Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The more things change, the more things change

The Hawthorne Effect basically says (and this is a simplification of a fascinating theory which you really ought to wikipede right now) that any thing you consider or put attention on tends to spontaneously improve in and of itself, even if what you are doing isn't working.

Does this apply to consciousness too?

If so then the effect basically can be restated:

Any attention on consciousness tends to spontaneously improve consciousness, in and of itself.

I think it follows then that the more variety of conditions tried on something, the more attention is attracted to that something. In this case, the more diverse experiences of consciousness arise, the more consciousness evolves. In a way this is stating a truism, even a cliche. The more things change, the more things change. Change is the only constant in an inconstant world and universe. As a result, engaging change consciously will increase the speed of changes and therefore of improvements.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Notes Toward An Essay on Responsibility: Part Four, Take Responsibility

I suggested three phases of taking responsibility.

1- Confusion
2- Ritual dramatisation
3- Graduation.

Here are my notes on how I experience these stages.

1- When I am confused, things are fuzzy and call for clarification. It's not just attention or the interior life, but the outside world also demands attentive care and tending. A recognition of this need for care is the start of taking responsibility.

2- Ritual dramatisation.

Imagine sitting on the couch with Oprah, dark confusion all around, luminous silence in the little bubble between she and you: you talk, cry, rage, and listen with Oprah about your Issues. This is a dramatisation ritual.

Or imagine you are sitting watching an opera unfold. Murder, treachery, death, chaos, madness, and the final orgasmic release of the action: this is also a dramatisation ritual.

Or... imagine you are browsing the web (using Opera web browser perhaps!), hopping from favorite site to favorite site, then stumbling upon unfamiliar territory, or finding new friends and allies. Imagine your ideal web surfing experience. This is a dramatisation ritual as well.

Another way to put this phase of responsibility is that it is all about Getting It All Out In The Open. The Getting Things Done or GTD cult calls it a collection box. The Twelve Step movement calls it an inventory. Spiritual groups call it self-examination. Whatever.

3- The final stage of Taking Responsibility is the grading stage. The rule of responsibility is define or be define: I would add grade yourself. But here is my grading process anyway.

Here is how I either pass or fail. If I PASS, I advance to greater clarity on life's more magnificent forms of confusion. If I FAIL, I advance to greater clarity on life's more magnificent forms of delusion.

The only way I can fail is to think that I are done. I have taken all the responsibility I need. I am the man, the boss, the cool dude, the top guy. They whom the gods would strike down they first lift up to greatness. Disillusionment is therefore a sign of having been deluded about how valuable I am.

The way to pass is to be humble and genuine, to work hard and long and be cheerful and easy going, to realize I don't have all the answers, and to roll with the punches. Taking responsibility is about doing my reasonable best without getting suckered into emotionality about it. "Oh poor me, I have to do my best now" or "I am entitled to have earnt success after all the dramas I've been through" won't cut it. Work, however, will.

These stages are sequential. If I get to work and feel inner conflict then I haven't fully and ritually dramatised myself. If I start dramatising myself without any confusion to work with there is no fuel in my tank and it becomes an almost religious waste of time.

Many key social rituals need to be mastered to be seen to haven taken responsibility. I find it helpful to get really good at the basics. If I how the rules of how to skilfilly make small talk, then I can break the rules graciously when needed.

I find it is perfectly OK to be fucked up and live a happy, healthy, productive life. I suspect that's the only way it is ever done.

Towards an Essay on Reponsibility: Part Three, Responsible Confusion

"Taking responsibility" is jargon for a set of rituals between people that excite sociability around ethical standards. It other words, a fuzzy abstraction. What can I say about something so airy-fairy? Perhaps unfortunately, quite a lot!

I suggest three phases of taking responsibility. For clarity I will call them:

1- Confusion (and its advanced stage, confusion about confusion).
2- Ritual dramatisation (of confusion).
3- Disillusionment or graduation (into greater confusion).

Orientation: these three phases together relate responsibility to confusion. Responsible action can never be a stable a source of clarity. How I relate to confusion determines how well I take responsibility. It it not about acting in spite of feeling confused; it is about taking actions that honor and deepen the experience of confusion.

I recommend giving up on clarity altogether; it always was a pipe dream. The way forwards is through relating to confusion as the fundamental condition of living. Life is a mystery to be lived, as the poet Yeats says, not a problem to be solved.

May my life be a shrine to the utter confusion aroused by my responsive and attentive actions to reality.

French versus English literature

Dancing to dance music while cooking and reading I suddenly realized what the inherent superiority of the literature of the Anglosphere is to the other world literatures. For the sake of over-precision, I mean English language texts.

I remembered Andre Gide’s comment that the problem with English literature is that they don’t understand what to omit from the text. Exactly, Andre!

The problem with French literature is that they don’t understand what to NOT be serious about. They might have exquisite taste, even exquisite wit, but it all to no avail in certain modes of representation if they still don’t know when to just not be witty and tasteful. Vulgarity has it’s own precise delights, which I can locate only in the English language text.

