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.

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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.

Subjectivity and Objectivity

I came under the feeling that objectivity does not exist, that only subjectivity exists. I have been thinking about this for quite some time, but just this morning while walking my dog did I really look at this idea a bit closer.

My basic thought was that even when we try to be objective we can’t possibly eliminate previous thoughts, feelings, emotions, associations, no matter how hard we try. In the process of having to remove these from our consciousness, in order to be objective, it still shows that these subjective thoughts come to mind, and thus even after sending them away and disregarding them in the sake of being objective, you are still conscious of them.

I first started thinking this when I had the idea of how prosecutions and the legal system should work. I remember arguing that to be a juror should be a career in itself, but that is not relevant. 

We want to be objective in certain instances and scenarios. It is something that, at times, is more valued than subjectivity. But is objectivity possible? First, we should ask what the differences between the two are.

Subjectivity is clearly a personal and inward reflecting looking at a thing. It is how “I” perceive the thing. It is how I personally relate to it. It is my relationship to the thing of interest. Whether I enjoy something or not is subject to my associations with it, how I feel about it, past experiences with that something, and with other things that produce similar experiences and feelings. If I go up high in the air and experience an uneasiness with how high that I am above the ground, this is produced due to my associations with my comfort level and my concepts of what it means to experience uneasiness. I only know uneasiness in relation to past experiences of being at ease, or even comfortable.

To be objective is to remove the self, and all sense of self and the associations that come with being a self, to that particular thing of interest. To objectively consider something, or experience something is to remove any and all associations that one might have. But how possible is this?

Can I objectively look at a tree? It isn’t so easy. To look at a tree and perceive it as a tree is not quite objective. In order to do so I would have to call on previous associations that I, myself, my being, have previously made in terms of what is and what is not a tree. To call it a tree is also to say that it isn’t a car, it isn’t the earth, it isn’t the sky, it isn’t me. By perceiving the tree and acknowledging that it is a tree is to associate my previous knowledge, my previous systems of understanding the world around me, as they relate to myself, and apply it to that tree. The mere fact that I recognize an object as a tree is subjective. To know something in a purely objective sense is to be lost in the object, free of any associations and perceptions outside the object – the object just is, and is meaningless to the observer.

In order to objectively experience something, in the purest sense, one must not be aware of the self. One must remove layer upon layer of associations, labels, systems and as the yoga sutras put it, subliminal activators from consciousness. To objectively experience something, the experience itself will come in the form of all knowledge and associations melting away, such that all that remains is the moment, the things that just are. In that moment will just be the object, and it will be indistinguishable from anything else, its surroundings and the self included. Essentially, in order to be objective, everything must coalesce and unite into a singularity, such that the “object” of interest can not be discerned from anything else, such that the “object” of interest becomes everything else, such that the “self” melts away, and there is no difference between “self” and “object” – everything just is. 

This is exactly what the yoga sutras are speaking of, and they speak that to truly know the object, this is the means to do it. It is the purest form of truth, as any other association one applies to the object is simply a subjective association, and thus not pure truth.

So objectivity truly does exist, but I must say that it is extremely difficult and uncommon to achieve. Like when saying the word relish over and over and over so that it loses all meaning and no associations exist, albeit momentarily, it is only then that ‘relish’ is seen objectively, and even then not quite so.

So objectivity does exist, but we definitely do not experience it in a day to day way. We fool ourselves when we think that we are able to remove self from the equation. To remove self is to genuinely lose awareness of self, and such a thing is not commonly practiced for most of us.

News of the week: September 6, 2013 (Syria part two)

Calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war
Why it matters?

This article shows tweets and statements by dozens of members of congress in the US that reveal that next to nobody is in support of the war and intervention in Syria.

Rand Paul tells John Kerry in person this exact same thing. He also corrects Kerry by saying that in no uncertain terms that when one country bombs another is that not an act of war, while Kerry tries to spin the dialogue and change the meaning of war to ‘boots on the ground’.

It is well worth the watch.

I think that it is great that people are contacting their congressmen and letting them know how they feel, as congress will be deciding on whether or not to give approval to the Obama administration to attack Syria.  Though, this is just a ‘theatre’ as Rand Paul puts it in the video above, as Kerry is adamant on attacking Syria with or without congress’s approval. Rand feels that congress has become just a show.

