humanity

Seeking Discomfort

Seeking Discomfort

“I’m slowly learning how to bring anthropology and mindfulness together. I think they complement each other beautifully, but how to talk about it is a whole other thing. I think it comes down to excavation – what you do physically to understand where people come from. That’s a process of discovery and insight.”

Dr. Michael J. Kimball

Perpetual Self-Controntation

"We live in perpetual self-confrontation between the external success and the internal value. And the tricky thing, I'd say, about these two sides of our nature is they work by different logics."

~ David Brooks

Poetic or Sad of Beautiful

"My poems tend to be about being a middle-aged, middle class, straight, white guy living in middle America. I'm thinking, how do I become one of the great mass of people who sort of, well, keeps America's cars clean and lawns mowed? Exploring ways in which that is poetic or sad or beautifulthat's really exciting to me."  

~ George Bilgere

Poet - George Bilgere from Cleveland Arts Prize on Vimeo.


Bilgere, G. (2014). Imperial. Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press. (library, Amazon.com)

Stories are Powerful

"Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds, but in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry. And that’s what it means to be a social creature—to connect with others, to care about others, even complete strangers. It's so interesting that dramatic stories cause us to do this."

~ Paul Zak  director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity

See also: "Trust, morality — and oxytocin?" In this TED Talk, neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin (he calls it "the moral molecule") is responsible for trust, empathy and other feelings that help build a stable society.

Running in Circles

Mad World
by Gary Jules 

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me, what's my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world


See also:

The Best Possible Conditions

Exceprts from Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott:

Some of us have cavernous vibrations inside us when we communicate with God. Others are more rational and less messy in our spiritual sense of reality, in our petitions and gratitude and expressions of pain or anger or desolation or praise. Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we're invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.

Prayer can be motion and stillness and energy—all at the same time. It begins with stopping in our tracks, or with our backs against the wall, or when we are going under the waves, or when we are just so sick and tired of being psychically sick and tired that we surrender, or at least we finally stop running away and at long last walk or lurch or crawl toward something. Or maybe, miraculously, we just release our grip slightly.

Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken. (In fact, these are probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.) Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape.

But in any case, we are making contact with something unseen, way bigger than we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams, even if we are the most brilliant, open-minded scientists and physicists of our generation. It is something we might call divine intelligence or love energy (if there were no chance that anyone would ever find out about this). Prayer is ushumans merely being, as e. e. cummings put it—reaching out to something having to do with the eternal, with vitality, intelligence, kindness, even when we are at our most utterly doomed and skeptical.

My belief is that when you're telling the truth, you're close to God. If you say to God, "I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don't like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You," that might be the most honest thing you ever said. If you told me you had said to God, "It is all hopeless, and I don't have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand," it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real—really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.





See also: To Get Back There

The Best Possible Conditions

Exceprts from Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Some of us have cavernous vibrations inside us when we communicate with God. Others are more rational and less messy in our spiritual sense of reality, in our petitions and gratitude and expressions of pain or anger or desolation or praise. Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we're invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.

Prayer can be motion and stillness and energy—all at the same time. It begins with stopping in our tracks, or with our backs against the wall, or when we are going under the waves, or when we are just so sick and tired of being psychically sick and tired that we surrender, or at least we finally stop running away and at long last walk or lurch or crawl toward something. Or maybe, miraculously, we just release our grip slightly. 

Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken. (In fact, these are probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.) Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape.

But in any case, we are making contact with something unseen, way bigger than we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams, even if we are the most brilliant, open-minded scientists and physicists of our generation. It is something we might call divine intelligence or love energy (if there were no chance that anyone would ever find out about this). Prayer is us—humans merely being, as e. e. cummings put it—reaching out to something having to do with the eternal, with vitality, intelligence, kindness, even when we are at our most utterly doomed and skeptical.

My belief is that when you're telling the truth, you're close to God. If you say to God, "I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don't like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You," that might be the most honest thing you ever said. If you told me you had said to God, "It is all hopeless, and I don't have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand," it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real—really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.    

 


 

See also: To Get Back There

Embodying the Ineffable

voice-data.jpg

Grant Health and Fitness Center, January 28, 2014

VOICE/DATA
by Daron Larson 

An imaginary woman—
a voice that communicates
the impression of female
—invites me to enter my digits

She remains inordinately polite
in word choice and tone
regardless of my ability
to fulfill her desire for my data

I'm sorry
I didn't quite get that

I sense the presence
of a sophisticated algorithm  
calculating the odds of my legitimacy 

I am at her mercy

Please try again

But she can't know
I'm assessing her for fraud
even as I'm being monitored
for virtual trespasses against her

Please stay on the line
Your call is important to us

There is much talk on screens these days
about computer programs evolving
human-like consciousness

Some predict its inevitability
based on laws governing exponential increase

We forget how difficult it remains
for us to accurately convey
the direct experience of loneliness
     of connection
         of longing
             of grief
               given the constraints of language

This is not limited to storage bandwidth or process speed
but speaks of the capacity for embodying the ineffable

I'm sorry
Please stay
Please?
You're important to me
I'm so sorry

I'm not afraid of the machines
we create in our own image

I fear our shared tendency
to overlook the intangible
sparks that signal our humanity

What Openness Looks Like

David Richo, from an interview by Susan Johnston, The Urban Muse, April 2011:

The most exciting part of finding out who we are is discovering our own uniqueness, who we are outside the box, beyond the categories in a Psychology 101 textbook. In our inimitable singularity, there is an infinite range of possibility that cannot be tied to any one description of what it means to be human or healthy.

