The Real World: Attending To The Here And Now

This is the typical human problem. The object of dread may not be an operation in the immediate future. It may be the problem of next month’s rent, of a threatened war or social disaster, of being able to save enough for old age, or of death at the last. This ‘spoiler of the present’ may not even be a future dread. It may be something out of the past, some memory of an injury, some crime or indiscretion, which haunts the present with a sense of resentment or guilt. The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings the past and the future are not as real, but more real than the present. The present cannot be lived happily unless the past has been ‘cleared up’ and the future is bright with promise.

There can be no doubt that the power to remember and predict, to make an ordered sequence out of a helter-skelter chaos of disconnected moments, is a wonderful development of sensitivity. In a way it is the achievement of the human brain, giving man the most extraordinary powers of survival and adaptation to life. But the way in which we generally use this power is apt to destroy all its advantages. For it is of little use to us to be able to remember and predict if it makes us unable to live fully in the present.

What is the use of planning to be able to eat next week unless I can really enjoy the meals when they come? If I am so busy planning how to eat next week that I cannot fully enjoy what I am eating now, I will be in the same predicament when next week’s meals become ‘now.’

If my happiness at this moment consists largely in reviewing happy memories and expectations, I am but dimly aware of this present. I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things that I have been expecting come to pass. For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.

~Alan Watts

On The Winter’s Morrow

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Winter Snow Path

 

Living outside, I would not say that I have control over my own life (for who really does? I give my will to the universe and move in the ever present Now, walking along the beach of the unknown), but I am much freer than when I lived inside, bogged down by some of the fabricated economic controls that are too often in the US used as fear-mongering. Out of doors, I am much happier and at peace outside of society’s box than inside it.
But what of the winter, I have been asked many times.

Two years ago, when we (my boyfriend, Stephen, and I) first walked away from our home it was still winter and the coldest we slept was 18 degreess, with no problem, and that was without a tent and only summer sleeping bags we zipped together. The average winter temperature is not very cold here in this part of Pennsylvania (for instance, nothing like Alaska’s or Maine’s winters).

Cold NoseI am looking forward to the winter, it will be beautiful to witness as the snow falls or to wake up to a mountain top of snow. Outside, one can see all of the changes, even the subtle ones, as the seasons merge with one another. For example, the official date of Autumn is September 22, but when you live outside, you notice that Fall begins well before that, usually around the end of July and beginning of August and lasts, in the tiniest, minutest ways all through August, even before the temperature changes in September. You can smell Fall coming in August. One day in August, we woke up and the sound of the wind in the treetops was different and we both knew right then that Fall was on its way. The sound of the forest changes, the animals behave differently well before the end of September. Everything PREPARES first for the Fall and you can see all of the preparation throughout August and September, something otherwise missed if living inside. You learn to synchronize with your natural surroundings. We would weather the winter as easily as the animals do.

SeasonsJust the other night, in the tent we listened as a thunderstorm began miles away in the distance and the reverberations of the insects’ calls danced off the still air and anticipating trees. Then we saw lightning, and listened intently as the wind picked up, starting at the tops of the trees first, before descending around their barks and rushing through the forest proper and down near the ground. We listened as the insects hushed, just slightly, as if they, too, were waiting for the storm. And we can hear it coming, we can hear the sheet of rain rushing towards us like the sound of a train. The sound is unmistakable. Last year and earlier this year, when we used to live near a stream, the sound of the stream increased as the storm approached. And when we walked about outside, two years ago, we were often caught in the storms and we were still awed by their beauty. We have seen colors of lightning that have dazzled us, we have seen the satellites shoot across the air, we have seen red lightning (called sprites, I think) that actually occur high above the clouds, we have been so close to lightning strikes as to feel its heat and notice that lightning actually burns a fire orange! Like looking at a string of flame, it was incredible! We saw the rare Strawberry Moon two years ago, we have watched the positions of the constellations change as the seasons and the earth revolve. Nature calls the spirit within humans. . . my boyfriend and I just answered back. We have never regretted it. We often wonder whether we can sleep again while inside. Although, one day, we will probably eventually return to the indoors , for now the Winter’s morrow bothers us not, and we look forward to exploring the seasons merge from one to the other, as humans merge from one phase of life to another, as the universe slowly moves on towards an unknown eventuality. We await. . . and we prepare looking for the mysteries beneath, looking past our physical eyes . . . seeking more to see.

*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“Winter Snow Path” by blmiers2
“Seasons” by Dawn Ellner
“Cold Nose” by Laszlo Ilyes

Psychotic Episode (I Have No Ego)

I have no ego. . . my psychotic episode.

