"What has brought them to the temple... no single answer will cover... escape from everyday life, with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy cramped surroundings into the silence of the high mountains where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity."
What would it be like to let go of everything? To abandon mind, to just become the stars in the night sky? To step back and see a person acting out the repeated myths and legends of our time, one by one, each in its own unique but archetypal way? What are you afraid of? Find out and look it right in the face. You'll see yourself looking back. What do I have to say that hasn't already been said? The answer cannot be answered. The question cannot be questioned. Sometimes our problems don't need a solution but just a rebalancing of perspective, to realize there is no problem. Nothing happens in a vacuum. If you don't like how things are, look at it from the other side of the room. Take a step back or a step sideways. Two steps forward, one step back. Unleashing is easier said than done.
Sometimes, my mind races, inspired, intrigued, restless, excited with thoughts and ideas, sparkles in the sky, most never seeing the outside of that small moment. Others, my mind is a clean slate, blank and quiet and empty as deep space, the space in between the atoms and the waves. I'm not sure which I like better. One is peace, one is action. One thing I can't stand is unfinished business, an abandoned venture. Sometimes I question my choices. I'm happy where I am. But will I be, when I realize I haven't developed my career in a lucrative way? Is it wrong to despise the labor of money, and adore the labor of love? I've always told myself from day one, that whatever you do, you have to do it 100% if it's going to go anywhere. I know I'm not a genius or a savant, I don't pull inspiration out of thin air, but most don't. Most are lucky for one moment in the sun. The rest is the labor of love. I know what I love, I know what I value, and I won't compromise because that would be a compromise of self. If you trust what you love to be your guide, it can only lead you to your own satisfaction. Will it lead you to the satisfaction of others, that is another question with not as easy of an answer. I just wish I had more time and energy to devote to the task. I'm not getting any younger. Some candles burn bright and burn out quickly, others burn steadily and surely, outlasting the shining stars.
If 2013 was about experimentation and exploration, 2014 is about honing a craft, choosing one of the many paths to trod down and see how far it leads, how well it can be developed and enhanced, to truly encapsulate an idea, a feeling, a mood in each futile attempt to distill the reason for our pursuit in the first place. Each an action along a certain time, each never like the next, even on the smallest and the largest scales. An idea coming to fruition in its own right, therein lies the true satisfaction now. Consistency and constancy. We will see what the oracle has to say.
For once will you say what you really mean, not what sounds best or what's most well received? It can take a lot of mental power to really step back and examine what's happening, in the long run. Outside of the every day. We're too used to thinking one day at a time, allowing each day to crossfade into the next, repeating our habits over and over again, good ones and bad ones. Can we really change? Can we, really??? Not just pretend? Not just acting the part of the reformed? Can I change my perspective, knock it out of its normal operation, and into one that it needs to be? Or does it have to happen to me, or does it have to happen on its own? Will we ever be more than a mass of breathing, hungry bodies, where only some care about its fellow beings and strives to organize our world into an "equitable" and "sensible" society, while the rest follow their self-serving interests? Will we, as a whole, ever want more than our own personal sense of safety and security, our own basic human needs met? Will we ever as whole care about the bigger picture? At what point are we being "selfish" and at what point are we not respecting our selves and our own personal well-being? Will we ever stop our self destructive habits? Is it hopeless to strive for a dream that will never become real? And there's no escape. We have no choice. Being born is a fact, not an intention. We are forced to live in this world of breathing, growing, consuming hungry bodies, anxious and mostly alone, struggling to make sense of world that can't fully be made sense of, all the while driven with an underlying urge to reproduce ourselves whether it's best for the rest of us or not, in a world where it's taboo to discourage our right to reproduce whether we have the means to support the aftermath or not. A world where what's important is the aggregate of our communal desires, beliefs, fears, and dreams. Is it hopeless to believe in a world where we aren't barely getting by, barely escaping true chaos, despite how hard we try to believe that we are in control, that "everything is okay", that we know what's going to happen tomorrow and next year. WE DONT KNOW. All we can do is do our best, with what we're given, because we don't have a choice. For some, the best is to reach for the bottle. For others it's to reach for the medical kit. Or whatever vice it may be. But no one is truly right, no one is truly wrong. It just is. It's a world of static, peppered with moments that inspire us to believe it all means something.
