Archive for November, 2010

The Assassin’s Creed, Part 2

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by marushiadark

“Hide in plain sight.” ~ Second tenant of the Assassin’s Creed.

It’s been said that the best place to hide something is in plain sight. It sounds so counter-intuitive, yet it happens all the time.

I’m sure we’ve all had experiences of losing something, only to find that it was right under our noses the entire time.  People who wear glasses have this problem all the time.  They can’t find their glasses, so they search the entire house, only to realize afterward that they were sitting on top of their head the entire time.

So why does this happen?

As near as I can figure, some part of our ego decides that we are too intelligent to lose something and that the object in question must be in some place that is less obvious – some place that only a crafty sort would think to search.  The reality is often that we simply had a momentary lapse in judgment, and we feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit our fallibility.  Some people prey on this arrogance and hide a great many things before our eyes.  The only reason we don’t see them is because we’re too afraid to admit that we might not have all the answers.  That our senses are flawed and imperfect.

The modern military employs camouflage, allowing them to effectively position themselves right next to an enemy without being detected.  But the Assassins don’t use paint and shrubbery.  Instead, they use a more illusive and universal form of concealment.

Green paint may be good when you’re out in the woods.  But when you have to get up close to people on the street, in buildings, or out in the open, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.  So instead, you must learn how to disguise your persona, from the way you dress to the way you speak.  In the TV series Burn Notice, the main characters do this all the time, playing roles to get close to targets that would otherwise be out of reach.  It’s not always complicated, either.  Sometimes, the simplest of ruses can yield the biggest results.

“You know how to disappear.  We can teach you to become truly invisible.” ~ Raz Al-Ghul.

Not everyone is a spy or an assassin, of course, but that doesn’t mean the same techniques can’t be employed for other more mundane situations.

I can remember, as a child, going to the mall and feeling overwhelmed by the number of people that would walk by.  I would pretend that I was a fish and try to swim through the crowds as smoothly and stealthily as I could.  With this shift in attitude, I found that I could maneuver quite well through the mall with little to no attention being drawn to me at all.  On more than one occasion, I had managed to separate myself from my parents in this way and we had a hard time finding one another, even when actively searching.

In more recent times, I’ve been able to pop up behind someone without them realizing I’m there.  Often, I don’t intend to do this, either; it just sort of happens and the reaction I get is priceless.  I always joke about it afterward with the person, saying that it’s a good thing I’m not an assassin or they’d be dead.

I’d like to think that people have the capacity to be quite reasonable and understanding and that, if they knew better, they’d do better.

As children, we are pure, untainted, trustworthy, loving, ambitious, and willing to learn if the right person taught us.  The only reason we become anything less than that is because information is withheld from us, power is withheld from us, love is withheld from us.  In some way, we are lied to and the truth is kept locked away from our view.  So the idea that “a person is smart, people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals” could be overturned in a generation with the right teachers, the right leaders in place.

Because people are inherently good and trustworthy and loving and reasonable, I think a lot more could be gained from greater openness and transparency.  It is only ignorance and arrogance and lust of control that causes the teacher to withhold information from the student.  If the teacher did their job properly, the student would become wiser than them.  That’s the definition of progress.

“No nation hiding behind closed doors is free, for it is imprisoned by its own fear.” ~ Bill Clinton.

Our governments are comprised of people who wield power over us on our behalf.  As such, we place great trust in them not to abuse that power or use it to harm us.  Government ought to work for its people, not the other way around.

Sadly, the reality is quite the opposite.

Much of that power over us comes from the withholding of information.  We are told that it is in our best interests that we not know what the government is doing to us and why.  We gave them the power to work for us.  Only Frankenstein monsters have power over their creators.

Our leaders withhold information out of fear of loss of power and thereby risk to their political and administrative survival.  True servants reveal information when requested by their masters.  Towards that end, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was created, to serve as a balance of power.  Yet even such inquiries have been overridden under the guise of “National Security.”

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” ~ John F. Kennedy.