The schizophrenic experiences a stunning barrage of continuous, horrifying symptoms: auditory hallucinations, delusions, ideas of reference, paranoia, etc. The “indescribable severe torture” is unrelenting and can go on except during sometimes restless sleep, at whichtime the symptoms are even active when one becomes conscious at all. This experience is so overwhelming it is beyond the imagination. It cannot be conceived of intellectually. By its very nature it in fact necessitates the concept of religion in order to relate to it at all. This continuous experience of psychotic symptoms can be viewed as “spiritual exercises in perfection”. The effect on the schizophrenic is similar to that of monks when practicing their rituals in monasteries. When these spirited exercises become a lifestyle for the schizophrenic (lasting 8-10 years) with no real evidence given to the schizophrenic that he will ever recover, a fascinating thing happens to the psyche of that schizophrenic—he loses the perspective of “ego”. Ego consists of all his identifying factors in the world: his age, sex, race, religious affiliation or lack thereof, education level, social class, political affiliations, nationality, etc. He begins to see his environment with the eyes of a newborn, without the bias or prejudices, preconditions of his particular circumstances. It can be seen as a sort of continuous baptism by fire, a kind of purification, enabling him to see reality for what it is in actuality, rather than being viewed through the preconceptions of his individual mental, emotional, and behavioural repertoire instilled in him from birth. The schizophrenic in this condition is able in his interior to walk around in someone else’s moccasins with perfection. This can be seen as loving your neighbour as you love yourself, perfectly. I do not believe it is a condition that can be acquired by a “normal” individual by any method, because the horror of the symptoms of schizophrenia are unduplicable by man. (Religious persons would call this condition repentance for all one’s sins, e.g. “perfect repentance”.) ~Source

Recommended readings on the absence of ego in the SchizoAffective (schizophrenic) mind:

Features:
“What You Want”, “Bent and Broken” and “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
“Tech-No-Logic” by In[Perfektion] off album Perfekt Chaos, freemusicarchive.org/music/InPerfektion/
“In Suspense” by Psychadelik Pedestrian off album Nocturnia, freemusicarchive.org/music/Psychadelik_Pedestrian/
“Eerie Horror Scene”, “Strange Days”, “Hell”, “Spooky Water Drops” and “Pterodactyl Scream” sound FX recorded by Mike Koenig, SoundBible.com

*Image Credit (used with permission through CC license):
“walking on the razor’s edge in the underground train world : manhattan (2007)” by torbakhopper

Happiness In Sadness

Louis C.K., delivered in his talented, comedic way, illustrates the reason why his girls do not have cellphones. He makes a valid point in his philosophy that it is okay to feel alone and to just feel, to be present in loneliness, sadness, and empathy; as from this emotive dance comes happiness and gratitude. Louis C.K. points out that cellphones can disconnect human beings from being present with their feelings, from learning to empathize with other human beings. Although, humorous, his point has veracity.

The Parable of the Cage

The dawn of freedom--digital-artOnce, on the air there lived a bird who loved to fly. The bird was not at all extraordinary or even beautiful, but all of its extraordinary beauty was seen in its flight. It loved to fly higher than any other bird even the prettier ones, as if it were not afraid of ever falling to the earth. And this bird was not afraid of falling to earth, for it never did, so skilled and adept it was at flying. As if flying were an extension of its thoughts, as if it were mate to the air and the air pleased to do its bidding. The bird would wrap the air round its body and wings in such ways that it could perform the most difficult feats with an unmeasured ease. The bird loved flying so much it did not build a nest for the clouds cradled it, it did not mate for the air was its soul mate, it rarely ate for the feel and view from the air sustained it.

mutationOnce in a while the bird would plummet to the earth as if it meant to crash headlong into it, but would flick a wing at the last moment and always the air was there to catch it so would soar once more into the depths of the sky. People would gather below to watch the bird and even the dullest of wit could recognize its art. But it was not the dullest of wit that sought to possess the bird and its artful flying, so planned to capture the bird on one of its rare plunges to the earth. A man, the cleverest of all the rest, devised a contraption that he may have the bird for his own use. He also built a cage, a special cage, customized for the bird and its special talents.

