Friday, March 20, 2015

Probity

But not quite. I know what I want to achieve, but don't know it. I have merely seen it, maybe just an aspect of it. 

I'm rereading 'The Unfettered Mind' by Takuan Soho, something I read twelve years ago and understood naught of. Not really. The words are intelligible but esoteric. Unlike 'The Book of Five Rings' by Musashi, a contemporary of Takuan. Or even Yagyu's 'Art of War' often referred to in the west as 'The Life Giving Sword' to avoid confusion with the Machiavelli text.

But having direct experience of meditation nhas dispensed with the esoteric nature of the Unfettered Mind. I now find it quite articulate though I can't pretend to knowledge of the higher orders of mind he describes. 

But right-mindedness is the goal, my central goal. And it is incredibly self centered. There is no one word for it, but probity comes close. It is not righteousness because this is often hand in hand with proselytizing.

Achieving right-mindedness is like enjoying a delicious meal. An entirely subjective and internal payoff.

Monday, March 16, 2015

72

To the degree I can be confident in facebook's dating of posts, I have meditated every day for the pat 35. You cannot see the mind with the mind, at least I cannot. It is one of the hardest experiences to say with confidence that I have actually experienced the things I have experienced. But I would be willing to testify that I have experienced some weird stuff. Stuff I would never have thought possible through a process as simple as meditating.

I can only suggest you try it, with the possible disclaimer that if you suffer from a mental health issue with 'intrusive thoughts' as a symptom such as schizophrenia or OCD to actually consult someone qualified before undertaking meditation.

The harder effect to determine and disclose is how meditation has effected me in my day to day life. When I am fully distracted by my thoughts and illusion of self, when I am not meditating. I dunno. I try to bring mindfulness practices out into my day to day life, mindful running is extremely hard (and extremely tempting I may go for a run after this).

But last weekend, I should call it weekend+ was new for me, new and weird. First thing was that I'm currently writing my invites for my next exhibition. My brain was fried, and I'm still only half way done. Then the dogsitting began, a process that is psychological torture for both me and the dog I sit. 

She is incredibly anxious and over 72 hours I never witnessed her sleep in my care. There was no way to tell her what was going on and she has not developed any independence. This meant by Friday morning I was both fried mentally from straining my frontal cortex to its limits writing invites and deprived of sleep by a dog.

As an aside, in part with my meditation work, I have chiefly been trying to overcome my own mental habit/addiction of judgement, of getting in others business and failing to differentiate. When I can become aware of myself doing this, I try to redirect to 'what is this telling me about myself' this dog was a great insight into neediness. The problem with neediness is ones ability to expend all your energy trying to obtain somebody elses. This is something I subconsciously loath about myself, particularly when I'm writing invitations. Incredibly self conscious of the neediness of this action.

Aside finished with, my point being I on Friday morning was already in a quite altered mind state. Then I proceeded into a weekend where everything dramatic washed over me like warm water, and everything calm, mundane, even sad, shone like the sun.

I'd had a farewell party dropped on me with slightly over 24 hours notice, for a girl I'd asked out and been completely ignored by. I knew my curiosity would generate more regret than my fear of showing, so I showed. I'm really glad I did. I still have no fucking idea what to make of this girl, but for a throwtogether farewell party of people who share a common first language that I don't, I was made to feel really welcome the moment I arrived.

I sat in an impromptu private concert of music that is just hard to see live in Melbourne, it's hard to hear about, know about and hard to get to, though it is there. It was the highlight of my weekend. And though I sat there thinking - 'damn' and not much else, it made me really happy.

Then in the early hours I managed to get home and get a few scant hours sleep. Then I got to my breakfast date with a friend and managed to express anger, actual anger as he was rude to the help. But breakfast was lunch...

...
...

...

I can give a blow by blow account, but I don't think I can describe the profundity of what it is to feel differently. This weekend bombarded me with feelings, and I was surprised at how much the orientation of those feelings to events had changed from how I lived maybe a year and a half ago. I am vulnerable now, that's the weird thing. and things that hurt, hurt and pass through. When I was hardened up and disassociated from such emotions I lived in a state of constant stress and pain. It wasn't that bad, I can certainly see how someone could live in such an emotional environment for decades and have a meaningful career and relationships and shit. I know that. 

But now though, I take the hit and feel it, and it is a very small thing, leaving me free to seize a moment like that singing in a shitty melbourne share house living room. That managed to outshine feeling wise a whole planned and perfectly executed wedding ceremony in the same weekend.