There are certain things that ought to be kept secret and never revealed.  One’s bank account numbers, one’s personal computer passwords, the launch codes to nuclear weapons, etc.  Things that would cause massive damage if made known.  However, a great deal of that which is guarded ought not be kept secret, but should instead be brought to light.  The ingredients in mass-produced foods, the test results of pharmaceutical companies, the financial backgrounds of our public officials, the secret government files on 9-11, and so forth.

If we, the public, can be asked to submit to a pat-down and x-ray scan at the airport, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that those in positions of great power over us have a proportional level of transparency.  Wouldn’t that be in the interests of public, national security?

“People should not be afraid of their governments.  Governments should be afraid of their people.” ~ V for Vendetta.

In the animal kingdom, the scariest creatures are often the most afraid.  Rattlesnakes make noise with their tails because they are afraid of being eaten, so they create this persona of being really viscious.  Many animals make themselves look larger than they really are, or have designs of the eyes of large predators on their bodies.  But all this is an illusion.  It is out of fear that they create such personas.  And yet, it allows them to weild great power over their environment and hide in plain sight.

Our governments are no different.  They use such ruses to hide in plain sight, so why not learn to do the same and take that power back for ourselves?

Our truest political leaders are the ones who are open and honest with us, remembering that they serve the people, not control them.  Those that have nothing to hide, who welcome inquiries and investigations into anything that we might feel threatened by or insecure about.

A clear and clean sheet of glass often goes overlooked.  We tend to focus more on what’s just beyond the glass than the glass itself.

By far, the most effective way to hide in plain sight is to not have anything to hide in the first place.  To be a pane of glass unmarred by blotches on your soul.  Steel your heart and mind against human weakness and become a better person – a wiser, more compassionate, and more powerful person.  Work to serve your fellow man and become more transparent yourself and the world around you will follow suit.  Hide in plain sight.

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The Assassin’s Creed, Part 1

Posted in All, Economics, Miscellaneous, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by marushiadark

“Only a mind free of impediments is capable of grasping the chaotic beauty of the world.  This is our greatest asset … It presents us with challenges, yes, but freedom yields greater rewards than the alternative.” ~ Altair, Assassin’s Creed.

In my post on chakras, I mentioned that I often lose faith in humanity; but that, once in a while, someone will come along and restore it and remind me that I’m on the right track.  The brilliant minds over at Ubisoft responsible for the Assassin’s Creed series are another such group of people.

For those who don’t know what it is, you can check out the Assassin’s Creed wiki, or play the games yourself.

Suffice to say, it involves global conspiracies throughout history that are well-researched and quite plausible, in my opinion.  It’s a work of fiction, of course; but much like the works of Dan Brown, I doubt such stories could be made believably if there weren’t a great deal of truth to the subject matter.

The main idea behind Assassin’s Creed is that there are two overarching factions at work: the Templars, who seek to control everyone and everything in an Orwellian oligarchy, and the Assassins, who seek to restore freedom and sovereignty to the individual.  Over the years, these two sides go by different names, have different faces, and use different methods, but the core ideas of order versus chaos, control versus freedom still prevail.

The Assassin’s Guild has its own rules and hierarchy, but these are much more general and loosely defined in what is known as The Assassin’s Creed.

“Justice is balance.  You burnt my house and left me for dead.  Consider us even.” ~ Raz Al-Ghul.

Like many factions, both real and fictitious, the Assassins see themselves as the agents of natural law and divine justice.  They believe in balance above all things and the authority of the individual to act as judge, jury, and executioner in maintaining that balance.

Justice is balance, and the purpose of any system of justice should be to restore a situation to its proper state.  If a person’s property is damaged, justice demands that the offending party fix the property or pay fair compensation for the damage.  If something is taken, it must be returned.

In our modern society, prison does not always serve as appropriate punishment.  All prison really does is remove the person from society, but this does not always remove their criminal influence on society, nor does it guarantee their reform.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Goodfellas, you know that people of wealth and power can easily circumvent the rules to avoid truly paying off their debts by turning punishment into a luxury.  Thus, the power of the offender often determines the method by which justice is best applied.

