Archive for System

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.

K is for Karma

Posted in All, Economics, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by marushiadark

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” ~ Galatians 6:7

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that the concept of karma isn’t expressed in the Bible, but I can’t think of a more concise definition of karma that than passage right there.  What you sow is what you reap.  So simple that even a child can understand, yet profound enough to have an impact on everything we do.  It’s also one of the few fundamental laws of the universe.  There aren’t very many absolutes in life, but causality, action-reaction, is one of them.  Everything has a cause and everything has an effect.  Nothing happens by accident.  If you had full and complete knowledge of a system’s causes, you could predict all its effects.

That’s really what karma is, except that karma tends to be more focused on the behaviors of human beings.  If you do something good, you’ll eventually be rewarded.  If you do something bad, you’ll eventually be punished.  And usually, that reward or punishment will be both in accordance with what you did and several times greater in yield.  Just as a single seed, overtime, can yield many fruits, each with many seeds of the same type, so too do our actions bear fruit.

In explaining the concept of karma, I’ve always found it helpful to think of karma as a form of spiritual currency.  Many of the same rules of currency can also be applied to karma.

For instance, say you get paid and are feeling really good about it.  You go to the bank and deposit your money into a savings account.  The bank then takes that money and lends it to someone else, so the money makes its way through the system.  The bank then collects interest on loans and transfers it to your savings account in the form of interest.  Now you have more money than you put into the system.  Conversely, when you take out a loan, the idea is that you borrow someone else’s money, use it to create something of value, and then repay the full amount with a little extra as the cost of doing business.  The extra value comes from having multiplied your commercial energy through the act of creation.  If you can’t pay your debts, then your creditors will add penalties and fees because they think you’re being irresponsible and squandering the money they gave you, so you must be taught a lesson.

When you do something for another person.  You are giving some of your own energy to that person.  They then take that energy and transfer it to someone else.  That energy goes into the system we call the universe, which has theoretically unlimited energy.  Eventually, some of that energy will come back to you through the deeds of other people or from the universe itself, usually with a bit more or at exactly the right time you need something.  So going things for others is like investing your energy into the Bank of the Universe and collecting interest on it.

Conversely, when you do something for yourself, it’s like taking out a loan.  You are borrowing energy from the universe to satisfy your own needs.  Hopefully, once those needs are met, you’ll be in a better position to give back that energy and contribute to serving others.  If you don’t, but instead squander that energy and use it to hurt others or deprive them, then eventually you will have to pay for what you’ve done with extra fees attached.

That is the basic principle of karma.  What you put in, you get out.  What you take out, you must put back in.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23

I was listening to some audio lectures by Brandon Adams on commercial law.  One of the things he talked about is how the Bible can be seen through many lenses, one of which includes a commercial lens.

For instance, it’s said that Christ’s sacrifice has redeemed us.  What does it mean to redeem something?  If you have a coupon, you go and redeem it and get stuff.  Well, the redemption is basically a certificate that says the thing is prepaid, whether in part or in full.  It’s on someone else’s tab, a gift that you just have to accept.

Originally, we lived in a paradise called Eden, which was a commercial-free zone.  Everything we wanted was free for the taking, so long as we observed the rules that God set down.  The only rules at the time were be fruitful and multiply, take care of the earth and everything on it, and don’t touch the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge.  If the rules were broken, God would demand payment in blood.

Adam and Eve broke the rules by eating from the tree.  God said that the punishment for this would be payment in blood, but as we know, Adam and Eve didn’t die.  Instead, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, i.e. they entered a different jurisdiction of law.  They no longer had access to free stuff and were forced to labor (Gensis 3:16 for Eve and 3:17 for Adam) for things.  God revoked the privileges of Eden, but discharged the debt, off-setting it to a later date.  So Adam and Eve and their descendants could live for a while, but they still had to pay for the damages.  Originally, they offered fig leaves, but God, being the creditor, wanted payment in the form of blood sacrifice, so eventually, the two would have to die.  During the course of their lives, however, they and their descendants would have to offer up animal sacrifices.

Cain tried to offer fruits and vegetables, but that wasn’t an acceptable form of currency.  Abel, on the other hand, offered God an acceptable currency in the blood of lambs, and God favored Abel more.  So Cain slew Abel to pay his debts, but this damaged God’s property (our bodies are vessels of the soul) and so God demanded restitution.  So Cain’s fate became the same as that of Adam and Eve: banishment and labor.

