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Contributor to project:
Branding the Species
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Apr 22, 2008
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    From cyang
    My Final Project
    From chaudown
    Field Trip
    From redacted
    The Five Steps to Mysticism
    redacted’s project
    Branding the Species
    Background: Voyager’s Interstellar record is a disk with encoded information that was attached to two space probes currently making their...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    As a complement to my last post, which was a rubric that I'm going to use for my purposes of evaluating how appropriate my project is, this post is a succint summary of all the conclusions from my research. Like my last post, it is meant to be a quick guide to help me make decisions on how my project can best reflect what I found out through my research.

    Basically the basics are about the marriage between ecstasy & fear and the similarities between various concepts including but not limited to mysticism, eroticism, and flow, all of which have in relation to one another the ecstatic moment of which I'm trying to represent in my final project.

    There is ecstasy to be found in what we fear the most. Meaning that in order to arrive at a point of total ecstasy, one must first give up all presuppositions about God and the divine. Doing that will put one in a state of fear, for one will have given up their most elemental beliefs about where we came from. It is at this point, when all hope seems to be lost, that one is elevated into an ecstatic moment.
    Proposed by Georges Bataille

    Mysticism & Its 5 Steps The notion that there is a methodogical way to be at one with God, divinity, truth, etc. First one awakens to the presence of a divine being, then a purgation of the soul happens where one loses their identity, followed by the illumination of the union of heaven & earth; after this the mystic comes down from their ecstatic bliss and feels hopeless & void in the mundane world, and finally the person finds themselves in perpetual union with the Other.
    Proposed by Evelyn Underhill

    Eroticism A very similar concet to mysticism, the concept of eroticism to Georges Bataille was the desire for us to go beyond the limits of subjectivity & humanity and enter into a transgression of the ephemeral. This, done through sexual foreplay & intercourse. The feeling of undressing oneself and the idea of playing sexual roles is elemental in Bataille's eroticism.
    Proposed, again, by Georges Bataille

    Flow A state of mind in which a person is totally concentrated in an activity and is and is at an optimum level of performance. At its core, flow is autotelic, meaning a person that is in flow is internally driven, and he/she does whatever activity they are doing in flow, for the sake of the activity itself. A person who is in flow experiences selflessness, meaning they lose preoccupation with their ego; concentration, meaning they are totally immersed in the activity; and challenge, where they find a balance between performing too easily or too difficult.
    Proposed by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    That, in a nutshell, are my research findings on which I'll base my final project (deliverables). From now on, I shall concentrate on finding a concrete & implicit idea for my project, and executing it. PROMISE THIS IS MY LAST RESEARCH POST! From here on out I'll only be posting deliverables, or deliverable-related content.
    Tue, Jun 3, 2008  Permanent link

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    I am taking the project into a different direction than what had been previously said. Where before I wanted to match up arresting photographs (such as that of people in disaster situations such as the recent earthquake in central China or 9/11) with quotes from people that I interviewed asking what their most ecstatic moment was, instead now I am doing the opposite actually. I am taking photographs of the most mundane situations and of people at their most commonplace, and overimposing quotes from poets that have been in their most ecstatic.

    My image research is below. From my previous idea I "recycled" a book that I had borrowed about Chinese photography, and then the Professor gave me a German photography book. I also did new research of my own and found a fiercetographer who specializes in capturing the mundane. His name is Andrew Z. Glickman.

    Click on a picture to see it enlarged.

    Contemporary Chinese Photography
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    Image (8) Image

    Contemporary German Photography
    Image Image (7) Image (6) Image (5) Image (4) Image (3)
    Image (12) Image (11) Image (10) Image (9) Image (27) Image (26)
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    Image (21) Image (24) Image (23) Image (14) Image (13) Image (19)
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    Andrew Z. Glickman's D.C. Metro series
    1 10 7 4 3 9 5

    Andrew Z. Glickman's Oaxaca series
    oaxaca1 oaxaca2 oaxaca3 oaxaca4 oaxaca5 oaxaca6
    oaxaca7 oaxaca8

    Wed, May 28, 2008  Permanent link

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    As previously discussed, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow was initially very narrow in its application. Soon, however, other scholars started to apply this wonderful idea to other areas. One of the most important areas where it was applied was in sports. The idea that there is a mental state where a person can perform at optimum while retaining their focus & concentration must have been just what athletes, coaches, & sports psychologists were looking for.

