Friday, November 19, 2010

I am pretending to be who I am listening to

At the station, a young woman eats a muffin-top, obviously unawares of Elaine’s desire to profit from her, and the fact that it is best if one avoids acting out episodes from Seinfeld in you day to day existence on this planet. Anyway, this muffin top eater is stunningly beautiful in her black hot pants and liquorice leg stockings and stilettos. Half way through her treat she packs it away for later, grabs her coffee and walks off proudly to ignore my gaze. In her heart, though, I think she thinks that she is not quite beautiful enough for the world. There is no confidence in her demeanour, just false pride. She fact fears the mirror far more than she does my gaze.
Photograph from The Age
The sun shines brightly warming the air. The flowers have finally bloomed, and the women who are out and about are more lightly clad than before.

Others stand around the platform warming themselves in the gentle morning sun waiting for the train to arrive. The birds are singing in the distant trees. It is the first hot day of spring, and a gentle sea breeze has picked up already against the deep azure of the sky. It is the type of day when everything has an intensity that on any other day would not be so noticeable: The colours seem brighter, the smiles larger. A young woman feels her hair, all nice and warm in the sun, her bare arms soaking up the rays.

Once on the train, people maintain a safe distance from one another, unfolding their broadsheets to hide behind, listening cocooned with their iPods and sunglasses on, or checking the messages on their mobile phones. I often wonder whether they are actually performing the task that such a gesture would imply, or that there is a deeper meaning to what they are doing. Are they reading or hiding. Are there actually any messages on their mobile, or are they just hoping to receive one and in fact are lonely? I will never know for sure, but what my body gives me the ability to do, is to allow their body to speak to me.

This is not a particular power I alone possess, but because I notice that I do possess it, I am willing to allow other bodies in space to have a similar ability at least to do what I can do. Of course, I can also go off on flights of fantasy, and imagine that other human bodies have the same capacity, as they are recognisably similar to mine, and different from other bodies that I encounter in my life, such as dogs, cats, cows and sheep. For instance, I may recognise similar attributes in an insect, but these are not of the same order, as I would think of a human body possessing. I can deduce from their behaviour the shared and separate characteristics, and notice that human bodies can change their behaviour to mimic that of the other bodies I encounter, but that these in turn can rarely affect such mimicry in return.

In the carriage as it moves along, people have already ordered themselves into something of a class system. Men and woman in suits tend to sit together, mothers and children with older women and a quiet single woman. The more raucous gather at the end of the carriage, and in this way, harmony is maintained to a degree at least. So long as this fragile order is not disturbed by someone unwilling to maintain there place in the order, all seems to maintain an uneasy but fluid structure. People, who come and go, leave and join this structure, read from the position of the others within the carriage as they do so: by the clothes their fellows are wearing and the activities that they are pursuing; whether it be talking loudly, sitting quietly and reading or looking out the window. As they come and go, they leave gaps in this microhabitat that are filled by new passengers or a reshuffling of those already present.

This is a microcosm of society in transit, but not just any society, nor even a representative cross-section of a particular sub-section of an historical habitat. It is both at one and the same time, a cross-section of all transitory movements of human beings and of all human society up until the train left its station and of all the possible human societies in the future. It is all present in this carriage to be read, but the reading itself disturbs the equilibrium of those read, as the reader him or herself is at one and the same time separate to and a part of this transitory historical train. I am both an observer and a participant in this historical moment, and so, it exists as part of me and me of it, and there is no way that I can extricate myself from this project and still remain an observer anymore than I can fully immerse myself and continue to observe.

I cannot escape my historicalness and be outside of myself. I am always trapped by my gaze and its mirroring by other sentient beings who also gaze on me, even if they do so by gazing at their mobile phones. I am in their smell just as I smell them, and it is not necessary that this sense be above a threshold to exist in actual fact. Even if the turning of the newspaper is masked by the sound of the steel wheels rolling over the cracks in the tracks, I can still hear this sound, as too can the reader of the paper and those surrounding him or her. But as much as they or I want to escape this particular moment we cannot, as we are surrounded by a factual world of sunshine and warmth, now doubt simultaneously here as across this entire city today.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 5, 2010

I am of my world and my world is of me.