Putin Sets Uncompromising Tone Ahead of G-20 Summit

Why it matters?

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been quite vocal about not rushing into any military action in Syria by outside countries. He has been the leading ‘cool head’ in an environment of heated rhetoric and dialogue for action. He has consistently asked for evidence to back up the allegations the US has made against Assad of using chemical weapons in the civil war. Putin has also publicly stated that he would move for military intervention IF evidence actually does surface painting Assad as the culprit of the chemical attacks.

Putin, in this article, is calling out Kerry and the Obama administration. From the article:

“he accused the Obama Administration of lying to Congress, and said U.S. lawmakers were being suckered into approving a military strike against Syria. “We talk with these people. We assume that they are decent. But he lies,” Putin said of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “And he knows that he lies. That’s pathetic.”

 

Of course, in the west, Putin is being presented as being purposely irrational and incompatible to the USA’s efforts. This can be seen here:

 

U.S. gives up on U.N. Security Council in Syria crisis, blames Russia

Look at the very first statement made below the title of the article.

The United States declared on Thursday that it has given up trying to work with the U.N. Security Council on Syria, accusing Russia of holding the council hostage and allowing Moscow’s allies in Syria to deploy poison gas against innocent children.

Allowing Syria (Russia’s allies) to deploy poison gas against innocent children. Russia allowed Syria to deploy poison gas against innocent children. Russia, Syria, poison gas, innocent children.

You have to love the rhetoric.

The dialogue being presented is that the parties responsible for the chemical weapons attack are a forgone conclusion, according to the US. There is no longer any debate or dialogue in the media about whether there is evidence of chemical weapons use, or about evidence of who is guilty of that use. While there has been no evidence put forward, and the UN teams dispatched to Syria to determine IF a chemical weapons attack has even occurred or not still remains to produce any conclusive results. The usage of chemical weapons has not even been determined yet, let alone evidence of the parties responsible for them. Though that isn’t true, as there have been reports that the Syrian rebels (Al qaeda) have claimed responsibility for those attacks. But this is not presented in the mainstream media. Instead we get high quality journalism such as this from NBC:

 

The Big Chill: A dominant Obama meets a cool Putin at G20

Why it matters?

Read the article, or at least try it. This is what is being passed off as news these days from mainstream media outlets. The article has “body language specialists” to discuss how Obama “dominated” Putin with a firm handshake and with the way he buttoned or didn’t button his suit.

Does this seem like a news agency that respects their readers? I feel like you have to be a complete imbecile to read this and to take anything from it. The content is flaccid and weak.

But what can you expect from NBC news? While Reuters and other news agencies post articles  that show how only 9% of Americans approve of military intervention (war) in Syria, we have NBC posting articles like this and news ‘stories’ that approval rating is at 50%. Why can  this be expected?

NBC is owned by GE, General Electric. General Electric is one of the largest corporations in the world, and like most of the largest corporations in the world, they are in the business of war and war contracts.

in 2004 they were the 14th largest “Defense” contractors in the world at contracts worth just under 2 trillion dollars, found here. A break down of their contracts can be found here. Is it comforting to know that the news being brought to you concerning a developing war is coming from the same people who make trillions of dollars from war? Would it be in their best interest to be pro-war, or anti-war? Having a host of news agencies and forms of news media at their disposal, would it be in their best interest to provide “news stories” that were pro-war, or anti-war? One way of perceiving this is that you have a news company that has a separate branch of the company that deals with war. Another way of perceiving this is that you have a highly successful war contract company that also has an outlet to give the general public ‘news’. How do you perceive it? Which one appears more comforting to you?

 

Russia gave UN 100-page report in July blaming Syrian rebels for Aleppo sarin attack

Why it matters?

Since the late August ‘chemical weapons attack’ fiasco that has been in the media, there have been three other chemical weapons attacks that Assad has requested the UN to investigate. Besides that, there have been previous chemical weapons attacks before, and these chemical weapons attacks have been responsible by the Syrian rebels (Al Qaeda terrorists). Both the UN and Syria have previously provided evidence of and accused the rebels of this previous chemical weapons attack, but this seems to fall on the deaf ears of the US and their allies. Now Russia has come forward with this report also blaming the Syrian rebels (Al Qaeda terrorists) for the chemical weapons attack.  I wonder if it will affect anything?

