Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ideas and Antibodies

Think back, if you will, to when we salamandered forth out of the primordial soup to become underfootlings of T-Rex, and the Mastodons. By the time we left the jungles and knuckled out onto the great plains, we had become quite the organism.

Our physical characteristics were adapting ever so gradually to the routine of our existence. Our cellular makeup was like a laboratory of invention, finding solutions for the dangers that faced us. Along the way, advanced life had developed ocular facilities, and the phenomenon of vision, as a invaluably efficient and secure way of navigating our environment. Then maybe we began growing eye lids, and lashes to protect that sense. Down the road, fingernails to protect the phalanges, the thumb as an adaptation... We were solving problems related to mortality. All evolution is a means of preserving or extending life expectancy. It is something innate in our very cellular composition. Even the most microscopic bodily functions are concerned with self-preservation. White blood cells and antibodies are the solution to infection or viruses. Foreign bacteria are recognized and preemptively annihilated by antibodies matched to the task. like little soldiers at war with invading forces.
As these highly complex organisms, the human species established itself as top predator on Earth. We overcame our environment. Our "inferior" ancestors continued the species by seeking shelter from the elements, from the dangers of large predators, etc. A subsequent generation was able to conceive of, and build shelters. Yet another utilized this ability to construct habitats convenient to food sources, to water, away from the hunting grounds of other predators. We moved from the jungles to the plains, where we developed the science of cultivation, and the art of the hunt. The development of tools and weapons ensuring more safety, more respite from harsh conditions. We were outsmarting the seasons and the saber-tooths. Language was accelerating at an exponential rate: from "want (food, fire, sex, etc)" we moved onto and the ability to start a political system. Tribes became communities with a hierarchy of intellect, instead of physical ability. The evolution of language was as much a survival mechanism as the immune system. Language was a tool which took these separate beings, the members of a population, and reconnected them as if they were fungus with a common root system, or fish or fowl that move in schools and flocks, like frogs or fireflies that keep in touch with grunts and winks. Territorial pissings being the passive aggressive communication of loners, like wolves, and the nattering and cooing language of lovebirds being the other extreme... Language was all around us. We needed to evolve beyond.

I think the first words were onomatopoeia. But it is quite likely that the first word was actually "ouch".
It was probably first uttered accidentally right after some other accident, and it just fit. From there it must have progressed something like 'it' 'that' 'eat' 'this' 'sex' 'hush' 'sleep' 'me' 'you'... 'kill' 'take' 'RUN!' 'rock' 'trap' 'dog' 'poo-poo' 'beetle' 'bee' 'fungus' 'swine' 'tasty' 'mine' 'lawsuit' 'boat' 'hell' 'boss'....

Before you know it, we have a massive exchange of ideas, and a mass of bodies in some level of synchronicity, like stem cells coordinating the construction of a baby's nose in the womb, or army ants digging to china. It was the ability to share ideas, and to expound upon experience which allowed us to become the advanced beings that we like to think we are today.

But at the same time, these ideas have become routines. We have mindsets, we have schools of thought, we have laws and statutes, and faux pas, and taboos. We went from everything being relevant, to the idea that some things are best left unsaid. Trends became societies, opinions became cultures, and cultures began censoring opinions. Now we have organized religions that are as much in opposition toward their neighboring religions as hutus and tootsies waiting for an excuse to hack each other apart as if they were simply a physical manifestation of the concepts and ideas they represent. Not to mention the cold war, and countless other open displays of distrust and disdain.

And then there are your crazy, misanthropist types.  .... ahem.

What is interesting to me, is how words and ideas seem to have taken on the exact same characteristics of  blood. When an idea that is foreign is expressed, it is shot down with words. As if it were poison, and we have the antidote. Our mindsets have become the new realm of defense mechanisms. As we mature, we grow "thick skin", so that we aren't as emotionally vulnerable to the harsh capabilities of words. But  ideas can creep into our minds, just like viruses into the bloodstream. And so we have developed vocabularies of words that are meant to attack those ideas before they reach the heart, the brain, the soul. We are immune to outside ideas.

How many cavemen do you think were killed over disagreements? I imagine the knee-jerk answer is "a lot", because the idea is that they were barbaric, simple and immature. But when you think about it, probably a lot more human beings have been killed in the past couple generations over disagreements than may have even existed in our concept of what "caveman" constitutes. How did we become so closed minded? Monkeys killing monkeys over territory, resources, etc. I guess I can accept. But have we devolved to the point that we kill each other over ideas? Are we "forward thinkers" if we refuse to think about the ideas of others? Have we got all the answers? are new ideas, or ideas which modern society has branded as archaic, or barbaric or unrefined so VERY threatening that we have to shoot them down on an individual basis? Are we becoming a species of "backward thinkers?"

