I am a middle class, white woman. I have privilege. I have the privilege of never having been discriminated against for my skin color, for my socio-economic class, for my politics. Everything I do as a middle-class white member of society is defended and cosigned by my government and my fellow Americans because of the programming put into us all by society. Even as a woman (which if you didn’t know women are still oppressed by societal roles and expectations and those unwilling to address their personal misogyny) I have an advantage over other women because of the race and class of the body and family I was born into (without choice). Continue reading “American Capitalism: A Privileged Review”
The internet is a most interesting place. It is populated with endless space for cats and politics and cool grandmas. No question, it has brought the world closer together. It has connected people who are physically separated by thousands of miles. Internet has allowed us to communicate with loved ones across the world with only a few seconds delay. Continue reading “The InterVoid”
In the beginning was the Word, and the word was… Everything.
Not the word “Everything”. But literally every single thing.
I am an artist of many mediums. I create things with my hands, I create things with my mind, I create things with my voice. I create. It’s what I do. It’s part of what I need to be doing regularly to feel fulfilled.
My ability to create is in no way unique. I believe every human has access to the knowledge and power that has unlocked my creative abilities. It is within each of us to create. Even if we don’t realize it, we do it daily simply by living. The words we say, the actions we take, the thoughts we have, the decisions we make, they are all our personal creations– all contributing to the masterpiece of art which is you Life.
As a creator, I am obsessed with the questions of creation. How is it done? How do others do it? How do I do it in different mediums? How was everything created? Who created everything–if there is a being responsible, etc.
As a philosophical thinker, I find it hard to find evidence. In one of his lectures, Alan Watts says, “We’ve got to examine ideas that are basic to our common sense… Psychoanalysis has, of course, examined the emotional basis of human opinions and beliefs, but one should also examine the intellectual basis of psychological principals, or theories or therapies.” Scientific evidence is only worthy within the paradigm of materialism. Religious evidence is only worthy within the paradigm of Theology. Each bit of hard evidence within a field is subjected to the boundaries of that field. For that reason, I use human minds, thoughts, actions, etc. as my most assured bits of evidence in the universe.
I consider the thought behind all individuals’ creations to be relevant. I am not religious, but I do find religious texts to be some very interesting and relevant literature. They are full of some old time idiocy, but also some truly brilliant wisdom. Not to mention, they too are obsessed with the idea of creation. (This is not to say that science, thought to be the opposition of religion by most, is not also obsessed with creation. I just think the random miracle of the Big Bang just happening doesn’t actually explain the entire picture.)
When it comes to this evidence, Language is so interesting. I, sadly, do not have an extensive knowledge of other languages, but what I have studied of them I find fascinating. Languages can tell you so much about the values and beliefs of the Peoples to which they belong. American English, particular to the Southern California region, is my vernacular. However, even this relatively new language in a relatively new country (when considering the known history of humans, life on earth, and the universe), holds within it innumerable clues about our beliefs as humans, beings and the universe.
As an example of this, I would like to focus on is our self-identifier– Human Being.
It’s interesting that the word we use to describe ourselves, individually and as a species, is “Being”–an action word. It is not only an action word, but it contains a gerund and a context which, according to our grammar, means it is in the present tense. So as a species, when speaking in English, we chose to identify as a present-tense verb. We call it a proper noun– Human Being. But really, when you break it down, totally verb– Human, being.
But it isn’t just any old verb. We aren’t Human Runnings or Human Doings. We are Human Beings. We are Humans– being! Our verb is active. It is present. But it is not necessarily in motion, nor is it still. It is a content verb, whose root is to Be. To Be is such a powerful thing. To Be is to Live, in this moment.
So when we defined ourselves as Human Beings, we acknowledged our existence.
Most people also use the word “Being” to describe non-human existence. This is not something we generally agree upon. Different people will use this word for different existences. I, personally, use it do describe every living thing in the universe. I am sure I’m not the only one to do this. Some people call only other animals Beings. Some think of non-Earth life forms as Alien Beings. Our ability to recognize not only that we are in this state of present existence, but that other things are also in this state of existence, is incredible. Our language shows that not only are we living, existing creatures, but other creatures are too! Now that is empowering.
