Monday, December 29, 2014

The Good Life

Aaron Jasinski

The Good Life   according to many is one that honors the "self" while honoring the "selves" of others. When our selves (souls) are honored, symptomatic coping skills need not surface.

It is impossible to define precisely that which honors each individual soul as definition is an intellectual enterprise. Intuitively, we interpret the concept soul as one that has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music or people are soulful. Imagining soulfulness, we think of life's particulars - good food, satisfying conversation, true friends, and experiences that touch our hearts and remain with us like old friends throughout the rest of our days.

Whatever the soul is or is not is not the focus of this article. Thus for our purpose here we shall simply state that the soul communicates our innermost feelings and the intimacy revealed in our love for and attachment to others. 

Practical Salvation

Today there are a thousand and one - or more - cures for everything that ails us. The unspoken but clear salvational tone is one that puts all weight onto the shoulders of the individual. If one can learn to be more assertive, more loving, less angry, more expressive, thinner, smarter, whatever the goal, one's troubles will vanish. Self-help is the social science weaving through the wires that connect the globe. Each generation has its Abraham Hicks or Eckhart Tolle telling the world how to "be" and thus emerge more complete and transcended than be-fore if only one (1) reads their book; (2) strives toward similar insights and "spiritual" experiences; and (3) follows a scripted path toward enlightenment. 

In the last twenty years I have read hundreds of such extraordinary accounts ranging from Carlos Castaneda's books on The Teachings of Don Juan to Kyriacos C. Markides's Magus of Strovolos, the rich and intricate world of Daskalso the healer whose work is firmly rooted in absolute love, and whose aim is the expansion of reason and spiritual evolution.

This is the aim of all mystics.

It is as if the western mindset believes that with enough self-examination one can emerge whole. Of course one might argue that if wholeness is a response to any such stimuli, that it must have predated the examination. 

Consider these thoughts

When I consider "reality," truth recedes from my grasp. By "truth" I mean that definitive status of evolving reality that satisfies my opinions... for I associate reality with the cognition that gives me access to it - whatever It is.

It is cognition that western minds associate with being truth and reality. The sensory, emotional, mental, and imaginative circuits of our cognition and its powers form the basis by which we associate all things.

If you think about it, realms of reality look an awful lot like self-generated perceptions and their associated projections of stimuli changing form.

Following self-generated projections quenches the being's thirst for fulfillment. Thus implied in the word "fulfillment" is the western mindset associating truth with the unfinished condition of reality.

Truth is associated as being facts, statements, promises, and the sum of things. Inherent in fulfillment to create truth is the notion of separation. The very embodiment of matter results in a perception of separation (I am here and you are there), but if one feels as if one is occupying a specific space within the realm of reality, then inherent in this thought is the belief in a soul-like force or entity, an essence capable of filling the space one is occupying.

No facts, statements, promises, beliefs, opinions, or sums of things can define the enigma of truth. Thus truth is our truth, it is what we claim It to be. The very meaning of reality held in this perspective is that which fulfills our desires and validates the opinions we associate with those things we define as reality.

The Good Life

The ancient Greeks in their earliest existence accounts, epics, and drama, distinguished metaphysical questions of humanity and their answers - which were found to be intrinsic to the experience of living a good life. The core of the experience being one of happiness and mentally conceived, revelatorial recognitions of perceived experiential perceptions.


The notion of truth stretches our perception of It beyond our grasp. It is for this reason we call It truth, i.e., the unfinished condition of reality.

"I don't know" is then the highest human expression of "truth". If one admits that one does not know, then one instantly knows one is correct in their not-knowing. This is knowledge. 

Similar to how the Sirens enchanted the mariners with their song or how Odysseus exercised a spell on his hearers through his eloquence as a bard1, we ensorcell ourselves into thinking - and thus, believing - that by being sensitive listeners, thinkers, and feelers that we have the means to decipher further horizons of "reality" because of our investigations of this one.

This could be true. Only I would not claim that the patterns of energy and matter in our time/space/location/dimension are identical to manifestations in other time/space/location dimensions simply because they exist here. There could be other forms of reality so far removed from this time/space/location/dimension that all of what we know would be turned inside out.

