Category Archives: philosophy

The Zen Paradox

(a short essay)

Eastern philosophies have always concerned themselves with paradox. From Buddhism, to Zen, to Taoism, to Hinduism, the perception of paradox lies outside of mere observation and encompasses almost a loose dogma in which paradox becomes a sort of “WWJD” for life’s dilemmas. Ethical questions are answered with contradictions, and absurdity becomes the basis for understanding reason. A question might be answered with a paradox or enigma to get the asker to un-think the initial question; a casual undoing of thought. One of the most well-known examples of this was when a monk asked Dongshan Shouchu – an ancient Chinese Zen teacher – what the Buddha was. Dongshan replied, “This flax weighs three pounds.” However, with the emphasis of paradox and contradiction in Eastern philosophy, these philosophies have become the embodiment of paradox themselves. Here is why:

Although several differences exist between these Eastern schools of philosophical thought, there is an underlying cement that binds them all together. This is the notion of “oneness.” Nearly every Eastern philosophy pushes this idea that individuality and separateness are illusions; that the universe – a word derived from the Old Latin “unus,” meaning ‘one’ – is a singular organism. As Alan Watts put it, “For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new.” Or Aleister Crowley, “The universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the expense of the Particular.”

Many Eastern philosophies pave a spiritual path to enlightenment. This is especially true in the case of Zen Buddhism. If one fully realizes the teachings of the creed, he or she can become “enlightened.” Enlightenment is to be one of the highest attainments of life’s journey. This sets up a very obvious dichotomy between the enlightened and the unenlightened.

Now here is the paradox: Why concern yourself with the individual enlightenment of people if you believe the universe and everything in it to be one? If everything in existence is the embodiment of one breath, one process that works as a whole and doesn’t contain individual pieces, doesn’t the preoccupation with getting the illusionary pieces of this whole realize their innate reality sound ridiculous? If everything is one, then getting people to realize this becomes arbitrary, because that would be to define people as individual, the very concept you attempt to dispel. Thus, all philosophies that teach the “oneness” of the universe contradict themselves by supposing that there are individuals that need to be taught.

Disclaimer: I do not intend to claim that Eastern philosophies are ‘wrong’ in their beliefs. As an old Taoist poet once said, “the conflict between right and wrong is the sickness of the mind.”

The Gay Marriage Debate!

This might severely taint my reputation, but I couldn’t pass it up, so here we go. This week I came across a blog post that argued against same-sex marriage. You can find it here. These sort of conversations/posts aren’t typically my cup of tea, but every once in a while I get the inclination to be an asshole, so I wrote a response.

Now, my response is completely satire. Please don’t take me at my word. If you spend enough time on the internet, you begin to see a lot of arguments sprout up in comment feeds (especially on YouTube) and they tend to go nowhere. So, I prefer to use satire (whether it’s actually funny is debatable) when voicing my opinion to things I don’t like, rather than bickering about it.

That’s where you come in. You see, I would much rather see what you have to say. Below is the comment feed between myself and “The Solitary Conservative.” I’m in blue and he’s in red (at least I think it’s a he). Please feel free to leave comments at the bottom. I won’t be restricting anything from going in, so say whatever you really feel, and maybe we’ll at least get something interesting out of this. Here’s the full version, including the comments that “The Solitary Conservative” blocked.

I completely agree with your position. It makes so much sense! Gays should not be allowed to marry because they can’t make babies, and babies are awesome, and our world needs as many babies as it can get. If marriage is about making babies, and gays can’t make them, then of course they shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

I can understand where you’re coming from because, being adopted myself, my parents couldn’t reproduce properly but they still chose to get married. I always thought this was wrong growing up, and said “mom and dad, I love you, but you shouldn’t be married. Marriage is all about making babies.” And my mom would always come back with something about ovarian cancer, but she’s wrong and God agrees with me that she’s wrong. It’s like I was telling my friend yesterday, “black people should not be allowed to live in our society.” I wasn’t saying that they should be killed, I was just saying that they should live in their own special area. The dictionary definition of society says “society is a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.” And black people have like Kwanza and rap and stuff, and totally don’t fit the definition of what society should be. Sorry for the rant, but I’m really trying to say that I agree with you completely: Fags shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and blacks should go back to Africa. Keep the faith strong, and God bless. Peace.

 

Thanks for the comment, but how does this respond to any of what I said?

 

I was merely boasting of your immense logical capacity! Marriage is obviously all about sex, and sex is all about making babies, and gays can’t make babies so they can’t get married. Duh. And wasn’t it Carl Sagan who proved that gay marriage is the leading cause of black holes?

