and cleaning. My house is now much cleaner, more open and spacious, less cluttered, less busy. It is a bit more enjoyable. Simpler. Which is nice.


This is the one that gave me the hardest time. The first two weeks I was consistently sticking to my routines. Waking up, lemon water, meditating, shower, spending time in the backyard to collect my thoughts and be present. At night, a moment to reflect on my day, a moment of gratitude, no phone or electronics in bed.

The let those routines pretty much completely fall away once I had to start to help out with a summer camp around mid-August.

What did i get from this? Well, I will say that it was great to be consistently meditating again. After a few days of consistently meditating I experience a difference in general quality of my experience in day to day living. I found myself going to bed at a more respectable hour, as I wasn’t lying in bed on my phone doing this or that from the time I “went to bed” to the time I actually fell asleep. I was more present, more aware, and had a higher general feeling of being content.

I look forward to getting this back on track.


All this to say, it was a good month. Getting rid of stuff was extremely enjoyable. It helped me to clean and de-clutter my living space. I will probably do another one in the months to come. The next 30 or so things to go will be more of a challenge. I hope to use this past month of sugar austerity to help me curb my cravings, and hope to re-visit and turn my morning and night routines into habit.

Time for the next months challenges!

Monthly Challenges

In 2013 I made it my resolution to give myself an unspecific number of weekly goals, goals that ranged from trying new things, implementing new routines, nutritional/dietary goals, fitness goals and other whatever goals.

I had a lot of fun doing it. They were often times challenging, but I always seemed to learn something from each one and had a great time doing it. It kept things interesting, and it was nice to have something to focus on, even if they were random little goals.

I felt a strong urge in the middle of the night last weekend that I wanted to do something like that again. I felt that I might have been a bit too passive in how I was going on with things recently, and a step towards being more active seemed like the right solution.

Like anytime I get a strong urge to do something new, I acted immediately on it(!), letting my mind wander and asking google to tell me what the internet was thinking. I came up with a bunch of things that I wanted to do with myself. The one that I am sharing today is my desire to re-start my challenges. The idea got me excited, so I knew it was the right choice.

I think I will still add in from time to time some weekly or other random challenges for myself, but I want to do some longer, month long ones. I felt that the weekly challenges I found that had an impact and I felt served me well, I kept them up afterwards. So if it is easy or I enjoy it, making it a month long is nothing but niceness. If, however, I was challenging myself with something that ended up being difficult to do, even for a week, I was really happy when the week ended. With that said, I really enjoy challenges, and I find that the harder something is, the more you get out of your comfort zone, the more you learn about yourself and your relationship to…. whatever comes up from that specific challenge. So month long challenges it is!

The motivating factors behind my specific challenges will be based on ‘ego busting’ (more on this another day), based on living a healthy lifestyle; a healthy lifestyle being related to food, exercise, relationships and mental outlook. I will also do some just purely out of curiosity and fun.

For this month, I have decided to jump in full speed and do three goals. For one month I will:

1. Have no sugar in my diet aside from fruit and honey (sparingly).

2. Get rid of a possession every day.

3. Stick to my morning/night routine.


No sugar.

I picked this because lately I have been going nuts on desserts. I think I have had four cheesecakes in the last two weeks, having two full cheesecakes yesterday alone. Though it was national cheesecake day yesterday, I was unaware. I have realized that I am addicted to sugar and sweets (mostly pastries). I watched a video the other week where a doctor spoke about sugar, saying that it was a recreational drug. When I think of sugar as a recreational drug, it makes total sense to me. There isn’t really anything wrong with recreational drug use in itself, but you have to recognize if it is having negative effects in your life and determine if it is serving you or not for the better. Sugar doesn’t seem to be.

Bye bye stuff.

I don’t own much stuff, at least relative to other people. Yet, I still have way too much. I have so many things that I haven’t used for years, but just take up space. I am going to either throw away or donate to value village a possession of mine everyday for the month. I really have no idea if this will be difficult or not. I will not be throwing away food or books, and I won’t be silly and choose something small like a pen or a battery or something. We shall see what happens.

Morning and Night Routine.

Having structure is a nice thing, at times. Having the tone for the day set is important, at least for me. I think that the way you set your day, and close it off, are some of those little things in life that provide quality.

Morning Routine:

  1. Wake up at 5am (I currently wake up around 6:30. I will gradually shift down to 5am. The exception to this will be if I have a late night or overnight volunteering shift the evening before.
  2. No cell phone or internet in bed
  3. Shower
  4. Meditation routine
    1. Burn Incense
    2. Breathing Exercise
    3. Meditation
    4. Read Quote
    5. Express gratitude
  5. Hot lemon water and breakfast
  6. While water is boiling, walk out into backyard and take a moment to be present and appreciate the day ahead that I am able to experience
  7. After breakfast I may use cell phone/computer/internet

Night Routine:

  1. Take a moment (either in bed or in meditation room) to reflect on and review the day that passed asking: Are there some decisions I would have liked to have made differently? How did my choices, in the moment, affect the remainder of my day?
  2. A very short meditation
  3. Read a quote
  4. Express gratitude
  5. No cell phone/internet in bed


Wish me luck!

Blog is back!

I have been away from this site for a while. My girlfriend and I recently traveled for three months, and we blogged about it HERE. It was great fun and an amazing experience.

Now it is time to get back to some weekly goals. The weekly goals are for the most part meant as a means or exercise in which I can create a habit for something specific that I would like to add to my daily life that perhaps I currently don’t already do. Sometimes it is just for fun, for a challenge, to help create an awareness or perspective in me, or any other reason, which I usually state.

I recently stayed at a vedanta/yoga ashram for a week and really allowed me to do some self-study. The ashram, under Swami Sivananda, follows four paths and five points.

