Category Archives: Philosophy

The Patterns of Life

The universe has an uncanny and universal pattern of repeated themes at all levels of its existence.

At the largest level the patterns of galaxies resemble living tissue under a microscope:

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The roads, cities, rivers, and suburbs have a strikingly similar pattern:

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From our view of the night sky, the lines between stars (the constellations) draw many distinct and beautifully random patterns.

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This pattern is again repeated in cells and tissues in plants and mammals:

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And each level of the universe, both natural and man-made objects exhibit the same pattern. While this is an astonishing thought, consider that this pattern of correspondence covers even time itself.

The day and night cycles of Earth, the light half and the dark half of the day, are mirrored by the light half (spring and summer) and dark half (fall and winter) of the year. The year, like the day, repeats, and following this cycle plants, animals, and all other life on Earth are born, mature, grow old, and die. If you are inclined to believe in reincarnation, this pattern is repeated again just like the days and years on the calendar.

To enjoy this level of consistent coincidence throughout our existence doesn’t require any sort of belief. You can imagine the entire universe is the daydream of some supernatural creator, intelligent design, or even a cosmic accident. The beauty in what we see, and the patterns sprinkled throughout, is undeniable.

 

 

Channeling the Creative Spirit

I consider myself a decent writer. I can usually express myself in a coherent and even sometimes entertaining fashion, and dive deep into analytics when the situation demands. And yet after all of these years of writing and pouring nearly half a million words onto paper in my books, I still cannot tell you precisely how I do it.

I’m sure you have driven to work and not even realized that you actually made the trip until you arrived at your destination. The process was conditioned and automatic. It was simply one of life’s mundane chores. Excluding the help from my editors and the final tweaking during revisions, writing my books and some of my more lengthy pieces has been much the same experience – an automatic process.

Unlike the oblivious car trip, the process was not mundane – rather it was creative. I had general control over the characters, the plot, and the universe, but beyond that I allowed the story to go where it wanted. Sometimes I was eager to write a chapter if for nothing else to find out how the narrative would progress.

When I allowed this channeling of my muse to occur, I eagerly wrote several thousand words in one sitting with the greatest of delight and ease. But not all writing days were like that – sadly there were just as many days where I could barely eek out a few paragraphs. The crushing self doubt that comes from these moments is almost unbearable.

I had always assumed that these creative, flowing moments were something that “just happened” and I should make the most of it when it occurred.  Recently, however, I have come to realize that writing, like any art form, is a channeled art. By removing my analytical mind, I allowed this process to run its course without direct intervention. My writing time during these wildly successful stints became spiritual in nature.

I’m not claiming that the people and events in my fiction works actually existed at some point in history – perhaps in an alternate universe. But I can’t deny that possibility, either. Were they using me to tell their story?

I have come to the conclusion that becoming more spiritually and philosophically aware is an integral part of becoming a better writer. Even if you aren’t of the spiritual persuasion, I would still recommend fitting some mindfulness meditation into your schedule. Clearing the clutter from your mind, at least for a few minutes a day, will help tremendously with this.

I have been very blessed to be able to tell the story of some interesting and brave characters. I will freely admit that sometimes I even entertain the fantasy that they were (or are) possibly real people, perhaps in an alternate universe, and during these creative moments I bring a bit of their life into our universe. Regardless, I know that many more tales that await in the supernatural realm accessed through epic late-night writing marathons and lazy afternoons under my favorite tree with my laptop.

If you have ever had the motivation to write, I would urge to to start. There is no time like the present. You need surprisingly little to get started. If you get stuck, take a step back and allow the ideas to flow instead of forcing them through your analytical mind. Let your muse skip the cultural filters we all have and directly inspire you. Give permission to those characters that you have communed with in your daydreams to share their story through you.

Allow them, and you, to shine.

 

The Canvas of Life

Life is an art project that insists to be drawn. It will happily take no input from the artist. People and circumstances will cheerfully doodle and sketch as they will upon its blank, white surface.