die mutter aller madenImage by spanaut via FlickrI am sitting here on a sunny afternoon, and the warm air is entering behind me. I can hear a radio coming from my neighbour's kitchen. The odd door opens and closes. above the humdrum of the city that surrounds me, I can hear birds and gentle sounds all around me.
This is the background to my existence. I am amidst the world, not alone. The world was there before me and will continue after me. In another sense, I have always been and will always be a part of this world. That I have experienced life and that that life will pass, is but a miracle of the world I inhabit, and of the consciousness of it which i was born and educated into by others like me.
This is far from trivial. This forms the essence of who I am, and the perception I have been granted by the miracle of nature. These others who have come before me and will follow me share a similarity which i recognize. This recognition is so potent that I look and see it in other objects around me, and see those objects in myself and the other bodies who I recognize as equals.
Sometimes I try to mimic the bird calls i hear when i am out and about. A dog barks at me and I growl back in a distinctive more or less dog-like manner. I can snort like a pig, neigh like a horse, indeed, some have said that at times I am as stubborn as a mule. The human animal is remarkable precisely because its body can metamorphisize into that of others at will.
Other objects outside of me can also be rendered mirror-like into the terms of my own perception of myself and those I identify with as equals. The way the dog looks sad when I am about to go out, the cat that panics when i am preparing to move house, the horse that is startled by a small piece of paper floating through its field of vision. I interpret the responses of these other mammals from the perspective of a human: I have an empathy with them because I can see that they too are similar though different to me. They too feed there children milk, have emotions and behaviours that I can recognize as coming from a similar source and myself, and that they too are similarly a part of my family, if only distant cousins.
Theater of LightImage by ecstaticist via FlickrThis relationship with mammals is much more obvious than the way I see beyond into the world as a whole. The relationship between me and my fellow embodied humans and the environment we share, is an extension of this primary recognition of myself in others, namely my family, friends and the wider human society and even spreading beyond that as described above.I see the world itself as an embodied being. there I have a tendency to see it as a whole; a world or universe beyond my immediate environment.
This process is reversible in that I am the world and the world is me. While I am stardust the world is also there for me. There are constellations in the sky that I recognize as part of my tribe. Like the expansive ocean, it draws me too it, while its vastness fills me with awe and dread. There is a mystery to its very existence precisely because my own existence is tenuous. It draws me to toward it, to understand it and the patterning that seems to emanate from it. Even though I can recognize in the universe a beingness, it is a beingness which gave birth to me and my kind. More than that even, to all like me, both animate and inanimate. It's power transcends me and my kind, and yet, gives me power to act upon it.
Is it any wonder than that throughout the ages, people have personified this relationship with our creator the universe as a human-like being, which created us in his or her image? Perhaps such a metaphor is a truly honest and open expression of who we are. Sure, this personified God is created by us, but nevertheless exists as an infinite environment that we witness when we look at the stars at night, when we see the sun being drawn across the skies during the day, when I sit here typing against the background provided for it, and which my mind can imagine thanks to it, not because of it.
The universe doesn't exist for me to understand and exploit it, but it understands me and exploits me in its development. I am of it and it is not of me. The universe is my God and it is the creator of me. I can c
Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...                         Image via Wikipediareate because of this God, and any god I create is less than. The universe, after all, my be just one of a myriad of other infinite beings. Even a glimpse of this imaginary scenario makes my head whirl. But there can only be one creator of me, and that creator is the totality of all possible universes including my own.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Right there before my eyes, I can taste the changing times, and smell the colour of hope...

Description unavailableImage by subcomandanta via Flickr
If there is a world out there, and I have faith that other bodies that are recognisably like me inhabit that world along with me, then that world should be describable in a manner understandable by those other bodies. We share a space called a family, a community and a society.

Even if we don't share a global village as the half glassers would have us believe, the speed of travel and communications has reduced the distance between us; made  contact instantaneously possible across the planet, so industrial strife somewhere in the US is comunicable instantaneously to me in Melbourne, Australia; an environmental disaster is acknowledge before the nightly news has time to got to air.

I occupy a space that is social at its roots. Language comes to me from others and is only useful to me ultimately for linking across space, and time to other bodies who have a capacity to understand and to perhaps respond.

The point of all these ramblings, so far, is to establish that I am not alone in the world, that I share a world with others, and that ultimately that world is constructed and deconstructed simultaneously through communicative activity. This is the spirit world, this gift of language, which for some reason humans have as fundamental to our nature. We are not the only animal through which this gift operates, but it occurs in no other known animal to the same degree as it does in us.

The very ability to use the world us and for it to have meaning, implies a common bond. The neo-liberal chant that there is no such thing as society, only individuals belies the fact that in reality there is no such thing as individuals only society, that there is a common bond, the spirit of which is given to us through the hot air of the spoken, and the subsequent written word.

These two forms of language, spoken and symbolic, exist side by side and are in a dynamic relationship with one another. One fluid and airy in contest with the fixed and encased in grandeur. It is no mistake that the latter has a certain authority, and indeed the spoken words authority is easily increased if the speaker has the ability to write for others, such as a law maker or a priest. This ability to set words in stone adds weight to those uttered freely.

This ability to render the spoken word into symbolic form has always been at the centre of power. Those who do not have this power and yet are in a position to wield power are often open to being corrupted by those who lead them in this process. Such is a reason why nouveau riche are often rightly distrusted, being nothing but the noisy henchmen of the sectional interests who seek to control them.

This process is a common sight in the era of late capitalism that we live in, when the semi-literate are in cohorts with the anti-intellectual neo-conservative agenda. This alliance between the organised trades, financial marketeers, property developers and the intellectuals of the Western elites, has successfully sought to undermine the social liberal agenda of the post-war years in exchange for bigger television sets, a redistribution of wealth away from the creators and the poor eventually into the hands of the less and non-productive.

The cost of this to those left in the non-existent 'societies' has been enormous in terms of productive loss, social dislocation and disharmony. These controlling intellectuals and their collaborators have traded off taxation for welfare, that is, from a net loss to a positive gain, often cloaked under ideologies as diverse as Ayn Rand's anarchistic ramblings, the Dalai Lama's lame pronunciations and the hero worship of 'left wing' leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro.

To what end? Those left behind in 'society', otherwise called here the lifeworld, are left to pick up the pieces of those who threaten to fall through the 'safety net' constructed by the chameleons who write the laws who do not even believe that society exist. This is the fundamental belief of the ideology of neo-liberalism. Unions, bureaucracies, and community infrastructure has been diminished and denuded since Thatcher and Reagan began this attack on society in the late 1970s. There is no end in sight. Even the recent banking crisis was dealt with by a false Keynsianism that ignored those in the bottom half of society in favour of saving the butts of those in the upper half who do not apparently believe in society at all.

