insignificance is liberating.

I understand that people, melodramatically, may consider life something one has to survive. But you’re alive, that’s what life is, you are surviving. It plays into this idea that people’s lives are narratives – that it’s a film or book and you have to survive all this craziness. I think it’s a disservice, ultimately, because it makes others feel like their lives aren’t crazy enough. In my mind, life is not a war – although human beings create conditions that make it feel that way – and I think that navigation is a fairer term. I see life essentially as an empty field.

This recent Ian Mackaye interview speaks so much to me I don’t know where to begin quoting. It’s wall to wall wisdom. It has the feeling of a Dharma talk – much of what Ian says vibes with my own thoughts as influenced by Buddhism.

We only wake up for a limited number of days. Although, ironically, I would say life is eternal, because I don’t think there’s any comprehension before or after it. So, if all we know is this, then it’s eternal.

He touches on success, life and technology…. Very much worth your time reading.

Alan Watts and the problem of “self-love”

You often hear the idea being bandied about that

“You cannot begin to love others, until you first love yourself”

I’ve never really given it much thought, but have always been vaguely suspicious of it. I guess I can see some logic in it – like the principle of tending to your own oxygen mask before helping others, but was always troubled by the idea of “loving yourself”, which seems self-indulgent and egotistical.

It also solidifies and centralises the self first and foremost, which perversely is what creates the ‘other’ that we must then choose to love or hate. But if we were to remove the self, we could undo the entire equation. No self = no other.

Alan Watts hit upon this towards the end of “The Wisdom of Insecurity”. The entire book is, like most of his work, a treatise on the Eastern concepts of what is the self, and how a solidified “I” is the cause of much of our suffering (Go read it. Now.) When he is talking about the implications for morality of such a world view he begins to untangle the equation.

The undivided mind is aware of experience as a unity, of the world as itself, and that the whole nature of mind and awareness is to be one with what it knows, suggests a state that would usually be called love. For the love that expresses itself in creative action is something much more than an emotion. It is not something which you can “feel” and “know,” remember and define. Love is the organizing and unifying principle which makes the world a universe and the disintegrated mass a community. It is the very essence and character of mind, and becomes manifest in action when the mind is whole.

(By “the undivided mind” or “the mind as whole”, he means when we realise our unity with the present moment and cease trying to fortify an “I” as opposed to reality).

There is no problem of how to love. We love. We are love, and the only problem is the direction of love, whether it is to go straight out like sunlight, or try to turn back on itself like a “candle under a bushel.”

Released from the circle of attempted self-love, the mind of a human draws the whole universe into its own unity as a single dewdrop seems to contain the entire sky.

A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; there are “itself”.

Everyone has love, but it can only come out when they are convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love themselves.

[..]

It comes only in the awareness that one has no self to love.

(Edited slightly to make it gender neutral)

Society is our extended mind and body.

We seldom to realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. We copy emotional reactions from our parents, learning from them that excrement is supposed to have a disgusting smell and that vomiting is supposed to be an unpleasant sensation. The dread of death is also learned from their anxieties about sickness and from their attitudes to funerals and corpses. Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he is indeed separate! Society as we now know is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules.

-Alan Watts

Public Service Announcement.

I’ve started a new blog on Tumblr. It’s here. The first post is about soup. It is not a replacement for Prickly Goo, just something new. This blog has rotted, as many blogs are apt to do, and I think the problem is I don’t have the inclination for longer posts at the moment, but I do want to say stuff. So I’ve set up a new one to get me rolling again. Expect: shorter, much more vague posts, more photos, some quotes etc.
Prickly Goo is not dead.

The sun doesn’t go down

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize we’re floating in space?
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

To Work for a True Catholicity

I have been trying almost all my life to work for a true catholicity, a fellowship wherein Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Jews and the rest could recognise their common Ground, and worship or meditate together without quarrelling, and yet without abandoning their interesting and colorful differences of method and style. I would not really want to see a Buddha-image on the high altar of St. Peter’s or a crucifix in the Kaaba, but it is being increasingly recognised that at the level of contemplative mysticism (or ‘metaphysic’) there is no essential difference between Zen Buddhists, Sufis, Vedantists, and blessedly silent Trappists. For when one gets into the domain of pure contemplation of the Ground of Being, there is no more talk going on inside the head, and therefore no occasion for disputation. There is simply a consciousness clear as crystal and open to truth, reality, or what is-which, as St. Thomas Aquinas would have said, is what all men call God.

Alan Watts – The Supreme Truth (1972 Preface)

A Binge By Any Other Name Would Smell Just As Bad

This article by Dr. Ciara Kelly in the Irish Independent about alcohol consumption in Ireland featured once sentence which leaped out at me.

Binge-drinking is defined as more than six units of alcohol – that’s three pints. That’s fact.

What’s interesting to me is the sentence “That’s fact”. Because on one reading it can be considered to say that it’s fact that three pints is binge-drinking, but what it really says is that three pints is defined as binge drinking. And that’s fine, but I find it odd the author stresses that this definition is fact, as if that strengthens the argument. It is a fact that in this country, at this time, some people define the word binge as meaning three pints. This is true, but what is so important about it?

It is absolutely important that medical experts advise us on how much alcohol consumption is dangerous to our health, but I wonder how important it is to define it in a word such as ‘binge’. I think it is an emotive word that immediately puts people on the defensive. People who are, possibly, in denial about their own levels of drinking, do not want to be told they are ‘binging’.

Dr. Ciara Kelly explains that:

It’s considered a binge because more than six units causes adverse physical effects.

This is a fact that can be observed. This is important. But what follows is a somewhat arbitrary and definitely subjective choice to then label this amount a ‘binge’. The problem is then that your definition of ‘binge’, as Dr. Kelly points out, is at odds with much of the publics understanding of that word. In this gap then arises doubt, and rejection. I have talked to people who have heard doctors warn about Irish people and binge drinking, who reject it saying “that’s not a binge”. Maybe the point is to be emotive, to shock people into realising that what they are doing is ‘binging’ – but if they don’t consider what you define as a binge to be the same thing, you lose them.

And what’s lost is the really important stuff – the medical advise about levels of alcohol and health, in an argument over semantics. Dr. Kelly makes a very strong, clear argument for the Irish to reconsider our drinking, but I fear she loses people at the B-word.