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What happened to nature?
Olena {The Wizard}
New York
Immortal since Aug 5, 2009
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

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    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...
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    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From Olena's personal cargo

    No Secret.
    It's easy to consume, not necessarily passively, but extraneously... I notice it most when I visit one of those image blogs with the never-ending scroll bar, or when reading — it's even more difficult to put the thing down when it's actually informative, useful.

    To gain knowledge is a wonderful thing; to think is even better.

    “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another’s guidance. Dare to know! That is the motto of Enlightenment.”
    Immanuel Kani

    But when is it time to choose and do?

    "'Is it a terrible prison, not to be able to move from the place where you're standing?' ... 'I told him that I am now more free than he is. The inability to move frees me from the obligation to act.' ... 'You who speak languages, you are such liars.'"
    O.S. Card, Xenocide

    There is the immaturity of denying one's own obligation in this way...
    but to be careful is a different monster - to first understand, to... think before you speak, so that even if it's still stupidity when it comes out, at least it's well-considered stupidity and therefore actually worth the effort of correcting:

    "You, however, understand the profound truth that you must reveal your stupidity openly. To hold your stupidity inside you is to embrace it, to cling to it, to protect it. But when you expose your stupidity, you give yourself the chance to have it caught, corrected, and replaced with wisdom."
    O.S. Card, Ender's Shadow

    Kant says we must trust ourselves despite humility.
    Some people have no problem with this — those contrarians, the punks. But I think the punks were doin' it wrong. Too loud, too barbaric. Is a fair intelligentsia ever convinced by barbarians?
    I prefer Sun Tzu's approach:

    "Let your plans be as dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

    It feels like a tightrope, between arrogance and sheepishness.

    “No—now you must take this phlegmatically. You had hoped you would qualify. You had feared you would not. Actually, both hope and fear are weaknesses. You knew you would qualify and you hesitate to admit the fact because such knowledge might stamp you as cocksure and therefore unfit. Nonsense! The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise. It is part of your qualification that you knew you would qualify.”
    -Asimov, Foundation

    So at what point do we put the books down and decide
    to invent, create, show, teach something worthwhile?
    Is it a conscious decision at all, or just a natural byproduct?
    Does a theorist set out to theorize once he feels he knows enough,
    or does he wait until it hits him, like Newton's proverbial apple?

    "But finally he realized: He had already understood it from the start. There was no secret that Bean just didn't get yet because he was only little."
    O.S. Card, Ender's Shadow

    Fri, Nov 20, 2009  Permanent link

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    weather     Sat, Nov 21, 2009  Permanent link
    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
    -nelson mandella

    Thank you Olena for this post.
    I've been thinking much about what we channel or communicate in our expression, and the methods by which we do this honestly.

    The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise.


    Olena     Sat, Nov 21, 2009  Permanent link
    Weather - thank you for that comment!
    That's a beautiful passage.

    Actually, who are you not to be?

    Isn't that the truth? Don't we inherit the world, by inheriting life?
    But a wise man is no good if he's pretentious; that in itself is a disability - to refuse or altogether be unable understand because of your own convictions about yourself. The ivory tower syndrome.

    Does the difference just depend on honesty?

    [He] was glad to see that — she was a person who didn't shoot back without thinking. She was able to learn.


    weather     Sun, Nov 22, 2009  Permanent link
    Maybe honesty just means removing all kinks in the hose that staunch truth from flowing. To accept is to be truly humble.
    HelloAlexCL     Sun, Nov 22, 2009  Permanent link
    The end of this post conjured up in my mind the Tantric maxim "taking the result as the cause." In the Tantric tradition, this serves as a means to realize - or more precisely, recognize - enlightenment as the primordial condition itself rather than a result that is attained. Here, the "result" is immanent to the "cause" - the two are inalienable to one another. In the same way, “the essence of enlightenment (tathāgatagarbha) is not simply a seed or potential that can develop into the state of awakening but is the state of awakening itself” (Tayé 19).

