Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grasping at Life

Is there any such thing as objective beauty? I think not. I look at a face and see what others cannot see, or they see, what I miss entirely. No one taught me what attracts me; no one can teach me what I already know. My best sunset is not necessarily one that you might like.

Once, in the last year of his life, I was taking my father to his early morning dialysis treatment, while the sun was just rising over the mouth of Back River, reflecting many beautiful shades of orange and pink across a mackerel sky. He saw me looking at the clouds and he said: "Some people would think that is beautiful."

"Yes," I said, in complete agreement.

"But it's nothin' but a bunch of goddamn colors to me," he said angrily.

It shot through me, as I realized that he had completely lost all appreciation of life since my mom had died, and his failing health left him wishing for an end. He died later that year in a merciful, morphine-laced sleep at Franklin Square Hospital.

My dad was never very big on talking about beauty, just as his dad (who had fled Russia and the communists) never spoke much about appreciating life. So I can't really say what he felt about a lot of things, or the depth of his feelings. But speaking for myself, I know I am still alive when I look at something so beautiful that it makes me go all hollow inside. When I feel a hunger to have and to know and to be in the moment, and to feel the same savage instincts of my youth.

There is much beauty in this world, and much to be grateful for. And there is a lot to be said for not having all that you want, and to still be grasping at life with both hands. Not having what you want, and still having goals, and still having passion and being willing to fight, is all about life and living.

Put me in a box when I lose that, because that's when I'll be ready to join my ancestors.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Words and Consciousness

A friend mentioned to me that my blog sounded religious, and that just confirmed to me the strong connotations of familiar words. (Like good and evil.) Therefore, I need to develop some new terminology, something that won't sound like I am talking about spiritual values, when I am actually just speaking about logic and how thoughts are integrated into higher levels of consciousness. This I will do later, but for now, let me say a little more about consciousness.

In fact, consciousness itself and its origins would take an entire book to explain. That has already been very well done by Julian Jaynes in his book: "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" (1976), and while I do not agree completely with his thesis, I have never seen a more thorough description of consciousness, nor a more detailed mapping out of its requirements. (In fact, as I read it, I was reminded of theories of linear algebra and vector spaces, since basically, there is a similarity. You cannot achieve a three dimensional space without the proper basis vectors, and you cannot achieve consciousness without a proper basis. One cannot be self-aware and question, until a "my space" is achieved, a sense of self.)

Anyway, I just want to formulate things logically, with no basis in any religion or any necessity for a belief in a spirituality that goes beyond biological consciousness. My theories are based upon reality, and if they happen to coincide and support others' beliefs in spirituality or religion, it is accidental and a coincidence of reality intersecting their personal beliefs.

For let me be clear when I say that although I might have spiritual beliefs or theories, I never expose them to the public or my friends, since I do not believe most people exist on exactly the same planes of thought, and therefore, I might be unable to make them envisage my particular consciousness and beliefs. To be sure, my thoughts about spirituality are by nature, not well-formulated, since no one living can speak from direct experience on anything beyond their own corporeal existence.

It is not necessary for any of us to share the same spiritual beliefs in order for us to all live in harmony and peace. There are preexisting laws that are rooted in consciousness that are inescapable. Conscious beings throughout this universe and indeed all universes are bound together as brothers and sisters by these laws.

Consciousness is as consistent as gravity, as an integrating force throughout the universe. Just as gravity attracts all particles of matter together in an unrelenting manner, integrating pieces into parts, and dust into planets and solar systems, so do all conscious minds continually absorb information and integrate all stimuli and data, transforming them into thoughts, memories, and knowledge.

This is the unstoppable force of consciousness everywhere. It is an upward evolution of thought, an ascension of consciousness to higher planes of thought. With mankind, that thought is riddled with emotion, and the emotion sometimes corrupts the purity of the thought processes. But in the same vein, the emotions are responsible for compassion, sympathy, and empathy, so we are not heartless brains; we are not just computers or machines, due to our emotions.

