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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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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.

Venenum Veritas

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Psychology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by marushiadark

“Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.” ~ David Wolf, astronaut

There’s an old saying that I’ve often taken as my own personal motto.  It goes, “Expect the worst, hope for the best.”  I’ve always felt it to be very pragmatic because if the worst ever happens, you’ll be prepared for it and not caught off-guard.  Conversely, if anything other than the worst case scenario happens, you will be pleasantly surprised.  So it would seem that, by following such a logical strategy as that, you would be very well off, no?

Lately, I’m no longer so sure.

I’ve always been a very analytically-minded person.  And while it’s often good to have a back-up plan just in case things go wrong, such has left me carrying a lot of worry around, most of it needless. As the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it.  If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”

Cynicism has also made me a very untrusting person.  Some people have told me that’s a good thing, since few are exactly who they claim to be and few are worthy of trust.  Others have said that, in continuing to think along those lines, I will continue to create only what’s on my mind, and what’s on my mind is often cynicism; so my world will seek to placate those thoughts.

I know where it comes from.  It comes from being a student of the truth and always wishing to know that which is true and correct, but at the same time having been lied to and deceived so many times in my life.  Not all of it was intentional, a lot of it was reaction to mental aberrations (actually, all lying is the result of mental aberrations), and a lot of it also comes from my own failings – my own pains and misunderstandings.  If nothing else, it’s very paradoxical.  At times, it is a great burden to carry the truth, especially when others aren’t there to help support you.

Sometimes, I find myself wishing I could go back to that naive little child where everything was perfect and I was always happy.  Yet there are other times where I feel like I wouldn’t trade who I am now for a hundred years of happiness if it meant giving up the truth, because I know I am much freer now and in greater control of the world around me, which in itself brings happiness sometimes.

The truth is a powerfully addictive drug.  The more you learn, the more you can’t help but continue learning.  The more you know, the more you become aware of just how little you actually know in comparison to the sum of all things that can be known; and this newly discovered level of ignorance just spurs the desire to learn that much more.

Many addicts will tell you that, initially, their drug of choice induces a natural high.  But after a while, it becomes customary and routine, so the person falls out of that euphoria into a deep trench and needs a greater dose to reach the same feeling of high as before.  This, of course, creates an escalation in which the highs get higher and the lows get lower.  The sine wave of ups and downs begins to grow in amplitude, but to what extent?  Are we to simply not learn anything at all and be content in our ignorance or is it worth the pains to climb the mountain of knowledge?  Is it worth it to build wings of wax and fly towards the sun, even with the full knowledge that our efforts were in vain from the very beginning and that we’re destined to plummet back into the sea?

Do we simply build better wings?  The better our wings, the higher we soar, but the farther we also have to plummet back down.  Is such a thing worth it?  I think that’s a choice that every man or woman must come to terms with at some point in their lives.  Personally, I like flying, so I’d rather learn to fly than be stuck in the ground.  Being stuck isn’t any fun at all.

Without that feeling of high, you might as well just be a robot and live forever.  I think that idealism is the high and cynicism the low when it comes to knowing things.

One time, I got a fortune cookie fortune that simply said “Don’t give into cynicism.”  What if Kennedy had given into cynicism?  We might not have gone into space and the world would be a totally different place than it is today.  Maybe if we learn enough, and if our wings are constructed well enough, we ourselves will reach into outer space where gravity effects us less, and from there we’ll have laid the foundation for soaring toward the stars, metaphorically speaking.