Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cultural malaise

I was recently reading the surrealist romance novel, "Nadja." The author of this book was also one of the founders of surrealism (if being found surreal means anything). He wrote the "Surrealist Manifesto." This got me thinking about movements in the arts: Dada, surrealism, modernism, expressionism, impressionism, etc. Some of these movements have their political component as well as their cultural aspects. When I pull an art history book off my bookshelf and flip through it, it is divided up into nice little sections devoted to "movements." Some of these movements come with their own manifestos, some with their own communities (i.e. the Bauhaus) and some are just loose schools of trends.

But as I look around today I don't see too many manifestos being written about the arts, culture, society, etc. Nor do I see schools and communites working in harmony under one direction towards a common goal or understanding. Maybe I am just out of the loop and these things are going strong, but it seems that culture has hit an apathetic stretch. The 20th century has just fragmented the continuum, destroyed the chronological continuity. Or perhaps I am just standing too close in history.

History takes time to reveal that which will be kept and that which will be tossed a side. When we stand close to the moment it is hard to determine how that moment will unfold. Kierkegaard was ignored in his day but a century later impacted the philosophical world greatly. Today it is hard to tell what effects that the modern authors, thinkers, artists will have on tomorrow. Gresham is a prolific writer. Is he who the future will remember as great literature of the 20-21st century? (Is Shakespear great because he survived the ages, or did he survive the ages because he is great)? I mean is Thomas Kinkade and his millions of prints going to define the artistic life of the West for the 24th century art historian? Is that what is becoming of art? The best marketing team gets to write the history? (Not that I want to debate the artistic merit of Kinkade at this point). Maybe that is the way it always has been: wars and the PR teams who champion their causes. Maybe the manifestos and the current schools do exist. They just can't get the big time marketers to back them.

So what does that mean to me (or to you)?
Let us search out the cracks and nooks of life to see who is there doing what. Let us go off the beaten path and into those back alley galleries, those little art school showings, those coffee house colletions. Let us set aside the obvious PR/Marketing of the big time press and turn to the lesser publishing houses. Let us support the local arts, search out the local bookstores for the local authors and musicians and artists. And above all let us learn to create from the heart with purpose, style, and distinction. Maybe you can write the next manifesto about how art and life should relate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Spirit and Matter

The supposed duality of spirit/matter used to be easy to phathom and we may be returning to a time where it will no longer be a problem. Until the 19th century it was assumed that the spirit world existed and in some ways interacted and affected the material world. But as natural philosophers became scientists, alchemists became chemists and universities added science as a course of study besides the humanities, the spiritual world became suspect. If it could not be weighed, measured, or observed then it did not in fact exist. The material realm became supreme and the spiritual realm was to slip quietly away. But then philosophy split again and gave birth to psychology. The study of human emotion and the human mind led down all sorts of crazy paths. Some of those paths died off and others are still walked today. And one of the most probing questions that philosophy and psychology asks is, "What does it mean to be human?" or more exactly, "What is consiousness?" And this question gave birth to neuroscience, the study of the brain. But it is much more then just the study of the physical stuff held in the head, it is also the study of the mind; how that physical stuff makes thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. And that is the turning point. That brings us full circle. In the brain is the mind. In the material universe is the immaterial consciousness. How the brain creates the mind or how the mind creates the brain is still a mystery. There has not yet been found that mechanism that creates, controls or maintains the conscious. We know that we are self aware we just don't know HOW we know we are aware. And if this self evident awareness is immaterial and not prone to the same type of materialist science that brought the supposed death to the spirit, then perhaps it is wrong and the spirit world still exists and still has some effect on us today. Perhaps just as a science of the mind was created, we now need a science of the spirit to explore such things. Not a theology or a religion, but a skeptical (read: objective) approach searching for methods to resolve questions of the spirit. (I believe that if such a science was created there would be great interest in its fellowship with some of the current trends in quantum physics).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Entropy is a term used to define the movement towards being inert; it is a definition of potential energy available for work. As a system uses energy it moves towards inertia. Once all the energy is used and if more energy is not put in to the system, then the system ends. Think of a wind up toy running down until someone turns the key to add more energy. I think life is the same way. I don't mean biological life (although if we stop eating or adding energy through food, then our systems come to an end in death), I mean psychological life: the power to be.

Some people seem to have an overabundance of psychic energy and life comes easily to them. They can see the possibilites before them and they plan how to capitalize on it. They can see life as it opens before them and they have the energy, discipline and orginizational skills to take full advantage of it. Little seems to bring them down. How do they do this? Where do they get the energy to sustain themselves?

Other people always seem to be fighting entropy. Life is always on the down-and-out regardless of how hard they try. The energy is just not available to move forward with plans and decisions. Entropy is always a constant worry. Life seems to always take more than it gives. Why do some people always lack the energy needed to get ahead, or even to stay the same? Why is life always pulling them down?