 

Questions

I have some questions I would like to stop and ask, and maybe we can all think about these questions and possible answers together.

I have to wonder why no attention is being paid to all the other chemical weapons attacks done in Syria?

Why was there no “red line” being crossed when the rebels used chemical weapons?

Why is there such a fast rush to go to war, to “punish” Assad, without any conclusive evidence?

The US states they have no desire for ‘regime change’ for Assad, they don’t mean to kill or remove him, so how will bombing his country “punish him”?

How will bombing people other than him punish him? How will killing more innocent people “punish” him? Are we to assume that these bombings of punishment will be so strategic (because the US is known for their accuracy, as evidenced by their 2% success rate with their drone attacks, leaving 98% of those dead from drone strikes to be innocent civilians) that there will not be any innocent casualties?

How does punishing someone for allegedly killing innocent people by dropping bombs on them and killing more innocent people form any semblance of sense?

Why would Assad use chemical weapons in a war he was easily winning? In the last 2.5 years, there have been over 100,000 casualties of war. 100,000 – just think of that, and now, why would Assad use chemical weapons to kill 400-500 people? The number of deaths being put forward by the UK, Syria, the UN, and Germany are in the 300-500 range, but the US media, who have no presence in Syria whatsoever, are claiming it is over 1,200 deaths. How can they say this? With what authority?

The Obama administration is making a pathetic appeal to emotion with rhetoric filled of words like injustice, morality, innocent children, and the breaking of international law which cannot go unpunished. The Obama administration feels it is their duty do hand out these punishments, and will do so whether congress approves, and now, will go it alone without the UN’s security council approval. The US seeks to punish one country for allegedly breaking international law but seeks to hand out that punishment by themselves breaking domestic and international law. The US demands the world respect international laws, but they themselves have no desire or need to follow them themselves.

When any other country breaks international laws the global community reacts by invoking sanctions on them, will there be a time when sanctions are put on the US for their disinterest in following global rules of conduct?
The UK and France have made statements that they will not follow the US into this war, thought at first they said they would. What does it say when the US’ allies in this war are Israel, a country that loves to attack any and all neighboring countries, especially in disproportionate terms, Saudi Arabia, a country that funds and cultivates terrorists, the same terrorists that allegedly have brought so much turmoil to the US people, and the Syrian rebels, who have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, who are Saudi backed and US armed terrorists, who decapitate innocent Syrian civilians, who are cannibals that eat the flesh and hearts of people they kill, who are pillaging the country and killing innocent Christians, targeting them and destroying protected UNESCO world heritage sites (found here in this cbc news article), who are performing executions, which are also against the Geneva regulations that the Obama administration are so strongly trying to enforce. These executions were done on camera, and available for all to see.These terrorists that the US has sided with are proud of these actions, and want the world to know, so they provide their doings online for all to see. These are the US allies in this shit show, what does that say to you?
We have US generals providing statements against Syrian intervention. One that brought up something quite powerful. He said that we will have soldiers who will be deployed from Afghanistan, from fighting against Al Qaeda, to being deployed directly to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda. The visual is strong, and it is completely void of any reasoning, is it not?

 

Zbiigniew Brzezinski, served as US National Security Advisor to Pres. Jimmy Carter, participated in the formation of the Trilateral Commission, a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and a chief foreign policy advisor to Obama and a former Political Science professor of Obama, said this in a book from 1972:

“Shortly, the public will be unable to reason or think for themselves. They’ll only be able to parrot the information they’ve been given on the previous night’s news.”

 

 

What do you think?

 

News of the week: Late August

How your brain could control my body over the Internet

Why it matters?

I have written several times on the dangers of current research being carried out that aims to fuse technology with mind, and mind with mind. Feel free to read previous posts here, here and here.

This article states that researchers at the University of Washington have carried out the first experiment where one human, using thought alone, is able to control the physical body of another separate human being. This done through the aid of technology and over the internet.

