The 4th Humour
uninfluential words from an uninfluenced man
Bile humour Apathetic hemetic Fluent indifferent Emetic Phlegmatic
Friday, November 28, 2003
Makyo In My Mind
Not that anyone cares about my dreams (cuz I never care about the dreams of others, really), but I've created a new blog for them at Makyo In My Mind.
When one practices Zen meditation, vivid hallucinations, illusory sensations, and visions--called makyo--often occur. Philip Kapleau in The Three Pillars of Zen describes this as "...residual impressions of our life experience, including those of previous existences, going back to time immemorial...bubble up to the conscious mind...penetrates so deeply that the surface and intermediate levels of consciousness are stilled."
Makyo are not to be dwelled upon in spite of emotions they evoke, because they mean nothing; they merely hinder true enlightenment.
I equate my dreams with makyo, even though sleep is far from a state of meditation, because I've never believed in the symbolism of dreams. Obviously, in recording them, I'm not letting them go as I should. However, unlike most people, I remember most of my dreams, and if I don't record them, they continue to pollute my mind until I do (which is how I am able to have recorded dreams from infancy). My writing them down is a way of letting them go that just so happens to entertain me as well.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
The Tao of Quality
I recently stumbled upon an old Hindu proverb:
There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.
In other words, forget about cooperation and competition and pride and honor, and simply improve the Quality of your works. The rest will take care of itself.
This reminded me of my recent blog entries, so I flipped through my old copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I'd forgotten how dead on this book is (well, aside from the title, since the author admits the book isn't very factual on either Zen or motorcycles). In it, the narrator (through Phaedrus) tries to define quality and finds it impossible, which is strange; if you remove quality from the world, the world changes, so it must exist. Nobody can say what it is, and yet everyone knows what it is. It suddenly strikes him to substitute the word "quality" for "Tao" in the Tae Te Ching by Lao Tzu, resulting in an enlightenment experience. Here are a few sample lines:
The quality that can be defined is not the Absolute Quality.
The names that can be given it are not absolute names.
Quality [romantic Quality] and its manifestations [classic Quality] are in their nature the same. It is given different names [subjects and objects] when it becomes clasically manifest.
The third line is what struck me as Zen-like. Subject and object. "I" and "not-I". Quality is best achieved when subject and object do not exist--when one is in the Zone.
So I've basically arrived where people arrived millennia ago. That's okay. I guess I had to do it the hard way, as even Phaedrus did. However, if this Quality meme has existed for so long in different cultures, why is it so absent or warped in today's society? Has the constant attempt to define Quality in terms of, say, profit margins or school grades degenerated its worth, made it a weaker manifestation of the Absolute Quality? Sure. Is Quality wrongly being combined with defection and pride to distort its value? Quite definitely.
In an interview I read with Pirsig, he mentions the site www.moq.org as a good forum site with people who actually understand his writings. In fact, it seems the 70-year old author participates on it. I checked it out briefly, and it looks like there's some good stuff. My first read will be on the Economics of Want and Greed, which I'm hoping will jive with my (as-of-yet-mentioned) theses on economy.
Oh, by the way, it seems Pirsig has my shut up meme. When asked why he hasn't written in the past couple decades, he responds by saying that since he has nothing to say, he doesn't write; a virtue of Zen is that it encourages silence. It seems he once had the same "shut up" dream that I do, as taken from the book:
The thought of [removing Quality from the world] completely thrilled him. It was like discovering a cancer cure. No more explanations of what art is. No more wonderful critical schools of experts to determine rationally where each composer had succeeded or failed. All of them, every last one of those know-it-alls, would finally have to shut up. This was no longer just an interesting idea. This was a dream.
(emphasis mine) I'd like to point out, however, that he wasn't actually advocating removing Quality from the world, as it would then become a rather boring place. My counterargument to that, however, is that that would be just fine, because an enlightened person doesn't need an exciting world to be happy.
I apologize for the lack of Quality in this entry.
Learning is not a Meme
I think it's time for a reminder.
Not everything is a meme.
The human mind learns by one of three ways: classical conditioning, operand conditioning, and imitation.