Abraham offered payment to God in this form as well.  Eventually, following the Exodus, this became the standard ritual and God further contracted with mankind in the form of a covenant.  Basically, sin is a form of spiritual debt and must be repaid in blood, which is where we get such ideas as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  This is all balancing debts.

In Exodus 34:7, God declares that he is willing to offer mercy and forgiveness to those that have repaid their karmic debts, but that those who remain guilty, his wrath will extend to the man’s descendants.  Basically, this is the spiritual equivalent of life insurance.  If you have enough money saved up, your descendants will inherit when you die and receive a better start on life.  Likewise, if you leave the world in a better place than when you found it, future generations will reap the benefits.  Conversely, if you leave this world with a lot of debts, your family will suffer in paying your bills.  And unfortunately, we as humans have wracked up a lot of karmic debts over the course of thousands of years and the Bank of the Universe isn’t at all pleased with this.

So now we come to the time of Christ where Jesus volunteered his own life, taking on the sins (karmic debts) of the world.  He and God made a deal that Christ’s blood would replace the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament and serve as an extension of credit to the human race.  This is why Christ declares that his is the “blood of the new and everlasting covenant,” with the old covenant being “pay with the blood of animals or die.”

In dying for our sins, Christ gave us a great gift.  He settled our tab, as it were, and wiped the slate clean, balancing our karmic books and zeroing out all the accounts.  God would no longer demand blood sacrifice during the course of our lives.  The original debt had been paid.  So only new debts would affect us and it was our choice to put his gift to good use or squander it.  If we put it to good use, then we will eventually prove that we are responsible individuals worthy of returning to the commercial-free zone of Eden.  However, if we squander that gift, God will once again demand payment in blood and suffering.

Two Parables

Posted in All, Economics, Humor, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by marushiadark

“Did universal charity prevail, earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable.” ~ Charles Colton, cleric

When I was in grammar school, because I went to a Catholic school, we had to take religion as a class.  My eighth grade teacher was incredibly strict, but I learned a great deal thanks to her.  Among other things, she taught us this parable about the nature of heaven and hell that I retain and use to this day.

Imagine that you are in a great hall filled with all the people that you’ve ever encountered in your life.  In this hall, you are all seated at an enormous table.  Before you is a banquet of any and all the types of food that you and all the other guests could ever want to eat, and this food continues to replenish whenever more is needed.  Truly, it is a feast unlike any other.  However, there is a catch.  Instead of hands, every guest at the banquet has six-foot long chopsticks attached to their arms.  No one is capable of eating any of this food because no one can reach their mouths due to the chopsticks.  So the food just sits there, tormenting the guests, until both it and the guests waste away to nothing.  In this hall, everyone is greedy and self-serving and gets nothing but misery and pain as a result.

Now imagine that you have an identical hall with the exact same set-up, only in this hall, everyone works to feed each other instead of their own selves.  Everyone gets what they want and there is more than enough to go around.  Everyone is both a giver and a receiver, satisfying their own needs and the needs of those around them.  All the guests receive nourishment from the food and the enjoyment from the company.  There is no pain or suffering, but instead genuine love and happiness.

I don’t think I need to explain that the first hall represents hell, while the second one represents heaven.

Such a metaphor is so simple that even a naive child can understand.  I should know, since I was a naive child when I first learned it, myself.

Now imagine if the whole world acted that way.  If everyone was selfless enough to contribute to the benefit of others, while still occasionally taking time out to let others return the favor.  Each person doing what they can for a person within their range of ability to help until everyone is eventually satisfied.  From each according to his means, to each according to his needs, until everyone has everything that they want and need.

Because of the complex nature of life, it’s impossible for anyone to ever be completely self-sufficient.  We all need other people, whether for emotional support, or to make or do something that we can’t in order to improve our quality of life.  When we consider the potential gains to ourselves and others from what amounts to a modicum of service, the world becomes a much better place.

“Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system.” ~ Thomas Paine

Another parable, this time of my own making, along the same lines is as follows.

