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.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On the Start of the Rainy Season

Rainy season. I passed the last sunny day reading Gatsby in the yard. Now my world changes.

I live in concentric circles that increase in warmth and brilliance towards the center. In the center, my bed and cat. The next circle, my desk and writing. The next circle still, my kitchen and bookshelf. Every circle after that, cold defeats warmth, and I shy away. When the sun shines the circles are lifted, but I know they are still there.

The dark and cold encroach. The first incursions are mild - no tumult gibbers at the windows, and no pulse of downpour shakes the front door. Only the roof sings quietly that the rain has come.

I hear the roof song and want only to write, and write, and write.

On A New Statesman critique of Beckett's novel, The Unnameable

"That is really the point of The Unnameable, whose demands on the reader seem, at times, to approach the demands it must have made on its author (the popularity of Beckett studies at universities around the world is testimony not only to the inexhaustible richness of his oeuvre but also to the feeling that only people with nothing else whatsoever to do with their lives would be able to digest, sift through and evaluate everything he has written); and it is not so much that Beckett shot his bolt with it that makes his subsequent work so (mercifully) short as that concision was the only possible subsequent artistic course that would have allowed him to continue with integrity."


This paragraph's savage humor goes way beyond damning Beckett by faint praise or even attributing to Beckett a bad eminence. Does anyone else read in this paragraph a series of jokes against the author?

Can it be anything other than a joke to claim that The Unnameable was such a failure that it constitutes nothing more than an APOLOGY for everything Beckett afterwards wrote.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Taosim and Quantum Physics in Plato’s Timaeus

In my last post I blogged about the Platonic version of the Tao. Here then are two versions of the same passage that are subtly different, representing for me the yang and yin, the hard and the soft, of Plato's classicism.

Here is the particular Jowett 1871 translation, which captures all the logic and none of the theurgy:

First then, in my judgment, we must make a distinction and ask, What is that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of becoming and perishing and never really is. Now everything that becomes or is created must of necessity be created by some cause, for without a cause nothing can be created. The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when he looks to the created only, and uses a created pattern, it is not fair or perfect.

And here is the version I examined in the previous entry, the wave-like, lucid and poetic 1965 translation of Desmond Lee:

We must in my opinion begin by distinguishing between that which always is and never becomes from that which is always becoming and never is. The one is apprehensible by intelligence with the aid of reasoning, being eternally the same, the other is the object of opinion and irrational sensation, coming to be and ceasing to be, but never fully real. In addition, everything that becomes or changes must do so owning to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause. Whenever, therefore, the maker of anything keeps his eye on the eternally unchanging and uses it as his pattern for the form and function of his product the result must be good; whenever he looks to something that come to be and uses a model that has come to be, the result is not good.

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On the Timaeus of Plato

I love how Plato uses multiple frames of introductory ideas in his work.

The Timaeus is framed first by the fanciful gossip of Solon’s story of Atlantis, and second by the superb verbal-magical invocation of Timaeus himself, which is what I wish to quote here (segment three: prelude). Plato’s third frame in the Timaeus, introducing chance and free-will, alters this second frame significantly and is the subject for another post.

So here is the second frame, Timaeus’ invocation of the creation of the cosmos:

“We must in my opinion begin by distinguishing between that which always is and never becomes from that whichis always becoming and never is.”

This is the basis for the physical world for Timaeus, for the macrocosm. But it is important to note that Timaeus is coming out with substantially the same idea as Lao Tze, on the other side of Eurasia at roughly the same period. He here invokes the Tao with these words and those to come. Timaeus, fully aware that speech is a magical act, prefaces this quoted statement with an invocation both to the gods and to his own powers – that is, he wisely invokes the macrocosm and the microcosm before beginning to talk of first and last things.

“The one is apprehensible by intelligence with the aid of reasoning, being eternally the same, the other is the object of opinion and irrational sensation, coming to be and ceasing to be, but never fully real.”

This is a startling description of the quality of Yang and Yin, or Shiva and Shakti. The most modern concept of this is the particular and the wave. The wave is potential particulars, or a conceptual carrier for particulars, or in some way a not-quite-real concept which fills in all the explanatory gaps which the particle concept does not.

But Timaeus goes further, describing the subjective response to these macrocosmic forces. The basis of physical reality is implied to be the source of subjective activity: that is to say, our (microcosmic) awareness of changeless evokes reason and intellect, and the awareness of the always-changing evokes opinion, obscurity, sensation and irrationality. Thus the perrenial wisdom of getting our focus of changeable things, and putting attention of the changeless: by focusing on the changeless we submerge into quiescience our irrational and sensational qualities. The process of self-enquiry suggested by Ramana Maharshi recommends that as the classical direct path to truth.

But listen to what Timaeus says next:

“In addition, everything that becomes or changes must do so owning to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause.”

We can infer then that the unchanging, reasonable, and intellectual is self-caused or uncaused, arising from its own nature directly.

What follows next is THE key statement of classical thinking:

“Whenever, therefore, the maker of anything keeps his eye on the eternally unchanging and uses it as his pattern for the form and function of his product the result must be good; whenever he looks to something that come to be and uses a model that has come to be, the result is not good.”

If that sentence doesn’t move you then how do you know you are still alive?

In one sentence Timaeus transmits the essence of classicism as method and means to the creation of art. The esoteric meaning of what Timaeus is saying is that the creation of a thing along classical lines is a recreation of the cosmos, and at the same time an emotional and energetic participation in the original creation. Each and every creative act invokes God into the person of the creator. Creative work is theurgy, and creation brings the reason into alignment with the Reason of the cosmos.

Think about that one for a while!

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On Samuel Johnson

On Harold Bloom’s recommendation I am reading Samuel Johnson. He seems to me an excessive writer. Perhaps he was paid by the word.