Classical conditioning is learning by association. The canonical example is Pavlov's dog, who hears a bell every time it's fed. Over time, the dog salivates in anticipation of food when it hears a bell. Normally the two events have nothing to do with each other, but the dog has learned that they do. In humans, the most obvious example that comes to my (preoccupied? thank the media) mind is sexual fetishes (why else would anyone ever want to eat shit?).
Operand conditioning comes in one of two forms: positive and negative reinforcement, or reward and punishment. Put simply, if you reward the dog for crapping in the yard and slap it silly for crapping on the couch, you're teaching it where to crap. Since the reward or punishment can vary each time, it doesn't necessarily overlap with classical conditioning, though it can.
Even without knowledge of memetics, parents these days really don't seem to understand these two very basic fundamentals. If the kid does something bad, he must be punished, no question! If you reward bad behavior (or worse, punish good behavior), it's just confusing, and no learning takes place. If a child doesn't learn, he can't change his behavior.
For some reason punishment is frowned upon nowadays, and the response to everything should be unending "that's okay" understanding. How is THAT supposed to work? Who are these hack psychologists with no knowledge whatsoever of basic neuroscience? (Ohh, right, they aren't scientists at all, but graduated in the humanities. My bad.) Of course, it doesn't help that the "that's okay" reward for failure is a highly successful meme, likely because is stalls conflict and makes everyone feel okay in the short-term.
Anyway, once again: not everything is a meme. If you can theoretically teach it to an animal, then it's not a meme.
If you hadn't noticed, there are a lot of widespread negative memes out there. Why? Well, simply because people aren't well-equipped to fend them off anymore. "Wait Phlegm...anymore?" Yeah. "You mean...once upon a time...they were?" Yeah.
See, back in the day, before the Information Age, people learned their values mostly from their parents and family. Sure, schools might have made an attempt here and there, but let's face it, the problem childs typically had problem families or neurological problems. As a result, by the time children typically came into contact with outside negative influences, they were already under the influence of their parents' positive memes. This transmission of memes from parent to child is called vertical transmission.
Today, however, most children are raised, moralistically-speaking, by sources beyond their families. Music, television, movies. Religions are well-aware of this, which is why such things were/are considered evil, sinful, devices of Satan; they can turn people away from religion, thus harming the survival of that religion's meme. No good meme wants to be wiped out. (Ironically, I think the preposterousness of religions claiming these things are "works of Satan" has somewhat backfired. I really do think that if religions are to continue to survive in a COMPATIBLE way in this modern world, then they must dispense with all the fairytales, but that'll be another entry.) This demon-spawned transmission of memes from non-parental influences is called horizontal transmission.
My point in all this--yes, there's ALWAYS a point--is that a majority of parents these days aren't brainwashing their children enough with positive memes. Many are under the impression that what protected children from evil before sitll applies today. Some ascribe to the highly successful yet horrible meme that tells them to let their children decide things for themselves. Others simply don't have any positive memes to pass along, so they end up doing the media's job for them, which is an ever-increasing problem as horizontally-influenced children themselves become parents.
As much as we get tired of hearing politicians talk about the breakdown of the American family, that is one thing they are actually right about. However, they don't have the right incentives for preaching about it, which is one reason why the meme for keeping families together is failing. It's not about only having a mother, or having two dads, or even a homo dad. Heck, I'd even argue it doesn't matter if you have a traditional family. What is needed are constant figures in a child's life to condition them with positive memes. A longer period of veritcal transmission of positive values before the negative, horizontal transmission becomes dominant. That's it. The rest (unconditional love and so on, which all us children love to abuse) is just a bonus.
I'm pessimistic whether it can be overcome. I mean, look at other countries with supposedly more stable family and religious structures than America. They too are falling prey to the slop of American media, mostly through the children. If India and Japan, countries with more tradition than you can shake a booty at, are/have fallen to horseshit American pop culture, what hope is there?
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Joriki and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Most people have a major misconception of what it means to be "Zen". They acquaint it with being totally immersed in something, of having intense focus, of being totally one with the task at hand. To some extent, that is correct, but Zen is actually much broader than that; intense, focused concentration is a "lesser" Zen known as Joriki.
Joriki is what you have when you're "in the Zone". Nothing exists except you and your task, and you are its master, because you are one with it. You are doing something great for its own sake, for the sake of Paedrus's Quality, or for Khan's individuality. As there is nothing outside, there is no competitor, no source of pride, but nor is there a source of honor or cooperation. It just IS.
