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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.

C is for Chi

Posted in All, Health, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff … I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” ~ Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When I was young, around nine-years old, my dad decided to enroll me and my younger siblings in martial arts.  My father was a black belt.  The sensei of the school he enrolled us in studied under the same master as him.  From time to time, my dad would show us techniques well in advance of what most of the other students were learning.  I don’t really consider my father to be the best of teachers.  I feel he lacks the patience to go through things in a step-by-step, kinesthetic, ground-up manner.  When I first learned to drive, he started me on my mom’s SUV, which to this day I still get nervous driving.  However, regardless of how I may feel about him, there’s one thing I owe him my gratitude for and that’s introducing me to the concept of chi.

I don’t remember exactly how I old I was at the time, maybe somewhere around fourteen years of age.  But I remember my father sitting me down in the living room.  He didn’t really go into too much detail; he just explained that there was a sort of energy inside us and that we could learn to use it with practice.  He told me to hold out my hand, which I did.  Then he held his own up around mine without touching it and asked what I felt.  I remember feeling a sort of warm energy when he did this.  That’s chi, he said.

So ended the lesson.  It wasn’t much of anything, really.  All I had to go by was that experience, that feeling, and a vague idea that it had something to do with breathing.  But fortunately, that was enough to get me started.

It’s truly a revelatory experience your first time.  I remember my eyes went wide when I first felt it.  Over the years, I had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and my progress was very slow.  Having someone there to guide you through your exploration of internal energy is a very beneficial thing.  Joining a Tai Chi or Chi Kung or Yoga class, or even just working with a partner who knows something about it, is a lot better than trying to figure it all out all on your own.

“To train the mind, one must first train the body.” ~ Izumi Curtis, Full Metal Alchemist

In my house, we have a lot of old Shaw Brothers kung fu films.  The first one I ever saw was The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  It’s the story of a young man named San Te who enters Shaolin Temple and learns kung fu.  At first, San Te’s eager to the point of foolishness and wants to start with the highest art, so he’s taken to the 35th Chamber where a bunch of old and senior monks are reciting Buddhist sutras.  The master of the chamber tells the San Te to leave because San Te clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.  When he refuses, the master raises his arms and the man falls back on his ass.

The monk never touched him, but was sitting at least ten feet away.  You can imagine the look on San Te’s face and how afraid and confused he was.  That was his first experience with chi.

While that may have been a movie, the idea of chi has basis in reality.  The other day, I was watching Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which is a documentary series about real life superhuman abilities.  Among the ones I saw in the episode was a Shaolin monk named Shi Yan Ming who used chi in martial arts.  The premise of the show is to try and determine the scientific basis of such superhuman feats.  A collision scientist was brought in with equipment that revealed results unlike anything the woman had ever seen before.  Shi Yan Ming’s punches delivered damage greater than that of a 30 MPH car crash.  That was just one of several feats performed that would appear impossible given his size and muscular build, so clearly chi has an affect here.

Many martial artists have spent years developing their chi power through training of the body and getting a feel for their own energy.  Unfortunately, few of them spend as much time studying the nature of reality, science, healing, philosophy, and metaphysics, so their ability to use chi is limited mostly to its connection with their physical bodies.

“Teacher, what is this?  This isn’t kung fu!”

“That’s the highest form you’ll ever see, the final form.  You don’t understand.” ~ 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

So what exactly is chi?

In its most basic sense, chi is a type of energy that exists within your body.  It originates from your soul and is the essential life force that powers your mind and body like electricity flowing through your computer.

Your body has many different systems of organs, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, etc.  There is also an energy system.  You may have seen diagrams of energy meridians which map out the locations of this system for use in acupuncture, reiki, and other healing arts.  If the meridians are the blood vessels, the chi is the blood that flows through them.

Through mental training and practice, you can learn how to use and manipulate your own chi for a variety of purposes.  If you’ve never worked with it before, it’s essential that you experience it for yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start you off than to say find someone who knows about it and get them to show you, just like how my dad first showed me.  It will jump start your awareness.

