Archives for posts with tag: philosophy

Just finished reading Illuminatus! for the second time. I realized that this is one of the few books which have genuinely changed my life. I had no idea how MUCH of an influence it had had until this reread after probably eighteen years, coming across phrases and ways of thinking which had operated as “mind bombs” (I have no idea from whom I stole that phrase). One of RAW’s favorite phrases is Korzybski’s (sp?) “the map is not the territory”, and I became aware that I had been focusing far too much on the “map” of my peregrinations, not really seeing the “territory” I had covered. My personal path has been winding, from Southern Baptist (which I left behind long ago), through a very brief not even quarter-hearted flirtation with Catholicism inspired by Thomas Merton, to varieties of Buddhism (Zen and Tibetan primarily), and back again to Taoism a couple of, or a few, times. There were also diversions into paganism and Celtic spirituality along the way, as well as the Sufis. The Sufis creeped me out a bit, but I’m not sure why. What happened is that I sent off for some information to one of the organizations affiliated with Idries Shah in the late 90s. At the time, I was living in Nevada. I subsequently moved from there to Florida, a couple of different addresses, and the Sufimail followed me for a number of years (it has since stopped). My conspiratorial mystical mind went to work and got a little freaked that they KNEW where I was somehow. The more plausible explanation is that they received change of address notifications from the PO and updated their information. Still, though, I’m not completely sure.
(the journey is its own point).Taoism is the one which resonates most strongly with me, but after reading Illuminatus! again I realized that if I am anything, and I’m not really, I’m a Discordian. I have acquired my own, personal web of knowledge about different ways to look at the world (thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird, as Wallace Stevens might say). I am more comfortable today with the fact that my journey will likely continue as it has, that I will continue learning and hopefully growing. One of my favorite quotes is from one of those Zen guys, Shunryu Suzuki. “The beginner’s mind is open to endless possibilities; the expert’s mind is open to few.” Probably slightly misquoted, but you get the idea. My goal is really simple – to always have beginner’s mind, a flexibility that allows me to encounter new points of view, assimilate what resonates to me, and move on after a time.                                                                                                                                

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(book being quoted here is Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. This is from historiadiscordia.com)

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On page 309, RAW drops some vital Discordian knowledge, which stands as probably the most succinct and to the point summary of Eris worship ever writ (maybe):

“Much of the Pagan Movement started out as jokes, and gradually, as people found out they were getting something out of it, they became serious. Discordianism has a built-in check against getting too serious. The sacred scriptures are so absurd—as soon as you consult the scriptures again, you start laughing. Discordian theology is similar to Crowleyanity. You take any of these ideas far enough and they reveal the absurdity of all ideas. They show that ideas are only tools and that no idea should be sacrosanct. Thus, Discordianism is a necessary balance. It’s a fail-safe system. It remains a joke and provides perspective. It’s a satire on human intelligence and is based on the idea that whatever your map of reality, it’s ninety percent your own creation. People should accept this and be proud of their own artistry. Discordianism can’t get dogmatic. The whole language would have to change for people to lose track that it was all a joke to begin with. It would take a thousand years.”

Existentialism in Calvin and Hobbes

Existentialism in Calvin and Hobbes (Photo credit: Lst1984)

An Existential Life

Though I have to admit I like the title as revealed in the URL more. I don’t have much tolerance for the sometimes nihilistic strain in existentialism, but I do think it’s an understandable response to life, especially life as it was experienced in the twentieth century. There’s a lot of wisdom embodied in the quotes collected on this page, but, as always, caveat emptor. Just use it as fuel to encourage yourself to think for yourself at ALL times, and to leave the herd behind with a critical, yet always loving, eye.

Recommended reading: Irrational Man by William Barrett. I will forever be indebted to Professor Bob Hall for introducing me to this book, and Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, and so many other books and ideas which changed my life utterly. RIP, Bob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excellent Guardian interview with Rebecca Solnit

She is so interested in, and engaged with, the world in which she lives. In the interview, the interviewer applies the term “psychogeographer” to her, and I can’t disagree with her. Psychogeography is such an antiseptic, academic sounding term. What it is, to me, is a way of being in the world in which you are aware and receptive to what is going on around you, and ideally to the effects of these impressions on you. Plus ca change, ya know – everything old is new again. I have aspirations to be a Taoist sage – have sometimes said that if someone held a gun to my head and demanded I name a religion, I would name Taoism. The ancient Taoist sages were just nodes in the network, to use present day terminology. They realized that one of the curious things about being human, perhaps the MOST curious thing, is that we are simultaneously, constantly, both connected to all that is around us, and utterly separate. Both islands in the stream, and the stream itself. What most separates us from our animal companions, from all the other beings that inhabit this world, is that, for better or worse, we are completely AWARE of this separation. One of my gurus, Kurt Vonnegut, talks a bit, a lot even, of we humans with our big brains and the trouble we can cause with them. It’s a constant, running theme in all of his work, in fact. Wittingly or unwittingly, the powers of our big brains often provoke us to run harum scarum through the world, often creating havoc wherever we go. Our responsibility, to revert to a cliche, is to use these powers for good, to realize that for whatever reason this happened – God, a random evolutionary accident, whatever – we have an obligation, a duty, to use this gift to become more aware of the wondrous universe in which we live and, when given the opportunity, to make it a better place for ALL concerned.

Walter Benjamin on writing

Once again, he nails it. i have found this to be true for myself, that if I let an idea for an essay stay in its cocoon for a while longer, it will metamorphose into something stronger, more fully formed, able to support itself on its wings.

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee

Walter Benjamin‘s concept of the angel of history has particular resonance for me, in looking at how things go in the world. I quote, “A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

— Walter Benjamin,

Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History

Benjamin saw what was happening in and to Europe in the 30’s, and particularly what was happening to Jews. He chose to take his own life, in 1940, rather than deal with the horror or take the chance of being corralled by the Nazis.

Benjamin’s observation, or insight, is from a completely different time from our own. Its relevance to human history in general, however, is timeless. I quote here from an essay on truthout.org by Henry Giroux, linked below:
“we are pulled forward by future happiness – [when] in fact, [as Benjamin noted], we are pushed from behind by the horror of destruction we keep perpetrating on the way.”

The promise of a brighter future is constantly held before us, but we, at least most of us will never get there, neither in this life or whatever may come after. Most of us will experience the stick, in one way or the other, much more often than we will taste the sweetness of the carrot. It doesn’t HAVE to be this way, but as the system currently is constructed, and works, this is how it is. It is up to us to change it if we can muster the desire, pull away from the distractions constantly dangled in front of us, and bond together with like-minded individuals to enact change.

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/71:in-the-twilight-of-the-social-state-rethinking-walter-benjamins-angel-of-histo