    Similar deconstructions of linear causality have gained popularity in contemporary western philosophy with the Deleuzeian rhizome, which grows spontaneously and has no "origin," as opposed to a tree growing from a seed.

    I think what you're working through in this post, though it isn't named, is most specifically intention, and only action insofar as it relates to intention. To return to the Buddhist philosophical system, from the Buddha's perspective, no conscious decisions are made, no deliberate actions are taken, and no cognitions occur. The illusions of intention and cognition are projected upon the Buddha from the outside. In the Buddha's case, result ("action" as non-action) is possible without intention. The action is the subsequent, ecstatic movement incited by the luminous natural state, free of cognition, virtue, and intention.

    So, in response to the questions posed in your final passage, the latter answers are the ideal ones.

    (not trying to "desecularize" these ideas - just using the Buddhist philosophical system because it's a damn powerful one)
    Olena     Tue, Nov 24, 2009  Permanent link
    @ Alex:
    I appreciate your Buddhist approach, and you're correct in naming intention as part of what I'm getting at - so you say the Buddhist answer, then, is to leave it to the path to unfold itself - the natural byproduct...
    To speak for me personally, that's a difficulty. (Maybe that's a Western perturbation in general? I can't say.) I feel inclined to learn, but then that begins to seem like endless "preparation", and for what? I enjoy the process more than the product, but at the same time I'm disappointed by lack of production or action.

    In any case, I've been interested in learning more about Buddhism as well as the Tao. Are there any books you could recommend?
    HelloAlexCL     Fri, Dec 11, 2009  Permanent link
    Sorry for the delay.

    There has been a misunderstanding. What you stated is almost opposite of what I was going for. I think this is my fault. Taking the result as the cause is more like a realization of potential, specifically recognizing a preexistent potential. And there really is no preparation. One of the books I'd recommend would be Clarifying the Natural State. I was just looking at the first few pages after finding a page to link, and I think this sums that part up: "The true realization of mind, the all-pervasive identity of the definitive secret, Is difficult to realize through other long-lasting paths; Yet, you reveal it effortlessly, like pointing to it with your finger." This book is associated with the Mahamudra school. I should note that Buddhism is extremely diverse in terms of schools. I think Americans these days usually think Tibetan Buddhism when they think Buddhism. This is probably a good thing, as Tibetan Buddhism is undoubtedly the most advanced comprehensive philosophical system man has ever devised. Their archaic word for westerners means something along the lines of barbarian/savage - they're a very nice people, though. ha. Tibetan Buddhism is actually the newest. Somehow the religion spread from its birthplace in Northern India through southern India and swept all the way around through Southeast Asia before it crept up a tiny step on the map to Tibet.

    Rupert Gethin's The Foundations of Buddhism is the standard introductory text to Buddhism. The most popular translation of the Tao Te Ching is Mitchell's, which is good, but the best is Jonathan Star's. They are both good though - I read them in conjunction and between the two get a really good feel for each verse, but Star's is the best if you're to use just one. Tao Te Ching is the best introduction to generic eastern thought in general. The verses are perfect little morsels - you can read just one a day and some will really stick with you.
    Olena     Sat, Dec 12, 2009  Permanent link
    So, you were actually saying that we should be able to reveal our own paths, not by purposeful action, but by attention to the path we're already on?

    Thank you for the recommendations.
    Infinitas     Sat, Dec 12, 2009  Permanent link
    Alex, you seem to know more about Buddhism than I do, so any advice on my understanding would be appreciated.

    I've read the Dalai Lama's The Way to a Meaningful Life and BuddhIsm, Plain and Simple, both of which I recommend, but I would sum it up by saying, just live in the present. If everything is infinite, then the only thing we know for certain is what we can realize in front of us, what we can acknowledge with our five senses. So just focus on the present.
    Olena     Sat, Dec 12, 2009  Permanent link
    Thanks Infinitas, I appreciate your input.

    I think I'm going to have to pick up one of these books over the holidays...
    weather     Sat, Dec 12, 2009  Permanent link
    don't forget The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa!
    Olena     Sat, Dec 12, 2009  Permanent link
    Thanks weather! :D
    Oh dear, my reading list is getting heavy.
    HelloAlexCL     Sun, Dec 13, 2009  Permanent link
    yeah, infinitas definitely has the idea. Clarifying the Natural introduces the idea that there's nothing that really has to be done. It's a paradox - a meaningful one - as the state it intends to induce is supposedly a natural, primordial awareness, yet the book was clearly written to serve this purpose - to introduce a preexistent potential to be realized.

    The Dalai Lama book is a good recommendation. I've only read excerpts but I'm required to read the whole thing for class this spring.
    HelloAlexCL     Mon, Dec 14, 2009  Permanent link
    "Lack of production or action" is a really valid concern. Zizek wrote a really good article on Western Buddhism being the "opium of the people," a perfect supplement to capitalism.
    nedzen     Tue, Dec 15, 2009  Permanent link
    thanks for this quote,

    "You, however, understand the profound truth that you must reveal your stupidity openly. To hold your stupidity inside you is to embrace it, to cling to it, to protect it. But when you expose your stupidity, you give yourself the chance to have it caught, corrected, and replaced with wisdom."

    it might also work if you write a diary from time to time and when you read it you realize the way you were thinking a while ago and you can see yourself growing.
    Olena     Tue, Dec 15, 2009  Permanent link
    Thanks for the comments Alex!
    I'm finishing up "Siddhartha" right now, and then moving on to one of those... I guess Way To A Meaningful Life is a good place to start then?

    Yes, looking back on old writing is great. Sometimes it's actually insightful, and other times pretty embarrassing (in it's naivete). But it's definitely better to see growth.
    Infinitas     Tue, Dec 15, 2009  Permanent link
    Way to a Meaningful life was my first real introduction into Buddhism aside from heavily reading wikipedia and some other online stuff. At times it was hard to get through, but at some point I want to read it again. What I would do differently, and what I suggest you do, is read one chapter or a section at a time and try to focus on that content throughout the next few days, maybe even more if you are really serious about it. It's meant to be a guide, so read it as one.

    There are lots of pretty incredible insights and tips. Like there are different "types" of meditation and he explains what to actually visualize when you are meditating. I thought that was pretty cool.
    Infinitas     Tue, Dec 15, 2009  Permanent link
    I had sent Zizek's article to my brother who sent me back the following reply. It more or less was to help me clarify my ambivalence about non-action or action along with good intention. But I thought it was rather appropriate for what is being discussed here so I thought I'd share it.

    This is an inherently philosophical position: what is the condition of human existence? Is suffering a precondition to existence, or does suffering arise through sin (the introduction of suffering ultimately through desire (that is desire followed by action))? From another perspective, does *any and all* desire ultimately result in suffering? Which begs the question is it better to cede all desire/ambition or rather to strive to achieve results that are putatively without suffering or attempt to reduce suffering?

    Surely Buddhism's stance on desire does not imply that non-action is the only path to salvation, although some live life in this way. If non-action was central, then why does this appearance of reality exist in the first place? Why don't we just all kill ourselves and thus end this suffering? Non-action itself cannot lead to salvation for the simple reason that internal conscious will precedes action. Action/non-action is a consequence of will, so simply not doing something does not change your will. Rather it must be your conscious will that changes for suffering to be reduced / salvation to arise. Molding will is an exercise in action by definition, internally and externally.

