Normality and Expansion

Maya - illusionWhen one looks at something – an object, an idea, a shared concept, or perhaps a Truth – so much of ourselves comes along with it.

When one looks at another person, listening to them speak or watching their motions – sensing their feelings and intentions – so much of ourselves comes along with it.

It is so easy to generalize in the interest of expediency or the self-preservation of what we hold true. It is so simple to laugh about or dismiss something that challenges something within ourselves, something that we claim as a Given – a prima facie definition that lends us comfort or security.

Yet we all experience those unsettling periods – sometimes lasting only moments – sometimes for hours or days – where all the world around us shifts into the Unreal, leaving us exposed to the terrifying vastness of all possibilities that exist beyond the small little shells we have constructed to contain ourselves within.

In our days of perfect order, where the mechanical certainty of well-ordered events and schedules are disrupted only to small degrees, we take comfort in the mundane. We improve ourselves, or gather more for ourselves by means of the tools and processes given us by the histories of our progenitors. Our long history of agreements, or rather, prevailing doctrines, guide us and help insure our prosperity by the adoption of normalized behaviour, and even moreso, by the adoption of normalized attitudes.

Religious people throughout history, bound together by common beliefs, have established institutions, both great and small, that revolve around canonical self-reference, if not, canonical solipsism. Depending upon how powerful any group was, the people not within that group must either fear or desmonstrate a “healthy respect”.

More recently, as priests are replaced with professors, a new canon has emerged. This canon, though in most ways a marvelous, powerful, and potent force toward the benefit of all, easily becomes twisted and exploited by those coming in contact with it just long enough to extract what information and resources they require to achieve their hedonistic objectives, and to promote doing the same to others in justification of their exploitations.

It’s an odd thing, this “modern” cannon – rife in detailed empiricism, rich in the artistic accomplisments of the spirit, seething in the techniques of human control – both individually and collectively, deluged with both contradiction and resonance, and framed immaculately in hope and despair – desire and self-sacrifice.

In such a glorious place, how do we so rigidly cling to the illusory safety of what we feel we want or need – when what we want or need changes, as quickly as a commercial? How is the ideal we maintain for ourselves, which most people cannot even fully grasp, yet knows, limits them to a role of unfulfilling minor achievements while, with certainty, so much more could be achieved.

From where does this fear originate – this self-doubt?

We tell ourselves that as we grow older, certain realities become apparent. We tell ourselves that we must make compromises – and begin making them – then the best of us wonder when we should stop compromising – but the majority never do.

Some rebel after hitting a breaking point, and nearly anything involving others becomes a compromise of themselves – regardless of whether that other is beneficial or detrimental. They will dominate, or perish.

Some learn that compromising is no big deal at all – it leaves them with what they really want, and they never have to put themselves on the line. They become the fertile ground for the powerful to root themselves within.

Some never compromise – not out of anger or rebellion – but because they know what is important. And these people move Outside, often in obscurity, simultaneously admired and disliked by others.

Considering the great mechanics of our many interconnected systems – the great collaboration of agreement, bound together by greed, that keeps our very lives functioning – the notion of Compromise is a key issue, as long as our souls survive.

Shiva - the danceAt universities, Philosophy departments dwindle, often relegated to the smallest corners and basements. Literature and arts, studied by only by the lazy and freaky people, is held in disdain by the majority – a simple requirement they must fulfill. The jocks, swarming to the schools of business and commerce to achieve the greatness they never could within their sport. And finally, the monsterous quantities of money flowing into the technical sciences where the lure of financial stability and the hypnosis of many little things can occupy most of our greatest minds.

And then the greater hordes that never even enter a univerisity — utterly untouched by the higher forces, who will work in regularity toward whatever ends are provided to them — live out their days in whatever entertainment or momentary undertaking catches their fancy. Ironically, these people often become the most judgemental and self-righteous of all, finding pureness and absolution in their simple choices just made to survive.

While each, no matter where, as they wake in the morning, can feel the humanity within their hearts – have felt the same pains and longings, to varying degrees, and have known great lonliness.

