Archive for October, 2008

Why We Bang

Last night I went to a performance of Our Town. I was thinking as I watched how fascinating it would be to see the same slice of life shown for an inner city black neighborhood. Not just the crime and the poverty, but how people really live day to day — how the love, how they worship and how they die.

In many ways, I think that of the life of cities has the most real community in the ghettos. I know that in the year I lived in DC I didn’t know any of my neighbors. My friends were spread out across the city with connections through work or interests but not through proximity.

The closest thing I think I’ve seen to a modern Our Town would perhaps be Ghetto Logik’s Why We Bang:

The part I found the most interesting was when they asked people, “Why did you start gangbanging?” Everyone answers, “It’s just what you do.” It made me think of how no one from my group of high school friends would even have considered not going to college. It was just what you did. It was the next step in a person’s life between being a kid and getting a job.

I’m thankful that I managed to get the karmic dice roll that landed me with the expectation to live in a dorm room as a young adult rather than, say, murder someone.

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Awareness — On The Proper Type Of Selfishness

DeMello Continued

On The Proper Kind Of Selfishness

The first thing I want you to understand, if you really want to wake up, is that you don’t want to wake up. The first step to waking up is to be honest enough to admit to yourself that you don’t like it. You don’t want to be happy. Want a little test? Let’s try it. It will take you exactly one minute. You could close your eyes while you’re doing it or you could keep them open. It doesn’t really matter. Think of someone you love very much, someone you’re close to, someone who is precious to you, and say to that person in your mind, “I’d rather have happiness than have you.” See what happens. “I’d rather be happy than have you. If I had a choice, no question about it, I’d choose happiness.”

How many of you felt selfish when you said this? Many, it seems. See how we’ve been brainwashed? See how we’ve been brainwashed into thinking, “I — how could I be so selfish?” But look at who’s being selfish. Imagine somebody saying to you, “How could you be so selfish that you’d choose happiness over me?” Would you not feel like responding, “Pardon me, but how could you be so selfish that you would demand I choose you above my own happiness?!”

A woman once told me that when she was a child her Jesuit cousin gave a retreat in the Jesuit church in Milwaukee. He opened each conference with the words: “The test of love is sacrifice, and the gauge of love is unselfishness.” That’s marvelous! I asked her, “Would you want me to love you at the cost of my happiness?” “Yes,” she answered. Isn’t that delightful? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? She would love me at the cost of her happiness and I would love her at the cost of my happiness, and so you’ve got two unhappy people, but long live love!

Ok, my answer to this one is a bit, um… adult. If you are young and don’t read adult-type things then you should probably stop here. Seriously, don’t send me nasty mail later if you read past this and something offends your more delicate sensibilities.

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Whatever You Like

I’ve been thinking about The Singer Solution to World Poverty and T.I.’s latest song: Whatever You Like.

The basic issue is the same one I have watching the debate coverage: how the hell do people end up thinking the way they do.

Almost half of America looks at the results of our current administration and the extent to which McCain/Palin propose continuing the same attitudes, and somehow think that voting for that ticket it is a good idea.

McCain I can kinda see. I think he is wrong about what is needed to solve many of our problems, but I understand sort of the emotional backing for why people think he will keep them safe and fight to reduce the size of government. Palin, on the other hand, is way out of her depth:These people hear her talking and they clearly have an entirely different perceptual experience than I do. It’s how a dinner in a fancy restaurant tastes better than the same one from a street vendor, and it’s how a $5 per pill placebo works better than a $0.10 one. Perception is shaped by beliefs to fit with the way one thinks the world works.

To some extent it makes me doubt my own perceptions. How can something so obvious to me not be obvious to someone else?

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Women Who We Want To Be

While I was home for a couple days I ran across my old WWJD dog tags from my fundamentalist youth.

It got me to thinking about the role of heroes in my life.

I certainly don’t imagine any more that I actually have the slightest real idea of what Jesus would really think about what I’m doing with my life. I like the idea that we would get along, but who knows for sure.

The question of what he would do though is still a very important one to me. In my idea of what a person nobler and more loving than myself would do, I sometimes find a course of action that I like better than what I came up with when I was only considering what my normal flawed self would do.

Jesus and Thoreau and Lao Tzu and the Dalai Lama. These are men I think of when pondering my decisions. I realized as I was listing them that the list is bereft of women. As I consider the question, I don’t have any major female thinkers that come to mind.

Ursula LeGuin perhaps, but inferring someone’s positions through science fiction is a tenuous process. I was curious the women other people think of when putting their decisions up to spiritual litmus tests.

