Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sand sculptures

Sand sculptures.
I met a guy who builds these things. They are not made with ordinary beach sand, they ship in special sand which sticks together better, and they put it in a big frame and stamp it hard, then take the frame off and carve.
I would find it hard to put so much work into something so impermanent.

Thoughts on illusions, justice, forgiveness

In the Gary Renard comments, Pascal ruminated:

Quite interestingly, the Catholic Church has decreed the Gospel of Thomas as definitely apocryphal. They seem to quite dislike it. They seem to dislike a lot of ideas...
The covering up of internal pedophilia not being one of them, alas. "Okay, so we do abuse kids, but we always do it without a condom, so it's allright." ):-P

The physical universe may be an illusion, but this is very different from a hallucination. A hallucination has no real basis, it is false by essence. An illusion is an erroneous interpretation of something that exists. Whether you take a movie for real or not, it was acted, shot and edited. The images exist, something real caused them. The illusion is when you mistakenly interpret what they SEEM as what really IS. My reflection is an illusion, yet it's born from my very real mirror, face and the ambient light. And, indeed, anybody can fall victim to an illusion, only the mind can help you understand that it is not what it seems. Even though somewhere it is something real.

I think people who criticize these notions would make a big step toward serious debate if they understood the difference between illusion and hallucination. Nobody said the universe in its entirety was just a vision born from LSD or something. Well, d'uh! If anybody who says the universe is illusory still bothers to discuss it with others, it means they acknowledge that these others exist as more than a figment of the imagination.
So please, let's know what exactly is being discussed here, shall we? Misunderstandings are just a time-wasting illusion. :-)

At least, this is the way I see things. Provided I'm not completely delusional. :o)

I don't agree with everything asserted by ACIM. I seldom agree with everything anybody says. But, like Freud, Darwin, Galileo, Newton and many others, even if it is not the absolute truth, it goes in the right direction. It pulls (or pushes) us out of the knee-deep swamp (tar pit?) of intellectual contentment that's slowly drifting backwards, therefore helping us progress in the right direction. Wherever it may be exactly. There's probably more than one. Who cares? The horizon is the limit.
And, as you probably all know, the limit of the horizon is purely a visual illusion. :-)

“The way to really undo the ego and become enlightened is by changing the way that you think about things, and how you look at things.”

Quality is always better than quantity in these matters.

I think I assimilated the principle of non-judgement after reading chapter 1 of Dale Carnegie's book. It felt like so much more than just "winning friends and influencing people". Even though he clearly has a whole different approach than ACIM. I just read it and built over the ideas I found in there... and kept building, along with other foundations! What was that I said earlier about paths? ;-)
He who would tell you there's only one path (his, naturally!) probably has a nice concentration camp built at its end just for the likes of you. He wants to lock you up into a single state of mind, carefully closed and fenced. Find your own paths. Just make sure the one you're on isn't a mechanical conveyor belt going backwards at a speed equal or superior to your travelling one. (I've discovered that sneaky trick by playing the Dora the Explorer videogame. Really. Red Planet, first level, before Flinky's Giant Radar Dish. You pick a wrong conveyor belt, and suddenly it's dragging you backwards presto. Who said kiddie games didn't teach anything?)

Back on the topic of non-judging forgiveness, it really does the soul good. And not just because of some "why bother?" attitude of laziness. When you reach a certain understanding of human nature, you keep your lucidity about actions (starting the Iraq war, for example), but you lose all urge to punish for the sake of punishment itself. You understand how morally or comprehensively handicapped one has to be to do such things, and apart from wishing to limit the harm they may cause to others, you feel nothing toward such people but pity or compassion. What you really fantasize about is somehow having the power to magically make them feel that universal sense of fraternity that brings such peace and joy to one's heart. You want to share that treasure, a sharing which will only make it bigger.
Is that reasonably summarized for you, Professor Identity, sir?