This use of language, indeed its perversion is often criticised by opposing factions of the intellectual elite, but they miss the point. Language has been co-opted and used to justify this corrupt disenfranchisement of the Lifeworld, and at the same time colonising the language of that world by simply displacing the bureaucracy onto the citizenry. The level of regulation may have decreased for those in the upper economic echelons of society but has increased substantially for those at the bottom end, at the brunt end of these social, philosophical and economic deforms.

Everyone gets an education just that some get a better education than other, or so the saying goes. While the best efforts of the political and intellectual classes has been to shelter themselves and their collaborators from the vagaries of the system their policies have created, this process has educated the those left behind in the Lifeworld to a reality that is cruel, negative and burdensome. It has shackled them with interconnected health, social and drug problems that threaten the very existence of any social and family fabric remaining. In return they are confronted with hostile texts which threatens their very existence as citizens.

Those in charge of the written word, the political, judicial and intellectual elites along with the middle class who have 'moved in on' the unsuspecting working classes, taking over their ruling bodies, come and go from the life world on a daily basis, ordering the production of new tomes, documentary propaganda and internet sites that to infiltrate the Lifeworlds consciousness. Those of us left behind are fighting back, however, and it is on the basis of language that we can do this. Language congeals our thoughts and focuses our attention before the hunt. It has always been like that.

Slowly, through the remaining available channels we are in communion with each other. Also, this connectedness is enhanced by the internet and other post-print areas of publication. It is up to those of us in a position to do so, to communicate at all levels of society to break through the ideological superstrate of the non-society by which we have come to be governed and take back control of the agenda of politics. It is my belief that the election of Barack Obama, the hung parliaments in Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia are the harbingers of this change on the ground in these modern Western democracies.

Taste is returning as the rancid smell of the fast food outlets is being pushed back, and the air smells sweet with the burgeoning hope of new times ahead, of a crisis that will force fundamental change in the way we think about economics and the environment, and of a return to the Great Society of which post-war generations dreamed, not the baby boomer crap we have been dished up with.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The news is not reality

Oh dear, what have I been reduced to. Being psychoanalysed by suburban divorcees on popular dating sites. OMG as these illiterates constantly write. 'Your beaker's only half empty' begins the accusation. All I can answer is, 'no, my glass is half full and perhaps you'd be kind enough so as to top it up!'


They recommend self-help literature to me, the Dalai Lama being at the top of their lisps. Good luck to you in your search. i wont bother you any more. I'm going blogging instead.

Personally I prefer Maurice Merleau-Ponty to self-help books. has anyone actually thought that perhaps the very term 'Self Help' is a misnomer? The best I ever read was by Paul Livingstone (aka Flacco) entitled; Releasing the Imbecile Within.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm open minded and and willing to learn new ideas. i've read lots of Buddhist literature over the years. I'm sure the Dalai Lama has many wise things to say for himself.

Trouble is, I'm not Tibetan and have no desire to be, if they'd actually be stupid enough to give me citizenship in the first place. besides, i'd probably outrageously side with the Chinese, who do have a point when they argue that the clerics did nothing to provide for the locals in terms of health, education or democratization when the place was under their theocratic control.

Anyway, in my more reflective moments I do realize the poor buggers there are oppressed by an imperial power. So what, so too is Mexico and at least half of the South American continent. Europe, Canada and Australia have been little more than a tributary states of the US of A since World War II. So now we are passing the baton to China. Does it really matter? Is that really my reality?

Well, yes and no. I had an awakening several months ago. After being an avid news reader for many years, I finally awoke to the fact that the news is not reality. That in fact, reality, the whole damn lot of it, is there right before my very eyes. The whole universe is present before me in microcosmic form. It is really a matter of faith that there is a world out there and it exists. From my perspective it appears simultaneously as being both immanent and transcendent. Voila!

The whole world is present on the horizon. I can sense it. It is both tangible and visible whether i can see it or not. I can differentiate that world into a variety of constellations. All is possible if only accept the impossibility of sensing the totality of experience exterior to me. This is because much of what I sense is intuitive, that is, I sense both the visible, that which is given to me, and the invisible, that which only ever an always already there sense that there is something which is not perceptible but there in any case.

As I burn my toast in the morning, the universe is still becoming and evolving, entropy still continues and ceases to abate in spite of the best wishes in the world. This is so much background noise to my toast. The toast burns along with a village in Afghanistan; my coffee boils simultaneous with the earthquake relief effort in Haiti. The failure of world leaders to make any headway on agreement in Copenhagen is present as I spill the sugar into my cup and throw out the old toast, only replace it with fresh slices in the hope that I can maintain the semblance of manageability this time, cook the toast to perfection, and take it and my coffee out to watch my goldfish feeding in their pond. Just because I don't perceive all this extraneous invisibility before me does not mean it is not happening.

It both is and isn't happening, just as love both is and isn't perceivable, and that the forces of the universe's expanding both are and are not present as I prepare my meager breakfast. Whether I like to bring such thoughts to consciousness or not are a choice that my ego makes. Either it is or is not too much for me to cope with. Either I am humble before the universe or engrossed with the discontent of making my toast and topping it with jam and magarine. (Butter if you prefer!)

The inetervention that was in reality an occupation

I've just been around to a friend's place. In actual fact, she's the mother of my younger son. As I explained to him, he is not the product of a virgin birth, and so, in that case I'm his father.

Whatever, she wanted to talk about the government intervention in the northern parts of Australia where we both live. Two citizens sitting down for a coffee to hold discourse over this invisible problem. Invisible for us sitting in a kitchen in Melbourne's leafy east, less so for an aboriginal person living in the continents interior.