    Like I mentioned before, the way I arrived at knowing about flow is through a concept I was already familiar with, which is called being "in the zone". A closely related concept to being in the zone, especially in long-distance running, is something called the runner's high. Runners who have already ran a considerable distance assert that at some point they will start to become euphoric and their run will be more pleasant. I know that anybody who has kept up with my postings can list at least three equivalent concepts to the preceding description. The most obvious and important one for me comes from Bataille's description of how one attains ecstasy. As you may recall, he said that the mind must first enter into a state of fear by letting go of your deepest held beliefs. Once you are barren and have sacrificed your reason for existence, "something" lifts you up out of this abyss and brings you to an ecstasy.

    In regards to Bataille, one can assume that when he talks about that "something", it is of supernatural in nature, whether it is God, Absolute Truth, or another deity/supernatural force. Bataille in no way, shape, or form talks about the physiological aspect of how the ecstasy is obtained. Indeed, even when he was talking about Eroticism, he never mentions the biological process happening that induces the libido & orgasm.

    On the other hand and for obvious reasons, doctors of sports medicine are absolutely interested in knowing the biological/chemical workings behind the runner's high phenomenon, and indeed a lot of research has been done both to prove AND disprove this concept.

    The science of explaining runner's high for those who claim it exists is actually quite simple. When running long distances, obviously the body is being put into a lot of stress, and pain also occurs. This is the cue for the brain's neurotransmitters to start producing endorphins, which are opiate proteins that help relieve that pain. These in turn not only make the body feel more at ease but also result in mood changes.

    So far that is all we know. The body has done its work and the scientific evidence is there to back it up. Unfortunately, we cannot precisely & accurately document a person's emotions during this process, which is what this whole phenomenon is about. It is this which makes the concept of runner's high a controversial and muddy term. What for one runner might be this so-called "runner's high", to someone else it might not work as effectively, or they might not experience it at all given equal circumstances. Detractors claim that the runner's high is actually only the psychological notion of completing a challenge. They have been unable to produce these "endorphins" in the lab.

    What is almost for certain is that something must be going on biologically/chemically, another has to with the person's psychological characteristics, and the third is the environment where the person is running, which also plays a role in this complicated process. We don't have a definitive answer on the science behind the runner's high just yet, but we do know that it is definitely related to our family of concepts including Mysticism, ecstasy, flow, and Eroticism.
    Tue, May 20, 2008  Permanent link

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    Eroticism, as explained by French writer/philosopher Georges Bataille, is a very specific concept. Overall we can define eroticism as one of two (related) things: 1) a state where one is either sexually aroused or in anticipation of sexual arousal, and 2) the aestheticartistic spirit & depiction of sexual desire. Bataille, however, thought to interpret eroticism more in the terms of human nature. To him eroticism was the desire for us to go beyond the limits of subjectivity & humanity and enter into a transgression of the ephemeral.

    …Does this sound familiar? Wham! It directly correlates with Mysticism, which is also about leaving the subjective world and being in communion with something other. Mysticism and eroticism are different concepts that talk about the same thing, basically. They arrive at their conclusions in a different manner, but in the end the conclusion is the same, which is the human desire to escape earthly things and enter into a transcendent state.

    In order to understand Bataille's perspective on eroticism, we must start by talking about his concept of fear. To Bataille, when a person's deeply held beliefs about Truth (such as the existence of a God) are challenged, when they start to see that it is all a human construction, fear comes in and consumes the person, leaves them totally bare (notice a semblance here to one of the steps of Mysticism as discussed before). When this has happened all that a person can do is supplicate, reach out their hand and wait for help. But since they have already accepted the fact that there is no God, it is not to He whom they are supplicating; in fact they don't know. Being so vulnerable and empty, a sacrifice takes place that elicits the ecstasy. The fear sets one free as it "cleans up" our innermost thoughts & feelings, and if a person is able to endure this, they will come out of the other side with ecstasy. This part is very analogous to something I'll discuss in a future post regarding the chemistry behind what is called the Runner's High, which is essentially the body producing endorphins when a runner has already run a long distance in order to keep the body functioning. The key to surviving the fear and coming out in ecstasy in the other side is, according to Bataille, having an awareness of yourself. Again we have a connection between another part of my research, this time the different Elements of Flow, in which awareness, concentration, and focusing were very important in trying to achieve flow.

