Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lies and Shadows, Silence and Time

Two quotes from ``Ceremony,'' Leslie Marmon Silko's masterpiece.

The first one is long and about the lies with harbor deep inside and shadows:

... He had a crazy desire to believe that there has been some mistake, that Floyd Lee had gotten them innocently, maybe buying them from the real thieves. Why did he hesitate to accuse a white man of stealing but not a Mexican or an Indian? He took off his gloves and stuck his hands inside his jacket to wipe the broken blisters on his shirt. Sweat made the raw skin sting all the way up both arms, leaving his shoulders with a dull ache. He knew then he had learned the lie by heart---the lie which they had wanted him to learn: only brown-skinned people were thieves: white people didn't steal, because they always had the money to buy whatever they wanted.

The lie. He cut into the wire as if cutting away at the lie inside himself. The liars have fooled everyone, white people and Indians alike; as long as people believed the lies, they would never be able to see what had been done to them or what they were doing to each other. He wiped the sweat off his face onto the sleeve of his jacket. He stood back and looked at the gaping cut in the wire. If the white people never looked beyond the lie, to see that theirs was a nation built on stolen land, then they would never be able to understand how they had been used by the witchery; they would never know that they are still being manipulated by those who knew how to stir the ingredients together: white thievery and injustice boiling up the anger and hatred that would finally destroy the world: the starving against the fat, the colored against the white. The destroyers had only to set it into motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more than a body count; the lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to fill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and with great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it.
.
.
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The moon was bright, and the rolling hills and dry lake flats reflected a silvery light illusion that everything was as visible as if seen in broad daylight. But the mare stumbled and threw him hard against the saddle horn, and he realized how deceptive the moonlight was; exposed root tips and dark rocks waited in deep shadows cast by the moon. Their lie would destroy this world. ---pp. 177-8, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

The second quote on silence and time:

He stopped on the edge of the clearing. The air was much colder. He had been so intent on finding the cattle that he had forgotten all the events of the past days and past years. Hunting the cattle was good for that. Old Betonie was right. It was a cure for that, and maybe for other things too. The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams, driven by his hesitation to admit they had been stolen, that the land---all of it---had been stolen from them. The anticipation of what he might find was stung tight in his belly; suddenly the tension snapped and hurled him into the empty room where the ticking of the clock behind the curtains had ceased. He stopped the mare. The silence was inside, in his belly; there was no longer any hurry. The ride into the mountain had branched into all directions of time. He knew then why the oldtimers could only speak of yesterday and tomorrow in terms of the present moment: the only certainty; and this present sense of being was qualified with bare hints of yesterday or tomorrow, by saying, ``I go up to the mountains yesterday or I go up to the mountains tomorrow.'' The ck'o'yo Kaup'a'ta somewhere is stacking his gambling sticks and waiting for a visitor; Rocky and I are walking across the ridge in the moonlight; Josiah and Robert are waiting for us. This night is a single night; and there has never been any other. ---pp. 178-9, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

Finally, a bonus quote from an Aeon article, ``Wild thing How and why did humans domesticate animals – and what might this tell us about the future of our own species?'' by Jacob Mikanowski

Source: https://aeon.co/essays/how-domestication-changes-species-including-the-human

Keeping pets meant inviting animals into the family. It also created new relationships of inequality. The anthropologist Tim Ingold at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who has spent years studying the reindeer herders of Lapland, argues that it is a mistake to regard domestication as a form of progress, from living in opposition to nature to harnessing it for our benefit. In The Perception of the Environment (2000), he notes that foraging peoples generally regard animals as their equals. Hunting is not a form of violence so much as a willing sacrifice on the part of the animal. Pastoralists, on the other hand, tend to regard animals as servants, to be mastered and controlled. Domestication doesn’t entail making wild animals tame, Ingold says. Instead, it means replacing a relationship founded on trust with one ‘based on domination’.

When humans start treating animals as subordinates, it becomes easier to do the same thing to one another. The first city-states in Mesopotamia were built on this principle of transferring methods of control from creatures to human beings, according to the archaeologist Guillermo Algaze at the University of California in San Diego. Scribes used the same categories to describe captives and temple workers as they used for state-owned cattle.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Possum

From a novel on (lesbian) love, loss and grief, remembering, and amnesia:

The possum travels light, its little brain just a bit of spit and blood, poor synapses that can't recall where it slept the day before. It's nomadic, solitary, stopping here or there to sleep, to eat, and in the spring to mate. When cornered, it'll hiss and bare its teeth, and then commit its suicide. You think it's dead, and chances are it is, but when you leave it might wake up, sneer, and move along. ---p. 60, Toward Amnesia, Sarah Van Arsdale

What is kindness? Kindness is a way of walking, of approaching subjects. It has deep roots in a view of the world based on equality. Violence comes from inequality and requires justice. In an equal world, there are swift decisions, but they are not violent!