While reading Samuel Johnson I was forced to ‘translate’ into plain words at the end of most sentences so that I understood what he was going on about. As a result here is my adaption of Samuel Johnson’s ‘On Spring’ into plain modern Australian.

On Spring.

Every man has hopes for the future. When the future comes, generally without the hoped-for blessing, we press forward to new prospects. Lucky is the man who can hope for inevitable things, and not neglect his work in the present.

I’m friends with a person like this, who set his attitude so that hope blooms three times a year. Here is the source of that man’s cheap and lasting source of happiness:

It was gained by referring constantly to all his problems being solved next spring. Often spring brought no solutions, but he was sure the next spring would, and he was certain the present spring would satisfy him until the middle of summer, for he spoke of spring as coming til it was past.

Who doesn’t take pleasure in springtime? What great poets do not write about spring and its human meanings? The return of nature bring animal pleasure and promises human joy.

Spring clears the mind of worry and lust to think clearly. Some men ignore nature’s beauty, and fritter time away on socialising. But something’s wrong with a man who can’t bear his own company: maybe he avoids an empty mind, or perhaps he fears negative feelings; depressed people, unable to contemplate nature, can justifiably focus on social pleasures alone.

Please consider how many people find their own company a burden because they cannot reflect. I say that they cannot reflect because although the book of nature is open they have not learnt to read the letters.

Few people know how to take a walk with any new or different pleasure than socialising would give.

Every man ought to derive reflections from the objects around him, because there’s no purpose in changing location if his attention stays fixed on the same ideas and feelings. The truly open mind should be open enough to accommodate ideas from nature.

A man who loves novelty will find in nature an inexhaustible supply of material, without any jealousy or envy (emotions which people who use art for contemplation are apt to). Nature yields to study and experiment new knowledge and more reasons to be grateful to God.

I’m not saying we all need to become naturalists, but it’s worth knowing that in nature many innocent and profound amusements can be found.

Here I am forced, by the elegance and power of the words of Johnson, to return to the actual text, which is sublime and wise. This last paragraph is the larger wisdom of all ages, which out of respect I must quote in full:

“He that enlarges his curiosity after the works of nature, demonstrably multiplies the inlets to happiness; and, therefore, the younger part of my readers, to whom I dedicate this vernal speculation, must excuse me for calling upon them, to make use at once of the spring of the year, and the spring of life; to acquire, while their minds may be yet impressed with new images, a love of innocent pleasures, and an ardor for useful knowledge; and to remember, that a blighted spring makes a barren year, and that the vernal flowers, however beautiful and gay, are only intended by nature as preparatives for autumnal fruits.”

Six animals in the sun

This morning I scrubbed the chopping board clean, dusted it in bicarb soda, brushed off the excess bicarb and then covered it in grapeseed oil. The bicard is antiseptic and the grapeseed oil conditions the wood chopping board to last the decades I require its services. In household items I value permanence more highly than anything else.

So I took the freshly oiled chopping board outside, my hands dripping grapeseed, and there I saw a menagerie.

Sue's dog Jazz and cat Billie, Kevin's dog Charlie, my cat Shakti, and Max's dog Ben all lounged around me in their respective backyards.

I propped the board up where a few hours of sunlight would sterilise and dry the oil into it, went and washed my hands clean, made a coffee, picked up Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and went out to join them. Five animals outside in the sun cannot be wrong.


Scientifically Based Skin Care and Skin Moisturizing

Former Body Shop owner Anita Roddick said that a good moisturizer should do two things: make the skin feel nicer and keep it moist. I would add that if you wouldn't eat it, you shouldn't put it on your skin. The skin is just a million mouths, not a surface so much as a chemical conversation.

(If you inspect the crap that is put in shop moisturizers you will immediately see that if you put that stuff on your skin you will engage your body in a chemical conversation with the petrochemical business. If you want to make love to toxic waste man then go ahead.)

It follows also that any nutritious pure food will be nourishing for the skin. The key to understanding a good moisturizer is to look at what feels good in your mouth and tummy and to add a basic scientific understanding of what foods are good for the wellbeing of cells.

Skin is just cells, so what's good on that level is good on every level. So what's good for cells? In a word, variety.

The following list is intended for experiment:

- Lemon juice (antiseptic, vitamin c, bioflavinoids)
- Powdered spirulina (protein, polysaccarides, vitamins - overall construction materials for cells)
- Camomile (anti-inflammatory)
- Mineral salt (potassium-sodium balance, cell membrane)
- Apple cider vinegar (bioactivates minerals, antiseptic)
- Garlic juice (antibiotic, sulphur, selenium and trace minerals)
- Green tea (mild stimulant, astringent and anti-wrinkle skin tightener)
- Ginger juice, beetroot juice, and carrot juice (astrigents, anti-wrinkle, superb skin food)
- Onion juice (cleansing and astringent)
- Aloe vera pure extract (heals membranes and connective tissue).

Skin likes variety almost as much as the palate does: experiment and vary the moisturizer.

In addition to feeding the body through the skin, you can also feed the skin through the palate:

In my experience the best moisturizer of all is to eat omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in high amounts with an unrefined carbohydrate. I prefer LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond meal) with basmati rice. Within several hours my skin and hair is oily after eating them, and I simply wash off the excess oil with soap.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Masterpieces of Pop Music Video Clips, part 2: Evanescence's 'Going Under'

Even without the clip Evanescence's song 'Going Under' is a masterpiece. This is unusual.

It is far more common that the music clip is better than or the same quality as the song itself. The excellence of the song is greater than the clip simply because there is just no practical way to represent the sublime daemonism of the song in images.

To represent this song visually, you would have to be one of the Great Masters. If we were able to simulate an eigenstadt of the Flemish artist Breughel, I have no doubt he would do a superb film clip that does justice to the song. That gives I suppose some measure of the high esteem I hold this song in.