So the irony is this: That which makes us great, makes us troubled. Our emotions infect our thoughts with all manner of distortions. Men are able to be tricked and led astray by crafty tricksters who use human emotions to twist the truth.

My goal is to map a path that is completely dictated by logic, and is supported by the preexisting universal laws of consciousness. For once that path is mapped and learned, it will be much more difficult for people to be led astray, and hoodwinked by their emotions or tricked by devious cheaters.

Look around you, and a study of history will show you that the history of man is a history of bad government. It is a history of entire peoples led astray, taken this way and that by their leaders, through pointless wars which caused the loss of millions of lives. You will see oppression, genocide, massacres of the innocent. Century after century, this has been the story, and perhaps it was all necessary. For we needed their example, from which to learn. We needed to see all the dead ends of authoritarian governments; Nazism, communism, ruthless dictators who pop up like mushrooms, always leading innocent people astray and causing millions to suffer.

That is no longer necessary. There is another path, which exists and awaits us. It preexisted before the first creature on this planet lifted its head from the mud and looked around. It has been said accurately, that we are all stardust, since the elements that compose us were all formed previously in the interiors of other stars that later went supernova and exploded. Earth and our sun were formed from those remnants. It took us 15 billion years to get here, and we all live a very brief lifetime, less than one hundred years for most of us.

Now, at last, we have the facts clearly on the table in front of us. A new civilization is on the verge of being born; one based upon integrated truth and honesty, and the naturally ascending growth of the human mind. So it is important and necessary, that we map that road with as much accuracy and undeniable logic, as one would use to prove any theorem of mathematics. So that this time, there will be no distortions of reality; no twisting of the undeniable laws of all conscious beings in the universe.

I know that there are many people working simultaneously towards this goal. They are removed from me, and not in contact with me, but I feel them. My logic tells me that like many scientific theories that coincidentally come to pass through different people simultaneously and at the same time in history, this expansion of the consciousness of man is occurring worldwide, right now, everywhere. It can be delayed, but it can't be stopped. We can all participate. We are all connected in consciousness, even though we are not all on the same page.

Soon, an event will happen. History will change. Perhaps you are that change. Perhaps you, see the future. It took you, as the unique individual that you are, 15 billion years to get here, and like me, you will soon be dead. So step ahead, into the future, using your mind. Allow yourself to expand your consciousness and think bold thoughts. Imagine a future free of wars between men; free of sickness and ill health; a future where biological immortality frees man from death itself. For all of these things and more are possible, and you can help it happen. Look up and forward and not back and down. Open your mind.

Consciousness is calling you to higher levels. Will you heed that call?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Amoralistic Good and Evil

We often speak of good and evil and use the words carelessly, since we are comfortable with their meanings. But I think we may sometimes be lax by tossing them around too freely, not realizing that others may not know what exactly we mean, and we might therefore be alienating them from a viewpoint that would otherwise be helpful to them.

Shakespeare said there was no good or evil, only the saying that made it so, and that is true, since until we label something it lacks concept.

For a moment, let me temporarily compare the word evil with the adjective, bad. Something that is evil is bad, while something that is not evil, is good. But something that is bad, is not necessarily evil. If my car breaks down while I am on the way to the movies, that is bad, but it is certainly not evil.

So let us define good and evil in the context of man, since that is the one arena in which we all have experience, and it will be easier to judge our accuracy. Man, due to to his intelligence, is a collector of memories and experiences, and he categorizes memories and defines and associates meaning to them. To do this, he must integrate many memories, many definitions, building simple truths into ever evolving complexities, much like fractals define the most complex crystals. It is this ability that allows us to manipulate complex ideas, and continually grow and evolve to higher levels of consciousness. Thoughts and actions that allow this process to proceed in an orderly fashion are good. But thoughts or actions that impede the growth of man are bad. Those things that arrest the development of man, preventing him from achieving higher levels of consciousness, we herein label evil. They are like dirt in the gears of a well-oiled machine. They gum up the works and cause disorder in the otherwise orderly ascension of the mind of man.