Anyone can have Joriki, and having Joriki certainly enhances your Zen, but to be "Zen" is to be enlightened.
Monday, November 03, 2003
To quote The Guide, "In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." I shall now explain why this is, and hopefully clear up any apparent inconsistencies in my recent posts.
Without going too much into the cosmology of the Big Bang, the initial conditions of the universe--being it was very small--were quite uniform across space. Generically-speaking, energy levels and matter density didn't vary much. This was as perfect and simple as the Universe could ever be and still deserve the name Universe.
Why perfect? Because all was one; nothing in it could be distinguished from anything else, and thus everything was the same. However, over time, the Universe expanded and a host of "things" differentiated themselves. Waves, particles, strings...whatever. That we can call them particles or strings already implies that they were separate and isolated from the rest of the Universe. And so cosmic evolution began.
As time continued, we arrived, the result of the same process on the genetic and (later on) memetic levels. We are the "result" (in quotes because there is never a finished product) of their (genes and memes) attempts to build survival machines. As a host, we are equipped to defend our genes and our memes, to keep them safe. Our genes and memes want to keep their identities. Our own sense of identity is a nifty trick they use to help ensure that.
So why is this bad? We are here because the Universe allowed itself to dissolve into entities that distinguish between self and non-self. If this were not so, we wouldn't be here to ask these questions. So it can't be all bad, right? That's true, but it's bad because it means that evolution, being based on competition and self-preserverence, is therefore based on pride!
This is entirely consistent with what I said before about a system based on pride and defection being doomed to fail. It will fail because it will evolve. When I say "fail", I mean it will not persist forever. Ironically, this selfish desire to persist is what causes evolution in the first place. "I want to persist, therefore I will evolve." How bizarre this seems at the macroscopic scale! And yet it makes sense at the replicator level.
The very "pride" that created us is the cause of all our strife. It is the constant evaluation of the world we experience in terms of "I" and "not-I" that cause all human conflict. In other words, our egos get in the way of everything. Only by dissolution of our egos is it possible to act with complete honor and cooperation. In such a scenario, it is the ego-lessness that persists. "Not-I wants to persist." That is all. It doesn't need to evolve, and doesn't care whether it does.
So how does one go about abolishing the ego? One must Awaken from the Meme Dream. I daresay this is equivalent to attaining enlightenment in Zen. Both involve the personal experience (not the same as intellectual understanding) that there is no self, that everything in the Universe is the same.
If people ceased to think of themselves as people, the creation of the Universe wouldn't make them angry.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Fear for Sale
I've mentioned before that the American media is the most dangerous force on this planet, because it spreads harmful memes. It's the biggest WMD there is, because it's a Weapon of Mass Coercion. The best way to get people to do things is to brainwash them...or give them money.
However, the media is certainly not offering us money. Instead, it takes our money by offering us fear, brainwashing us to fear for our safety. By giving "unbiased" reports of all the atrocities in the world, or of all the things that can kill us, it coerces us to purchase products to protect ourselves. That money then ultimately funds the media to continue the fear campaign. In effect, they are selling fear, which sells fear, which sells fear.... What a great racket!
The media convinces us that such-and-such is a problem and must be dealt with. So-and-so is evil and a threat to our country. So-and-so is in financial collusion with a consortium of psychiatrists. Hey, like the Ruler of the Universe in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "They only exist in words I think I hear." This country would be a better place if people just took care of problems in their own communities. How can we raise other nations up when we're sinking so low?
I don't understand how decisions can be made based upon the media, decisions based on the reports of a few imperfect individuals. No one person has all the facts. No political decision ever made is sufficiently informed, and yet they are made by those who are supposed to know. As such, the common person--that is, me--is not equipped to deal with such matters. "I only decide about my Universe. My Universe is what happens to my eyes and ears. Anything else is surmise and hearsay."
I'm not convinced that anything I witness in the media is reported for my benefit. It's reported to instill fear. Fear runs this country. Capitalism feeds on fear. Triumph over fear (purchasing of these products) is a form of pride, and pride is defection. Hell, freedom itself is defection! Defection is what's currently running this country, not honor, not cooperation.
America is defective. As such, it is doomed to fail. Here, have some fear. It's free.