“Men have to be hooked. Women don’t need that. Women go freely into anything. That’s their power and at the same time their drawback. Men have to be led and women have to be contained.”
Carlos Castaneda

The Second Ring of Power

Humility

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Following yesterdays larger bit of translation, here is another, smaller bit from “Nisayon” by Yair Caspi this time about humility:

A study of humility requires overcoming a popular objection to it: at the beginning of the 20th century the socialists claimed that humility is a conspiracy through which the rich wish to train their workers to settle for a minimum wage. Their opposition, the nationalists said that humility is how weak nations subjugate visionary and daring nations.

In the beginning of the 20th century, technological prophets claimed that humility weakens the creative spark that ignites the internal will that dares us to do something that has never before been tried.

The marketing department says that informational advertising, that merely describes the qualities of the product without tying it to perfect beauty, phenomenal success, elated happiness, or higher status, will not sell.

The worshipers of man argue who was the bigger man and which theory is more perfect, but agree on one thing: if we do not tempt man with the heavens, if we take from him the hope to be like a god, he will cease growing. If we tell him directly: you’ve been given a special opportunity to experience a larger creator, to imitate him, to get really close to him and to never be able to cross a barrier that separates you, man will give up.

The path to humility requires overcoming the temptations offered by the prophets of the perfect man:

They tell us of immortal masterpieces whose creators have entered an eternal hall of fame.

They present us the greatest scientists who have deciphered the secrets of god and our bound to provide us total control in all domains.

They tell us stories of a hero that alone will save the world.

They show us how some people have become so rich, there isn’t a desire they cannot fulfill.

They present us with the perfect model. The first flawless woman.

They tell us how they have overcome all bodily limitations and desires, to achieve complete control, in weight or consciousness, their fears and pains completely, finally, absolved.

They tell us that we can too. If we just try a little harder. If we renounce our mistakenly adopted boundaries. If we purchase their secret. If we believe that man can be god.

Our patient today is a man that is too big. All knowing. All controlling. Special. Different from all previous generations. Endlessly loved and all his desires fulfilled. Always entitled and never guilty. Completely free. All deserving.

Our patient has been infected by an all encompassing lie about the state of man. A self-deception upheld by the entire world. It is present ever since we were gifted a little bit of knowledge that gave us an advantage over an ancient ape. The liars tell us that they have a solution for the difficulties of a man that knows god, wants to be like him and remains a man.

This is a well known sickness. The Greek tragedy has warned us extensively of hubris. The suffering of heroes is attributed to the human tendency to grant ourselves the status and power of gods.

The Greek hubris manifested in inter-personal relationships where people were divided into godly and downtrodden. It manifested in the attainment of high status by overcoming and humiliating the downtrodden. “I am of gods and you are of animals.” And from the other perspective: “I am of the downtrodden and need to be accepted by the godly.”

The ancient wisdom of Greece recognizes the danger but is unable to prescribe the ancient Hebrew medication. The culture that believes in gods that are half men half gods, is unable to relinquish the promise of the potential to cross the threshold and is unwilling to make do with the ordinary human status.

The man who is jealous of the power of the gods, their pleasures and eternal life, sets out on a journey in which he attempts to become like them. The journey will fail but he can’t help himself, is unable to learn from small failures, to go through a crisis and decide to change his course.

Like his gods who successfully crossed the border between man and god, the proud man is unable to let go of magnitude and eternal life, despite the clear signs of the terrible price they incur. There is no god to help him. Greek culture lacks a god that sets a clear boundary between himself and human beings. The tragic journey continues through to the complete annihilation of the man that has no boundaries.

The gods, half human, are protective of their place and threatened by the competition with human beings, and so they punish them with profound cruelty. They have set the story of man, compelled to seek godhood, bound to fail.

The god of Israel is different.