Twisted thoughts, those based not upon truth and logic, but upon emotion and instinct are the ones that are most commonly evil. I look for a faster evolution, a quicker progression to what I deem are a better set of circumstances, and in my zeal for advancement I shove my brother aside; I bend ethics and a sense of fair play and I try to rob my way faster to where it is that I want to be. This is best for me, I think, because it gets me to my goal faster. But of course, the well-learned mind knows that this is not true, because in order to ascend, one must use the principle of integrated honesty. Without honesty, the entire system becomes unstable. For without honesty, misinformation is integrated into the system, and soon, all of our beliefs fall into question.

For thousands of years, the religions of this world have sought to define the proper course for man, and they have shared many similar beliefs, since in fact, all roads to higher consciousness must inevitably have similar qualities. So we see from the oldest of times things like the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Its sublime wisdom is just as accurate today as it was twenty thousand years ago. Other rules and commandments are just as wise, such as: "Thou shalt not kill, or thou shalt not steal." Common sense dictates that these rules are probably good, but many would, and still do, try to break these simple rules, for their own individual reasons.

Logic demands that we live by certain codes so that we may maximize our personal growth. Utmost among all the rules is the simple golden rule listed above, for by treating others as we would have them treat us, we do not rob or cheat or murder. We do not surreptitiously steal from our neighbor, nor do we covet his wife. We do not commit any acts that we would not want committed against ourselves. By respecting the rights of the individual, we guarantee our own positive growth to higher levels of consciousness, where we can obtain the most satisfaction and understanding from life.

Thus, we can easily see that we arrive at at a preordained system of laws that preexist in the universe for all intelligent life. This is the nature of consciousness. Intelligent, conscious beings must assimilate, order, and integrate knowledge about their environments in order to evolve to higher levels of consciousness. All things that promote that organic growth while simultaneously respecting the rights of all other sentient individuals are good. But those things that interfere with such growth are evil. This is an amoralistic definition of good and evil, and it is a universal law that cannot be ignored without consequence. It is independent of all religions and places no judgments on human behavior other than that all individuals must respect the rights of others.

It is a deceptively simple principle, but it is sound, and no person can become their best without its application. This simple summary of a much more detailed treatise, is all one needs to understand the concept of amoralistic good and evil.

"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."

About Eating Animals

I just happened to make a post on a friend's FaceBook wall about being a vegan, and I was fascinated, as I always am, by the rationalizations and defensive postures people assume, as soon as it is suggested that it might be morally wrong to murder innocent animals for our food, when it is not really necessary.

My post stated that animals are individuals; that they are conscious of their surroundings, and they have feelings and emotions, just like we do, and that therefore, they should be respected as individuals. I won't write much about this here, because I don't have time. But I just wanted to post a note here, so that it would remind me to revisit this subject in depth later.

Diet is very important to all of us, since that is what helps to maintain our bodies, but the fact is, that few Americans have healthy diets. Beyond the moral choice of whether to kill animals for food or not, one should consider the decisions that they should be making everyday regarding their own personal diet.

Eating animals is NOT healthy. Animals absorb toxins from their environment throughout their life, and those toxins become trapped in their tissues. So when you eat an animal, you are eating a higher level of toxic substances than you are when you eat a plant. Furthermore, the diets of factory farm animals are nothing that you will enjoy learning about when you study up on it.

Remember when they figured out what was causing Mad Cow disease? At the time, it seemed like common sense that one shouldn't grind up diseased animals and feed the remains to other animals, and yet it was that very procedure that had given rise to the disease.

And then there are many other toxins that one gets from eating slaughtered animals. There is just so much wrong with eating animals as they are bred and raised for slaughter, that many books have already been written about it.

Check out some of the books and websites, and I feel certain that without even making a moral choice, you will realize that you should try to eliminate as much meat as possible in your diet. And with the mercury levels in today's seafood, you don't want to eat too much of that either.

We largely perpetuate the practices of our parents with regard to eating, and society largely gravitates towards unhealthy, but tasty, fat-laden foods. In as much as we all only have one body to get us through this life, we should all try to take the best care possible of that wonderful machine that is carrying us around our personal universe. The moral choice needn't even be considered initially. Just do it for your health.