The four paths are:

1. Karma yoga. Karma yoga is self-less service (action). This means to act for someone else’s benefit with absolutely no attachment to the fruits of that action. That translates to doing something for someone without meaning to get anything in return, not even their good grace.

2. Raja yoga. Raja yoga is comprised of the main thing people think about when they think of ‘yoga’, which is the asanas (postures). It also involves meditation.

3. Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga means spiritual devotion. Devotion to a personal diety, to Brahman (cosmic consciousness), to Atman (the Self/soul/personal consciousness).The essence of it is to recognize, observe and to remain aware of and devoted to the spiritual nature of Self, which is pure consciousness.

4. Jnana yoga. Jnana yoga is involved with philosophy and logic.

The five points are:

1. Proper exercise. This involves the asanas (postures of yoga).

2. Proper eating. This involves eating healthy, fresh, organic foods. This involves eating a vegetarian diet and staying away from foods that are unhealthy for body, mind and spiritual practice (ie. meditation/concentration), foods such as sugar, heavy fatty foods, stimulants, etc.

3. Proper breathing. The breath carries life and energy. Just ask any athlete about the importance of breath. It regulates our body and mind. A calm mind and healthy body means calm and purposeful breathing.

4. Proper relaxation. Sitting in front of a tv isn’t the best way to relax, and isn’t true relation in the sense of the word, despite the fact that tv watching is one of the most common forms of ‘relaxation’ in the west. Proper relaxation involves calming the mind, removing oneself from the busy world of external phenomena.

5. Positive thinking and meditation.


There are some aspects mentioned above that speak to me more than others, but I find that they all have their place. These, plus the eight limbs of yoga from the yoga sutras, as well as other supplementary concepts, I will try to add or continue to maintain in my daily life. This area will be the main focus of my goals for the week for the foreseeable future.

Goals for the week (March 3, 2014):

1. Meditation. This week I am going to do a taste test of the different modes of meditation that I have experimented with in the past. My goal is that I would like to make a commitment to a, possibly a few, meditation styles. Like a workout plan for the body that involves specific routines, I would like to have one for my meditation practice. I have found that, at times, with no concrete habit I find myself skipping days without practicing, or go to meditate and without a routine just “go with the flow”. I know from experience that having structure in the gym leads to more success than just going with the flow. I have a dedicated room in the house for my meditation and yoga practice, which I have fixed up and have begun painting. The goal is to have a defined practice and routine that will only serve myself via the practice of meditation.

2. Proper breathing. While at the ashram we did pranayama breathing exercises every morning at the beginning of our yoga classes. This involved deep breathing in a seated, upright posture; it involved quick, sharp, powerful exhales in rapid succession with perhaps 80-120 repetitions; holding the breathe for 45 and 60 seconds; as well as alternate nostril inhalation, breath holding, then exhalation. By the end of the week I was able to hold my breath for 90 seconds, something that is amazing for me as up until last year, I had a deviated septum for 10 years, and always had difficulty getting oxygen into my lungs. I could only ever hold my breath for about 30 seconds. Outside of having odd goals of holding your breath, the pranayama exercises are extremely relaxing and meditative. They calm the mind and for those suffering from stress or anxiety, would be a great mode for relieving such problems.

So those are my goals. Quantitatively they are few, but the benefits they reap would be hard to number. Qualitatively, both involve the exercise and development of crucial attributes such as dedication, commitment, concentration, open mindedness and the ability to tune into a state of pure awareness, which involves the ability calm the mind and herd your awareness away from the never ending onslaught of thoughts, judgments and habitual preoccupations that are mind subjects ourselves to all day everyday.

On that note, time to go do some pranayama exercises and meditate!


I couldn’t see how the traffic flowed in perfect harmony. Instead, I saw perfect chaos.

I won’t be posting here as often, as my girlfriend and I are away on a nice little trip. We are currently in Indonesia, and are posting our adventures on a separate blog that can be found here: JenAndNickInIndonesia.wordpress.com

The other day in Jakarta and again yesterday while hiring a driver for the day as a guide we were subjected to crazy traffic, or what appeared to be crazy traffic.

There are no speed limits, at least none whatsoever that are posted. There are no traffic signs, no yield signs, no stop signs, and very very few traffic lights. Actually, no traffic lights yet outside of Jakarta. No posted traffic rules to tell people how to drive, but a never ending stream of cars flowing around a sea of motorcycles. Yet the traffic flows smoothly, without a hitch. People making left turns, right turns, passing each other, and pedestrians crossing the streets, chickens too, all without any signs or stop lights.

I became aware of my thoughts. I was thinking how anyone could ever drive in that apparent mayhem. I couldn’t perceive any rules, any rhyme or reason to what was going on, and yet everyone else seemed to flow where they needed to flow, everyone else was driving effortlessly. In fact, not a single soul seemed stressed, angry or upset. Nobody seemed angry about someone cutting them off, our driver never seemed to take the position of or state “I’m not letting this asshole in ahead of me”.

Essentially, it appeared 100x more chaotic than the driving we are accustomed to in the West, and yet it appeared completely stress free and there were no worries.

The first thought that came to me was that I couldn’t understand how drivers or pedestrians “knew” when it was ok to turn, when it was ok to go, when it was ok to stop. I couldn’t recognize the patterns, and so in my mind there were no patterns. But obviously there were, as the entire driving system functioned just fine. Clearly these people saw the patterns. But I couldn’t. How strange.

I had to wonder what that meant. If a pattern is there to be perceived, what stops someone from seeing it? Would an Indonesian understand how traffic worked back home in Ottawa? Would it make sense to him? The traffic spoke of perception, and that what is obvious and accepted for one person may not even be comprehensible or perceivable by another.