I had a plan to catch up with you, to claim dominion over your qualities. When I was finally able to let go of my conspiracy to replace you, I discovered that you were unimpressed. I never really endangered you. I didn’t compromise your status. All this running around was within myself. When I stopped, I took notice. I recognized my sin and the price I paid for it, I returned to my place and met you there greeting me “welcome.”

Posted in Expanding, Hebrew, inside, Israel | Tagged , | You are welcome to add your comment

A Modern & Critical View of Judaism

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The following is a rough and unedited (my) translation of a chapter from a book called “Nisayon” by Yair Caspi. I hope to provide more context about Yair Caspi in future writing. As I read it and recognized my place in an inherited identity I have actively rejected most of my life, it I felt compelled to take note of it and share it. It is a translation of section 9, chapter 2 titled “An Exemplary Society.”

There are two Hebrew words used often in the text “nisayon” and “tikun” which translate, correspondingly, as “attempt”and “correction.” They are essential words and do not lend themselves to simple and direct translation. Their meanings, especially in this context, are subtle (such that it can take a lifetime to meaningfully ingest them) and so I have been liberal in using different words in different contexts in an attempt to create a hopefully coherent translation.

Everything that follows is a translated quote:

A. Man discovers himself as an incomplete creation

A thousand times man looked upon the world: at the earth, the sky, the ocean, the trees, the animals, the people.

A thousand times he saw earth. Sky. Ocean. Plants. Animals. People. Then one morning everything changed. The pieces came together. Suddenly man saw a larger plan. And in this plan, every item was assigned a role. The inspired witness sat down and wrote: “In the beginning god created.” “Let there be light.” Suddenly everything started speaking. Suddenly the voice was heard. ” “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters.” “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered.” “Let there be lights in the firmament.” Suddenly man saw that in every stone and tree and animal there is purpose. Suddenly is was revealed that the entire world is part of a bigger plan.

He started envisioning new stages development. He understood that he is fundamentally different from the animals around him. He was gifted with a potential to peer into the unknown. He discovered an invitation to work alongside his creator in completing himself and his world.

The special invitation that man received aroused both excitement and objection. He liked the idea of being the creator’s helper but did not like being told what to do. Therefore, after some achievements he started wondering: maybe I’ve already the level where I can decided for myself what my future will be?

A desire awoke in him to crack the code. To know the creator’s final plan and to be like him, or to at least develop tools for reigning in the creator, to make him more generous and less demanding. To guarantee fulfillment of all desires. To alleviate all suffering. To not have to wait. To not have to experience helplessness. To be forever young. To be immortal.

The creator that invited man to a journey of growth was replaced with a selection of interchangeable gods that relieved man from the long and arduous journey. The new interest became a science. Experts appeared and and taught people how to be god, or how to find one that can work for them. Methods were developed. Stages and houses were built. Everyone got busy looking for the words or sacrifices that would guarantee man control over life by manipulating the gods.

The aspirational journey towards completion came to a halt. The creator from genesis became forgotten. People turned to delusions to guide them.

People wasted precious years of their lives worshiping false idols. Nations lost themselves. Until one of them pursued one of their false idols into a crisis that reminded them to listen to the voice of the creator that calls out to man to report for duty.

B: An exemplary people

The founders of our group were originally slaves of a king that planned to destroy them. Pharoh, like the tyrants that came before him to whom we enslaves ourselves, drew his strength from the faith shared by both his people and slaves, that he is the highest authority in the universe.

The people of Israel were able to escape only after they realized that there is a power greater than that of the world’s greatest empire. This power had other plans for them.

The people that owed their lives and liberty to god, felt it was imperative to tell the world the story of how they became enslaved by people, objects, methods, that seems like god but are not god.

