Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Avocados And Dogma

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Philosophy

10/16/2013Posted in: Essays

Neil Kramer

When we esteem and define ourselves through our work, we falter. Whether scrubbing toilets, accelerating particles, designing suspension bridges, or contemplating existence on a mountaintop – the nature of our work is ultimately inconsequential.

Galaxies effervesce, implode, and rejuvenate. Stars ignite and radiate. Planets throb, crack, and blossom. Interpenetrating dimensions yield inconceivable layers of flowing complexity. And amid it all, trillions of life-forms arise to witness and engage in this astonishing celestial symphony. So what is the purpose of it all? Is there a purpose? Does it need a purpose? What if the universe is an experiment in self-guided creation; a creation that creates itself as an evolving work-in-progress, founded on self-incrementing emanations of harmony, form, and equilibrium. If this were a work of art (which it may be), we could reasonably equate this process with what we call ‘beauty’.

Some intelligences are more involved in this endeavor than others. Disharmonious, fragmented, unbalanced life-forms may have their fifteen minutes of fame, but they will eventually fizzle out because they lack the ability to synchronize with the unifying imperative towards beauty. For those who do choose to align with the grand composition – personally contributing to ever-deeper levels of truth and elegance in all things – the universe reveals itself to be an extremely resourceful collaborator, a powerful ally, and a faithful companion.

The universe wants our artistic concurrence to be creative and singular; so it never tells us what to do. It prefers that we determine our own actions. But it will leave clues, arrange for meaningful symbols to appear on our path, and sometimes will speak through the movement of the natural environment. The wind in the trees can be heard to whisper, ‘not what, but how’. Not what you do, but how you do it.

I Done Wrong

The cogitations of one individual human are no more or less important than the sentience of an ocean, or the arc of a comet, or the afternoon dream of a sleeping Himalayan house cat. The quality and character may be different, but can the ideas of a man really be more essential than the blazing light of a sun? Our doings are exercises in conduct and growth. Specifics are irrelevant. It’s all yard work in the end. But that’s a very zoomed out thing. Witnessing humans poison themselves and the planet is exasperating, but not at all beyond the normal scope of experimental disharmonious schooling. At root, our wrongness is merely being out of alignment with the universe. The movement towards righteousness is a movement towards becoming universally aligned. We sometimes call this spirituality. A healthy, rounded attitude is very helpful. Purity of being is more important than accumulation of knowledge.

Whilst many gurus, scholars, researchers, and visionaries claim an absence of egotism, they seem inexplicably happy to laud the crucial significance of their own work. They consider the ‘what’ more important than the ‘how’. When someone openly regards their own systems of thought as monumentally important, they are divulging a deep crack in their own core. An inner struggle is being played out publicly. Still they insist that they are altruistically devoted to just getting the information out, serving as a conduit for sacred knowledge, helping the global awakening, serving the planetary spirit. Or some shit like that. After a decade of witnessing this up close and personal, I have found such pronouncements to be overwhelmingly untrue. The labor of the vast majority of underground personalities is entirely about themselves.

When self-esteem is lacking, recognition is sought from the outside. When self-worth is lacking, the heavy burden of martyrdom is declared. Both strategies are a response to unresolved inner turmoil. This is why we have dreamers on one side, and stoics on the other. Either way, the metaphysical material they tender is infected with a litany of personal issues, and is therefore heavily compromised. Nothing can be relied upon. Passions are merely personal ravings. Expositions and arguments are little more than emotional tantrums.

One definition of dogmatism is “unfounded positiveness in matters of opinion; arrogant assertion of opinions as truths.” As you will have noticed, this is rife in alternative circles. Whether dealing with matters of consciousness, spirituality, psychology, politics, conspiracy, paranormal, or whatever, the level of absurd recycled conjecture put forth as solid truth is dreadful. And those who are easily-led continue to gossip and wank over this stuff night after night in horrible brain-dead forums. In face-to-face discourse, we instinctively know when people are talking nonsense, and these things can be waved away with a smile or a shake of the head. But what are we to do when the dogma is not so clearly identifiable because it is being purposefully camouflaged in obscure, esoteric subject matters?