If you have the courage to stand in front of the easel, you have a choice. The first, and easiest, is to watch a completely adequate, and, if you’re lucky, possibly great image be painted in front of your eyes

Alternatively, you can pick up the brush and create your own masterpiece. Create your own pallet and design whatever your heart desires.

The canvas will wait for you.  How soon do you begin to imagine your own portrait of reality?

Artificial Culture

I saw an interesting quote on Facebook today about the state of pop music. It was attributed to David Grohl, but I cannot 100% verify that he said it. Either way, I found it incredibly accurate.

16665212_1436130973110710_8209107490979029911_oWhile I would disagree that most of it is fun to listen to, he makes a very valid point – it is devoid of meaning.

I understand that every generation thinks that the younger generation’s music is crap. That is to be expected. But we have not had a case in recent history where the emotion and meaning has been so horribly stripped out of the musical scene.

We are now left with a musical landscape that is devoid of most deeper content and has been reduced to repeating I’m a stupid hoe over and over until its driven deep into the psyche of young, impressionable minds.

Artificial culture is created in a lab, much like processed food. It may have actual elements of culture (i.e. “music”, art, etc.), but it is all created in specific quantities for specific purposes. If there isn’t a particular agenda behind it, then it simply caters to the largest audience possible in order to have the most financial success. From a business point of view there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is generally devoid of meaning outside of monetary gain.

Authentic human culture is created organically and spontaneously. It can be commercial, even have wide appeal or consumption, but it generally has its roots in everyday human life. From jam sessions in garages, to impromptu bar and coffee shop performances, to music artfully written with the goal of being more than the sum of its components, real music, and thus real culture, is grown like a seed in the ground, not from a test tube in a think tank laboratory.

 

 

Don’t Be Offended

You do not have the right to be free from offense.

There are many times where things you see, hear, or watch, will offend you. These things can strike deeply into your heart, sometimes creating a wound that will keep you occupied for quite some time.  This is normal, and it will pass – if you let it.

When you feel offense, you can ignore it, react to it, or grow from it. You can actually do several of these things at once, but your actions will likely fall into these core categories.

If the statement or thought that offends you has no relation to your life can be ignored. They generally come in the form of insults, and giving them any space in your mind is playing right into the hands of the person spewing the venom.

If you react to the statement that offends you, then it is almost always a losing proposition. You are giving your attacker a foothold into your mental space. By not ignoring it, you let them successfully land a blow to your psyche. The actions that spring from this will probably have little to no growth path.

The best course of action, other than ignoring it, is to grow from the experience. Sometimes criticisms leveled at us are fairly applied, sometimes they are not. Either way, only you alone have the power to determine how this will affect your life.

Being able to process an offensive statement and make a decisive decision as to how to handle it is a very powerful tool in your mental arsenal. Once you’ve mastered it, people’s offensive words will no longer be able to bother you, and you’ll be able to take the bits that are reasonably critical and use them to grow as a human.

Next time you see someone spewing something that you don’t like, remember that it is their right. You can disempower them, and strengthen your own resolve, by not allowing it any quarter in your mind.

Sandboxing People

That sounds rough, doesn’t it?  It’s not quite what you think, is it?  Allow me to explain.

In computers, the term sandboxing means to take a program and run it in a protected environment where it can’t hurt or alter the rest of your system. It is commonly done by developers who are testing out beta software, or even system administrators who are concerned about an old, buggy, or malicious piece of code.

When you sandbox, or virtualize a program, as it is more often called, the system provides a pretend set of hardware on which the program runs. Instead of directly letting it access drives, video cards, or even the internet, it passes those commands through a filter. Sometimes it performs the desired actions, but other times it modifies these commands to make them safer or more compatible. The system can even lie to the sandboxed program and tell it that it has less memory than the physical system actually has.

To the sandboxed program, it thinks it is running on actual hardware, but in reality it is operating in a safe space that cannot harm anything else if it misbehaves. The program doesn’t need to be changed – it can simply carry on as is. Instead, the reaction of the system to its commands is altered.

Sandboxing seems like a sensible precaution in the IT world, but is it really an appropriate thing to do with people? It most certainly can be.