There is little to talk about unless you're prepared to get to the essence of the problem. The schwerpunkt of the matter would seem to be this: that the indigenous peoples of Australia, once originally free holders of all the territories now under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia whose head of government is the Queen of Australia, Queen Elisabeth II who is also Queen of England, having been dispossessed under an act of the British Parliament due to the fact of it being Terra Nullius or an uninhabited land, have once again been occupied by the military forces of the Government of Australia acting on her behalf.

Coincidentally this family of monarchs are also major shareholders in British and international capital, not least of which including the mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton which have a vested interest in subjecting the communities concerned to disorder and chaos by the use of implied force.

My friend was commenting on a television program she had seen concerning this intervention. The program, as related to me, was about providing shops in remote communities. As soon I heard this, and perhaps this is a failure of mine, all I could think of was the stupidity of the proposition being put. If these poor buggers had any money to speak of then of course there would be shopping malls built on every last square of their land!

No, no! They want co-operatives. Oh dear, co-operatives which have never worked anywhere else. Isn't the issue here that the aboriginal peoples, having been dispossessed of their land and their culture having been all but destroyed by generations of dispossession, allowing alcoholism and drug abuse to run rampant? Aren't domestic violence and sexual dysfunction well known side-effects of  these illnesses? Isn't it known that some peoples have a genetic and cultural predisposition to these insidious diseases?

All I can say is this. Leave the indigenous peoples of this land, and the world, alone. Sure, provide them with the services and access to those services that every other citizen has. For example, provide schools and universities, hospitals and health centers and food to these people by all means, give them back their land to be held in common so that they may maintain their spirituality, just treat them as equals.

Too hard. We want to worry about the guilt and shame of our ancestors, deny the ongoing destruction of the natural habitat, and instead help. Help? What a misused and abused word. The best way to help these peoples under attack is to help ourselves. A sick person cannot help another sick person. The settlers in this country need to work on themselves.

The air-conditioner next door runs all day and night. May I be comfortable so that you may suffer. Cars flood the streets as the temperature soars. Each piece of operating machinery, every computer and appliance, throwing heat into an already over loaded atmosphere.

Every occurrence includes within it the totality of human and natural history. The intervention and climate change, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, economic crises and the newspaper which fails to report yet another teenage death from the abuse of a combination of ecstasy, Ice and alcohol, all of these are present in every aspect of the cup of coffee I just consumed.

They are and are not present. In some place they are tangible and others not. Nevertheless, they are there if one is only prepared to reflect and contemplate. In any case, I remain grateful just to be able to witness this as human history unfolding: have faith that in some way equilibrium by human agency in concert with natural forces: and hope that more people will take the cotton wool out of their ears and stick it in their mouths so that they may hear the rumblings of a world under stress. Listen....

There is no escaping the present. Just as tradition and natural history bear down on every present, so to in present now the future. The present is full of possibility. Each possibility and the totality of possibilities is in inherent at each point along the continuum of time. At any point in time, certain passes are available to us. Some passes may be blocked to us, and others may be impassable due to the traditions we have inherited.

Let's hope our inheritance can help us to find the correct passes. At the beginning of Dante's Inferno, Dante is trying to find the pass to Paradise. he is confronted by three mythological monsters who push him back. Virgil suddenly appears and asks Dante what he is trying to achieve. When Dante finally reveals to Virgil his intention, Virgil calmly replies that the quickest way to Paradise is to pass through the gates of Hell, Hell being a place where hopeless, we live in desire. I think we're already well on our way...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Just another lazy Sunday afternoon.

Children in Khorixas, NamibiaImage via Wikipedia
It is a warm Sunday afternoon for this time of year. The sun has been shining all day and the wind has been progressively abating. Children can be heard playing in a back yard nearby, and the birds are preparing for the onset of evening. I sit at the computer which hums gently as I type. This scene is composed of spatial elements and social conventions much more than it is by my psychology apart from a desire to understand and communicate this understanding.

There is a world of relationships that exist beyond my body. It enters my body only as an after-image of that reality and in the form of language patterns given to me by others. It is true that as a poet I have invented the odd word and often in syncronicity shared that with others who too have invented the same or similar words and phrases in isolation. but this is, and always will remain, the exception rather than the rule. We are born into a world of concepts and relationships and are introduced to these through language and social conventions.

Sunday is not just any day. I live in a society predominately descended from the Western Judeao-christian tradition. As such, Sunday is the first day of the week through convention and traditionally a day of peace. I like this idea and so try to project that onto my world and read it in a way in accordance with the concept that I have inherited along with others. It is quieter because the week ended yesterday and the children can play and the adults relax in preparation of another week of work and learning.

The spatial relationship is also important. While the computer sits foregrounded as I seek to write another blog prompted by a Facebook friend, the children are some distance off and perceptible only through earshot. If they happened to be in my tiny flat it would not be as serene and peaceful. Indeed, if they were playing at the same distance but in the middle of a busy intersection during tomorrow morning's peak hour, I would probably be quite distressed with a feeling of responsibility for their combined safety.

The birds, too, would be problematic if they were in the room with me. Full of fear and anxiety as they tried vainly to escape the confines of my bungalow, they would know doubt fly into walls, me and my computer, making it almost impossible for me to write anything.

I can imagine all this only through prior experience, either personal or conveyed to me in linguistic blocks and phrases, which describe certain behaviours and preclude others. These social relationships that are present in language are appear always already there, to have an a priori existence and come to me in the forms of bodily feelings and postures.