Forgiving doesn't mean excusing, as in, "it doesn't matter what they do". It means jettisoning the absurd burden of wanting to keep tabs and give lessons to everybody, of holding spite for people being who or what they are. It means getting out of the vicious circle of constant mutual assessment and grading. Who in their right mind would spend their whole time worrying about every little theoretical sin they may be committing every other minute? It's a guaranteed one-way ticket to the cuckoo-house, a very toxic clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder. So, common sense says that it's equally foolish to do the same to others. Equally foolish, multiplied by the number of others you know! Terrible psychic poison, that's what it is!

I recall a recess supervisor, when I was in junior school, who was constantly taking mysterious notes in his little black book, most certainly writing down every little discipline violation he witnessed, with names and all. I always hated that attitude; it felt as if he didn't trust God Himself to remember everything and hold us accountable. He never made a remark to anybody, just took silent notes with a smug look that seemed to say "You'll see one of these days, you'll see, you just wait". How can a student correct their behavior with such a method? All he was doing was revel in deducing points from the Discipline grade. His kick was in judging, not educating. Intimidating? Perhaps. But also the best way to get yourself universally hated. (He had a VERY unflattering monicker, universally used in his absence.) When I think back about him now, I shudder at the thought of how disturbed and repressed I'd have to be to ever act like that. I'm not judging him back, hadn't thought about him once in more than a decade. Nobody loved or even liked him, that's more than enough daily retribution in itself, isn't it? He's probably a very lonely old man today.

Things have a way of getting themselves in order without us bothering. It may not be clearly visible, but it's there.
The greedy may become filthy rich and powerful. They'll also build their own solid gold prison bars, living in constant worry of being robbed of their wealth. The tyrants live in the terror of losing their position and power, or getting killed by one the the great many they have oppressed. Hollow people are their own judges. We don't need no stinkin' little black books. We don't need no paranoid soviet-like cloak of fear. Not for justice. Payback is pointless and harmful to the heart.

Other example: the judgementals will create a world around them where they absolutely HAVE to appear perfect, for fear of being judged in turn. Do you see where the moral flaw is? As long as it doesn't get known, you then can use any pressure valve to let off some of that astronomic steam pressure. Send obscene text messages to underage pages. Do "you-know-what" to children which you know will never dare talk because you made THEM feel guilty about potential public reprobation. This defines, quite simply, Hell on Earth. Built with our own hands. And filled with lost souls. Let's just shatter these shackles, shall we?

When I was "taught" about how God would account us for EVERY little thing we ever did (so what good is confession, huh?), I used to think, when I was only seven, that living in a worry of every instant was probably far worse than getting punished in the end, and that telling us this kind of stuff was pure sadism. A sure recipe for a horribly disturbed psyche.
There's no way I'm gonna let myself become one of those obnoxious sadists. Making up rules rigid as steel and claiming they are the One Truth? Bah! A guy named Jesus brought other very different rules, saying that you can forgive, absolve, and forever not judge your fellow man, woman or child. And apparently, it brought him great inner peace and spiritual strength.
Those "sadists"? They're not just unbearable to live with. They're also very sad, for they have to live with themselves with no hope of escape. There's one thing I'll do to them if it appears that I can: bring them happiness, free them from their self-built cages. *IF* they are willing to exit them. Can't force them. Being a bloody fool is every citizen's democratic human right!

Life is too serious not to be taken light-heartedly.

I'd say, in consistency with my previous developments, that the only reincarnation/karmic trap there is, is the one we build ourselves, with our ignorance, selfishness or stubbornness. Therefore it is by definition an illusion: something that has a real foundation somewhere, but which crucially depends on our perception of it. Since it is self-referring, because it originates from our own attitudes and perceptions, changing those can and will change everything else. What's war, and what's the peace treaty that ends it? Mutual attitudes. Perceptions. Conflict is an illusion.
The destruction it brings, of course, is all too real.

Laurie said...
My neighbor who came over for a visit saw the book "The Disappearance of the Universe" on our table. He looked at the title and said, "Now THIS freaks me out!" Didn't even want to know what it was about!