'Going Under' is superb. The song outstrips almost all popular songs in emotional intensity.

'Going Under' falls into a simple traditional five-act structure used by theatre. The form of this song is what is known in literary criticism and psychoanalysis as an enantiodrama, a staging of inner impulses in the external world in order to process and heal them.

Act I, the introduction, first 25 seconds:

Now I will tell you what I've done for you
Fifteen thousand tears I've cried
Screaming, deceiving and bleeding for you
And you still won't hear me."

Act II presents the main theme: emotional salvation versus sexual loss of self in these lyrics:

"Just when I thought I'd reached the bottom
I - dive - again."

Note the play on "dive" - it almost turns into the word "die", implying an orgasm.

The overwhelming intensity of this lyric is stunning. These words "I dive again" seem to float out of nowhere like fragments of a shattered sense of self and for several timeless seconds the words hang suspended against the apocalyptic backdrop of the guitar riff, the astonishing rippling piano notes like a forceful exhalation loaded with excess emotion, and underneath the main song the physical throbbing of violins which produces a superb subliminal evocation of the sensation of physical arousal in the vagina.

All this in eight seconds! The words "I dive again" infer sexual arousal, explosive emotional release, spiritual despair, and a sexual intimacy which at once destroys and paradoxically heightens the sense of identity as emotional expression. This kind of condensation and concision of meaning in this song is a big part of why it is sublime. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poetry.

Act III, the first chorus, is also the first catharsis, a false release because it leads not to freedom but to the next verse from the frustrated lyrics, "And I can't trust myself anymore".

Men cannot generally imagine the common female experience of a "failed" orgasm, which is implied in this part of the song. This false catharsis is a trigger for heightened aggression against self, and hence greater despair. The intensity of the song is impossibly high already, loaded with female libido and aggressive and despairing urgency, and yet this failed musical orgasm amps up the emotional intensity of music way higher than it needs to be.

Act IV brings the resolution of the song. The key to this emotional-sexual drama is the emergence of a cold and aggressive determination to walk through negative feelings without being destroyed by them. This choice to accept feelings without being overwhelmed by them is a sublime act of self-definition. Most astonishing of all, this empowering recognition of a sense of self free from emotional ups and high arises OUT OF and THROUGH the intensity of emotional expression itself:

"So go on and scream, scream at me, so far away,
I won't be back again
I've got to breathe
I can't keep going under."

This leads to the true catharsis, which is the free acceptance of the natural flow of feelings resulting from a self-defining choice.

Act V repeats the chorus, but the feeling is more celebratory than trapped. The singer has won free of negativity as a result of making a conscious choice to accept feelings AS IS.

I would like to briefly examine the song in the context of the Western sublime.

A critic can immediately locate the song culturally in the Feminist and Romantic streams of thinking and feeling. Prior to Romanticism this kind of Western identity did not exist. So this self is a uniquely modern person, who uses relationships to imaginatively express inner emotional conflict (Feminism) and thereby resolve it in a non-rational way (Romanticism).

Swept up in existential angst, modernist anomie, postmodern image-culture, the Romantic search for self-identity is reduced from a magnificent Wordsworthian 'excursion' to the equivalent of a musical tantrum.

The power of the song lies in the evocation of the daemonic and the uncanny - ground amply covered by the poets Coleridge and Keats, but not from the perspective of female sexual and emotional self-definition. Also unlike Coleridge I appreciate the lack of any sexual or moral content in the song. It sticks right in experience with unwavering committment.

Where male sublimity tends to represent highs and upward motion, the female sublime is here encapsulated perfectly as 'Going Under'. There is no final illumination, no simple answer, no externally-located source of authority or clarity as in the Bomfunk MC song. The gritty emotional intensity of the process of the song, in and of itself, is transcendent.

'Going Under' represents a female adolescent intiation into sexuality. The overwhelming power of female sexual aggression against the self is the fuel for the smallest beginnings of the definition of an adult sense of self.

The clip to this sound founders pretty badly when it tries to represent the lyrics with drug-like and psychotic-style facial distortions. It is fails because it is camp and funny. Probably the best bit of the clip is the part where the lead singer throws herself into the audience and in the next shot she is floating underwater gazing with wide open eyes at the camera: this confirms the impersonal and collective nature of emotional storms, by equating the mob of the audience with the water the singer floats within.

For the esoterically literate the song is (obviously) Neptunian and Venusian in nature; it correlates to the glamorous potential for self-delusion and self-destruction indicated on the Tree of Life as Netzach.

I want to be absolutely clear on this. You would have to be profoundly ignorant of your own welfare to evoke these forms directly. I strongly recommend avoiding any esoteric work around these forms if possible. If the shattered sense of personal identity portrayed in 'Going Under' is not enough warning for you, then consider the cost of spending the first half of your adult life recovering from the adolescent glamours of fatal cool and terminal hipness. Understood?

Masterpieces Pop Music Video Clips, Part 1: Bomfunk MC's 'Freestyler'

This clip and the next posted clip are sublime portrayals of adolescence. The first, in this entry, shows the male adolescent version of the sublime, and the second the female sublime. I believe both are revealing master works of art and music.

Bomfunk MC's 'Freestyler' represents the sublime as a state in which social embarrassment is blasted out of existence by the intensity of the music. The music occupies a realm of pure pattern, sound and light. The freestyler's non-English accent evokes a Finnish exotica of liberty and strangeness as he sings "Freestyler...straight from tha top o' my dome".

The intensity of the sublime in Freestyler arises directly from the hidden relationship of the rhythm structure to the feeling of social embarrassment at inappropriately wild, joyous and energetic behavior. The music clip picks up with uncanny genius on this connection, opening with a young man dancing a wild quasi-shamanic dance in an pure white railway station.