Sometimes I want to melt out of my body, to not be a body any more, to shrink to the size of a tiny atom, to be only that, free from the thorns and prickles that ensnare us and our fragile, impressionable and manipulatable minds. Or to expand wide as everything, to dissolve into the abyss and become everything and nothing at once. Maybe not forever, just for a while.
Maybe I need to narrow my scope a little. In this entire weird existence I have lived out, the moments I have enjoyed the most is when I forget myself and am fully engrossed in the moment, whatever it is, it takes me out of my cerebral state. I don't have to put order to chaos. Maybe I need to embrace the chaos. It's not the end of the world. Not yet.
Knock it down to loss of inspiration. The sheer excitement of a sound that was inventing itself before my very eyes, that was inspiration. Now it's gone. I have searched all over for it, in the past and the present, and nothing sticks. It's disappointing and depressing. I have taught myself the ability and the skill to make sound, music of my choosing, and now no ideas come. Nothing that hasn't been done before or is worth doing that anyone will care to listen to. It's all about feeling. Feeling is what starts an idea and keeps it going.
Maybe I just don't know what I want. I know what I don't want, and that's a lot. What I want, and what I've always wanted, is some thread woven through dubstep music, something that caught me and led me through that entire odyssey. That thread is gone from dubstep now, but it exists still, in places small and far, in unexpected corners and spaces yet to be defined. It's hard to explain, but it's the mental space it takes me to. Out of this world. This stupid, selfish, anxious and crowded world. Even here I can't escape the feeling. It's unnerving. No I won't come to your stupid event, no I don't care who you're opening for, and no I won't DJ for free. Everything you're hoping for I have already seen. It leads nowhere but back where you started, eventually.
This feeling I felt then was at the root. The bass was essential. The lowest root frequencies. Ones you can't hear, you can only feel. Back then it wasn't about danceability, it was about feeling it. When you're feeling it you nod your head. Before it became all about crowd reaction. When it was meditation on bass weight. True meditation. Communal musical meditation. People came together for that, to share a few drinks or a spliff, to lose themselves on a weekend, to escape the mundane everyday repetitive tasks of our lives, for what? To maintain this collective sense of security, as if we're all not in massive "debt" to our forefathers who didn't have the foresight, and couldn't have had, to plan accordingly for the world getting overpopulated and too big to take care of itself to the standard we've all come to expect. To make money. To take your money and buy something that serves your needs, or your wants. Who wouldn't want to escape that?
I have to believe that this still exists somewhere, this idea in my head that I've experienced in real life, the pinnacle experience, that has come to pass a number of times, but not nearly enough times. Of course not in the same form and shape, but with the same essence. It lives in techno too, in a way. The root thump of four. The consistent, persistent, relentless signifier of constant creation. The march of time. What these bring to the experiencer is a withdrawal from their mind and into the shared space of the moment, the sounds of those around you, the pure vibrations passing through you, penetrating your preconceptions like a knife and showing you true reality. Movement.
In a world where we typically have to work 5 days out of the week to maintain the basic needs of a human lifestyle, this doesn't leave much time to pursue other activities. Free time is paramount and not to be wasted. Wasted on checking your endless e-mail account, updating and upgrading your fucking software, watching the latest episode of whatever the fuck, downloading massive amounts of music that you "NEED TO HEAR", updating your stupid fucking queue of entertainment, staying "up to date" with the news and the stock market, or the endless news feed of your friend's activities who just want you to know what stupid shit they've been up to or what's pissing them off or to ask for your donations to their stupid cause. All distractions. Distractions abound, they are plentiful and they are unquenchable. They are not the true moment. They accomplish nothing. What do we have to show for simply being entertained? Passing the time?
So what if I'm not peaceful all the time, I don't have to be. So what if I don't have something positive or inspiring to say every time I write something. You don't have to do or say anything. What people expect is what they expect, not what it has to be. Disappoint them if you have to. You don't live your life for them, and they don't live their life for you. You live your life for you. Anyone who says otherwise is deluded or pretending or trying to manipulate you. With all this chaos and things to be worried about, there is no "good stopping point". The only way to escape it is to fucking stop. Right now. Stop the world. Stop listening to the demand and desires and needs of everyone else and maybe you'll hear something out of this world. Your tea cup can't be poured with something new if it's already full of old garbage. The only way is to stop, shake it out, brush it off, and open your ears, open your mind. The nice thing about the universe is that it's unstoppable and endless, constantly recreating itself into new forms. No two are the same. There is always novelty to be found, somewhere.