The nearest I can describe it in words is that it’s like an electromagnetic effect.  If you were to hold two magnets of the same polarity in your hands and try to bring them together, you’ll feel a well of magnetism between your hands as if there were an invisible ball there.  That’s basically the same effect that you are creating here.

It’s likely that chi is electromagnetic energy, but I us the word “chi” out of tradition and because it just sounds cooler.  Recall that everything in the universe is made of energy, most of which, if not all of which, is electromagnetic in nature.

The human body is indeed capable of generating electrical charge, which creates magnetism.  The effect of putting your hands out acts like two opposing capacitor plates.  Through focus, you can turn the current on or off and control the flow of electromagnetism between your hands.  I’ve heard of people that can actually shoot sparks across their fingertips like a van de graaff generator.  That’s probably what allows the Sith and Firebenders to manipulate lightning, at least in theory.

Over the years, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with my chi.  I can generate it, manipulate it into different shapes, alter its “mass,” and use it for healing purposes.  I haven’t been able to use it for telekinesis yet, bu

Realistically, I’ve found that, for the amount of time and focus you’d need to gather the energy necessary to flip off a light switch from across the room, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just summon the discipline and energy to get up and turn it off manually.  So that scene with Anakin Skywalker feeding Padme with the Force … not likely to happen.

Persistence of Memory

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by marushiadark

“God is Santa Claus for grown-ups.” ~ Unknown

People of faith often believe that, when we die, if we are good, we’ll get eternal happiness, and if we’re bad, we’ll get eternal punishment.  But does that sound fair to you?  Does that sound like the invention of an all-knowing, compassionate being?  Or does that sound more like a bedtime story you’d tell to kids?

Hey, kids, you know, if you’re really good, Santa Claus will bring you lots of presents, but if you’re bad, he’ll bring you an icky lump of coal instead.  And he can see when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake.  In fact, he won’t even come until after you’re in bed.

You know, there’s a reason they call it eternal rest and sleeping like the dead.

It doesn’t seem right to me that God should give you an eternity of something based on the actions of a fraction of a fraction of that time.  Given all the hype about God, I think he would have more sense than that.  I mean, even our own limited and fallible human institutions know that people change over time and that reward and punishment must be in accordance with a person’s recent behavior.  For some, it may takes moments to change, for others decades, for some maybe even a few hundred years, but that’s still nothing compared to eternity.

Based on the laws of karma, I do believe that you receive some sort of reward or punishment after you die, but I hardly think it’s eternal.

“Death is rest for the soul.  Who was it that said that?  If the body did not die, and the fears borne in the mind just continued to pile up, the world would be nothing more than an eternal prison.” ~ Ziggy, Xenosaga Episode II

The law of conservation of energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred.  Even a cynical empiricist who worships the scientific method must admit that if consciousness is energy, then it retains some form even after the body has died.  It might not be in exactly the same state, but it still continues to exist in one state or another.  And what does that sound like from a spiritual perspective?  Reincarnation, perhaps?

Reincarnation is simply the conservation of consciousness between one lifetime and the next.  Many religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Christianity teach that this is what happens to you when you die.  The body decays and the carbon, water, and other components go back into the environment.  The mind goes offline and reawakens in some other body, like transferring documents from one computer to the next.  And the soul just remains as it’s always been, in the position of the observer.

The concept of reincarnation can be scientifically verified.  In fact, some people have already tried.  Maybe you’ve heard stories and news reports about young children being taken to certain places and having knowledge of those places and certain events relating to them that no one has mentioned to the child and which the child can’t possibly know otherwise, except through some sort of metaphysical transfer of information.  That would be a way of proving reincarnation to someone else, but there are other ways of proving it to yourself.

