Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Blurring The Lines

When we are young we are handed a coloring book and a box of crayons to amuse us. The hard work’s already been done, all we have to do is stay within the lines. We can choose any crayon we want to use on the picture, but we already know if it’s a pony or a kitten or a flower. We can pretend we’re rebels by coloring the horse purple, but it’s still a horse.

The game doesn’t change as we get older. We are still given parameters and are judged every time we color outside the lines. Not only do we receive negative feedback for crossing the lines, even our thoughts are expected to stay within accepted parameters. And if we practice drawing within the lines long enough, we forget to question the shapes we are presented and for the most part don’t pay much attention to the lines at all. We accept them as we accept a law of nature such as gravity.

An outline is not a natural phenomenon but a human construct. People draw lines on a map in order to define nations, but it is never as neat as that. Different people draw the map in different ways, depending on which country they identify with. Germans did not see the same Germany those in Poland did, Serbia did not see the same Bosnia Herzegovina that the Austrian Empire did. Both cases of seeing too clearly the lines they wished to see resulted in world wars and tens of millions dead.

Reality has no clear lines. Only the human mind can come up with such a concept. Reality is much more fluid than a human mind can comprehend, especially a human mind clouded by fear and hope and greed and insecurity and whatever other emotions that disrupt the calmness required to see things as they are.

Small minds like lines because they make a complicated world simple. Greedy and selfish people like lines because it separates what is theirs from what belongs to others. The thing is, the greedy and selfish people will always be moving the line outwards so that there is more for them and less for us, because that is what greed and selfishness does. The greedy and the selfish and the small-minded are unable to comprehend concepts like “we” and “us”, “share” and “co-exist”. They need to draw lines in order to feel secure and in control.

The imagined paradise of the line drawers is not a world where all share and work together but one where individuals working against each other magically create a magical capitalist wonderland, where each one’s selfishness serves to make an ideal world. At least that’s the vision they sell. Personally, I don’t think they spend their time imagining an ideal world at all, at least not for society as a whole.

They cannot help but divide. They feel compelled to build walls: around their homes, around their neighborhoods, around their nations. They need always to protect what is theirs and in the process destroy all that is ours. “Our” is too big a concept for them, does not fit neatly within the lines they have drawn.

Divisions exist between each and every one of us. So too does commonality. Our current perception of reality is one that breaks us all down into separate entities with separate interests. Which we are. But we are also part of something larger, with shared interests. Indeed, life is ultimately meaningless if we cannot find something larger to be a part of.

Lines/walls/barriers divide us, artificially so. The line that divides liberals from conservatives is an artificial distinction because there are so many agreements between individuals on both sides. Not everyone on one side agrees 100% or even 50% with those they are lumped together with, and the line that is drawn does not even include issues on which most of us agree, such as not wanting to die in a nuclear holocaust. The only useful reason then for these lines to be drawn at all is so that those in power can divide us in order to rule us.

Those who see lines wish to make them obvious to others. Those who wish to rule us always see an “other” on which to place the blame. We cannot accept the notion that we are all to blame, and consequently that we all can find solutions. Oh, no, that is not how they see things. They need an enemy. They need terrorist Muslims and Russian bots and job-stealing Mexicans. They need not only foreign enemies but domestic ones as well, Dumbocrats, Deplorables, Libtards, and especially Nazis. Because everybody on the other side of the line is a Nazi nowadays.

Lines are illusions created by minds afraid of complexity, afraid of external threats, afraid of just about everything. Lines become limiters, become boundaries, become borders and walls and fences and barriers. They become prison walls that shut us off from the outside until the world we inhabit becomes our own private bunker where we are safe from the outside world even as we become dead to it.

In such a mindset we can no longer perceive the undeniable fact that we are connected to the world in ways far beyond understanding. Much of the way we interact with the outside world and with our fellow humans is done sub-consciously, not unlike how lower levels of animals are capable of working together for the good of all without a brain sophisticated enough to be aware of it.

The human mind gives us a tremendous advantage over other species, but we tend to overrate its ability to envision the big picture. The intellect is useful but it is not infallible. Logic is a wonderful thing, but can only work within our limited data set, and the data set humans have compiled is quite small compared to the universe. The intellect is a wonderful tool, but so too is humility. In fact, we need to make sure the two are balanced within us. Too much belief in our intellect and we become arrogant and destructive. Too much humility and we start accepting what the arrogant and destructive tell us.

If we make a conscious decision not to see the lines, or rather, not allow them to direct our vision and determine our reality, we open ourselves up to truly miraculous things. If we refuse to see the distinction between “them” and “us”, we come face to face with the concept of an interconnectedness between not only all human beings but all life itself. Dropping the pretext of borders and differentiators, we have nothing standing between ourselves and the vast universe, and we are left open to the realization that all life is interwoven and identical in its urge to grow and reach out. It is truly overwhelming and I understand the fear of stepping outside the lines. But once one does, the foolishness and emptiness of the alternate view becomes apparent. We will still feel the pull of the things we leave behind, will still have sentimental attachments to old ways in the same manner a child is reluctant to put aside his nook or special blankie, but it is a necessary step in achieving a new level of maturity.

