Archive for Fear

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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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.