Thursday, July 31, 2014

Philosophy

The emotionally based need to discuss ideas is counter-productive.  It  becomes a distraction rather than a task in problem solving.

There is no passion in intellectualism.  It is a disease of emotional dwarfism.  Most college kids, certainly Humanities majors, succumb.

Yes, I saw Les Miserable.  Narcissism and grandiosity are not in my view desirable traits.  Yes, of course you have to love Jean Valjean, but the kids who set up the blockades, not so much.

Good tequila may have been involved in this post, which I may disagree with tomorrow, but not likely.

Honestly, I am just sitting here drinking after an odd day--an odd week, for that matter, with several more to come--and contemplating the stereotypical college night of sitting up discussing ideas: free will, God, death, politics.

I have always hated these discussions.  I have my own ideas, and by and large nobody ever presents me with anything I have not heard or seen.  I state this as clinical fact.  I cringe when certain "deep"topics come up.

My best interrogator is me.  I know my weak spots.  I know where I am ignorant.

But even then, there is a feeling, not an idea, that I am seeking.  It is the feeling of drilling somewhere, then watching and feeling something emerge, something new to me, something interesting, something alive.

My new mantra is Adventure.  I am feeling increasingly able to frame inconveniences, long days, human stupidity and chance in ways that are interesting and exciting.  To my mind, I am very lucky, but I still get my panties in a wad sometimes.  I'm trying to reduce that, turn it, with the goal of making every part of every day something that I am engaged in and connected to in natural, organic ways.

Random musings.   Do with them what you will.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Addiction

It feels to me like the relationship of an addict to his or her "poison" is exactly that: a relationship.  It is not different in kind or principle with the relationship one has with another human being.  It has feeling qualities.  It has variation.  It changes day to day.

And it seems to me the essence of addiction is getting from chemicals a sense of connection with something, with feelings, and I think in particular the sense of relief from isolation, which is not quite the same as belonging, but awfully close. and as close as most addicts think they can get.

The cure lies in developing new relationships that over time exceed in value the relationship with the substance, which after all cannot quite speak for itself, and onto which feelings must be projected.

As I have said before, this is the principle innovation of AA.  It is not the 12 steps, but the inclusion of groups of like-minded people saying and believing the same things.  It is the creation of a tribe, or if you like, a church.

One can with justice ask how and why we are all--or if you like, why I particularly am--so stupid, why we (I) fail to meet our (my) needs in effective and harmonious ways.  I don't know the Answer, but I will continue to come up with answers.

Perception

Sometimes one blind man has the trunk of the elephant, one the leg of an elephant, and a third the ass of a donkey.

Death

Can you imagine your own non-existence?

For my part, I believe that consciousness survives death.  I believe, based on considerable study, that this is the only conclusion supported by the actual evidence.

And yet, our goal, we are told by those who have apparently passed on, is evolution, growth.  We have to expand, grow beyond our ego selves.

But who is left when this is done?  Are you still recognizably you? Is there a point where you take a final, divine breath, and merge with something?

It seems to me that we are built to fear dissolution.  We are built to favor survival, continuation.  This is in our genes, in our bodies, in our animal selves.

Yet, I would contend that even if there is no final moment when we cease to be as discrete entities, it is still useful to be able to visualize it.  It is when work is done.

We die nightly.  We "fall" into sleep. We throw ourselves into sleep.  We lose consciousness, assuming we will awaken again, and of course most of the time we do.

But we have to consent to die.  We have loosen our grasp on our faculties, on our senses, on our minds and bodies.

And I think it is precisely the openness needed to consent to die which facilitates growth.

I did Holotropic Breathwork last week, and one of my "emergences"--this may be the word I use in the future--was being nailed to a cross.  It filled me with grief and terror, and I had some powerful physical reactions.

But the space was filled with green.  It was not a sad space.

And in my next session I was hanging on the cross, and found it congenial.  I laugh to say this, but I did feel supported by the cross (in the sense that I was physically hanging from it).  From this vantage point I watched humanity in all its griefs, stupidities, and futile efforts.  I saw failure from ignorance, failure from pain, failure from violence.

There were moments when I was sitting, too, where the room darkened (visibly: I assumed a cloud was passing over the sun, but it felt deeper than that), where people were crying and moaning, that I felt a deep sense of the terror of being human, of feeling lost, of struggling and falling, never knowing which way is up, who to trust, where to go.