At the moment I am relaxed and peaceful because of what I have described above as the scenario that exists in my immediate surroundings. If it were as I have imaginatively described my body would start to feel anxious and affect the very words and behaviours that are necessary to communicate with others.

This is not trivial. Objects in our perceptual field exist in relation to me and to each other. That relationship is inseparable except in text books that seek to isolate and focus on one object to the exclusion of others momentarily so as to seek an understanding of that object's essential characteristics. In reality, however, an object can never be fully understood in such isolation in its complexity.

Concepts and ideas, like objects, are also in such a relationship with each and the particular social milieu that they inhabit, that is, they exist defined by space and time and as such are essentially historical in nature. A table is built from already existing materials according to the fashions of the time. At times fashion itself is backward looking and so it may be a reproduction design from an earlier era. At others its design will be inspired by an imaginary future.

In either case, what is being built is a functional contemporary object whether its creators see it this way or not. As well as this, the table is built from pre-existing materials and transformed into an object which its makers recognise as an object with the functional attributes of a table. Furthermore, at some future time it will cease being a table and the materials consumed in its transformation will either be utilised for some other human purpose or return again to a static state able to be re-transformed into some other object of utility either by human, animal or some other naturally occurring force.

Ideas, concepts and memories, that is, those human constructions that exist on the Invisible rather than  Visible plane, are no different. Sure, they can be externalised in the form of the written word and transmitted via books, texts or indeed performances, yet they are still constructed in much the same way from the linguistic fragments of 'natural world' and given life through the spoken or written word, music and paintings, mathematical concepts and the body of knowledge described, recorded and experimented with in some sort of 'scientific' endeavour.
2009-04-04 Bong Recreation Area 1
The Invisible realm is just as real as that which we can directly perceive. Indeed, as I began, this realm always seems to be already present before we even try to speak, just sitting around encapsulating the solidity of the reality we move amidst. 

'It is Sunday' seems like such a simple statement, yet is pregnant with social and historical connotations, in constant flux as an object precisely because it exists amidst the flux of ideas that we as humans continually project and receive through our various perceptual apparati. It is our failing as Image by JanetandPhil via Flickranimals that we need to isolate to understand, and so to come to a richer understanding we need to constantly remember this limitation of the way we are in the world.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, August 1, 2010

There is nothing to worry about.

It is Sunday evening and I have eaten and have the television set on. There is nothing on the box and so I thought I'd sit down and write. I couldn't think of what tow right, but remembered a lengthy online discussion that i had during the week about nothing.

Two Orionids meteor and Milky WayNothing is something that is mostly ignored. As humans living in modernity we are convinced that what hits our senses and is perceived directly is real, that which does not being unimportant. Seeing is believing and conversely that which cannot be sensed by our legitimate five senses is deemed illegitimate and beyond any meaningful discourse. This is in spite of the observable ad perceivable fact that the universe itself is mostly made of nothing at all.

The ancients knew this intuitively. In English we have separate words for heaven and sky but in other European languages at least this is not the case. There is one word for both heaven and sky in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Polish and Russian: ciel, Himmel, cielo, cielo, cel, niebo and небо respectively. The only other European language that uses words to differentiate the two entities is Greek, which uses παράδεισος and ουρανός. When we look up at the heavens we see nothing foregrounded by what we now know to be the bluish sheen of our planets atmosphere in interaction with the suns radiation and backgrounded by the stars, the closest of which is about four billion  billion miles away. We say this is four light years to stop this astronomical calculation overwhelming us in the almost complete nothingness that exists between us observers on earth and the closest source of light apart from our own sun.
A diagram summarizing the tree-level interacti...
Nothing can overwhelm us and so we have a tendency to reduce nothing to mean not being of importance. We pretend this nothing is not something to notice but is just a space. An absence rather than the overwhelming presence that it perhaps in reality is. We unwittingly perceive the foreground and background while neglecting the middle ground of nothing or next to nothing. The whole of our perceptual reality is treated similarly when I think of it. The universe is overwhelmingly composed of nothing and all we seem interested in is finding something solid. The human mind seems allergic to the idea of the abyss.

Quotes - 23/60Think of a single atom. No one has directly perceived one but we believe by inference that it is made up of a nucleus of protons and neutron encircled by electrons. Other sub atomic elements are thought t exist as well and even a God particle which is being searched for at the Hadron Collider project on the French-Swiss border. These scientists are searching for something that may turn out in the end to be nothing. This is not to say that a God particle does or doesn't exist, but perhaps the God particle consists of nothing and therefore is something as part of everything that goes to make up our universe. (Other universes not with standing).

I am using nothing here in the same sense as Merleau-Ponty's concept of the Invisible. The biologist tells us that we are largely water or the chemist carbon depending on just how reductionist they happen to be at the time and what barrow they happen to be pushing. This is all part of a language game, and misses the point that the externalities of our bodies encapsulate matter which is just as much composed of nothing as it is of any particulate or matter. Remember, as matter we are both particle and light?

Bruegel d. Ä., Jan - The Sense of Sight - 1618I do not, however, perceive myself this way. I am flesh and bone and I see the world in my image just as the ancients once saw God as a heavenly father. The world appears to me as embodied, as having a being apart from me but behaving in a way similar to the way I perceive my body to function. Once I understand the nothingness present in the universe, I begin to understand how this nothingness inhabits the world and through its existence as a flesh like substance through which I move, my very own body to be inhabited, perhaps overwhelmingly so, by nothing: That when nothing is seen as something then it and all the other somethings can be seen to construct the world around me in a way which expresses more closely the overwhelming nature of the universe we inhabit somewhere in our dark corner, lit only by our sun and the faint glow of the milky way and all the other stars off into the broad expanses.