I don't think it's overstating things to say that the music clip is a masterpiece. Its brilliance arises directly out of the sublimity of the song, which needs to be fully understood for the clip to make sense.

The wild ecstatic rhythmn structure of 'Freestyler' seems spontanous but it is clearly a highly designed artefact. But the artificiality of the lyrics and production instead of ruining the effect of the song actually heightens the embarrassing intensity of emotion.

Any male teenager understands this song, whether they acknowledge it or not. Any young male who has suffered from the intoxicating surges of emotion, the wild cravings to leap, run, hunt, fuck, stalk, dance, kill, and snort with contempt at the peaceful elders idly sitting by the pregnant women by the campfire understands this song. Bomfunk MC's 'Freestyler' shamanistically evokes, aggressively presents, then skilfully re-presents in cultural context the wonderful wildness of very early manhood.

But 'Freestyler' would just be another barbaric yawp if it were not for the representational genius of the maker of the music clip and the producer of the song. By heightening the overall artificiality of the song, they emphasize the wildness of the energy underlying it. The song is like a riptide. It seems placid and simple up top, but underneath it evokes a cauldron of madness and passion.

The clip dramatically deepens the merit of the song, allowing full evocation of social embarrassment by watching the mawkish adventures of the kid protagonist. I can read the music clip of 'Freestyler' on four levels; first, as coming-of-age myth; second, as shamanic initiation; third, as a visual art pierce; and fourth, as a commercial product.

The most important aspect of the 'Freestyler' clip is the coming of age aspect. The kid protagonist is at first intimidated by the freestyling stranger on the platform, but on his encounter with the second freestyler on the train seat, who is still and silent, he suddenly finds himself infused with a new energy a violent urge to move origination from the base of his belly like a fire, expressed a new beat which confers the power to control time and space, force others to move to his command, and make pretty women dance. This is the first surge of sexual awakening in male teenagers: the sudden awareness of power, the intoxicating realization of new abilities and attractions, the distant and alluring promise of being able to control time and space. At a time when most women are worrying about their clothes and breast size, this intoxicating obsession with nature, control, power and motion is at the heart of why masculinity created civilization. Bomfunk's 'Freestyler' cuts right to the heart of maleness. It also effectively portrays the shamanism of the silent, still, watchful, 'cool' presence of the older man initiating the younger man into manhood: by remaining cool, the older man creates a space for the teenager to run riot safely within.

For those rare souls who are esoterically literate, 'Freestyler' evokes Mars and Uranus together and at once. The evocation is remarkable for its directness, simplicity and power. Used esoterically the song may have the power to energize new initiatives and awaken new forces. The Uranian initiatory aspects of the song are considerable and complex, and would require more words and deeper understanding than I have here.

There is little else worth saying about this remarkable clip except to suggest you view it:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Imagine if time management actually worked...

Imagine if time management actually worked.

Imagine you could read a stupid book and poof!, become a high achiever.

Imagine a world with ten times more clutter, ten times more idiotic businesses selling ten times more inane products and trite services using ten times more vulgar salespeople.

Imagine ten times more tiresome people needing to check their ten times more absurd handheld electronic devices to get permission to meet you for a coffee date which is ten times longer time away.

This is a conservative view: if time management actually worked it might cause orders of magnitude more effective creation of crap than we presently suffer.

If time management worked it would be too dangerous to sell. Black Ops would seize palmpilots infected with time management, and lock them away like the Lost Ark.

Fortunately, time management is not a Black Art at this stage. It is simply a cult. And the time management cultists in the main part seem to be people who are not aware of their own values but love to play hard.

Fortunately for the world most people manage time like they have sex: they go as hard and fast as they can until they're fucked then fall asleep. We are blessed that no-one has created a time management system based around tantric values, releasing mobs of ego-inflated charismatics into the workplace.

We should count our lucky stars that no-one has created a time management that works.

Monkey Business Time Management

Inspired by the efforts of GTD (Getting Things Done) time management cultists to mucho laughter, I wrote a pisstake time management system and surprised myself by learning something new.

Well, a LOT new.

I call it Monkey Business. I discovered it in three parts:

Just playing around for fun, I wrote an expose and critique of time management's implicit hidden Protestantism.

Then I got curious what time management would look like without the crap religiocultural baggage.

So I created a time management process with several new features and a crapload of benefits. My system needed:

- Explicitly stated values.
- Verifiable, testable propositions.
- Complete scaleability from a intellectually disabled child to a strong artificial intelligence.
- Viability in the context of the known facts about human nature.

Once I created it, which basically involved applying the Socratic method to the past time management systems, I had before my eyes the first time management system based firmly in the known fact of human nature, and it revealed to me a rather startling discovery:

I had accidentally discovered a revolutionary new time management paradigm firmly based on the explicit and demonstable values of evolutionary and developmental psychology.

The Monkey Business Time Management Paradigm (chuckles to self) proposes the following:

1. Time management without long inactive periods of reflection is just monkeying around.

2. Just try to unleash monkey business - which is to say, wild playful joyous creative silly hyperproductive innovative work - try to unleash monkey business WITHOUT long inactive periods of reflection and you will bust like a helium balloon in a needle factory. You will go mad, crack up, burn out, fall away. You will suffer long teeth and pointy ears and all manner of high strangeness.

I am quite serious. Monkey Business appears to be the genuine voodoo. After a bit more reflection and playing around I will put it up here and see how it goes.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Advanced Ecopsychology: Questions and Answers

Q: What is ecopsychology?
A: Ecopsychology is an awareness of life as one.

Q: How is life one?
A: We are a part of a web of invisible relationships. We will die and this web will go on. While we live we take from and give to this web constantly.

Q: How can I experience this awareness?
All life is aware of existing. When we simply exist, empty of animal or human content, we are one with all life. This oneness is the source of compassion and joy.