I do my fair share of shooting down ideas, and yes, I'm going to try to justify myself.

I feel that I do it in the name of forward—or at least "free"—thinking. I feel like as a human race we are so incredibly separated from that cooperative, biological sensitivity that language was developed to facilitate, that if we continue as we are, we will bring about our own self-destruction. Why is there such poison spread throughout the whole of human existence? marriages are torn apart by lack of communication. Countries are divided. Living human beings, and their bodies, are obliterated because of differences of opinion, or religion, or skin color, or social class. can we not transcend these things by simply opening our minds? To agree to give each other not only the benefit of the doubt, but the space and freedom to express their ideas, and themselves, without judgement.

We can do it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Evolution of Small Thinking (pt.2)

Part 2 of 2 (see 'Righteous Indignation Disorder' for pt.1)

I am as guilty as the next person of this thinking error called righteous indignation. In all fairness, it is probably as absurd for me to claim that the thinking error may be attributed to religion, as it is preposterous for religion to lay claim to the concept of morality. But I can only speak from my own experience, and I do feel that from an early age, I was taught to exercise closed-mindedness in the form of righteous indignation. Every time I encountered smokers, drinkers, immodesty, democrats, gays, seventh day adventists, etc. I experienced varying degrees of righteous indignation.

Perhaps it is fair to assert that it was pertaining to religious matters that I first observed the behavior and grew to emulate it. But I believe the system of society which has become increasingly "Us vs. Them" in attitude is due to self-justified thinking patterns that date back to the caveman days. We exist in a society rife with thinking errors, like Fundamental Attribution Error (which plays a considerable role in Righteous Indignation), which are rooted in cognitive processes, or categorization models, such as Set/Fuzzy Set Theory, which is a system of categorization of objects or concepts, or of tendencies toward certain categories (like gradations of "fuzzy"ness); or Correspondent Inference Theory, which is concerned with assessing personalities based on desirable, or undesirable behaviors.

Social psychology is born of the very basic, instinctual, thought process which is concerned with simply observing the world in which we find ourselves one way or another: Biopsychology. From here we derive our core conscious, or our ability to observe the world, and with the aid of cognitive devices such as categorization (safe vs dangerous, etc.), we grow to operate in ways that would seem to prolong our existence, instinctively avoiding danger, and seeking out security.

From the instant we are born, we are obsessed with obtaining and maintaining security. From the sensory overloaded new-born who grapples for the soothing characteristics of a mother, and latches onto her with instinctive, precious little 'iron' fists, to the soldier who fights in the name of freedom, and through a certain set of cognitive habits, is capable killing without apprehension. Atrocities against humanity are exacted by his strategic and methodical hand. In his iron grip are the weapons which slaughter man, woman— new mother, and precious child. In the name of Security.

After social tendencies, such as cooperation or camaraderie, establish infrastructure of relative physical security from the elements security is found in forming social structures—the idea of enforced morality. Our instinctive ideas of safety and danger carry over into the abstract. After we have come to a social understanding that 'every (cave)man for himself' is not ideal, we form communities.

No longer do we assess our surroundings simply on the basis of inherent preferability (shelter, food, warmth, etc) or undesirability (hunger, hostility, etc.) but on the understanding that we, as well as those around us, have the cognitive potential to choose whether we will be agreeable or dangerous. And from here, we begin enforcing rules which would affect behavior in the direction of safety. No killing, no stealing, work to contribute, share, etc.

But inevitably, our social bonds, and our shared values, will introduce new dangers. We crate such strong bonds that we actually segregate the human/caveman community into different tribes, based on different preferences, different rules.

Security and self-preservation playing the role they do on our behaviors, we feel either threatened by, or superior to, outsiders--even other cavemen. Inter-social behavior becomes a double standard: 'don't kill' becomes 'don't kill unless it is for the safety, or good of your tribe/family, country, etc.', 'don't steal' becomes 'if you must, steal from outsiders'.

It's not long before cavemen have conceived of all the principles and double standards that comprise modern society. Not much has changed since the dinosaurs died. We no longer fear the saber toothed tiger, but we do fear for the preservation of our traditions. We have espoused certain philosophies, beliefs, thinking patterns, etc. which preserve these traditions. And we are too proud to acknowledge that we maintain only partial truths. In fact, to even suggest that we are self-deceiving creatures, or to question the existence of the traditional God, is enough to incite righteous indignation. Perhaps it is that we are seeking to maintain a traditional belief in God, or an absolute truth that blinds us to our arrogance, ignorance and indignation.