It also reminded me of the story of when Columbus came to America, the native Americans couldn’t see the incoming ships. Not that it was misty or foggy, or anything like that. Quite literally, the natives couldn’t see or perceive the ships, as they were things that were not part of their reality, and as the article I linked to above points out, leading research today shows that we perceive mostly what we expect or are accustomed to perceiving. How can you perceive something that you cannot possible imagine? How can one perceive a color never seen before? The research shows that if the mind can’t possibly make sense of it, it just doesn’t register it at all.

Whether the story is true or not isn’t really the point. The point, I guess, is perspective. I don’t think that there are necessarily patterns and systems (like when and when not to turn in heavy traffic) that are objectively “out there” to be seen. Rather, based on our views of our world, our past experiences, our outlook of reality, and a host of other factors (though outlook of reality is sort of all encompassing) our perceptions are created and catered to those things. They are born from them. I saw a giant mess of traffic and chaos, nothing made sense. But that was just a perception, and that perception was based on my view of reality, and in my reality traffic didn’t function like that. To put it more accurately, in my reality traffic wasn’t functional in that state, yet it was. It might arguably be even more functional than the flow of traffic back home.

Another thought that came to me was how communal the traffic experience was. Everyone lets everyone in, everyone takes their turn willingly. There was no sense of anyone being aggressive or being forceful. Like water flowing down a stream, there are no water molecules trying to get to where they are going any more than the other water molecules. They all just seem to flow and go, each passing each other in their own turn, taking turns passing each other, knowing they will all get to their final destination.

This in itself was great to see, but the important thing to notice was that it is done without any signs, without any lights. All of this came from inside, from each person that was part of the communal traffic experience.

I have written before, here, about how I feel that laws remove the selective pressure for people to behave the way the laws intend for them to behave. I think that laws and regulations put a selective pressure on people to follow laws and regulations, but not to behave in the way that the laws and regulations intend for. For example, a law might be put in place telling people to share. This might be done because people value sharing, and want good citizens who share. What the law actually does is remove the selective pressure in that culture for people to naturally be inclined to share, rather, it maintains the selective pressure for people who obey laws, and as a consequence here, obeying the law means sharing. People will eventually share because it is law, not because they are sharing people. They share for law, not for sharing. If the law of sharing was removed after several generations of being enacted, the selective pressure keeping people in the mindset to share would be removed. Ultimately, ‘good citizens who share’ wasn’t what was being fostered, rather it was citizens who obey laws, no matter the object of the law.

So here, in this place, we have no signs, no traffic lights that regulate peoples sharing of the streets. There isn’t an external regulation that governs how one should let other people take their turn driving. It just happens naturally, from within, from the self. I can’t help but feel that the cultural selective pressure to be sharing while driving, of taking turns is what drives this. People seem to share to share, not share to follow the law.

It made me think of a classic experiment I was taught in school. The study was on sharing. People were sitting around and there were things to be shared (beans, candies, chocolate, whatever). All of the things, let’s say beans, were in one bowl. The rule was that the bowl was passed around and once the bowl got to you, you ccould take as many beans as you wanted, but once they are all gone, nobody else got any. No other restrictions. The study found that these people more often than not were selfish and took all the beans, leaving nobody else any. There were no (immediately perceived – my addition) negative repercussions for the selfish person who took everything, as he had what he wanted and that was the end of it.

This experiment is a classic experiment for those that argue that public goods such as our drinking water, should be regulated or even privatized. If a public good is available for everyone and nothing stops someone from taking everything, then they will. That is how we perceive things, and that is one ideology behind why we regulate public goods.

But the experiment was done by the western world, in the western world, using people from the western world. The perceptions, operating systems and perception of reality of those people were already formed before taking part in that experiment. What are the proper controls for this experiment? I wonder what the experimental results would be if this experiment was repeated with cultures around the world. I think the results would show that greed is not human nature. Nor is sharing and selflessness. People aren’t born greedy, nor are they born sharing. I think people develop qualities and perceptions on how to behave based on the ideologies they learn and accept, and this comes from the previous generation. I think that how we view systems, how we view patterns, how we view traffic, is a subjective product of our perceptions, our perceptions of reality and our perceptions of life.

I couldn’t see how the traffic flowed in perfect harmony. Instead, I saw perfect chaos.

In the west we see things differently. The lack of stop signs and regulations might not seem like a big thing, but the reasons for necessitating stop signs and regulations are. They come from ideologies. So the difference in traffic isn’t about cars, or about laws, it is about ideology. It is on perception of reality.

The people in that bean sharing experiment reiterated an accepted western ideology: people are greedy and so we need regulations. That ideology is upheld because it is learned from the previous generation, and they learn it from the generation that comes before them. It isn’t learned through textbooks, but is learned by daily life that incorporates the ideologies themselves.

So what am I getting at? Nothing really. I guess I felt that they didn’t know how to drive here. They didn’t ‘get it’. They were doing it wrong. I was trying to apply my perceptions, my ideologies, my views of the world onto what I was perceiving. What I was perceiving didn’t make sense. Like the natives and Columbus’s ships, I couldn’t see how the traffic worked. I couldn’t see it because the way I perceive the world is partly formed by my previous conditioning. The “way to do traffic” isn’t objective and out there, rather it is formed and acquired.

Traffic, of course, can be an allegory for anything.

Consciousness experiences existence much like how one flips through a slideshow camera

I was reading the beginning of a book on various philosophical topics that a friend just gave to me, and an idea quickly came to me. I was only about two lines into the introduction when the author was stating that Aristotle thought that it was intrinsic in humans to desire to acquire knowledge and this is why we value our sensory perceptions so much.