They built a nation, one of a kind at the time, that came together around a sense of mission:

  1. Find the highest organizing principle of reality. A principle that remains essentially hidden from us because of our limited perception. A principle that is known to us only indirectly through a sense of purpose that pervades us. Remember that it is he who extracted you from your most difficult place.
  2. Don’t be tempted to grant authority in your life to anything that is not god.
  3. Recognize the potential, that exists in every moment, to choose to submit to the creator and to take part in determining your future.
  4. Always seek purpose and correct action.
  5. Make it your priority, as an individual and as a people, to always aspire to self and collective completion.
  6. commit to a multi-generational effort that requires a long term investment in education.
  7. Set dates in your calendars to commemorate formative events in which a purpose or role was revealed to you.
  8. Value individuals based on their participation in the efforts of self and collective completion. Cancel popular success indicators: beauty, money, power, intelligence, status.
  9. Don’t give up when you make mistakes. It is difficult to decode the wishes of an unknowable creator. Learn to regularly fail and resume your efforts.
  10. Do not become addicted to your work, as if the world depended on it. Set aside a day during which you set aside your work and remain available to receive whatever is present. A day without doing.

C: Being a Jew is difficult

The burden placed on the Hebrew people created an immense challenge: to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world. From what everyone else does. To carry loneliness for many years. To renounce the human tendency to make gods out of themselves or their creations. To also overcome the opposite human tendency of making due with what has already been achieved. Exemplify in your life the potential for human beings to be accomplices in the completion of the world.

The people of Israel liked the invitation to be pioneers in this human endeavor and the compliment that came with it – to be god’s chosen people. But after establishing the first temple they grew tired of the difficult and demanding mission – to live a life of unpopular commitment. Initially the world did not embrace the biblical insights. The Hebrew people could not prove they heard a voice. They had not statues and no pictures.

The people of Israel began to wonder and complain: why do we get to do all the hard work? Why do we need to dedicate ourselves to noble causes when everyone else is having a good time? It is reasonable that all the other peoples are wrong? Is anyone even sure that god exists and that he has a plan for human beings?

The story of first temple is the resolution of this tension: some worshiped god, some worshiped false idols. According to the scriptures more worshiped false idols.

The destruction of the first temple came after a period of corruption and idolatry. It revealed to the people of Israel that there they can be fired from special job they were given and that they can end up lost to the pages of history like many peoples that came and went before them. The people of Israel realized their responsibility for the destruction of the first temple and quickly (in Jewish terms), got another chance.

In the time of the second temple of the people of Israel they knew they have no way to escape from the role. There is nothing and nowhere else too go. But they did not want to lead on their own. Towards the end of the days of the second temple the Jews found resolved the tension between their burden of responsibility to lead in human development and their wish to be like everyone else: they became small. They decided to hold onto everything that was revealed until then. Add nothing new. They relieved themselves from the responsibility of discovering what the next step should be. They chose to leave their country and delayed resuming their responsibility to a distant future.

Judaism transitioned into a holding pattern. The Jewish role changed: no longer a though leader in human development but a “keeper of rituals.” Maintainer of the great achievements of our ancestors. Keepers of the wisdom that has already been attained and embodied. Protect it until the day we can resume our role. Protect and wait for someone else with a fresh drive.

Judaism went to ground. Quit the responsibilities of living a full and independent life. Quit from a postponed role. Quit from the land of Israel. In its diaspora it stayed bound to the latest common denominator that held Jews together: the established tradition as an unquestioned and unchanging way of life. The now physically fragmented Jews decided to freeze themselves in that moment so that one day they could reconnect and complete their unfinished work. Had they continued their work in the diaspora it would have fragmented into all kinds of Judaisms that could not converge in the future.

D: A light unto others

While Judaism was sleeping the world changed: the originally rejected revelations of the Hebrew people started to find acceptance.

A large part of humanity started to adopt the notion of there being one higher authority: one, highest, unknowable (with exceptions here and there) and inviting human beings to play a key role in the making of his world.

A general agreement was formed that idolatry was a mistake.

The bible and its story of revelation, the struggle against idolatry and their historical expressions as told through the story of one nation and its attempt to shoulder its responsibility, became a best seller.