Not a fan of discovering how Copperfield does his tricks/illusions, is he? :-)
I can picture it as a Sci-Fi parodic novel... Chapter one, page one:
"I woke up that morning, and the Universe wasn't there. All gone. There was nothing at all. At all? No nothing, even! Well, I was pretty upset, naturally. I mean, there I was, but there was no more space or time. What was I to do? WHEN was I to do it, anyway? I'd never bothered to read about the Big Bang's fancy theories, and now it was too late. Too late for anything to ever be late or early again. And where was everybody and everything, anyway? I grabbed my towel (fortunately, my whole house was still there, but my alarm-clock's display was just a hypnotically blinking 00:00, like some demented VCR), and without much hope I stuck out my thumb upwards... what seemed to be upwards, toward the ceiling of my room. Suddenly, at some (moment?)..."
You know, come to think of it, no wonder your neighbor decided to take a hike!

Back to me.
"Payback is pointless and harmful to the heart."
I like that. It really is.
Not only that, but you'll notice that almost all "justice" in this world is not for correction, but punishment, in other words, payback.
We think and we say that we punish to correct, but given how that generally works out, I think that the real reason we do it is the ego's satisfaction of dealing out hurt, in a "just cause".

Also, I agree, "How To Win Friends and Influence People" is about a lot more than just what the title suggests. And I think he did the book a disfavor by not talking about that at least once in the book. Granted, he may have won more readers by emphasizing the selfish angle, but the thing is that if you fake it, usually it will backfire on you.

Sinead o'Connor - Just like you said it would be - live

Sinead o'Connor - Just like you said it would be - live

Sadly I couldn't find a music video version of the studio version (from The Lion and The Cobra, her first album). It is one of my favorite songs of all time in that version.

Alex said...

What she did with Pink Floyds "Mother" in the Berlin Wall concert was fantastic.
Wears her heart on her sleeve, and has a beautiful voice.

eolake said...

She is one of a kind.

With her combativeness combined with her emotional rawness, it's little wonder she got hurt and very introverted. A pity it took the fun edge out of her songs too. Stuff like Mandinka and Jump In The River was a lot more fun than 300 songs lamenting the Irish people's raw deal.

Oooh, here's a fun interview.
... Watching Sinead on stage, I have realized something: I think she is extremely shy. Not easy for somebody who is expected to deal with tons of press and public.
The Amazon review of the Berlin concert (The wall) says: "Sinead O'Connor looks unaccountably aloof in 'Mother.'" No, she's not aloof, she's shy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lisa Ekdahl (And Sinead O'connor)

Lisa Ekdahl - Vem vet

Best Scandinavian pop song of the nineties. Wonderful stuff.

"Vem Vet" means "who knows" in Swedish. It's a love song. She sings: Is it a miracle we met, or was it always meant to be since long before we were born... who knows, I don't know, who knows, you don't know...

By the way, the video is beautiful too. I notice that some of the most artistically successful videos use the simplest means. The archetypical example of course is Nothing Compares To You. (I haven't seen this video in 15 years. Lord almighty, Sinead's face is amazing.)

Madeleine Peyroux - I'm All Right

Madeleine Peyroux - I'm All Right

(This video, unlike those above, sucks toxic waste through an industrial pipeline, but the music is nice.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flower wrapping

I was just reminded of a funny story. Some months ago, Pascal won one of my little impromptu comments contests here, and I sent him a big art print (40x60 centimeters) of one of my photographs, a nude.
Because the Lebanese mail system is unreliable, I sent it to Pascal's grandmother in rural France.
It took a while before I pulled my finger out and got it sent with my then new UPS account. So she was not expecting it. What she was expecting, though, was some flowers she had ordered.
So she called her daughter, Pascal's mother, and said: "This is so strange, the flowers I ordered have come, only it looks like they fell out, and the only thing in the parcels is the wrapping, with a naked girl printed on it!"
I think she got advised of what it was before she threw it out. :)

New syringe invention

An excellent medical invention, made by an amateur. I think this will be ubiquitous in a few years.

More inventions from the same contest.

Ooh, ooh: there is also this self-heating house, sounds amazing. (How it works.)

The oFone?

ROTFL. Microsoft makes the oFone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dali on TV

Salvador Dali as a game show guest. Clip from the fifties. Funny and interesting.

Comment on youtube: "I am impressed at how intelligent, cultured and articulate TV game show contestants used to be."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Doll Face

Doll Face.
Sorta creepy, but good CGI art.
It's amazing that single amateurs can now create works like this.

