Archive for life

Expressing Doubts

Posted in Culture, Media, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2009 by 99ppp

I looked at the name of the blog and I still feel it’s sincere: 99% Pure Propaganda. That is what all media is, including this blog, even if an expression is authentic and sincere, since there is always an intent when sharing it. I sense we are all influenced by others to various degrees, whether we like to or not. Sometimes we express ourselves in direct opposition to some perceived media triggering rebellion, yet the influence there exists, even when disagreeing since we care enough to dissent. Others wish to perpetuate ideas (memes) just to see how effective they are. Should we stop? Has language become meaningless? Why don’t I just close down the blog, and by doing so reduce the noise of the internet?

My long hiatus from writing has been a painful one, and it was getting tougher to write since my reevaluation post, since I am not exempt from reevaluating, and it seemed premature to share any impressions in a state of doubt. I sense I am not alone and many of us are in doubt, and we are afraid to express it, fearing we’ll be wrong and hoping to be certain.  This has dogged me for a few months, not knowing what to write about, what is important, and at the end of it all, who cares anyways? People are just bombarded with information nowadays, with the web, cable tv, texts, cellphones and so on. The perceived insignificance of my voice was dwarfed by the chasm of misunderstanding that can be plainly seen, both in real life and on the web. I don’t mean this post to be a whining lamentation in my writing drought, but an attempt at an authentic exploration on my difficulties.

We seek certainty, we seek meaning. Who wants to hear other’s doubts? It might ignite my doubts, erode the firmament of my convictions and beliefs. It is rather unpleasant, yet perhaps it seems necessary to share it, both doubts and convictions. We’ve followed leaders, great philosophers, heroes, parents and role models, hanged on to their every word, followed their example.. but to what? We’ve looked for certainty from those who’ve “succeeded” yet what is success? When have “we arrived”? I don’t like neat answers, since often it can create a rut of dogma in ones’s mind.

So is the only choice to stand on quick sand, to have no certainty? Our words themselves have showed to be unstable, untrustworthy. but we have no choice but to uses them, since they allow us in a limited way to share our human experience. In that chaotic cacophony we may stumble upon a pearl, a relationship however fleeting, in what we sense without question to be inately human. While we each might be a small part of some greater whole, it is no justification to consciously disengage. We are engaged whether we like it or not, but the nature of that engagement relies much on how we consciousy relate, instead of allowing the momentum of social conditioning to pull us towards normalization.

I believe there can be an optimal balance between listening and expressing. Often, in a world where many people are shouting over one another, thinking their point of view is the sole “correct” one, can disuade some to put their voices out there. They have a humility many of the former can use, yet their silence can also be alienating. Their art, their music, their expressions and opinions of beauty, ugliness, fairness, injustice, love, anger and humanity are hungering to be heard. There is no freedom of expression unless it is exercised.

Some convictions remain though. We need to create media instead of solely absorbing it. Express both our doubts and convictions. To remain silent is resignation. To abdicate responsability in the formation of culture. to not discuss, express debate.. and for most LISTEN. LOOK at the media we consume mindlessly. We may believe it is merely escape, but often it can be subtly influencing us. That’s why it becomes more and more important to look at all media critically, including the persistant beliefs we use within ourselves to endoctronate us.

The truth may be volatile , yet we feel its there: The Tao that can be defined is not the eternal Tao. Perhaps we can’t encapsulate it neatly, perhaps it simply flows through us.. and sometimes it can flow through our endoctronations, biases, bigotries that shackle us and filter “the truth” from our senses and escape to the other side, to another mind, creating relationship, however fleeting it may be.

Re-culturing: High Five! and Gender Scramble

Posted in Culture, Love, Media, Vids with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by 99ppp

The troupe of Improv Everywhere decide to shine a little sunshine on a morning commute and revive the high five to lighten some spirits. It is interesting to note some of the people on the other side of the escalator wishing to participate (more details and photos on the scene here) . Very similar to the “Free Hugs Campaign”, it goes to show how a little human connection can go a long way. Enjoy!