“‘How can I tell,’ said the man, ‘that the past isn’t a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?'” ~ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Ever since I was young, I’d always gotten along a lot better with adults than I did people my own age.  I think a number of people can probably say they feel the same way.  Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve conversed with people much older than myself and have come to realize that there are people ten, twenty, even thirty years older than me that act like children.  I don’t really count myself particularly privileged, at least no more-so than those individuals.  So what accounts for this?

When I was in college, I took an introductory course on Psychology and learned about the various stages of development that the human mind goes through.  Among them was the concept of Generativity vs. Stagnation, more commonly known as the mid-life crisis, in which a person looks back on their life and feels that they’ve done nothing but waste time and miss opportunities.  I was only about twenty at the time, but I felt as though I’d already had several mid-life crises over the course of my lifetime.

Some months later, I began to do a great deal of soul searching and starting to become aware of the fact that this wasn’t the first time I’d been here on this planet.  All in all, I’d been here at least five or six times that I can recall (possibly even more than that), which would mean that I’m a fairly old soul.

People often ask me how I know all this, how I came to realize that I’d had past lives and that they took on the particular characteristics that I claim they did.  Well, let me put it to you like this.

I know that there is a lot of New Age emphasis on the Power of Now, as made famous by Eckhart Tolle and others, and that along with this comes the realization that there is no past or future.  But for sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a past.  Most people would think it reasonable to say there is a past.  But how do you know?  How do you know that you weren’t literally born yesterday?  How do you even know that there was a yesterday?  How do you know that, when you woke up this morning, it wasn’t the beginning of time and you simply discovered you had all these thoughts in your head from the very beginning?

When you play a video game, it’s all a programmed illusion that begins as soon as you turn the game on.  That is year zero.  Yet when you turn the game on, you are immersed into a world and a body that has history, or so it believes.  In rare cases, such as Assassin’s Creed II, you get to know the character from the time of their birth; but usually you just wake up one day to find that you are now in a situation and that you have thoughts and ideas in your head about who you are, where you are, what you do, and who your friends are.  Time began at that moment, so all the so-called past is really just an illusion.

Do you think it’s reasonable to suggest that the same could be true for us as well?  That time could just be an illusion and the past merely accounting for discrepancies between our present condition and our memories?

But let us suppose that the opposite is true.  Supposing there really is a past.  So there’s a yesterday and a last year.  Why would your birth, then, be the beginning of your consciousness?  Genetic memory and the 100th Monkey Effect can explain where behavioral instincts come from, but not memories and wisdom of things that neither you nor your ancestors experienced.  For that, you’d need reincarnation.

So how do I know that I lived a past life?  Simple.  I remember something about it, the same as I remember something that happened yesterday or last year.  How do I know it’s memory and not imagination?  Well, how does anyone know that what they experienced yesterday or last year was real and not simply made up?  You feel it in your gut that this is true and accurate and what really happened to you.  That’s how.

“Now if you’re thinking, just now, ‘Why me, oh God?’  The answer is, God has nothing to do with it.  In fact, God is never in France this time of year.” Dorleac, Count of Monte Cristo

Reincarnation is tied with karma.  What you do in the past effects your future.  Even if you get away with something in this lifetime, there are higher forces at work that will see to it that you make up for it next time.  Just like in playing a video game, if you fuck up and die, you retain the memory of what happened and that can effect future outcomes.

That’s probably also what Déjà Vu is, too.  If you feel like you’ve experienced something before, it’s probably because you have.  You just hit the restart button and decided to play over from your last checkpoint.  Like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, when he keeps trying to find the right words to say to his coworker.

So if you find yourself thinking, “Why me, oh God?” the answer is, it’s always been on you.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and to young children?  It’s probably to teach you a lesson for something you did in a past life.  For instance, in one of my past lives, I was a really shitty parent.  So God decided to grace me with a bad father.  Not as bad as I had been, but enough that I could understand what it was like from the receiving end.