    To say that suffering itself is a precondition to existence is akin to equating it with the second law of thermodynamics - that any physical action always increases entropy in the universe. If suffering is a precondition then we cannot alleviate it through action and we might as well just stop living. But this is not the point. The point is to use conscious will to alleviate suffering of yourself and others and attempt to attain personal salvation by changing your perception of reality. This can only be achieved through action and through desire to achieve this result. Thus the desire that Buddhism warns against must be the desire/attachment for any outcome, event, object, etc that is other than salvation or the elimination of suffering. So clearly the point is not to cede desire for everything including life, but rather to cede desire for phenomena that distract from the goal of salvation. In this way Christianity and Buddhism agree. Other debatable issues like reincarnation vs judgement are not particularly relevant especially in regard to one's current life. It's not like you say to yourself, well I plan to achieve nirvana in 10 lifetimes, so this lifetime I can kind of slack off. Ultimately everyone wants nirvana in one lifetime.

    However this is clearly a common source of confusion for Christianity and Buddhism, as Buddhists are biased towards non-action while Christians are biased toward attachment via action for the wrong reason (my favorite example is the eco-terrorist).
    HelloAlexCL     Wed, Dec 16, 2009  Permanent link
    To attribute suffering to action would be a very non-Buddhist thing to do, as it would be attributing an essence to action. The difference in focus between the Buddhist and Christian philosophies would be better summed up as epistemological vs. ontological, respectively. As I said, it's not like the Buddha does not act, but that his experience of action is completely different.

    And suffering is a condition of samsara, not it's agency. Samsara is perpetuated by ignorance, so this immediately situates the mind as the means of escape. This serves an important function, as it makes it possible to achieve enlightenment within society, rather than only through becoming a complete recluse. This reclusive path would focus on wisdom and philosophy and neglect compassion. Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamaka, made the other path philosophically viable in the third century. Classical Buddhist philosophy focused exclusively on the lack of essence in the self, the subject, and Nagarjuna extended this idea of lack of essence to the objects that the subject apprehends. Here is a simple explanation I wrote about the shift he made:

    Samsara is perpetuated by ignorance. Therefore, the way out of samsara requires the elimination of ignorance. Unfortunately, we are throughly entrenched in samsara, as we are surrounded by its products. All these products, most of them our creations (look around the room you are in; everything is manmade), bear the imprint of ignorance. These creations constitute our environment, which we cannot abandon. The teachings of the path must bear this same imprint of ignorance, yet they provide us with the means to eliminate ignorance. It is impossible to completely abandon the world of samsara, and probably not wise considering it includes all writings and teachings.
    Nagarjuna's extension of the denial of essence to "objects" opens up the possibility of an epistomological approach where the ignorance of the thing itself is displaced in favor of a model that takes the experience of the thing to be crucial. One cannot purge the thing of karma, but can accomplish something of the sort by altering his experience of the thing. It is within this experience that the thing acquires the ignorance; the ignorance is not essential to the thing. The object cannot be changed, so the only option is to change the relationship to the thing as to purge the experience of it of ignorance.

    Here is where the problem of social change within the Buddhist framework gets really messy. Zizek conceives of the problem very well in terms of capitalism. All that I could think to say in defense of the Buddhist position would be to reiterate the prominence of compassion, which is just as important as wisdom and means, and could perhaps incite social change. There will be a conference this spring with the Dalai Lama (and my Buddhism professor) in Zurich ( that will probably tackle these questions. I will make a post on the conference after it happens.
    Olena     Wed, Jan 13, 2010  Permanent link
    I just found a recent post over at Reddit, basically asking my original question, simply, concisely.

    The OP therein mentions quick satisfaction - bullets, excerpts, etc. But I find that even when I get through entire textbooks or articles or what have you, I rarely put my knowledge or ideas to use... I tend to like to think more than do, but when I actually do, I enjoy that as well and end up wishing I did more often.

    What do you think?

    Infinitas     Wed, Jan 13, 2010  Permanent link
    I feel that same exact way. Sometimes I try to do something, but the next day I find myself no where near the point I was at the day before. But the motivation I do get either usually comes during the day that I read, heard or saw something, or in a larger force that seems to be unleashed over the course of maybe a week or two after having accumulated inside me for any number of days.