Is there some reason women don’t feature more prominently in the course of culture? Is their participation simply downplayed by the patriarchy? Are they actually prevented from contributing? Or is it perhaps a values issue where women have better things to do than sitting around bantering words?

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Awareness — Will I Be Of Help To You In This Retreat?

Back from a relaxing weekend in the mountains, I’m feeling a bit contemplative and thought I’d read the next chapter from DeMello’s Awareness (which I started last week):

Will I Be Of Help To You In This Retreat?

Do you think I am going to help anybody? No! Oh, no, no, no, no, no! Don’t expect me to be of help to anyone. Nor do I expect to damage anyone. If you are damaged, you did it; and if you are helped, you did it. You really did! You think people help you? They don’t. You think people support you? They don’t.

There was a woman in a therapy group I was conducting once. She was a religious sister. She said to me, “I don’t feel supported by my superior.” So I said, “What do you mean by that?” And she said, “Well, my superior, the provincial superior, never shows up at the novitiate where I am in charge, never. She never says a word of appreciation.”

I said to her, “All right, let’s do a little role playing. Pretend I know your provincial superior. In fact, pretend I know exactly what she thinks about you. So I say to you (acting the part of the provincial superior), “You know, Mary, the reason I don’t come to that place you’re in is because it is the one place in the province that is trouble — free — no problems. I know you’re in charge, so all is well.’ How do you feel now?” She said, “I feel great.”

Then I said to her, “All right, would you mind leaving the room for a minute or two. This is part of the exercise.” So she did. While she was away, I said to the others in the therapy group, “I am still the provincial superior, O.K.? Mary out there is the worst novice director I have ever had in the whole history of the province. In fact, the reason I don’t go to the novitiate is because I can’t bear to see what she is up to. It’s simply awful. But if I tell her the truth, it’s only going to make those novices suffer all the more. We are getting somebody to take her place in a year or two; we are training someone. In the meantime I thought I would say those nice things to her to keep her going. What do you think of that?” They answered, “Well, it was really the only thing you could do under the circumstances?

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Talk To The Spidermaker

So, on the subject of creepiness, I awoke this morning to find that during the night I had written on the pad beside my bed:

Go to the Spidermaker if you have any questions.

Not quite sure who the Spidermaker is or exactly the types of questions that he or she might answer given the chance. I’m also not entirely clear on how to contact this entity since my biggest question at this point is, “who the hell is the Spidermaker?”

I suppose a bit of backstory is in order…

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It’s Made Of Racehorses and Diamonds

Well, I got my quote on a sheet of Plexiglass EndLighten. The cheapest is 6mm and it is $445 for a 3,050mm x 2,050mm sheet.

If I somehow had $445 to drop for a sheet, there’s a 20 sheet minimum, so it’s really $8,900 which just isn’t going to happen.

EndLighten is a neat product. It has tiny particles embedded in the surface that don’t block light, but will diffuse light reflecting within the material.

Large multi-touch displays are pretty much all based on pointing a camera at a projection screen and using software to correlate the touches to screen positions. EndLighten lets you do a type of multitouch display called diffused surface illumination.

Sigh, the thing is I am particularly interested in fiduciary markers. My ultimate goal for this is to create something to display at Artomatic next year.

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Where Emotions Live

I’ve got about a dozen pet theories I’m going to work on once I manage to get free of work and school and whatnot to clear my head out and think a bit.

One of them has to do with the pragmatic repercussions of meditation.

We tend to separate out emotion and cognition as separate aspects of consciousness. What if they’re not? When you respond emotionally to something, you feel it. You really feel it as a physical sensation somewhere in your body.

One of the ways that people deal with unacceptable emotional responses is to dampen their awareness of that physical response. Try to remember when you got angry but you thought you shouldn’t. For me, at least, one of the ways I stop is to pull my focus out of the anger I feel in my body and into a calmer place.

The feeling doesn’t always go away though. I’ve certainly had arguments come bubbling back up in my relationships even though it was entirely unreasonable for me to be upset. Meditation is, in no small part, about learning to be present with a feeling but not to act on it. To let things be without choosing to be driven by them.

I can let the experience of my emotions happen because even if I am being angry at a time that I don’t think I ought to be, I don’t have to worry about doing anything that I’ll later regret. If I’m not going to do anything then why not simply let myself respond how I naturally want to respond? If it doesn’t hurt anyone, why not just do what I want?

I was contemplating this as I was reading about the Emotionally Vague experiments. They took a bunch of people and had them draw on a body where they felt various emotions. Then they overlaid them all onto a single image. Can you guess which of these is joy, which is sadness and which is anger?


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