One cannot undo rape or murder or reverse psychological trauma easily.  Thus, justice would demand that the individual be made to understand the severity of the damage caused in kind, so as to deter them from further damage in the future.  A rapist is sodomized, a murderer killed, and one who destroys a person’s life has their own destroyed.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, … that is true justice.

The word “justice” itself derives from Latin justistia, meaning “equitable.”  It is an economic term that refers to the application of natural law in determining the monetary value of something.  The term “equitable” relates to “equatable,” meaning that two things can be considered the same.  This is the basis of our entire monetary system.

There’s a reason Lady Justice is blindfolded and carries a sword and balance scales.

The blindfold suggests the impartiality and unbias of true justice in the ideal.  The sword represents execution on the law in a strict sense, which may literally include the execution of an individual in taking their life.  The balance scales are used in commerce and are the best visual metaphor of equity.  If you place a weight on one side, the scales very obviously tip to that side.  If you then place a weight on the other side, the scales will tip back the other way.  If the scales are not even, then the two sides are not equitable.

Mercy is altogether a different thing from justice.  In fact, mercy is the special allowance of an imbalance to exist.  For instance, it is normally wrong to take a life because this causes great pain, but it is generally considered more wrong to allow a person to suffer for a long period of time.  Thus, the idea of a mercy killing creates an exception to the rule because it serves a greater good.

The term “mercy” derives from Old French mercit, meaning “reward, gift, or kindness.”  Mercy is linked to the concept of forgiveness: “For I give.”

If you give a gift, you are relinquishing your right to something in exchange for nothing.  You are putting something on the scales and the other person isn’t.  You are creating an exception in ordinary rules of justice.

In the Mosaic Law, there was execution on the law and an emphasis on justice and equity, taking back what is rightfully yours.  When Christ came along, he placed great emphasis on justice, but a greater emphasis on forgiveness.  This is because forgiveness represents a superior position.  If you have an abundance of money or power or love, you can give of yourself without suffering any significant loss.  Taking is easy, giving is hard.  If you are constantly giving, the other party will have no need to take from you, nor can they, as you cannot take something that is given freely.

“Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent.” ~ First tenant of the Assassin’s Creed

In carrying out their charge, the Assassins employ a variety of techniques and practices, including the killing of those that cause harm to others.

As you can imagine, having such power to take life can be easily abused.  Towards that end, the first tenant of the Assassin’s Creed was developed, which cautions against the spilling of innocent blood.  More generally, this cautions against collateral damage of any kind, instructing members of the order to act only when it serves the greater good.

This is one of the few rules that differentiates the Assassins from the Templars.  Where the Templars are willing to do anything and everything to achieve power, without regards for those they hurt, the Assassins exercise restraint and mercy alongside their administration of divine justice.

The term “fungible goods” is used to refer to anything that is equivalent to another thing of the same kind.  For instance, all one-dollar bills are worth the same amount.  It is generally assumed that all things of a kind (an eye, a tooth, a life) are fungible goods.  In the administration of justice, it is sometimes necessary to distinguish something as not being fungible. For instance, you cannot refuse a dollar bill as payment unless you can prove that it is counterfeit and therefore worthless.

In law, human bodies are considered physical property of the soul and fungible as a general rule.  Of course, in practice, not all human beings are equal.  Some people have more to offer than others.  Some are better at a craft or are better teachers, etc.

In the case of capital punishment, the value of a murderer’s life is considered diminished because the vessel has a history of causing damage to other vessels.  If the body or mind cannot be restored to a state of health, the vessel must be destroyed to prevent further damage.  This is not unlike a car with faulty parts that tends to lean to the left and drive into on-coming traffic.  If the issue can’t be corrected, and no other value can be gained from the vehicle, the car must be removed from the road and destroyed.

This is what the Assassins do in carrying out divine justice – rounding up and destroying the vessels that damage other vessels, leaving all others to their own devices.  Just as you would not needlessly destroy a perfectly working automobile, so too does the first tenant of the Assassin’s Creed guard against the needless and unjustified destruction of innocent human beings.

Just as crushed cars are recycled, so too will the human body and mind be recycled by the universe.