Death gives you this.  As Carlos Castaneda said, it is a valuable adviser.

I continue to make progress.

Communist Motto

This is the way it works, but I'm not sure anyone has ever expressed it clearly:

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet; and if you never actually get around to making an omelet, at least you got to break a few eggs.

This is why I call it Cultural Sadeism. The punishment is the point, not an incidental by-product.  Egalitarianism rests on a deeply rooted emotional need to place people on Procrustean beds and cut their limbs or rack their bodies.

Resentment--and Socialism is merely a cover for an intellectually respectable, if not defensible, expression of resentment--is the creed of those incapable of self directed happiness.

And I will say this: I am decreasingly inclined to anger at evil.  Some people need to be stopped--they need to be confronted in public, they need to be imprisoned, and some are likely best just put to death--but when I look at evil what I see increasingly is human beings turned into machines by trauma.  They are trapped, and do not know they are trapped.  Evil feels like a way out, but it cannot be escaped.

Goodness is freedom.  Goodness is happiness.  Goodness is creation, love and contentment.

And it is inherently generous.  When you can make more than you need, it is pleasurable to give it away.  We assume that what people most need are things, but this is of course stupid.  What everyone needs is love, which is to say a sense of being understood, of being accepted, and of being safe.  And being safe can mean having the freedom to take risks.  We all need risk in life.

What sane loving mother would protect her children from all possible harm?  Put another way, what sane, loving mother would build a cage around her children and call it love?

Yet, this is precisely the Socialist project.

Few musings.  I had not intended to write that much.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unfairness

I'm debating someone on Facebook, and that is the wrong place, so I agreed to post statements I made that she disagreed with, and debate at length.

My invitation: Pick a statement you believe to be clearly true that contradicts anything I said; or pick a statement I made that you believe clearly wrong. I will cut and paste it verbatim to my blog, post a link to it, and we can debate until you start contradicting yourself, or we agree that insufficient data exists to formulate definitive positions. Or, until you embarrass me, and cause me to realize my sense of the strength of my positions is entirely unwarranted. I have never censored any comment, and for any lurkers will note that Anonymous is enabled. Feel free to pile on. 
Response: 

"Anyone who has ever formed a corporation, particularly a C Corp, is struck immediately by the gross unfairness of getting taxed both at the corporate level AND at the individual level." My husband, Peter C. above, formed a C Corp and ran it for 30 years, and he posted Noam Chomsky's video in response to that. 
Here is that video.

Second Response"I suspect most people who are surprised that for-profit entities would seek to maximize revenues have never seriously thought about going into business, much less run one." [this is my comment, to which she is responding]. Ummm, also inaccurate. Both my husband and I ran for-profit businesses and we did not engage in unethical actions to maximize profits. Putting profits above all else has resulted in egregious behaviors in many businesses. Presumably you don't need me to provide examples (I am highly educated and just covered corporate crime less than a year ago and would have no problem finding ample evidence for this.)

Third Response"None of you are emotionally capable of" [full statement, from me, in response to what I perceived as generalized repetition of bad propaganda: None of you are actually emotionally capable of seeing beyond your patent biases, or engaging in meaningful, useful dialogue].... I am a cognitive neuroscientist by training (PhD-ABD with an additional degree in psychology),. Do you have any idea what type of experiments you would have to run to determine anyone's emotional capabilities? And yet you made this pronouncement to a group of strangers based on your own emotional responses. I don't even need to refute this as it is patently absurd.

I do not have time tonight to respond in depth, but will over the next few days, in comments.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happiness

Logically, if Goodness is a volitional character disposition in which you take pleasure from the happiness of others, and can live happily on your own--my definition--then to the extent one pursues Goodness, happiness becomes a moral duty, which is to say a means.

Truly, deeply Good people are happy on the inside.

TSA

I get pissed off every time I have to fly.  As a general rule, I drive everywhere, if I have time.  I mean everywhere.

This last time, going through, it struck me that a resilient organism reacts to trauma with an appropriate fight or flight response, shakes it off, learns from the experience, then returns to a status quo leavened by new experience.

What happens when the government is involved, though, is that a new organism is created.  This new organism is unconnected with the old trauma.  Rather, like any organism, it comes into being and immediately sets out to expand and propagate, to ensure its continued existence.  It develops survival instincts, expressed through metastatis into domains and activities which can only tangentially be connected to its ostensible mission.