The invitation extended to all people to become active participants in their own making and in the making of the world became widely accepted. From that a new concept was born that did not exist before: humanity, the society in which all human beings are equals, not measured by their tribal affiliation, status, wealth, etc., but only by the extent to which they are participants in the completion of themselves and the world.

The world received the future from the Jews: the revelation that what is does not determine what will be, but that the opposite is true: acceptance of the vision of the world as it is supposed to be changes the present.

It became widely acknowledge that this is a multi-generational effort and that we need to stop every seventh day to observe. Rest. Not do.

The original Jewish leadership role became common.

E: An exemplary society

In the middle of the 18th century, after forty generations of postponing, the Jews discovered that the diaspora is over.

The on-hold Judaism could no longer compete with education and culture. Many Jews felt that science, education, the nation-state open to all religions, socialism or democracy – they were now the leading voices in human development, and the special role of the Jewish people came to an end.

That is when Zionism was born. Its members witnessed the erosion of Jewish life and loved the achievements of education and culture. But their Jewish wisdom alerted them to signs of an ancient illness manifesting in new forms: the human tendency to transform their tools and methods into idols. The false god of nationalism would become Nazism. the false god of Socialism would become Stalinism. The false god of the free market would become alienation and social crises. The false god of technology would become addiction to consumption. The false god of religious texts would become religious fundamentalism. The false god of man himself would become loss of inhibition.

As they joined the family of nations, the founders of Zionism recalled from their teachings that there is a higher organizing principle that exists beyond the things we make or see and that that only by turning to him can we embrace our achievements of science and culture, to give them a proper place and to avoid their idolatry.

An awareness of the sources of Judaism and their stagnation, the gifts and curses of culture, together gave rise to an integrated vision of a national, social, religious and cultural movement without any one part set above the others. This integrated movement would be something that the general culture needed in order to meet the challenges to come.

“You chose us” and “a light unto others” were translated by the Zionists into a vision of an exemplary society that would be created in the land of Israel and would incorporate Jewish foundations with modern cultural achievements.

This exemplary society would begin with the individual. It’s first manifestation would be the early immigrant who took upon himself the work of immigrating and settling in Israel.

Merchants and religious students would become new Hebrew workers sustaining themselves and creating a society free of exploitation.

The exemplary society would resume, as it did in the days of the bible, its role as a leader in social legislation. It will set new standards of mutual responsibility.

The indirect speech of the exiled Jew and the false 10th century European politeness would be replaced by directly spoken Hebrew. Directness would characterize relationships between people and would become a core principle in relations between parents and children. Clothing and rituals would speak of simplicity. Children would be taught humility.

Zion would be a society of exemplary education. People of all ages would be granted an education driven by the faith that man can and needs to change through knowledge that leads to right action.

The foundational framework of this exemplary society will be a new kind of society in which people co-create their lives out of mutual respect and friendship. The community will mege back into the land, a settlement that will define the borders of the nation, a life of work, deep mutual responsibility, aspiring to equality and willing to come to everyone’s aid.

The Zionist national-social-religious movement laid the foundations for a new value system and generated a leadership that was free to redefine the mission. The movement stirred much hope. The people carrying in their hearts a vague and mysterious mission, the priests of an unknowable god, slowly heard the calling. In order to find common cause without being able to agree on the detail they had to overcome geographic distances, cultural and ritualistic differences, mixed languages and tribal biases.

The early immigrants forgot one thing: they did not know who to thank when they formed their state. They attributed their success to themselves: their work, their group, the settlements, the country, the army and the wonderful youth.

6: Loss of purpose

The world is in trouble: the technological developments of recent generations has revived an enthusiastic pursuit of idolatry and given it new forms: worship of technology, shopping, social norms, conformism, word that does not demand of you, a total and enveloping pluralism that has removed all boundaries and inhibitions, and mostly the worship of man himself – all capable, all deserving all containing.

The world advanced too fast and did not leave itself space to observe and discover new roles and boundaries within the new technologies and ways-of-life they make possible.

Two camps have been formed:

In one camp are the worshipers of the “new” who believe that god resides in a new laptop, smartphone, apps, a new medication, a modern lifestyle or the latest things from the shopping mall.

In the other camp are the worshipers of the “old” who believe in a bible and faith that even god himself is not allowed to change. They narrow their existence and relieve themselves of the responsibility to discover the human role within the new manifested potentials. They believe that salvation will come when we confine the new reality within old rituals.

Man is in trouble: the new science failed to protect humanity’s achievements: family, education of kids for purposeful roles, acceptance of the limitations of life. Man is discovering that he is unable to overcome individual despair without identifying the root cause that is the general idolatry. He is unable to overcome the confusion and lack of meaning without accepting a burden of responsibilities. He will not be able to rid himself of his enslavement to consumption without replacing it with a renewed sense of gratitude. He will not be able to overcome the never ending pain without learning to see in trauma an unresolved attempt to become complete.

The country is in crisis: during the sixties of the twentieth century the vision of an exemplary society, that drove the Zionist movement in its first one hundred years, faded. The “exemplary society” was replaced by two narrow visions:

  1. The vision of a “normative” of people who measure themselves by other successful people. Hi-tech like silicon valley. Welfare like Norway. Wine and cheese like France. No more desire for an exemplary society. No more leadership in human development. No more interest in studying Jewish life wisdom. just let us be.
  2. The vision of a “religious state” (that never really existed). A return to fifth century Babylon, a temple with sacrifices, thousands of religious rooms, kosher restrictions. No vision for social healing. No responsibility for a national or international healing. And a totally forbidden religious healing.

Lacking a shared vision to heal nation and world, the Israeli society is tearing itself apart into interest groups. The orthodox Jews care about religious schools more than the state. The settlers care more about the settlements than the state. The liberals care more about individual rights than about the state. The yuppies care more about their career than the state or their children.

Long gone is a shared foundation that demanded of the different groups a measure of restraint and solidarity. Long gone are the values that governed the whole. Values that stated what is a society, what is a family and how to raise children. Values that indicated what is a correct balance between self and family interest, and social and global interest.

The Jews as a people are disintegrating. They have lost their founding principle: the shared mission accepted by all that transforms individual into a whole. no one knows who is a Jew because there is no agreement about the responsibilities that define a Jew. For many years the Jewish diaspora is also unable to embrace shared values. We have lost the principle that connects the diaspora to Israel and Israel to its Jewish roots. The threads that wove us together have come undone. The worshipers of the “new” and the worshipers of the “old” no longer belong to the same nation.

People have lost faith in their leaders. Leaders have lost faith in their people. Groups have lost faith in each other. It has become normal for everyone to think only of themselves. We have lost our interest in contributing. Sharing. Volunteering. Serving. Recruiting. Risk taking. Purpose is absent. A good reason to face and withstand the pervasive challenges.

Jewish wisdom has been orphaned. It secretly holds the connection between yesterday and tomorrow, between individual needs and collective responsibility for a nation and an entire world, between religion and science and between god and man. Jewish wisdom is trapped in silent archives.

7: The Mission

This crisis will not be remedied with local fixes such as bible study, religious studies, respecting the sabbath, Jewish-spirituality workshops, advancement of women in the orthodox society, recruitement of orthodox Jews, removal of settlements, a more equitable distribution of income, a change in method of governance, management, judicial responsibilities or elections. All of these medical interventions will not heal the heart.