The feeling of being able to express anger, or just honestly not be excited/underwhelmed is liberating though it could get me into trouble. The self one has to live with without such freedom is the worst company I've had. I do not miss him at all.

I heard about a seperation, and I think I was able to let myself empathise without falling in. I don't know, the stakes is low, but to be in such a mental state and be bombarded with all these people's changing lives, it brings out the texture of my consciousness now. It is like light rain, where before it was more like fractured rock.

I like it. But I need to rest.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

3 Directions

Meditation really destroys my ability to write. Such that I have to arbitrarily 'mark the page' just to get things started.

So Metta is the budhist practice of loving-compassion meditation. I've learned the basic form I think now, but it turns out that doing a good quality guided meditation performance is not a simple matter, and unforch, the guided meditations I have thus far used to learn Meta have fallen down on their pacing, making them in themselves a session of dubious value.

But I found one on 'self-forgiveness' that produced value, and unlike more cerebral videos of value such as Gabor Mate talks or whatever, this one was more of a practice. With embarassing oversight-insight rather than food for thought insight.

The three directions of forgiveness:

1. Recognizing you've hurt somebody else and asking them to forgive you.
2. Recognizing you've hurt yourself and asking yourself for forgiveness.
3. Recognizing that others have hurt you, and forgiving them.

The words in Italics were what were revelations for me. When you look at that list the three directions make sense. It makes sense and it is comprehensive.

But in meditation I can actually notice what my mind struggles to do and recall and conceive of. While it is easy for me to dredge up and take responsibility for things I have done, that in itself serves as an impediment to asking somebody else to forgive me. This is an obvious (to me now) impediment to self forgiveness. A double standard, if I believe myself worthy of my own understanding and forgiveness, but other people don't.

My mind went fragmented and crazy, trying to hold anyone but me responsible for hurting me. There are of course cases where I have been hurt by others, but I realise now I pay them almost no mind. Quite literally, I have a need for control, a need for me to be the only responsible entity in the system of my life. It's self protective, and a problem. I need to think on this more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Martketing, A Guided Meditation

Close your eyes.















oh... right.

Okay just relax, into your chair. Take a moment to just notice the sensation of sitting, the contact points between you and the chair. Now breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, now hold it for 2, now breath out for a four count. Repeat this a couple of times.

This has completely destroyed my ability to write. Okay, okay, okay picture yourself sitting in your TV room. Yo tv is connected to a hard drive and you are about to watch a high quality download of Game of Thrones latest episode.

As the somewhat uninspiring open credits roll, your phone rings. You don't recognize the number but for some compulsive reason you answer, you are now talking to me as I ask you to complete a survey.

Notice your annoyance threatening to blossom into a flower of rage as you are solicited to at best forestall your enjoyment of entertaining program. Your offence that some way some how a market research firm has contacted your personal and private mobile phone.

You don't know it, but I don't really give a shit whether you do the survey or not. I have no idea who I'm calling and there's no intention to disrupt anyone from doing any particular activity, just a hope to connect with somebody who literally has nothing better to do.

It's a numbers game.

But this is your phone and it is personal and I am imposing, these are all facts on the ground. You tell me to fuck off, or worse ask me to call somebody else and then hang up.

Now it is your time, your time to watch relaxing, stimulating, anxiety sustaining entertainment.

Notice you are being entertained by your favorite show, and not paying for this entertainment. Yet the show is of high quality*, a great number of people are involved in the process of creating it. Most of them will have worked quite hard and gone through very rough periods to reach the opportunity just to make this piece of entertainment you now have at your disposal to watch, free of charge.

People have taken massive risks to make this show, to be able to make this show. There is a whole graveyard of aspiring creators behind them packed with those who took the same risks and didn't make it.

And you won't pay for the fruits of their labors. You won't pay for something you possibly love.

Notice your mind racing with justifications for your unwillingness to pay. Just notice it, making it right that you don't pay for content. Notice how reflexive it is, and how insistent. Notice how invested you are in your belief that you are a good and moral person.

Just notice it.

All entertainment is communication. And all communication is information. Information can be replicated, digitized, duplicated at minimal cost.

In marketing there are desirable luxury goods we like to buy (like tropical holidays) and necessity goods we have to buy (like a new lawnmower), the stuff we try hardest not to pay for, turns out not to be the shit we are forced to buy, but the shit we cannot get enough of.