What do we want more than to be listened to, really listened to? And to feel part of something that's going somewhere new? Even if you aren't, really, to feel that you are, and that you're sharing the ride with others. To have something to say, to say it, to be heard, and to know that what you said is taken to heart, that it might inspire someone else, or take them out of their own head, if only for a moment, to somewhere they can't take themselves. Sometimes we have to push each other in the direction we need to go. We can't pull or push ourselves into a place that we aren't, we haven't the momentum or the footing to push or pull from.
It seems hard to escape the world of products, of already filtered ideas, ones pre packaged for consumption, movies vetted by the top execs, conversation building blocks and small talk that are tried and true, or prepared laughter to shrug off discomfort or awkwardness. It's hard to find raw creation. Creations that haven't been filtered according to a tastemaker, a producer, or a test audience, pre-evaluated and confirmed to offer some entertainment value or import to the receiver, and if it doesn't, there must be something wrong with YOU. When raw unfiltered ideas are not prevalent, it's easy to forget that they exist. That every song you hear on the radio is just how good that artist is, that they just busted that out easily, like it wasn't hand picked out of a batch of 20 or so mediocre tracks and then enhanced and remixed and mastered and plastic wrapped for the general public to enjoy. That the masterpieces we see in museums are just that artist's life, and that's just how next level they are and how masterful they are. We don't see the countless failed attempts at art, when they doubted themselves or just weren't in the right mood. All we see these days are the finished products, the best of the best, and we come to believe in a barrier between us and the artist, like they are some alien inhuman saint sent from above to grace the masses with its presence on earth, to impart its gifts of beauty and wonder to us. As if they didn't scrap piece after piece until they finally happened upon something worth sharing. We come to believe that art is easy for some, and if you're not as "gifted" as they are, you shouldn't bother trying. How wrong that is. But we still believe it.
True beauty and art, no matter the form, is the result of persistence, inspiration, time & place, and a little good fortune. Nothing more, nothing less.
If 99% of it ends up as crap, never being used or shared with anyone, at worst, is it still worth the effort for that 1% of transcendent beauty? It's up to the artist to decide. Don't try at all, and you make 0%. Try, roll the dice, the more you keep trying, and the chance rises in the favor of ending up with something exceptional. There are no short cuts. You have to be okay with making crap most of the time. And you'll be pleasantly surprised when it's not. The reason the artist does what they do is not to make exceptional art, but simply because they have something to say, something to show, and each one is a flawed yet uniquely perfect attempt at accomplishing the task. Do so with conviction and feeling, and your results will multiply. Stop fixing everything to make it nice and neat, let ideas disperse and come alive in their own chaotic way. There is no clean and convenient way to be a true artist. Have fun, follow your excitement and bliss, and time will melt away. Catch on to a passing moment and follow it, enjoy the ride. That's the only way. And until you get that through your head, you'll keep treading water. Discipline and ritual.
As you move through the moves, the rules you obey are whose? Whose clues do you choose? Stay in force, this is your course, for better or worse. What values do you guard, and which do you discard? Whose lessons do you receive, and whose do you leave? Of what are you not aware, despite how hard you stare? Of what are you scared, and of which are you spared? Of what are you amazed, what leaves you out of phase, and what puts you in a daze? Of all these questions, where are the answers? In a world of cosmic dancers, it's what feelings we need to chase, those we can't replace. In the space we cannot place, what worlds will we face? What heights can we reach, beyond the bounds of speech? Some secrets hidden in the depths, some we'll find before our deaths. They reside for those in search, not for those who sit on their perch. Under the wings of a bird, it is that which cannot be heard. If you're looking for heaven, it's here, turn it up to eleven.
"Negative experiences will repeat for as long as they remain useful to you. Well then you have to say what does useful mean? If something pisses you off, then you're getting use out of it because it's creating an emotional reaction. So, if you can learn to have this ballet dance of karma, where experiences move through you without getting stuck to you, and you bless, and release, and forgive, and accept, and love, then more and more, those experiences won't repeat anymore because you're not going to get any value out of them. They won't have a catalytic value for you. So the focus that you hold in your life determines how your reality turns out."
"As for life's third limitation, its restricted being, to profitably consider this we have first to ask how the boundary of the self is to be defined. Not, certainly, by the amount of physical space our bodies occupy, the amount of water we displace in the bathtub. It makes more sense to gauge our being by the size of our spirits, the range of reality with which they identify. A man who identifies with his family, finding his joys in theirs, would have that much reality; a woman who could identify with humankind would be that much greater. By this criterion people who could identify with being as a whole would be unlimited. Yet this seems hardly right, for they would still die. The object of their concerns would continue, but they themselves would be gone.
