Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meditation in the Morning

This morning before going out to work on the cordwood house, I chose to turn on the computer and meditate. Whenever I think of meditation or hear it mentioned, I picture a person sitting cross-legged humming for hours on end. Well, not no more. Kurt Vonnegut has offered us a different perspective on what it means to meditate.

"Literature is holy to me […] Meditation is holy to me, for I believe that all the secrets of existence and non existence are somewhere in our heads - or in other people's heads.

And I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.

By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.

This to me is a miracle."
Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tribal Life

I pulled the Daniel Quinn quote off from Shiny New Keychain.

"Tribal life is not in fact perfect, idyllic, noble, or wonderful, but wherever it’s found intact, it’s found to be working well -— as well as the life of lizards, raccoons, geese, or beetles —- with the result that the members of the tribe are not generally enraged, rebellious, desperate, stressed-out borderline psychotics being torn apart by crime, hatred, and violence. What anthropologists find is that tribal peoples, far from being nobler, sweeter, or wiser than us, are as capable as we are of being mean, unkind, short-sighted, selfish, insensitive, stubborn, and short-tempered. The tribal life doesn’t turn people into saints; it enables ordinary people to make a living together with a minimum of stress year after year, generation after generation.” (Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization, p. 61).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Internet Inspiration

A few months back Filip had mentioned that my blog had inspired him to start a new blog. It's called: The World Is As You Dream It. It's full of great writing, wisdom and stunning photographs that were taken by him. I highly recommend checking it out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Power and Writing

Writing was one of the original mysteries of civilization, and it reduced the complexities of experience to the written word. Moreover, writing provides the ruling classes with an ideological instrument of incalculable power. The word of God becomes an invincible law, mediated by priests; therefore, respond the Iroquois, confronting the European: "Scripture was written by the Devil." With the advent of writing, symbols became explicit; they lost a certain richness. Man's word was no longer an endless exploration of reality, but a sign that could be used against him.... For writing splits consciousness in two ways--it becomes more authoratative than talking, thus degrading the meaning of speech and eroding oral tradition; and it makes it possible to use words for the political manipulation and control of others. Written signs supplant memory; an official, fixed, and permanent version of events can be made. If it is written, in early civilizations, it is bound to be true. In Search of the Primitive, Pg. 4

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Culture Change

Most often, change, atleast on a social level, occurs the way Max Planck described it: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Years ago I read Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West. It's a long book, from which I really remember only one image. I think Spengler pleased at which one. A culture is like a plant growing in a particular soil. When the soil is exhausted--presuming a closed system (i.e., the soil isn't being replenished)--the plant dies. Cultures--or atleast historical (as opposed to cyclical) cultures--are the same. The Roman empire exhausted its possibilities (both physical, in terms of resources , and psychic or spiritual), then hung on decadent--I mean this in its deeper sense of decaying, although the meaning having to do with debauchery works, too--for a thousand years. Other empires are the same. The British Empire. The American Empire. Civilization itself has continued to grow by expanding the zone from which it takes resources. The plant has gotten pretty big, but at the cost of a lot of dead soil.

I think the exhausted soil metaphor works for individuals, too: they don't generally change until they've exhausted the possibilities of their previous way of being. Endgame, pg. 89