I had to stop and think about what a great observation he had made. I thought that our knowledge seems to be objective. We know of something, and that of is something external and outside of our being. Knowledge of the self would be emotion and feeling. Being sad would be the act of knowing how one is feeling. These objects of our knowledge that exist in the external world are acquired through the senses, these things that allow us to seemingly perceive the world as it is around us. So, if this is what gives us our knowledge of the world, then we clearly would have an attachment to our sensory perceptions. This is why the idea of losing sight, hearing, smell, touch, is frightening as it disconnects us from what we seek, knowledge.

I asked the question to myself – ‘what would happen if you removed each of your senses?’. What if you lost your sense of sight, your sense of hearing, your sense of smell, your sense of touch and your sense of taste? What would you experience? What would your existence consist of?

I can think of two important instances to ask that question, that of a newborn who suffers this affliction in the very moment of birth, or even earlier, and that of an adult, after having spent a fair amount of life with fully functional sense organs.

For the newborn, I am not sure, so I will not think about answering it yet.

As for the adult, I can’t help but believe that that person, who in his adult years, after accumulating many memories, having experienced thought, imagination, colour, smells, feelings, and everything that one has experienced throughout their life, would still be a thinking thing. I can’t help but think that even after losing the ability to sense the outside world, that one would still retain a mind. I do not believe a thinking mind is dependent on a completely different system, such as those of the senses. If our senses aren’t deceiving us and we are experiencing  extended physical bodies as we perceive them, then the mis-formation and improper function of a select few molecules in our bodies, out of all of the remaining fully functional constituents of our body, shouldn’t have any physical affect on my mind or on my ability to think. Is one less able to think if they lose the sense of vision? Of hearing? Of touch? Of smell? of taste?. Then why would someone lose the ability to think when they lost all of their senses?

I don’t think that such a person would lose their ability to think. So, all that would remain would be a thinking thing, a thinking being – pure consciousness.

This experience that would remain would simply be thought; consciousness. Not 5% thought, not 50% thought, but 100% thought. Nothing other than thought/consciousness is what amounts to this existence as all of the senses have been removed. There is no other form of input into the mind outside thought itself, as the senses no longer communicate to the mind. This you that is pure consciousness, a purely thinking being, could still surely imagine previous memories, or use the imagination to create new people, new settings, new experiences. Much like a dream, daydream, fantasy, or, well, to be quite honest, any thought you have ever had in your mind.

In a dream, I am not sure if your senses are functioning. The dream itself is just as real as anything I experience in the waking life. In the moment, while I am “dreaming”, what I am experiencing is 100% real. I submit to the dream and it occupies my consciousness in the same way that waking life does. It comes to me without a choice, just as when I look out the window to see what is going on in my backyard, I have no choice but to see my picnic table and garden. I can’t filter it out of my mind, it comes to me and I am forced to perceive and experience it through my senses. Just as I am forced to experience and perceive my dream. The two, in their specific moments, are each just as real as the other. While dreaming, though, my physical extended body and the sense organs contained within are not experiencing the doings and happenings of my dream. When I dream of a friend, a family member or my girlfriend and wake up, I would not believe that my body which I believed to be fast asleep and in bed with eyes closed, was in the setting in which my dream took place, or that my eyes, the eyes of my waking life, were exposed to the people and places that were visually experienced by me while asleep. In short, my conscious experience of the dream was not produced by my sensory perceptions, it exists outside of my sensory experience, yet I am fully conscious of it and nothing else, in that moment.

I can hear things, feel things, taste things in dreams – none of which I believe to happen through the sensory organs of my extended physical body that exists in my waking life.

Is this not proof that my being, my existence, my soul, my mind, my whatever, does not require physical sensory organs and sensory perceptions in order to experience? Those dreams are experiences, and they were independent of any sensory organs and sensory perceptions. They may or may not have been created by the mind, but surely without a doubt they were experienced by the mind, and that experience, in the moment, was just as real as anything else I have ever experienced, if it wasn’t, would I not have realized that it wasn’t real, that it was in fact a dream in the moment?

We are able to experience similar things while in waking life through thought. I can close my eyes, or keep them open (which is personally more difficult) and visualize the face of a loved one. I can experience “hearing” someones voice, and if I wish for my mind to recall a taste, I can do that as well. But physically, in extended space, my sense organs and sensory perceptions are not producing these things. It is simply a product of my consciousness, of my mind, of my being. Now, despite being able to do this, to think of my girlfriends face, and visualize it, it can be difficult to maintain or even to bring about that experience, that visualization. It requires mental effort and concentration. It doesn’t happen easily. I believe the reason for this is that this process of creating an experience through the mind, through pure consciousness (as that is what it is, a creation of an experience) is made difficult as it has to compete with the sensory perceptions, which, without warning, constantly bombard and fill your experience, your mind, your consciousness, with all of the information that they gather. Right now, your consciousness is being bombarded with information gathered, collected and put together by so many cells in your body. This cell says there is this stimulation, but not that stimulation. Not only are your eyes telling you that there is a webpage with crazy thoughts right in front of you, but your eyes are also telling your mind what there isn’t in front of you. My arm is telling me that there is something putting pressure on it from underneath (resting on the arm rest of the couch), but it is also telling me that it is soft and not hard, that it is dry and not wet, the top of my arm is telling me nothing is on top of it, and my right thigh is telling me that nothing is really touching it. Just as those few areas of my extended body are telling me things that are and are not happening, so is every other part of my body, and all of that information is experienced by the mind, by consciousness.

That information is constant as well, it never stops coming in. It comes to our minds without warning and without notice. It just is.  But thought, purposeful, deliberate thought, is much more difficult. To willingly decide to call up a visualization, or to recall a taste such as that of a strawberry, isn’t as simple as simply receiving perceptions. It is more difficult. BUT, it is still possible, and is still experienced. That is an important thing to note.