No one is trying to hijack airplanes in this country.  To the extent of my awareness, in BILLIONS of interventions--and forcing people to take off their shoes and belts, as one example, is an intervention--the TSA has not stopped ONE attack. None.

But people continue to diligently consent to full body scans, and getting every piece of luggage opened, and in general dealing with the stupidity of the process of security theater.

We all know 9/11 can't happen again the same way.  Passengers will fight back.  The cockpit door is bolted and reinforced.

We all know that airplanes are much safer than cars, and I think anyone with a shred of sense would realize that they are safer not because the TSA does a good job, but because nobody is trying to hijack airplanes.

Yes, of course there are pockets of deluded, violent people.  Yes, the NSA can and should spy on them.  But this nonsense of patting people down and forcing them through ridiculous levels of security needs to stop.

Airlines should be allowed to opt out of airport security protocols, and passengers, having been informed of this decision, should be allowed to fly them.  If I run the risk of being shot down if the plane IS hijacked, I am willing to take that risk, and so too would many Americans.  I have known a number of people seriously hurt in car accidents.  I have never known, and never expect to know, anyone hurt in an airplane accident, much less an act of terrorism.

Groundhog Day

I give up booze, then get back on it, give it up, get back on it.  But every time, now, the hold is less and less.  I am doing daily relaxation practices that get me the same state, complete relaxation, that I want, without the hangover.

I have had alcohol now twice in 3 weeks, but the 3-4 days in when I was starting my booze-fast--roughly two weeks ago (I've been traveling, and am just now posting some thoughts I've had), I went to see "Edge of Tomorrow" with my oldest, and I had the most unpleasant night.  I kept waking up thinking no time had passed, that the clock said the same thing; that I was stuck in a never ending night.

And I got to thinking about it: trauma is like Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow.  It is the same, the exact same, day in day out across a lifetime until you deal with it.  Its very timelessness is its defining quality.  All things that exist in time evolve and change; but trauma does not exist in time.  This is what this recurring dream/hynogogic nightmare was telling me.

Bringing trauma into time, inherently, is healing.  Inherently, it places it in the moving current of change, and nothing hard can long endure such circumstances.

I am reading a very, very interesting book by Peter Levine called "In an Unspoken Voice".  I will have more to say about it presently.

In the meantime, I wanted to offer one more observation in this vein: we call hear about how we humans use only some small percentage of our potential brainpower.  I can't comment on this (other than to say it appears a LOT of guesswork and abuse of the authority implied by credentials seems to be going on), but I can say this: we only use a fraction of our potential selves.

Now, I think most people use 80-90% of their potential selves, but there are in almost all people locked away traumas and negative feelings that they don't process.  I would say further that the difference between 80 and 100% is not purely quantitative--in the sense of creating a ratio of feelings felt consciously, and dividing it by the sum of those feelings and feelings not felt consciously.

Rather, there is a qualitative difference between a robust, complete capacity to digest emotion, and ANY degree of emotional indigestion.  Certain feelings are impossible, I feel, without full awareness.

This is speculative, but it feels right.  For my part, I've been doing some deep work over the past week, and it seems to have done some good.  I'm still shedding emotional fur.

Can I say that?  Fuck it.  I'm allowed bad metaphors.  Shedding, as a gradual process of letting go, seems appropriate.

Order

So, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, and saying to myself "what I don't understand is 100x greater than what I do understand", then I sit back a bit, and realize: what EVERYONE can understand is what they intend to do, and how they intend to do it.  The universe has nothing to do with this.  You push it out.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fear

It occurred to me the other day that fear is to the emotional realm roughly what the inner ear is to balance.  You can't walk without the orienting information your inner ear provides; and you cannot interpret your social environment without the capacity for recognizing something is wrong and dangerous. If you had no capacity for fear, you would miss large sections of what was going on around you.

This is a subtle but important point I do not have time to flesh out more at the moment.

Misery

As I wake up, I am increasingly feeling the people around me.  What you see is a lot of misery, and this can be overwhelming, IF you decide it is your problem.

But it occurred to me the other day: there is ALSO a lot of courage, persistence, selflessness, giving, ingenuity, patience.