The experiment is simple enough. Person A has electrodes on his head that measure his brain activity. He has a monitor in front of him that shows a video game that Person B is “playing”, in a separate room. Person B has a special magnetic device placed over a specific region of his brain. He also has the monitor in front of him that is showing a simple video game. He has his hand on a keyboard which controls the video game, but he is not actively playing the game. What happens is Person A thinks about moving his arm to play the game, and this thought is recorded by the electrodes over his brain and carried over the internet to the device that stimulates Person B’s brain. This stimulation forces the body of Person B to submit and to press down on the video game controls.

Person B said that it felt like “a nervous tic”.

This matters to me because it is so obviously wrong and dangerous. At first glance we might think this is no big deal, but technology does not go away. Technology does not not progress. Technology does not stand still. Technology always continues forward. This technology, this field of research, is focused purely on the loss of sovereignty of ones own mind and body. This researcher, Person B, had no choice in the matter but to physically move his hand. No sovereignty. What will be the next steps of this technology? What will it be used for? Who will be using it? Do you trust any person on this planet to have a technology that could control your brain, your mind, your body? Today this technology requires the subject to wear a special hat with technology attached, but what about the future of this technology? What will happen when the technology will become wireless?

Science is completely amoral. Scientists see something that is neat, or cool or ask a question, and they don’t care if the answer, or the pursuit of the answer, or the repercussions of the answer are good or bad, are ethical or not. They operate outside of morality. They claim that they are just doing research, and that it is not their responsibility what is done with the findings of that research. There is a responsibility that comes with power, and knowledge is truly, without a doubt, power. Scientists, and anyone who asks questions and seeks answers then must always have a responsibility.

This, in my opinion, is purely irresponsible.

Knowledge such as this can never be unknown. The findings from this research can never be forgotten or undone.

There will come a day, sooner than I actually thought, when sovereignty, true sovereignty of self, of the ability to think your own thoughts, to control your own mind, to control your own  body, will become a very real issue and concern.

 

Analysis: NSA revelations undermine government’s assurances of privacy

Why it matters?

This article was fairly well done. I am quite surprised as it is a cnn article and yet they are quite critical of the US government, highlighting what has came from the NSA leaks that Snowden has produced.

It is worth a read, as it goes over, step by step, in chronological order, how the US government has continually lied, then been exposed, lied, then exposed, repeatedly, over what they do or don’t do with the NSA Prism data collection surveillance scandal.

 

DoD training manual suggests Founding Fathers followed ‘extremist ideology’

Why it matters?

I suggest you just read the article. I will post a few quotes from the article, which are quotes taken from the department of defence training manual itself:

“The first paragraph of the section entitled ‘Extremist Ideologies’ opens with a statement that has drawn heated criticism: “In US history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.””

 

““Nowadays,” the manual continues, “instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.””

 

““The US Congress passed a bill (on Jan. 1, 2012, known as the National Defense Authorization Act) that repeals Posse Comitatus, which means that we have now institutionalized and codified martial law,” Congressman Ron Paul told a group of supporters in June 2012, as reported by Live Leaks. “Right now the battle against terrorism involves all of us. Everybody in this country is a potential terrorist.

If you happen to visit a website, or attend a meeting that contains a particular viewpoint…you can be accused of being a terrorist and the bill says you have no right to a lawyer,” Paul added.”

 

What can I say about this issue. Extremists are being associated with people who speak of liberty, rights and making a world a better place.

 

Worldwide detox: Japan to run internet ‘fasting’ camps for addicted teens

Why it matters?

I think it is great that there are efforts being put in place to get kids, or anyone for that matter, less dependent on the internet. I want that for myself as well. It is a step in the right direction, as it demonstrates there are people out there that recognize that we are becoming too integrated and consumed with an online presence.

 

Japanese agency labels radioactive leak ‘serious’

Why it matters?

With literally hundreds of tons of extremely dangerous radioactive water leaking into the ocean every single day Fukushima isn’t a Japanese problem, it is a world problem. This is an issue that the world should collectively be dealing with.

It’s just business

It’s just business

It’s just business – has anyone ever said that to you? Have you ever said that to someone else? What does it mean? What is the intention of making that statement?