I really do believe that words are powerful, perhaps the most powerful tool of creation we humans have in today’s society. Words create intention, even when we don’t mean for them to do so. Words plant seeds of thought. The mind makes the perfect soil for these seeds. Especially when not being consciously observed, the inhabited mind will run rampant with with the seed of an idea. Anyone who has spent hours lying in bed worrying instead of sleeping knows that to be true.
Coincidentally, because words have this incredible power over the mind, and the mind is an incredibly powerful and brilliant thing, words have incredible power.
Words can motivate great waves of change among hoards of people. Words can do deep harm to those caught in their cross hare. Words can empower and engage. Words have a world of their own.
In that world, we are their creator. We created the languages. We use words, in the form of language, to express ourselves, to communicate, to think. But also, words have taken on a life of their own! Their multiple meanings and connotations and intentions and uses. Perhaps we gave them those things, but the words themselves possess life! As their creators, however, we can see them as nothing more than an extension and a reflection of ourselves, our beliefs, our experiences, and our perception of reality. And logically, materialistically, thats all they are.
But they’re a powerful part of us. So when we use a word like “being” to describe ourselves, we are making a very powerful proclamation. We are planting the seed of the idea of existence in the mind. To call all living things “Beings” is, in some way, to create our awareness of existence. This isn’t to say that we did not exist before language. Rather, the idea is that by stating our intention, and having that intention be “existence,” we are awakening to a higher level of understanding, awareness, and consciousness. We go beyond just existing, to realizing we exist. As simple as this may be, to a human who has not yet solved or completed their own existential crisis, this realization could be life altering.
So let’s go back to the beginning–of this post and “time”.
In the bible, the word is not described as everything. In the bible, the word is God. But to me, these are the same things. Everything and everyone is “God”– in the most general meaning of the word. Even if one believes that there is a God and we are made in his or her image, that means we are made to be little creators.
We all have the power to create, and we do it every single day. We do it with the words we say, the thoughts we have, the intentions we give. We create, at the very least, our slew of sentences throughout the day which either reflect our inner feelings, beliefs, thoughts and desires, or empower us to change our inner feelings, beliefs, thoughts and desires. At the very most, we create our lives and everything in them.
Back to being Beings.
Discovering the nature of the words we use can reveal how those words are serving us. Like the example given earlier, “Beings” has the unconscious ability to empower us to notice our existence. Similarly, when we are feeling less than ourselves, feeling inadequate, feeling ill equipped to deal or cope with ourselves or our lives, we can intentionally use our words to change our beliefs and therefore change our lives! We can use individual words with different intentions, contexts, and expressions to set intentions for our inner selves that are beyond the unconscious regurgitation of someone else’s meaning for that word. We can change our mind to think more positively, more meaningfully– more mindfully.
By consciously using our language, we can create a better life for ourselves, and hopefully, a better world.
If this topic of words, beliefs and creation is interesting to you, check out Alan Watts’ lecture on the Fractal Universe! His examination of words at the beginning is truly brilliant.
When my life went into turmoil and I didn’t want to live it anymore, I sought what everyone told me I needed–happiness. I had always been told happiness was achieved by completing a series of tasks. These tasks included finding a lifelong career, creating a family, nourishing that family, being a patriot, living the American Dream. The consumerist society I was raised in taught me that if I worked hard I would have money with which to buy things which would bring me comfort. According to media, advertising, and TV Shows, comfort was happiness!
None of those things are wrong, and they certainly do bring happiness to some people. I could see, however, that these were not the things that would bring me happiness. Finding an office job with a salary and benefits was not going to satisfy my days, raising a family was not going to satisfy my nights. These are great life achievements, but these things alone would not sooth the dissonance in my soul. They would not fill the void in my heart. They would not make me feel alive.