Energy is a slippery substance. It can't be grasped. It is elusive. I think that when it comes to psychic entropy it has a lot to do with the wiring in the system. There seems to be three types of people: the selfish energy suckers, the selfless energy givers, and the balanced few. I should say these three types are predominant on a continuum.
  1. The selfish energy suckers: Some of us consume most of the available energy on our selves and have little to give others. This becomes cyclical until we run out of energy. It is hard to be around people who are consumed with themselves and their need to suck up all the energy. After awhile they are left alone, resulting in a system with no one to draw energy from.
  2. The selfless energy givers: There are others who always give all their energy away and have little left for themselves. Often they become entrapped with people who tend to need energy and always suck it from them. Eventually, they are drained dry and wilt.
  3. The balanced few: We can't spend all our energy on ourselves and yet we can't give it all away either. A balance has to be reached, a give and take. I think some people have that natural balance and they proceed well with life.

It is hard to tell the type of person from just the outward appearance. But in the end it always becomes known by the ultimate results. Learning to have a balance is most difficult. Those that come by it naturally cannot understand the struggle of those who must work hard to maintain it. And those who struggle to move into a position of balance know how hard they must work to maintain it; seemingly that in one lax moment, entropy wins.

This psychic energy comes from various sources. Some of it comes internally, especially with the introvert who needs time alone to recharge their batteries. Some of it comes externally from others, especially with the extrovert who needs crowds to recharge their batteries. Some of the energy comes from a will to be, the courage to triumph and move ahead with life. All of this is filtered through the individuals psychic and physical predispositions. It is not an easy form to color because of the multiple shades of personality and physical characteristics that come into play.

I find that in my own life I feel that I must fight entropy often. I must maintain discipline until that discipline becomes habit, but if that habit is broken then entropy takes over quickly. I can find a million and one excuses to not paint, or write or exercise. I must then make the concerted effort to regain the discipline and reform the habits. Things like life changes, disruptions in routines, change of location or job, etc. are all causes for me to waver in my healthy habits and disciplines. It then takes weeks (if I work hard at it) or months to recover to the place I was previously. That is one reason I dislike change. My natural state seems to be one of low energy. So to take on tasks that require high energy I have to work extra hard and it takes an extra toll. I then need more time to recover my energy, being an introvert that means hiding away. But that time has to be spent in rebuilding my energy, doing things that give me meaning and fill me up, not just vegging out on TV. I have to find that balance between gaining energy and using energy. It is difficult.

Ok I have wandered on long enough. Any thoughts or comments?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Life Stages

Life has definite stages. When you are young they are not so obvious, but as you age and pass from one stage to the next to the next those stages become more evident. It is not as if you walk from one room to the next. It is more like changing seasons, the signs are evident if you are looking; but if you are not then suddenly you are in the midst of winter and not sure how it happened. Being self aware can go along way in preparing for the next season of life, and for making it through your current season with a little grace and wisdom.

Today my wife and I saw the ultrasound of our baby. This is a planned preganacy so we are happy that it is happening. But even so no amount of forethought can adequately prepare you for a new born coming into the world. We still have four months to go... and already we have a video of the boy moving about in his mommies tummy. Yes it is a baby boy. A new stage in life is developing before our eyes. We know it, see it, plan for it. but wow!!!

There are a million little things that you cannot even think of, let alone prepare for when a life change of this magnitude comes along. You just have to take it one day at a time with an eye towards tomorrow, do the best you can and then hold on tight. If you allow it, life can take you to amazing places.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

First Spiritual Principle

I posted a list of twelve spiritual principles. In this post, I will attempt to add to the first principle:
  • The interconnectedness of all things.

Within Eastern philosophy, and Buddhism especially, this is a basic principle. In the west it is a principle that is becoming more accepted through scientific study. In the study of statistics there is a game that is played called the "six degrees of separation." It states that within six moves or associations any two people on the planet can be connected. I know you, who knows so and so, who is connected to what's-his-name, who works with yaya's sister and yaya is the aid to the President of China. The interconnectedness of people. But that is still not quite what this spiritual principle means. In the scientific community, within quantum mechanics in particular, there is a principle called entanglement. It states (oversimplified and therefore much room for error) that when two particles come in contact they can become entangled. And then however one is manipulated the other "entangled" particle shows the same manipulated results. (Take a photon split it into two parts. Polarize one part and the other part, regardless of distance from the one being manipulated, will also take on the same polarization.) Now this is moving closer to the spiritual principle at hand. Take into consideration that everything has come from one event. Therefore, at one time everything was entangled. New energy is not being created or destroyed only changing forms. This brings us to the second spiritual principle. We will return to this idea in another post.