Perhaps it is a certain athiestic irreverence one could locate in Bernard Shaw, or maybe it's in the camp of Mr Wilde that this quality has its source, but I suspect it is simply that the English speakers grew tired of the meagre inheritance of Greek tragedy and reverted to the same demiurge that informed the lost Greek satyr-plays: the archetypal urge to be Silly For Its Own Sake.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Notes toward an essay on responsibility, part 2: paying attention

Being responsible is a fancy way of saying "being responsive". Being responsive means paying attention. Responsibility as a habit is the result of paying attention consistently. It's said success is turning up but I think success is in turning up consistently. Nothing more nothing less.

Attention is mostly physical. My physical presence is invited when I say 'I', 'me', 'mine'. When I say 'you' or 'we' I become a letcher or lecturer or something worse: I become a faceless nobody when I focus on you and yours and ours. You are none of my business.

Clarity of attention is invigorated by spacing out. I stare at the moon with my mouth open - I always find the moon astonishing - or I drink tea and sit on the floor. Crisp clear energy is created by being precisely vague.

Next up, notes toward an essay on responsibility part 3: taking responsibility.

Notes Towards an Essay on Responsibility, Part One.

Responsibility has a positive and negative charge. The positive charge is gratitude, appreciation, loving-kindness towards oneself and others. The negative charge is 'heaviness' of any kind, be it terminal seriousness or plain old guilt.

The positive and negative charges of responsibility, then, can be formulated as a dictum:

It is easier to attract oneself into being more responsive than it is to push oneself to shoulder responsibility.

The basic exercise of responsibility is making lists. If I do not make a list then I become listless. Lists that work attract me into to paying attention afresh. Lists that don't work make me feel heavy and dutiful.

The two lists everyone agrees are most important are lists of what IS, not what is NOT: of these the most important are called the Gratitude List and the Achievement List. Every day I write three things I appreciate down, one two three. And every day I write three things I have achieved in the past 24 hour period. It can be brushing my teeth or it can be doing my tax paperwork. Any achievement is good as long as it feels progressive.

Making these two lists expresses an intention to feel good and to achieve good things in the coming day. If they feel heavy, I re-mind myself that I want to feel good and achieve good things today. If I feel stuck I say "I want to feel good and achieve good things". If I feel stuck and hopeless I either do the secret practice to get out of any stuck situation Doing Anything You Can Do, or I go to sleep.

On Solitude

The finest human achievements occur in solitude. The grandest experiences unfold in hermitage from the rest of humanity. And the healing sense of inner and outer unity and wholeness, that well being which so transforms life and awareness, potentiates into the actual in intensive isolation. So what is solitude, and what does it mean for us?

The key lies in how to ‘do’ solitude. Realizing that there is nothing to be done or achieved, I abandon all the trappings that might be suggested by retreat – the cowls, beads, incense and prayers. I let these go as much as I can because I am determined to find the essence of solitude.

What is that essence?

First, the inner essence of solitude can be seen as Freedom. Everyday life is an anaesthetic that numbs me to my own bondages. I am bound to cravings, addictions, opinions, relationships – and yet am unaware of the pain of my bondage until I can be alone enough to note the cords that bleed my wrists where they have been tied too tight. Freedom from bondage is freedom to exist with fewer conditions. It is the negative form of joy, the absence of agony as joy.

Second, the inner essence of solitude can be experienced as Energy. The world is fake to me. I am tired by all the things which once amused me. Sex is trite and luxury entrapping. Refinements of culture and intellect are so much stifling accumulations, until like geological strata they threaten to crush me. If I throw off society without rancour or escapism, but knowing I will find the true life or die seeking it, then a great energy has been aroused which exhilirates and fires up the inner life. Energy is required to smash the inner encrustration of tension and pain, obedience and bright cheerfulness. Energy is required to fix the fake fripperies wriggling to the spot like pinned butterflies, and take their life from them. Energy is required for solitude to be real and authentic.

Third, the inner essence of solitude can be understood as Anonymity. From this key principle, I become invisible and no longer attract the chaos of the everyday world. From anonymity comes all the blisses of solitude: purity, humility, silence, surrender – all arise from the successful passage through tests to my anonymous stance. Say someone comes to me and tells me I am a great spiritual person. Only with anonymity can I reply humbly that it is not me but something greater than me which does what I cannot. I feel grateful to symbolise this greatness by life, and I don't care to have an opinion on what it is exactly. How does another opinion help? Better off being quiet and anonymous.

What is solitude like? It is like a desert. It is like a cosmic desert waiting for a single drop of the divine to fall into it. It is like an endless grand spaciousness opening all directions at once towards infinity. Solitude reveals the true self and releases the false, slowly and step by step. If the only true shelter is found in the self, then solitude is the doorway to that shelter.

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