At the core of my being, I knew that I was not going to find happiness from money or any amount of material possessions, and the satisfaction of just any old job was not enough to make my heart feel alive! It was hardly enough to get me out of bed in the morning.
So I stopped asking society all the questions, feeling I had been lead astray, and I started figuring out for myself–what is happiness? Is it really the end goal? Is it really what I want?
I certainly didn’t want to be sad forever. I had been sad for a lot longer than I had previously acknowledged. I tried pharmaceutical drugs for my mental health and instead of bringing the clarity I needed, they only clouded me further into my depression. I went to therapists and talked myself into and out of endless loops.
When the outside world and societal suggestions had failed me once again, I finally decided that the answers were not outside of me. I began seeking peace at an internal level, and I found my answers. Answers are not always accompanied by happiness. Sometimes they are accompanied by more questions, unease, inadequacy, and more loops.
But, I am learning a bit about happiness. I am learning a bit about peace. I am learning a bit about life. I am learning a bit about myself.
I’ve come to some conclusions– happiness alone is not enough. Being comfortable does not make one happy. Being happy all the time is not always the thing that brings joy and meaning to my life. Happiness can be comfortable, but comfort does not always bring happiness.
Comfort should not be the goal!
First World Society has an obsession with comfort. We seek it thinking it will bring us peace, happiness and fulfillment. We seek it thinking it will make the world a better place. We seek it thinking it will strengthen our bond with God, or keep us from needing a God all together. We surround ourselves with material possessions. We do this to remind ourselves that we have no reason to be sad. We do this so we can focus more on the things that make us happy. We do this to be happy–and yet how many comfortable middle class Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, and the physical manifestations of long term stress?
The problem is that we have comforted ourselves numb. We are no longer a feeling society. How can we possibly be happy when we do not allow ourselves to feel anything but materialist comfort? Comfort isn’t happiness–its just comfortable.
I’d like to talk about a few emotional states of being which are often ignored in this need for comfort; empathy, compassion, humility, gratitude, and love. My personal research, as well as the work of many other Spiritual believers and new age philosophers, concludes that these are not emotions we feel, but emotional states of being which we become in the moments we feel them. They are almost indescribable, except through relating experiences. They are what make the experiences.
Regardless of why we should work toward these things, or the nature of what they are, these are emotions which benefit individuals and the world. These emotions are the emotions that bring us together. These are the emotions which save us from more destructive emotions, such as anger, envy, sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame and grief. They don’t keep you from feeling the other emotions, but they definitely give you a direction toward recovery, rather than wallowing. Not all of those things are comfortable. In fact, many of them are conventionally uncomfortable.
Empathy is not comfortable. Empathy is the act of understanding and sharing the feelings of others. To empathize with someone who is suffering is to know their suffering and suffer with them. True empathy allows us to see the world from a new perspective. It allows us to feel the world from a new perspective. A new perspective is hard enough, let alone a hurting one. Suffering is in no way comfortable, but helping others go through their suffering helps us. Being empathized with can greatly decrease the length and severity of our suffering. Empathy creates friendship where it may not have been before. It advances the emotional capacity of all of humanity when individuals empathize with other individuals. It fosters connections that could open infinite doors to possibility.
Compassion is not comfortable. Compassion is beyond just feeling another’s emotions. It is feeling concern for the suffering of others. Approaching a situation with compassion is to not only to empathize, but to worry about the condition of another. It is to understand their suffering. To be compassionate is to leave yourself susceptible to anxiety and fear. Fear is one of the most dangerous weapons of the ego, and anxiety kills our peace of mind. If we did not approach things compassionately though, who would help the less fortunate? Who would help the less privileged if they could not first feel concern for their condition? Compassion, when not accompanied by fear or anxiety, sparks the call to action in each of us. Compassion is what drives humans to take care of other humans.
Humility is not comfortable. To be humble is to have a modest, or even sometimes low, view of oneself. This is not to say that you should think less of yourself. My definition of humility is not so much thinking lower of oneself, but instead identifying the things that are bigger than oneself, and identifying the things that are smaller than you. Humility allows us to know where we fit into the grand scheme of life. For example, you look at the ocean and realize how small you are compared to this thing that can destroy you, then you look at an ant hill and recognize the power you have to destroy them.
It can actually be painful if you aren’t ready for a humbling moment when it hits. It can be very discouraging. It can be very uncomfortable. It can make us feel like we aren’t enough. But if we are ready for it, and we understand the feeling when it hits us, Humility keeps us growing! It is what reminds us that there is always more. More to know, more to learn, more to grow. Humility brings hope.
One of my choir directors, John Byun, used to always tell us we weren’t a perfect choir– and we weren’t! After telling us how great we had done, he always humbled us. He always made us see how much farther we could go… so we did. We kept working. We may not have been perfect, but by the end of my two short years with Mr. Byun, we were our absolute best.
Gratitude is not [always] comfortable. It can be the absolute most satisfying thing in the universe to genuinely express gratitude. While a polite person might thank someone for holding a door open for them, do they consider being genuinely grateful for the door being held open? Maybe not. Someone who cannot get the door themselves, possibly someone who has far too much in their hands, would probably feel genuine gratitude. Someone who could easily open a door themselves might not actually feel gratitude. (This is also called privilege.) They might just be saying “Thank You” because that’s what they were taught.
If gratitude is felt but not expressed, or expressed when it is not genuinely felt, it can make the person expressing it feel shameful, which can make the person receiving it feel guilt or regret for having done a nice thing. Contrarily, if we express genuine gratitude to one another, and the rest of this universe, we start to feel better almost immediately. Have you ever thought to thank the Earth for being your home? Have you every thought to thank the animal that died or the plants that were plucked from the ground so you could eat a meal? Did you ever think to thank the bees for loving the flowers so that you could use them to show love for your significant other? If so, great! If not, try it! If you want.
Truth is, some forms of gratitude make us uncomfortable because we have to acknowledge a truth we don’t want to face in order to express it. Expressing gratitude to the animal who died for your meal is the best example of this.
I would like to preamble this– I make no judgement of those who eat meat. Its a personal decision to go vegetarian or vegan and nobody should ever feel shamed into it. It should be an informed and conscious decision made by the individual for the right reasons. So, I say this as an example and nothing more. To express the gratitude towards the animal who died for your meal, you have to first admit to yourself that you are eating a slaughtered animal. Most people are willing to eat meat as long as they don’t have to look at, think about, or see the process behind it. First World Society allows that we don’t all have to do all the dirty work behind every job. We just have to do the dirty work of our own job! But by not acknowledging that someone else has done that work on your behalf, by ignoring that an animal died for your meal, humans raised that life, another human took that life, etc, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We are denying ourselves the chance to express gratitude. We are denying ourselves a chance for a genuine emotional release.
Love, however comforting it can be, is not comfortable. Loving another, truly and unconditionally, is a very tough thing. It requires you to see them as they are, sometimes when they cannot see themselves, and love them. However, more difficult than accepting and loving others is the process of accepting and loving oneself. This is the most difficult part about love for some of us. To truly love others means to have a firm and real understanding of loving yourself. To love others teaches you to love yourself. To love yourself teaches you to love others. Loving others helps others love themselves, which helps them to love others. Love is a loop. This is how love is spread around the world.
Love alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by empathy, compassion, gratitude and humility. When you love something, whether human, animal, the weather, or life itself, it can really hard to remember that those things are nature, which means they will make mistakes. They will not always agree. They may not always be nice. They will let you down, probably without even knowing they’ve done so. In those moments, I think it is absolutely necessary that we feel the emotions that come to us. If we do not allow ourselves to feel the anger, the sadness, the letdown, the fears, then we are not allowing ourselves to complete the loops of insanity. The important thing is not taking action on these emotions. Instead, allowing them to be felt, allowing them to pass, and allowing them to be replaced by other states of being.