After study, you may come to appreciate the prescience of "Soylent Green".

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is an Artist?

I had a best friend who lasted longer than any set of tires, and we traveled together from the first grade of school until our late twenties. Many miles and years spent together, and many thoughts shared between us. He was an artist. That was how he defined himself, anyway. Once, when I asked him why he didn't complete a task, or why he wasn't more self-disciplined, he looked at me and smiled and said: "Mike, I am an artist. I have an artist's mentality."

So for him, (and he was very talented and very creative, and could sculpt and paint, and create just about any thing he could envision), there was a need to be spontaneous as part of his artistry. I saw it as a great excuse for procrastination and disorder, and acquiescing to the same basic weaknesses that I saw in myself. At that time, I was in college and pursuing a very vigorous set of courses and an extremely heavy course load, trying to make up for wasted years of loafing after high school. But his statement remained with me, because it defined him, as he defined himself. In order to maximize the beauty and thrill in his life, he required a certain disorder, and he allowed himself the luxury of lax discipline. This was what made him happiest. And since he lived with his mother, and had never had a job for more than about a week, and he knew he didn't have to ever worry about getting one, he was free to carve out his own special niche in the world.

My friend wasn't lazy by any means. In fact, he took on projects of gargantuan proportions, many of which were doomed to fail before the start, simply because only a highly disciplined mind could have stayed focused long enough to complete them. Mainly, I think he just wanted to prove to himself that he could do something, and as soon as he knew he could, the desire for completion escaped him. There were some very large projects that he did finish, and most of those were important to finally establish an income stream for himself, independent of his mother. He became successful as a businessman, and built his universe to suit his needs.

I came to believe that many artists were like my friend, and that they were disorganized misfits who just couldn't bear to get a job. So they labeled themselves artists, and they sang or danced or acted or wrote stories. I didn't have much respect for artists, as I saw them.

The label artist can be a derogatory term as it had come to be recognized by myself, but I have changed in my thoughts over the years, and I just realized this fact the other day, as I was writing an email to a friend. My friend had told me that she had made a few commercials, and that while doing them, she was a relentless perfectionist, and that she is normally not like that in her normal line of work, which is as an attorney. I told her: "That's because you are an artist, and an artist seeks perfection".

Those words rang in my ears and stayed with me for days, perhaps because subconsciously I had realized an important truth long ago, and it had finally risen to the surface in an innocent comment to a friend. An artist seeks perfection, but what is an artist? To answer that question, one must answer a broader one: "What is the nature of man?" (I use man synonymously with woman; a woman is just a special kind of man. But that is another blog entry entirely).

No one can describe the nature of man in less than a library, but I can reduce one aspect of man to a simple concept that allows me to explain my definition of an artist. Man is a social creature. From a zoological standpoint, this attribute gave him an advantage over fellow species of animals, because there was strength in numbers. Later, his cooperative nature allowed him to develop methods of communication and other skills, and again, he was elevated over his fellow animals, due to his social nature. Men want to share; it is inherent in their nature. They also, because of their intelligence, seek to order the universe in their minds, so that they can understand it and predict their own futures.

An artist is one who seeks perfection, I accidentally wrote to my friend. But more than that, he or she is someone who tries to share through whatever it is that they do as art. They may not realize this concept consciously, and many artists would probably decry it as a lie, but any fabrication of art is ultimately an attempt of understanding and indirectly, it is also one of sharing. You can describe many things as art, and I won't venture to be precise as to what is art and what is not. Anything that achieves a degree of perfection might be labeled as art, but that begs the question: "What is perfection?" We needn't concern ourselves with absolutes here.