Have the courage to discriminate. Learn to know when you are hearing dogma. Know when you are hearing the shriek of the ego. Know when there is a humor deficiency.

Shut Up And Get On With It

I embarked upon my philosophical journey for no other reason than the sheer personal fulfillment of it. No goals, no career, no prestige. I couldn’t care less what anyone else thought. I still don’t. I deliberately steered clear of marriage, children, and system indebtedness, so I could go about my mental vagrancy without causing too much trouble. I chose this path myself, of my own accord. The aliens didn’t ask me to do anything. There were no appearances by nine foot turquoise beings. No mandates from God, Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha, the saints, pilgrims, masters, or watchers. I have never once set eyes upon the sacred emerald avocado, cloistered in a hidden grove and suspended in the teardrops of unicorns. No. It’s just me exploring the world.

Professionally, I am easy to please. I don’t need anything otherworldly to float my boat. My biggest satisfaction in the last year was when a man with whom I had worked told me that he is now speaking with his daughter for the first time in 30 years. They are slowly getting to know each other, hanging out, and beginning to genuinely respect, befriend, and love each other. No galactic revelations or higher dimensional interlopers necessary. Not today. Just humans trying to be better. To act as sincerely as possible. To be where we are. To help when asked. To claim our sovereignty. To speak the truth.

My ego is rarely at the helm, privately or publicly. In fact, I have a hard job persuading it to step out of its natural role at all nowadays – which is a good thing. I find it useful to envisage my ego as a tactical officer (a bit like Tuvok in Voyager). His duties and talents are focused on looking after the overall security of the system. And he does that very well; mobile, alert, strong, composed. However, tactical officers do not do well if they find themselves thrust into the role of captain. If that happens too often, life becomes one enormous miserable competition; always vying for advantage, dominance, safety, and esteem. This is an exhausting and artificial way of living.

By virtue of where and when I was born, I developed a natural resistance to egotism. In 1970’s Manchester, England, there was a very unsentimental working class resonance that deterred the individual from ever disappearing too far up their own rabbit hole. Just do what you’re doing, shut up, and get on with it. If you toot your own horn too loudly, someone will rightfully jam it down your throat. So be cool. Secondly, I had a very healthy relationship with nature from childhood onwards. Years of watching falcons, hawks, buzzards, otters, and foxes hunting on their home turf, automatically lowers one’s sense of self importance and personal projection. If you are too heavy in your selfness, animals can feel it and they hide from you. Whereas, if you are light of self, they will let you be among them. As the Native Americans say, tread lightly. And last but not least, is the miracle of humor. If you aren’t laughing, you’re doing it wrong. Period. All my close friends, family, and honored colleagues, laugh all the time. We laugh at ourselves, each other, our work, and our world. When humor is a constant companion, any traces of pomposity are instantly eliminated.

Alan Watts (1915-1973) used to laugh a lot. Humor was part of his philosophy. He knew his attainments, his limitations, his excellence, and his vices. And he found the contrast amusing. As it is in all of us. So his profound wisdom was very naturally grounded in self observation and transformation. He understood that if self is too heavy, it impedes growth. Only when self is light and fluid can we truly mature. Everything else is a simulation.

Watts reminds me to be wary of self-proclaimed wise men who do not laugh. Next time you listen to popular figures in alternative circles, pay careful attention to how often they express both humor and humility. How often do they laugh, smile, share, open? Can you feel their warmth? Don’t confuse forthrightness with authenticity. Put their knowledge to one side for a moment, and consider how good are they at ‘being’? How proficient are they at being a full spectrum human with all the artistry, balance, and lovingness that is so essential for a true and healthy outlook? If these things are missing, we are not dealing with centered beings. We are dealing with men who regard solemnity as the only proper accompaniment to the imagined gravity of their work. The more serious someone is about their stuff, the more I question their sincerity.

Enjoy The Gloom

Personal subjective mindscapes are fine for the individual, but hugely irrelevant to everyone else. We all have different ways of perceiving and interacting with the world. There is no one true path. No single overarching mythos, practice, or method. All we have are observations. We have to go our own way. Strive to see things in their naked actuality. Never apply a narrative to what needs no narrative. Avoid continual references to Goddesses, Gods, demons, angels, evil, sorcery, aliens, creation stories, prophecies, cataclysms, sinister psychology, and needlessly obscure jargon.