You say it’s a “metaphysical impossibility” for gays to get married, even though there are plenty of gays who are legally married, and for that I even envy your ability to brush away plain truth and implement your own brand of personal logic. You laugh reason, virtue, love, and humanity in the face. I’m on your side man, those qualities are for pussies and liberals and faggots. The world needs more men like us to tell people how they should live their lives!

Anyway, I’m sure God will send all the gays to Hell anyway because “God hates faggots,” or whatever my minister keeps repeating. Keep up the great posts, and maybe one day we will finally have a government that is man enough to fully piss on the egalitarian ideal.

 

Sarcasm aside, you’ve done nothing to address my argument. I daresay that you’re acting quite like a bigot.

“You say it’s a “metaphysical impossibility” for gays to get married, even though there are plenty of gays who are legally married”

This goes to show that you don’t understand my argument. Calling same-sex couples married is one thing, being actually married is another. If, as I argue, marriage is rooted in the biological realities of human nature, then same-sex marriage is a logical impossibility, despite the fact that we may label such arrangements as marriages. Calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. The same principle applies here.

 Naw man, WE’RE bigots. Bigots as in “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics.” I mean, we both strongly identify with conservatism, right… and Christianity?

I’m sorry if I come off sarcastic; my beliefs can be a little extreme. But I sympathize with your cause completely. Marriage is totally not a concept of human construction. It exists just as physically as a “dog’s tail.” Marriage can’t be what the dictionary supposes as, “A union between persons that is recognized by custom or religious tradition as a marriage.” The dictionary was written by faggot loving liberals. Marriage is biological, and being gay totally isn’t.

No, you’re acting bigoted in the sense that you refuse to engage with the arguments of the opposition, choosing instead to respond with satire instead of a well-reasoned argument.

Once again, you still haven’t engaged with my arguments, so your comments are now moderated. Further sarcasm will not be approved. I expect all commenters here to engage rationally with my arguments. Those who don’t lose the privilege of commenting.

Oops… I thought there was well-reasoned argument in my satire. I always found satire more fun than argument when interacting in text, so I’m not looking to launch into a full online debate with the written word. It lacks too many elements of rhetoric. I was just having fun.

So, in brief, marriage is a concept, a ceremony, a tradition, etc. It does not physically exist as you presume. People might be biologically attracted to each other, but the institution of marriage is constructed from belief, not tangible reality.

Personally, when it comes to defining the concepts within my own belief system (which I like to abbreviate as BS) I like to make them all-inclusive, and promote, to the best possible degree, a sense of equality. If you prefer to outcast certain sects (not to be confused with sex) from your BS, and create a reality for yourself that only includes people like you, that’s your thing.

 

“So, in brief, marriage is a concept, a ceremony, a tradition, etc. It does not physically exist as you presume. People might be biologically attracted to each other, but the institution of marriage is constructed from belief, not tangible reality.”

I gave an argument that marriage is a biological reality grounded in human nature — specifically, the proper purpose of sex. Merely asserting your contrary opinion is not a refutation of it. You need an argument to warrant your conclusion.

“I like to make them all-inclusive, and promote, to the best possible degree, a sense of equality.”

This begs the question. The meaning of “equal” will depend on the nature of the thing being discussed. To treat people equally is to give them all the rights that they deserve, but what they deserve is the very issue being debated. To know what people deserve, we need to have some grasp of the nature of the thing in question. But if there is no such thing as an objective standard in which marriage is grounded, then the idea of “equality” in the marriage debate makes absolutely no sense. So ironically, in order to invoke the equality argument, marriage must be something other than a mere social construct.

 

Your thoughts 

Technology in the Aid of Revolution

Technologies, such as paper, eyeglasses, mechanical clocks, roadways, or any other extension of the human spirit, have forever changed the operational facilities of life. They have influenced the level of productivity that a society can achieve by creating extensions of our individually limited capacities. For example, eyeglasses enabled the workers of medieval times to extend their careers by several years, giving workers clarity of sight even in old age. Eyeglasses have also lead to the development of precision tools by focusing the eyes on mechanical detail.  Similarly, the Gutenberg press, and other printing innovations, have allowed for mass publication of news and ideas, while also raising the level of collective literacy.