We have the Visible or perceivable and that which is not directly perceivable and which forever remains invisible except when expressed by us humans through our day to day lives and that cultural phenomena called art, religion or spirituality. If the invisible is so overwhelming then why too is its existence denied just as vehemently as God has been by many lesser scientists and thinkers. I can no more sense nothing, than I can God. Yet, all the expressive parts of humanity are in the same basket of non-matter. Human consciousness does not exist in the same way as love does not exist. These are not particles or light, but are part of the realm of nothing that I have described. 
We can not sense these things from the outside but can only experience them from within. I can no more sense how much you love your cat than you can sense how sad I am that my friend forgot to ring me this evening. Because you have a body like I do, and I know through experience that we perceive the world in similar ways, I can have empathetic feelings for you and you for I. But it is not possible to cross that gap and to see my consciousness of things, because that consciousness does not exist to the senses; it is in the realm of the Invisible and nothingness. If God exists, this is the realm to look in, not for a particle but into the abyss.

So, nothing is something to worry about. If we want to gain a broad understanding of everything that goes to make our universe and the world, we need to concern ourselves with the overwhelming bulk of that universe, not discount it as meaningless. To do so is to deny one of our essential features as human beings and that is to make meaning from our perception of things and to express them in a way that makes sense of the world we inhabit.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In what way are social networking sites spiritual?

(en) World Map (pt) Mapa Mundo (de) Weltkarte ...Image via WikipediaAfter spending two weeks on Facebook and 10 or so days on RSVP in the last month, I am surprised at just how unfulfilled I feel. This experience has left me drained, exhausted and tired. The obsessiveness with which I attacked this task has no doubt contributed to this feeling of emptiness, as too has the inadequacy I feel when constantly bombarded by claims of Buddhist enlightenment, Hindu pantheons, Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, half full glasses and the oneness of the world.

My experience of these sites has left me believing, that in spite of the claims made by various 'members' on their pages, that what I feel when confronted by these claims to spiritual superiority is counterfactual to the stated aims of the creators of these pages. I am left with a feeling that to me is anything but spiritual, my stomach an empty space robbed of whatever sober thought or emotion previously taking seat there, and wondering what on earth I am wasting my time reading and responding to empty platitudes and hopes rather than anything of substance.

I left these sites this morning and have been growing happier minute by minute ever since.  I can walk down the street again and say hello to a real person and smile, offer my hand in solidarity, asking nothing of them and accepting without question their humanity.

What is it to be spiritual? For me this seems to be the question at the heart of this matter. I don't know how to answer that. Surely it is tied up in someway with words used kindly and acts of genuine humanity. But that doesn't seem to go far enough. If the words and actions are given to boost my ego, that is, with an aim to making me look good in the world, of become a petty god or guru, then isn't this the antithesis  of spirituality, which surely is tied up with humility?

It is not that I am against metaphysics, not at all, it just seems to me that much of what I was exposed to in the past month has a smell of sophistry and pedantry, of people claiming that they could read my mind but never once told me exactly what I was thinking. Ancient claims presented as if the writer had only now thought of this proverb or that with a stroke of inspired genius.

Of course there where exceptions. A Spanish lady who had studied philosophy as well as being a practicing Catholic flattered me without expecting anything in return. Nevertheless, I returned the pleasure. This was a rare moment of human innocence. I had similar experience with a Philipino lady, a retired teacher in the outer suburbs, and a recovering alcoholic.

To me, these were truly human experiences as there was no pressure at all to conform, no feeling of having to submit to an idea which one could not live up to, and most importantly, a feeling that I had connected with something unspoken, ethereal and ephemeral. Perhaps that was what is called spiritual. Simply the feeling of non-exploitative human communications.

I think I'll just stick with looking people in the eye and offering my hand.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Brown Paper Bags, Refugees and Going Gaga: Fear and Loathing Down Under.

Housing for refugeesImage via Wikipedia
I just walked home from the station through the cold of night. A typical Melbourne drizzle was trying to after years of drought. I wasn't expecting to come home to find my blog page searchable on the web, but it was.

What a nice feeling to come into the warm and dry my hair.

Not so pleasant for an asylum seeker incarcerated in one of Australia's concentration camps, I suspect. Or for a suppliant at one of our over crowded and understaffed mental health wards. There is no asylum or anyone anymore, unless of course it is somebody carrying brown paper bags of cash.

Yes, yes, we all know how right Foucault was about Panopticons, of the need to shut down those awful places where people who were mentally troubled could be given asylum from the harshness and calamities of life in a modern society. It used to be mandatory to give someone a bed if they fronted claiming to be feeling suicidal or homicidal. Not anymore. Now they can just  be turned away and go home and hang themselves in the peace of their family home. What 
Foucault failed to appreciate was how the Neo-conservatives would co-opt his well-meaning critique and use this to shut down these state funded sanitariums and transfer the money to building Pantechnicons to house anyone seeking asylum and drive them to the point of insanity.

DADAAB, KENYA - AUGUST 24:  Newly arrived Soma...The Panopticon is no longer a physical construction but an idea which monopolizes the discourse within the lifeworld. The Neo-cons, now having colonized all the major political parties, continue this imperialism of ideas, this hegemony, into the lifeworld itself through the media of language.  Habermas was always closer to the mark than the short lived Foucault, who like a pop star gained notoriety with his untimely death.

