Archive for Thought

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

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.

Eye of the Beholder

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by marushiadark

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ~ John Keats, poet.

I was sitting on my back porch today and I happened to look up at the clouds in a particular moment and noticed that they were exceptionally beautiful.  In my mind, I found myself saying how only God could make such a thing as that.

Now, I’m not what you would call a religious person, but just sitting there staring at the clouds was both deeply touching and deeply rewarding for me.  For a brief moment, I felt at one with everything around me.

I think the idea that only God could make something so beautiful is quite true.  After all, what mortal man, with all of his technology or artistic skill could make something as beautiful as a bona-fide sunset?  Certainly no one thus far.

There have been times where I’ve looked out upon nature and it all seemed almost artificial to me.  For instance, sometimes I’ll notice a slight curvature to the sky, as though I was under a giant dome.  Other times, when I’m high above the ground (especially in an airplane), I’ll look out and the world will appear more like a diorama than actual life.  Sometimes I’ll walk through the park and remember that the landscape there was arranged by man – ordered, tamed, unnatural, almost clinical, even.

And yet there are always those times where I look upon nature and feel the presence of God and life in everything around me that fills me with peace and joy and love.

“Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” ~ David Hume, philosopher

Many people of lesser mind use the argument of beauty as proof of God’s existence without truly understanding what they’re talking about.  Almost immediately after I made my remark about the clouds today, my mind took a dualistic position.  I reasoned that God didn’t have any effect on the clouds.  That it was just water in the atmosphere collecting to form a random pattern.  If there was any beauty involved, it was all in my own mind and not something objective outside myself.

I contemplated this argument for a minute and then realized that it was also true.  There wasn’t anything outside myself that made it particularly beautiful.  Beauty was an internal conception, something only a human mind could conceive of.  But that just goes to further prove that God had a hand in making what I saw.  For if God is in all of us, which he is, and if God is the observer looking out through our minds and bodies, and if our perceptions create a sense of beauty in the mind in reaction to some external stimulus; then through a transitive line of reasoning, it stands that God created the beautiful scene that I observed.

In my lecture on symbols, I talked about how symbols only have those meanings we apply to them.  Without that, they’re just a collection of random lines and shapes.  But it’s the creative and associate processes that take place in our minds that make these symbol something else.

What is a cloud but a randomization of water molecules in the air?  If we see shapes in the clouds, we are taking that raw material and creating something out of it.  It’s no different than an artisan taking a lump of clay and molding it into a shape conceived of in his mind, except that we’re not touching the vapor with our hands.  We’re crafting it solely (soul-ly) within ourselves.

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Beauty is something that has been analyzed for millenia.  The dictionary defines beauty as “the quality of a person or thing that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction, whether arising from the senses, meaning, pattern, spirit, or other.”

In layman’s terms, beauty is everything that you expect a thing to be.  If you see a beautiful sunset, it has every quality that you, personally, think a sunset ought to have.  It fully meets your expectations of a textbook sunset.  Likewise, a beautiful man or woman has all the qualities you are looking for.  If their personality matches your unique expectations, then that person has inner beauty as well.

Because each person has their own mind with their own thoughts, tastes, and preferences, their perception of what is beautiful and what isn’t will be inherently different from that of everyone else; unless said individual has been influenced by social trends and molded to think a certain way.  Remember, societies have minds too on a different level of consciousness.

Even putrid, disgusting, and malevolent things can be beautiful in their own right.  Ugly dolls , for instance.  Or pugs.  Many people adore pugs specifically for their ugliness.  Similarly, a crime that is said to be a “work of art,” such as a murder, has everything you’d expect from the perfect crime.

In traveling down I-95, going through Elizabeth, New Jersey, there is a certain chemical plant along the side of the road that spews steam and, quite possibly, pollutants into the air.  Yet at night, it is a sight to behold with all its lights.  It almost reminds me of that scene from The Matrix Revolutions where Neo is blind and yet everything he sees is made of light.  Even though he’s in the most hellish place on earth, he can’t help but be in amazed at the beauty all around him when viewed from a higher perspective.  Whenever I pass by that plant, I can’t help but gaze in awe myself and wonder how something so bad for the environment could, at the same time, be so beautiful.  Only something from within, the divine spark, could create that.

The ability to see beauty or ugliness around us depends upon what level of consciousness our mind is in at the time we observe a given event.  If we are on the dualistic level of lower consciousness, separated from God, we will see nothing but horror and strife.  Conversely, if we are resonating with love and oneness on a higher level of consciousness, then we will see beauty in all things.

The phenomena around us are simply random, neutral events.  What changes is our perception of them and the order and beauty and meaning we bring to them.  We’re the ones applying bias one way or the other, depending on the lenses we choose to see the world through.  We are the creators, creating our own universes.