Go Outside by Letting It In

I was talking to my soul brother and dear, dear friend the other day that the hardest thing about a spiritual path is the opposite of clutching and clinging: letting go, letting fall away, letting fear of losing one’s identity not matter, if only for 1 minute at a time.

Opening your hand in total relaxation is not the same type of effort as contracting your muscle to cling. Letting yourself ‘be’ amid the elements around you is not the same as struggling to manage all the elements around you to define your being. Being part of the harmony is not the same effort as trying to orchestrate it.

Really, the effort focuses on the continual choice to turn off the knee-jerk, fear-of-falling tendency to cling and grasp. Disconnecting the power to judgment is not the same as stifling judgment. Opening up is not the same as self-annihilation.

I ran across the following reflection on Contemplative Druidry entitled “Entering Silence.” I really liked it because it touches on finding the silence in being part of the stillness; being conscious of the spaces between without forcing meaning on the patterns that you might perceive.

The process is one of self-emptying, but not in a self-wounding spirit of renunciation, of holy war on ‘ego’, of pushing away the immature self-sense like an unwanted child.

Self-emptying is simply the will to let things come and go without grabbing on, making room for something else to be. Warmly spacious, it invites a more expansive way of being. We do not let go in order to get something better. The letting go is itself the something better, freeing us from our habitual self-protectiveness and contracted activities like taking, defending, hoarding, and clinging.

Our identity is a collection of dust we have encrusted onto our consciousnesses, dust to which we have ascribed value.  We’re so afraid of chipping off the crust for fear of “not being me any more.”  But the “me” is trapped into a single statue of form, where in reality, there can be a continuum of me’s.

Entering the silence is simply being amid a world of being.  Instead of self-annihilation or becoming one with Brahman, entering the silence highlights one’s being amid being.  Add to that the consciousness you can bring to the silence, and you have a type of unifying magic with you as a vital component — where the crust of identity does not matter.  Human judgments on the value of traits and behaviors and other externals do not matter: the silence proves it.

In silence we find our core.  When we take the next step of exploration in the silence, we find affinities, or harmonies, with what fills us with the most sense of life.  Instead of taking our egos for a walk outside, we let the outside inside — we open the walls to the Id to not just perceive the whole, but be part of the whole.

buddah and what meditation does

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Meaning will take care of itself

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke:

A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus?

If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.

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First, I find a contradiction in “all human activity” not including “looking for life’s meaning.”  If I try to find implications in his juxtapositions, I might conclude that “to live” is “to play”, looking for life’s meaning is not-play (not living) as though the two are mutually exclusive activities by virtue of word choice.

I believe he’s saying that “looking for life’s meaning” is a meaningless extraction on its own, being done apart from searching for Truth, Beauty, and Love.  But he seems to have extracted searching for those things from searching for life’s meaning (why or how any of those three things matter) as though they aren’t a part of “life.”

To “search for” something to me implies that the object of the search is a target.  On one hand, the target can be defined, and you’re looking to find it.  On the other hand, the target is ethereal and you’re looking to establish its existence for some reason.  And “for some reason” implies some purpose or objective, which then implies meaning: what is Truth, Beauty, and Love such that they can be play; and why is searching for them worth expending playtime for?

For the sake of play?  That can’t be.  Too shallow.

Play is the quintessential example of “living in the moment” or the present. Living in the present does not mean living in ignorance of meaning beyond the present. It means being totally present in the now, with consciousness of interconnectedness and “meaning”…a meaning that forms awareness.  Without this, “play” is reduced to nothing more than a bubble of self-indulgence or enacted daydreams, whereas it could be about exploration of consciousness.  Play can be about the meaning of life and the magic that meaning makes possible.

Let’s focus on Beauty for the moment.

In Strong’s Systematic Theology, he argues that beauty, for it to be recognized, requires a recognizer — a being with the capacity to appreciate and enjoy aesthetics and masterfully applied design.  And that being has some relationship to the abstract of beauty, some chemistry that produces joy of beauty in its recognition. Continue reading

Usability review of MS mail’s new “Outlook.com” UI — lots of deduction required

Presuming that all changes in UI are meant to be improvements, I thought I’d put on my critical-eye glasses for the new hotmail/msn mail UI (called “Outlook.com”?  I wasn’t sure).

First, my overall evaluation:

  1. The new UI isn’t an improvement. Change (in UI), here, is not so much a factor in the affect (as some people are loathe to change) as much as disappointment that usability did not improve and, thereby, raise the overall bar.
  2. MS used to be known for (starting with MS Money) inductive design.  This UI requires an extraordinary amount of deduction — extraordinary in the sense that it is both a step backwards and over-relies on user conventions-literacy.
  3. Friendliness is a factor in a user’s sense of “ease of use.”  Simplicity does not mean friendly or easier to use IF it does not include keeping track of user choices and helping to better manage steps in a task flow.  Task-analysis just seems to be lacking.

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Our Weakness for Agnotology

We typically think of ignorance as the absence of knowledge or education. In fact, it can be the opposite: “knowledge” that is founded on untrue information. It is what you believe is knowledge, when in actuality it was false information designed to resist the scrutiny of provable or proven fact. The resistance comes as a function of how deeply it is believed to be true: the more strongly we believe it, the more we resist data that disproves it. Cognitive Dissonance.