Q: What is the use of this awareness?
A: As love teaches you to see the invisible lines that connect us to the water, soil, plants, farmers, processing plants, chemicals, landfills, etc… Behavior shifts naturally as we experience ourselves as connected to love. This deep sense of connection is best cultivated through getting out and spending time in reflective receptivity.

Q: Why does it hurt so much to think about or be in nature?
A: Pain is resistance to compassion. Compassion is the stream of energy pulling us back towards our original awareness of our own phenomenal existence. Investigating pain honestly reveals that we are in love with misery and suffering, and even addicted to it. Clear investigation of the pain of existing reveals the stream of compassion which in turn carries one into the basic awareness of existing as peace.

Q: How do I bring this ecopsychological awareness of oneness into the human world?
A: Our negative treatment of the natural world mirrors the oppression of our inner wilderness in the human world. The way to freedom is kindness, restraint, consideration, and unconditional love for self and others.

Q: How do I share ecopsychology with others?
A: Treating the natural world with respect and care comes naturally to some people. But it hurts to be sensitive to nature at first. The concepts of microcosm describes the personal purificatory realm of nature as self and the and macrocosm describes impersonal participatory realm of the kosmos as divinity. Developing a microcosmic practice of primal spirituality is the best way to share ecopsychology, especially if it is attuned to the sacred cycles of year, month or day, which is readily understood by many people. Honoring the year cycle involves the sun, the month cycle involves the moon, and the day and night cycle involves the earth itself. Examples would be honoring the dawn and dusk, acknowledging the full and new moon, and practicing the eight solar festivals, known today in pagan circles as the sabbats. Involving others in these rituals are the best way to share real ecopsychology with others because they are not intellectual.

Q: Anything else you want to say about ecopsychology?
A: You don't have to be a screaming greenie or urban pagan to play with nature. It's for everyone, after all.


Friday, April 11, 2008

My Redneck Neighbours

My neighbour just walked past my front door saying loud enough for me to hear: "I've never used your name!" then "And I've never kicked your head in", before he entered his house.

Now he is playing gangster rap and storming around his house and backyard shouting.

Yesterday I was cloudgazing and his girlfriend, whom he regularly screams at for several hours at a time about her spending money on drugs instead of food, came out to do the washing. It was the first time I had ever seen her doing the washing, or for that matter the first time I had ever seen her in the back yard - I suppose her pot addiction has kept her on the couch the last four months they have lived here.

I told her I liked her dog Charlie, and I commented that I didn't know her name even though I knew her dog's name. It was a weak joke, intended just to draw her out. But she didn't respond so I asked.

"What's your name?"

She stared at me, as if the question made no sense, so I repeated it.

"Sarah," she said.

"Oh ok, hi Sarah," I said, "It's just that I've known your dog's name for months but I've never used your name."

She gave me a weird look and went inside.

And today her partner walked past, knowing I was only a few meters away, repeating the comment I made to her and then threatening to kick a head in!

Immediately fear and resentment rose up in me. I wanted to speak to him. I wanted to put him back in his place.

Then I turned the fear and anger over in a short prayer, letting go of the feelings which were replaced by sadness and despair, and I wanted to ring a friend and talk about what had happened but nothing much HAD happened except I had been verbally abused.

So I went to the toilet and washed my face and hands and resentfully daydreamed about asking the young guy for his name (I think it is Kevin) and then explaining that I would need it in case I ever needed to fill out a police report.

On returning to my desk, however, I realized on hearing the gangster rap that this young guy has very little control of his impulses and that speaking to him is not a safe course of action since he is physical strong, emotionally weak, and mentally ignorant. As a result, he is more likely to attack me to take out whatever frustrations he is experiencing than he is to beat his woman. Because I would not offer a sufficient show of force to discourage him he would view me as an easy target for his rage.

He is addicted to drinking and rage and she is a pot addict and codependent, so they are basically aliens from another planet from my point of view. And I have to realize that I must seem odd to them living so peacefully and happily with my cat and books and music.

From that point of view, my redneck neighbours deserve a bit of compassion, kindness and space.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gaiawriter's Top Ten Ways To Increase Intelligence.

1. Engage complex forms of art, science and culture with your feelings and thoughts, recording what you notice. Classical music, great novels, galleries, museums, scientific education, and above all, the fine art of intellectual conversation - these are time honored ways to increase intelligence. For most of human history conversation has been the main human art form.

2. Seek patterns. Seek the essence. Seek the edges. Seek the extremes. Seek the grey areas. Seek to understand rather than to simply know a fact.

3. Simplify what you learn by talking it through with yourself or someone else.

4. Look at the teachers of your teacher. Whatever field of interest brings tears to your eyes, or makes you heart leap, or makes your belly flutter, find the key personalities of that field and look up their influences. Read their bibliographies. Scan their indexes. Listen to whose names they drop. Understanding intellectual influence in a field is key to sophisticated insight.

5. Explore the limits of the intellect. Through human history, intelligence has consistently failed to provide a reliable guide to wise action. Philosophy has not found answers but only more questions. So the key to increasing intelligence is to learn what intellect can and cannot do: these fields are known as hermeneutics, epistemology, phenomenology and metaphysics, however most mature spirituality traditions also include strong and valuable critique of intellectualism.

6. Own your emotional bias.
Don't fake a dispassion which only very few highly developed people have. Get emotional about your ideas and thinking. Define your biases and then test them out. If they fail, humbly accept the failure and move on to a new bias. Pretending you are above it all and have understood everything is a waste of precious time.

7. Honor tradition. Most intellectual rebels need therapy, not intelligence increase. The strongest and finest minds flower right in the heart of the great and unbroken intellectual traditions of the world. Whether you are Chinese or Peruvian, your tradition will include intelligent discourse somewhere. Find your tradition and honor it.