Of course, with every new stride in technological development, there comes with it a certain level of consequence.  Certain technologies have both benefited human society as well as thrown in obstacles, limiting the scope of potential efficiency.  They have propelled our minds into a wealth of information, and they have sedated our minds with visions on the screen.  A long list of automated, prerecorded options on a company’s voicemail might save time and money for the company, but it also severely limits the level of communication and customer satisfaction.  One could even argue that the mechanical clock, although allowing us to organize our day, has lead to procrastination; since it is much easier to put something off till the last minute when one knows when the last minute is.

The question of whether or not technology as a whole has helped or hurt our human species could be equally supported on both sides.  Sometimes there is no concise answer to such inquiries.  What can be agreed upon is that technologies have influenced immense change and have completely revolutionized how we live as human animals.

David Landes says in his essay The Invention of Invention that, “Government rests on paper.”  Although it might be more accurate to say that government rests on language, – Hammurabi’s ancient Babylonian code of laws were printed on clay tablets – Landes does present an interesting point: without the proper means of organizing a standardized language of rules and regulations, it is very doubtful that a government could exert control over a large nation.

By mass producing printed law and constitutional rights, governments can distribute the same standardized information to a large populace and expect a consensus of understanding.  In this sense, the printed word has contributed to the rise of most governments’ ability to establish control.  One only need to look to the German propaganda of the 30s and 40s to realize the large influence the printed page has on our perceptions and actions, and the propensity toward indoctrination that these manufactured perceptions have.

When it comes to the printed word, on paper that is, ideas are easy to regulate.  Governments can easily burn and wipe clean the journals and papers of Wilhelm Reich, or they can distribute Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book to every citizen and enforce a mandatory reading.

On the other hand, digital print and media operate quite differently.  It opens publication to every individual, it’s hard to stop, and it has the ability to spread like wildfire.

The birth of new digital technologies, such as the internet and smart-phones, are inciting fear within the leaders of more authoritarian governments.  The regimes of China and Egypt are two contemporary examples of governments who have attempted to restrict citizens’ access to community-run websites and social networking.  They are terrified of the internet’s ability to share information and organize opposition.  What’s scarier for the rulers of oppressive nations than a populace that can organize and freely publish dissent?  The recent explosion of Wiki-Leaks is another great example of the impact that internet technology has on government; even in our own country.  The tides are turning, and governments no longer hold the restraints on media that they once had.

We are already seeing drastic changes in collective consciousness and public awareness due to technological developments that have raised the bar on global communication.  With ubiquitous and instantaneous spreading of information, cultural barriers are diminishing and new ideas are being pushed to the foreground of public discussion – such as the T.E.D. conferences which are now posted online. It is also worth mentioning that during the peak of Cairo’s revolution, anyone with internet access was able to go on Youtube.com and watch the rallies and protests that Cairo citizens were publishing from their smart-phones.

The famous chant “The whole world is watching” is brought under a different light and holds new meaning than it did for the antiwar protesters of Chicago in 1968.  The whole world really is watching, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for oppressive regimes to hide their citizens under their frayed cloak of ignorance.  Governments might rest on paper, but they’re reformed through binary.

Mystery of History

 

Start with the premise:

It’s all been done

End with the conclusion:

To innovate is delusion.

 

The brain of Twain

Developed the maxim,

A historical axiom,

That the recurrence of time

Does not repeat but rhyme.

 

Slant rhymes, I presume, must be included

In history’s wrappings, riddled and clued.

Perfect rhymes are written and glued

By the victors of war –

History’s whores.

 

Or maybe history doesn’t

Rhyme at all,

Nor does it have a Dal segno.

Rather, history is an echo

Off the walls of Plato’s cave.

 

Living Through Chemistry

Chemistry is everything, nothing isn’t chemistry,

Bonds bounce through our brain.

Making us laugh, sniffle, sigh, cry, fuck, eat, wonder, act, react, this, that, on, and on

Making us go insane.

Chemicals are everywhere, housed in matter,

But it doesn’t matter.

No matter what we know,

All is the same.

 

We know only of making things

As means to know more about making more things.

There are no ends, only means.

Everything is mean!

An eventual regression to the mean.

“I thought she was a great person… until we hung out more.

I then realized that she was a waste of time.”

That’s because you didn’t collect enough samples at the beginning.

You needed more data.

Only then could all her qualities collapse into average.

Everything is average.

Mediocre.

Outliers are only there to make you question:

“?”

But in the mean-time, ordinarily, I’m usually typically average,

and questioning?

Words of Wisdom

The things that almost happen

Don’t even make a dent in the earth.

It’s the things that are, is and be

That are is to be given any worth.

Certainty

Have you ever been so certain of something,
only to find that you were completely wrong?

It’s so liberating.