A quote on human sacrifice:
``The practice of human sacrifice was fundamental to the Aztec's faith. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed each year in hopes of appeasing the willful gods and keeping the fragile universe in balance. On holy days, priests in black robes led victims---warrior, prisoner, slave, or maiden---up the Great Temple and carved out their beating hearts with a flint knife.'' ---p. 15, Dancing with the Tiger, Lili Wright

And a quote about listening from a strange novel:
... I listen. That's my business. Listening. That's the difference between me and the Harvard guy. The Harvard guys don't listen. ---p. 156, The Last Thing He Wanted, Joan Didion


Monday, December 12, 2016

Is There a Tiny Fragment?!?

This quote comes after a particularly disturbing and depressing description of life in the Soviet Union in early 20th century:
``Not all of me shall die.'' Shulubin whispered. ``Not all of me shall die.''
He must be delirious.
Kostogolov groped for the man's hot hand lying on the blanket. He pressed it lightly. ``Aleksi Filippovich,'' he said, ``you're ging to live! Hang on, Aleksi Filippovich!''
``There's a fragment, isn't there? ... Just a tiny fragment,'' he kept whispering.
It was then it struck Oleg that Shulubin was not delirious, that he's recognized him and was reminding him of their last conversation before the operation. He had said, ``Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me. There's something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don't you fell that?'' pp. 482-3, Cancer Ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Is this hope or illusion? I believe Solzhenitsyn leaves it up to each of us, readers, to decide on our own.

I have felt the lack of trust and sense of betrayal described in the following very acutely:
... Cancer was a front-parlour subject, but it wasn't in the same class as a broken leg or a heart attack or even a death. It was apart, obscene almost, like a scandal; it was something you brought upon yourself.
Other people think that too, but in different ways. Rennie used to think it herself. Sexual repression. Couldn't act out anger. The body, sinister twin, taking its revenge for whatever crimes the mind was supposed to have committed on it. Nothing has prepared her for her own outrage, the feeling that she'd been betrayed by a close friend. She'd given her body swimming twice a week, forbidden it junk food and cigarette smoke, allowed it a normal amount of sexual release. She'd trusted it. Why then had it turned against her?  pp. 73-4, Bodily Harm, Margaret Artwood

In fact, there is a close, and yet obscure, connection between trust (faith?) and that tiny fragment inside ...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Meaning of Existence

``It was just this sort of silent immobility, without planned or even floating thoughts, which gave him a sense of purity and fulfillment.

At such moments an image of the whole meaning of existence---his own during the long past and the short future ahead, that of his late wife, of his young granddaughter and of everyone in the world---came to his mind. The image he saw did not seem to be embodied in the work or activity which occupied them, which they believed  was central to their lives, and by which they were known to others. The meaning of existence was to preserve unspoiled, undisturbed, and undistorted the image of eternity with which each person is born.
Like a silver moon in a calm, still pond.'' ---p.428, Cancer ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn


"Cattle are like any living thing. If you separate them from the land for too long, keep them in barns and corrals, they lose something. Their stomachs get where they can only eat rolled oats and alfalfa. When you turn them loose again, they go running all over. They are scared because the land is unfamiliar, and they are lost. They don't stop being scared either, even when they look quiet and they quit running. Scared animals die off easily." ---pp. 68-69, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko


"But the patient's organism isn't aware that our knowledge is divided into separate branches. You see, the organism isn't divided. As Voltaire said, `Doctors prescribe medicines about which they know little for an organism about which they know less.' How can we understand the patient as a single subject? ... If you wanted to understand the patient as a single subject, there'd be no room left in you for any other passion. That's the way it is. The doctor should be a single subject as well. The doctor ought to be an all-rounder." p. 425, Cancer wardAlexander Solzhenitsyn


Friday, November 11, 2016

Case Breaking and Surrender

``A case breaking is like a dam breaking. Everything around you gathers itself up and moves effortlessly, unstoppably into top gear; every drop of energy you've poured into the investigation comes back to you, unleashed and gaining momentum by the second, subsuming you in its building roar. ... This, I think, is one of the things I always craved from the job: the way that, at certain moments, you can surrender everything else, lose yourself in the driving techno pulse of it and become nothing, but part of a perfectly calibrated, vital machine.''  p. 321, `In the Woods' by TanaFrench

When I read this paragraph I had this feeling that life can be lived more or less the way described here, if one learns how to surrender. Maybe ... Who knows!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Rules (of Changing a Culture)

I finished an amazing book about the culture that Donald Trump is representing, and frankly exploiting, a few weeks ago: ``Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,'' by Arlie Russell Hochschild [link: https://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Their-Own-Land-Mourning/dp/1620972255] The most fascinating thing was that the author, a liberal professor from Berkeley, has been able to listen deeply to a group of tea party members from Louisiana and narrate their deep story. Not surprisingly, that deep story is closely related to the ``American dream''!

Another related book that I am reading now is ``Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,'' by J. D. Vance [link: https://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Elegy-Memoir-Family-Culture/dp/0062300547] Here is an excerpt:
``It's not like parents and teachers never mentioned hard work. Not do they walk around loudly proclaiming that they expect their children to turn out poorly. These attitudes lurk below the surface, less in what people say than in how they act.'' p. 57, HillBilly Elegy
What is culture? A framework, a deep structure of shared meaning that motivates people within in. The common subconscious of a group.