Indignation itself is the prime response which maintains the closed loop thinking that tradition, and dogma, are rooted in. It is the biggest small-thinking habit that ensures a continuation in a cycle of small thinking.

Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome!

Righteous Indignation Disorder

Part 1 of 2

I grew up with an anecdotal story about a sinless man, who acted out in physical aggression toward some group of individuals who had incited his wrath by offending God.

As the story goes, these men were violating the sanctity of a holy place by peddling on the steps thereof. And, as the story goes, they were assaulted for this offense— their tables and wares upturned and hewn out behind them.

The alleged "moral" of the story, is that if God has spoken his will, and it is violated, then the enforcer of his will shall not be accountable for his aggressive pursuit of said offenders, or for the exacting of Godly justice upon them by physical violence. Because, as the story goes, the sinless, perfect man remained sinless. This concept is called "righteous indignation".

As an 8- or 9-year-old, I thought 'okay, so God wouldn't judge me as long as I was driven to anger on His behalf... Probably I will never find myself faced with such a situation, so I needn't worry. A better rule of thumb is to never be violent or aggressive.'

The idea behind the resolution to not act out in violence or aggression, is that if I ever did find myself in a situation where clearly God was offended by the actions of someone around me, I would surely know it. I would then make a knowledge-based choice to abandon my non-violent demeanor in the name of God. But otherwise, to act out in anger or indignation and assume that I was justified could prove to be a pitfall, and perhaps my anger would not be sinless in the eyes of God. Surely, righteous anger is a different emotion than plain ol', run-of-the-mill anger; play it safe until all doubt is gone.

Until recently, I had not realized what I had really taken to heart from that story. As an adult I have rarely reacted physically to offense. But, I realized, I HAVE reacted with righteous indignation.

Righteous, or justified indignation is more common than I had ever thought possible, because I was identifying the physical manifestation of this indignant behavior as the defining characteristic. When, in reality, it is the mindset that matters; It's the thought that counts.

I thought of all the times my anger was kindled at the actions or words of others, not because of some personal offense, but offense on the behalf of my God. Perhaps it is considered a God-like attribute to be repulsed by sin, or the appearance of evil. After all, God cannot look upon sin with the slightest bit of tolerance. As his righteous followers, why should we?

We do not look on 'sin' with the slightest bit of tolerance. Not at our "best". We might be tolerant of the sinner, knowing we all fall on occasion, but the sin we cannot abide. When evil men conspire to oppose the will of God, the righteous are obligated to act so as to prevent the spread of their influence, or the establishment of their amorality.

We as Christians have an obligation to oppose laws and practices which are contrary to the will of God. If we don't, the sin will be upon our own heads.
Is there any question of what we are to do when the God-Defined sanctity of marriage is being debated, or put to a vote?

What I am interested in is not the behavior of people who seek to act and live according to the will of God. I am more interested in the thoughts that lead to, and justify, those behaviors.

I believe that the core beliefs espoused by Christians shape their thoughts, which in turn dictate their actions and behavior. And I believe the core belief upon which these thoughts operate, is that of righteous anger, or indignation. It never even manifests in physical aggression, it is strictly a function of thought: the recognition of sin; the righteous indignation; the contemplation of recourse for the offense. After this thought process, we are able to overcome the behavior of the sinner in a (seemingly) non-violent manner. We head to the voting booth, to let our voices be heard, and overcome the offense toward God through the power of democracy; we destroy the offensive music, or pornographic material, or base literature; we take the opportunity to preach the truth, or fellowship would-be followers or participants in this offense toward God.

In short, righteous indignation is the thinking error which turns affinity to certain beliefs or values into intolerance of all ideas and behaviors which oppose it. The conclusion which is indignation is arrived at by the presumption of a moral absolute, and assumption of willful disregard for said set of moral or divine laws, and/or malicious intent toward that divine being or his followers.

In short, I (quite hypocritically) declare that to be possessed of righteous indignation is to be caught in circular thinking, and flawed logic. Or, in other words, to be closed-minded. To be possessed of a superiority complex, and perhaps even to be brainwashed.

I am righteously indignant against organized religion. It offends my God, which is logic. I am well practiced at jumping into a slough of thinking errors and unfair categorization of the religiously inclined. Perhaps I am more inclined to indignation as a result of having espoused religious beliefs for so long. Perhaps feeling that I discovered truth in spite of religion makes for a super-superiority complex in regard to those who still espouse and protect such beliefs.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Moments of Zen. Cycles of Entropy.