8. Settle for second best. We are all stupid in some areas and smart in others. The simplest approach is to embrace the fact that sometimes you are going to be dumb no matter how smart you are. The sight of a toddler educating a retired university professor about building blocks is always charming only so long as the professor does not strike a prententious pose of being above mere play.

9. Practice mental masturbation. The only difference between mental masturbation and genuine intellectual activity is that mental masturbation is done simply for the joy of it, not in service to some greater value. Mental masturbation is wonderful, inexpensive, harmless fun, and comes (sic) highly recommended by the greater thinkers of all time.

10. Study mathematics and Plato.

Why mathematics? Mathematics is the fundamental tool of science; knowing maths gives you new eyes to see thinking not as connections between physical qualities but as abstract living forms of reality.

Why Plato? Plato's dialogs are the heart of the entire Western intellectual tradition, the essence of the enterprise of philosophy, and the core of all ideas in politics, science, metaphysics, and many other fields. I suggest you start with the refined word-play of Protagoras or the fun sensuality of Symposium.

Warning! Reading Plato involves discovering for yourself that most of your thoughts are actually 23 centuries old and the fact that your deepest thoughts do not belong to you at all. You can expect from Plato nothing other than a profound intellectual shock. Time and again through history, Plato plants the acorns that later become oaks.

I admit now that I have deceived you, reader. In fact there is only one best method to increase intelligence, but most people are unable to apply that method for various reasons. I have broken the one method into nine suggestions, but the single key direct act of intelligence increase I have hidden from you.

Because the truth is that by applying the last of these ten ways to increase intelligence, you will automatically be applying the other nine. Studying mathematics and Plato has been the best way to increase intelligence for the last 23 centuries, and remains the pre-eminent way to increase intelligence today in spite of the Nintendo DS Brain Gym and Smart Drugs.

So, then:

1. Engage complexity with feelings and thoughts. The most complex cultural objects we possess remain Plato and Mathematics.

2. Seek patterns. The best expression of pattern is through number (mathematics) and dialog (Plato).

3. Simplify by talking things through. (Plato talks everything through; that's why they're dialogs and not essays.)

4. Look at who taught your teachers. The truth is that Plato taught your teachers. All of them? Find out for yourself.

5. Explore the limits of the intellect. The common experience has been that the limits of our intellects have been reached already and usually surpassed by others.

6. Own your emotional bias. If you react emotionally against the suggestion that Plato and mathematics are the best base possible for intelligence increase, then test your ideas out and come back to Plato and mathematics when you have failed enough.

7. Honor tradition. Traditionally Plato and mathematics are, along with the study of Latin, the main expressions of intellectal activity in the West. If something works better for you go for it.

8. Embrace being dumb. Few arenas of cultural activity are more humbling that Plato's philosophy, over which the generations have toiled, and mathematics, in which humankinds most abstract thoughts are expressed.

9. Practice mental masturbation. The greatest mental masturbator of all time, Socrates, lies within the pages of Plato. And, just for your own peace of mind, I do not recommend having sex with a mathematician; you might figure out why for yourself after studying the field.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

Did you get that intelligence increase tip I mentioned before?

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Top Top Ten List


1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.
9. The stories of Anton Chekhov.
10. Middlemarch by George Eliot.

I have tried to read all of these. I found these four hard going and retreated to try another day: Madame Bovary, Middlemarch, Chekhov. I am in the process of reading the Proust, obviously enough.

Which ones haven't you read yet?

This list comes from a wonderful and amusing book which asks hundreds of writers to list their top ten books, then counted recommendations as if they were votes to create the above list.

What is most striking but not at all apparent about the top top ten list is that they are all canonical classic works. The reason a classic is a classic is because it is universally recognised as being excellent, not simply because of the social conditions or such rubbish. This list re-validates the reality of the core of classic Wetern civilization.

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Proust:"Our social personality is a creation of the minds of others."

“Our social personality is a creation of the minds of others.

Even with respect to the most insignificant things in life, none of us constitutes a material whole, identical for everyone, which a person has only to go to look up as though we were a book of specifications or a last testament. Even the very simple act that we call ‘seeing a person we know’ is in part an intellectual act. We fill thephysical appearance of the individualwe see with all the notions we have about him, and in the total picture that we form for ourselves, these notions certainly have the greater part. In the end they swell his cheeks so perfectly, follow the line of his nose in adherence so exact, they do so well at nauncing the sonority o fhis voice as though the latter were only a transparent envelope that each time we see this face and hear this voice, it is these notions that we encounter again, that we hear.

The corporeal envelope of our friend had been so well stuffed… that this particular Swann had become a complete and living being, and I have the impression of leaving one person to go to another distinct from him, when in my memory, I pass from that first Swann in whom I rediscover the charming mistkes of my youth and who in fact resembles less the other Swann than he resembles the other people I knew at the time, as though it were the same in our life as in a museum where all the portraits from one period have a family look abut them, one tonality – to that first Swann abounding in leisure, fragrant with the smell of the tall chestnut tree, the baskets of raspberries and a sprig of tarragon.”

- The Way By Swann's, pages 22-23.


This must be my heaven.

It's 11 at night - I just got home - some basmati rice is cooking on the stove, and a Mozart violin concert is playing on the radio.

Ah. This must be my heaven.

I know every note of the Mozart concert, but the solo musician and director has filtered it through some utterly alien sensibility and produced something at once more subtle and oddly disturbing of the familiar tones. It is as if I hear the Mozart in a dream and wake and have it all at once present in waking experience, but with the echo of rememberance overlaid like the eerie moan of the ocean at midnight, a sound so like that of woman crying in pain or ecstacy that it reminds me in its resonance of the frightful and profundly disturbing moment of my own birth.

I have had Marcel Proust at hand all day, reading it in snatches of five to ten pages. His book brings me great happiness today.