The soft hero

Villain: "Give me the doomsday bomb or your girlfriend dies."

Hero: "I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt her."

... Basic plot of MI-III.
Good action movie, but the hero makes the same mistake of most heroes everywhere: he sacrifices the bigger thing for the smaller thing. Dumb.

I bitched about just this point in an email conversation with Terry Pratchett back in 2000. A year later Thief Of Time came out, and it had a plot point about exactly that. Coinkidink? I think not, but Pratchett got offended when I asked. :)
Man, I can't believe that English comedian/actor Simon Pegg has a part in MI-III. Good for Simon. Have you seen the show "Spaced"? One of the finest and most inventive comedies ever.
I don't watch many action movies, but this is one of better ones for sure. And not only are the stunts amazing, but Tom Cruise does them himself. Just one example is a big tanker truck which skids sideways and rolls right over Tom, him passing between the two axels. It's nuts. How the heck do they get insurance for a film like that?

Pascal offered:
"I' haven't seen MI-3, but I'm ready to bet that by some highly unlikely but still successful prodigy of luck, daringness and/or skill, he saves both the girl and the world. 3 to 1 says in a huge explosion, too."

Actually that's one of the things that allowed me to watch the movie all the way through: they managed to subvert the worst of the action movie cliches, and do a bit of inventing.
Also, I'd say that this one was better and MI-II, and infinitely better than MI-I.

Oooh, oooh: they managed to create the ultimate Mcguffin: we never find out what the friggin thing actually is! It just doesn't matter. That's pretty bold. :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pascal Renoux

Pascal Renoux.
This guy understands light, the most essential ingredient of photography.

More on De Nattergale

I just discovered by accident, searching for the home page of De Nattergale*, that if you google them, this blog and my YouTube page both come up in the top ten! This is astounding, I just posted it a few days ago, and I assume there must be tons of sites which have mentioned them since the web was new. I can only assume this site is high in Google's respect ranking, I'm pleased with that.

By the way, there was lots of etymological debate in the comments on that post but zilch on the actual videos I referred to. Did anybody like them? (I'm curious to see if it works for those who don't speak Danish.)

* ... Actually it seems like De Nattergale don't even have an official web site! How weird is that? I've said it before: how can an artist even imagine not having a site? I mean, at least register the obvious domain name and slap up a brochure page. Takes an hour. Your fans or people wanting to hire you can find you right away.

By the way, I just found out that The Julekalender has its own wikipedia page, even in English amazingly enough.

Warrenty cards

Does anybody ever fill out and send in those warrenty cards which comes with any and all hardware you buy? And if you do, have you ever had any tangible benefit from doing it?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Point-and-shoot cams are s**t... ?

Funny and provocative essay from Mike Johnston about compact cameras.

Gary Renard interview

I found this obscure interview with Gary Renard. I post it here because apparently Evolve Magazine has disappeared, and the interview is too good to be lost. (I got it from the Google cache.)
Don't miss my blog Power Of Source, which is about Gary's book and A Course In Miracles and about non-duality. 

Spirituality for Smart Alecks
by Carl McColman

WITHIN A TWENTY-FIVE YEAR PERIOD IN THE MIDST of the last century two spiritual texts emerged that arguably could redefine Christianity and perhaps even world spirituality. Those two texts are A Course in Miracles, channeled by Helen Schucman in the late 1960s; and the Gospel of Thomas, an ancient Gnostic text that had been lost for centuries before being rediscovered in the Egyptian desert in 1945.
Fascinating similarities link these two books: both claim to contain the actual words of Jesus Christ, yet the ideas found in these books have the power to revolutionize old dogmas about Jesus and the Christian tradition. Both books “emerged” under wondrous circumstances: a centuries-old manuscript is found preserved in a desert cave, while a 1200-page exploration of miracles comes to light through the channeled work of a skeptical modern psychologist. Still, on the surface it seems these two books couldn’t be more different. The Gospel of Thomas is short enough to read in a single sitting, while A Course in Miracles requires at least a year to be properly studied. Thomas’ gospel is an ancient manuscript long thought lost; the Course is a psychologically savvy modern text that comes from New York City.