And virtually all art and entertainment falls into that category, our insatiable desire for entertainment leads to a need for the cost to be as low as possible. While the quality of heroin may end lives, the price of heroin ruins them first.

Art unfortunately is nowhere near as inelastic as heroin.

In a world where people feel right and justified to get their entertainment for free, they will not pay artists to create art.

Who then will pay the artists? Keep them alive long enough to create the entertainment you need to scratch your itch?

There's no free lunch. And artists I might add, steal from themselves, and given they have more time to consume entertainment in general they are probably the guiltiest group of art thieves.

But you pay for art in taxes, that produce government grants that I feel are killing art faster than would happen if the government redacted their patronage altogether.

You pay for it with lunch, or your coffee, or your beer. Yes beer, much art really exists to facilitate the sale of alcohol. But you do it by paying the casual wages of the jobs artists have to work to sustain the time and space necessary to create art.

There's a lot of friction in that system, artists could make more and better art if they were just paid directly to be artists.

And they are paid by people completing surveys of course.

Here give yourself a pat on the back, you have been consistent in your refusal to pay the artists that create the content you like. The full spectrum from George RR Martin at the top, to the aspirant like me down the bottom.

You don't pay for art, because you love it so much. It's priceless to you.

(I do realise that if you are reading this, you are probably my friend, and ironically being my friend am most likely to actually own a piece of my art you have paid for, and then paid more to be framed. Still the problem of 'free content' is yet to find its solution, better and more dedicated minds than I have looked at the problem and it remains unsolved, for now. Still I hope it provokes some thoughts for you anyway).

*subjectively speaking.

Gripey McGripe Gripe

I've reached a stage where I now know and accept that there's work that I can do that will make me a beeter person to be, and make me a better friend to my friends and lover of my loved ones. So I'm doing it. Beginning it.

I have completed 16 days consecutive meditation. I'm not sure if that's my record, but I plan to continue doing this work until it well and truly is. It's just a part of my day that is now, non-negotiable.

And I've already been to some strange places, and am experiencing really weird visions that I wouldn't expect. Yesterday taking advantage of the stormy weather, I experienced a strange hallucination which was seeing with my eyes closed, I would be looking in a spaced out way at the room, then become aware that my eyelids were shut and hence the vivid image was an impossibility. I didn't open my eyes though, the image would go out of focus as soon as I became aware of it, then collapse into the darkness we usually envision when we close our eyes.

I'm not sure what was going on, I'm fairly certain though that whatever was going on was a product of my mind. The sensations I was feeling were the product of my mind. Nevertheless it's pretty cool to trip like that just through meditation.

My gripe, which is an internal frustration is with a kind of closed minded person who is convinced they are open minded. My particular friend when talking conversationally about my meditation, told me that when they meditate they seek to merge with Jesus Christ.

This is not an insane project. Not in our cultural context. My friend is a devout Christian and she has produced many beneficial personal results from her faith. Nevertheless, my response was 'I wouldn't know Jesus if I merged with him.'

Both an attack and a self-defence against dogmatism, I am not proud of my response except insofar as that I do think it witty. But it isn't the best way I can deal with other people.

But I do have a legitimate gripe, with people who won't entertain the possibility that a phenomena of their experience is possibly a product of their own minds, rather than a communion with the creator of the Universe.

I cannot explain the phenomena I myself have experienced while meditating, but my doubt falls on the side of it being anything but a product of my mind. I do not doubt that my mind is a product of the operations of my brain, I have no good reason to and no incentive to believe otherwise.

My gripe itself is a product of my mind, and I do not know on whose behalf I assume I am angry. For some reason I percieve a boundary has been crossed when somebody claims to know the mind of the omnipotent creator. I myself am fearful of my own hubris.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ad hominem

Owing to my immense privelege, I always am tempted to speak out of turn. I am not a highly influential straight white male, but I have the frictionless existence of one. Though I have been in many situations where I experienced outsider status, I have never really felt oppression. Not really.

Thus to empathise, to take the perspective of somebody who does experience these things is difficult, but fascinating to me. And there's the temptation upon looking at somebody who is fighting for the freedoms I take for granted, need empirical methods even to notice, to offer up some 'tips' some 'pointers' to those fighting for a privileged position.

Now since my past gajillion posts have been quote heavy (very little of my mind, originates from my mind) here's a bunch of quotes I think we can all agree that nobody agrees with:

"For my part I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her;" ~ Niccolo Machiavelli

"And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place." ~ Winston Churchill.