When I detect a consistent thread of dogmatism in someone’s words and thinking, I know that something is wrong. If I perceive that they also secretly enjoy the gloom, fall out with people a lot, insist on things being a certain way, and are elevating their special knowledge above all others, then I am calling it emotional immaturity. When a person becomes unduly attached to their own theories concerning ‘how things are’, then their perceptions are already skewed. You can spot these folks a mile off, because they always feel an irresistible urge to prove, bolster, defend, attack, and contend. And like the very control system they are railing against, they only become more pompous in their ideological convictions as the whole thing crumbles around their heads.

The doctrinaire man* has had his day. The cults, gurus, expos, and temples are going out of business. Whilst they worked well from the 1960’s all the way through to the 1990’s, their credibility seriously declined in the 2000’s as people started to question the dogma. They were tired of it. The same principle of a redundant and fraudulent priest class – previously rejected in mainstream Abrahamic religions – was now being acknowledged and thrown out in the new age paradigm. Today, only those who are lonely, naive, ill, or desperate continue to buy into it. For everyone else, they have rightfully concluded that the premise of a special transmission of enlightenment through enigmatically ordained individuals, is a casino-style con.

For men engaged chiefly in intellectual pursuits, the impulse to define themselves through their work is a pretty common trait. It is, nevertheless, always a grave and unnecessary error. If their studious ruminations also have an esoteric or mystical element, the delusional man can get away with bloody murder in repackaging theatrical twaddle as sound knowledge. Beware those who confidently suppose that they are on some higher mission, have been singled out for vital work, and possess an exclusive understanding of the road to salvation. This serves only to induce even greater imagined merit in the mind of the perpetrator. For this reason, they are compelled to maintain and defend their theorizing – not for fidelity of the work itself – but for their own mental health.

When you sniff dogma in a person, immediately examine the health and poise of their ‘beingness’ – that is, their human ability to simply be, without affectation or projection. How good are they at being a genuine well rounded individual? Forget crusading scholars and cryptic sages. I mean the animal: mind, heart, and will, acting in unison in the flesh. If they cannot really be, they cannot really know. In such circumstances (as with the aforementioned Vulcan), the stunning technology of humor is regrettably supplanted by the self-defeating conventions of dogma. Only a humble man can laugh from his depths. The lightheartedness of existence is one of the great mysteries.

Notes & Further Reading

* Whilst there are both male and female new age zealots out there, most of the dogma comes from men; hence the choice of gender in this essay.

This essay is not about any specific individual. It is about a general egoic aberration that obscures truth by fragmenting being. I’m calling it like I see it.

In Defense of the Ego

Posted: November 5, 2013 in Philosophy
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The ego is a much maligned aspect of  our selves.  The ego has been the target of the best
and worst intentioned of individuals and groups.  On one hand we have governments and
organizations  that insist on ego annihilation and subjugation of individual will for the "good
of the state" or some other group.  Because the ego questions, the ego insists on its
individual freedom, the ego does not willingly submit to the unreasonable, destructive
demands of a totalitarian government or organization such as the military or some
religious groups, that set out to destroy any semblance of  individual will.

Then there are those who espouse destruction of the ego as a means of, or enroute to,
enlightenment.  The view here is that the ego is somehow evil or somehow separate from
the total being. Although no one could question the desirability of achieving a higher state
of awareness, one might question ego annihilation as a means to that end.

The ego is one aspect of the total self.  The ego is the aspect that the higher self, God, the
Divine Master, the Tao, the One Mind, or whatever you wish to call it, created to interact
with all other aspects of the physical universe. Its task is to survive these interactions and
thrive.  The ego takes its task seriously.  It looks after its various individual selves and
thrives, and forgets.   In forgetting, the ego may become so self centered in accomplishing
its assigned tasks that it acts in ways detrimental to other individuals and its environment
and it is out of balance with the universe and its purpose.