The only response that these neo-conservative friends of low taxation and the rugged individualism of late-capitalism is to go around with their brown paper bags to any private jail builder they can find, to any tin pot government who will listen to the lovely rustle that these bags are said to make, and to dog whistle to the hounds of outer-suburbia, people who have fallen through the rather large cracks of a chronically underfunded and inequitable education system, who bark back the very words uttered by their political masters.

The political system is in danger of losing its  legitimacy as this conspiracy between left and right ignores the people at every level of decision making, preferring, instead of a deliberative democracy with robust forums, focus groups who are stacked with people who nobody knows, from suburbs that few have heard of, with people whop are possibly amongst the less informed in the society.

I am in danger of going Gaga. I'm sure I'm not alone. The ridiculousness of the political system risks turning sublime in a way not witnessed since the stupidity of 1930s Europe prior to the outbreak of WWI (part 2) or the European Civil War as it is perhaps more accurately called.

Meanwhile, boats are still arriving, camps are still being built, and more and more people go untreated in the community with a myriad of untreated mental illnesses. Of course, the illicit drug trade  which loves the brown paper bag and no doubt ensure that one or two make their way into the hands of politicians, police and the judiciary, has a significant input into creating these mental instabilities, as too do alcohol and tobacco, the two biggest paper bag industries of them all.

Gusmao and Ramos-Horta, the prime minister and president of East Timor respectively. have until now resisted the Brown Paper Bag diplomacy of the new Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard. How long will this last for, I wonder, with Oil money now being waved around right under their noses? Meanwhile, the concentration camps are overflowing and more must be built, no doubt complete with military bases to defend the outer suburbs from invasion.

Oh, what a lovely life. Shop till you drop! Don't worry, the economy is going gangbusters, you can borrow on your over-inflated mortgage. And who cares about asylum anyhow.   Stuff you Jack, I'm all right. They can all go and hang themselves for all I care.

No doubt, some of them will.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Does it really matter?

This morning I awoke tired and with a headache. I was up late watching the Tour de France and woke early to a beautiful morning. The birds were singing and the sun shining and the fury of yesterday's gale had subsided with the passing of the night. I took some paracetamol and coffee and logged onto Facebook.

Yesterday, I'd spent some time with a complete stranger and by the end of talking and eating  over a couple of hours, knew her and myself a little better. I walked home some hours later after first going to the city for some roast duck and pork soup in a typical Melbourne drizzle. Oh, what to have our old weather patterns back, I thought to myself as I walked up the hill in the dark from the station.

I reflected over the previous days blogs, and the struggle I have had in making them searchable so that others may have the opportunity to read my thoughts. I had fallen into the trap of mistaking politics for reality when I know too well that reality is here in front of me. Behind me is that land of the invisible that guides my perception of the horizon of my world visible to me. To make that horizon visible to others I must first make visible to my readers that which is apparent to them.

It is always necessary for me to ask one vital question when I approach the keyboard: Does it really matter? What have I to do with refugees, brown paper bags and madness. Nothing. I know only that which pretends to present itself as  reality, but which in reality is only a point of view. A point of view written by vested interests wishing to influence the structures within which I and other citizens must live in and around.

No, it doesn't really matter to me. What matters to me is that today I wash my bedsheets, think of my sons, and prepare for myself a healthy meal. The hegemony of capital needs to be put into context. The 'Juggernaut of Modernity' is only relevant to the extent that I give it credence. Today, i am likely to encounter any asylum seekers, corruption or insanity. If I do happen to, then and only then is it necessary to deal with these issues.

On election day I have a narrow window of opportunity to have some input into the superstructures which encourage these aberrations of human behaviour. Until then, I'll just mind my own business, attempt to do the next right thing, put one foot in front of the other and follow the path of love and compassion as far as my patience and tolerance allow.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Oh dear, is that all there is, my friends?

Sunset may 2006 panoramaImage via Wikipedia
The day has now past. The sun has set despite what astrologers have apparently proven to be false. The birds have gone to sleep, and the rabid fruit bats who nightly disturb the peace in my suburb, will be starting to emerge and gorge on any available tree. In any case, it's no use crying over spilt milk.

The milk was spilt long ago. The renaissance for all its wonderous brilliance, set in motion a succession of changes, each feeding on the previous ones, so that change has indeed been revealed to be a constant. The seeming tranquility of medieval times, once torn asunder by the introduction of the bubonic plague, gave way to internal wars between European fiefdoms which has continued on and off up to the present day. I am still reeling from the effects of this momentous period in the history, and indeed, re-birth of the West.

Animation of a Foucault pendulum (showing the ...This constant change has made obvious the paradoxical point that change is indeed a constant. What is often less obvious, is that the more things change the more they remain the same. the post (post) modern era is to be characterized by the realization that objects share solidity and fluidity at one and the same time.

Despite the cleverness of Quantum Mechanics and its practical applications, Einstein was correct to see and prove the paradoxical nature of our perception of reality, that matter behaves both as particles and as light; is both static and discreet, as well as moving and fluid.

In the post-modern era, which only ever existed as an aberration of the tenets of modernism, Derrida argued through his all too clever word play, that meaning is grasped through both difference between objects as well as differed to some other point in time.

This doctrine of la differance blinded people to the similarities between objects, most notably in gender studies, where the differences between the male and the female where at on and the same time seen to separate the unity of the species and to blur the differences. The point of post (post) modernism must therefore be, to restore this stolen unity by accepting that similarity and difference exist side by side, just as reality has a duality when perceived from a non-dualistic point of view, that is, that matter consists of particles and light, that they are equivalents, and therefore E=MC2, and light and mass being interchangeable.

