Archive for Present

Pace-Maker

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by marushiadark

“Can you hear it?  Hear this rhythm?  It’s the rhythm of time … and life.” ~ Fatman, Metal Gear Solid 2.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this animated lecture called The Secret Powers of Time, by Philip Zimbardo.  I watched it, trying as best I could not to analyze it, but to just empty my cup and take it all in as new information and a different perspective.

The general gist of the lecture is that there are six different “time zones” that people live in and that this has a profound effect on the way those people view the world, conduct themselves, where they live, how their mind works, and so forth.  I won’t go into too much detail about that.  If you wanna know, you can just watch it yourself.  This post is mainly my reflections on it.

From my own experience, I can attest that cities in the southern portions of countries tend to have a much different experiences of time than people in the northern portions.

Let’s compare two such cities: Savannah, Georgia, and New York, New York.  Both are major cities, but the overall pace of Savannah is much slower, much calmer, much more relaxed.  Even the appearance of the city seems to reflect this difference.  Where New York is crammed and full of skyscrapers, Savannah is much more open, with the tallest buildings being scarcely above twelve floors.  The whole city of Savannah seems to shut down somewhere between 6PM and 10PM, with few exceptions, whereas some place like New York is still alive and active during that time; in fact, it’s often just beginning to wake up.

This is just one example taken in brief.  I’m sure if you’ve traveled at all in your life, you can think of many examples like this.  You could probably also notice the subtle differences in pace between some place like New York and Philadelphia, where the change in latitude is smaller, but the relative pace is still proportional.

So a general rule, what Philip Zimbardo said about north-south relations of time seems accurate.

It makes sense from a physical standpoint too, since as you go north, the distance between lines of longitude grows shorter.  You can cover more ground (in a polar sense) in the same amount of time, ergo you are more productive.

But one thing I noticed as Zimbardo was talking is that this is a relative value.  Time is a factor in pace, but so are other things like climate, population, and the availability of resources.  For instance, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is a highly efficient machine compared to New York, but the same can’t be said for Albany or Toronto.

Perhaps the most valuable insight in Zimbardo’s lecture is how he highlights the way in which younger generations are geared to think digitally and thus at a faster pace than their parents and grandparents, who are accustomed to analogue.  That every second is precious and waiting is a pain is something I think will only become worse (or better) as time goes by.  Soon, it won’t be seconds we’re counting, but microseconds, especially with the advancement of computer technology wherein computers begin to piece together complex patterns that only the human brain can do right now.

Technology doesn’t make things better, it just makes things faster.  Technology only makes things better where lack of speed and efficiency in accomplishing a task was the fundamental problem in the first place.

The same fundamental problems exist for humans everywhere.  The disparities between the pace of life in the north and south, I think, are ultimately largely a matter of differences in the way in which people have resolved these problems.  How they’ve assessed what their needs are and how to go about acquiring them.  The same can be said of the conservative vs. liberal model, or of the traditional vs. modern model.  Such extremes are only paths and we take a left or a right at any given fork based on what we want or need in any given moment.

I’m sure all of you reading this right now, if I asked you to, could come up with a list of values, beliefs, and practices that you agree with and those you disagree with, and in full assessment of said lists, you’d find that, more than anything, you probably aren’t fully to one side or the other in any of those models I just described.

Some of you may consider yourself pious, religious persons, for instance, yet you don’t dive into the deep end of the pool and live monastically in a convent, eating mush and practicing asceticism.  Do you?

Conversely, those of you who abhor religion probably see the value, either from a rational perspective, or otherwise through intuition, that certain rules and morals like “don’t hurt people on purpose without a good reason” are good and necessary and that, whether you’re aware of it or not, society is living and functioning because of such rules and principles.

All things in moderation, including moderation.  Your pace should change with the circumstances.  When you drive a car, you go one speed in a school zone and another on the highway, and somewhere in between all other times, right?  You adapt your pace with the changes in the road, and you adapt your pace of life, and your temporal focus in much the same way.

So which time zone should we live in?  Zimbardo seems to favor the future, but I think the present’s where it’s at.  When you look out, you see mostly just what is right in front of you in that moment, occasionally glancing to the left and right through your peripherals.  If you turn your head, you environment changes, but your anatomy hasn’t changed.  You’re still looking at what is directly in front of you in the immediate sense.  So I think it must be in life that we remain mostly in the present, while keeping the past and the future in our peripherals.

The past tells us where we came from and how we got to the state we’re in.  The future gives us a sense of where we are, or would like to go.  But the present just is.  And let it be.

We’ll See …

Posted in All, Humor, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by marushiadark
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift – that is why it is called ‘the present.’ ” ~ Kung Fu Panda

Here’s a parable about the nature of time for you to consider as we begin a new year:

There once was a small village in which there lived a Zen master.  One day, a farmer accidentally left his pen gate open and his prize horse ran out into the wilderness.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how terrible,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”  The next day, the horse returned and had brought two wild horses with it.  The farmer tamed the horses and gave one to his son as a gift.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how wonderful,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”

One day, the little boy was riding the horse and he fell off, breaking his leg in the process.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how terrible,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”  A few days later, some messengers had come from the government, saying that the emperor had ordered conscripts to go and fight.  However, the little boy was unable to go because he had broken his leg.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how wonderful,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”

While the men were out fighting, a small band of warriors came to the village, where they killed many people in the town, including the little boy.  The soldiers looted what they could and then left.  The people of the said, “Oh, how terrible,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”  Some days later, news of this attack reached the emperor, who was moved by the plight of his people.  So the emperor sent troops to ensure that the village would not be attacked again.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how wonderful,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”

Some time passed and the emperor sent messengers out to all the villagers ordering that the taxes be increased to pay for the war.  The people of the village were still recovering from their loss and had no money to pay the tax, so the soldiers imposed tighter restrictions on the people of the village.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how terrible,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”  Eventually, a man returned to the village from fighting in the war.  He saw what was being done to his people and rallied forces together to oust the soldiers from the village.  The people of the village said, “Oh, how wonderful,” but the Zen Master simply said, “We’ll see.”

Those of you who have seen the movie Charlie Wilson’s War may remember this story and may have noticed that I added a fair bit to it.  Really and truly, I could have continued on in this way for all eternity just by adding more and more events.  But hopefully that was enough for you to get the general gist of it.

Everything in life has a higher purpose.  As these bad things happen to you, turn your gaze inward and look for the deeper meaning.  What lesson are you meant to learn from this?  How did your own actions contribute to the negativity of the situation?  What action can you take to try and improve the situation, while still being mindful of any potential backlash that may result?

We cannot know the future; and what may appear to be a good or bad thing today may prove to be just the opposite in time.  The Zen Master lives in the moment every day, recognizing that all events are neutral and that there is no good or bad but what we apply to a situation.  Something to consider strongly as we enter this new year of 2011.  I sense a great escalation of events in the near future.  Many of those events will seem bad, but we must always find a silver lining in any situation, while remaining aware of the consequences of our actions.

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.

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.