And so I look at this person I see in front of me, knowing so much about them, and so very little. All of us, just standing, or sitting, or laying, or fucking, or staring off into some place that is just our very own, where nobody else can go – all of us, just right here.

And I remember a commercial I saw a few nights ago, asking if I had ever felt detached, anxious or uneasy around others – if I found it difficult to focus on the tasks I needed to complete. If I felt tired, or withdrawn. And they offered me a pill.

Kali - death and awakeningThe cannons of Science, Psychology and Sociology, intermingling in this tiny capsule. Strange how they all grew out of Philosophy – and how Philosophy is dwindling. Perhaps this is the result of the marketplace – the Laws of supply and demand. Perhaps the canon of Philosophy has swallowed wholly its own tail.

I imagine a feeling – and confusion – of knowing something, and being uncertain in that knowledge. I see my friends and family, and I speak with strangers. I notice the common threads. I watch explore the strenghts and weaknesses, the certainties and the doubts.

A Philosopher visits a Psychologist, in weakness and despair, knowing full well the foundations of their disciplines, and asks a question – what is wrong with me? The psychologist answers with a question – forcing the philosopher to examine himself. Then the philosopher looks outside, back to the psychologist, asking if the answer is within him. The psychologist answers with a question, leading the philosopher back within. The philosopher grows angry, saying, is this all you have learned from us? This circular solipsism? Why should I not just see an Psychiatrist and get a pill? The psychologist says, this anger is good – now carry on.

In the functional sterility of interactions, no true risk is assumed. The egoism of knowing that you do not know, and the paralysis of fearing that you do not. And worst of all, the foolishness of believing that you do, or that it does not matter.

So I imagine Normality and Expansion – a pill and a sacrifice – a death and a rebirth. And I imagine a poem – a combination of words – words that each of us knows, words brought together and arranged in a way that we cannot understand — yet, somehow, we know and feel to be true.

Then I look at this person here, once again, seeing so many things. And he is looking at me, with all his histories, decisions, accomplishments and disappointments – all the joys he has discovered, all the fears – and all the tendernesses and strengths – his loyalties, and his betrayals. And then I compromise: I do not hug him, and cry – I smile, and shake his hand.

Krisha - wisdom, joy and love

Virtually Being Yourself

For those of us with imaginations that become easily immersed in works of fiction, the notion of role playing games fits like a warm blanket. Whereas reading a long story, or even a long series of books, where the story lines follow the many developments of characters, their acquaintances, and their various adventures, can be a highly enjoyable way to “vacation” without actually physically travelling, role playing games can be a way to directly participate in the unfolding tales and adventures that you are not just living within, but creating as you go – through all your interactions with other characters, places, allies and enemies.

There are so many different types of role playing games online – many of which focus on just the high-powered, fast, first-person view of your world, where the object is merely to KILL KILL KILL as many enemies as you can, as quickly as you can, before you are killed. These games sometimes offer the ability to meet and team up with friends, watching each other’s backs as you go on your rampage. Or, more interestingly, go up against whole other groups of people who have allied themselves with one another, and who want nothing more than to kill you, and all your friends.

These are “worlds” where the meekest person can become an agressive killing machine, finding power and dominance over this virtual world he’s participating within. It is fast-paced, action-packed – live or die.

You learn and develop techniques to stay alive, and to kill. You toy with adversaries that are weaker, or less aware of their surroundings. You require perfection of your friends – that you all become single-minded in your approach to situations so the victory of the pack will be assured.

Some people will always take reckless and agressive tactics, gaining a reputation for themselves as fearless and strong. Others develop a silent and deadly stealth.

These are the role playing worlds for the most raw, survivalist, cruel and absolute parts of our psyche. A place where we can become victorious through mindless, yet cunning forces of dominance.

However, other types of RPGs (Role Playing Games) do exist. Ones that allow you to pay much more attention to who it is you want to be, and appear as – how smart you want to be, or how strong – how sturdy or wise – how charismatic. How evil or good, or lawful in your evil, or chaotic in your good – how, with the elf blood flowing in your veins, you are able to see much better than others in the dark places, and how, being a smaller, dexterous halfling, you are much better at hiding in the shadows, or stealing a needed key.