So the first spiritual principle: everything is interconnected. This can be understood physically and yet the world, the cosmos, is so vast that we cannot hold the complete interconnectedness of all things in our head at one time. We cannot see how it is connected. We can only believe that it is. This principle can also be understood metaphysically. God, or the One, or the Power that Is, or Energy, or Fate is moving things into position creating a master plan which is being played out with or without our consent. If we are religious then we have our own views and beliefs about this line of reasoning and where we stand on it. But now the idea of belief comes into play. We each set a burden of proof to our beliefs. Sometimes blind belief is enough (there's no burden of proof, or an authority figure said it so I will believe it). Perhaps the examples above are enough (or they will lead you on your own search either through science: quantum mechanics; or religion and philosophy: Buddhism) and then your burden of proof will be met. Or you may remain skeptical and need further evidence, something that has not yet come to light.

I understand that at this point, things are greatly simplified. But I feel confident that as I move through each principle with deeper explanations clarity will be obtained. So have faith (in that which you believe you can) and keep reading. Please feel free to post questions and comments.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Perfect Human

I was thinking this week about humanity. We, as humans, are an interesting breed. On the one hand you see the most loving, humble and compassionate acts lived daily. On the other hand, you can find the most despicable, abusive, and harmful act carried out with a certain amount of disdain, that it sickens the soul. And that is just the social/psycho aspect of humanity. The human body is an amazing, awesome instrument, but when it breaks down or becomes addicted it is difficult to watch the results. Humanity is a paradox. From these premises, I started to think about what humans have thought or are thinking about ourselves.

In the past, it was thought that the first humans, the Golden Humans, were perfect. Their perfection was biological, sociological and psychological. It was not only the perfect human form, but the perfect human society, government and philosophy. But the perfection was lost with each seceding generation; the corruption broke down the society, the mind and the body. Perfection was lost and the result was a decaying human species becoming less and less with each passing generation. Even those who strive for perfection in one or more of the humanly characteristics could never fully recover what once was.

This is easy to see today. Genetic diseases are carried on and compounded with each new generation. Dysfunctional mental and social problems breeding even further dysfunctionality.

But then again: the fields of psychology, sociology, genetics are all new fields, even science as we understand it today is new in the grand scheme of human history. So maybe all of the ills which plague us today have always plagued us; it is just that no one mentioned it in the past in the scientific terms we look for today. Silence can tell us nothing. We do know that war, greed, corruption, love, compassion and sacrifice have always existed. But are the negatives on the increase and the positives on the decrease? Does the perfect human have yet to exist? In modern evolutionary terms humanity must always be striving forward. Modern science, psychology and sociology can now point to what may be, in some possible future, a perfect human living in a perfect society. Under the guidance of science, humanity can become greater and greater with each coming generation.

But then again: it seems things don't really change, only the accessories in which we dress ourselves.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spiritual Principles

A year or so ago, I wrote out a list of spiritual principles, or the beginning of my spiritual philosophy. At this point, there are twelve principles on my list. I tried to keep them simple, but you will notice that those further down the list tend to be longer. I think simplicity is a virtue, but there are times when explanations are needed. At this point, I will just list what I have developed and then flesh them out in later posts with more detail.

  1. The interconnectedness of all things
  2. Energy is the only reality
  3. Energy flows
  4. We can participate in the energy flow (We can participate in reality)
  5. Through participation we come to see (know) the interconnectedness
  6. We are limited in our control of energy, but it is possible to increase our control through knowing the interconnectedness, participating in reality and having faith in that which is (I.E. belief in the energy [God])
  7. Participation is not just metaphysical or abstract. It is also moral and physical. Real participation connotes real action. This is Righteousness: the right act at the right time. Although what is "right" may not always be evident; action is always better then inaction. But don't act in haste. Act with the flow to promote the flow to bring balance.
  8. Living in the flow is a way of life. It begins in the heart with belief, in the mind with understanding (knowing and accepting) and in the body with action.
  9. Life is not divided or compartmentalized. Psyche(mind)/body/spirit is one. Don't overemphasis one area to the determent of another. All three make the conscious person.
  10. Through meditation we strengthen our spirit. Through exercise we strengthen our body. Through study we strengthen our mind. Yet we should not compound the illusions but rather use meditation, exercise and study to find liberation from the preconceived, to come to know the interconnectedness of all and the power of energy in all.
  11. Love is the way of the heart towards peace and harmony; that is balance. It may never be reached, but the way will lead towards the goal. To live love is to live balance. If all is interconnected then love must be extended towards all: people, animals, nature, cosmos...
  12. By releasing that which we think we can control we can truly come to realize what is in our control and how to extend control further. It will be realized that use of force or anger is not control or power but rather the way towards confusion. Acceptance of the ego as secondary leads to release, which is freedom to gain the enlightenment needed to see the interconnectedness and move towards true control/power. This is the way of humility.