These opening pages of Temps Perdu are a synctium of the whole work. It is as if the first 45 pages of The Way By Swann's are a homeopathic ticture giving the bittersweet curative and purgative flavor of the entire work. I will quote the most striking sentence in another entry, but for now I am content to let it settle deeper into my consciousness and fill me with pleasure at the insight of this master of human relationships.

This morning I heard the Pathetique Symphony of Tychaikovsky on the radio, movement one and two. This is what I wrote, somewhat in a hurry to go out:



I was listening to Tychaikovsy on ABC radio today. Listening to the first part of his Pathetique, it is so obvious to me now how the view of life as essential a tragic drama of spiritual redemption underlies the Russian worldview. The feeling-water element and the intuition-fire element meet and ahniallate one another in the first part of this symphony, creating thereby a world of ideas and sensations - that is, of air and earth. What I am not prepared for, however, is the insight this casts into the Australian psyche.

The Australian weltanschauung would have to be optimistic and naive comedy of commercial imitation turning out better than imagined. Think Balzac's Cesar Birotteau set in a milliner's in Brunswick, Melbourne.

Australia has no historical figures whose names end with the suffix "the Great", and Russia has perhaps too many. Australia's defining catastrophe, the failed storming of Anzac Cove during the Great War, is small scale in comparison to two and a half century string of Russian disasters.

Australia's psyche might be made-for-televsion miniseries about two competing wealthy families, a protestant outback mob and a catholic inner city suburban clan, who over three generations from the first world war to the start of the Vietnam war protests intermarry first with each other, city breeding with country, then with new Australian Italians, then emigrant Singaporean Chinese, and for whom the political and social viccissitudes of their day mean nothing so much as a chance to sneer at the fussy Europeans and make more money from the Americans.

The consciousness of the Australian psyche is characterised by materialism and naivete. The unconscious shadow of the Australian psyche is expressed in physical overcompensation and intellectual self-sabotage. That is to say, Australian's worship sport as a compensation for our consistent failure to pay appropriate attention and funding to independent intellectual discoveries. Bluntly put, Australia bleeds innovation to other nations, resulting in an unfounded goodwill to Australians based not on our actual hard-won cultural eminence, but on our naive and scandalous mismanagement of our own intellectual resources.

The superior function, so to speak, of the Australian consciousness is earth or sensation, and the inferior or supporting function is fire and intuition.

As a result the current and the currency of the life of feeling and intellectualism flows unconsciously to more sophisticated elder nations, who under the pretense of patronage play the role of enabling Australia to remain unaware of itself as an individual culture. This accounts for the strange sense of ill-defined cultural identity in the Australian people. In a nation whose goodwill is based on concealing emotional and intellectual realities, prosperity is dependent on keeping everything undefined and vague.

The lack of definition in the Australian psyche is the main aspect of our shadow. Our shadow side is water, feeling function. Australians are the famed military who die with a quiet "Aw geez!" on the battlefield; Australians are the intellectuals who are valued for their ability to lie low and worship football; Australians are the people who will call you "mate" but steadfastly refuse to define exactly what obligations and responsibilities to one another said mateship might entail; and Australians are the people who make out as if the word "laconic" actually describes a personality trait worth having.

Beneath the shadowy realm of the poorly articulated feeling life of the Australian culture and people lies the hidden gift of Australia to the world. The unobserved and unnoticed treasure of Australian culture is intellectual liberty the likes of which I have seen nowhere else on earth.

This is where Australia's greatest strength lies, then: as a greenhouse to foster intellectual achievement. And instead of daring to define ourselves and expose the overcompensating vulgarity of Australian sporting excellence for the frightened sham it really is, Australia has been a nursery to endless suburban breeding hives since the mid-1940s. Instead of building a vibrant intellectual public life, Australians have managed to fostering only an endless blob of materialistic and naive adults whose entitlement to the fruits of individual intellectual labor and whose unprecedented liberty to explore the life of the mind is taken for granted not simply as a given privilege, but arrogantly as a natural endowment as a result of having been born in Australia. Such is the naive shortsightedness of the average Australian as to their privileges and blessings they are born into. For lack of intellectual and emotional excellence, the mob of opinionated Australians shout out any attempt to clarify the messy shadow qualities of Australian culture with a chorus of ill-informed and vulgar views. And from lacking a clear sense of collective public life, Australians have expressed the need for genuine intellectual excellence by reducing emotional and intellectual development to a materialistic outcome.

To sum up, in Australia the question "What did you learn today?" brings mockery, while the question "How much did you earn today?" inspires respect.


That is all I wrote this morning.

On re-reading it I would add that it is actually really rude to disrespect the younger culture of Australia from the vantage point of the Old West which I am most familiar with. It is a delicate balance between vaunting the obvious superiority of Western Culture in general, while accepting and valuing the fresh energy of the New West. A criticism is only as effective as it is also kind.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Consider Western Civilization With Me For A Moment

I feel privileged.

I invite you to consider the reality of Western Civilization for the space of three to ten in and out breaths. Just sit and consider the following:

I am surrounded by the most beautiful music ever written in every culture;
By the greatest books and teachers of the ages;
By the accumulated wisdom of a dozen successful societies infused into the society I inhabit.

I am surrounded by a culture distinguished by continual and constantly increasing

- invention in the arts,
- innovation in the sciences,
- and practical applications in medicine, agriculture, technology.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

On starting the new translation of Proust's 'Temps Perdu'.

Yesterday, Saturday, I got the first book of Proust. Hardly able to contain my excitement, I read the editorial introduction which was mainly translator gossip, forcing myself to delay the inevitable pleasure of reading about Marcel going to sleep for thirty pages.

I have noticed when dedicated professional translator write off their own bat they write the most profoundly untranslatable English - full of idiom and allusion, wiry, multidirectional English. Perhaps it is revenge on our foreign readers. When I mentally translated it into plain English and found it to be a melange of pleasant gossip and pompous fluff, I discarded the translation of the translator's English and stuck with the pleasures of obfuscation.