In these more subtle and rich worlds, you gain experience with each of your encounters. You learn to use a longsword, grow stronger, and are able to fight much better with it. Or you find new spells along your adventures, and with your growing knowledge, the spells you know become more powerful.

When adventuring with friends, you mix your strengths and weaknesses. The strong fighters move out front, taking the brunt of an onslaught, while a sorceress stays in the back, protected from attack so she can work her magics on the enemies, while the clerics fight when necessary, and call in the powers of the divine to aid in battle, or heal the wounded.

Online gaming has become extraordinarily diverse – and complex. It allows you to assume a character, “become” it, and interact with others in a completely fictitional world. It is very interesting to see how people react – what becomes important to them, how they feel about helping or hurting or taking or giving. In many ways, it allows people to explore a life that they will never lead, but somehow still, can live.

And I think that not all of what is experienced within these worlds remains just there. Real or not, these are experiences. And like all experiences, we learn and we grow from them.

In our “real” world where everything is so defined – our roles that become a solidification of the definitions we have for ourselves, or others lay upon us – how nice it can be to sometimes just utterly destroy or overcome an obstacle. Or even moreso, how wonderful it can be to have the capacity to offer a great act of pure kindness to another.

Even though it is not real.

Coca Cola – A National Security Threat

It seems like Coke’s latest marketing gimmick is a cause for concern in US national security circles. Coke has sent out cans that are wired with GPS locating devices and built-in cell phone that will call Coke’s headquarters if you’re lucky enough to get one of the cans…

It seems the security people feel it could be used as a listening device. Also, I’d think they might be a little concerned if the cans found their way into top secret installations – like modern Area 51’s or something – where the Coke Prize Wagons might show up one day.

Read a Seattle Times article

Ah, for the days of openness – no secrecy – no reason to hide…

As they say, you can win, but you can’t hide…

You can win, but you can't hide

Cassini-Huygens Probe Arrives at Saturn Tomorrow

Cassini-Huygens Probe - SaturnWell, it looks like the long seven year journey across the tiny sea of our local space is nearing its milestone end for the Cassini Probe tomorrow. At around 19:36 PST the probe will begin firing its braking thrusters for 96 minutes – and it will be about a hour and a half later before we’ll know if the maneuver was successful.

If all is successful, the probe will decelerate by 1,400 MPH to continue its 47 plannened orbits of Saturn over the next 4 years. The Huygens Probe is schedule to be released from Cassini on Christmas Eve of 2004 to begin its three week journey to Titan, where it will land. It’s already passed thorough Saturn’s unusual magnetic field, feeling and describing its shape to us.

Cassini Orbital Insertion

The probe, as it carries on through its insertion maneuver will pass behind (from the Earth’s perspective) various ring grouping of Saturn, each ring with its own composition and liklihood for radio interference. So I imagine it will be particularly stressful for the scientists responsible for the craft, not to mention the managers of the programs responsible for their own careers and funding.

This mission is particularly nifty because the US is working with the European Space Agency who have contributed the Huygens portion of the mission. Cassini will release the Huygens probe at a velocity of twelve inches per second, and spinning it at seven revolutions per minute. Five days later, Cassini will turn to watch the sleeping Huygens as he coasts toward Titan during the next few days.

Titan has an atmosphere that extends about 600 miles into space, and Huygens will awaken 10 minutes before encountering its outermost reaches. Huygens will only be alive for a maximum of three hours, spending two and a half of them learning all it can about Titan as it descends, snapping over 1,000 photos, ever-slowing, eventually with the help of parachutes, to land on Titan’s surface, where it is only expected to live another three minutes. Even if Huygens lives past another thirty minutes, Cassini will turn its attention away from Huygens and back to Earth, telling us what Huygens discovered.

Recently our President, Mr. Bush, announced a new focus upon space exploration, particularly returning people to the moon, and landing people on Mars. I’m not certain this new focus is not a political tactic to divert our attention from more pressing things at home or not – particularly some very inhumane and mean-sprited things his administration are engaged in. But regardless of political concerns, the scientific benefits that result will be wonderful.

Cassini Mission Diagram

various chosen random bits

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