This Is Water

The stars were dancing just for me“That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

 I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. 

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education. We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie) ~The Glossary

*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“Hope for the planet” by Kevin Dooley
“The stars were dancing just for me” by Carl Jones

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Complex States At Being

Emotions can be incredibly complex states of being/mind.

I just want to be happy by bravelittlebird on flickrPeople (particularly in this western culture) are afraid to experience emotion due to heavy amounts of socialization and conditioning, especially in school. You know, we’re taught to sit still, to be quiet, to “use our inside voices”, to line up, to avoid disorder and be orderly, to obey, to submit, to share. To share, but not to cooperate. There is a difference. Sharing does not necessarily imply or guarantee cooperation. In school, sharing is a behavioral technique; used as a means to control the behavior of a room full of pinging (that is, naturally rambunctious and curious-minded) short beings.

Let me tell you a story: a sad story about a little girl who cried.cry_baby_cry_by_Barbara_Pellizzon_flickr

To get to City Island one can walk across a 2,800 foot long truss bridge, which was exactly what I was doing when I spotted a brief exchange between a little girl and her father. The little girl’s father, pushing another child in a stroller, told the little girl to look around as well as look at all the fish visible in the River below. The little girl was throwing bread over the side of the bridge to the fish, and seemed very happy.

Later, having crossed the bridge, I was sat under a pavilion and saw the little girl and her family again as they were passing by. The little girl tripped over a rise in the structure of the sidewalk and fell very hard. So hard that I winced when I heard the sound. She immediately bawled, as I’m sure that hurt her terribly. Probably terrified at the pain, you know, she ran to her father for solace. . . and he admonished her. He yelled at her as he brushed the dirt from her clothes, “You gotta watch where you’re walking. You can’t be looking around while you’re walking!” He seemed actually angry with her that she tripped, an accident on her part, no intent to spoil his day whatsoever. She only cried harder asking then for her mommy. At this, her father really became angry and shouted, “That’s it! You’re going back to the car you can’t act right!”

Did you see the contradiction?

Just moments ago, on the bridge he was telling her to LOOK around, then minutes later punished her for doing exactly that. These are the kinds of happenings that disturb me in the world. What did that do to the mind of that little girl? How could she possible understand that kind of contradicting information from such a trusted and authoritative figure as her father? What was the impact upon her consciousness? What did she just unconsciously learn? How did that affect her ego? Her sense of self in the world she knows and how will that affect her sense of self in subsequent years?

Which brings me back to emotions and the horrors some humans have undergone. That suffering. What I think not many humans grok is that suffering can be soft, horror is not always large, it can be very subtle. . . like entropy, changing and developing small vibrations over time that then result in the current personality/identity of that child in the form of an adult.

The_Girl_Who_Cried_Wolf_by_GaelForcePhotography_flickrWhat happened to that little girl is a subtle terror, an event that will accompany who knows how many more and will shape her as a human being. It’s systematic, to get children all to sit still or to behave as one being so it could be easier (or more efficient) for the teacher to educate them. A good idea, sure, but in actuality what happens is that the children become standardized. The spark, the inspiration for creativity and innovation and imagination breaks down because the channels created have no room for them, no means to categorize something as unpredictable as a room full of children all having ideas simultaneously.

This is one way that fear of emotion is installed in the collective consciousness. That fear to really let go and be fully in the space. . .

“. . . and I’m free, free falling.” ~Tom Petty, ‘Free Falling’

*Image credits (used with permission through CC license)–
“I just want to be happy” by bravelittlebird
“cry, baby, cry” by Barbara Pellizzon
“The Girl Who Cried Wolf” by GaelForce Photography

Time To Pretend

“All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” ~Winston Churchill

What I mean by hard-wiring caused by years and generations of socialization is that genetically humans are now predisposed to suffering. Suffering, in the social environment, has become normalized, and anyone who should deviate too far from this standard is considered “crazy” or abnormal.

Now, before I continue, let us come to an agreement about what constitutes suffering? Not a definition of suffering but what can be called suffering in the human condition (as we exist in a societal environment). In what form does suffering come? Suffering can be called an intangible state of being, that is, one’s being exists in a state of suffering. Suffering, once had a definite and easily determined cause, i.e., racism (but let us not veer off into efforts of indoctrination or further observations at this movement through sociology’s eyes just yet), womanizing, immigration (and by immigration, I mean, in the early days of Europeans arriving in America and their efforts at rising out of poverty), etc. [NOTE: I purposefully chose social movements, that is large acts of deliberate oppression enacted upon other groups of humans by other humans within a society. I could not go to an indigenous culture for several reasons, but mainly, because I don’t consider myself well-versed enough in indigenous culture to do so and I think much of human suffering that we are talking about stems from western culture and western society constructs. Further note: I am looking at human suffering solely from an anthropological perspective]. Okay, these kinds of mass suffering no longer effects western society as deeply, save only in a mass destructive way, i.e. Hurricane Sandy, and human suffering suddenly comes to the forefront.