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An excellent poster by those romantic rebels at Crimethinc, who also inspired one of my favourite vids , that challenges us to rethink our ideas about gender roles often propagated by mass culture.

everygirlboy1

Watching the Game

Posted in Culture, Economy, Media, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2009 by 99ppp

I never dreamed of playing pro hockey as a youngster, but enjoyed playing the game. I discovered I was a lousy skater and didn’t like waking up early on Saturdays. Eventually, I played street hockey with friends until my mid-teens. I’ve followed the Montreal Canadiens (or Habs as they are called informally) ever since I was a kid, even while my interest in actually playing hockey eroded. There is nothing very unusual about this, and likely its occurred to many fans of other sports. What intrigues me about watching and following sports is that it different from any other pasttime, it isn’t like being a fan of our favourite TV show. We can get euphoric and depressed when our favourite team wins or loses, my uncle used to literally cry when his pet soccer team lost some “important” game. In Montreal, hockey is a religion, and there is even a university course exploring such themes . Some goalies, past and present are often given nicknames alluding divinity (“Jesus” Price, St. Patrick). Some didn’t even wait for a championship to riot , just after a first round win.

Don’t get me wrong, watching hockey is a fine diversion during these frigid months of winter, yet recently Montreal has caught Habs fever, even former GM and player Serge Savard has opined that they are currently more popular than when they had won the four Stanley Cups. I often found the “Habs as religion” premise as fun hyperbole, something Hab fans tell one another to exaggerate the devotion to the team, and the craziness that surrounds the Canadiens, especially in the media. But I got a glimpse of it one night when we made plans to watch a game with some friends. I haven’t been to a sports bar for a few years and I thought it would be fun. It was a very cold night (under -20C), so we didn’t expect a large crowd at this particular bar. We arrived late and the place was PACKED, and everyone looked at us like we walked in the middle of Sunday service. The audacity of us coming in late to the sacrament, the rambuncious church that every pub has become, worshipping the Holy Habs. How dare us be late and expect to find a seat??!! We bolted and had a very pleasant evening at a good Thai restaurant closeby, no screen showing the game, and I didn’t miss it.

Some curious thoughts about this pastime of mine often invade my mind. Why do I watch this? I can dismiss it easily as just entertainment, but I feel its more than that.  Millionaire players payed by billionaire owners that often don’t even live here, playing for the highest bidder with specialized skills no one really needs. Do they represent us? People proudly wearing a team logo which is now just a corporate logo. Why aren’t I playing a game instead of watching others play? Isn’t that the way, not only in sports but in other endeavours, like the arts and music? We watch the skilled without developing our own skill, we are mesmerized by mastery too much to attempt competency. We cheer athletes, actors, musicians, politicians. We watch, but what to we do?  We absorb media, but do we create it?

Oh, the game is on. I wonder what’s the score.

Instruction Manual for Life

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by 99ppp

Well worth a peek, good food for thought. [Vid: 8:01min]

Animation by TheraminTrees and QualiaSoup

Changing what I can’t accept. Accepting what I can’t change.

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by 99ppp

This post is a followup by my previous one on the Fat Acceptance movement. It is clear that many in that movement have given up due to how hard they believe it is to lose weight and keep it off. So they chose to accept it.  This is a deeper exploration of the word “Acceptance”, both as necessity and liability inspired by my secular interpretation of the Serenity Prayer.

Acceptance is a refuge to today’s success oriented and “chasing the carrot on a  stick” world. Eastern faiths like Buddhism and Taoism also vaunt the idea to accept and live in the moment. But how realistic is that? Fully engage in the moment, one has to decimate the idea of self. The self is how we discriminate ourselves from our environment. It can be argued that the self is an illusion, but perhaps it is a necessary one, the cost of conscious thought and being able to construct time to concoct causality.

So when is it the time to accept, and the time to change things? The question goes to desire. Desire in the western industrialized world is often associated with aquisition of more and more goods. Wealth is linked to freedom as getting more stuff, makes one presume that there is a greater range of activity that could be done. Freedom of possession and freedom of action are not equivalent, and often we sacrifice one to get the other. Imagine having all these possession and not being able to enjoy them out of lack of energy or time. Everyone gets twenty four hours in a day, whether rich or poor.

Acceptance thus is an invitation to live in the moment. Buddhism says that life is suffering and the solution is to eliminate “craving”, which is just a slightly stronger word than desire. Desire propels us to where we can be fully ourselves, but only temporarily. Man’s insatiable curiosity, will move us to change, even out of sheer boredom. No amount of meditation will destroy it.

The dynamic struggle between novelty (change) and tranquility/stability (acceptance) makes many of us confused about which of these two paths to move through. What I find is that this struggle makes many of us running around like a dog chasing his tail, frantic activity heading nowhere. Many of the stoic philosophies tell us to see.. and not judge. The analytical ones tell us to judge then see. A graceful dance between acceptance and change isn’t easy, many will only change facing a crisis, or accept after endless energy has been wasted striving to achieve some futile result.