If someone is abusive or causes you harm, excluding them from your life is a good thing. But sometimes good people, people that are worth keeping in your life, can exhibit behaviors that might be challenging, difficult, or problematic for you to deal with, or that might cause problems in other relationships. By sandboxing them, you can maintain the relationship without it damaging other parts of your life.

Sandboxing a person can be done simply by putting them, and your interactions with them, in a separate mental space that is isolated from the rest of your mind. I do not mean keep their friendship a secret, but rather keeping it out of the sensitive areas of your life – areas that affect your happiness, livelihood, and even safety.

For an example of this, consider a person who frequently talks negatively about others. You can be certain that just as often as they are talking to you about someone else, they will talk to others about you. It is just how these people tend to operate. If you discuss you or other people in a negative light, that information will probably be passed around and eventually get back to you. These people are not councilors, they are dumpers. They live in the past and are stuck in a loop of relaying what happened to others.

To handle this person, I suggest never discussing other people with them, at least never in a negative light. Any information you provide them about yourself or your own circumstances must be carefully considered as it might be divulged. Don’t share anything you aren’t comfortable with everyone (and their proverbial brother) knowing about you.

In doing so, you will isolate yourself from the negative effects of being in a close relationship with this person, yet still reap the benefits of being in contact. The gifts that contact with others brings to us, and our understanding of the universe, are not always obvious. Keeping as many opportunities of communication and understanding open is a positive course of action.

I am not suggesting to be dishonest with people. While sandboxing does require some effort, and often a distinct lack of engagement at critical times, it should not require one to lie. If you are finding that keeping someone in a safe position in your life requires you to be dishonest, it is probably worth evaluating the communication you are engaging in with them, or perhaps not engaging with them at all.

Now this technique requires, in some cases, with some people, more trouble than it may be worth. And since I’m not a psychologist I can’t really say that this comes from professional or educational experience. But I have noticed that some people are worth keeping around. There is a genuine connection there. It seems silly to throw that out the window without some serious due consideration. And since every situation, and person, is unique, the technique of sandboxing someone may be a better course of action.

The All-Powerful Dreamer

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Humans are powerful, creative beings. Individually, and collectively, we can do some amazing, and horrible things.  But at the core of our being is a boundless creativity that knows no limits.

Sometimes, the creative mind becomes bored or complacent and falls asleep. It dreams awful dreams – creating villains so powerful, so malicious that they seem unstoppable.

And then the dreamer awakens, remembering that they are that powerful, beautiful, creative being that creates his own reality. He summoned the very demons he was once afraid of.

After a long slumber, the human stirs, and is ready to change his world.

The Usefulness of Debate

Is debate a useful technique in hashing out issues, learning from one another, or exploring solutions? I used to think it was, but I am beginning to question that wisdom. I used to consider debating an enjoyable sport, but I have been lately seeing the futility of this tool of discourse.

In the debates I have observed and participated in, I have noticed that very little consensus is ever reached. Both sides seem more interested in defending their prized crown jewels – nuggets of wisdom that are, more often than not, entirely subjective appraisals of the world around them. I am including myself in this assessment. I am certainly guilty of playing defense and not listening to the other side.

One can see this in action by watching less than an hour of the US Senate or House debate a topic. Presenters come prepared with slideshows and placards that generally reduce an issue to its most primal elements. The pre-packaged assessments roll off the tongue, but generally hold little resounding emotional resonance.

If you want to see an even more vapid example, read the comments section of any major newspaper website – or a contentious Facebook post. You’ll see paid shills arguing with each other with perfectly crafted quips, insults, and retorts. When an amateur debater joins the discussion with a longer, less polarized reply, they are either ignored or shunned. The discussion is nearly instantly derailed into adolescent grandstanding.

And after hundreds of replies, the original message was lost. Someone called someone else a jerk, used a curse word, or insulted their manliness in some way. Another innocent bystander tries to interject their perceptions on the issue and are slaughtered by the master debaters. A Facebook thread gets deleted, or a newspaper editor decides that comments just aren’t worth the bandwidth they consume.

In the end, we’re left with little to no knowledge gained by any of the involved parties.