When I think about that statement, and the context that that statement is made, what comes to mind is the relationship between emotion and “business”. One should not get emotional as it is “just business”. One should not get upset or angry or offended as it is “just business”. Nobody says “it’s just business” after making lots of money. Nobody says “it’s just business” when both parties involved in the business are happy or comfortable, rather this statement is meant not as a form of consolation, but as a way of attempting to change someone’s perspective and frame of reference when dealing with “business”.

This “it’s just business” implies a call to leave emotion out of “it”. Leave emotion behind, this is just business. A separation of emotion from business is what is being asked of, what is being demanded of. But emotion is an integral part of being human. We can see this, sadly, as those devoid of emotion (ie. Psychopaths) are not as highly regarded as someone who display and feel emotion. Why else would being a psychopath be considered a disorder? Why else would we have a word for psychopath, rather than having a word for people who feel emotion? If not feeling emotion was the ‘normal’ state, then those that felt emotion would be considered outliers and they would be the ones with the disorder, with the title to categorize them and distinguish them from the norm, from those without emotion.

We value emotion. It might not be the sole thing that makes us human, but it surely completes our humanity. Without emotion a human suffers a disorder, and we as a society look to help them. Whether we find it politically correct or not to say so, we do not feel completely comfortable or at ease with the idea of psychopaths, with those that do not experience emotion. It is unnatural for a human.

Yet this is what “it’s just business” demands of us. This concept, this frame of reference, this ideology of how to conduct oneself in the world wishes to separate our valued nature, our emotions, from our doings (business).  “It’s just business” demands of us to become pyschopaths when doing business. If emotions complete us as humans and are something we value as part of human nature, then what does it mean that this “it’s just business” seeks to separate our human nature, the human aspect, and humanity itself, from business?

Does business, under this paradigm, create environments that seek to grow and foster psychopath behaviour?

I am reminded of people in my life who I won’t name, who work for a small business. The number of employees can be counted on two hands. One of the employees of this business, someone who is almost as integral as the owner themselves, asked to have a day off as this persons partner lost their father and wanted to be with their partner to console them and be there for them. This person wanted to fulfill their primary role in life, that is, to be a good human, not to accumulate money. To help restore quality in that person’s life. The business owner wouldn’t allow it. I wondered to myself why this was. To provide more information and paint a more accurate and fuller picture for this story, this person’s presence was not necessary and the store would function perfectly well without their presence for a single day.  It was simply a matter of putting business first over humanity.

But is it not our human responsibilities first and foremost that are important, only then followed by the responsibilities due to the roles that we play?

I thought about the relationship that this small business owner has to the employees. This business owner lives quite comfortable, and deservedly so. I am sure this business owner works and has worked incredibly hard and deserves all that they have received. But, this success, or rather measure of success (income, $) is completely dependent on those employees that can be counted on with just two hands. Those employees are the ones that acquire the income, the success, that the business owner gets to enjoy. Those employees create the lifestyle and career that the business owner is able to enjoy. They are all necessary and complete each other. They form an integral function in the business owners lifestyle. Without the business owner there would be no jobs, and without the employees there would be no business. They are all co-dependent and all function to each others benefit. These employees function to create, for the business owner, the business, income and life that is desired and enjoyed. How could the business owner not owe everything they have to these employees? How could someone who owes everything to those employees not show humanity to them?

It’s just business.

Of course, that is one specific single example, and there are countless number of examples when business owners are great, and also when that specific business owner is great as well.

It’s just business.

I thought some more about the relationship employees have with employers, with customers. It is this completely interconnected web of dependence. Each node is either an employee, an employer, a customer (who is themselves employees/employers). Each node is connected to other nodes in this web of interconnectivity.

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The web works because of the connections, and so each connection, each node, each person, in that web completes the other connections, completes the other nodes, completes the other person. It is quite an amazing thing when you think about it! But do we take this frame of reference and adopt this paradigm when we look at business? No, we repeat the mantra that it is just business.