Now, when you are experiencing absolutely no senses, there are no sensory inputs to distract oneself from thinking. Thus, the intensity of thought, the magnitude of thought, the prevalence of thought, the strength of thought just is, and are unchanging – none of these things would ever change. The only distractions to mind, distractions to consciousness is the product of mind and consciousness itself. All that would exist would be thought, in perfect clarity, as there would be no sensory perceptions to distract these thoughts from being experienced. You would not and could not have a long thought, a short thought, or a thought of any length, as there would be no pause in thought, so each would simply flow from one into the other, just as our waking life seemingly does, flowing from one moment into another without pause.

So, what I am beginning to think is that if our sensory perceptions were taken away, or, if my sensory perceptions were all taken away right now, such that you could flash bright lights at me, play loud music into my ears, put food into my mouth, put something smelly in front of my nose, and pick me up and throw me around – I would not be aware or perceive any of those things. But I would be a thinking thing, and my thoughts would be just as real and just as vivid and simply just as everything in my waking life ever was. There would be no difference. I believe that it this transition, from experiencing a “real waking life” produced by your senses to experiencing a “real waking life” produced by your consciousness would happen instantaneously – this transition from living with the senses which act to create the reality I live in to the complete void of senses thereby living in a reality created by mind/thought/consciousness – without any sense of confusion. There is no confusion when one enters a dream, or when a dream changes. The instant the sensory perceptions became non-existent, the mind would be there seamlessly in continuation of the last thought, no matter what it was, and without any perceptions to interfere with the mind, the mind would experience whatever the object/subject of thought was, since the mind must always be fixed on and experiencing something.

Consciousness is all that is, there is nothing but consciousness. There is only consciousness, and so whatever is the content of the consciousness/thought (I can’t tell if it would be an object of thought or subject of thought. To me they both seem the same) is all that is experienced. To put it more succinctly, whatever you are conscious of is all that is. Currently, we subscribe to the belief and thought that we have extended physical bodies, those bodies have the ability to perceive through the senses, and so our mind, our being, our consciousness thinks thoughts, and thinks (or is witness to) our senses.

So why does this matter? It isn’t everyday that people lose their ability to perceive through their senses! Though it should be noted that there are sensory deprivation tanks that exist, one in Montreal which I wish to make use of. These tanks contain extremely high concentrations of salt water. The person goes inside and floats. The water is heated to the same temperature as the human body so that the ability to perceive a difference in temperature in your external surroundings becomes eliminated or greatly reduced. The tank is soundproof and completely dark, so there are no experiences of sound or sight. The calm floating position helps to remove as much as possible the perception of touch. Taste, well, don’t eat anything. People experience intense thoughts, some claim that this gets them “high”, some perceive various things which some would call “hallucinations”, some are able to reach their place of meditation almost instantly. Clearly, the ability to perceive still exists, and does still happen, but a drastic reduction in the amount of perceptions occurs. With this comes the increase in prevalence and fluidity of thought, as thought takes center stage and in greater ways becomes the context of experience and consciousness. Evidently, with the removal of the ability to perceive through the senses, what one is conscious of, the state of consciousness one is subjected to is completely different. How interesting.

So again, I ask, why does this matter? So what? I don’t expect to lose all of my sensory perceptions tomorrow and I don’t live my life in a sensory deprivation tank, how applicable is this?

I have no reason to believe that consciousness ever ends. If something exists, I can’t help but believe that it must always have existed and always will. Nothingness cannot possible make a transformation into something, as nothingness by its very nature is void of any and all qualities, thus how does a lack of qualities change? “What” could possibly be undergoing the transition into something, if that original “what” was nothingness? Nothingness is not a what, but a complete lack of existence. Oppositely, how can something that exists transform into nothingness? A transformation involving nothingness is absurd. I also have never not experienced consciousness, whether in waking life, in deep sleep, while dreaming, or even being knocked out. The subject/object of consciousness and experience changes, but even when experiencing pure nothingness such as a deep sleep is still an experience that your consciousness has. It never stops. I have no recollection of what my consciousness experienced before my current waking life, however I also have no recollection of my early years, and most of my life to date. I have only packets of recollection, discrete moments, but most of these things that I recall are the memories, not the actual moments themselves. To not have the ability to recall something that ones consciousness has once experienced does not mean that it was never experienced, as surely I am confident that I was “alive” the first few years (in fact all of my years) in this waking life, yet I cannot recall the vast majority of it. My inability to recall what my consciousness may or may not have experienced before this waking life does not imply that there was no consciousness experienced before this waking life. This is what I hold to be true. So, if consciousness, mind, my being, my essence, my existence, my soul my whatever, if it never ends and simply just is, then what should happen when this waking life, with this body that I claim ownership of (though I do not claim it to be who or what I am), should end? The physical body that I experience will one day decompose. All the constituents, the atoms, the subatomic particles, all will disperse and over time, will make up the constituents of other bodies, animal bodies, bodies of water, bodies of plant, bacteria, of atmosphere, of earth. But my true being, my soul, my consciousness, my existence, will continue. It might “think” and thus experience something similar, such as myself continuing the “life” that just “ended”, the consciousness might experience (“think” about) a whale, or past memories, or whatever. Just like a dream, or an active imagination.

There is also something to be said that everything is a product of mind, of consciousness. My mind, my consciousness is what creates this current experience. If we are to assume that we have a physical body and that matter does exist, it is perceived and created by my mind/consciousness via my body and sense organs. In this system, at the end of the day, it is my mind, my consciousness that gets the final say on creating what I experience. This is why some people can taste colours, can see physical objects when doing math, can see sound (see synesthesia). This is why some people “hear” or “see” things that others would say “don’t exist” (schizophrenia). The mind, our consciousness has the final say, and it creates our existence. So, with that said, our bodies and our concepts of this extended physical world that is extended in space and time is also a creation of our mind and consciousness.