Making decisions in a state of crisis often work temporarily. A means to an end to alleviate immediate suffering. There are a myriad of self-help books giving suggestions to change, or to accept, but few mention how to harmonize these two. The idea of wu wei, efforless effort, or flow as described by some can only come after getting in touch with whatever authentic self we have at the moment. Our idea of self changes as time goes on, so the idea of a static “true” self is deceptive. Our sense of self is dynamic, like a river whose source can not be rigidly defined.

Changing what I Can’t Accept

The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation – Thoreau

Thoreau’s quote above describes what many experience because they feel they have no choice but accept their lot in life. Desire contained within a cocoon of acceptance, and calling it peace of mind.

Many people don’t change simply because they don’t think they deserve it. They leave their passions at the door, often claiming some higher spirituality (acceptance) to rationalize it. But the acceptance is often an evasion, a lack of faith in one’s ability, or confidence. This has occurred to me quite often, related to writing as I tend to write as I speak, while others weave their words so eloquently that my writing feels inadequate. My lack of consistency lies in my prior belief that writing stemmed from pure inspiration, now I see it as a craft. I believed that reading more about how to write effectively would stifle my creativity, and while I believe that it is a valid concern, it has previously diminished my inclination to hone my craft. I was a strong believer in wu wei, a good philosophy in its proper context, but using it to rationalize my rebellion. In a world full of rules, it is easy to fall into the role of “rebel” without exploring the rules and seeing why some others heed them. My co-blogger and editor here wisely said “You need to learn the rules to break the rules.” I initially rejected this premise as I saw it as an invitation to indoctrination, which I got enough of at school. Now I can read other peoples ideas and not fear their influence by judging them prematurely, and just allowing myself to be exposed to them. Judging comes later, to see if I can selectively use them or amend them to fit my philosophy, or style of writing.

This is the kind of rebellion I often saw in the FA movement, confronting the valid concerns about equality and media images of beauty by self sabotaging and indulging in sensory hedonism, almost out of spite. Behind the surface I saw many people who were discouraged from their lack of success in losing weight. Both of us here at 99ppp have gone on bouts of lethargy and poor nutrition, before finally making a decision to make the shift towards exercise and healthy eating. The road is not a straight line, and we are hardly perfect. We make adjustments to the exercise programs we use, and allow for temporary nutritional indulgences, with full awareness of what we are doing.

Accepting what I can not change

Here the philosophy of living in the moment triumphs, as time melts away and the division between the self and the environment dissipates. Meditative practices and some ancient philosophies mentioned above certainly remind us to look, a relationship with who and what surrounds us before jumping to judgment.

Indulging in perpetual wants, wishing, pining, fantasizing can erode one’s energies and can contribute to feeling helpless, instead of accepting perhaps some harsh realities and acting within the sphere of where one has choice. Finding a vision that is both inspiring and realistic is a challenge to many, often we can sell ourselves short, or overestimate our ability to affect matters.

The wisdom to know the difference: Life as a winding road

Learning this wisdom is where the adventure lies.

We often want novelty and stability simultaneously, and can suffer through the quiet desperation Thoreau describes. There are no answers, only approaches that work well under certain circumstances. There are as many philosophies in the world as there are people, and every path is unique. Many are looking for quick formulas, systems, or rigid ideologies and religions to keep them from the risk of making some mistake. There’s nothing wrong with exploring other people’s conceptual maps, I do it myself, yet at the end we’ll each have to chart our own, and recognize that sometimes we may feel lost despite having one.

I will expand on the tension between desire and acceptance, freedom and security, AND order and chaos in future posts, since this can fly on various tangents but all of these apparent dualities interrelate.

Terrence McKenna: Culture is NOT your friend.

Posted in Culture, Love, Media, Philosophy, Relationships, Vids with tags , , , , on June 26, 2008 by 99ppp

McKenna’s take on culture is one well worth considering. Please excuse the low static. (Vid: 3:30min)

Posts in this blog concerning culture : What is Culture? and Culture: Division or Diversity?

Doug Stanhope on Marriage

Posted in Culture, Love, Relationships, Vids with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2008 by 99ppp

Similar to my critique but much funnier, here’s Stanhope’s take on that most sacred institution (2:23min)