In another past life, I was a cruel Templar master.  So God decided to set me in a time and place where the Templars ruled as the sort of cruel masters that I had been.  He set me on a path to learn about the New World Order from the perspective of one of their slaves.  If I am truly the observer and the creator of my universe, then it stands to reason that such things as The Da Vinci Code and Assassin’s Creed were also created by me as tools for my benefit.  The entire history of the world has been constructed and uploaded into my mind to serve as context while I progress through the game of life towards my objectives.  It’s only logical.

It’s a lot like Alice dreaming of the Red King, who’s dreaming of Alice, who’s dreaming of the Red King … From your perspective, I’m the illusion and the whole world is created for your benefit and lesson.  So life becomes a dream, a shared dream (like in Inception), in which we all create and grow and experience together.  And when we die, we simply wake up somewhere else, with only the memory remaining.

Mindfuck #3: I Am

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2010 by marushiadark

“No matter what ya calls me, I am what I am an’ tha’s all I yam.” ~ Popeye

Very little thought is given to the way in which we use words, especially in reference to ourselves.  Often times, we place a great deal of our identity into things that are not us.  We equate who we really are with an object or concept that is not who we are, but rather something that we have.

For instance, people often say things like, “I am black” or “I am Christian” or “I am a redhead.”  Oh really?  That’s what you are?  Are you sure you don’t simply “have black skin” and “have Christian beliefs” and “have red hair”?

Such behavior is not inherited; it is learned.  We aren’t born identifying with things around us.  That line of thinking is socially conditioned into us.

Would you say that you are your car?  No, that’s ridiculous.  You’re very clearly not your car.  You have a car, but you are not your car.  A car is simply a vessel that you move around in.  You just attach yourself to the vehicle temporarily for the purposes of travel, carrying heavy loads, and doing other such tasks that you wouldn’t be able to do without it.

How about when you play a video game?  We often refer to the character as ourselves.  We say “I did this,” “I moved that,” “I shot the enemy,” and so forth.  But we are not the character.  The character is simply an avatar – a vessel – that we attach ourselves to by way of the controller in order to move about the digital world and do things like fly, shoot lasers, etc.  If you’ve ever been on a forum, you know that the little icon to the left of your post is also called your avatar.  It’s not you, either.  It’s merely a temporary representation of you that may not have anything to do with who you really are.

So what about your body?  Do you identify with that?  Your body is just a collection of cells that grouped together to form a collective unit.  It has more in common with a pixelated video game character than anything else, and your mind would then be the controller.  If you lose a few cells, do you necessarily stop being you?  If you lose an arm, a leg, or a kidney, do you stop being you?  No.  At least, you don’t have to stop being you.  It’s your choice whether or not you let such physical changes affect who you are.  Ultimately, all that really changes is what you can do with your body, but that doesn’t change who you are.  Even if you die, who you are will continue to live on in some form (even if it’s just a memory).

You are no more your body than you are your car or a character in a video game.  Who you are is the person in the driver’s seat, pushing the controls that make the body run, and your mind is the steering console.

“I think, therefore I am.” ~ René Descartes

During the early 17th century, a French philosopher by the name of René Descartes speculated on the basic principles of existence.  He wanted to know what was actually real, or at least what could be proven to be real.

There are two basic ways in which something can be known: empirically or logically.  Empiricism has to do with observation through the senses, while logic has to do with mental reasoning.  Descartes began with the simple observation that there are times when the senses appear to fail to accurately depict the world around us.  For instance, you see something out of the corner of your eye, but it isn’t actually there when you go to check on it with your full vision.  It is a mistake in observation.

Descartes reasoned that, due to the inaccuracies of the senses, it is suspect as to whether or not they can be trusted at all, so he rejects them entirely.

This establishes the notion that any and all physical things observed are potentially nothing more than mere illusions, fabrications of the mind.  It also leaves Descartes with nothing but logical reasoning, and all of that is just a fiction in the mind.  There are no perfectly straight lines in nature, no perfectly three-sided objects, no perfectly round objects; such things are mental short-hands of our own invention.  They do not actually exist.  They are illusions as well.