How can one guide and change a culture? Is it at all possible?

``There is a difference between posture that is based on an abstract ideal and posture that is responsive to circumstance, that arises out of context.

Lordosis of the spine is naturally regulated by the stabilizer muscles of the trunk---that is, until certain forms of thought get involved. When we think about abdominal muscles and about stabilizing our lordosis, we control our posture consciously and create fixation. Even thinking about our abdomen is likely to activate the superficial belly wall. These muscles pull the chest down and, when habitually contracted, lead to weakening of the deeper system that supports us in dynamic movement. Coupled with belly wall tightening is buttock tightening and pelvic floor tightening.'' --p.106, How Life Moves

Dealing with a culture is as dangerous and potentially futile as trying to correct subconscious. I think there are three elements in effective work with either: Simplicity (of words and instructions), practice (repetition and patience), and meaning (purpose and motivation).

The puzzle is that everything starts with a word:

``In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'' John 1:1

For this young man, "The Word" is "yo-yo":

https://aeon.co/videos/how-the-yo-yo-put-a-troubled-young-man-on-the-path-of-playful-salvation


THROW from Early Light Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Understanding

Yefrem opened his book again, but he was reading lines without understanding what they meant. He soon realized this.

He did not understand what he was reading because he was disturbed and worried by what was happening in the ward and outside in the corridor. In order to understand, he had to remember that he wasn't going to get anywhere any more; that he would never change things or convince anyone of anything, that he had only a few numbered days in which to straighten out his life.

Only then would the book's meaning reveal itself. ... -p. 115, Cancer Ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Several years ago, I used to go to a hair salon nearby, to a Russian-Jewish lady. We mostly talked about her family, her high school daughter with an unwanted pregnancy, and things of that nature. One time, for a forgotten reason, she started petting my head and repeating several times, ``let it go!'' What I remember clearly was a feeling of unease that took me over, as if something ominous was about to happen. I think something happened that day, but I am not sure what, and the memory stayed with me. We never talked about that afterwards, and after a while, I stopped going there.




Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Essence of Faith

`` ... he knows that if he broke it all off of himself, without a word from me, without even speaking of it to me, without expecting anything from me, I should have felt differently to him and perhaps might have become his friend. He knows that for a fact. But he has a dirty soul. He knows it, but can't bring himself to it; he knows it, but still he asks for a guarantee. He can't act on faith. He wants me to give him hope of my hand, ...'' pp. 80-81, The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky

The essence of faith is ``acting without guarantees'' and it involves some degree of surrender. The opposite of faith is ``taking hostage'' and ``demanding ransom''!

``The essence of religious feeling does not come under any sort of reasoning or atheism, and has nothing to do with any crimes or misdemeanours. There is something else here, and there will always be something else---something that the atheists will for ever slur away; they will always be talking os something else.'' p. 213, The IdiotFyodor Dostoevsky

What we do not fully appreciate is that most people act on faith regularly throughout their life. Even the simple act of going to sleep (or surrendering to it) involves faith as the following article (Falling for Sleep, by Rubin Naiman, link) beautifully articulate:

``To fall asleep naturally, as opposed to just crashing into sleep when our wings melt, or knocking ourselves out with alcohol or drugs, we must be willing to do two things. We need to lose our mind – to surrender our waking sense of self. And we need to invoke sleep.

As the body settles into bed, our challenge is to let go of our ordinary mind, our waking sense of self. This part of us, the part of us we usually call I, is simply incapable of sleeping. It can walk us to the shoreline of the sea of sleep, but it can’t swim.

By definition, the part of us we call I can do only waking. Because wakism holds that this I is all that there is to us, it reinforces our addiction to waking and our reluctance to fall asleep. ‘I cannot sleep’, the universal slogan of insomnia, is inherently valid. Believing that the waking self needs to learn to sleep is a set-up.

From the perspective of our waking self, falling asleep is an accident. We can only slip, slide or trip into it. Taking on falling asleep as a problem is the ultimate trap. We cannot intentionally cause an accident, which is what the waking self persistently tries to do. Letting go of the waking self is an act of humility.

In doing so, we open more to thinking of something outside of our self – to inviting sleep.'' Falling for Sleep, by Rubin Naimanlink


Monday, July 11, 2016

Loneliness and Uncertainty

``My own dark time, as I call it, the time of my loneliness, was most of my life, as I have said, and I canner make any real account of myself without speaking of it. The time passed so strangely, as if every winter were the same winter, and every spring the same spring. and there was baseball. I listened to thousands of baseball games, I suppose. Sometimes I could just make out half a play, and then static, and then a crowd roaring, a flat little sound, almost static itself, like the empty sound in a seashell. If felt good to me to imagine it, like working out some intricate riddle in my mind, planetary motion. If the ball is drifting toward left field and there are runners on first and third, then---moving the runners and the catcher and the shortstop in my mind. I loved to do that, I can't explain why.'' p. 44, Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

This is the second novel from Marilynne Robinson that I am reading. I think of them more as long poems rather than novels. They are beautiful in a strange way. I am reading a lot of English (American) and Persian poetry these days, between trading options. It is a lonely existence, but I am working on being thankful for whatever I am getting, and being patient and forgiving with respect to my shortcomings (and others') and on developing my tolerance for uncertainty and for losing opportunities (which are always plenty in trading business with the benefit go hindsight!).