And then what would we have? Our so-called truth label hanging on the outside of our sweaters looking a bit silly.

Returning to the Good Life

I thus return to the Good Life by nature of my own beguiled enchantment, the speciality associated with human thinking. Striving in the name of truth toward that which is unknown enchants me into thinking that perception flowing from the human condition can illuminate the grandeur of all forms of reality. The crystallization found in cognition and expressed in human discourse is that which keeps me blindly striving outward toward new truths. 

Intriguing is what we encounter along the way. Delightful, even. But those sensations and mentalizations are a result of the mythos we tell ourselves. Here, epiphanies become our most revered experiences; intensities of physical pleasure our most enjoyed experiences. 

The space between experiences and their epiphanies, pleasures or hurts is the space that feels freer. It is in this space that we first conceive of and incline toward those things we associate with living the good life. We may choose to feel compassion and humility through her corresponding stimuli: pain and suffering; or we may choose to feel empowerment through her corresponding stimuli: pushing back. Whatever experience from which we allow ourselves to know is one that was initially inclined toward as a result of an earlier sentiment. 

Whether sentiments flow exclusively from our present manifestation of existence is unknown. But if by nature of our being held within this cosmos means we are "like" this cosmos, the Big Bang that brought us into existence, is similar in nature: at first there was nothing and then it blew up (into us).  

Whatever the nothing was that predates our present existence, It is something that was notably present before we blew up into being. The duration of any such existence thus indicates the possibility of more existences to come, and well as others already having been. 

So the question of how to live a good life isn't about finding "truth" ... 

Living a good life is about finding an authentic space from which to experience many truths ... all truths. Irrespective of whether or not we are pleased with that which we discover is another matter, entirely. The point here is that if the good life (for you or me) means feeling happy, then we simply focus on and explore the complexities associated with the space between happy moments so that when in the "in between spaces" we can incline toward more of these happy moments which allow us to take pause so that we might enjoy them - allowing ourselves to revel in each happy moment prior to heading toward a new happy moment (i.e., "truth") will hopefully bring about more such experiences. 

It would seem that the moments we create are the moments we associate with truth. Since we are simultaneously held in those spaces we define as "in between moments of truth and happiness" we simultaneously define truth and happiness as being unmanifest. Thus the striving for and notion of separation. 

This is easy stuff to consider. What would be tasking for my mind would be to turn this post inside out and consider its opposite form as another form of reality. The question of whether or not A Good Life would be the product of such an examination or experience remains, for now, unanswered. 

1  George B. Walsh, The Varieties of Enchantment. Early Greek Views of the Nature and Function of Poetry (Chapel Hill, London: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.) 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

To Be or Not To Be Good

Socrates and Plato reflected on the gods and demigods, the predecessors of our modern day superheroes. Nietzsche with his superman, Laplace's demon, Descartes' ghost in the machine ... extraordinary entities give us reason to pause, to consider, and to question whether good really is better. 

Is hospitality a form of Superheroism? 

What makes a superhero a superhero? Is it goodness alone? In modern popular fiction, a superhero is a hero who possesses supernatural abilities, extraordinary talents, and a profound sense of righteousness regarding the affairs of humans. In other words superheroes are masked crime fighters with superhuman powers.

Superhumans have the ability to perform  F A R  beyond anything an ordinary human could conceivably achieve, irrespective of talent or training. Superhumans could mean an improved human, a superior form of what a human can evolve into in comparison to what another strand of humanism has obtained. Unimaginable strength, extraordinary proficiency, existential problems as opposed to the problems of the mundane and ordinary mark the daily lives of superhumans. 

Ordinary humans often times associate a superhero by their superhuman problems, called mental disabilities or savant syndrome. There is a scale that ordinary humans utilize to form the basis of their understanding. 

Good vs Bad

It is good to be able to fly, to be able to read someone else's mind, or to have lightening fast reflexes, whereas allowing oneself to feel negative human emotions is bad. It is bad to feel sadness, anger, or frustration. Superhumans, according to ordinary humans, must be (presumably due to their inherent goodness) limited in their range of human emotions. They must be incapable of functioning at any level other than what ordinary humans consider good (benevolence, bravery, bravado). Inherent in this idea is a tradeoff. The tradeoff to be superhuman is that one must render the superhero incapable of experiencing the full range of ordinary human emotions (i.e., the superhuman must have an impediment). No wonder the creators of the character Sheldon have had to depict him as not being able to function within normal ranges of accepted behavior (recall normal means lower than average). What ordinary human ego could accept the presence of a superhuman that does not have problems? Ordinary humans must feel superior to Superheroes in some form or fashion.