I have been meditating a lot in the past couple of weeks, seeking to find what makes me tick, what infinitely inspires me, so that I can focus on it, and let the rest go. What have been unable to do is reconcile my idealism with reality.

I don't think this makes me special, but perhaps my obsession with it does. My indefatigable quest for personal peace is thwarted by my own pervasive preoccupation with the destructive tendencies of humanity.

How can we live this way? So much intelligence used for ill. So much of society has become a cancer upon our humanity. Why are we STILL violent? As if physical domination will ever resolve discord— 'I don't like what you believe, so I am going to kill you'— it's like we are the product of a dispute between cavemen. That dispute has evolved into a feud between tribes, between nations, and between individuals who have never learned to live and let live. 150,000 years later, we have traded up our arsenal from sticks and stones (as we never did put much stock in words, which "never hurt") to nuclear arms.

We as Americans are aghast at the idea of someone strapping dynamite to their chest and blowing up a crowded street corner. Why have we not looked at our nation in macro- scale? With the introduction of nuclear arsenal, and the subsequent arms race across the globe, have we not established ourselves as the ultimate would-be suicide bomber? We have essentially strapped ourselves to the bomb, entered the conference of international relations and made the passive statement that if things don't go our way, we'll take everyone out including ourselves. And we somehow expect to have any sort of quality to our discussions? With the threat of imminent annihilation if anyone makes any sudden moves, we profess to be interested in cooperation and trust? I guess I am just completely ashamed of human traditions established in that first caveman argument. The one where they couldn't use their words, and each chose to bludgeon the other instead. Sticks and stones over words and patience.

Now we live in our 'Us vs. Them' societies, and we have only improved our language in regard to making threats. Even poets are preoccupied with self interest. Seeking to be understood, refusing to understand. Strong arming our way to our objectives with a vocabulary of ultimatums and promises of mutual self-harm. At best, we hope to form suicide pacts with other nations, because we cannot hope to survive the eventuality of our behaviors.

Welcome to my dystopia. Where we as citizens concern ourselves on a national scale with the private behaviors of the individual. Whether it be denying them equal rights, based on sexual orientation, making judgement calls on what the individual is allowed to do with their own body based on skewed-yet-absolutist ideas of morality. Government control of human appetites. Seeking to homogenize the human population.

Agonizing over the idea that your culture is not universal (as if this somehow inhibits you); perhaps you would be more well-travelled if you didn't have to worry about cultural diversity? Our over-sized brains operate in categories of 'We' and 'They', as if our person is in constant threat of being attacked by a tribe of cannibal cavemen. We draw correlations and conclusions about other cultures as being bizarre and threatening, and never acknowledge that our own behavior is quite likely despicable even by our standards.

We are destructive. Whether it be destroying the hopes and dreams of equality for minorities, the economic climate, the livelihood of the un-incorporated, the lives of innocent civilians in 3rd world countries in a quest for vengeance and/or power/oil, entire cities of human beings as we did with Hiroshima and Nagasaki... We thrive on entropy. Hence my misanthropy.

On the other side of the coin, I have such hope. And it is inspired by the immense potential I see in humanity. The untapped capacity for love and compassion, learning, acceptance, collaboration and r/evolution of ideas, sheer man-power as a resource for reshaping the planet in literal and relevant ways, selflessness, support and compromise, the ingenuity to realize dreams, philosophical planes that transcend the idea of being "just human".

We are ALL just humans, being.
Can we all start living up to our own standards, and stop holding others to them? Is that an ironic question?

My goals for myself are to come to terms with the state of humanity, and attain peace in that way. To stop blaming my situation on others, to celebrate the existence that I have on a moment-by-moment basis. I have spent so much time wishing I had a different existence, and I have taken this one for granted. When I think of overcoming my views as a misanthrope, my behaviors as an angry iconoclast... I wonder if it is not just a matter of mind over matter. I get lost in that spiral. When I start nourishing good will, I become keen to all the ill-will surrounding me. And I get overwhelmed, and resentful. Before I know it, I am harboring and spreading ill-will in the name of love. In my duality, I am no better than the fundamentalist Christians who feel compelled to save homosexuals from themselves through legislation. No better than the Islamic extremist who resents the abuse of power against humanity by America, yet in the name of ending it, they commit atrocious acts against humanity in an 'Us' vs. 'Them' mentality.
I find myself experiencing the same sense of vengeance that the U.S. felt at being attacked on our own soil, and subsequently brought the attack upon others on their own soil who had nothing to do with the event.