``The medieval Japanese monk Yoshida KenkĊ put it this way: ‘If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.’

You can hardly get more transient than an insect; some adult mayflies live for just half an hour.'' Insectophilia, Andrea Appleton [Source: Aeon online essays, link]
I really liked the quote from Yoshida Kenko. I posted it on my Facebook page too.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Cycle of Suffering

Challenge rules the kingdom of reason
Compassion is the queen of heart
Indifference breaks the circle of suffering

That's about all, but if you want more

Meaning rests within the arrow of time

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hidden Structure of Intentionality

`I say, Maigret, is that the way you work in the police? You throw yourself on the first evidence you can find? Might you have forgotten the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics? May I remind you that Hermes, the messenger, is a deceitful god. The accumulation of proof, the search for hidden meaning, the descent into the unfathomable structure of intentionality: Kafka's parabolas, Celan's poetry, the question of interpretation and subjectivity in Ricoeur---you turned all that to your advantage, once upon a time.' ---p. 83, The Circle, Bernard Minier


Saturday, April 02, 2016

The City of the Dead

How do you solve a mystery when you do not know what is the question? How do you go about answering an unknown question?!?

Series of quotes from Sara Gran's novel, ``Calire DeWitte and the City of the Dead.'' I have a feeling that liberals/progressives/feminists would love the first quote: victim blaming at its finest, lol, and I love it!

No one is innocent,'' Silette wrote. ``The only question is, how will you bear your portion of guilt?'' ---p.75, The City of the Dead

There are no innocent victims,'' wrote Jacques Silette. ``The victim selects his role as carefully and unconsciously as the policeman, the detective, the client, or the villain. Each chooses his role and then forgets this, sometimes for many lifetimes, until one comes along who can remind him. This time you may be the villain or the victim. The next time your roles may switch.
``It's only a role. Try to remember.'' ---p. 17, The City of the Dead

``The mystery is not solved by the use of fingerprints or suspects or the identification of weapons,'' Silette wrote. ``These things serve only to trigger the detective's memory. The detective and the client, the victim and the criminal---all already know the solutions to the mystery.
``They need only to remember it, and recognize it when it appears.'' ---p. 63, The City of the Dead

``For the detective whose eyes has truly been opened,'' Silette wrote, ``the solution to every mystery is never more than inches away.'' ---p. 57, The City of the Dead

``You cannot follow another's footsteps to the truth,'' Silette wrote. ``A hand can point a way. But the hand is not the teaching. The finger that points the way is not the way. The mystery is a pathless land, and each detective must cut out her own trail through a cruel territory.
``Believe nothing. Question everything. Follow only the clues.'' ---p. 55, The City of the Dead

``Never be afraid to learn from the ether,'' Constance told me. ``That's where knowledge lives before someone hunts it, kills it, and mounts it in a book.'' ---p. 53, The City of the Dead

``The detective thinks he is solving a murder or a missing girl,'' Silette wrote. ``But truly he is investigating something else altogether, something he cannot grasp hold of directly. Satisfaction will be rare. Uncertainty will be your natural state. Sureness will always allude you. The detective will always circle around what he wants, never seeing it whole.
``We do not go on despite this. We go on because of it.'' ---p. 50, The City of the Dead



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Breaking the Impasse: The Essence

The Essence of truth is not in the logic or reason, but in the imagination and creativity, and therefore, can be partially explained in two statements: First, Anything one can imagine has some level of truth, and therefore, any statement that can be made and understood, no matter how weird and absurd it is, has some degree of truth in it. Second, no statement can capture the truth completely and purely, because of it does, then it does not leave any room for imagination and creativity, because then the logical/rational mind can grab that statement and force it on other parts of the mind, or rather, because then one group of the society will be absolutely right and others will be absolutely wrong.

Therefore, truth of language is always partial.

That is why both competition/challenges and security/safety are critical elements of truth. The base of creativity and imagination is rooted in the sense of security and safety, and it is cultivated by forces of competition and life's challenges.

That is why, no matter how hard I try to explain my point of view, they are always incomplete and have holes and gaps in them. There must be room for individual imagination and creativity. 

Breaking the Impasse: The Nature of Impasse

It is very difficult to articulate the nature of the ``impasse'' except to offer symptoms and anecdotal examples. In our personal lives, we feel it as a general sense of emptiness and lack of meaning and purpose, widespread depression and anxiety, and pervasiveness of addictions and different method of numbing oneself. I think these are all signs of a deepening dissociation within us, between different areas of our psyche (our logic/reason, our emotions, and deeper layers of psyche).

In our society, we observe the dissociation between areas of science and technology, arts, and religion. Science and technology is the area that is presumably governed by logic and reason. Arts are considered to be the arena of our emotional life. Religions deal with deeper layers of our psyche, furthest from logic and reason. In between, we have our political and economic systems that are ruled by a mixture of logic, emotions, and deeper motives.