From now on, I am going to try to participate in discussions, not debates. I will listen better, defend less, and learn more. My increased openness to ideas will not result in blind acceptance of them, but rather to be considered as alternative points of view. I’ll treat them like a buffet – take what I want, leave the rest. When someone tries to preach dogma to me, stops listening to me, or rallies their defensive forces for an all out siege, I will move on to the next discussion.

Call it a late resolution for 2017.

The Carnival is In Town

Think about what happens to a TV show when it begins to struggle in the ratings. It tries new and drastic things, turning the plot and character development up on its end to be bold, innovative, and keep viewers tuning in to see what’s next.
 
It vaguely reminds me of our current political situation. When no one else can get the job done – a carnival barker is brought in to shake things up. It’s time to solve our problems. It’s only a matter of time before happy days are here again, right?
 
I suppose we’ll then see if the boost in ratings will work. Otherwise, like any soap opera, the story will devolve into the ridiculousness and soon be forgotten.

Taxation is Theft, But…

It’s an oft-repeated phrase, especially around tax season. That libertarian friend you know and love will remind you that taking anything by force violates the non-aggression principle (or the NAP), a philosophical view that force of any kind, outside of self-defense, is wrong.

In the strictest sense, your friend is right. No one wants forced used against them, and unless you are violating another, it is hard to justify it. But this philosophy ignores several facets of reality that must be reconciled with any practical world view:

Universe Does Not Validate Force

The universe, all creation, God, whatever you want to call everything that is around us – the material world that we live in, be it our own creation or some divine experiment, does not care in the slightest the reason that force is used, or even its outcome. The universe seeks balance and will enforce it at all costs.

If force is used, at some point, somewhere, an equal and opposite reaction will occur. I’m not necessarily talking about Newton’s Third Law, but that physical effect is a manifestation of this universal principle. The conservation of balance is the most universal law in this reality. Regardless, the universe does not assign good or bad labels to incidents of force.

It is remarkably indifferent.

The Power of Culture

Since the universe doesn’t give any consideration to validating the use of force, who does? This is generally a cultural concept. People of a certain geographic area, ethnicity, spiritual belief system assign moral and ethical judgments that either validate or invalidate an action. Though these judgments seem quite real, but essentially they are simply human-placed abstractions upon our actions.

Humans, as far as we know, are unique on Earth in our desire to judge our own, and other’s, behaviors. Animals simply do what is necessary and do not encounter moral agony over stealing young out of a prey’s nest. We might find these behavior’s abhorrent, but they do what they must to survive. Whether or not they give a second thought to these behaviors is up for debate, and unfortunately we may never know.

Regardless, it is our culture that defines what is good and bad. This is not some universal truth.

Are You Ready to Rule Yourself?

In Anarchist-Capitalist and Libertarian circles, there is a lot of talk about doing without government of any kind in here.  But I would ask the question – are you really ready to completely rule yourself?  To be responsible in every way for the consequences of manifesting reality in your life?  Can you do without government entirely?

Before you immediately answer yes, ask yourself how you will survive? Will you cling to the notion of property rights, as many pure libertarians do? If so, I would suggest that you have immediately leaned upon a crutch of government. Property rights do not come from some universal or natural law. It is not an inherent concept in reality. It is created through government, a government which we, at one time, gave consent.

I would posit that the vast majority of people reading this, in fact, the vast majority of people in the world, are not quite ready to become our own masters in all matters in the material plane.

To use, but hopefully not abuse the phrase “check your privilege”, do not assume that you are ready for this monumental task. Humans will get there. It’s inevitable. No system lasts forever. But we are just beginning to awaken to new possibilities, new systems of thought and belief that only a couple hundred years of go would have landed you in a lot of hot water for even uttering in public.

Any knee-jerk reaction to assume humankind, or even one individual, is ready to be completely without government is a vestige of relative manufactured comfort. It is easy to feel self-sufficient with Amazon Prime, a fancy water filter, and some solar panels. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the immense responsibility that awaits us.

Check your privilege, pay your taxes, and all the while learn to be a master of yourself. One day, perhaps in the not so distant future, we will be able to take a more substantive step of material and spiritual self-sufficiency.