There's nothing new under the sun, every thing still remains the same, to every thing, turn, turn, turn. Reality is in constant motion and is static at one and the same time. I can only ever perceive a point of view, but when I do perceive it I also see the point of view from another direction. There is both order and chaos. If there wasn't nothing would work.

Motors and computers work in a perfectly orderly fashion from one perspective, and from another are chaotically compensating for imperfections at the sub perceptive sub-micron level. Smoothness and jitter can not be separated no matter how small the tolerances. Males and females share much in common but remain intrinsically different.

It's all a matter of acceptance, not difference. Two identical man-made items are different. It is impossible to have two identical items as they can never occupy the same space, that is they are different, nevertheless they are functional identical. We accept their sameness. So just accept that reality both is and isn't as it seems.

Related articles by Zemanta
Enhanced by Zemanta

What is post (post) modernism?

Jean-François Lyotard
It's been a beautiful Melbourne day. Grey skies accompanied by a fine drizzle with an occasional gentle gust of wind. Just magic. So, why considering all this, am I feeling not quite up to my usual self? Perhaps, there is not an answer to the question why? Maybe, I just need to accept that I feel as grey as the weather and the intermittent showers and breezes. The answer might only in fact be superstitious, but then an irrational answer will often suffice in the absence of a better explanation.

I plan to meet up with my peers tomorrow. We are the core group of post (post) modernists. The group consists of a semi-retired Professor from Malta, an Italian PhD student and a picaro. I'm not telling which one I am, but I the term came to both the picaro and the Professor last week. An example of Jungian synchronicity. Over a coffee or two no doubt,  I expect that post (post) modernism will again be discussed. The Professor will say that 'two negatives make a positive' and the picaro will say that we are past what in fact never existed in the first place. All of us are excited to finally find our way past this aberration of Western thought, which was only ever really a watered down version of modernism proper in the first place: (post) modernism.

Even the post-modernists always accepted the fraudulent nature of their claims. 'Post-modernism is really only exists as a subset of modernism and doesn't exist separately to it' there foremost proponents  such as Lyotard seem to argue. This was all bad enough until butterflies  in Upper Mongolia started causing bushfires in the outer suburban Sydney, and dolphins actually attained an intelligence level greater than the average human: Whales became sacrosanct. The truth was, as Holmes told Watson, that fact is stranger than fiction; Crows were found to be in the same group of intelligence as these sea-going mammals, and whats more, they didn't even need to get their feathers wet to be so.

Ah, yes! But there is no truth, they would no doubt argue. Well, that's a truth statement if I've ever heard one. That sounds like a universal claim to an absolute truth to me at least. Post (post) modernism would rather, from my point of view at least, maintain that there may very well be absolute truths, but that we as humans can not know those truths directly due to the very limitations of our mode of perception and the limitations of language, our sole method of expressing any truth with any foundational accuracy. Art, of course, with its recourse to more subliminal meaning, may express these truths, but again, only in an interpretive and not a direct way.

From one cold winter's morning to another, this idea develops with a mixture of jollity and perseverance. That is the way of the post (post) modernist intellectual.  Over a coffee or two in a cafe in Heidelberg, far from Paris' left bank <> ,  these ideas develop one day at a time into questioning the very bases of modern thought. Language does not permit an escape from the modern, and no amount of grammatical tricks will allow one to free oneself from the bondage of this idea. Just writing the present in the past tense is nothing but a cheap trick advocated by some postmodernists.

merleau-pontySo, what is Post (post) modernism.  It is pure and simply an acceptance that human thought consists of rational and irrational components. That science and religion are equivalents just as are order and chaos. It rejects the notion that one is better than the other, accepting Maurice Merleau-Ponty's assertion that human consciousness is composed of perceptible and non-perceptible occurrences, The Visible and the Invisible being the seminal work in this area. It's basic tenet was written and described by Albert Einstein over a century ago, that matter and light are equivalents.

Furthermore, it is a proposed that human perception of the physical world is essentially dualistic, and while the physical world may or may not be so formed, it remains integral to our understanding of the world that we accept these opposing forces as a unity, St Augustine of Hippo was the first scholar of note to point this out nearly 2000 years ago.

The world at first appears Newtonian and well ordered. The deeper we look , however, he more this order seems to break up into disorder or chaos. If we go deeper still, chaos seems to give way to the extremely ordered world of the atom only to again resume its chaotic appearance at the sub-atomic level. The point being, we can never really know, because once past a certain point we are no longer directly perceiving phenomena but rely on intermediary devices.It becomes simply a matter of whatever works.

In any case, why should we expect the world to be one or the other? Since ancient times, order and chaos have been constant themes delimiting the way we see the world. Certainty and mystery  are intertwined and inseparable, and there is no escaping that. Absolute truths may or may not exist, but our limited positioning and the fact that we are confined to a body ensures that there can be no reliable omniscience in our knowledge. It can only be developed through discursive activity. There may  or may not be an omniscient view point but that view point is beyond the human realm.

The rain is pouring now. Who would have thought. The wind has ceased. Tomorrow is another day, and I expect it to arrive just the same as it did today.  The sun will inscribe its path across the sky, and the stars will go into hiding again. The wind and rain will do what they do. It will be cold because it's winter. What exactly will happen in detail is another point entirely. And of course, I am relying on my memory of the past to predict what tomorrow's present will be. That is a process that has worked for me and other bodies like me in the past, and I expect that it will work just as reliably in the morning. Who knows, I may very well be wrong.

Related articles by Zemanta

Enhanced by Zemanta