I personally find the impasse strongest in the emptiness of words, of people talking about things without believing any words from what they say, or even worse, people believing that they mean what they say when they actually don't. It is not dishonesty in my opinion. It is a matter of deep fears slicing our internal and external lives into disjoint and meaningless islands.

We have become so reliant on our conscious minds and its main apparatus, language, that the situation feels completely hopeless. I believe, however, that there are some ways of breaking through this impasse and my previous post [Breaking the Impasse: Basics] was an initial attempt to outline two main ways that have been naturally developed throughout history.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Breaking the Impasse: Basics

I think human race has reached an impasse that will grow more evident in the twenty first century (if it survives it) and that is related to the dominance of the conscious mind and words on all important aspects of our lives, or rather, the lack of balance between the conscious mind and other parts of the mind and body. The imbalance/dominance is so pervasive that we do not even realize it anymore. It has made, first and foremost, many aspects of our lives, and specially our words, empty.

There are two partial remedies that have developed through hundreds, if not thousands, of years: competition and security. I will try to explain the two here, but my explanations are subject to the same caveat that I have outlined in the first paragraph, more or less, because the nature of this impasse has eroded all our explicit communications of true meaning and essence!

Competition: It is painful to listen to both liberals and conservatives. Each group suffers from its own fears and prejudices. However, the competition between the two groups, or rather their opposition and constant challenging each other, creates a balance and sometimes astonishing results. In order to take action, we need to leave the state of balance and go in one direction. The good news is that there are always people on the other side of the argument and they counter our efforts. What is important to keep in mind is a sense of humility about our own positions. We do not have a monopoly on truth. In fact, truth is not even a well-defined objective entity. The truth is the outcome of challenge and competition, hopefully but not necessarily.

Security: In order to survive life's challenges, we need to have our own safe zones, relatively free of competition and challenges. As children, our parents and home is the basic element of the security that we can develop and carry through our life. The most important thing we can do in our life is to share this secure zone with others, typically those who are close to us. I am specifically thinking that, for example, we all have some activities that make us calm and centered. This activities are -not- challenge free, but we have grown expert in them to the extent that we can keep our balance while facing tough challenges. Like a good cook that can deal with making a few complicated dishes at the same time. What is most rewarding is to let others be present with us during our (centering) activity with its challenges and grow in that presence. We can share that sense of security/serenity without words and through mere presence. This is best exemplified in the stories of mystic/Zen masters.

The idea has been brewing for a while but was forced into labor by this video:

Jonathan Haidt on Coddling U. vs. Strengthening U.
https://youtu.be/Dj5QmZPzvlQ


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Of Fathers and Sons

My parents arrived here two weeks ago. I was looking forward to their visit after 15 years, and in spite of my expectations, or maybe because of my expectations, the past couple of weeks have turned out to be the most difficult time of my life. A number of times, I became so frustrated that I cried and sobbed alone. This is me, a 45 years old male, frustrated with my 75 years old parents. Clearly, I love them a lot, otherwise I would not care much for them and be hurt so much.

In the past few years, I have become increasing aware of parts of me that were hurt and damaged in my childhood and adolescence. One major thing that I missed then, and apparently still missing now, is spending time with my parents, specially with my father. In the past few month, I imagined that I would use the time of their visit to spend more time with them and engage in some fun activities specially with my father. I remembered some vague memories of my father working on different projects, with calm and focus, and always wondered why I had not been more engaged with him. Deep down, I thought (although, this is not `thinking', but more like `operating' from a certain place) that I had a problem, was lazy, or did not try hard enough. I also imagined that if I had a child, I would love to share with him/her some of the activities that I enjoy.

The first time I tried to do something with my father in the backyard, a few days after their arrival, he completely ignored me and kept working as if I did not exist. I tried to talk to him that same night and  tell him, indirectly, that I really want to spend time with him. (Why indirectly? Because I have not had the courage to talk directly about my need.) The next day, same thing happened. I felt crushed and confused. I re-lived memories of my childhood (of being excluded and alone) and in a strange way, all the hurt and suffering of that time came back to me, not as visual memories, but as pure pain.

I realize how childish the whole thing sounds. But this is exactly the nature of the wounds and sufferings that we carry from our childhood. They look childish and stupid from outside. But from inside, they hurt like hell and they can easily push us toward depression and/or anxiety.

After a few occurrences of this pattern of behavior, I decided to let go of the idea that this trip is an "opportunity" for me to make up for the lost time of my childhood. That reduced the pressure considerably, and let me evaluate the situation better. It seems to me that my father is very competitive and his work ethics/habits are not compatible with me. He is even competing with himself when he works alone, and if I am present, he cannot help competing against me too! I like to do things differently, let's say in a leisurely fashion, with calm and focus. The truth is that we probably cannot work together anyway. I may just have to let go of the fantasy of working with my dad altogether and simply enjoy their stay as much as I can.

Another frustrating point is that I realize that Sima's work habits is very close to my father. They actually enjoy working on projects. Although, to be honest, they do -NOT- work together, because they are both super competitive and they prefer to work alone. Neither of them does understand my Zen approach to doing things, lol.