However, unlike a car, human beings are self-correcting machines.  Given enough time, even the most vile of persons can come around.  Unfortunately, this could be several hundred years, which is enough to span several lifetimes.

Thus, it is a very delicate matter being an Assassin.  It requires great wisdom and experience to determine whether a person is too far-gone to be healed, if they are worth saving or too dangerous to be kept alive.  Because human beings are not yet at the point where we can restore life as easily as we can take it away, I think capital punishment should be reserved as a last resort and for those that are truly incurable.

History, Part 2: In the Beginning …

Posted in All, Economics, Politics, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by marushiadark

Start at the beginning … and when you come to the end, stop.” ~ Alice in Wonderland.

History is the study of what has happened in the past.  Obviously, that is a very broad definition and covers a very long period of time (several billion years, by our most current model).  There are many different lenses through which we can view history.  We can talk about political history, economic history, geological history, astronomical history, ancient history, American history, local history, zoological history, and so on and so forth.

Learning consists of acquiring two things: information and knowledge.

The various facts, dates, names, and places that most people memorize in school are part of the information.  Making someone memorize information is generally useless.  Unlike in school, life gives no tests on your ability to regurgitate information.  If you don’t know a particular piece of information, you can simply look it up.  That’s what libraries and the internet are there for.  If you can’t retain it after looking it up, write it down.  That’s what writing and recording instruments were created for.

What’s more important is that you understand the general motivations and context to the information.  To do that, we must start at the very beginning of things and work our way up from there.

However, one could write a whole book on just the first three minutes of the universe and still not cover everything.  Heck, you could write a really big book of several thousand pages and still not cover everything.  So it should go without saying that what I write in this blog no where near reflects the totality of what can be written about history.

I do not profess to have all the answers or know everything about anything, but think of this as though we are working on a puzzle and I have some pieces that you don’t, and I have seen where some pieces fit in that others miss.

Life is a giant puzzle in which everything has its place.  Unless you are taught something patently false, like that America was discovered in the year 1983 or something to that effect, then all new information can be fitted somewhere along side previous information.  Like in a puzzle, incorporating the new with the old will give you a much clearer sense of the larger picture, with a few key pieces leading to subsequently filling in all the places in between so that the holes become smaller and smaller.

“By the word religion, I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God.  I’ve seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers.” ~ Kingdom of Heaven.

In my studies, I have developed a sort of paradigm in which everything can be explained in terms of energy.  For years, I’d used principles of economics as a metaphor for matter of the spirit and karma, and I had always sort of separated the mundane from the spiritual.  I knew that there were those who followed The Spirit and there were those who loved money.

I was familiar with concepts like “love your neighbor,” “it’s always all about the money,” “follow the money,” “the will to power,” and “the dynamic principle of existence is survival.”

It wasn’t until I started listening to Brandon Adams’ lectures, however, that I truly realized that everything throughout time and space could be seen through an economic and legal paradigm as well.  This was a truly profound revelation, and not one that I was able to accept easily.  I had many periods of cognitive dissonance while trying to digest and accept this new perspective.  But once I finally started to understand and integrate it, it brought me a degree of inner peace and knowledge that I had not felt before.  Truly, it was a marriage of the mundane and the spiritual.

I think I first understood the true implications of this paradigm while I was copying down legal definitions from the Uniform Commercial Code and Black’s Law Dictionary to use as reference.  I wanted to create a list starting at the very beginning for everyone to follow.

This lead me back through the different stages in hierarchy of law until I finally got to Natural Law.  From there, I had a profound and, at least to my knowledge, unique understanding about the phrase, “will of God.”

You see, the law of conservation is one of the very few absolute rules of the universe.  God could not create something from nothing.  If God existed all alone in the void and was all that there was, he would have to create the universe out of himself, by subdividing himself somehow, whether in his mind (like a partitioned hard-drive) or in matter (i.e. the Big Bang).

It is said that the Big Bang created space and time and that God made the heavens (void) and the earth (matter).  Both are said to be responsible for the creation of the universe and natural law.