"We need, therefore, to approach this question of being not only spatially, so to speak, but also in terms of time. Our everyday experience provides a wedge for doing so. Strictly speaking, every moment of our lives is a dying; the I of that moment dies, never to be reborn. Yet despite the fact that in this sense my life consists of nothing but funerals, I do not conceive of myself as dying each moment, for I do not equate myself with my individual moments. I endure through them - experiencing them, without being identical with any of them in its singularity. Hinduism carries this notion a step further. It posits an extensive self that lives successive lives in the way a single life lives successive moments.
"A child's heart is broken by misfortunes we consider trivial. It identifies completely with each incident, being unable to see it against the backdrop of a whole, variable lifetime. A lot of living is required before the child can withdraw its self-identification from the individual moment and approach, thereby, adulthood. Compared with children we are mature, but compared with saints we are children. No more capable of seeing our total selves in perspective than a three-year-old who has dropped its ice cream cone, our attention is fixated on our present life span. If we could mature completely we would see that lifespan in a larger setting, one that is, actually, unending.
"This is the basic point in the Hindu estimate of the human condition. We have seen that psychology has accustomed us to the fact that there is more to ourselves than we suspect. Like the eighteenth century European view of the earth, our minds have their own darkest Africas, their unmapped Borneos, their Amazonian basins. Their bulk continues to await exploration. Hinduism sees the mind's hidden continents as stretching to infinity. Infinite in being, infinite in awareness, there is nothing beyond them that remains unknown. Infinite in joy, too, for there is nothing alien to them to mar their beatitude.
"What the realization of our total being is like can no more be described than can a sunset to one born blind; it must be experienced. The biographies of those who have made the discovery provide us with clues, however. These people are wiser; they have more strength and joy. They seem freer, not in the sense that they go around breaking the laws of nature, but in the sense that they seem not to find the natural order confining. They seem serene, even radiant. Natural peacemakers, their love flows outward, alike to all. Contact with them strengthens and purifies.
"All of us dwell on the brink of the infinite ocean of life's creative power. We carry it within us: supreme strength, the fullness of wisdom, unquenchable joy. It is never thwarted and cannot be destroyed. But it is hidden deep, which is what makes life a problem. The infinite is down in the darkest, profoundest vault of our being, in the forgotten well-house, the deep cistern. What if we could bring it to light and draw from it unceasingly?
Hinduism sets out four practices (yoga) serving as paths leading to this state, and each individual is best fit to their own combination of them. The first is called jnana yoga.
"Jnana yoga, intended for [those] who have a strong reflective bent, is the path to oneness with the Godhead through knowledge. Such knowledge... has nothing to do with factual information; it is not encyclopedic. It is, rather, an intuitive discernment that transforms, turning the knower eventually into [one's knowledge itself]. Thinking is important for such people. They live in their heads a lot because ideas have for them an almost palpable vitality; they dance and sing for them. And if such thinkers are parodied as philosophers who walk around with their heads in the clouds, it is because they sense Plato's Sun shining above those clouds. Thoughts have consequences for such people; their minds animate their lives. Not many people are convinced by Socrates' claim that 'to know the good is to do it,' but in his own case he may have been reporting a straightforward fact. For people thus given to knowing, Hinduism proposes a series of demonstrations that are designed to convince the thinker that she possesses more than her finite self. The rationale is straightforward. Once the jnana yogi grasps this point, her sense of self will shift to a deeper level.
"...Science tells me that there is nothing in my body that was there seven years ago, and my mind & personality have undergone comparable changes. Yet, throughout their manifold revisions, I have remained in some way the same person, the person who believed now this, now that; who once was young and is now old. What is this something in my makeup, more constant than body or mind, that has endured the changes? Seriously pondered, this question can disentangle one's Self from one's lesser identifications.