Anyway, I am still analyzing this, and I am still bothered a lot by the whole thing. I just hope that I can enjoy part of my time with my parents somehow.

PS. In a very strange way that I cannot fully explain, this post is closely related to the previous post, [Parting of the Ways]. The symbolism of "God" is closely related to the relationship between father and son (as in holy trinity, for example). "Parting of the ways with God", therefore, can be a premonition of the difficulties that I was going to encounter in my relationship with my father. It is as if I am forced to confront the differences between myself and my father, in the harshest way possible, and hence, to accept my own identity as separate from my parents and specially my father. In this way, we are parting ways, saying goodbye, to each other.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Parting of the Ways

I had this strange image the other night that God and I have had a parting of the ways and have come to the point of separation in our journeys, which does not make sense because, first, I am not sure that I fully believe in an "external" God, and second, the "internal" God that I find quite plausible is an omnipresent unknowable entity within me: how could we separate our ways?!?

There are a number of issues surrounding this image that I am not sure I want to write here.

So, here we go .... 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Living Life to the Fullest ... Sigh

Search on "living life fully" or "living life to the fullest" and millions of sites come up. The top ones are those with inspirational quotes and advice on how to live life fully. The question came back to me yesterday for some reason and kept nagging at me: How can we engage more with life? We may imagine that life has a rhythm and in order to fully engage with life, we need to adjust to that rhythm and speed. But how?

Given my recent posts and my line of thoughts these past few days, it should not be surprising that my mind went back to the idea of "purposeless discipline" (see [Objectless Hope and Purposeless Discipline] and [On Time] posts specifically). I think "engaging with life" is one of those topics that you cannot approach directly, kind of like trying to hold a fish in hand too tight. Alternatively, I have this idea that the best way to improve our engagement with life is through practicing purposeless discipline.

What is purposeless discipline anyway? Suppose you decide to wake up at 6, instead of your usual 7, in the morning and exercise for half an hour and then take a shower. The idea is to improve your health and functionality during the day by starting your day with physical activity. This is a purposeful discipline. In contrast, if you decided to wake up at 6:41 (an arbitrary number) in the morning, walk around your kitchen in clockwise direction twice (again arbitrary) and then go about your day as usual, then there is very little or no benefit to this routine. This would be an example for purposeless discipline.

I have this strong intuition that lack of purpose has, in fact, very interesting implications. The most important is this: if we think of the "self" as a collection of characters, the lack of purpose provides a natural setting for those characters to work together and not against each other. Artificial purpose (devised by conscious logical mind) is  the surest trigger for creating conflict between internal characters. Once these characters begin working more harmoniously, they begin to develop a natural rhythm that ultimately results in better engagement with life! Ultimately a deep sense of purpose based on this harmony will also develop, which amounts to a deep sense of hope was an internal compass (i.e., objectless hope).

Friday, February 05, 2016

On Time

Time appears to either come toward me and robs me off from my youth, vitality, and strength, or to approach and leaves me behind. Time never stays with me to hang out, chat and walk along the way.

Such a pity!

Would be quite nice to have time as a friend, start a conversation.
And even when it goes faster or slower and separates itself from me, to have the trust that it will come back again, somehow, to continue the unfinished conversation.

Time is an axis that my life's narratives grow around it like vine. It's the center of meaning and character, and as such, the center is empty, like Zen's Enso.

For my conscious and logical mind, the time's direction is rigid, extending from past to the future. Along its direction, certain events take place and past events can be used to predict, imperfectly, the future. Internal figures close to the surface are quite restricted by the flow of linear time.

And yet, I am not the surface of my mind. There are characters deep inside me. Far away from the conscious mind and its linear logic and reasoning. For them, the flow of time is nonlinear, maybe chaotic, or even non-existent. Time dissolves at the depth of unconscious mind.

The strength of my being comes from my emotional depth, from places that are not governed by the petty rules of logic and reason. To access those resources, or at least to have fuller, more meaningful life, I need to access those places. I want to suspend the flow of time.

PS [2016-02006]: Came across this post of mine from January 2012, four years ago, by chance and it seems interestingly related specially the first couple of paragraphs from the quote:
http://myimpossibilitytheorems.blogspot.com/2012/01/inner-landscape-of-beauty.html

But for me, philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time. So that rather than being a subject of your own time, you have become its target and victim, and time has become routine. So at the end of the day, you probably haven't had a true moment for yourself. And you know, to relax in and to just be.
And one day I read in him and he [Meister Eckhart, 14th-century German mystic] said, "There is a place in the soul ... that neither time, nor space, nor no created thing can touch." ... that your identity is not equivalent to your biography. And that there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

(Objectless) Hope and (Purposeless) Discipline!

My father is big on discipline, along with reason and logical thinking, and that's why I have a negative gut reaction to all of them, and at the same time, for most of my life I have been a very logical, reasonable, and disciplined person! But I have left all that behind in the past few years. Logic, reason, rationality, and discipline, all gone. Or at least that's what I like to think.