I can look at a shirt that a native in Africa knitted and see great artistry in the maker's skills or beauty in its colors. Or I might look at the scribblings of a kindergarten student, and see abstract art in their renderings. But the person who is a true artist is never content. They strive to achieve perfection in whatever art project they take on. Their "perfection" is what works for them, and they might choose to stop before completion, just as my old friend, who let so many projects die. I label them artists not just because they chase their own private perfection, but because in so doing, it is their attempt to understand their universe and to share a particular point of view with others. It could be something as mundane as knitting a sweater, or as unusual as planting a row of yellow umbrellas across a mountaintop, but their creativity is a result of their humanity and their inbred desire to understand the universe and communicate their findings with others.

The best artists are those whose special talents help us to experience things that we might not be able to do on our own. They touch us on an emotional level and communicate directly with our soul. This could be from music, dance, painting, writing, or sculpture. It may be an architectural masterpiece or just a certain way a garden is planted, or how someone applies their makeup. They create a mood, an altered state of awareness for us, that we may never have experienced on our own. They open a window to their universe and invite us to experience what they are experiencing. It is a statement of themselves, and an affirmation of humanity and the uniqueness of the individual soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "Every man is my superior in some way." I try to remember that and learn from everyone I meet. So far, I have never seen that principle proven wrong. Because each of us has our own unique talents, and each of us is an artist in our own way. We all seek understanding, and often, without even realizing it, we try to share. When you are dissatisfied with something that you have done, or even with the current state of your own life, just remember: It's the artist in you, seeking perfection.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Rule of Law

My friend called me yesterday, very upset, and on the verge of committing violence. He had paid the taxes on his business property, but there was a shortfall, and without having received a notification of said shortfall, his property was about to be auctioned off. He had gone to pay the small shortfall (only a couple of hundred dollars), but there was a three-hour line out the door, and he feared he couldn't pay the taxes in time to avert the auction sale, which was to occur this coming Monday (this having been Friday afternoon).

I assured him that the information he had been given was wrong; that we live in a land of laws; and that the individual's property rights are protected by those laws. But he was not consoled, because a city employee had assured him that his property would be auctioned off come Monday. I made a few calls, and he checked with a city lawyer across the street at city hall, and sure enough, he had been misinformed, and it was only the debt which was up for auction, and he had six months after that to pay off the debt.

Common sense would normally tell you that the government can't just confiscate one's personal property without recourse, but he had been given bad information by several sources and he was on the verge of flipping out. This is how crazy violent acts occur. Whenever I see where someone went into a courthouse with a gun, or made some crazy decision to commit a violent stupid act, my first thought is usually: "What was done to them to provoke them?"

Usually, individuals are relatively just, and it is a relatively safe assumption to say that we ALL want to be treated fairly and with respect. Luckily for us, we live in a country of laws that are among the best in the world to protect the individual.

We can all sleep comfortably, knowing that this is not Venezuela, and we will not wake up to find that the government has taken over our business, or confiscated our property, so long as we pay our bills. At least for the present, this is true.

However, there are always forces at work trying to steal your rights, and we must be ever vigilant against such people. I cite for example the recent misuses of the law of Eminent Domain, used to steal valuable waterfront property from lifelong residents, so that rich corporations could build more valuable malls and hotels there. This misuse is a great danger that is currently being fought in many courtrooms. I cite this recent online definition of Eminent Domain, which would allow for a much broader interpretation than has previously been assumed:

"The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property."

Heaven help the poor land owner if that definition is freely applied by the courts! There are many other recent abuses of our laws which have been enacted by the courts, of which most people are oblivious. In particular, I am thinking of how trial lawyers have ravaged the coffers of so many large companies using falsified claims and crooked witnesses. The tobacco companies, the asbestos manufacturers, and many others have been targeted successfully, and have had their rights violated by the scoundrels who perpetrated the raids, and the courts which enabled them and were complicit through their rulings. People have in the large thought not much about these abuses of the law, because they were hoodwinked into believing bogus data.

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee," are words as true today as when John Donne first penned them.

Our laws as written, give us many rights, but those rights are also subject to an ever-changing interpretation. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes believed that the law evolves with the society it serves, but that in itself can represent a danger. Some standards must not be changed, for some truths do not change. Society may just as easily devolve as evolve, such as in Nazi Germany.