A Zen Master had two young sons that would not stop fighting with one another.  So one day, he called the boys together and the three of them sat down at their father’s table.  The Zen Master set a box of building blocks on the table.  To the first son, he gave seven blocks and to the second, he gave five.  He then commanded his sons to construct the tallest tower they possibly could with what they had been given.

The two brothers took their blocks and each built a tower out of the blocks he had in front of him, stacking them one atop the other.  The second son noticed that the first son’s tower was much larger.

“No fair,” he said, “He got more blocks than me.”  And in a fit of jealousy, he knocked the first son’s tower down.  “Now my tower’s bigger,” he said.  Out of anger, the first son retaliated and knocked over the second son’s tower.  Now neither of them had a tower and the two sons began to argue and fight over what had happened.

The Zen Master then separated the two boys and stopped their fighting.  “Look at the mess you two have made,” he said, “I commanded you to build the biggest tower you could, but instead you have created nothing but ruin and hatred between yourselves.”

“But he knocked down my tower,” said the first.

“But you gave him more blocks,” said the second.

The Zen Master shook his head in disappointment.  “I said build the biggest tower you could with the blocks you had.  You chose to hoard your lots and build separate towers, when you could have come together to build a tower twice as tall as what either of you could have built alone.”

The two brothers then felt ashamed for misunderstanding their father’s commandment after realizing what they had done.  The Zen Master then poured the rest of the building blocks out of the box.  “Now, let the three of us together build an enormous tower that stretches towards the ceiling.”  And so the Zen Master and his two sons worked together and used up all the blocks in building an enormous block tower.  Between the three of them, there were enough blocks to build out laterally as well so that the tower was better supported and able to rise that much higher.

The two sons were so proud of their accomplishment that they went and told their mother and their sisters and their friends and brought them all to see the magnificent tower that had been built and everyone was in awe at what they had done.

Yet another story that even a child can understand.  The moral of which is that we all are given different gifts, different skills, different resources, different connections in our lives, and different experiences.  We all have our own paths unique to us.  But rather than keeping these all to ourselves, we can accomplish much greater things if we shared all that with others in cooperative union.  To build each other up instead of tearing each other down.  To see ourselves as partners, rather than rivals or enemies.  In a world where we see nothing but lines of division and differences and separation, there is no rule that says we cannot come together to make the world a better place for all.  The world is fundamentally an interconnected system, and what affects one affects the whole.  So why not work with each other, rather than at cross purposes in pursuit of what is common to us all?

A is for Agent

Posted in All, Economics, Media, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by marushiadark

“The Matrix is a system, Neo.  That system is our enemy … these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy.  You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.  And many of them are so inert, so helplessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.” ~ Morpheus

When the Wachowski brothers first created The Matrix, they viewed the relationship between the humans and the machines as a metaphor for the relationship between individuals and the institutions that they created.  Many of our man-made institutions were initially created with the most noble of intentions, but I bet we can all name at least one that we’re aware of that has lost sight of its original purpose and gone on to become something far more malicious (for most people, if it’s not the Catholic Church or the opposing political party, it’s Scientology).

No creation can supersede its creator, and yet it would seem that most, if not all, of our religious and governmental and commercial institutions have grown to become quite the Frankenstein monsters and are threatening to choke the living daylights out of us.

We are the ones that created these institutions and breathed life into them.  Like anything else, they can only do what we empower them to do.  Our own Constitution, for instance, declares that the American government is meant to be a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  The Founding Fathers wrote the power into the hands of the people, so why is it that we, the people, are utterly incapable of stopping these machines, these now-self-aware monstrosities?

The fact of the matter is that our institutions have become sentient programs with lives and minds of their own that are struggling desperately to survive, even if it means destroying or enslaving a few minds, a few lives, in the process.  But just as the machines of The Matrix need humans for fuel, so too is the lifeblood of our modern institutions a fuel comprised of human beings.

An agent is a sentient program that does the bidding of the machines.  A sentient program is self-aware like a human being, but is different from us in that it only ever does what it is ordered or commanded or pre-programed to do.  It doesn’t think for itself.  It doesn’t act for itself.  It is merely the arm of the machine.  The word “tool” would not be inappropriate in deference to them.