I wrote about ordinary hope, that is centered around an object or goal, and genuine, deep, hopeless hope that is centered around nothing, a lack, or an emptiness. (Maybe not in these exact terms but alluded to it in [Warrior without Hope] post.) Ordinary hope has a lot in common with fear, because hidden in it is the fear of losing the object of hope. Fear is a good motivator and so is ordinary hope. This morning I struggled with this question, how does hopeless hope motivate? This is a very practical question, if you actually try to implement the hopeless hope. (I have not described how, maybe at the end I get to the implementation issue.)

I had a very strange intuition for the answer: Hopeless hope does not have enough potency to get you off the ground, so it requires you to be already moving. That's why discipline is the basic of living with hopeless hope. It keeps you in motion and provides the necessary condition for the hopeless hope to interfere and change the course of actions. Our most potent motivations are object related: we are mainly driven and directed by our needs and anxieties. If we want to separate our navigational system, to some extent, from an object driven mode of operation, then we need to create steady motion by another mechanism. I think the best candidate is discipline.

What is the advantage of a object-less motivational system? First, it is more esoteric. (As in the Taoism kind of thing! Strong argument.) Second, the object related motivational system imposes a very rigid frame on life and specially our sense of time. It creates an hyper-logical system of cause and effect around the axis of time. I have a strong intuition that the rigidity of the worldview and time is an important component of most psychological disorders, specially depression.

This also hints at another interesting notion: the source of discipline needs to be outside the realm of logic and reason, which is exactly what traditions and religions do. They create a set of illogical rituals, and by following them, one can let go of an object oriented sense of time and purpose and hope. They provide necessary conditions for an objectless/hopeless hope to take root.

That is essentially how one go about implementing a hopeless hope scenario. Basically, we would like to make the flow of time and logic/reason less binding and consequential. The pillar of such approach is what I described in a previous post, [Revolving Doors], kind of: letting go of the opportunity-based view of choices and decisions. If time is not linear and uni-directional then we do not have to worry about `losing' time and not having enough time, and losing opportunities. Of course, such an approach creates huge anxieties, so one needs to be an expert in self-calming.

Not sure how this experiment (maybe my last experiment ala [End in Sight?!] post) is going to end, but then, who cares in an object-less world?!? ;)

2016-02-05 9:05 a.m. Update: I am trying to get myself fired up for the start of my (purposeless) discipline, but I am feeling more depressed than excited now! Well, there is always something to work on and an obstacle to work around ...
I think the modifiers, objection-less (for hope) and purpose-less (for discipline), are very important. As soon as object (of desire) and purpose (of action) enter the frame of mind, some sort of rigidity creeps in that fosters depression.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Warrior without Hope

Carlos Castaneda's books are dangerous because they are full of potent and powerful images. The more cautious way of approaching them is to treat them as bullshit and make fun of them, which is much safer than falling in love with them, surrendering to them and becoming depressed or losing it. The more balanced approach is to use those images to stir and activate deep images inside. But this balance is very difficult to achieve.
When he finally grasped that his benefactor, in all seriousness, had resigned himself to fail, it also dawned on him that a warrior's resolution to live impeccably in spite of everything cannot be approached as a strategy to ensure success. ... at such moments a lifelong training takes over, and the warrior enters into a state of unsurpassed humility; when the true poverty of his human resources becomes undeniable, the warrior has no recourse but to step back and lower his head. --- p.224, The Eagle's Gift, Carlos Castaneda
There is a `hope' that is based on opportunity. Here is a good opportunity to do a good thing. So, of course, we want to take it and be good. Nevertheless, the opportunity-based hope is not the genuine hope, because it comes out of the fear of losing out.
True hope only comes as a deep direction in the soul, independent of the opportunities, or even better, against the backdrop of no 'real' hope when 'objective' odds are essentially zero.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

End in Sight?!

Today is Tuesday, January 19th, 2016. Last night I felt that the end of my explorative journey is in sight. I started this "safar" (journey in Persian) in early 2009, almost 7 years ago. If I want to identify a clear starting point for this journey, it was a day in May of 2009. Early morning, I had one of the most vivid dreams of my whole life. In that dream, I saw a girl who was about to start a journey with a group of her friends, but when the departure time arrived, we all knew that I could not go with them. I woke up with the outmost sense of despair and urgency. I just wanted to tell her, ``I am ready.''

This dream ultimately changed my whole life. And yet, amazingly, it feels now that nothing has really changed. I have witnessed most amazing things. I went back to my childhood (in a most terrifying dream a couple of years ago, I faced the emptiness and void that has been inside me since some events of my childhood) and went forward to my old age (not literally, of course, but recently I had some vision/feeling that how my life would feel when I am old), and dare I say, I even met God (in the most metaphoric sense of the word).

Was the whole thing worth seven years of my life? It seems that the main outcome is a sense of acceptance. But, what else could, and should, I have done with my life? At the end, it's not like we can take anything with us at the time of our death. The whole life is a short experience. So I prefer to think that I had an amazing experience and I paid the price for it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On God

What is God? A `goodness' assumption on the nature of the unknowable core, within and without, which is the most real. It is not a rational, logical conclusion; rather a deep orientation in our being that elevates us from fear and anxiety into peace and calm. As such, God is essentially the movement from fear into hope.