Then it occurred to me that one of the greatest crimes you can commit is to attempt to deprive someone of useful suffering.  Useful suffering is transformation is growth.  Depriving them of it, is telling them to remain permanently stunted as human beings, and to fail--to the extent you can manage as their alleged guardian--to reach anything close to the potential with which they were born.

The essence of productive, useful culture is making emotional pain useful.

Our salient problem in the modern world is that we have rejected the notion of THROUGH, that you can get through depression or anxiety by embracing it, and accepting it, internalizing it, and using it as a teacher.  Anything short of a superficially happy Worker and Consumer is considered maladaptive and treated as a deficiency of neurotransmitters, or happy thoughts.

Fuck this.  It is stupid.

I am tempted to state as definitive, and will certainly state provisionally: the sole honest purpose of spiritual teachers is to teach people how to make pain productive.  It is in no cases to deny them the opportunities their pain grants them.

Thus, no one--not me, not you, not the local pastor or rabbi, or yogi--need concern him or herself with helping people directly.  Their concern is with good ideas, which enable them to help themselves.

I would draw an analogy between Socialism and Capitalism.

In Socialism, a fascist state is enacted to a varying degree, so that a core group of emotionally constipated individuals can avoid processing their own internal emotional trauma by claiming to care in the abstract for the misery of everyone else; they do this by promising something for nothing to ignorant and greedy people.  In the end, by working hard to deny people their actual misery, and by denying the need for pain in the abstract, they actually make everyone MORE unhappy.  There is no point in pain, in either a Sybaritic Leftist society like they have in northern Europe; and there is no redemptive pain in a Communist hell.  There are only lies.

In Capitalism, the goal is to create universal opportunity for people to choose their own work, to make their own way, to build their own fortunes.  Morally, this system is empty, except to the extent that functional emotional behaviors tend to lead to financial gain.

Are you beginning to see where this modern world went so wrong?

Cessation of Illness

If you have been ill a long time, the end can feel like falling.

In my own case, I am finally ending the grip unprocessed trauma has had on me, and it feels like falling,  But it is like jumping into the deep end of a pool: you go down, but you also come back up.  It's good.  You jump into a pool because you want to be surrounded by water.  Once you can swim, this is very enjoyable.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why isn't Lois Lerner in jail?

Until she is cuffed, fingerprinted, and dumped in a cell with bars, we cannot view Congress as equal to the task of doing their part in governing this nation.

Eric Holder is a bit more tricky, but if I were John Boehner, I would figure out a way to put him next to Lois.  Both have been convicted of the crime, effectively, of obstructing justice and of lying to Congress.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Listening

There is always peace in war, and war in peace.

Of all the sensory modalities, listening seems most appropriate to this perceptual task.  I don't know why.

Ponder.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sanity and Experience

Two points:

1) I was wandering the grocery store yesterday, and it hit me that it is very possible I have never met a fully sane person.  In pursuing optimal functioning, I may need to discover many things no one I have ever met has been capable of teaching me.  There is a solitude inherent in this, but over time, I feel, a compensatory relief from the problems that have always dogged humankind.

If we all pursue enlightenment in our own way, we all pursue it, in the end, alone.  [Note to self: deal with it.]

2) How inefficient it is to pursue experience, rather than the capability of processing and using experience.

With regard to overpopulation, there seems to be a clear pattern of economic growth, population growth, then population stability, then in the case of all developed nations but the United States and I believe Israel, population decline.

Can we perhaps posit a curve similar to this over time with regard to consumption?  Can we not imagine that with a better, more fulfilling culture, we can all learn not just to make do with less, but prefer it?

We are at a point in time where we can turn left, towards the eradication of culture in a socialist tyranny, or turn right to a graceful age filled with a cultural and social fulfillment that satiates even the aspiring despots.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hard Luck Blues

https://play.spotify.com/track/0zerx1p4hzPfb2qSELm65S

Can you see how this turns into angry hip hop?

Can you feel how this song retains some hope, hope now largely lost?

Hobby Lobby

I saw the argument offered by George Takei--who I follow on Facebook because he often posts somewhat amusing bits--that this case would be much clearer if they were attempting to impose Sharia law.

With all due respect to whatever else he does well, this actually argues FOR the decision, not against it.