  Somewhere along the line though, the questions always return; the who, why , or what
am I ?  And what is it that asks the question?  What is it that struggles to find the answer;
that builds temples when it thinks its found an answer.  What is it that contemplates the
possibility of eternity and a universe of unlimited possibilities?  It is not the higher self, or
the god within, because it knows!  It is the ego that struggles to awareness.  It is the ego
that becomes enlightened.  It is the ego that continues to interact on the physical plane
even as the answers become clear.  But, once enlightened, aware of who and what it is, it
acts and reacts in a totally new way.  It knows that its individual  well being is connected at
the very deepest and highest level  with its environment and all other entities in this

The goal then, should not be to destroy the ego(unless you're planning on disappearing in
some spectacular pyrotechnic display upon achieving satori) but to bring it into balance
with the rest of  your individual aspects and the aspects of all the other entities manifest in
this timespace construct.   I propose that our purpose in being here is not, as the Buddha
said, "to suffer",  or as others say, to learn.   Considering the all knowing nature of the one
mind it would be a dismally short play and boring to boot...."let me tell you about suffering". 
Rather, I believe we are here to experience this creation, both its joys and sorrows.  The
ego in balance can appreciate the joy and the sorrow without becoming 
attached to them because it knows they only have meaning in the duality of the physical
universe.   The ego in balance, the aware ego, that aspect of the all that makes you you, will 
graciously give up its attachment to this world when it is time. There is nothing you have to
do to the ego but remember who and what you are.

The only thing I disagree with his presentation is he talks about ESP or extrasensory perception as not real and doesn’t actually exist and there isn’t enough science to back up the evidence. I maybe wrong and I’ve obviously not stepped into his shoes and looked at the information he has research but at the same time there are many accounts of ESP research, including government agencies funding research projects to understand the phenomena, tool and techniques involved to achieve such states of consciousness.

Dr. Eagleman holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at the Baylor College of Medicine. His areas of scientific expertise include time perception, vision, synesthesia, and the intersection of neuroscience with the legal system. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and is the Founder and Director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. Dr. Eagleman has written several neuroscience books, including Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia (co-authored with Richard Cytowic, MIT Press, 2009) and Dethronement: The Secret Life of the Unconscious Brain (Pantheon, 2010). He has also written an internationally bestselling book of literary fiction, Sum, which was named a Best Book of 2009 by Barnes and Noble, New Scientist, and the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Eagleman has written for the New York Times, Discover Magazine, Slate, and New Scientist, and he appears regularly on National Public Radio to discuss both science and literature.

The Truth About the Government Shutdown

John Taylor Gatto – The Purpose Of Schooling

Posted: March 30, 2013 in Government, Philosophy
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John Taylor Gatto (born December 15, 1935) is a retired American school teacher with nearly 30 years experience in the classroom, and author of several books on education. He is an activist critical of compulsory schooling, of the perceived divide between the teen years and adulthood, and of what he characterizes as the hegemonic nature of discourse on education and the education professions.

Gatto was born in the Pittsburgh-area steel town of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. In his youth he attended public schools throughout the Pittsburgh Metro Area including Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown as well as a Catholic boarding school in Latrobe. He did undergraduate work at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia, then served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following army service he did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva University, the University of California, and Cornell.
He worked as a writer and held several odd jobs before borrowing his roommate’s license to investigate teaching. Gatto also ran for the New York State Senate, 29th District in 1985 and 1988 as a member of the Conservative Party of New York against incumbent David Paterson. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. In 1991, he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled I Quit, I Think, to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he no longer wished to “hurt kids to make a living.” He then began a public speaking and writing career, and has received several awards from libertarian organizations, including the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Excellence in Advancement of Educational Freedom in 1997.

He promotes homeschooling, and specifically unschooling. Wade A. Carpenter, associate professor of education at Berry College, has called his books “scathing” and “one-sided and hyperbolic, [but] not inaccurate” and describes himself as in agreement with Gatto.

Gatto is currently working on a 3-part documentary about compulsory schooling, titled The Fourth Purpose. He says he was inspired by Ken Burns’s Civil War.

What does the school do with the children? Gatto states the following assertions in “Dumbing Us Down”:
It makes the children confused. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials that programming is similar to the television, it fills almost all the “free” time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.
It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
It makes them indifferent.
It makes them emotionally dependent.
It makes them intellectually dependent.
It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised