A Socratic Question

Back in high school, during a Socratic seminar for senior English, a question was raised. Specifically, that day concerned George Orwell’s classic, 1984. The seminar was a forum for the class to discuss points of interest within the literature through a Socratic questioning process. The purpose of such an exercise was to promote critical thinking and open-ended discussion about the salience of the ideas within the book.

Unfortunately, much of the class was less than enthused to bring their own words and arguments to bear during the course of the seminar. Most sat quietly and listened to the few who would speak on a weekly basis. As it was this day, specifically with myself and my good friend sharing the floor for much of the time. I raised a question, having my personal answer to it lightly prepared:

“In the world of 1984, will the Party ever be overthrown?”

The inquiry seemed simple enough. Yes the Party will be overthrown, or no the Party will not be overthrown (the Party’s continued existence the focal point, but with the proles foreshadowed rebellion in mind, i.e. an overthrow). There were many potential reasons for both arguments, that is why I believed it to be a good question to ask the group. Having an idea for what my answer would be, I let the question linger and opened the floor for others to weigh in.

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Expecting his input, but not his answer, my good friend responded yes, the Party will be overthrown eventually. He believed it came down to the innate power of human nature within Man, Man’s ultimate desire for freedom, etc. Ultimately, the proles would rise up against the oppressive regime and restore balance to society, as human history had shown time and time again. As we all know, throughout the storied course of human civilization, empires rise and fall. As my good friend believed to be the case with the Party, in Orwell’s fictional dystopian society. The dark side of human nature got us into the mess, and the good side of human nature would be that light to guide mankind back out of the darkness.

I accepted the argument, which I believed to be fair in many ways. However, I did not expect this answer from my friend (who I thought might agree with me) and thus was strangely more determined to counter the argument with my own, which was now bolstered by a new idea he brought to the table.

My own answer was a resounding no. The Party would never be overthrown, their position was truly unassailable.My argument was two-fold:

My argument was two-fold:

1) Orwell wrote 1984 for many reasons, I think one of which was to meticulously construct the perfect dystopian empire, and a kind of warning. The Party – an indestructible force of evil, created by man and his institutions, which would oppress and destroy all sense of freedom within human civilization throughout the world. The surveillance, the never-ending wars, the torture, the revision and erasure of the past – all were the foundation for an everlasting dominion. It was a social commentary and a warning to mankind – don’t ever let things get to this point or it will all be over. My point being, Orwell created the Party to be a moral absolute, the perfect totalitarian force which had the means, unrealistic/fictional in nature, to be perpetual in its reign. That was the point. The bleak nature and pessimism permeated throughout the 1984 universe is meant to showcase this reality. The fact that The Party with all of its perfect resources and perfected indoctrination and perfect control, couldn’t actually exist in our reality was the crux – this fictional “Orwellian” dystopia was composed of the perfect elements of design, form, and function of an unbeatable entity. Thus, they could not be overthrown. Allowing for an inevitable and successful prole insurrection would severely harm the moral Orwell was trying to convey. (However, the really scary thought living longer and seeing more in today’s world – The Party really doesn’t seem so fictional anymore.)

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2) And as a direct counter to the argument in favor of human nature, simply put, the Party was in the process of successfully destroying human nature. In two ways, I believed the inherent good in human nature would become irrelevant within the world of 1984: through the Party’s ability to alter the past and break the human spirit. With the past being continuously rewritten, mankind would have nothing to compare the state of their current existence to, nothing to stoke the flames of rebellion. Winston and others his age are of the last generation to have vague memories of what it was like before the Party. Once they are dead, all self-referencing criterion to the past will be eliminated, with the Party’s master-crafted fiction there to replace it. Without that context, a large part of what empowers human nature would be destroyed – learning and experiencing from the past reality. Most significantly, the Party had the ability shatter the most powerful human emotion, love. Some would argue, and my friend did, that destroying human nature is simply impossible. As we see within the novel, completely breaking a human spirit is possible and it is monstrous. The human spirit is the indomitable force that has carried us through evolution, sentience, and all the things we have accomplished throughout human history. But with our sentience and “indomitable human spirit” comes free will and the capacity for great evil. With the right information (constant surveillance), conditions (Room 101), and dark genius (O’Brien) – any man can be broken, his love destroyed, his human spirit bent to whatever ideal or reality presented to him. And if one can be turned, with the perfect design and economy of resources, an entire society can be turned, and ultimately the entire world. Just as they had accomplished. And the obliteration of the past (which Man relies so heavily upon for emotional solidarity, nostalgia, and context) ensured The Party’s immortality.

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All of this was the result of the commentary on the darkest side of human nature and governance Orwell meant to convey – that of the most advanced, and unassailable, evil empire in human history. By the end, my friend and I could both agree his warning had been duly noted to us as the readers.

The first point was lightly prepared as my answer to my own question and the second point I theorized in the moment, in response to my friends’ line of thinking (that of human nature prevailing and of the intrinsic worth of the human soul/condition). Here I have written the basis, and fleshed out, the ideas presented in class. But what actually transpired in the classroom that day still inspires me today. Neither of us prepared for a full blown debate, the answers were more impromptu and instinctual, passionate in our beliefs. Back and forth, we argued our respective points, each bringing up ethos, pathos, logos and the relevant evidence we needed to prove what we were trying to say. The class, and our teacher, listened and looked on in silence and eager anticipation of what might come next. I could see it in their eyes when I paused long enough to survey the room. It doesn’t matter if you or anyone in class that day thought our analysis was right or wrong. What mattered was the flow of ideas, the critical thinking, the articulation of thought, the presentation of thoughts, and the respect we had for each others’ viewpoints and refutations. We had put on a show for the class. Truly, I didn’t know I was even capable of such a discussion. It was a tremendous moment for my self-confidence and my friendship with my opponent.

I learned two things: in everything, believe in your own thoughts, ideas, and actions while respecting and appreciating the minds of those around you; and always deal your mind, your instincts, your imagination, your truth, whatever it may be, with absolute sincerity. I think human interactions based upon these principles surely create, develop, and progress our cause.

I have changed; my answer to the question hasn’t changed. Given the circumstances in the novel, the Party is permanent. But I maintain hope in mankind, and the prevailing good of human nature. I have faith that an entity such as the Party will never be allowed to exist in our world.

 

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Craving for Insight

Why was Insight such a numinous experience that first time?

Further, why do we humans crave the almighty flow state that accompanies it?

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It draws us completely out of ourselves and allows an open discourse to develop organically within oneself. However the very next day, in each of us, we often show that the realizations had failed to stabilize or take real root.

I hold it constantly in my mind, trying to refresh the rush, yet not as an action, but as mere memory and reflection.

What is it about returning to ‘consciousness as normal’ that deactivates any counter streams that may have formed?

There is some repair mechanism within the psyche that becomes the sober awareness that nothing should change. It will be far easier to continue on normally as if nothing had been seen in the mirror.

Especially those things that threaten the conscious ego mind’s throne. The visions of the progressive destruction of its high-walled city of selfishness, these are the things most abhorrent to it.

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The truer work of those flow states & mystic visions that transcend our egos is making them applicable across the threshold.

You must find a place for them amidst a ‘normal’ and mundane understanding.

Honestly, the distinction between the two realms is a mere convention, and conventions after all are just boundaries. Boundaries arbitrarily imposed by the dominant culture-stream.

The onus is to convince yourself to flip the script and consider alternative reality-tunnels, or in an enlightened state rarely achieved, to posit no tunnels at all except Reality As It Is.

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Thoughts on the “Big Self”

(Written circa Fall 2012)

What is the ΔSELF∇?

Two stories from Indian texts came to mind, though I do not recall their origins.

For the Self, a parable in Indian lore describes its aspects. Three blind men are all holding different parts of an elephant: its trunk, its tail, the torso, and so on. They all trying to understand what they are feeling.

They argue and cannot agree on what it is they are all perceiving. The triune nature of our being: Mind, Body, and Spirit. They all grope some thing and sensing separateness, try to discern. When in fact, it is the same object of experience they all touch.

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Another comes to mind: the parable of the Self and the Mind working together. Like a blind, strong man carrying a sighted lame man on his back. The lame one “sees” for his companion. The strong one moves and manipulates matter for his guide. A metaphor for how we unreflectively perceive the universe perhaps. Are we our minds? Or are we the awareness of our minds?  It seems like there is this other watcher who is present beyond our thoughts and sensations. Something like a soul or essence…

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May you carry yourself well. Ut te bene ferre.

“…and God was the Word.”

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word.”

-Gospel of John 1:1

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Human Beings have evolved the greatest adaptation: to give things meaning. We evolved the Word.

Language allows for complex communication in the form of utterance as small-mouth-noises.

Quite strange when you think about it that way, what speaking really is.

It enables great signal transmission and the crossing of the individual’s isolation. It allows for the most subtle and intricate expression of inner events that first arise in thought. It’s a way for consciousness to fully deploy itself in the world.

The monkeys are now symbol-users on a crafty level. And they’ve become the dominant species on a planet because of it.

WE look for meaning and find it in all things.

Language is the process by which we assign that meaning. Meditate on what this truly means. Much of what you experience and socially are is mediated by letters, words.

Therefore: change your language, change your reality.

Once one understands this process, or becomes aware of semiotic awareness, one gains the power to control the greatest enemy to consciousness: the untamed and unreflective Mind.

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Tools (personal computers come to mind) and techniques (meditation, various yogas, etc.) are useful in this endeavor. Industrious humanity has mastered so many tools in its career. Starting with literally “banging rocks together”, we have moved onto space travel.

The same evolution is proceeding with our mental adaptation. We are using this crude tech with ideas.

We are banging our best ideas together like cavemen because we don’t understand how they work. Look no further than the global environmental shifts that are occurring for our misuse of great ideas and technologies extant.

Our application of our minds is at the low tech level, let’s face it.

Our mental mastery as a species could be at “nuclear fusion” levels if properly harnessed. Good ideas, recognized and used well would literally heal the planet & propel us towards the stars.

I sense that we are subconsciously afraid of this power because both the individual and societal ego are trying so hard to prove that we are masters of our environment.

We rob ourselves of a proper relationship to reality by not seeing that we are ignorant indeed.

‘Like gods”, we can create, one of the greatest abilities a species can conceivably gain. But we, in our hubris immediately thought of ourselves as literal gods of dominion.  In the end, free will holds us accountable: in thought, word, and deed. Use your words wisely.

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May the Word be with you.

White Lotus Invocation

The White Lotus  and The “Individual” Collective

These were ideas some good friends and I developed as inspired by the Order of the White Lotus, as presented in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Designed as ‘reverse’ or counter propaganda, positive affirmations about evolution. At least among our social spheres at the time.



1. Gaining Perspective

Blackout Days: no television, computers, music, or “technology of any kind” for an entire day.  Do this on the weekend, so that you are forced to kindle that engine of creativity: boredom. Behave such as one would during a natural black out.

Light some candles.

You would do this to remove yourself from the technology, to learn what it’s for.

2. Meditations on the Self 

Egoism vs. Egotism, words commonly mis-relayed in common parlance

A. Egotism: excessive conceit or self-absorption, selfishness (adjective – egotistic).

“The egotistic child never shared his toys.”

“When you are in the center, you feel alone.”

Egotism is what has chained us as a race, and as individuals to certain ‘dominator’ mental constructs. We have been  blinded by our own perception, our lens on the universe. The selfish expression of the Ego is what seems to be right in front of us. Upon awakening to self reflection, Western man immediately thought himself the center of it.

The collective consciousness can finally break free from this limited view now. Due to the projects of science and the great creatives, a culmination of data for conscious thinking has been compiled. For ages, human civilization has continued to shatter the conception in the individual’s mind about how important mankind is. The selfless collective evolution is rising.

B. Egoism: is the belief that self-interest motivates all people’s actions (adjective – egoistic).

Egoism says that a person’s actions, no matter how selfless they may seem, are always done out of self-interest.

Egoism is what was built into us by evolution, and has served us well in survival scenarios.

Now we can shed it off like old skin/detritus.

Group evolution does occur. As long as there is still competition and self-improvement through a kind of “individual” collective natural selection, nature abides.

Ancestry obsession/tribal politics/clan warfare/ the eternal ‘us vs. them’ is so important to the unreflective Ego.

If we only realized that we all have a COMMON ANCESTRY, we could get along. Or at least act more like ecologically sensitive and rational human beings.

3. Conclusions

There is no THEM, it’s actually just US.

Spaceship Earth is in choppy waters, and we need all hands on deck.

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Who knocks at the garden gate?

One who has eaten the fruit and tasted it’s mystery.

Owned

The present technological situation?

Steve Cutts

Owned

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The Tools of the Earth

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Hexagram II. K’un – The Receptive

The Receptive brings about sublime success,
Furthering through the perseverance of a mare.
If the superior man undertakes something and tries to lead,
He goes astray;
But if he follows, he finds guidance.
It is favorable to find friends in the west and south,
To forego friends in the east and north.
Quiet perseverance brings good fortune.

The earth’s condition is receptive devotion.
Thus the superior man who has breadth of character
Carries the outer world.


Composed of only yielding energies, The Receptive represents the primordial spatial power of the Earth. This image is that of Gaia, The Great Mother, or the Goddess who serves all beings with her devotion. She is the consort and perfect complement to Hexagram I. The Creative: he being a resplendent dragon, and she being a strong mare. Their relationship is one of partnership and co-creation; not of strife or competition. These two nodes in the Book of Changes point to the non-duality and cohabitation of the world of perception and that of the unperceived.

Heaven’s energy brings spirit into matter, the dense substrate of Earth. This substance is potentiated and put into service of the good through creativity. This harmony depends on the Receptive submitting to the influence of the Creative. Should the Earth rise up as an equal to Heaven, evil shall arise from the opposition.

The mandala of rising yin lines reveals the spatial dimension in which the powerful spirit of pure potentiality inhabits. Strict boundary conditions must be established for this to occur. This is the perseverance of matter and energy. The Receptive’s summum bonum is in its overwhelming ability to nurture and support all life. The dragon’s thunder begets the 10,000 things, and the horse’s steadfastness births them unto the world. Meeting fate with a vulnerable acceptance, like a mare being led happily on the mountain trail, foretells of success. One is sensitive to what is required of one’s circumstances, and yet still seeks the silvery thread of Fate’s trail.

The Earth, in the time of summer and autumn, sets to work allowing the receptive forces to come under the reign of the developmental currents inherent in Nature. Change, to be emanated fully, must be firmly set within tenacity and toil. The southwesterly wind blows, and all forces converge under the guidance of group efforts.

The season calls for reflection, planning, and aloneness also. The stream runs towards the northeast between the granite hills. Solitude is valuable in its single-mindedness and objectivity in weighing one’s position. Receiving orders from the higher structures of Nature, and then re-telling what one has learned. In the last, sacred hour, the sage retires to his inner sanctum so that the magnitude of experience may not be disturbed as the surface of a still pond.