Freedom, if it is anything, is freedom of conscience.  It is freedom both from coercion to do things you think are wrong, and freedom TO do things you feel are right.  You can both not support abortion directly AND give to charities which oppose abortion.  Congress shall neither impose a national religion, nor interfere with existing ones.  This is very clear, and very logical.

The entirety of the outrage over the decision arises from the assumption by the left that their viewpoint is the only morally valid one, that "reproductive rights" are absolute.  This is not different in principle from the idea that all morality proceeds from the Koran and Hadith and Sunnah.  Both are absolutisms, dogmatisms.  All their arguments proceed from this assumption, from this failure to recognize the right of anyone anywhere in our body politic to oppose their version of moral reality.

I think all of us would oppose a national mandate for women to wear the hijab, and would support a Supreme Court decision which reversed it.  This is the point: our national government does not have the right and authority under the Constitution to make people violate their moral beliefs, to force them to do things they don't want to do.

Women are not prohibited from getting Morning After pills by law, even if they work at Hobby Lobby.  Nor are they prohibited from buying their own insurance elsewhere.  They are neither forced to do anything they don't want to do, nor prohibited from doing what they do want to do.  This is freedom.

What freedom is not is using the power of law to impose one set of moral views on a heterogeneous group.  All genuine diversity requires compromise, respect, and efforts at understanding.  The left does not do this with ANY group which genuinely differs from them.  That is why they are fascist at their core.

And to be clear, the argument, from the perspective of Hobby Lobby, is whether or not they can be forced by law to facilitate murder.  All one has to do transform this debate from one side to the other is put an = between "woman's body" and "baby".  The former construction, self evidently, is propagandistic, and in my view has led directly to a coarsening of our actual public morality, capacity for empathy, and even the skill with which we raise children.  There is a cost to treating helpless infants as lumps of unimportant flesh; and life itself as a disposable commodity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ten Thousand

No, not the Greek Ten Thousand, although that is a great story.

I have often quoted the Taoist--proverb, can I call it?--"the ten thousand things rise and fall without ceasing."  You might say it is a motto of mine, like "que sera sera" (however you spell it).

Can I add that the ten thousand legs move forward and back without ceasing?  And who looks back when they are moving forward?  Forward, when they are moving back?

You might doubt me, you might and probably should laugh at me, but I am approaching lucidity.

The Wolverine

I liked the second Wolverine movie, set largely in Japan.  I watched it the other day with my kids.

If you have seen it, note how Wolverine feels the need to protect people he has just met, in a culture and country he does not understand, simply because it is the right thing to do.

This impulse is largely Western.  Specifically, it is Anglo-American.  It is based in abstract notions of right and wrong, and in absolute principles.  It is chivalry, the code of the Horse.  This is quite different from the absolute loyalty to a specific man implied by the Way of the Bushi.  Both imply courage and honor, but deployed, potentially, in very, very different ways.

Some ideas are better than others, when measured against a global goal, which I argue often should be Goodness.

I believe I have mentioned this, but during the Vietnam War era, among the Vietnamese, it was apparently a commonplace that all you had to do was get an American drunk, and they would do anything for you.  They would give you the shirt off their back.  I personally experienced this: a Vietnamese man I was taking a Chinese class with got me drunk, then asked me to help him get his girlfriend back.  I did it.  The stereotype in my case was true.

I will contrast this with an example given by a martial arts teacher with many years experience dealing with Japaneses.  He said the Japanese will give you the shirt off their back, but they will resent you for it.

The female protagonist, throughout, wrestles with duty and honor.  It is noted clearly in the chopsticks scene that she understand herself to live in a world filled with humble obeisance to tradition and those who enforce it (men).

In the end, though, she "betrays" her grandfather.  Her father wanted to kill her, and her grandfather is trying to kill Logan.  She chooses Goodness, the right thing, over tradition.

In the course of human history, allegiance to principle over tribe is a very new innovation.  It is, in my view, an innovation which has most taken root in the United States, in our traditional, actually Liberal, culture.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Red and Blue

My therapist (who I have seen twice, and I think may have done enough, at least for now) said that blue is safe, red is activated.  I noticed she wore blue in both meetings.

Can we not safely assume that even this detail of propaganda was managed by those who value influence over truth, tricks over reason, conformity over public discussion?

Have conservatives not ceded again the high ground to those who don't deserve it?  It is likely this concession is as large as granting the word Liberal to fascists.