I think that there might be something to be said about the infinite regress that could happen here that would imply the experience of infinite, of anything and everything. That your imagination, your consciousness is truly limitless. That you are only limited by your consciousness/mind. That this consciousness experiences an infinite number of experiences, thus plays out the entire universe (as each of these infinite number of experiences are contained within the universe), thus is the universe, thus creates the universe. Very similar to Brahman. Very similar to god being a playful being, one that likes to play hide and seek and lose himself in the roles that he plays, imagining himself to be a this, and a that, over and over forever, until one day he imagines himself to be a you, exactly as you are today, and thus creating you (that is to say, creating himself, god, the soul, Brahman).

I don’t know if it is an infinite regress, or at least maybe it is but in a different way. I think of this being, this you as the thing that creates everything that is experienced. If I lost all of my senses in this instant, surely my consciousness would ceaselessly and instantly continue existing without fail. Remember, I am not a vegetable, I am not dead, my body is fully functional, just a few proteins aren’t doing their jobs, and my brain, which is fully functional, just isn’t registering any of the senses. So, with the loss of all sensory perception experiences, the mind would continue taking full control and be the sole subject/object of your experience. This could be of a new existence, perhaps a “you” but somewhat similar, maybe making different decisions. Maybe of previous things you’ve done, repeating previous thoughts or experiences (essentially recalling memory), or perhaps you thinking about a completely different person, experience, whatever. Similar to a dream, how it might be a variation of your own life, or you dreaming yourself to be someone else, in a different time, in a different world, with different rules and different everythings.

Would this feel just as my waking life feels? Would this feel just as my dreams feel? My dreams feel exactly as my waking life does, only after waking up does it then feel like a dream. It is only after waking up does it then become perceived as a dream, and thus regarded and experienced as a dream. It was just as real as anything else I have ever experienced. This could help in explaining how I could be so scared within a dream that I wake up panicked. This could explain how my mind could somehow create something so unexpected that my mind could scare myself, that is to say, scare my own mind, the same mind that created the scary dream. It is absurd!

I think that this pure mind, pure consciousness, would think of something, people, things, objects, places, and those would be experienced, and could only be experienced, how anything is experienced – as a true experience. And so this mind would create for itself a brand new existence, a brand new reality, a brand new life. That new life may or may not have a body as well, with sensory perceptions, that would one day be taken away (whether in life or in the illusion of death of our physical bodies), and so the process is infinitely carried on, experiencing all possible things to be experienced, via thought, and thus is all coming from the same source, you – whatever that is (soul, consciousness, god, Brahman, pure being, mind ,whatever). So there would be only one thing, you. As you is also me, it is all the same source. There isn’t even a source as that implies something coming from something, but there is only one thing, no other somethings.

This is very similar to this idea that we are all one. That I am actually every single person on this planet, and I live out this life, and in the next life I will live out as my friend, then as my girlfriend, then as one of my ex-girlfriends, then as a teacher, then as some guy across the globe, etc. I don’t know if that is what I am describing here, but the potential is there. The only difference is that in what I am describing “life” is an illusion, and is just what your consciousness is experiencing in that moment, but it is temporary and constantly changing.

This also reminds me of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  This book was quite an interesting read. It blew my mind! I read it a few months ago and briefly, it is an instruction manual for Buddhists who wish to be freed from reincarnation, or to help with the transition to their next life. They wish to get off the cyclical treadmill and stop this whole birth-death-rebirth cycle. The key part in doing this is exactly like one technique to initiate lucid dreaming called Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD).  In WILD, while one is lying down ready for sleep, one should project in their mind what they wish to dream about, and try to think about it/experience it. The person should be aware that they are trying to fall asleep, and hopefully as they fall asleep, their waking consciousness will continue seamlessly into their dreams, and they will remain “awake” while fully asleep. Perhaps it would be better to say remain “self-aware” while fully asleep. The result is the ability to recognize that you are asleep, as your body sleeps but your mind and consciousness flowed perfectly from waking state to sleep, so that your consciousness remained unchanged.

In the Tibetan book of the dead, followers of this technique practice many different things and constantly work towards this goal, all throughout their life and especially towards the end of ones life. Note: the book also lists an immensely large number of signs to tell when ones current life is coming to an end, it is quite fascinating. The idea is that it is of the highest importance to have a specific desire and mindset, a specific state of consciousness the moment that death comes, as whatever your mind/soul/being is conscious of in that moment, it will continue on afterwards. Just as one who is trying to lucid dream through WILD will become successful if at the moment of falling asleep if they are successful in maintaining the thought and focus on what it is they wish to dream of, thereby continuing the mere thought to a dream, one that can be controlled, the same is true for Tibetan Buddhists at the moment of death. Whatever the thought or subject/object of consciousness is of at the moment of death, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, that is what will follow in death in the next life.

I have been working on this thought for a few days now, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought of this earlier! I am so glad to have been exposed to the Tibetan Book of the Dead!

When I think of what consciousness is, and of our experience of consciousness, what I see consciousness as is one of those slide show cameras.