Just as our fingerprints are one-of-a-kind, so is our identity. Each of us is a once-only articulation of what humans can be. We are rare, unmatched, mysterious. This is why the quality of openness is so crucial to our self-discovery. We cannot know ourselves by who we think we are, who others take us to be, or what our driver’s license may say. We are fields of potential, some now actualized, most not yet. Poetry goes to that quarter of what humanness is about. It is what openness looks like on a page."


See also: Richo, D. (2009). Being true to life: Poetic paths to personal growth. Boston: Shambhala. 

Battling Zombies

Excerpt from "My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead," by Chuck Klosterman, The New York Times, December 3, 2010:

World War ZWhen we think critically about monsters, we tend to classify them as personifications of what we fear. Frankenstein’s monster illustrated our trepidation about untethered science; Godzilla was spawned from the fear of the atomic age; werewolves feed into an instinctual panic over predation and man’s detachment from nature. Vampires and zombies share an imbedded anxiety about disease. It’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between zombies and rabies (or zombies and the pitfalls of consumerism), just as it’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between vampirism and AIDS (or vampirism and the loss of purity). From a creative standpoint these fear projections are narrative linchpins; they turn creatures into ideas, and that’s the point.

But what if the audience infers an entirely different metaphor?

What if contemporary people are less interested in seeing depictions of their unconscious fears and more attracted to allegories of how their day-to-day existence feels? That would explain why so many people watched that first episode of “The Walking Dead”: They knew they would be able to relate to it.

A lot of modern life is exactly like slaughtering zombies...

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

The Internet reminds of us this every day...

This is our collective fear projection: that we will be consumed. Zombies are like the Internet and the media and every conversation we don’t want to have. All of it comes at us endlessly (and thoughtlessly), and — if we surrender — we will be overtaken and absorbed. Yet this war is manageable, if not necessarily winnable. As long we keep deleting whatever’s directly in front of us, we survive. We live to eliminate the zombies of tomorrow. We are able to remain human, at least for the time being. Our enemy is relentless and colossal, but also uncreative and stupid.

Battling zombies is like battling anything...or everything.

More...


See also:

Quantum States of Time

Dawn of Midi live at Cafe 939 (Berklee School of Music) October 21st, 2013

Excerpt from "Dawn of Midi," Radiolab, August 29, 2013: 

"If you just let it do what it's doing and have none of the usual expectations of resolution—or of that usual arc—it's not going to tell you a story, it's going to keep you company. That's what's happening here. What it's trying to do is to get you into a different state of mind—like a different state of time—that experience of time that is non-narrative—where you're sort of existing in time, not is sort of a regular story way where everything leads to the next thing—beginning, middle, and end—something else.

What I often talk about is that you have quantum states of time. What I take it to mean is something very ancient in a way...What you have are these vertical stacks of rhythms, like almost multiple time flows existing simultaneously—in the same moment.

And if you listen in to this music...and try to pick out, Okay.What's the base doing? What's the drums doing? What's the piano doing? You will hear that they're actually almost not fitting together, like they're playing different beats, pulling at each other in some sense.

If I listen in and try to pick out all the lines, I get lost in the intricacies of their rhythms. If I listen out, I can just nod my head to it for forty-five minutes...And that's just interesting to me, the way the patterns on the interior just kind of mess with your ear because they all seem to be on their own cycle, but then when you pull out and just listen to the whole thing together, you're like, Oh yeah, I can nod my head to this. 

What Humans are Capable of Inflicting

Excerpt from "Witnessing" by Susan Sontag from the introduction to Don McCullin:

"I would suggest that it is a good in itself to acknowledge, to have enlarged, one's sense of how much suffering there is in the world we share with others. I would insist that anyone who is perennially surprised that depravity exists, who continues to experience disillusionment (even incredulity) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans has not reached moral or psychological adulthood.

No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, of amnesia.

We now have a vast repository of images that make it harder to preserve such moral defectiveness. Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens and cannot encompass all the reality of a people's agony, they still serve an immensely positive function. The image says: keep these events in your memory."

See also: Don McCullin

To Get Back There

To Get Back There

"It is probably the case that our very ancient ancestors—before the arising of civilization, when we were still in a tribal state—lived an awful lot of their lives in a meditative state just naturally. 

And then, with the arising of civilization, that becomes lost and it's necessary to create conceptual frameworks and specific practice techniques to get back there."

~ Shinzen Young