Well, this is what I realized while my brain was still in a mode for speaking legalese.

Typically, we think of “God’s will” as being that which he wants us to do, right?  As though God were looking down on us and directing us to do this or that.  Over the centuries, many people of religious minds have claimed that this or that action was “God’s will” or that “God wills it so.”

Well, in legal terms, what is a will?  A will, or more precisely a “last will and testament,” is a document that states certain things that you wish to be carried out after your death, particularly with regards to the handling of your property.  So the phrase, “God’s will” refers to God’s last will and testament, in which he sets out the guidelines (natural law) for the managing of his property, which is the whole universe.  That was the theory I’d come up with.

And then, of course, Nietzsche would have been right in saying “God is dead,” if by his death we are referring to the moment in which God chose to stop being God and broke down into component parts in the Big Bang.

In that case, Nietzsche would also have been right to say that the dynamic principle of existence was “the will to power,” in that the components of the universe assemble and collect together, thereby becoming more powerful until ultimately the whole universe is gathered up together again in the Big Crunch, reassembling God.

The will to power relates to survival in that something increases its survival potential by gaining more power, the goal, the law of nature, of course being to survive as long as possible.  Human beings gain money, influence, technology, and knowledge because such things are forms of power that lead to increased survival and longevity, as individuals or a species.  Things like planets and stars have immense power and can survive for billions of years.  Along with the laws of causality and conservation, survival is another natural law written down in God’s will.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good things to those who ask of him.” ~ Matthew 7:11

In forming a will, you are creating a trust fund.  A trust has several parts.  Firstly, you have the corpus or res, which is the actual property of the trust.  You have the grantor, who owns the property and puts the res into the trust.  The grantor gets to determine what happens with his or her property.  Then you have the trustee who takes care of and manages the property.  The trustee’s powers and authority are determined by the laws set down in the will of the grantor.  The trustee is the steward or custodian of the trust.  And lastly, you have the beneficiary who gets to use the property in a manner determined by the grantor and overseen by the trustee.

Sometimes, a person can fulfill more than one role in a trust, such as being a grantor-trustee, grantor-beneficiary, trustee-beneficiary, or even all three (but only if there is at least one other beneficiary).

A will typically is a special form of trust that has to do with the disbursement of one’s estate.  Generally, the estate is passed on to the children of the deceased, who are made from the essence of their parent.

In the Bible, Christ continuously refers to God as “the Father,” and says that we are “the children of God.”  He uses many metaphors and parables to describe heaven in economic terms.  He refers to heaven as a kingdom, saying it is like a field with buried treasure in it, or like a fine and valuable pearl.

In the case of the universe, God is the grantor.  God’s subdivided body and mind are the property put into the trust, which makes up the whole universe – God’s estate.  We, as beings of consciousness, are the stewards of God’s property and we are charged with taking care of the universe, maintaining it for the benefit of everyone and everything in it, including us.  The Bible tells us that the will of God – also called the Word, the Logos, the Tao, and many others – is written on the hearts of everyone.

In other words, we are each authorized and obligated to tend to the world in the way that we best see fit, so long as we are working towards the growth and survival of the universe as a whole.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1.

The death of God created the universe, for which we, God’s children, are the stewards and beneficiaries.  But before we existed, there were other forms of consciousness that existed in ways that might seem foreign to us.

In Judeo-Christian mythology, there are said to be nine (sometimes ten) different levels of angels that execute God’s will as his agents.  Among these are Seraphim, great and powerful creatures of fire (often linked with serpents).

Why would an all-powerful being need angels if he was constantly working to run the universe?

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, many of the angels in the great war that took place before humanity came to be, including Lucifer, are of this supreme class.  It’s no coincidence that Christ and Lucifer are both referred to as the morning and evening star, since the stars created this world and all the other planets.  Our sun was responsible for the creation of the earth and all life on it, including us.  The great war in Paradise Lost could in fact be a metaphor for the early formation of the cosmos by these fiery beings we know to be stars, whose actions could be seen to be chaotic and destructive, not unlike a war.