Meet Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association: « If HIV caused AIDS, Magic Johnson would be dead. Doesn’t even look sick to me. How about you? »

Doubt anyone?

Agnotology is the manufacture of ignorance by cognitively structuring misinformation to represent reality to support a desired narrative. Agnotology is « culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.»

For example, as Wikipedia has recorded, the tobacco industry’s constant barrage of misinformation to create what would henceforth be mistaken for actual knowledge within the culture: the doubt about cancer risk in smoking.

If you are a medical scientist, you know HIV causes AIDS because you have investigated all the invisible micro & macro factors that Joe the Plumber cannot see by simply staring at the surface of a person’s body.  You know how smoking harms the lungs and cancers develops.

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Arrestable Development of Dominionism

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”
~ Heraclitus.

The America of today is different from the newly born America and the 50-year old America and the 100-year old America. As different as a new-born human is from his teenage years and his 60th year.

Anyone who wants to “take back America” – back as in some delusional ownership or back in time to some fantastic state when their perspective is imagined to have reigned supreme – is really trying to transform America in his image, just as he has done his God and his Christ.

Even if he should succeed, that America won’t be the same as any other America. America will have changed, gotten smaller in mind and spirit. It is easy to think you can go back in time IF you mean less complexity and purer faith. But what one will be imagining as less-complexity and pureness is really  one’s rejecting today’s realities, narrowing minds, and overlaying simplicity onto what passes for thinking. In that way, simplicity means willful stupidity.

Do we need to fear the Christian Dominionist movement?

Change is evolutionary in the sense that it happens in reaction to environmental conditions (not progress in the ameliorative sense). If we think of these nutbags as environmental conditions, we are at this moment changing in response. Somehow, I don’t think the loudness and extremeness of their voice equates to actual power to effect dominionism. It could be just the opposite, where the evolutionary adaption that results is to solidify ourselves against what amounts to a bacterial disease.

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An Angle on Social Engineering

Reading an article about some stuff going on in AZ, where the word “social engineering” is brought up. It’s obviously a very bad word pertaining to a very evil concept.

Yesterday I was having a discussion over a speech given at the Prayer Breakfast that included Obama. In that speech — that my Conservatives friends found awesome — were many proposals that would require more than a little bit of cooperation. But the “cooperation” would require wholesale restructuring of deeply rooted laws and the perspectives they reflect.

If a human population NEEDS to take a sharp turn to avoid catastrophe or simply to suddenly do the “right thing” for everyone, that would require deliberate, conscious, and effective social engineering.

You can’t have it both ways: you can’t think of a word as evil yet propose remedies that would require it. It is no wonder that “hypocrisy” is the most oft-named sin in the Bible (over 400 times) — it’s the easiest to commit because it requires more self-evaluation of internal consistency against external complexities.

Thinking about what is going on in AZ as an ongoing reaction to Agenda 21 (measures for environment friendly sustainable communities), which reaction is against the ominous specter of a OWG, I wondered:

Is it Christian to attempt to forestall conditions that are a part of or herald the End Times? Aren’t they supposed to be focusing on their walk with God toward a state of being holy enough to stand in His presence? (See related: Amazing Grace, Legislated)

Or for Conservatives who aren’t Christians or who are pretending Christians, the reaction translates to the erosion of the US as a sovereign entity, being under the control of non-Americans. No idea is a good idea if it comes from a non-American or an American of the wrong affiliation.

But when it comes to sustainability, that requires a consciousness of how we are the earth expressing itself as a human — we have no life without a healthy, productive, sustained earth. It requires us to work in concert to not be a cancer on the face of the earth, consuming it without concern for the body it is killing. It requires external measures that are do-able while being either stupid or unconscious. In that sense, it is engineering.

Basic Pathwalking, revisited: Without challenge, there is no growth

A major feature of pathwalking is to make the best spiritual decisions you can in what you encounter within new or even familiar contexts. In that way, one “grows”.

Challenges can be unexpected or they can be anticipated, new or similar to previous.  They can be hard or easy. But whatever a challenge’s form and intensity, it is there to expose assumptions, presumptions, stagnation, and complacency.  If we only ever operated within what we know, we wouldn’t need to know anything else — hence complacency. We’d never learn what we don’t know.

Experts are experts because they learned past the easy, basic surface of a skill or knowledge base and into the atomic details.  In this way, the more they learn of their specialty, the more they know it.  Their familiarity grows ever intimately.  They’ve seen their subject from a wide variety of angles (challenges).  They’ve tested their previous knowledge (challenges) and refined their knowledge.

New contexts. New angles. New twists and turns.  New tests.  New applications.

Accumulated, refined knowledge.  Fulsome intimacy.

Spiritual Expertise is ever increasing knowledge of the Divine, the Creator, God.   And since the Divine is infinite, knowledge of Him has no stopping point.  Our efforts have no stopping point.  Our challenges never run out.  And I don’t mean the same challenges over and over again.

Increasing knowledge is “growth.”  Without challenge, there is no growth.  Continue reading