Despite any personal impediments ordinary minds associate with extraordinary superhumans, everyone agrees that superheroes must spend the entirety of their existence fighting evil, making the world a better place for the ordinary humans who are messing it up in the first place. 

The personal values of a superhuman requires superhumans to babysit ordinary humans until they evolve into superhumans and can govern themselves. 

An Ordinary Fallacy 

Superheroes must be morally good. They must overcome any temporary or permanent impediment or limitation and still perform well beyond the existing human range. One might consider these superhumans as beings "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.

Contrarily, if a superhuman has superhuman needs and desires that are self-serving in nature, he or she is called a supervillain. 

Supervillains are not hyperfocused on helping ordinary humans correct their ordinary lives. They are not interested in ordinary human thoughts. They may play the part of the antagonist, but often times their goals have nothing to do with ordinary human affairs. Though admittedly some so-called supervillains claim to enjoy the scurring their antics cause ordinary humans. Akin, perhaps, to a naughty child taunting insects in the garden. 

For there to be a battle there must be a good side and a bad side. The philosophical and moralistic aspects of any given battle must be considered, chosen, and supported. The superhuman who cares about ordinary human affairs and is willing to risk his or her life for people the superhuman has never met and will never again encounter is what turns a superhuman into a superhero. If someone is a superhero and doesn't go out and fight ordinary human crime, then the superhero isn't a superhero at all, in fact, in this occasion the superhero is referred to as a supervillain because they are failing to serve ordinary humans. 

So it goes. Superhumans, if they wish to be considered Superheroes, according to ordinary human thinking, must be entities that (1) possess superhuman powers (2) are limited in the range of human emotions they can experience (3) serve ordinary humans because they have nothing better to do with their time. 


Should goodness be the prerequisite by which a superhuman or superhero evaluates saving an ordinary human? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Hulk on Forgiveness

 People who seek forgiveness
have yet to release the anger from their hearts.
~Soph Laugh

There are very few people unfamiliar with the notion of "forgiveness". Expressions such as "I am trying to forgive" or "Please forgive me" make up a large part of the world's vernacular. But what is forgiveness, exactly, and how does one give oneself something he or she already possesses? 

Imagine you are a judge. 

A smallish, conservative-looking man walks into your courtroom charged with a crime. You look at the man and admittedly find it difficult to imagine the scenario brought before your bench. The plaintiff lays out the charges against him. All seems in order. Then, one final summarization offers that the man guilty of said acts was a large, greenish hulk of a person. You double take. This isn't the same man; or is it? 

When we forgive others are we ourselves?
Are we ourselves when we refuse to let go of resentment? 

Is Bruce Banner the Hulk? His self-identity seems to differ, just as our self-identity differs when we are in or out of a state of forgiveness (a state of jubilation, a state of frustration, etc.). 

Perhaps it is that the essence that animates the body is visiting at varying times. A more evolved aspect of that essence is animating the body when forgiveness is a harmonious resonance, when a peaceful aspect of acceptance is the ruling sentiment. In the same respect perhaps it is a less evolved aspect of that essence traversing through the myriad-a-verses animating the body at that given time, a time in which the essence is less evolved. Perhaps the essence that animates the body comes and goes with different aspects of its own growth igniting the human mechanism along the way. 

So how would others know with which essence they are interacting? And can the human mechanism be responsible for the acts of essence perpetrated through it? Could the defendant claim damnum absque injuria, stating that the damage was done unintentionally and thus not responsible?  

Do many not claim that they when in an altered state of displeasure didn't quite know what they were thinking or doing? This sounds like the more evolved essence speaking for the human mechanism. This is the essence that recognizes the imprints upon the host material but was not present when they were made. Nevertheless this essence takes responsibility for these moments as if they were their own. Why? Because it is the essence occupying the space/form at that given moment who is custodian of the system and responsible for its performance. 