    Another important term to understand is the concept of the ipse-being, and the desire to be in communion. Ipse-being is the part of us characterized as being autonomous & separate to the world around us. At the same time, this part of us paradoxically is aware that it is unnatural to be such a hermit and so struggles with both being so independent and desiring not to be. This desire to not be independent is related to the desire of people, in their hearts, to be in communion with the sacred.

    It is with this that we arrive at eroticism, finally. Whew! In my opinion, I think Bataille thought that eroticism was the ultimate way of being in communion and achieving spiritual ecstasy. I say this because of the way he talks about it. Eroticism has all the properties of ecstasy. The orgasm is the equivalent of fear, as when we are in orgasm we enter Emptiness and the whole world is suspended, we are transcended to another place. Intense focusing and concentration take place in eroticism. In all four dimensions there is a central point where all is concentrated and all consciousness of the outside world is erased. In the spatial dimensions, this is the genital area and/or the lover's kiss. In the temporal dimension, it is the moment of orgasm. This is the so-called famous Ecstatic Moment, where the ipse-being completely disintegrates.

    Another important aspect for Bataille is that eroticism is basically an act of violence. It is not an act of violence in our normal sense of the word. He is not talking about rape or S&M (necessarily...) or anything like that. Instead, it is the violence inflicted on us by the Other, that jerks us out of our normal consciousness and violates our innermost core. As Bataille says himself, it is "a violation bordering on death, bordering on murder."

    For Bataille, in eroticism the crucial act is stripping naked. This act, though seemingly basic & simple, is on the subconscious level more than just taking off clothes. Clothing is not the only thing that is removed when stripping naked, a person's usual self is also disposed. The way this works is that when we are naked we feel obscene; this triggers an uneasiness within us that disrupts the self's usual self-identity and standing. See how, again, for the umpteenth time, one concept of my research correlates with another. Here the act of stripping naked and the loss of self that comes along with it is related to the fear of the person who has let go of their spiritual dispositions (as talked about earlier in this post). The act of losing everything is here symbolically represented by the stripping of the clothes.

    The final piece of Bataille's interpretation of eroticism is one of the most fundamental; indeed, it connects several other aspects of my research together. Bataille says that when the erotic activity is consummated, both participants will have been stripped of their selves, and what is revealed is what he calls their "fundamental continuity, like the waves of a stormy sea". This "fundamental continuity" refers to a place where all existence can go, this kind of sacred place. I'll list the equivalents of my other research directions to this concept:

      • This is Step 5 in Underhill's mysticism process, a union with the Other in Eternity that results after one has gone through the other mystical steps
      • Related to Csikszentmihalyi calling "flow" because people who he interviewed felt like they were being "carried by a current"
      • Related to my personal experience when in flow of feeling as if I am being carried by something Other, such as when running my 5K races, riding rollercoasters, and when swimming at the beach

    Understanding eroticism, especially Bataille's interpretation, can be confusing & sometimes paradoxical. The fundamental thing to remember is that it is only a different manifestation of mysticism, just as flow is. Mysticism, eroticism, and flow. It has been my daily bread this entire quarter; I hope you can also eat, drink, & live these amazing concepts and realize how important they are in branding the human species.
    Tue, May 20, 2008  Permanent link

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    Evelyn Underhill, a renowned & recognized author on Christian mysticism, as well as a mystic herself, identified five steps in the mystical process. They are listed below:

    1. 1. Awakening - Subject starts to become aware of the presence of something supernatural. Their heart is filled with joy and they have never felt this kind of joy before, yet they cannot see this supernatural being, and they hunger for more.

    2. 2. Purgation - Where subject strips away their ego, their self, their whole existence. They give up everything in this life and in the next. They start to become aware of their faults & imperfections, and try to compensate for those with self-discipline.

    3. 3. Illumination - This is often the final stage for some mystics. The subject sees the visual representation of eternity as heaven & earth, reality & mysticism meet. For our purposes this is most likely the ecstatic moment, so therefore one that should be given more emphasis by me in my research & final deliverable.