"Our word 'personality' comes from the Latin persona, which originally referred to the mask an actor donned as he stepped onto the stage to play his role, the mask (per) through which he sounded (sonare) his part. The mask registered the role, while behind it the actor remained hidden and anonymous, aloof from the emotions he enacted. This, say the Hindus, is perfect; for roles are precisely what our personalities are, the ones into which we have been cast for the moment in this greatest of all 'tragi-comedies', the drama of life itself in which we are simultaneously co-authors and actors. As a good actress gives her best to her part, we too should play ours to the hilt. Where we go wrong is in mistaking our presently assigned part for what we truly are. We fall under the spell of our lines, unable to remember previous roles we have played and blind to the prospect of future ones. The task of the yogi is to correct this false identification. Turning her awareness inward, she must pierce the innumerable layers of her personality until, having cut through them all, she reaches the anonymous, joyfully unconcerned actress who stands beneath.
"Neither agent nor patient, her approach to what happens is, 'I am the Witness.' She watches her unsubstantial history with as much detachment as she lets her hair blow in the wind... even so the yogi watches what transpires in his house of protoplasm... Life's events are simply allowed to proceed. Seated in the dentist's chair, Sybil notes, "Poor Sybil. It will soon be over." But she must play fair and adopt the same posture when fortune visits her and she would like nothing more than to bask in the praise she is receiving [for this too will come to pass].
"The yoga of knowledge [Jnana] is said to be the shortest path to divine realization. It is also the steepest. Requiring as it does a rare combination of rationality and spirituality, it is for a select few."
"We hear that East and West are meeting, but it is an understatement. They are being flung at one another, hurled with the force of atoms, the speed of jets, the restlessness of minds impatient to learn the ways of others. When historians look back on our century, they may remember it most, not for space travel or the release of nuclear energy, but as the time when the peoples of the world first came to take one another seriously.
"The change that this new situation requires of us all - we who have been suddenly catapulted from town and country onto a world stage - is staggering. Twenty-five hundred years ago it took an exceptional man like Diogenes to exclaim, 'I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.' Today we must all be struggling to make those words our own. We have come to the point in history when anyone who is only Japanese or American, only Oriental or Occidental, is only half human. The other half that beats with the pulse of all humanity has yet to be born.
"To borrow an image from Nietzsche, we have all been summoned to become Cosmic Dancers who do not rest heavily on a single spot but lightly turn and leap from one position to another. As World Citizen, the Cosmic Dancer will be an authentic child of its parent culture, while closely related to all. The dancer's roots in family and community will be deep, but in those depths they will strike the water table of a common humanity. For is the dancer not also human? If only she might see what has interested others, might it not interest her as well? It is an exciting prospect. The softening of divisions will induce borrowings that sometimes produce hybrids, but for the most part simply enrich species and sustain their vigor.
"The motives that impel us toward world understanding are varied, [but] ...The final reason for understanding one another is intrinsic - to enjoy the wider angle the vision affords... Without two eyes - binocular vision, there is no awareness of space's third dimension. Until sight converges from more than one angle, the world looks as flat as a postcard. The rewards of having two eyes are practical... But the final reward is the deepened view of the world itself - the panoramas that unroll before us, the vistas that extend from our feet.
"But the greatest gains need no tally. To glimpse what belonging means to the Japanese; to sense with a Burmese grandmother what passes in life and what endures; to understand how Hindus can regard their personalities as masks that overlay the Infinite within; to crack the paradox of a Zen monk who assures you that everything is holy but scrupulously refrains from certain acts - to swing such things into view is to add dimensions to the glance of spirit. It is to have another world to live in. The only thing that is good without qualification is not (as Kant argued) the good will, for a will can mean well in cramped quarters. The only thing that is unqualifiedly good is extended vision, the enlargement of one's understanding of the ultimate nature of things.
From "Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End" by AARON FREEMAN (via NPR)
"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
"And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
"And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
"And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.
From Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown, Alan Watts, 1973
1. Before the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said I AM THAT. And it is so.
2. Also, being in eternity which is neither linear nor sequential, where all is nowever, God said, YOU MUST DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE. And it was drawn.
3. But it was no dreary straight line or flat wall, for God then said, HAVE A BALL. And there was a ball, in the image whereof all stars and planets came to be formed.
4. Thereupon God said, THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERYTHING. And there are: the inside and the outside, the dense and the spacious, the right and the wrong, the left and the taken, for, as it is written, One shall be taken, and the other left.
5. And God said, IT MUST BE IN TIME. And thereafter it was, is, and will be, for as it is written again, 'As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, through all ages of ages. Amen.'
6. And forthwith God said, SPACE IT OUT. Whereupon it came to pass that, beside this and that and now and then, there is also here and there.
7. And God beheld how firm a foundation this was and said unto himself, GET LOST. And there you are.