So just what do these strangely similar yet obviously different texts have in common? One startling and intriguing answer to this question comes from Gary Renard’s entertaining and insightful exploration of his personal spiritual journey, The Disappearance of the Universe. Skeptics who have grown tired of yet another book of teachings-by-ascended-masters might be tempted to dismiss Renard’s story of encountering two remarkable spirits named Arten and Pursah, who appear in bodily form in his living room in late 1992, and over the ensuing decade instruct him on a variety of topics. Early on, these two Bodhisattva-like sages help Renard find a surprising link between A Course in Miracles, The Gospel of Thomas and his own personal journey. But The Disappearance of the Universe is far more than one man’s memoir?in Renard’s sometimes-graceful, sometimes-clumsy journey toward spiritual maturity, truly universal themes and insights emerge. Anyone who comes to this book with an open mind and an open heart can find much in Renard’s journey that will speak to their own.

After reading his book and interviewing him, I’ve come to think of Gary Renard as the “bad boy” of contemporary metaphysical scene. Part of this comes from Gary’s own sometimes-irreverent wit (asked about his faith background, he quips “I have no religious affiliation, except that in the winter I’m a Buddhist and in the summer I’m a nudist.”), but it’s also clearly depicted in his book, where he challenges his teachers with sarcasm, skepticism, and various playful and not-so-playful responses to their radical spiritual ideas.

I asked Gary if he’s a natural born smart aleck. “Well, yes; that’s actually a part of my defense when I get a little bit nervous, but I’m not always like that! But it does show up sometimes, it even shows up in my workshops, but it’s in the spirit of good fun.” However, he goes to ponder how spiritual seekers can sometimes overlook humor.

“I’ve been to study group meetings since the book came out, and people tell me that my book reminds them of the way they actually talk. Sometimes they’re not happy about what’s being said, so sometimes they do make those kinds of smart-aleck comments. It’s just a way of getting to the ideas that aren’t always easy to accept at first.”

Renard sees humor as actually playing an important role in the both the style and the content of his message. “When [my teachers] appeared to me as people, I would have a [humorous] back and forth conversation with them. They knew that if by appearing to me in human form, that our conversations would therefore be more human. And I think that’s important, because a lot of the spiritual teachings that we have today seem to be coming from a place above the world?they’re very nice, but a lot of them are boring, frankly, in my opinion.

You have a lot of teachings that are scholarly or biblical, but they don’t seem to be put in a way that people really talk. People who read my book might be taken aback by it because they’re not used to seeing a spiritual book written that way.” But this startling spiritual humor has its place: “My teachers said that they are reverent?for God and Spirit. When you look at what they’re teaching, that’s the only thing that’s real anyway. They’re very consistent about their reverence toward God and Spirit, which in their opinion is reality, and everything else isn’t worthy of reverence. According to them, masters like Jesus were asking us to choose between one of two things, and only one of them is real. So why be reverent or have a high opinion of that which we are actually being taught to choose against? I think what my teachers are saying is, ‘Look, not only do you take the world too damn seriously, but if you really examine it close up, this world can not be taken seriously!’”

Asked if he could offer a glimpse into the heart of his message, Renard replaced his signature playful humor with an earnest discussion of the core metaphysics of A Course in Miracles. “ We have to reverse the thinking of the world. We think that what we’re seeing with our physical eyes is real, while the mind is hidden?something we don’t think about all that much. But in truth it’s the mind that’s important, because it functions like a movie projector, and the ‘screen’ [of the physical universe] that we’re seeing is just the effect?not the cause. Once we understand that, we can realize that the Universe is all a trick. Albert Einstein described the human experience as ‘an optical delusion of the consciousness.’