In moments when you feel let down by love, empathy helps you to see, from their perspective, why this person has hurt you. Most of the time you see that they have hurt you because they are deeply hurting. In these times, compassion helps us to continue loving them while understanding their pain and hurting with them. From here, we are given such gifts. The gift of helping others, the gift of loving others, the gift of a new perspective, the gift of learning through this person’s experience. To see these things as gifts puts you in a place of humility where you can express gratitude. Expressed gratitude can make the giver feel amazing, and can sometimes greatly help the person the gratitude is being expressed toward. Empathy, compassion, gratitude and humility allow you to keep loving when it gets hard. This cycle of love is propelled by these emotional states and brings possibility to inner peace. Inner peace, accomplished by every individual, brings outer peace. We don’t all have to agree on everything. We just have to agree on allowing others to be and loving them anyway. The biggest battle to overcome is the battle inside. The battle of reaction. The battle of doing what is comfortable for you personally or doing what is most beneficial to everyone.
Its not just about feeling your emotions. Its about feeling them, letting those that do not serve you to pass, and then moving back to that centered state of love. Its about living every decision and every action through those emotional states of being. If you re-evaluate your morals in a clear, egoless state of love, compassion, empathy, gratitude, and humility, you will find the cure to comfort. You will find love, inside and outside. You will find life. You will find yourself.
Feel all of your emotions. Live them. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable so you can be fulfilled. Fulfillment doesn’t just bring happiness–it’s a state of being which brings heaven on Earth.
One of my soul sisters has this amazing hobby of exchanging Wiki pages with her friends for the sake of knowledge exploration. She sent me a wiki page recently which introduced me to a phenomenon, Apophenia. This is defined as the human ability to find meaningful patterns in random data. This theory’s creator, Klaus Conrad, described it as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.
Psychology is very interested in this phenomenon. It is used to discredit that anything in life may be anything other than randomness and that we are the ones who connect these things. They are unconnected otherwise. So a bunch of bad things happening to you in a 24 hour period are all unconnected events, but we call them a “bad day” as if they are all connected.
According to this theory, everything I see as important, vital, and true is all in my head. It is unconnected and a placebo affect that Reiki practices heal. It is unconnected that I see numbers in everyday life and find meaning in them. It is unconnected that I find the patterns and cycles in my life. These things are not actually patterns, but connection made in my own head. We are not connected to each other or any other living organisms. Nothing is connected, in actual reality. We make the connections. They are all in our mind.
I don’t disagree.
“Be the calm in the chaos” is actually a phrase I say often when myself or someone else is in a place of turmoil in life. (I’m sure I heard it from someone much more intelligent and wise than me, but unfortunately I don’t remember who to credit.) I truly see life as the randomness that this theory suggests. Things happen. They just do. These happenings come completely out of left field sometimes and all we can do is deal with them. Our minds, however, are incredibly complex, and frankly, brilliant. Every one of them. They are imaginative and creative, infinite and limitless! They have the incredible ability to see these patterns. They have the ability to make these connections where, quite possibly, they actually don’t exist at all!
I do think the flaw is that this theory is mostly applied to things that seem unreal or abstract to our material, tangible world. I think if a theory is to be applied to one part of society, it should be applied to all aspects. If it does not stand universally, how can it stand at all? (This is, of course, a paradox for this theory– as it denounces connectivity, and for it to apply universally would somehow suggest that all things are connected, which the theory clearly says is not true. Yeah, I see that flaw. Indulge me. Let’s explore.)
So if we can apply this theoretical phenomenon to things like Numerology, spirituality, religion, our own life experiences and beliefs, etc., then we must also be able to apply these things to the less abstract, more tangible. Who is to say that data on a pharmaceutical study is not the exact same thing? Who is to say that psychological researchers are not coming to conclusions they see as fact by these same means? Who is to say that, in a scientific study, the random collections of varying results which leans slightly more one direction than the other is a means of actual proof and not just our brains finding a pattern? And that being said, what is proof in a dimension where Apophenia is absolute truth? Does proof exist in that world?