This led me to think of my constant trips to the grocery store, to loblaws for example. I am guilty of being a snob. It is horrible, but I think it is something worth sharing. I became aware of this in the last couple of months, and it really hit me the last time I was getting groceries. I was walking through the produce section while a loblaws employee was watering some vegetables, putting new produce on the shelves, etc. I remember looking at him and thinking that he didn’t look happy. I didn’t think he enjoyed his job. I thought that he probably doesn’t get much respect, and he probably doesn’t view his job as that important, and that he probably doesn’t get much fulfillment out of his job, and that he probably doesn’t get much satisfaction from his job and I could see it in the way he worked.

Maybe other days he is much more joyful and happy, maybe today he was just sad or upset or down or super focussed and I was misinterpreting his demeanour. Maybe. It is possible. In that analysis, I couldn’t help but think that maybe it wasn’t a good job to have. Maybe the guy didn’t have a good education, maybe this was the best job he could get.

That was me being a judging snob.

But then I quickly realized that this guy’s job is so incredibly important, and I wondered if he really knew how important it was. It was important to me, and to anyone else that buys fresh produce from that loblaws. Can you imagine what your food would be like if it wasn’t constantly sprayed with water at the grocery store? If it wasn’t constantly shuffled around so that the freshest produce was at the front, and the rotten food taken away? Could you imagine if the food was just shipped in boxes and crates and left out in the store for customers to go through themselves? The food quality would go down, and much more would be wasted, thus driving up food prices. This person’s job is incredibly critical and valued, but why didn’t I see that before? Why doesn’t this employee carry himself with the pride that doing a completely essential role would bring? Does he know how important his job is, his function is? I wondered why it wasn’t the case as it is at farmers markets where we go and make small talk and ask questions to the various vendors that are providing us with food, why I don’t do that with this guy at loblaws. No, he doesn’t farm the food and bring it to me, but he is functioning as the guardian of the food that I will buy once it arrives in the store. Surely that is an essential and valued role.

Sometimes I catch myself idealizing other times. I can imagine a time, whether it is the past, the future or perhaps the present of another place, where people come into their grocery shops and know the employees that handle and care for their produce by name, they joke with them and ask them on updates on how they are doing, what is freshest this week, what is coming soon, etc. I wonder why I don’t function like that, and why I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing anyone function like that, at least outside of a farmers market.

Is it a function of how the employee carries himself? Is it a function of my own social interactions? Is it a function of how I view and value other people? Is it a function of how we perceive hierarchies of values in people, jobs, services?

I don’t aspire to be the person that cleans and maintains produce at loblaws. But why is that? Is it not a valuable and critical job? Is there a reason to look down on something that you yourself value and view as essential?

I think that it might be related to hierarchy. We have, somewhere, a hierarchy of things that we value. The top are things like doctors, lawyers, scientists, athletes, political leaders, and so on. Down the hierarchy we go we come to other things, maybe police officers, maybe actors and celebrities (though I would say that today that is most likely higher than lawyers and scientists). I would say that probably lower down the pyramid of hierarchy occupations that are less valued would be farmers, construction workers, trades people, and the people that provide for us our day to day things such as the newspaper, the coffee you drink at starbucks, the gas delivery truck drivers for the gas you drive, the miners for the resources you use in your car, phones, house, the cable guy who provides a working tv for you to relax in front of.

This reminds me of the original ideology behind the caste system in Hinduism. It is the exact same as described in Plato’s Republic, in which Socrates is describing a perfect city. In each case, each person is doing their role that they are best suited for. As originally viewed in the caste system, there were no higher or lower associations in terms of importance. Each person was doing their role, their dharma, their function, and it was of complete and equal importance to every other person that was doing their role, their function. If tomorrow you took out doctors from the equation, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out plumbers, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out the police officers, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out the bus drives and cab drives, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out the farmers, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out the guy that shipped the food, the society would suffer. If tomorrow you took out the people that sold you the food you eat, the goods you use, the clothes you wear, the society would suffer. Each person is completely necessary, and each plays a role and a function that is meant to keep the whole thing going together.