Then into the legendary opening! Oh what a lucid translation of the first par!

I read it at the train station as I was getting home, standing in the light of the flourescent bulb, hearing the wind and drops of rain and train horn go off in the distance. If you read this first par for yourself, you will instantly see how uncanny the parallel is to A la Rechere's first paragraph.

I wanted to quote the par entire on here, but I have selfish second thoughts about sharing it. Get your own bloody copy! If I am quiet over the next few days, you can blame Monsieur Proust.

Best. Proust. Title. Evarrr.

I feel sure these English Translations of the title of A la Rechere du Temps Perdu would have been disapproved of by Marcel Proust.

The Old Penguin Translation:
Rememberance of Things Past.

The New Penguin Translation:
In search of lost time.

The Bukowski translation:
Seeking Past, Getting Wasted.

The Albert Einstein traslation:
An experiment in wasted time.

The Complete Variorum Deluxe Edition Academic translation:
Results Observational and A Priori Experimental Research Program on the Nature of Time as the Objective Sense of Dissipative Waste and the Subjective Sensation of Regret For Past Loss.

The Hunter F. Thompson translation:
Lost and Wasted in the Trips of the Past.

The Charles Lyell translation:
Speculations on Processes Operating in the Discovery of Epochs of Geology-like Detritus.

The Adam Smith translation:
On Seeking The Causes of Past Lost Productivity.

The Confucius translation:
On The Rites of Paying Respect to Intoxicated Ancestors

The Charles Darwin translation:
On the experiment of maturation in regards to loss of neonate traits through higher cognitive processes of reflection.

The Gangsta Rap translation:
All About Checkin' Out Past Ho's Sleepin Round Behind My F**ken Back.

And my version of the most literal translation? I like this one best: I think Marcel would approve, quite honestly, because it is funny and serious and strange exactly like the original title is:

On research into wasted time.

Best. Proust. Title. Evarrr.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On Zionism and Judaism.

Zionism is a difficult subject. There seem to be people who love making views about zionism and judaism and getting all fluffed up about it. The field is full of combative ideas, contentious theories, and partial judgements.

Judaism the most fertile faith on the planet didn't get that way by arguing, but by radically hybridizing with and isolating from other memes at different times.

So Zionism strikes me as a hybridization with those memes of Islam around submission to tribal imperative.

From my place in the play of history zionism seems colorful and pleasantly emotionally charged with melodrama.

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Tolstoy, Henry James, Sterne, and finishing War and Peace

I finished the Andrew Bromfield original War and Peace. Took me a month. I lie: a month and a week. And it was didn't like the ending. It was too sudden.

I glanced through the Mauds' translation of War and Peace and found the font unbearably small - like, 9 or 10 points - and these weird transliterations of the Russian place and person names, involving lots of apostrophes above them. Much harder reading than the lovely Bromfield text.

To celebrate the read I bought Henry James' Portrait of A Lady, in the suberb new and inexpensive Viking edition, stunningly typeset on clean white paper with 12 point font and plenty of margin space. And I bought the bargain basement Wordsworth edition of Tristram Shandy, because I had heard it was funny and because Balzac quotes it at the start of his fantasy novel about the magical ass's skin.

I also tried to work out which books are my top ten. It was hard! I needed it to be either collected works or a very very good compedium. But that is another story, for another blog entry.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Truth-telling in Tolstoy's War and Peace

I am in the last pages of the Andrew Blomfield's original version of War and Peace. I am itching the read the canonical version next!

This has been an easy read. My reading of Tolstoy resists any drive to increase the speed - only patience will tell the tale. But the boring scenes have been few, and many the scenes of greatness.

The long sequence of Nikolai and Natasha hunting was dull; only a hundred pages later when Nikolai charged the dragoons imagining he was back on a hunt, did it make any sense why Tolstoy had bothered including it.

The fuss with Natasha and Andrei is unfortunately a bit kitsch. I sincerely hope in the canonical version Andrei and Natasha do not overreact so absurdly to Anatole's attempted seduction.

There are lots of loose ends. The passage I quoted a month ago where Nikolai Rostov is told off by Andrei and wishes he could become mates with him implies they do in fact become mates, and given the time Andrei spents at the Rostovs they ought to have, and yet there is no follow up.

What are the most astonishing moments of the original War and Peace? For me the hermeneutic dimension of one of Tolstoy's lecture on intellectual self-deception is the most engaging.

Here is a really proud guy, Leo Tolstoy, humbly describing in the most brilliantly clear way the total limitation and fallibility of intellect and reason in other people. And yet his faith in his own intellect remains solid, and he invites the reader to trust and admire the male leads Pierre Bezukhov and Prince Andrei not on the basis of their good hearts, but on their rational capacity for self-control! It seems to be as if poor Count Tolstoy knew his intellect was fatally flawed and felt we had no alternative but to reason it through and hope for the best in spite of all the bad results arising from self-identification with intellect.

This lecture is great also for its truth-telling about the nature of war, on page 755:

"War is a boy's dream. The highest honour is military honour. And what is required to wage war successfully? In order to be a genius, you need:

1. Provisions - organised theft.
2. Discipline - barbaric despotism, the extreme restriction of freedom.
3. The ability to acquire information - spying, deceit, betrayal.
4. The ability to employ military tricks and deceit.
5. What is war itself? - Murder.
6. What are a soldier's activities? - Idleness.
7. Military morals are depravity and drunkenness.

Is there a single vice, a single bad side of human nature, that is not one of the conditions of military life? Why is the military calling respected?"

To this astonishing rant, I can only reply with Prince Vasili on the first page of this great novel: "Good heavens, what a ferocious attack!"

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