And all of what we “experience” are just the different slides presented to us, presented to our consciousness, as we are nothing but consciousness. So, in one slide you have your entire life, as it is playing out right now, in the next slide is the experience of a dream, in another slide is the experience of deep sleep, that is to say, of nothingness – but it is still an experience, the experience of nothingness, and then another slide for the following day of this waking life existence. To be, to exist, is to be conscious of whatever is presented to your consciousness. It comes to you, as if one of these slide show cameras is fixed to your eyes, and you are subjected to whatever the contents of the slide show is. Today I am forced to “see” myself write this blog post, tonight I will be forced to “see” whatever comes to me in sleep – perhaps a dream, perhaps nothingness, and if I were to lose all of my sensory perceptions, I would still be subjected to “see”, to experience and be conscious of whatever comes next on that slide show. In “death”, the slide show continues, as death would simply be the finality of the slide show that my consciousness identifies as “my life”. This is difficult, of course. Like a great book or movie that we don’t want to end because we find so much pleasure in, and have grown attached to, we don’t want our life to end. Like the book, we have identified with it. The ego knows itself through this life, and is attached to it. It is uncomfortable to think what the next slide holds for our consciousness, as we have been reading this book, watching this slide, conscious of this slide, of this life, for what we perceive as being so long. But our consciousness isn’t limited to this slide, to this book, to this one experience that we call “our life”. It continues, and in fact never ends. Consciousness will always be, and always has been.

This is something that I think to be true. I have questions though that still need answering. Using the slide show camera analogy, our experience would be the contents of the slides, and our consciousness would be the aperture through which we experience the existence (see the slides). My questions would be what moves the slides, is there control or reason to it? What is the nature of the slides? What is the nature of the camera? What is the nature of that interaction? Why is there a camera and slide show rather than nothing? Can there ever not be a camera? Is the slide show infinite? Is it cyclical?

This sort of metaphysics doesn’t mesh well with metaphysics of Abrahamic religions, at least not how they are popularly interpreted. This sort of metaphysics doesn’t mesh at all with a purely materialistic view that science holds. This sort of metaphysics is definitely congruent with Hinduism and other Eastern philosophies, but I am not quick to adopt those systems of metaphysics without careful examination. As Schopenhauer thought, one needs conviction based on reason not faith based on revelation. For now, I will continue to think and read. But this thought that came to me, from the first time lines of a book, I must say, has changed my perception of what it is to be.

Gazelles and iphones

You would never see a gazelle with an iphone.

It is true, you simply wouldn’t. Assuming that wild animals could use forms of distraction and entertainment such as ‘phones’, google glass, music on your headphones, and others that I can’t think of right now, they couldn’t nor wouldn’t.

What I mean by this is, the laws of nature wouldn’t allow for it. If an animal in the wild such as a gazelle, a rabbit, a mouse, a bird were to move through their environment, living their lives with a phone extended from their hands, walking without a sense of presence, that animal would surely not survive as long as other wild animals. By removing itself from its environment, at least consciously, it is hindered in its ability to to perceive any threats or dangers, and thus would most likely survive, on the average, less so than a wild animal without the entertainment of a phone.

It does not need to be a phone, but rather entertainment in general. If a rabbit were to graze in a field while listening to music, unable to hear what is going on in the world around it, it too will do so unsustainably, as surely it will meet its end sooner than a rabbit without music separating it from its environment.

Ok. So what is my point? Obviously this will never happen. I am just talking about something that has no meaning or application. But we are wild animals. We are wild animals that live in the world as much as any other living organism does on this planet. Yet we crave entertainment. Before it was kings that were to be entertained by court jesters, but today we have 600 channels of court jesters in our living rooms, and an internets worth (that is, almost unlimited) of court jesters in our phones. We are well beyond the ability and means of being over stimulated and over entertained.

Wild animals like gazelles exist and exist in the world, in the same way that we do. Wild animals don’t have phones though, but if they did, they would surely suffer from a shorter lifespan and thus to their detriment.

So I have to ask some questions now. Are we at greater risk to our safety with the usage of entertainment and devices such as smart phones? Are we somehow removed from the dangers of the world, so entertainment makes us less susceptible? Are we subjected to the same dangers as wild animals, or are we subjected to dangers of different qualities?

I think that at least for myself, a 29 year old man born in the Western world, living in a modern city, surrounded by concrete rather than other settings we would consider “nature”, I have less imminent or apparent threats than a gazelle in africa does. I don’t have to worry about wild animals coming out from every corner and trying to eat me. I do, though, have to worry about paying my mortgage, having money for and having the ability to purchase food, and these kinds of less natural things. One form of existence involves being a prey and is quite in the moment, imminent and apparent. It is quite physical and thus perceivable with the senses. The other form of existence involves the ability to belong and function in a system that isn’t as imminent or straight forward as a cheetah lunging at you. A cheetah lunging at you is obvious, the nature of this observation is known immediately, it is apparent and stares at you in the moment. Getting up in the morning and doing a function for over eight hours is less obvious and apparent. It involves knowledge of a system of function whereby one understands the rewards to come later, often every two weeks. These rewards then can be used to ward off undesired things such as homelessness, hunger, thirst.

I say this is less obvious, less apparent, and less imminent, as a wild animal outside of such a setting would acquire food when hungry, would find water when thirsty, and would fight for survival when in the presence of a predator, whereas for someone like me, my version of acquiring food when hungry is to acquire money in exchange for a service or good, bring that money to a physical location where food is exchanged for money, perform the exchange, then eat it. Rather than fighting for survival from predators, one’s major threat is to maintain a job or form of wealth that sustains the economies of their existence.

So, clearly the dangers are different, as well as the system in which dangers are presented to us. No longer will a crocodile or cheetah or lion be attacking us. This is an immediate, imminent and obvious sign of danger to our existence. If they are not as obvious, immediate and imminent to our existence, then that means that the dangers that we face to our existence must inherently be more difficult to discern and to become aware and conscious of, as compared to those of a wild animal.

To become aware of less obvious signs of dangers, one must be more aware of the forms of danger, in how they are presented to us in the world, and thus require more and greater knowledge.