But who is responsible? Is the essence responsible? Which aspect of self-identity is the ruling force? or Does the human mechanism have a separate will apart from a given essence animating it? These are the types of questions philosophers ask when they ruminate on the Hulk on Forgiveness. 

Human beings serve as judge and jury, prosecutor and defendant, in a myriad of situations. We put others and ourselves on trial for crimes we interpret violate our shared humanity. But if we do not know from whence we came nor where we are going, nor what many changes of form may or may not be occurring within ourselves at any given moment, nor even if there is a "we" who can decide, then how can we judge? How can we even know which aspects of self are present in our own selves at any given time? and Is there such a thing as harmony? Is there a natural harmonious state in the many changes of form we witness emotionally, physically, intellectually, or otherwise? 

We generally never question whether the physical body, despite its many changes, is the same body. But who is in charge of that body? Who is responsible for our own thoughts and actions? Clearly there are differences in how we think, act and feel that continue changing throughout the entirety of our lives. If today I am not the same person I was at age three, then who am I? Is there an I? How could anyone measure such a thing? 

I resemble myself from ten years ago, twenty years ago, even thirty years ago, though admittedly one might have to look a little closer to recognize the "me" today in baby form. Looking at my grandmother's photographs from a time when she was young to what I remember of her as a child and teenager differs, but my imagination makes her the same person. 

Is it thus our imagination that is the ruling house? If our self-identity changes form in and out of a state of forgiveness, or any other altered (positive or negatively perceived) state, then is it that the imagination only is the force that binds together all these aspects of self, all these varying aspects of self-identity or different aspects of essence? 

I really don't know but when I sat down with the Hulk to talk about these things, he calmed down considerably when pondering these ideas. And he wondered where he went when Bruce Banner appears. 

I wondered, too. 

I wondered if the atoms were different. To grasp the differences I wondered which brain would be doing the considering. I wondered if I might consider this very same question under the influence of creative inspiration, frustration, concern, annoyance, jubilation, joy, reverence... under the myriad of emotions the human being experiences. For under each state I feel a different aspect of myself ruminating on all the information my human mechanism is processing. Just like in the dream state, I utilize different aspects of myself from which to consider moments. This brings diversity to my dreams. 

We bring diversity to ourselves when we recognize our many altered states. However, it is probably easiest to live in the world if there is a common thread: be it imagination, love, entitlement, acceptance, etc. that acts on behalf of all these altered states. Of course, love, entitlement, and acceptance are altered states as we do not approach everything we do with love (brushing one's teeth, activating/deactivating our alarms, etc.). 

If the human body is in a constant flux, evolving through many states of altered perceptions, then is it the human mechanism traversing the many circuits available to it or is it an essence embodying those sentiments that flows through us, with the human body merely mirroring and reacting to a given presence? 

It looks like Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way of exploring these thoughts bring us no true answers. Thus the best we can do is perhaps what is in our hearts. And true heroes are often the ones who listen to their hearts, first ... and also ultimately. 

When the heart is injured, it is often times something we convince ourselves we need to protect rather than use. We forget that we have erected a shrine for our hearts and that until we utilize rather than revere them, we can only pay distant homage to them. This is the concept of false idolatry, when extreme admiration, love, or reverence is given rather than experienced or shared. The only way to act from the heart is to use it. Protecting our hearts separates them from beating in harmony with others. 

It is important to remember that forgiveness is regaining connection with our hearts, with that part of us that wants to walk hand-in-hand with others as they learn their own life lessons. Sometimes forgiveness is making amends for things we have done to others. This is equally important as it helps others hasten the reunification of their hearts and minds. 

Returning back to the judge's bench. Was it Bruce Banner who smashed the car or was it the Hulk? If the Hulk disappears when Bruce is sentenced, who is paying the price for the crime? Mild mannered Bruce or the Hulk? 

Seeing the many forces impinged upon our life journeys makes us less apt to judge and more apt to ask questions, allowing our minds to wonder. 

When we wonder rather than judge, forgiveness is a non-issue. Wonderment softens the hardening of the heart and so renews openness. Here it is an open courtroom, instead of one person judging others (including self), all come together in genuine desire to question and resolve so that everyone leaves the room a free soul.