I imagine your involuntary reactions to such quotations range from bemusement to throwing up in your mouth a little bit. Of the three white (and as far as I can know, straight) men's sayings your reaction may also entail an ad hominem fallacy.

Let's sidetrack a bit and come back, I promise.

Say you are freshly enrolled in a course called 'The Secrets of Wealth and Power' on day one you take your place at a desk in the lecture theatre and patiently await the arrival of the lecturer.

He enters, coughs a couple of times, taps the lecturns microphone and says 'can you hear me up the back?' puts his glasses on and decides to open with a joke (which I have lifted straight from Family Guy)

'Why did god give women breasts?' ... 'So you have something to look at while they talk.'

Do you get up and leave? The lecturer has just revealed himself as sexist, misogynistic, chauvenistic etc.

Getting up and leaving as a protest is, I should point out, perfectly rational. There is no question in this day and age that the lecturer is grossly unprofessional and almost certainly in breach of his contract and/or duty of care.

What is fallacious though, would be to conclude that he had no ability to impart the secrets of wealth and power. That within the domain of actual expertise he possessed, that listening to his views within his expertise was a highly worthwhile activity. You don't know, and depressingly, there are a lot of well resourced people in this world that share this fictitious characters misogeny.

Then enters the challenge of history - the all stars if you will. If the first quote was the featured one on the blurb of every copy of Machiavelli's 'The Prince' I suspect, but can't know that a lot less people would read it. Even without it, Machiavelli's place in most people's perceptual cages is already in a rogue's gallery of evil.

But to me, the thought that women would never read and study 'The Prince' is really depressing. It is not one of my favorite texts, but it does stand the test of time, exposure to the ideas it contains and the mode of amoral-consequential thinking Niccolo employs is I think important. And if it's only read by straight white guys like Machiavelli himself and Tupak, men will retain a tremendous political advantage over women in the aggregate.

The Prince is not a 'secret' text, but in effect because of the author's identification with an in-group, and subsequent treatment of outgroups in his language of metaphor, it becomes one if the out-group cannot read it without feeling revulsion and the in-group can read it and not feel any personal attack.

An emotional cipher if you will.

The Lincoln quote is one of my favorites of his, only because it so brilliantly highlights the 'ad hominem' in its regretability. In the context of someone like Lincoln, to me the greatest leader in history, saying this one is tempted to make excuses for him. Decontextualising the quote may make it appear worse than it is as well, but still it reveals one way or another something distasteful about the man.

Yet the rest of what Lincoln has said and written is pretty much the finest stuff ever said and written. To me it's so clearly wrong to strike Lincoln out because of this statement, this is the man who ended not just a civil war but the practice of slavery in the the United States of America.

Winston to me is the most ambiguous, I know little about him. My general feeling is that he was the leader that happened to go up against Hitler, as did FDR and Stalin. But knowing little about his merits it is hard for me to make an argument as to what is lost by dismissing him on an ad-hominem basis.

It is important to remember that distasteful actions can't be dismissed either. The flaws in a person's character are part of the whole package. The fallacy in ad-hominem is to say that a person's flaws invalidate their merits.

I was reminded of this by a crappy video I watched. It was about Queer's breaking up with the political parties (in Australia) that claim to speak for them. LGBTI(Q?)* issues are real and present issues, progress is only progress not mission accomplished. But this video I interpreted as a parade of Ad hominem. My interpretation was that the video called for queers to disengage from the political process, if by default. It pointed to Marriage Equality, Sex Party and the Greens all making at least one compromise in policy or endorsement.

Here, my perspective and 'the' Queer perspective (I guess, I noted the hypocrisy of a video claiming to speak for all queers, panning parties it claimed, claimed to speak for all queers) differs.

To me the Greens believe in a whole heap of garbage, but I still prefer to vote for them because on crucial fronts they believe in much less garbage than the major two parties. More so with the Sex Party, and Marriage Equality probably sounds sufficiently specialised to be of only marginally more interest to me than parties whose primary focus is on Duck Hunting and freeway speed limits. My point being, there is a whole spectrum of political parties for a white man like myself to choose from based on who has the greatest concentrated competence to run shit, or failing that the least potential for lasting damage.

Ad hominem is in effect a negative screening process. Whereby you have a criteria for elimination, which the video suggested they use - do one thing we don't like and you are gone. Deal breakers certainly exist, but if I were to adopt a negative screening process I would try to limit the criterion down to what I truly can't live with - genocide, mass deportation, apartheid, imperialism, jingoism etc.