Therefore, I suggest that the law and the U.S. Constitution alone is not enough of a standard to protect present and future generations of Americans. We need an interlocking "Constitution of Morality" that will specify the spirit and intent of the law for the maximum protection of the individual.

This Constitution of Morality would help prevent abuse by radical activist courts, over-zealous defenders, and marauding prosecutors run amok. It would take many years and heated debates to frame such a standard, but I think it would be a worthwhile project and should be pursued. It would be like backing our constitution by a "gold standard". There is far too much leeway in existing laws, and our constitution is rife with opportunity for abuse.

History proves that our government can perpetrate abuses that we, today, would not think possible. We should act sooner, rather than later, to clarify and protect our constitution, so that we might avoid violent upheavals in the future, as enraged citizens rise up against future injustices.

Of course, we might have to bust the heads of a lot of trial lawyers and activist judges along the way, who would stand in the way of all that. Those foxes know that such an interlocking document would take away their ability to cheat, rob, and steal. But we shouldn't let that deter us. There are many excellent judges, who even now are speaking out against such abuses.

My guess is that some character will come along one day, and see this potential vehicle to fame, and pick it up and ride with it on a bold white charger. I just hope that individual's heart is pure and just, because to do it right, will take another George Washington, or another John Adams.

Pertinent links:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Many Calories Make a Thought?

I have noticed, many times, that after being engaged in deep thought, especially deeply creative thought, that I would sometimes feel very fatigued. It occurs to me, that from an energy standpoint, our bodies are only able to generate a certain number of calories of energy per day. So therefore, we can only think so much in a day; we can only create so much in a day. And beyond that, all thoughts are not equal. A deeply complex thought that calls all one's experience and knowledge into play, must certainly burn more calories than a simple thought of recognition such as: "This is cheese," or, "This is water."

But when one realizes a revelation, such as suddenly understanding the principle of the speed of light, there is not only expended the caloric energy of thought to reach that realization, but there is often a corresponding surge of energy due to elation. Thus, life-changing thoughts and experiences must truly burn the most calories and therefore be the most taxing.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons that many great thinkers have been very lean. They not only aren't concerned with pleasing themselves through the sense of taste, but they also are burning more calories by thinking vigorously.

Voltaire immediately springs to mind, and the unbelievable number of manuscripts which he produced. "Voltaire left behind him over fourteen thousand known letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets." I can't even begin to imagine how anyone could write so profusely. (see link below)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Commutative Property of Math Does Not Apply to Life

The commutative property of math: A+B=B+A does not apply to life. Lost and found, is not the same as found and lost. For if something lost is found, there is joy, but if something found is lost, there is sadness.

I only mention it in passing.

I found a tree of shade in an open field, and I used to go there to sit and think. The tree gave me thoughts that I had never had before. One day, it was gone. Someone came and took the tree away, and there was only an empty field. At first, I felt quite empty, as if I had lost a valued friend, but then I realized that someone had removed that tree for a reason, just as surely as it had been placed there.

Like a flower that blooms and shares its beauty, only to quickly wilt and fade, my secret spot had been taken from me, but it's memory remains. A wise hiker learns that there are many hills and pastures, and many sights beyond his favorite destination. But still, I am reminded of Robert Frost's poem, "Reluctance".

From which, my favorite part is:

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

I stand in an empty field, lacking the desire momentarily, to hike further. I remember that beautiful tree, and reminisce my moments there, embraced in the thoughts which it shared with me. And I wonder, did the tree ever sense that I was there? Would it have shared its thoughts so freely if it had? I think the tree shared, hoping that someone was there, but never really knowing.

And in that respect, I shared its prayers.

I sat beneath a tree and shared its thoughts, and I was made the more for it, unbeknown and unknowing.

Trees yield their fruits so that their seeds may be propagated and live on. Those thoughts from the tree are now in me, and they live and travel with me. If fertile ground is found, I will plant them elsewhere.

A tree shared its secret thoughts with me and I will carry them forward.