    4. 4. The Dark Night of the Soul - Extraordinary mystics go beyond the third step onto this one. These mystics have experienced mysticism so fervently, that when they "come back down to earth" they start to have what we can refer to as "withdrawal symptoms" of God's presence. They feel deprived, vulnerable, helpless & confused. It is the ultimate un-selfing, and the ultimate submission to God's Will.

    5. 5. Union with The Other - Having gone through the other steps, the subject now finds themself in the Eternal, they are at union with God forever, and act as a liason between the things on Earth and the things in Eternity.
    Tue, May 20, 2008  Permanent link

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    The following is a list of moments when I have felt ecstatic, along with the reasons why I felt that way:

    • When I ran very good 5Ks that I felt I was in the zone. I felt no pain and felt like I could just keep going and going. I felt like I was going with the crowd, being carried by it, and that I just needed to keep doing what I was doing to finish the race.

    • Riding a rollercoaster, felt dizzy but good. Everything was going so fast around me, again felt like being carried by something other.

    • When I receive news about products from my favorite company Microsoft, especially Windows and Zune. I get giddy, my face automatically lights up and I holler out loud out of joy.

    • After an all-nighter, in the early hours of sunrise, I get an enormous feeling of power, I start thinking about the plans I want to do for the day and for the future. I get very optimistic and feel like I can accomplish all my goals and plans.

    • When swimming in the ocean, when a wave hits me I also have an ecstatic moment. Here I literally am being carried by the water. Very similar to when riding a rollercoaster. The manifestation of my other ecstatic moments here is literally done by the water waves colliding with my body and carrying me, lifting me up.

    • Also get the same feeling from going down a toboggan.

    As you can see, a common theme in my ecstatic moments is a feeling of "being carried by something outside my body". This is directly analogous to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's "flow". Indeed, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi came up with the term "flow" because the people he interviewed said it was as if a current was carrying them along.
    Mon, May 19, 2008  Permanent link

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    A classmate of mine was kind enough to take notes for me while I presented my research findings to the class on 17 April. Below are the notes:

    Deities and personal relationship with humans >>

    went to mysticism, and eroticism

    mysticism - relationship with super natural
    led to - 'in the zone'
    so concentrated on the task, rest is blocked out
    hungarian psychologist has researched this before
    state of mind in subconscious where you enter during activities
    flow, mysticism, eroticism = same, or similar

    mysticism, in the relationship one has to god, there is a surrender of one's self or identity or individuality, for guidance, for a greater being

    mystics had a very powerful understanding of this
    batow - loss of self - til point of death (in relation to eroticism)
    loss of self for god - a sort of transcendence

    if that moment is what you are talking about
    describe it in detail
    one could call it the alpha state
    highest creativity
    most attentive

    on to something of interest. are all religions transcendent?
    looking for something happening outside
    eastern thinking may be more immanent (inward)
    for some nature is their god
    the other

    what else fascinates you about this, what is magnetic?
    the fact that there is a part of us that allows us to transcend
    it is not limited to spirituality, but also in eroticism, sports, many ways

    mendez gives example of her gymnastic days
    did not remember anything but the balance beam
    attention directs to one point
    if an eye lash even fell off her face, the concentration is broken

    run as far as you can until you throw up
    record the state of the body
    the heart beat, the breathing

    the runners high, the body is releasing a large amount of endorphins

    what are the cultural explanations of transcendence?
    how does it connect back to humanity
    the biological gives physical grounding
    the body produces, not a transcending experience

    sets up a political framework about how you talk about the human species
    put the far ends on a map
    what happens to someone that does not believe in god, or transcendence
    how do you account for the other end?

    there is a powerful feeling of what is at stake
    parallel both, equal results, questions both
    some get it one way, some get it the other, but same result
    how one defines themselves in their world
    one believes something is out there
    transcend through god
    one who does not, more grounding in body
    how do they transcend though?