A weight of responsibility
lifts from your shoulders,
Because you make mistakes too.
You play the role of human in this production.

It’s even greater when you think you know something,
then you find out your wrong,
then you find out you were originally right in the first-place.

“Well am I really correct,
do I hold the truth of the situation,
or will my perceptions once again flip.
Now I can‘t rightfully know ANYTHING,
can I?”

This offers the greatest sense of emancipation
from the network of truth.
Weaved into web,
sticky network,
waiting to pull you in.

But upon realizing you’re not at all infallible,
your certainty gets pulled back and spread out,
the way the tide roles in and take a sand castle.

You become not only separate from the network of truth,
but you simultaneously become the network.
And knowing that you’re part of it,
allows you to rise above it; while at the same time questioning
if you really know that you’re part of it in the first place.

Epistemology – a philosophical branch closely tied to ontology that studies everything;
because everything is thought.
And the limits of thought define the boundaries of everything.

It is somewhat disheartening
to come to terms with the truth that all of these ideas thus presented
have already been thought about before.
None is wholly original.
It’s like, what use do I have writing this down when I could go read books on this topic.
Books that would map out my own ideas better than I ever could.

Not that the books know me better than I know me,
it’s that my ideas are not part of me. I don’t own the rights (I’ve yet to develop an original product).
They are part of the collective.
Thoughts and ideas are communal.
They rely on the existence of other people-generating-ideas to exist themselves.

I can’t build a house without the supplies provided to me by other people;
And the underline structure of each house will be loosely based off houses before it
and is not wholly original.
Similarly, I can’t build an idea
without the language/supplies/ideas provided to me by other people.

True independence can only be achieved upon death,
but even then
one relies on the bacteria and worms to facilitate the next step,
which is decomposition.

No one is independent, but we’re all individual.

Everyone is a snowflake,
with our own intricate pattern,
similar yet unique to the others around it,
and we’re falling into one big mound of snow.
The universe is snow.
Everything in the universe is a fluttering flake,
temporarily suspended in the fall to oblivion.

Yet, it’s only a matter of time before I find all this to be untrue.

The Break Down

This tile, “The Break Down,” can allude to an array of different topics and directions that this blog post can escape into. For instance, I could be talking about the importance of breakdowns in a piece of metal music. Or, I might be talking about mental collapse. Maybe I’m having car trouble…

Rather, I would like to “break down” my last post so that it doesn’t go largely misunderstood. Parts of it are incredibly esoteric and other parts are written in my own word codes. Hence, I feel it necessary to “break down” my word reasons in my last poem so that I don’t experience mental collapse and, consequently, break down. I’m still going to leave some parts of the poem unanswered – as one man said in the obscenity trial of Ginsberg’s Howl, “Poetry can’t be translated into prose. That is why it is poetry.” – but I do think that there are some inherent historical examples within the poem that need mentioning. This might be moderately conceited for me to do, but so it goes. So here is the poem, again, with the director commentary turned on:

Cumming of a Creed

What we need

Is the cumming of a creed:

A doctrine of divinity that

Shakes human from slumber:

Words of thunder

Instantaneous

To the strike of wonder:

There are no seconds to count (counting time between lightning and thunder)

Between what comes forth:

And what comes fourth

Is always wonder,

Preceding

Curiosity, amazement, bafflement.

 

Wonder is the most common

Denominator amongst demigods

Such as ourselves.

 

Ourselves as barb ells

Of differing masses:

For we all possess

Sharp, measuring minds (“barbs” are sharp – “ells” measure)

With their own

Gravitational pull. (the gravitational pull of an object depends on its mass)

Impatience and

Low tolerance to time

Has left us lightwaits. (one who does not like to wait)

Forever abandon the now,

And start the next,

Forever.

 

Beginning next

This creed shall be of us,

By us,

For us,

In the Abrahamic tradition. (“…of the people, by the people, for the people…” is from the Gettysburg Address, spoken by “Abraham” Lincoln. I’m playing off the Christian, Jewish and Islamic Abrahamic traditions.   

It shall encompass

Perfection,

And end compass

Directions.

 

It shall guide us astray

To the ashtrays

Of our minds

Where thoughts are pinched out

Embers

Laying in heaps

Of perceptual filters,

Yet shielding the Formica countertop

Of life

From collecting dust.