Some question the idea that stars and planets have consciousness, to which I would respond that consciousness is energy and an observer.  Stars and planets are made of such energy and can be observers according to relativity, so they could well be beings of consciousness on a level and scale that we cannot comprehend.  Either way, the stars and planets are all subject to the jurisdiction of natural law and are God’s agents in its execution.

History, Part 1: Why Bother?

Posted in All, Economics, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2010 by marushiadark

“Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.” ~ Proverb.

When I was in middle school, I really hated history.  In eighth grade, I literally failed my history class because I didn’t want to do the work, because I felt the subject was difficult and boring.

That changed as I went on to high school.  I started watching The History Channel back before every other show was about Nazi Alien Templars.

Back then, the programs were fun and compelling and I enjoyed watching them.  It didn’t even occur to me at the time that I was actually learning something in the process.  Part of it may have been the subject matter being taught (I very much enjoyed Medieval castles), or the fact that they used computer models to render cities and events in a spectacular way.  Whatever it was, it managed to change my perception that history wasn’t fun or easy to learn.

Now that I’m an adult, I understand the significance of history and have a greater fascination in learning more about what happened in the past, and that has actually helped me a great deal in other areas of my life.  As a result, I’ve become more self-motivated in figuring out the context of the world around me and am always learning something new about history.

“History is written by the victors.” ~ Winston Churchill.

For most people, when they think of history, they think about the political history of countries, the formation and fall of nations or empires, possibly even ancient history with Egypt and Stonehenge and such.  This is the history taught in most schools today.  Much of it is quaint and irrelevant and omits the really interesting or important stuff.

Have you ever noticed, for instance, the amount of coverage devoted to battles in WWII?  Everyone knows about D-Day and Midway and the fact that Hitler committed suicide; yet I bet you’ve probably never heard of I.G. Farben, have you?  Who’s I.G. Farben, you ask?  Good question.  Too bad no one ever asks that question.  Maybe they should.

In America, students generally learn American history, starting with the Revolutionary War or just a bit before that with the colonization of America by the British, shortly after Columbus “discovered” America.  I suppose for little kids growing up in America, this would be an easy and somewhat relevant place to start, but as I said, it omits a great many things.  Moreover, it is biased towards American interests.

Most countries have a lot of dirt on them and do not wish to teach their citizens about this for fear that we may cease to give our government the support it wants.

Of course, in doing so, we fail to teach our children how to make our countries better by learning what they really need.  Why is it that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that 9-11 was an inside job or when Ali Khamenei says that the reason other countries hate America is because we’re occupiers … why is it that when our enemies tell us why they hate us and what we’re doing wrong do we not listen?  It’s because we’re arrogant and think that we are perfect and can do no wrong; when the truth is we’re far from perfect.

They may not be right about everything, but neither are we.  There are always two sides to everything.  One usually cannot be objective about something when that person has a vested interest in the thing it’s talking about.  So it is with our government-sponsored public education when it comes to the matter of its own history.

“We fight over an offense we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.” ~ Kingdom of Heaven.

Many people ask, as I once did: why is studying history important?

History is all about context.  The reason they say that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it is because history is all about context.  The reason things are the way they are now is because of events that happened before.  It’s simple cause and effect.

If you can better understand the motivations and context of the past, then you can better understand the present.  All life’s problems are technical.  Understand the cause and you can find the cure.

For instance, say you have a problem with your car.  If you can’t remember when the last time you changed the oil was, you may wanna start there.  Find out if you’re in need of an oil change.  Your problem could be as simple as that, and knowing a bit of history about your car can go a long way in correcting the problem.  If the car is old and passed through many hands, there could be something less obvious that occurred during the history of the car.  Maybe a part was replaced and never reported and the part was of poor quality and that’s what’s causing the problem now.

When you go to the doctor, one of the first things they do is check your medical history.  Things you may have eaten, things that may be in your environment, places you might have been to, people you might have fucked, drugs you might be on, … such things can provide a better context to your current state of affairs.

The reasons for needing to know the history of a country or the world are no different than the reasons to know the history of a person or a car.

In recent history, America has become heavily involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the threat of war with China, North Korea, and Iran ever looming.  Many people wonder why this is.  To understand the current situation, we would have to go back to the first Gulf War, which would require us to go back and look at the Cold War, which would require us to look at WWII, which leads to WWI, and so on and so forth.

Understanding current affairs allows us to make predictions about the way the future will unfold.  That is simple Newtonian Mechanics: an object will continue what it’s doing unless acted upon by an outside force.  Learning about those outside forces then allows us to update our predictions.

Learning history can even help you in ways you wouldn’t normally think it can.  Understanding global trends can help you economically and medically.  You will be able to predict, broadly speaking, what will happen when and where and this can help you make better financial decisions, avoid certain foods or places when traveling, and otherwise fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle for yourself and your children.  Knowing economic history can help you invest your money.  Understanding the history of famous scientists can help expand your knowledge of what medical treatments are out there.  Knowing political history can tell you which politicians are really looking out for your best interests.  And so forth.

Long story short, learning history helps us to better understand the present and the future, and thus increases our chances of survival.

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

V is for Vacation

Posted in All, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by marushiadark

“Everybody needs a little time away … from each other.  Even lover’s need a holiday, far away from each other.” ~ Chicago, Hard to Say I’m Sorry.

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to this past month, why I haven’t been posting on my blog.  Truth is, I needed a little time to think things through and sort some things out in my life, so I took a little vacation from my blog.

I think I’ve cleared up enough that I can return to writing here, at least on a part-time basis.  I will try to write everyday, but will no longer beat myself over the head for not doing it religiously.

People often expect their leaders, teachers, and counselors to be on level above that of human beings – to be perfect in all things and to have all the answers.  That may be helpful for a time.  But one thing I’ve learned in my time away is that it’s often more important to see such persons as being human.  Being just as fallible as the rest of us.

I’ve always thought of Christ as being one of my mentors.  Reading the Biblical tales and watching movies about his life are good ways to learn, but I think for many of us, it puts him at a place beyond us, as though we were trying to ask advice from Superman or Dr. Manhattan.  Watching movies like The Last Temptation of Christ, however, I think bring a greater degree of comfort because it shows a human being with human problems that we can relate to.

Seeing a human being suffer and struggle through and overcome his or her problems is a lot more valuable, I think, and a lot more credible than if that same advice came from a completely perfect being.  It lets us know that someone else was once like us, in our very position, and managed to survive.  They found a way, and so can we, which gives us just a bit more hope.

My life’s been like a sign wave lately, going up and down, with the highs and lows becoming more frequent and in greater amplitude.  If this trend keeps up, I will either crash and burn or fly into orbit.  Which of those happens is a matter of how much inner strength I have.  But I think I can safely say the roller coaster ride is over and I’m starting to level off now.  I’ll find another way to get to space.

I’d like to be able to tell you everything that’s happened to me in the last month, but I couldn’t even record a fraction of it all in my journal, and I write in that thing a lot more than I did in any of my articles.

Suffice to say, I needed a break and I got one and now I’m back.  I think everyone should take a rest every now and then.  A human being is subject to all the laws of nature, after all, and among those are the laws that govern pressure.  If you allow the pressure to build up without release, you will inevitably explode and do some damage, whether to yourself or to someone else.  Better to release that energy before it gets to be too much.  Anyone who’s tried to boil water in a lidded pot should understand the analogy.

Would that we all had padded, sound-proof rooms where we could go and let out feral screams and slam the walls and throw shit into them without fear of judgment or repercussion.  To take a bat to a piece of glass or a hammer to a sheet of drywall and not have to worry about fixing it later or paying for the damages.  Maybe someone out to invent a place like that.  Convert a psyche ward into a ventilation facility and charge a small admission fee so people could come in, vent their inner emotions, and then leave.  That sounds a lot more helpful than any drug, I’d say.

Imagine taking out your anger at yourself and others in a controlled environment.  You get all the benefits of catharsis without the mess.  The world would certainly feel a lot less stressed if we had places like that.  And it’d be cheaper than taking a week off from work.