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.
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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.

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