Many people that would call themselves free human beings are, in fact, merely agents of the system – the system being any institution that seeks to enslave all mankind and convert us to its way of thinking.  Think about it.  A church cannot survive without members of its congregation actively recruiting new converts.  A business cannot survive without expanding its profits, even if that means using subliminal mind-control techniques (also known as advertisements) to get human beings to become agents and buy crap they don’t need.  A government most certainly can’t survive for long without the will of the people, since the people are the ones that vote the politicians out of office.

As Confucius said, the three things needed for good government are: enough food, enough arms, and the will of the people.  If you were forced to give up one of those, then arms should go first. People can still fight without arms, but will not have the will to fight if they have no food.  If you are forced to give up another thing, then it is food.  During The Long March, Mao Zedong led his army across the mountains of China.  His men were cold and starving, but they developed a fierce loyalty to him by the end of it because he was with them, encouraging them to press forward the entire time.  But without the will and support of its people, a government, or any other institution for that matter, can do nothing at all.

If we are unhappy with a particularly malevolent institution, then the way we stop it is by removing the fuel of the machine: its agents.

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

How do we identify an agent?  Are there any tell-tale signs?  Agents come in many forms and some are more entranced than others.

One way to tell them apart is their level of denial.  The world is full of shit and hardship and anyone that tells you differently is either an enlightened master – who fully accepts the world around him and is at peace with it – or an agent.

When you come across an enlightened master, you may not realize it at first.  Are they a simple and humble and bitter old man or an outspoken, eloquent, and enthusiastic woman.  They may be cynical or happy, but if you ask them about the state of the world, they will give you the facts of the matter and are open to new ways of thinking about what they already know.  They will not judge you, but instead accept you and your beliefs and will offer to teach you and help you grow in your own way instead of forcing you or coercing you to conform to some other way against your will.

On the other hand, an agent will use defense mechanisms to try and justify their lies and avoid confronting the truth.  If you tell them the world is round, they will show you a diagram of the world as a disk that spins counterclockwise and tell you that the resultant upward force is what really causes gravity.  They will defend the lie with blissful ignorance and apologetic threats.  They are like the addict that will attempt to get you hooked on their stupidity and lies.

Use your own powers of observation.  If something appears false to you, then it very well might be.  Use your rational, analytical mind and make a case for why things are the way they are.  Any reasonably sane individual may or may not agree with your conclusions, but they should at least be open to hearing you out and consider what you have to say.  If they agree, it’ll be because of your facts and your logic, not the promises of benefits and the avoidance of punishment.  Anyone who threatens you or promises you candy if you just get in the van is not your friend.

“Are you at liberty to play for that, Sctanley?  Or would you prefer to play for smiles?” ~ Dave, Couples Retreat

In some cases, usually the more indoctrinated cases, an agent will take on a phony persona.  These people are not really people, but are mere shells of persons who are trying to get you to volunteer for slavery.  The 13th Amendment banned slavery and involuntary servitude, but voluntary servitude is still perfectly legal. If you buy into the false images of these agents, you will have committed yourself to be bound in servitude.

Such persons you can usually identify right away.  They will have big stupid grins, wide Bambi eyes, and doll-like faces.  Whenever I see someone like this, I shutter and avert my eyes because of how creepy they are.  They’re like the bottom of the uncanny valley: not really living and not really dead, but somewhere in-between.  A real-life zombie or vampire.  If you need a visual example, here’s what one looks like:

Paula Deen - Creepy, Agent

God, that woman creeps me out so much.

I’m sure you’ve seen that type of face before (especially if you watch Lie to Me).  Kitty Farmer and Jim Cunningham from Donnie Darko, the Todds from Bubble Boy, the Enzyte Guy, and Joo Dee from Avatar: The Last Airbender are all examples of this.  Many extremely devout religious practitioners, politicians, advertisers, and government and corporate spokespersons have this same face.  That same cold, lifeless stare in their eyes that says, “Everything’s fine, you’ve nothing to worry about.”  But what they really mean is “I’m a brain-washed tool.  Beware of me and my machine.”

I’m sure you can find many more examples of this face showing up.  It’s not that free people can’t be happy, just that theirs is a more genuine and less phony kind of happiness.  Their eyes are deep wells and they radiate warmth and compassion when they are happy, instead of giving off the stink of robotic emotions.

Beware of the agents of evil, for they are the true enemies of humanity and are in most need of rescuing.