And so, I continue to try to reconcile my philosophies of how we should treat each other, with how I treat others. Can I accept entropy as reality? Can I then transcend the numbness of that realization to find my zen? My meditations have become centered on the duality of a state of Zentropy.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Irrational Love

Think of Irrational Love as the antithesis of an Irrational Fear. Some might say that the true antithesis of irrational fear would be rational love. But I am not convinced of that.
I think, perhaps a better way of defining irrational love would be to identify what sets irrational love apart from concepts like rational fear, irrational fear and rational love.
I think I'll start with rational love. Rational love incorporates a though process; the rationale part. The conclusion reached by this process defines the degree of love based on logic. logic, or rationality, necessarily corrupts pure emotion in this way.
Not to say that this makes it a bad thing. Rationality is the very balance to emotion, and each are an intrinsic human attribute. Rationale is the process of evaluating the risks of loving. It is what leads us away from abusive relationships. As much as we may love someone, we draw a line—a rational line— to protect our selves from that love. Whether it be physically, psychologically, or emotionally. I keep thinking of Vincent Vega to Jules in Pulp Fiction, when he says "I have a threshold, Jules, there is a threshold to the abuse that I will take..." Though perhaps Vincent isn't always the best example of rational thinking ;-)
Rationale is a good thing. In fact, I believe that the most part of the world believes in rational love as being an attribute of omniscient deity.
If you are inclined to belief in a God, and you attribute divinity with pure concepts, you might argue that unconditional love comes from a 'Just God', an omniscient God.  But if He knows everything, He cannot help but love logically. He must conclude that, despite knowledge of all existence— past, present and future, He loves. He knows that we are 'sinners', that we will forget Him, that we will attempt to dethrone Him, to spite Him, to escape Him. Despite knowing all of these conditions, He loves us. Is it erroneous to conclude that this is Rational Love? If He is predisposed to love us, because we are somehow (metaphysically, materially, conceptually, etc.) a part of Him, then that is His reason, but it is, nonetheless, reason.
So why do I believe that Unconditional Love is the penultimate form, below Irrational Love? Is it because I somehow reject healthy boundaries, and the God-like transcendence of those boundaries? Yes, and no.
A core concept in Zen Buddhism, is that of enlightenment: It tells us that, in any given instant, we may find clarity. When we do this, the universe will speak to us, and we may understand it completely. The universe is constantly speaking to us, but we don't hear it because of our own thoughts. We hear what we want to hear. This is true of our relationships with others, and it is true of our relationship with the cosmos. We are so convinced that we are perceiving reality, that we are distracted BY our perceptions FROM the reality that surrounds us.
Can enlightenment be consciously sought? Yes. But it can also come upon us in an instant. I personally feel that the only way this can happen, is if we are not already too tied to our ideas of what the universe will say. Stating that may very well make me a hypocrite, but such is the plight of the unenlightened. I am working through my delusions, and I cannot fairly claim to be further along than anyone else (I don't think of it as a linear process, but perhaps that is a topic for another time).
What does it have to do with rationale? I think we can agree that rational fear is a logically-justified compulsion, and not much more needs to be said about it.
So what does this have to do with love?

I think I have encountered irrational love. And it is a beautiful thing. Have you ever seen someone with an irrational fear when they encounter the object of their fear? Perhaps you have one yourself. Irrational fears are not any normal fear, they are most often hilarious to everyone but the one experiencing the fear. Peanut butter? Canaries? Pickles? These are some of the things that send people screaming and flailing, and most would agree that it is either silly or sad, but at any rate, irrational. It is not a beautiful thing— definitely not to the one with fear.
Irrational love, however, is contagious. Fear is contagious to some extent, but Love is consuming.
I hope everyone has the chance to feel complete and utter love that they do not need to understand in order to know. Rational love would be something that can be identified for its qualities, but irrational love can only be felt.
I have purposely avoided mentioning the nature of this love, because I think most who read this will do so with a preconceived notion of what love means. You know, "Love is what a mother feels for her child, or what a maiden feels for her knight, or what God feels for mankind." sure, but these are examples of rational love. I know you already have, but think about it ;-)
Irrational love possesses your soul for no reason at all. Again, I'm not talking about 65-year marriages, or self-sacrificing Gods. These are rationally justified. Irrational love consumes you, and needs no explanation.
Should I just give you an example?
watch this little segment from an Ellen Degeneres episode.
I hope you aren't too self-conscious to allow the contagiousness run its course, through your whole Being.
Written and posted from my Android phone. Thanks for reading!