Imagine an entire planet of “us”. If you think it is a powerful thing to belong to “An Army Of One”, of belonging to a immensely large and powerful group that is capable of protecting you from a powerful and frightening enemy, imagine being part of a far larger group of people with no corresponding “other” to oppose you. You are part of such a large army, you just have to dedicate yourself to it in order to help make it a reality. This army, having no external foes to fight, will work side by side with you in making the world we all share a better place to inhabit. This army is dedicated to helping the fallen, since they don’t have to worry about taking enemy fire. Like the armies every nation now have, they will require a certain amount of selflessness. But unlike the armies of today, they will not demand that we abandon free will: we will be active agents in shaping the future. It is an army that is in the service of life, not death. It is an army without borders, walls, or lines of any kind. We all belong to it whether we know it or not, and our mission is not to destroy but to build. Go ahead, dare to take a peak over the lines you have drawn that have separated you from the outside world. I promise you it won’t be as scary as you have imagined.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Media's War On Spirituality

Spirituality is either the result of having a comfortable enough place to reflect upon the meaning and purpose of human existence, or else it is the result of such suffering that one has no choice but to retreat inward in search of ways to cope. The most spiritual among us are those who embrace both ends of the spectrum, those who forsake physical comforts in order to have the time to focus on the meaning that can be found in simplicity. I refer to the religious, who can be found in any primitive society, from Buddhists to Taoists, to Christians, Muslims and Jews. And I refer to primitive societies because I wonder if it is even possible to retreat from the modern society that now exists.

Economically, we should have arrived at a point where we are all comfortable enough to afford the time and space necessary to reflect upon spiritual matters, but the economic engine that was so good at creating convenience and answers to physical want also demands of us our undivided attention. A capitalist economy soon realized it needed to become a consumer society in order to further itself, so that wealth creation went from beyond the merely physical to the psychological. In order to maintain a system that can give happiness on merely a physical level, they needed to eradicate from people’s consciousness any thoughts of achieving happiness through non-economic means.

When people are neither actively purchasing or consuming or else creating goods or services for others, they must either be lulled into a stupor or else be driven to distraction by emotional provocation. They must be given constant distractions so that their thoughts never stray to the spiritual perspective, which revolts in the face of such mindless creation and consumption. To distract from the spiritual, they must never let minds stay too long on a single subject. A mind left alone too long might start out on a path of self-directed thoughts. Interrupt it every few minutes or even seconds, and the mind is forced to respond to outside stimuli and forget whatever internal ideas that might be bubbling beneath the surface. Scatter the pieces of the puzzle at regular intervals, and the puzzle solver will never be able to put them together to form a coherent image.

Thus we have commercials on television to take us from those very rare instances when a compelling argument or narrative is taking place. And what was once an every fifteen minute or so break has become more frequent. Live shows, that once had a single camera resting upon a scene for moments at a time as it played out, have been replaced by the hyper-editing introduced to us on MTV in the 80’s.

News channels not only give us one story, they give us many concurrently. They have the narrative spoken by the host, but they also have a running stream of information below it. Add to that the constantly shifting graphics all about and the mind is always in motion, never permitted to orient itself.

This is not a stylistic choice, not some mere fad that has come and will then move to some other style. The immense amounts of information that is thrown at you on CNN and elsewhere is not an attempt to keep you as informed as possible in a hectic and changing world, it is a way to insure your mind is always kept busy, because a busy mind is always concerned with the surface noise, and is never able to plunge the depths of issues. The media has created a kinetic Potemkin village, one of pure flash and no substance. It is not merely useless, it is distracting. No useful knowledge can be gained from such a system of information dispersal. It does not permit you to connect with your rational nor spiritual aspects, it merely demands you absorb. It does not give, it demands obeisance.

It—the media—is not there to inform you. It is not there to help you become a more active member of a democratic society. It is there to keep your emotions heightened so your intellect is never in the driver’s seat. It is there to prime you for the people who make the commercials and pay the bills. It is there to wear down your defenses. And since it is so all-encompassing, it inevitably will. When it does not leave you feeling stupid it will leave you feeling helpless. And for those most in its control, you will be left feeling intelligent and powerful while having a grasp neither on truth nor on the reins of power.

But as powerful and omnipresent as the media is, it needs your help. It requires you to betray your most basic values in order for it to be effective. If you stay true to the values your parents and your teachers and your religious institutions have sought to instill in you, the media cannot control you. It may dress itself up as your mother, but it will never tell you to share with others. It may say it speaks for Christ, but it will never tell you to cast your bread upon the waters. It may quote from revered historical figures, but it will do so only in order to corrupt the spirit of what they have said. Peace and love are perhaps the most revered words echoed by family and church, but they will never be spoken in the media, because peace and love don’t help sell automobiles. The degree to which you do not hear the Sermon On The Mount Spoken on your television is the degree to which the media is working against your best interests and the interests of all humanity.

What can you do to escape from the insidious influence of the media? Find a source untainted by it. Pick up an old book, watch an old (black and white) movie. Step outside your era because it is only in this way you can step outside of the cultural milieu created by a media that has become both incredibly concentrated and far-reaching. If you must consume current media, then listen to genuinely independent news, art, and music. Get outside and in touch with the physical world around you, with whatever nature is left to you. Dig in the garden, walk in the woods, listen to the birds. Rebuild the connections that were all your forefathers ever knew so that you have a frame of reference built on something of substance.

It is time to step away from the television and get out in the streets. It is time to stop listening to the lies and start speaking the truth. Because here is the idea most feared by a mechanized and monetized media, the secret it seeks above all else to keep from you: that you are in control not only of your own life but are part of a society that can direct the future for itself, without the need for them. We as rational and caring human beings can construct a world where lying and coercion will be unnecessary, where force will be seen as a tool of the unjust. Because in order to build a functional society, you don’t need to be controlled, you need to be liberated.