Understanding the illusory nature of the physical universe is essential to discovering how the secret to spiritual joy lies within us. “A Course in Miracles calls itself a course in cause, not in effect. It attempts to restore to the mind the function of causation.” In other words, when we feel like life has created problems for us, we are ignoring the vital role that our minds have in creating our own experiences. “It’s really a trick when we’re so busy and we have all kinds of problems?it’s a trick meant to distract us from where the answer is, which is in the mind, which is where the Holy Spirit is. Once we understand this then we can say, ‘Okay, I’m willing to take 15 minutes or a half an hour a day, and get control over my own mind.’ In doing that we learn that the way to undo the ego is in the way that we look at things, and interpret things.” Given that the key to enlightenment is in changing how we see things, Renard cautions against spiritual materialism: “With all the books out there, people think that the more spiritual information that you put into your head, the more you learn, the more enlightened you are. And ironically, that’s not true. The way to really undo the ego and become enlightened is by changing the way that you think about things, and how you look at things.”

Renard compares the spiritual life to learning how to play a musical instrument. It’s one thing to read books on playing the guitar, but truly mastering the instrument requires putting the book down?and practicing. “No matter how much information you put into your head, it won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t apply it?to what you’re looking at and what you’re seeing. That’s where spiritual practice and discipline come in. A Course in Miracles stands with Buddhism as the two major forms of mind training in the world. According to my teachers and also the Course, the mind has to be retrained, because right now it judges automatically. You can see this everywhere?everybody’s in a reactionary state, you can hardly walk down the street without making somebody angry. Everybody’s in a reactive state because they don’t realize how they’re thinking is so automatic and mechanical; they don’t even realize it when they’re judging or attacking other people, they just think they’re right.

“A Course in Miracles says that the mind has to be retrained. The way my teachers put it, eventually you go from a place where you are judging automatically to where you forgive automatically. That’s not a small change! But in so doing that, you will completely change the way you feel about yourself. How we feel about and experience ourselves is not determined by what others think of us or how they look at us?even though we think that that’s important. But in truth, how I’ll feel about and experience myself is really determined by how I look at the world.”

But the magic of A Course in Miracles lies in how it goes beyond merely changing our attitude to improve our feelings. This stems from its core metaphysical claim that all of us are, in essence, one with God. “Whatever we think about other people is really a message that we are sending into the unconscious mind about ourselves. So if we’re smart enough not to judge and condemn others?like the Buddha who had no judgment, and Jesus who not only had no judgment, but who had total love for everyone, and saw everyone as innocent and totally worthy of being with God?then that is the exact message that we would be sending into our own unconscious mind and that’s exactly how we would come to eventually feel and experience ourselves.”

Fascinated by this hopeful way of understanding the world, I asked Gary how to put such love and non-judgment into action. He responded by noting that there are two ways of undoing the experience of separation from God. “First, in the morning take some quiet time, 5 or 10 minutes, and forget about all the things you think you need or have to do or want. Just join with God in a state of meditation, with no words, and spend some quiet time with God?just joining with the light of God and feeling totally unlimited and getting lost in his love. If you do that every day, there is an aftereffect of inspiration. You will receive other gifts?not as physical miracles, but as inspiration in the mind that can lead to miracles.

“The other major way of undoing the sense of separation is through the practice of forgiveness. Forgiving others leads to an experience of rejoining with yourself and feeling whole again.” Such unconditional forgiveness may not be easy, but Renard suggests it is the core reason for being.

“My teachers didn’t always tell me that much about the future, because they said they didn’t want to deprive me of my forgiveness lessons! To which I felt like saying, ‘Thanks a lot!’ And at the same time, I understand that what they’re saying about that is good for me. Everything that happens?and it doesn’t matter how much your life appears to change?is really all for the same purpose; it’s all for forgiveness.”

I must confess: I am naturally a skeptic who feels more comfortable studying ancient mystical writings than pondering new revelations that may or may not be anything more than the ego-projections of the spiritual teacher of the month. Reading The Disappearance of the Universe with all of my “prove-it” defenses operational, I was genuinely touched by its humorous and yet earnest introduction to the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles and its elegant plea for a spirituality of total forgiveness. Believe what you will about Arten, Pursah, and Gary Renard. But their message of forgiveness, love, and taking life a little less seriously is timely, important, and wise.

Carl McColman is a freelance writer and spiritual teacher based in Atlanta, GA. His most recent book is 366 Celt: A Year and a Day of Celtic Wisdom and Lore (Element, 2005).