There is a great value to be seen in each of those roles. A necessity even. But we don’t see it that way. There is this Hindu story that I will do my best to recount. It involves an argument between the head and the stomach. The head and the stomach are arguing over who is more important and valued. The head tells the stomach that it thinks that the head is more important and valued as it does all the thinking and see’s everything and even allows the food to enter the mouth for it to eventually make its way to the stomach. The stomach tells the head that it is more important as it functions to provide nutrition to the body and it does this by breaking down food. They kept arguing like this for a while, until one day the head thought that he had outsmarted the stomach and found a way to prove that the stomach was subservient to the head. The head decided to stop eating, to cut off the stomach from its function, to show the stomach that it wasn’t in control and not as important as the head. The end of the story, of course, ends with a dead body.

The story shows that everything is completely dependent and interconnected. To say that one thing is more important than another, and more valued, when they are both absolute necessities is absurd. If I need to eat food then I should value not just the food, but the farmer, the people the farmer employs and relies upon to harvest the food that I will eat, the truckers that deliver the food into the city, to the shops that I go to, the people working at the grocery store who take care of the food and maintain its quality, and so on. There isn’t a person there that doesn’t have value and that isn’t integral to the entire process.

But I don’t think, for the most part, we think like that. We have hierarchies, and we have values based on those hierarchies. Perhaps that is why the worker at loblaws seems to lack passion, satisfaction and pride in his job. He have dissociated value from the very things that we truly do value and rely upon. We have separated ourselves and our sense of worth from these people who are “just doing their jobs”.

Just. Just doing their jobs. Just business. Just- this word aims to degrade whatever word and concept that follows. It lowers its importance. This loblaws employee isn’t “just” spraying water on the vegetables, and isn’t “just” making sure the shelves are arranged from oldest to freshest foods, this loblaws employee is providing a valued service that is critical for me to eat healthy and nutritious food.

So what does this have to do with “it’s just business”? This is obviously a very heavy and loaded issue, but I can’t help but think that this “it’s just business” mantra, this “it’s just business” frame of mind and view of the world, is partly responsible. This person isn’t just doing business, isn’t just doing their job, this person is providing an invaluable service that those who eat produce reap the benefits from. And of course, it isn’t just him. It is the person that produces the goods you use, the people that ship them and sell them to you, the people that provide the services you use.

This “it’s just business” and it’s “just a job” or “just doing your job” is not a healthy paradigm to operate under. Imagine the inward emotions and inward evaluation someone has on themselves if they work at loblaws in the produce section and they themselves feel and are aware that their job is “just” a produce guy, that they aren’t as valued or important as another person with another function in society. It must affect their outlook not just on life but of their own sense of self. Their satisfaction is lower when they operate under a paradigm that “it’s just business” and it’s “just a job” at which they “just water vegetables”. How can someone feel satisfied under that frame of reference? Under that outlook? How can someone be expected to take pride in their work with that frame of reference? They have separated out the human value from their job under this paradigm, and from this separation they have removed their own sense of value and function. If you have two sets of people, one who sees value and function in their job, and the other set of people who while performing the exact same job, no matter what it is, sees less value and function in their job, what are the effects? Surely the ones who see their job with value and function will perform better, take more pride, make more of an effort, be a better contributor and experience a higher quality of life.

Perhaps this is a problem generations are experiencing today. This is simply a different way of looking at the “entitled” generation and problem they pose. The feeling of entitlement that one should work a high paying super amazing and valued job right away in life could very well be a direct consequence from adopting this paradigm that there exists a hierarchy of importance and valued jobs. This hierarchy is purely a construct and completely subjective. The whole truth is that every single function is necessary, and equally as necessary. The head is no more important than the stomach, they are both essential and should be valued as such. But we don’t value them equally. In the end, what you get is generations of people who don’t value integral and essential roles in society. They don’t value them and so refuse to function in playing those roles in society. They don’t value them and they don’t believe society values them, and so why would anyone perform a thankless and non-valued role?

People want to be valued, and people want to be experienced as a human. To not be valued is to say that you are not as good as. This is to take away from the human experience, from humanity, from being humane. To be valued less is to be less of a human (or is it a lie that no human life is more than another?). To be a lesser human, a lesser person. “It’s just business” seeks to separate our humanity, our emotion, from business. And in a world driven by the economy and the effort to maintain a functioning and growing economy, economy being the sum total of business, what we are actually subscribing to is a world driven to be less emotional, less empathetic, less sympathetic, less humane and less human.