    the experience may be identical between a religious or non religious
    they just experience and talk about it in different ways

    explore the parallel
    biology vs symbolism
    very cultural

    tying spirituality back into humanity
    richard dawkins, biologist
    the god illusion
    analyzes the human needs
    social aspect of religion
    may be offensive
    debunks religion as a human construct

    whether its debunked or not the experiences are still powerful
    constructs, how did they become so powerful?
    runner vs mystics

    the passion of joan of arc, older film
    sublime transcendence, the story of joan
    the only way to experience it is through physicality in the film
    all close ups of face

    types of religious communities use religion to explain, deal with stress/situations
    a physical act can be meditative acts
    physical bodies and actions can lead to own transcending

    everyone has their own ways to get in touch with themselves

    very few people in religion are so devoted
    intention, intention
    how bad one wants it
    that leads to the transformation

    the telos of the transformation
    ask zach, he talked to fast haha
    the way we move towards certain goals in life
    aritstotle said:
    move towards life for a set reason, a goal
    existentialism says life as no inherent meaning

    focus the specific experience of being a runner, that it changes your composition, vs the very religious experience
    maybe it is the focus on the change of specific state of being
    the subjectivity

    mysticism, flow, eroticism, let them go now
    they brought you to a point
    narrowed, now open up again
    do not let it weigh you down
    discover the new way

    is it the change in your sense of self that leads to your understanding of the world for that second?
    focus as a runner, and focus as a mystic
    describe the moment
    how else has that transformation been achieved
    your research may be the documentation of those powerful modes
    that could be your project
    the shift of the human is fascinating
    Sat, May 17, 2008  Permanent link

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    Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has done research into something he calls flow. Flow is a state of mind in which a person is totally concentrated in an activity and is and is at an optimum level of performance. This phenomenon was initially proposed by Dr. Csíkszentmihályi to be applicable in extrinsic applications such as designing playgrounds so the participants can experience flow. Since then, though, other researchers have adopted the concept of flow in performance activities such as artistic performance (music & theater), education, business productivity, but especially and most of all to sports.

    Some scholars have proposed that the concept of flow is not much different from mystical experiences. Indeed, when I first started researching mysticism I thought it sounded very familiar to what in running and in sports is called being "in the zone", which eventually led me to the concept of flow.

    Dr. Csíkszentmihályi explains that there are different characteristics, or elements, of a person who is in flow. The following is the list of elements of people who are in flow. Following each characteristic is an example taken from personal experience, of me running the Los Angeles Marathon this past March, where I felt I was completely in flow. It is meant to illustrate what each characteristic of flow is.

  • Person understands their goals and the goals are appropriate for the person's skill set.
    I am running a distance of 26.2 miles, and have been training for it for 5 weeks. I am not as prepared as the experts recommend for a person to run a marathon, so I am basically pacing myself so that I don't go too fast or too slow.

  • High concentration & focusing on a very narrow activity.
    I was running and running only. My mind was focused on just keeping those feet moving, occasionally getting something to drink and greeting the crowd, but that's it.

  • Loss of self-consciousness.
    Didn't care about my appearance, fatigue, or about me at all. Everything was running.

  • Loss of sense of time.
    I was so unaware of the time that when I got to the halfway point and saw that I had broken my all-time record for the half-marathon, had ran the longest distance continuously without stopping, and was well on my way to breaking my full marathon record, I was very much surprised and taken aback because I had not even seen how good I was running and the time that I was doing until this point.

  • Body & mind respond quickly & appropriately to feedback, whether it be failures or successes.

  • Person finds a balance between activity being too easy or too difficult.
    FOR BOTH STEPS 5 & 6: In running we call it pacing when we are able to find a balance between going too fast or too slow. A good runner is acutely aware of what pacing he/she needs to have in order to have a good race. It is important not to go too fast or else there will not be anything left for the final sprint.

  • Sense of personal control over activity.
    This is basically self-explanatory. In running even when not in flow, a runner is really the master of how he/she runs, so my sense of personal control was not much different when running this marathon than when I regularly run.

  • Activity is intrinsically rewarding, becomes effortless.
    Running the first few miles is of course going to be pretty easy for a runner, but even after the tenth mile I still felt like I had the energy that I had at the beginning of the race, and that was because of my pacing. Like I didn't feel like wanting to stop & walk at all. In fact, when I finally did stop & walk it wasn't because I was tired, but rather because I was afraid that if I kept on running I would not have enough energy for the end.

  • Awareness is focused squarely on activity and nothing else.
    Again, just like Steps 1 & 3 above, my awareness was unfalteringly on running and running only. I kept myself entertained in my head with random thoughts and of course all around me I had the crowds cheering the runners on, but subconsciously I was immersed in my running activity.
  • Sat, May 17, 2008  Permanent link

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