So then what does that leave?  Nothing, really.  Or does it?

If everything is merely an illusion, then there must be something that is being disillusioned.  There must be some observer of the trick.  Descartes himself referred to these illusions as the act of some demon.  But if there was a demon, the demon must have a victim to play his tricks on, even if that victim is simply himself.

Descartes’ method does not really give us much detail as to the qualities of the observer, just that there is one and that we can be 100% certain of this.  For all anyone knows, the world could be completely accurate as we observe it, or we could be a free-floating consciousness in a void without a body; but it can never be proven one way or the other what the actual nature of reality is.  So everything besides “I am” or “I exist” must be taken on faith.

This tends to piss off a lot of empiricists and scientists that rely heavily or even exclusively on their empirical observations.  Such a conclusion would pull the carpet out from under their feet by establishing the fickle nature of even their most basic assumptions.

“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ … This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations. ” ~ Exodus 3:14-15

Scientists aren’t the only ones pissed off by this conclusion.

Among those that believe in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, there is much time spent worrying and debating over pedantic little details like “Is God’s name YHWH or YHVH?  Jehovah or Allah?” “Is Jesus, Yeshu, or Yeshua the correct name of Christ?”  “What color was Jesus’ skin?”  “Is it sinful for me to take only the bread and not the wine during communion?” “If I eat meat on a Friday, am I going to hell for it?”  “If I forgot to say PBUH after Mohammad’s name, will God hate me?”  “Do I need to wash my hands before prayer?”  “If I have a cheeseburger, is God going to punish me for not staying Kosher?”

If your focus is on minor details like that, then I’m sorry to say that you have missed the forest for the trees.  Without seeing the bigger picture, these little things are rather irrelevant.  If your car doesn’t even have wheels, what does it matter if the dashboard lights aren’t working?  Even if the engine worked perfectly, you’re not really getting anywhere, now are you?

All three faiths respect and defer to Exodus and to Moses.  So if you claim to be a believer of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, there’s really no excuse for not knowing and understanding this particular passage.  God spells out rather clearly here as to who and what he is.

God is.  It’s as simple as that.  Most everything else is just minor details.

You are.  I am.  That’s as much as anyone can ever truly know for sure.  If it turns out that there is no God and we’re just a consciousness in a void; then by definition, you are God because you are the creator of the whole universe, since you are the one creating the illusion.  You call the shots, so why would you cast yourself, or anyone else, into eternal torment?  Why would you make yourself perform rituals and subjugating acts of worship?  You are the God of your own universe.

Going the Extra Mile

Posted in All, Economics, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?”  ~ Eminem, Lose Yourself

It’s funny how the universe seems to provide you with exactly what you need in your darkest moments once your mindset becomes corrected.  Here I was, sitting up at three o’clock in the morning wondering what the hell I’m gonna write about today when, lo and behold, the universe showed me the way.  I didn’t ask for it, but I got it all the same because I knew now that I needed to right what I felt was a particular outstanding wrong.

I never considered myself to have come from a very privileged family, and yet I know there’s a great many things that I have to be thankful for.  After my last post, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would look at what I wrote and think, “Oh, that’s some wishful thinking, but what do you know about me and my problems?  Have you ever lived in a trailer park working two jobs to feed your three kids?  How am I supposed to focus on things like love and vacation?  You don’t know shit about what I’m going through.  You’re just another spoiled person talking crap.”

The truth is, I don’t know what it’s like to live that life, so I’m sorry if you read that and felt insulted by my nonchalant attitude.  I can really only speak from my own experiences and those I’ve shared with others.  But that doesn’t mean my words don’t still hold some truth to them.  I know, in many ways, I do act like a spoiled little rich kid at times.  And it’s true, that I could probably never understand the lives of people who’ve had it a lot worse off than me.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

“The road to heaven goes through hell.” ~ Unknown, allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy

So I was sitting in the living room watching TV when the movie 8 Mile came on.  I had never seen it, but I’d always wanted too, since I enjoy a lot of Eminem’s work (I didn’t as a kid, but I do now as an adult).  I think his music has some very inspiring messages that come from the heart.