But say every single political party supported the genocide of any permanent residency holding citizens of Sweden and Switzerland. Do I disengage? No, I would be heartbroken, but that is where I would switch to a positive screening process. My vote would be based on the presence of merit.

A positive screening process looks for the presence of things you like.

I've strayed a bit far from ad hominem, and when I think about it, Nietzsche wrote a much better and more succinct bit on this in 'The Genealogy of Morals' the lambs mentioned below I imagine set up a moralistic ad hominem based on screening negatively for the distress caused by the birds of prey, their oppressors:

That the lambs are upset about the great predatory birds is not a strange thing, and the fact that they snatch away small lambs provides no reason for holding anything against these large birds of prey. And if the lambs say among themselves, “These predatory birds are evil, and whoever is least like a predatory bird, especially anyone who is like its opposite, a lamb— shouldn’t that animal be good?”

*The video I saw was read by a computer voice, which is to say de-identified and depersonalised. It nagged at me in a possible application of the ad hominem fallacy that this video was claiming to speak for an entire in-group that I feel has no actual true unified voice (nor should it) furthermore based on the closing essay/afterword of Genderqueer, I have been persuaded that Queer issues are human rights issues. That I don't feel the consequences of the limits currently in place on my freedom of expression are coincidental, they exist though. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Hidden Benefits of Ostracism

Ostracism (Greekὀστρακισμόςostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the citizen, ostracism was often used preemptively. It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state or potential tyrant.
Crucially, ostracism had no relation to the processes of justice. There was no charge or defense, and the exile was not in fact a penalty; it was simply a command from the Athenian people that one of their number be gone for ten years.
A modern use developed from the term is to describe informal exclusion from a group through social rejection, although the psychology of ostracism takes this further, where it has been defined as “...any behaviour in which a group or individual excludes and ignores another group or individual”.[1] This could therefore be a conscient act or an unconscient one.

I've never before heard the word 'conscient'. And I want to be clear up front - ostracism is horrible, it's a horrible way to treat people, and yourself. The benefits I describe are hidden behind a lot of very salient downside that I won't go into, but among social animals like primates, right through our ancestry the need for social inclusion, acceptance and attachment is a universal one. Ostracism like the death penalty, can't even be justified as a deterrent.

There are in life though, many necessary seperations. It can be a last resort for dealing with crappy people whom harass you, relationships that fail after a time when pushing down fundamental incompatibilities can no longer be sustained, seperation can be necessary for grieving and healing (if you can actually make a distinction).

What line do a draw between seperation and ostracism? I don't know.

But you find yourself ostracised, I found myself ostracised. I accepted it, I got my instruction to be gone from the great Athenian experiment. I have found the following beneficial.

Firstly, as ostracism endures my denial does not. My counterwill reaches exhaustion. It becomes clear that I am merely arguing with myself over questions of justice. I can embrace finally the power of negative thinking and play devil's advocate to myself. Nothing is at stake any longer, no ego. Nothing, nothing changes and finally I am free to explore perspectives other than that which shines the most flattering light on me.

It is also, a most unusual form of stimulus. Because being ostracised, in exile, if only in my own mind means that beyond the initial events, there is no further stimulus. Here crucially for me was one of the key benefits. When I found myself revisiting the same old argument, it enabled me to realise that this was all just taking place in my head. It wasn't something being done to me, but a habit. A mental habit that I am prone to getting stuck in. Not even in the specific but in the general. I am constantly trying to justify myself.

I mean imagine if somebody close to you died, and you found yourself mentally rehearsing the conversations you never had. Clearly, that person can't be driving these conversations, they are dead. It must be you, the entire relationship is now in your head. Ostracism helps you realise you can do this with anybody you know.

Alecturer told me the real value of a University degree was that it told an employer you could get something done without being told what to do all the time. In a similar vein, while ostracised you can genuinely do your own healing, your own redemption. You have the space to do so, and no possibility of doing so cynically. Our exiled Athenian can go 'woah, so people saw me as a potential tyrant, I need to work on my people skills and cooperation.' But doing so doesn't reduce the sentence, communications are down with the parole board.

And I guess if you find yourself ostracised, the best thing I can say to you is that I sincerely believe every human being is worthy of redemption, and equipped with the authority to redeem themselves. You may never come back from the wilderness, but you can be whole and complete.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hipsters Don't Exist

'hipsters' are just consumers. Regular old consumers.

Have you ever tried to be off-season, unfashionable? It's far harder work than being on trend.