 

It shall explode

Explode

**EXPLODE**

Upon the Hiroshima

Of humdrum humanity,

And

The Nagasaki

Of dismal dailies. (dropings of the atomic bombs in WWII)

It shall be a specter haunting. You erupt (Marx’s Communist Manifesto starts off, “There is a specter haunting Europe – the specter of communism.” Vietnam War was a war against Communists)

27 years later (amount of time between WWII and Vietnam War)

When the values

That vested you

Are vaporized off your body by

Napalm napalm napalm napalm napalm

During Vietnamese Kodak moments (famous picture of little girl with clothing burned off by napalm during the Vietnam War. Google “Vietnam napalm” and you’ll find it.)

That warp your face

Into Edvard Munch hallucinations (Edvard Munch painted “The Scream.” The facial expression in the painting looks similar to the faces in the napalm picture.)

Of harrowing beauty.

 

It shall Socratically “WHY?” you (Socratic method of asking “why?” repeatedly)

While you worry “why YOU?”

Until your ever present thoughts (“ever present” = ubiquitous)

Strip the Y U

From intellectual ubi-quity, (take away the Y and U, and your left with bi-quit. To quit twice.

And you declare “I know nothing” (quote attributed to Socrates)

For the second time.

 

It shall deflower your comprehension

With Joycean oceans (James Joyce used a lot of poetic codes and riddles in his writing)

Of cryptic cry,

And it won’t call the next day.

Or the next.

 

It shall be

Crowley (Aleister Crowley, but also an allusion of a circling crow of death)

Circling above

The flower of truth,

Waiting to descend

Once “what thou wilt” (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” – Aleister Crowley)

Wilts petals into wonder.

 

And word thunder

Will rumble

As long as

Tongues tumble,

And tongues tumble

All down to the bottom,

Because even this

Fall has an autumn.

Cumming of a Creed

What we need

Is the cumming of a creed:

A doctrine of divinity that

Shakes human from slumber:

Words of thunder

Instantaneous

To the strike of wonder:

There are no seconds to count

Between what comes forth:

And what comes fourth

Is always wonder,

Preceding

Curiosity, amazement, bafflement.

 

Wonder is the most common

Denominator amongst demigods

Such as ourselves.

 

Ourselves as barb ells

Of differing masses:

For we all possess

Sharp, measuring minds

With their own

Gravitational pull.

 

Impatience and

Low tolerance to time

Has left us lightwaits.

Forever abandon the now,

And start the next,

Forever.

 

Beginning next

This creed shall be of us,

By us,

For us,

In the Abrahamic tradition.

 

It shall encompass

Perfection,

And end compass

Directions.

 

It shall guide us astray

To the ashtrays

Of our minds

Where thoughts are pinched out

Embers

Laying in heaps

Of perceptual filters,

Yet shielding the Formica countertop

Of life

From collecting dust.

 

It shall explode

Explode

**EXPLODE**

Upon the Hiroshima

Of humdrum humanity,

And

The Nagasaki

Of dismal dailies.

 

It shall be a specter haunting. You erupt

27 years later

When the values

That vested you

Are vaporized off your body by

Napalm napalm napalm napalm napalm

During Vietnamese Kodak moments

That warp your face

Into Edvard Munch hallucinations

Of harrowing beauty.

 

It shall Socratically “WHY?” you

While you worry “why YOU?”

Until your ever present thoughts

Strip the Y U

From intellectual ubi-quity,

And you declare “I know nothing”

For the second time.

 

It shall deflower your comprehension

With Joycean oceans

Of cryptic cry,

And it won’t call the next day.

Or the next.

 

It shall be

Crowley

Circling above

The flower of truth,

Waiting to descend

Once “what thou wilt”

Wilts petals into wonder.

 

And word thunder

Will rumble

As long as

Tongues tumble,

And tongues tumble

All down to the bottom,

Because even this

Fall has an autumn.

“Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors”

Burrr... It just got a little frosty in here.

This is my first post in about a week because of my six-day work week and all my free time spent either with my girlfriend or working on the prospects of writing a Holy Book. I have a poetic introduction to this (most serious joke) book in the works which I will eventually post, but in the meantime this is a piece I did last year that I will post for the sake of saving this blog from lapsing into a full on coma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

During epiphanies of disinterest with the self.

Something there is, in moments of clarity,

That doesn’t love the big blinding barricades

Constructed from the bricks of right or wrong,

This way or that, A or B, true or false…

Stones of perceived mathematical objectivity.

Language is the foreman of such mental masonry.

When courage is gathered to climb over these walls,

Leaving behind one’s Humpty Dumpty fears,

The ego erodes to uncover the bottom layer:

A layer deeper than the crust of character and

Even deeper than the mantle of one’s mannerisms;

Down to the pineal core where one finds that

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”