What if math and science are unconnected? Our greatest method of proof in this tangible world is math, our greatest method of inquiry–science. Humans have developed math and science hand in hand as if they are connected and one can prove the other. But if nothing is actually connected and we are making the connections in our heads and they make sense and work, then why wouldn’t we even consider, that’s possibly all that math and science are? They’re just made up, in our head, based on observations of the material world. They are theoretical. They are one explanation, one perspective of the universe, and that is all.
By this theory, anything and everything could be a placebo affect–even modern, mechanistic medicine.
And that is what I like about the theory.
I believe the placebo affect is a real means of treatment. I believe that all things work because we believe in them and our belief teaches the body to heal itself. Apophenia is another sort of proof, to me, of the Fractal Universe– the possibility of anything being true and possible because the mind projects reality into existence (one aspect of a very complicated theory, but I won’t go into that now).
Alan Watts explains, in one of his lectures, that when we are presented with chaos, we will seek patterns. He actually says that this is the tendency of all of nature and we, being nature, are also prone to this. We see this in the natural world by observance of things such as Devil’s Postpile.
If you haven’t been to Devil’s Postpile, it probably means you’ve also not been to Rainbow Falls or Red’s Meadow. These are all incredibly magical places up near Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra’s. I highly recommend going to visit. Book a campsite in advance though, Mammoth is crazy busy. Lee Vining is a better camp spot if you want to avoid the crowds.
Devil’s Postpile is a cliff of columnar basalt. What this means is that, when you are at the bottom looking up at it, you see columns eroding into a big pile. However, when you are on top of the postpile, you see that almost every column is a hexagon that tiles together with those around it. This natural occurrence is the result of volcanic lava that gathered and cooled relatively evenly over an extended period of time.
A volcanic eruption can be seen as a version of chaos. It certainly is un-orderly, seemingly random, mostly unpredictable. However, the result of that chaos, in this case, is a pattern. So finding the pattern in the randomness is, possibly, not uniquely human. Perhaps its something all of nature does, at times.
Do I see the pattern or did nature create the pattern? Is that pattern in the Postpile a result of the volcano or the cooling air? Is the eruption actually chaos? All questionable, but so is everything else… including this phenomenon itself. After all, to see humans finding patterns is an observed pattern itself. So even this theory is built on a paradox (as I’m finding most things are).
So, is anything really connected or is apophenia the only reality and everything else is delusion? Well, the lucky thing is that it is entirely up to you to decide what this information means in your own life.
Psychologists have concluded that it is beneficial, for the most part. But then, when it comes to the mind, its not always what you think, but how you think it. One article I read about it says, “Rather than merely viewing apophenia as a kind of unfortunate side effect of our cognitive architecture, psychoanalysis pushes us to look at meaning where it seems least obvious. In this way, patternicity is the point, not the problem.” (Psychology Today)
I agree with this idea completely. I have always experienced the chaos and randomness of life with extreme discomfort. Finding patterns and making connections in this life has allowed me to make more sense of that randomness, which allows me to be more at peace when those random things occur. By seeing these patterns I have found purpose and meaning in my life. By thinking the way I do and allowing my brain to do it without self-judgement, I have learned to be creative and expressive and fulfilled.
On a more universal level, connection proves to be a vital part of the Human Experience. As beings, it is a natural instinct for us to connect with other beings. Some of us seek lovers or friends, some seek the presence of trees and nature, some seek the love and loyalty of animals and pets. Even if its all in our heads, it is necessary to the happiness of most of us these days. Otherwise, why would we crave constant connectivity to things like our phones and the internet so much?
The truth is that I have found incredible meaning and purpose in my life by indulging my brain’s ability to connect. At a time when all I could find were excuses to die, believing that everything is connected gave me a reason to live. In fact, it gave me infinite reasons to want to live, forever. I’ve got every thing and every one and every time to connect with!
So, yes, its possible that this theory is the only shared reality and everything orderly in the world is a figment of our individual realities. It’s also possible that we shouldn’t care.
“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a Reality to be experienced.” -Aart Van Der Leeuw