    But I think it's important to ask what constitutes doing? I'd like to think that sitting in front of my computer sharing my thoughts is doing something, which it is to a certain extent, but I don't feel it's effect as greatly as if I were to share those same feelings in person with a friend or a complete stranger and actually making them understand even a little. I also don't think that by just reading something is there as great as an effect.
    collective matt     Wed, Jan 13, 2010  Permanent link
    It's difficult to imagine that a discussion on spacecollective could be considered as doing something. In fact we are here doing the most important thing— The task of revealing the truth (the Tao, the way) so that it can be fulfilled. Intention precedes action; the only true prophecy is the self-fulfilling prophecy. "Taking the result as the cause” is what it's all about.

    “We should be able to reveal our own paths, not by purposeful action, but by attention to the path we're already on” I like the way you put this Olena. Also, Siddhartha was my first true exposure to Buddhism, and it has really stuck with me over time.

    I do feel that what’s happening here is important. In fact it may be the most important.
    keen     Thu, Jan 14, 2010  Permanent link
    live curious
         Thu, Jan 14, 2010  Permanent link
    When work feels overwhelming, remember that you're going to die.
    Olena     Thu, Jan 14, 2010  Permanent link
    Infinitas & Matt -
    You're right, I think writing it down, especially sharing with others is definitely doing, and very important. I love this community, and the internet in general — the ways in which it has opened up the world is amazing.

    And then, I had a thought today: I've recently changed majors, which means I'm doing a lot more reading/learning and have less direction of what kind of projects to do. I find myself happier this way (so far, and have in the past also), because I feel more motivated and that I can actually make intelligent decisions on what to do and how to do it, as I'm inspired by what I'm learning, instead of only taking direction from someone else and reproducing their ideas.
    It reminded me of what was said earlier, about letting go and following the path — allowing the doing to happen naturally by listening to what feels important, what seems to be missing, what needs to be done, instead of forcing it.

    The title reminds me of something James Victore always says: Live the question.
    What a beautiful video to express this. Thanks.

    lol! Yes. Thanks for that one :D
         Thu, Jan 14, 2010  Permanent link
    What did you switch your majors from/to?
    Infinitas     Thu, Jan 14, 2010  Permanent link
    I find myself happier this way (so far, and have in the past also), because I feel more motivated and that I can actually make intelligent decisions on what to do and how to do it, as I'm inspired by what I'm learning, instead of only taking direction from someone else and reproducing their ideas.

    Olena, this is the sole reason why I don't completely like our modern education. Don't get me wrong, there is tons of benefit from how it is currently, but I really think that teaching children how to think for themselves, at an early age, is the key to a successful generation and future.

    The more I think about it all, the more I tend to think that "going with the flow" is completely necessary in the next step of human evolution. It's about embracing the whole, which eventually leads to you becoming better for not just yourself but for the good of everyone. The whole "following the path" thing really has me by the horns. To some extent that's what my most recent post was about. Being in this kind of zone or state of mind kind of gives you this sense of perfection. Sure, the idea of perfection is different for everyone else, but the same general feeling, or mindset, is there for everyone. Being in the zone, living in the moment, not worrying about the past or present is essential to bringing our civilization out of the ditch it keeps on digging.
    Olena     Fri, Jan 15, 2010  Permanent link
    From graphic design to something called visual & critical studies. I'm still able to take design classes, but this new major allows for more flexibility in studio choices and a heavier focus on non-studio education; that is, humanities.

    Definitely. I was reading the Discover interview with Sir Roger Penrose (famed physicist/mathematician) & he talked about how, when he was in elementary school, he was really slow at math so the teacher allowed his class to take untimed tests.
    We don't have that kind of option, now... for me, at least, teachers were rarely so patient and timing was everything — it didn't really matter if you truly learned anything as long as you could finish the standardized test in time.
    Anyway, it's not so much about timing as it is pressure to succeed instead of learn, get A's and B's and a job.