For those of you who’ve seen it, I think the movie is a perfect example of what I said in my last post and how those that have it a lot worse off than me can still take it to heart and apply it to their own situations.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Eminem plays this guy Rabbit who lives with his mom in a trailer park in Detroit.  His car doesn’t work, he’s about to lose his job, his mom is about to be evicted, his girlfriend tells him she got knocked up, and the man his mom is seeing is a real asshole to the family.  If that wasn’t bad enough, things get even worse for him as the movie goes on.  His new girlfriend is cheating on him with his friend, he has a reputation for being a chicken at the local clubs, his mom throws him out of the house with his daughter in tow, and he gets beaten up by a gang of local thugs.

That probably sounds a lot more like what some of you are probably used to seeing and dealing with.  I’m sure a lot more people can relate to that lifestyle if you couldn’t relate to my last post.

But it’s not all bad news.  Just when he’s at his lowest and about ready to give up, he pushes past it all and things begin to turn around for Rabbit.  The abusive guy leaves, his mom wins enough money at bingo for them to keep the trailer, Rabbit and his daughter move back in, his boss offers him some extra shifts, his girlfriend comes back to him, his friends come back to support him, and he begins to develop more courage and street credit with his rhymes.

He may not have been rich or outrageously successful, but Rabbit was at least able to pull himself out of the hell hole he was in and give himself and his daughter a better life.  He was able to do this because he stayed focused on his dream and the things that really mattered to him; and as a result, he drew strength and motivation from it that allowed him to do the work needed to see him to the end.  If he can do it, so can we all, I think.

“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.  True humility is the only antidote to shame.” ~ General Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender

At the beginning of 8 Mile, Rabbit found himself engaged in a rap battle in which he couldn’t handle the pressure and wound up choking on stage.  He lost the battle and his reputation with it, even though all his friends built him up as being a great improv rapper.  The shame he felt made his dream of becoming a rap star seem impossible and so he began to lose passion.  This plunged him into a downward spiral until he found himself, literally, at rock bottom.

Once you’ve hit rock bottom, though, there’s no where to go from there but up.  So with nothing to lose, Rabbit took a chance and reinvested himself in the things that he loved most in the world and he was subsequently amazed at how quickly his luck began to turn around.  By the end of the movie, he found himself in another series of rap battles, but he embraced his reality for what it was and wound up winning.  He took every negative thing about his life and turned it on his opponent, robbing him of the chance to use it against him.  He had overcome his shame with true humility and became more powerful for it.

In my own life, I’ve been put in many situations for which I, too, am ashamed.  For one thing, you may recall me saying how my mom, at one point, supported our whole family.  Well, during that time, she had to pay both the mortgage and a Parent PLUS Loan she’d taken out for me to go to college.  One thing for which I felt immensely ashamed was that I was the one who helped put our family in such a negative financial position.  Day in and day out, I watched our family struggle to make ends meet.  Worse still, there were no jobs available to me or my dad, so I had to work for small change at my neighbor’s catering company.  Worst of all, for about the last year I was in college, I had lost passion for what I was studying and didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore, so it was all a complete waste of money.  And it was all on me.

I still finished my degree of course, and it wasn’t a total waste of time either, since I had many great and unique experiences while there that made me who I am today; but that all paled in comparison to what I put my family through and the shame I felt about not being able to use my degree.

For a year after college, I carried that around with me, wondering how I would ever pay her back and still live a life of anything but working to pay my debts.  And who would want to even associate with someone in such a bad position as me, who could love someone that did that to their family?  But I remained true to the things that I was passionate about at the time; and soon, slowly but surely, a way out began to reveal itself and I followed it through.  I had hit the bottom and used it to push myself back up and began crawling my way towards the surface of the water once more.

So while I may not be the worst off person in the world, I hope that, for those of you less fortunate than I, you were able to take something out of this post of mine.  And I hope that you’re able to pick yourself up from the ground, dust yourself off, and go on to do what you love doing and be abundantly rewarded for it.

Peace.

Who Are You Really?

Posted in All, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2010 by marushiadark

“You may be wondering who I am, or why I say this.  Sit down and I will tell you a tale like none you have ever heard.” ~ Prince of Persia

At this point, you may be wondering who I am.  Who the hell am I to be telling anyone anything?  What authority do I have?  Why call myself something evil-sounding like Marushia Dark?  Why name my blog something scary-sounding like “The Darkness Files”?  Why did I chose to begin my very first post with a quote by a nihilistic villain from a movie that many people dislike in comparison to its predecessor.

No doubt, you have a lot of questions about me and my intentions, but unless you know who you are first, you can never know me, let alone my intentions or behaviors.

Maybe some of you are even sitting there judging me right now for my arrogance (which is only in your mind, by the way), but how much do you actually know about me?  Next to nothing, really … unless you happen to know me in real life.  And even then, that’s probably not even the whole story.

“They look like me, but none of them are me.” ~ I, Robot

Just from what you’ve read so far, what can you really tell about me?  Am I male or female?  Am I black or am I white?  Am I Hispanic or Native American?  Am I straight or am I gay?  Could I be bisexual or asexual?  Am I even a human being?  Could I possibly be an alien or a computer program?  Could I be an angel or a demon?  Am I a good person or a bad person?  Am I wealthy or poor?  What color is my hair?  What color are my eyes?  What kind of car do I drive?  What foods do I eat? What country do I hail from?  Am I an Arab?  A Jew?  A Christian?  A Muslim?  A Buddhist?  Am I a dog-lover or a cat-lover?  What kind of clothes do I wear?

You can’t tell any of that stuff, can you?  All you see is my avatar – a symbol that represents me – be it a name or a picture or even my physical body.  But you don’t see or know the real me, do you?

For all you can tell, I could be the very sort of person that you love or the very sort of person that you hate.  Throughout this blog, you’ll continue to catch glimpses of my beliefs and my behaviors, my likes and my dislikes, but none of them are me.  They’re just things that describe me, but they don’t necessarily define me.  Only I can define me.

“I don’t see color.  People tell me I’m white and I believe them.” ~ Stephen Colbert

Do you know who you are?  I mean, do you really know?  Do you know all the ins and outs of what makes you you and not somebody else?  Did you come to conclude this yourself or is it something that someone else told you and you simply accepted it without questioning it first to see if it was really true?

You might say you are this, that, or the other thing.  You might say you’re a fireman or a nurse or a father or middle class or American, but these are all titles – things that describe you, but none of them are you.  Most of them were given to you by somebody else, including the name your parents gave you at birth.  Most people have never even stopped to ask themselves, “Am I Steve?  Am I Helen?  I don’t think that name suits me very much.  I like Jim or Denise better.  It has a better resonance with who I really am.”  Who says Jim can’t be a girl’s name or Denise a boy’s name, anyway?

It’s become almost a New Age cliche to ask the question: “Who am I?”  But it’s a very important question.  How quick we are to identify with things that merely describe us and how we forget who we really are.  Who we are and why we’re here sets the stage for everything we do in life.  Or rather, who we think we are and why we think we’re here is what actually sets that stage.  If we think of ourselves as a slave, we act in a slave-like mentality.  If we think of ourselves as a free man, then we act that way as well.  If we think of ourselves as poor, or rich, or healthy, or sickly, or whatever, then we tailor our actions and behaviors and attitudes towards that particular identity.  How we think of ourselves determines what actions we will take, what clothes we will wear (if any), what foods we will eat, what vehicle we will use, how we’ll wear our hair, who are friends will be, what beliefs we hold, and so forth.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ~ Martin Luther King

Often times, we construct evaluations based on the titles that we use to describe ourselves.  We judge certain groups of people as good or bad based on an adjective, rather than an action, and this has caused a great many problems for our world.  How many times have you heard about one group of people killing a different group of people over some sort of generalization?

Perhaps the idea has special meaning to you.  Maybe you’re thinking of the relationship between white man and Native Americans.  Maybe you’re thinking of the Crusades or the conflict in the Middle East.  Maybe you’re thinking of modern examples of racial profiling or the division between the wealthy elite and the working poor.  Chances are, we can all think of an example.  Maybe you’re even guilty of doing it yourself?

Now stop and ask yourself, what is the real difference between these people?  Why do you hate them so much?  Is it because they did something to hurt someone else, or is it because of some title or description given to them?  Does that title reflect the full extent of who they are?  Probably not.

Consider how, in the recent history of America, it was popular to be racist against Irishmen and Germans.  Nowadays, I bet most people couldn’t even tell the difference.  They’d probably just see white guy, white guy, white guy.  And how many of us use the term “African American” for dark-skinned Puerto Ricans or black people in Europe, when the terms have nothing to do with them?  How great it would be to get to the point where we just start seeing human beings.  Or better still, to not even need to rely on physical descriptions to define who a person is.

Our society places great emphasis on diversity: we must acknowledge and call attention to the differences between us.  But I think that is a mistake.  Rather than calling attention to our differences, we should call attention to our similarities and those things that make us the same.  Appreciate and respect the differences that exist, certainly, but don’t dote on them, because life is much more than just one or two adjectives.

“Who are you really?” ~ Atreyu, to G’mork

Fortunately or unfortunately, I cannot tell you who you are.  Only you can know that.  You’ve known yourself your whole life; certainly longer, and in more detail, than I or anyone else could ever know you for.  For some of you, that may be twenty years.  For some of you, fifty.  For some, even longer than that.  If you don’t know who you are, then how can you know who anyone else is?

One way that I’ve learned to help figure out who I am is by keeping a personal journal and writing in it almost everyday.  It’s useful for solving whatever problems I may be having and I can say whatever I want in it without fear of repercussions because I’m the only one who ever has to know what I wrote.  A journal won’t judge you.  A journal won’t lie to you.  A journal is like a mirror, reflecting your true self.  If you lie to yourself, if you hide something from yourself, then your journal will reflect that right back at you.  If some part of your character is ugly, it will reflect that.  If some part of your character is beautiful, it will reflect that too.  Your journal is like your very own magic mirror gate from The Never Ending Story.  Whoever, whatever you are, if you write it down, you’ll be able to tell exactly what you really look like on the inside.

Just as with a regular mirror, if you work on yourself, your reflection will reflect that.  If you’re growing fatter or slimmer, taller or shorter, the mirror will show you what’s really going on.  In the same way, if you work on your own self-improvement, then your journal should reflect the change as well.

Another good way of figuring out who you are is through triangulating the relationships you have with other people and the ways in which they interact with you.  One or two people’s opinions might not matter, but if it comes from a lot of people that care about you and whom you trust to know you well, then chances are, it’s more accurate.  Unlike a journal, sometimes people lie or exaggerate the truth and we aren’t always so forthcoming with other people out of fear they might not understand us completely, but unlike a journal, you can establish an emotional connection with people to determine whether or not you like the sort of person that’s being reflected and how that person affects and influences those around you.

The eyes are the windows to the soul.  Just as you can’t see your own eyes without a mirror, so to do you require a mirror to see what your own soul looks like.  Like that Michael Jackson song, “Man in the Mirror,” says, we each need to take a good hard look at who we are in our own mirrors before we can begin to understand or improve ourselves and those around us.