Sociology says that natural disasters are usually the times in which human beings will come together and forget about all the differences that the day before loomed so important as to cause neighbor to fight with neighbor and realize that “We are all human beings” that we bleed the same blood, etc. etc. Well, why is that? Why is it that humans only understand suffering following a natural disaster (there is a whole other element about this that disturbs me when I think upon it. In what I have been reading of late (anthropology, molecular biology, organic chemistry, which are naturally intermarried and naturally lead to consciousness) it seems as if humans do not unite because suddenly they caught a glimpse of what is really important, but out of fear and a unity in loss. Everybody understands loss)? It is as if humans require a disaster, some cataclysmic event, in order to set aside our petty differences. I think this is part of the reason why these unified acts of kindness are only temporary. Once enough time has passed, or that the event is forgotten or that some other kind of remedy has occurred, that time of bonding falls away, and we return to our “normally” suffering selves. This is a fundamental problem, I think.

I reason that there must be some deeper cause for humans’ [current] inability to understand human suffering or the suffering of others. I mean, if you believe in Kohlberg’s scale of Moral Development, there is more than one dimension, more than one scale of existence, and some humans exist on different scales. We are not all equal, in other words. Now, here is an element of reality that some are reluctant to discuss or even entertain the notion that it is true. We are not all equal. Equality can only be an extrinsic quality offered to humans in society; meaning, equal protection from police, equal representation in court, equal opportunity at law, you know, this kind of philosophy. However, it is not true biologically, psychologically, physiologically, culturally, or genetically, you know? I think we don’t fully understand this, as humans. There is a distinction in some things. It is only so on a certain level. It’s like humans try to create a unified theory of everything in everything. This would create a homogenous existence, what could be learnt from this? What use is a homogenous existence? That would be like playing the game not to lose. Risk is not necessarily a negating property, nor is chance, and I think that playing the game not to lose is to surrender risk and chance.

But, don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that there is potential and probability that the world can be different. I think fear is a powerful obstacle. But, this too, will end. As in chaos theory and entropy, randomness slows down to order, and order slowly breaks down [entropy] and then transforms to something else, some other unrecognized pattern (what we then call chaos). We, as a race of humans, are learning that the once archetypal ways of living are outdated and obsolete. We are realizing that the acts we have and are committing upon ourselves, upon our consciences, upon our environment, upon the planet; we are now comprehending that every act has an equal and [sometimes] opposite reaction. We are learning to love what we are and then live that way. The times are changing and the time to pretend ends like a clock slowly winding down until it stops on high noon.

*Digital Art by Jeanne Masar.

Education In An Insecure Society

Current educational systems within society work to divorce the child from his or her natural will, whether that is curiosity or wonder or innocence. An educational system structured on nurturing and nourishing these aspects of humanity work to reunite humans with their connection to nature, animals and their mammal-ness. To become again a human being, rather than a “cog in the wheel” or “gear in the machine” felt by many in current society, and what was beget by the likes of John B. Watson, Frederick Taylor, Ayn Rand and Edward Bernays.

The educational system does not seem to be interested in providing paths inviting introspection or comprehension of theory of mind or even learning as a means to understanding. Education seems to have only a vested interest in preservation of funding, rote and memorization, grade fulfillment, bicameral thinking (linear grade promotion, success or failure, pass or fail, etc), homogeneous conditioning, etc. Frankly, this does not work and merely churns out workers, rather than evolving society/humanity as a whole. I mean, with current access of technology, shouldn’t this system be a lot farther along; instead, today’s educational system, for the most part, works against technology, rather than with it.

The educational system is but one part of the systematic deconstruction of human will, therefore, it becomes naturally normal humans will treat one another with impunity come what may and never change because such level of rudeness and offense is now hardwired into the human brain (socialization). Can this be changed? Even if an educational system built upon nourishing and nurturing, self-efficacy rather than self-esteem, ultimately, the change lies in the receiver of the tool (in the student), but that the instruments exist in the first place, that they are available to be utilized freely is an element of that change. In this way, the means to evolve can pass into legacy, can pass into the collective consciousness, if you will, available to any found wanting. Today’s child, even if he or she takes but a little from such teaching, may trigger a subtle reverberation within that causes him or her to behave differently in an otherwise routine circumstance. In this way, the “gene” can be inherited, and then improved in the next generation.

Playing Not To Lose

Today’s systemic educational system supports and reinforces human suffering (for the supposed greater good, and that greater good is really the continued protection of what has become an extremely insecure society). You see, it is a form of game theory. We are playing not for profit, or even to win, but not to lose. Not to lose is a third option, that is to say, not an opposite of winning. But a third option, along with winning and losing. To play not to lose, is to risk the possibility of winning and to avoid any chance at all of losing. Applied to society, we have become comfortable in not losing anything, which seems like a better alternative. This is an illusion. To play not to lose would beget suffering, as one becomes so intent on making sure the status quo remains intact that any opportunity to change one’s station in life (however that may be) is discarded due to fear that one may lose everything one has “worked so hard,” up until now, to possess (which of course would be measured in the value placed in things, or the value placed in being allowed privilege of access to things, i.e., money. That is money as social institution, rather than a utility). This can make us bitter, and leads to suffering, fighting, and acts of violence, etc. How to stop this kind of behavior? How to end human suffering? At least, breed it out? Realization, or a precursor, the means to embark upon a journey to realization. Social systems (the forefront, to be honest, for human conditioning—conditioning not in the indoctrination sense, but in the sense of humanity, the natural state of human being-ness) would have to reflect that kind of philosophy.

*Images: “To Imagine, To Create, To Learn” by Nicholas Raymond, “True/False” from FybridPhotos, and “Concrete Caves: Hall 1” by Gwynstock.