 ... That's how she used to be and how she might be again someday, if she was ever just barely getting by and somebody seemed to be about to make it harder just by making it different. ... she still thought sometimes, Why should he care? What is it to him? That was loneliness. When you're scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it's kindly meant. ... --- p.253

And then there were the people no one would miss, who had done no special harm, who just lived and died as well as hey could manage. That would have been Lila, if she had not wandered into Gilead. And then she though, I couldn't bear to be without Doll, or Mellie, or Doane and Marcelle. ... not that they had mattered so much to her when she was a child, but because fair was fair and none of them ever had any good thing that the other didn't have some right to, ... If there was goodness at the center of things, that one rule would have to be respected, because it was as important to them as anything n this world. --- p. 258

So it couldn't matter much how life seemed. The old man always said we should attend to things we have some hope of understanding, and eternity isn't one of them. Well, this world isn't one either. Most of the time she thought she understood things better when she didn't try. Things happen the way they do. Why was a foolish question. In a song a note follows the note before because it is that song and not another one. ... It was eternity that let her think this way. In eternity people's lives could be altogether what they were and had been, not just the worst things they ever did, or the best things either. So she decided that she should believe in it, or that she believed in it already. ... --- p. 259

... Eternity has more of every kind of room in it than this world did. ... ---p.260
... and then she realized how tired she was. But she knew she would come back to what she'd been thinking about. And also to ``the peace that passeth all human understanding,'' which was the blessing he said over his flock ... ---p. 260
... There was no way to abandon guilt, no decent way to disown it. All the tangles and knots of bitterness and desperation and fear had to be pitied. No, better, grace had to fall over them. ... ---p. 260
That's how it is. Lila had borne a child into a world where a wind could rise that would take him from her arms as if there were not strength in the at all. Pity us, yes, but we are brave, she thought, and wild, more life in us than we can bear, the fire infolding itself in us. That peace could only be amazement, too.
Well, for now there were geraniums in the windows, and an old man at the kitchen table telling his baby some rhyme he's known forever, probably still wondering if he had managed to bring her along into that next life, if he could ever be certain of it. Almost letting himself imagine grieving for her in heaven, because not to grieve for her would mean he was dead, after all.
Someday she would tell him what she knew. ---pp. 260--261, Lila, Marilynne Robinson 


Saturday, January 09, 2016

More Grace

Religion can be understood as a language, similar to mathematics, for contacting the unknowable within.

`Things happen for reasons that are hidden from us, utterly hidden for as long as we think they must proceed from what has come before, our guilt or our deserving, rather than coming to us from a future that God in his freedom offers to us. ... The only true knowledge of God is born of obedience, ... and obedience has to be constantly attentive to the demands that are made of it, to a circumstance that is always new and particular to its moment. ... Then the reasons that things happen are still hidden, but they are hidden in the mystery of God. ... Of course misfortunes have opened the way to blessings you would never have thought to hope for, that you would not have been ready to understand as blessings if they had come to you in your youth, when you were uninjured, innocent. The future always finds us changed. ... This is not to say that joy is a compensation for loss, and that each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognized for what it is. Sorrow is very real, and loss feels very final to us. Life on earth is difficult and grave, and marvelous. Our experience is fragmentary. Its parts don't add up. They don't even belong in the same calculation. Sometimes it is hard to believe they are all parts of one thing. Nothing makes sense until we understand that experience does not accumulate like money, or memory, or like years and frailties. Instead, it is presented to us by a God who is not under any obligation to the past except in His eternal, freely given constancy. ... When I say that much the greater part of our experience is unknowable by us because it rests with God, who is unknowable, I acknowledge His grace in allowing us to feel that we know a slightest part o it. Therefore we have no way to reconcile its elements, because they are what we are given out of no necessity at all except God's grace in sustaining us as creatures we can recognize as ourselves. ... So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.' ---pp. 222--224, Lila, Marilynne Robinson


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Revolving Doors

Choice, the act of choosing between viable options, is like a revolving door: it opens new possibilities and it eliminates some previously feasible alternatives. This is well known and quite intuitive.

It is less known that the way we approach a a decision, the way we conceive the ``opportunity'' that is inherent in, and precedes, a choice, also resembles a revolving door. It can guide us from ``being closed'' to ``being open'' or vice versa. If we approach ``opportunity'' as a fleeting entity, something that tends to disappear if we do not seize it, we tend to limit ourselves and guide ourselves into fear and closure with every decision we confront. If we can give ourselves the freedom to observe and appreciate all options in front of us, without being forced into a particular choice because of ``logical/rational reasons'' or ``emotional forces (of certainty)'', then we will free ourselves with each decision we make.

If only she'd known then what comfort was coming, she'd have spared herself a little. You can say to yourself, I'm just a body that thinks and talks and seems to want its life, one more day of it. You don't have to know why. Well, nothing could ever change if your body didn't just keep you there not even knowing what it is you're waiting for. Not even knowing that you're waiting at all. ---p. 179, Lila, Marilynne Robinson


Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto E Minor OP.64 (Full Length) : Hilary Hahn & FRSO:

https://youtu.be/o1dBg__wsuo






Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the t...