In a way of living based on economies, one might not see a cheetah attempt to lunge at you, but one might see something such as signs of an oncoming recession in the stock market, or a rising cost of living, or reduced services that one is reliant on, or the rising cost of energies, or the troubles with obtaining clean water. None of these are obvious, none of these are apparent, none of these are imminent. They are not staring you in the face, as they happen for the most part separated from you. They happen elsewhere. They are only read about or heard about through other means; the newspaper, the tv, the internet, someone else having a discussion. This doesn’t happen in the animal world. There is no medium connecting the gazelle to the cheetah, that informs the gazelle of the attack. It simply happens, and is imminent and present and apparent. Like a gazelle that is in the moment, perceiving the cheetah’s oncoming imminent attack, an investor will pull his investments when signs of danger are coming, and relocate them to signs of less danger. One is imminent and apparent, the other requires knowledge, almost specialized knowledge as it has lost all of its apparentness, its immediacy, its obviousness.

So what are the implications for ourselves, for people like myself, who are not gazelles? Well, that means that dangers are becoming more subversive and harder to see. It requires more attention, more perception, more intelligence, more knowledge. As the dangers become more and more abstract and less obvious, natural selection will truly force humans that wish to become successful to become more intelligent, more perceptive, more knowledgeable, at least, statistically speaking (on the average).

So where do distractions come into play? What does the iphone and entertainment have to do with this?

For myself, I have the sense that our world, or rather the world that I am exposed to living in, in a city in Canada, is increasing the amount of, the duration of and the prevalence of entertainment. I have the sense that the trend that we are experiencing of increased quantity, duration and prevalence of entertainment has conditioned us to expect entertainment more often, to seek it more often for enjoyment, as it increasingly becomes an increasingly popular form of enjoyment and happiness. Essentially, it normalizes entertainment, and its place in our lives in such a way that it is increasingly sought after.

Inherent in entertainment is a detachment from the world, from your surroundings. Inherent in it is the opposite of education, of knowledge, or perception and awareness. We know this, as these are the reasons why the gazelle would not survive long if it was watching (read: fixated on) tv for hours, or if it was playing on its iphone for hours, or grazing in the fields or drinking from the watering hole with headphones on and listening to music. Let’s not even imagine if it was experiencing ‘augmented reality’ (as if reality could even be “augmented”) via google glass.

So, we have a way of living in the world that requires more attention, more knowledge and a higher ability to perceive, but we are increasing in our lives something: entertainment, which has the exact opposite affect. It decreases the amount of attention, knowledge we have, as well as the ability to perceive our world and surroundings.

The dangers that are manifested in the type of world that we are currently living, that is, one removed from nature, are harder and harder to see. They are less apparent. This requires more attention, not less.

I am not saying that entertainment is bad, in itself. Even animals in the wild play games. Entertainment is necessary, it is great, it is important. But a life dedicated to being entertained has its own dangers, especially in the context of an unnatural lifestyle.

So what are the dangers of living in a world that requires more analysis, a higher degree of perception and more knowledge in order to discern the subtleties of danger, all the while living in a manner where we are performing less analysis, being less perceptive and acquiring less knowledge due to our increased obsession with entertainment?





Austerity and abundance

I was playing with my dog on the couch after a nice walk tonight. I decided to get up and walk to the kitchen to have something to eat before bed. I noticed there were dishes lying around so I decided to put them away. While I was doing this I started to think. I started to think about the $15 I had spent a couple of weeks back buying several t-shirts for my upcoming trip. I just got some completely plain t-shirts and a pretty awesome water proof wind breaker kinda jacket. $15! I then started to think about something that I often think about, going to work full-time at a job and making a salary above the poverty line. I didn’t think that it was necessarily something that I am planning to do in the near or foreseeable future, but still something came to me. I realized that I really enjoyed and had a healthy relationship with self-austerity. For so many reasons. And I thought how much more appreciated, then, I would be if I were to work full-time and collect a respectable salary.

It then came to me that having both times of less and times of more are quite important, perhaps even necessary in order to live a more enriching and appreciative experience.

I have never lived in a situation where running water or electricity has been impossible for an extended period of time to actually threaten or even discomfort my life. I will never truly know how lucky I am for these comforts, no matter how many times I think of what it would be like to live without them, and no matter how many stories I hear or books I read about others who don’t have these luxuries, I still will never know what it is to experience having to live without those things. I can only attempt to imagine what that experience would be like, and feel the sense of thankfulness that I feel. But I can’t help but feel that if I had lived through some sort of experience where I lacked these things, running water and electricity, whether for half my life, or perhaps a year, that I would be even more appreciative of what I had now, and that my level of enjoyment and appreciation would be even higher, and thus a more enjoyable experience would be had.

So I think that it is a key thing, throughout our existence, to experience without and with, in order to properly appreciate both. If one always gets everything they want, the act of getting what you want will itself, ultimately, diminish in enjoyment and value, thus leading to a lowered quality of life. It is for this reason that it is important experience the hardship of doing and being without, whatever that ‘with’ may be. It will surely increase your appreciation of what it is that you have.

This reminded me of ‘the middle path’. This Buddhist idea put forward by Siddhartha Gautama is somewhat related to this. I don’t see why I haven’t seen it before and made the connection. Something just struck me this time to think of it in this way. But it isn’t so much about taking a middle path, as it is taking different paths.

It is important to have differences in qualities, good, bad, easy, difficult, happy, sad, abundance and lacking. To only want positive qualities in your life would be missing the point, as eventually they would become meaningless and de-valued. In order to get a complete picture of life we need to experience it all. The good is only good in respect to the not so good. So with this, I am glad and appreciate all the not so good things that happen in life. It is these moments and experiences that create the good ones. A mouth left with a bitter taste will surely perceive sweetness much more pronounced than one left with a sweet taste. It is in the differences, the differential and the change that perceptions are more pronounced.