MadalenaOne day, everything done and after much stalking and careful observance, the man knew the bird made its plunges only on rainy days, for the bird adored the sun, so loved flying those days most. The next rainy day the man took his contraption and his plan down to the place where he knew the bird would plummet, and stood ready. The man placed his contraption on the ground, painted to camouflage the ground; gate open, painted to camouflage the earth. The bird, fooled by the disguise Prison Planetbecause it did not know harm could come by it on the ground, for it had grown accustomed by the air, sky, and sun, plummeted, but before it had chance to flick its wing to again take the air, it heard a clang and found itself trapped inside walls. The bird tried to escape but could not feel the support of the air in order to gain speed enough to burst through the walls. It would not have mattered, as the man was clever and fashioned the walls much too thick to break. So, the bird lay on the ground held fast by its gravity. Like this, the man carried the contraption, the cage, and its prisoner back home.

How do you interpret The Parable of the Cage, reader?

A.D. 2050*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“Caged” by Jeff Babbitt
“The dawn of freedom — digital-art” by balt-arts
“mutation” by Ozge Gurer
“Madalena” by Catarina Carneiro de Sousa
“Prison Planet” by Mark Rain
“A.D. 2050” by jaci Lopes dos Santos

Existence Is Weird

The reason why certain people turn to philosophy, why I became a philosopher, since I was a little boy, I always felt that existence as such was weird.  I mean, here we are.  Isn’t that odd? ~Alan Watts

Religion and Science

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein

Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and desire are the motive forces behind all human endeavour and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present itself to us. Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions—fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connexions is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates for itself more or less analogous beings on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. One’s object now is to secure the favour of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make them well disposed towards a mortal.

I am speaking now of the religion of fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear, and erects a hegemony on this basis. In many cases the leader or ruler whose position depends on other factors, or a privileged class, combines priestly functions with its secular authority in order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the priestly caste make common cause in their own interests.

The social feelings are another source of the crystallization of religion. Fathers and mothers and the leaders of larger human communities are mortal and fallible. The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes, the God who, according to the width of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even life as such, the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing, who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.

The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, which is continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in a nation’s life. That primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that they are all intermediate types, with this reservation, that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.

Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. Only individuals of exceptional endowments and exceptionally high-minded communities, as a general rule, get in any real sense beyond this level. But there is a third state of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form, and which I will call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in earlier stages of development—e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it.

The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.

How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it. We thus arrive at a conception of the relation of science to religion very different from the usual one. When one views the matter historically one is inclined to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable antagonists, and for a very obvious reason. The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events—that is, if he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it goes through. Hence science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death.

It is therefore easy to see why the Churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!

Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a sceptical world, have shown the way to those like-minded with themselves, scattered through the earth and the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man strength of this sort. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.

You will hardly and one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.

But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

By Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, Secaucus, New Jersy: The Citadel Press, 1999, pp. 24-29.

Deranged Delusions

deranged delusions dance before dawn
daring to be real in the fit of a new day

apologies for carefree freedom rings
ringing but w/no bells, just sound

trees killing themselves in cities
ocean waves rolling tides over white music

but no voices
volunteers borrowing some other country’s sorrow

in the middle of the day, crying
crime of 3:30am prepubescent penal passions

love raining elusively over neo-noir-nouveau fashion
shows

silly salacious serenity says too many faces of insanity
saddam hussein’s feral feeble reminders

of a death invented just so we can stay alive
sublime silence screaming behind bars

bare & naked & nothing else to see in
nonsense

sensing this moment: a now, & now

the end

Big Road Blues (A Look At Humanity’s Alienation through Industrialization)

With the advent of the automobile, civilization changed greatly and at great speed. Henry Ford, the first to use the assembly line technique to build his Model T cars, also created (unbeknownst to him at the time) the precursor to scientific management and the alienation of Man from his humanity. When skill and mastery were removed from work and delineated along an assembly to many people (who need not have the skill) performing the same task repetitively over many days, months, years, Man became divorced from his own sense of accomplishment, efficacy, and benefit from the fruits of his own labor. His being was reduced to numbers and algorithms, he became quantified and thus his trajectory towards a life of drudgery and misery. Rather than the life of leisure at first thought promised to civilized Man, his life became one of automation and robotification. Empty and emotionless.

This music video is an attempt to illustrate that story.

Credits (all clips are public domain or used with permission through CC license)–
Music:
“Big Road Blues” by Tommy Johnson from Internet Archive
Clips:
“American Road 2” from Prelinger Archives
“Wheels of Progress (circa 1927)” produced by U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, Department of Agriculture, Educational Film Service from Prelinger Archives
“Black Girl” by livedtap
Stock Footage filmed by NIKOtheOrb
Edited by NIKOtheOrb

Other music videos.