A fundamental correction is required:

  1. We must renounce the delusion that someone is holding onto a Judaism that is ready to be used. No one can teach the Israeli role in this day and age. We need to go back to Jewish sources and read them freely, without a teacher that confines us to the survival perspective of the diaspora.
  2. Seek the essence of Judaism. The heart of the Israeli mission. Discern between it and the temptation of false religious gods, self diminishment in anticipation of the coming messiah, postponing Judaism to the future, blocking the creation and dissemination of false knowledge.
  3. Resist the temptation of whittling Judaism down to a culture, literature or spirituality. Listen closely to the desire tha tarises from deep inside. To the cry for meaning. To the secretly held desire to have faith. To rediscover a god and a human role in our sources.
  4. To tease out the tried-and-true methods of decoding responsibility and intention in reality. Return to thinking and talking about purpose and roles. Sins and punishments. Unresolved attempts. New prayers and vast fortunes.
  5. To renew an ancient profession: people who specialize in identifying the subversive workings of self-worship or the worship of things that are supposed to make the mission easier. To resume a special role: leaders in human development.
  6. Climb Mount Sinai. Demand a direct face-to-face with god. Do not come down without clear instructions.
  7. Author missing parts of Jewish teachings. Teachings about the state of Israel. Teachings about being a couple and holding two careers. Teachings about being parents to children who think they are god. Teachings about limitations on the use of television, smartphones & computers. Teachings about not needing to shop when feeling empty … and many others.

Nothing will work if we don’t take apart our lived religion and examine its roots, refind its essence and purpose, its gifts and its curses, and reassemble it as a living religions adapted for this time and for the future.

Only then will we be able to consolidate reason and purpose and a compatible value system. Only then will we find faith, mutual trust, leadership, clarity and authority to decide about the future of the conquered territories, social justice and the correct relationship between Judaism and the state of Israel and the things that are worth figthing for. Only then will we find hope for a future.

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Ancient Greek Metaphysical Damage

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Introduction

I recently completed yet another reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. There is a section near the end of the book where Pirsig, in his attempt to point the root of our current metaphysical crises, reaches the philosopher of ancient Greece. I’ve always experienced both a draw to this section and difficulty getting it. So this time, (once again inspired by Christopher Alexander) I tried to create a generative sequence extract of this section of the book. This really helped me wrap my head around the profound argument Pirsig is making.

Greek Philosophers

One thing that I felt I was missing is a clear timeline among the three philosophers mentioned in Pirsig’s narrative:

  1. Socrates came first and there is a piece of information about him that I only recently came across and wonder if Pirsig knew. It seems common knowledge that Socrates himself did not author any texts. What does not seem to be common knowledge is why. For this I recommend the book “The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram. In it I learned that written language did not exist or was just getting started in ancient Greece. Socrates was therefore an orator who lived in a time of transition – where the spoken word was transforming into and being displaced by the written word. In my mind this greatly amplifies Pirsig’s argument.
  2. Plato was a student of Socrates and he was a prolific writer, including a bunch of stuff his teacher said but did not put into writing himself.
  3. Aristotle was a student of Plato.

Christopher Alexander: Feeling

And I want to preempt Pirsig’s work with this conversation with Christopher Alexander about “The Application of Feeling.” I feel that the modern day challenges Alexander speaks about are a consequence of the damages caused by the metaphysical moves made by the ancient Greek philosophers Pirsig talks about.

Generative Summary

The following is an edited excerpt from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

1: The Dark Ages – One must first get over the idea that the time span between the last caveman and the first Greek philosophers was short. The absence of any history for this period sometimes gives this illusion. But before the Greek philosophers arrived on the scene, for a period of at least five times our recorded history since the Greek philosophers, there existed civilizations in an advanced state of development … [they] led a life quite as rich and varied as that in most rural areas of the world today. And like people in those areas today they saw no reason to write it all down …. Thus we know nothing about them.

2: Early Greek Philosophy represented the first conscious search for what was imperishable in the affairs of men. Up to then what was unperishable was within the domain of the Gods, the myths. But now as a result of growing impartiality of the Greeks to the world around them, there was an increasing power of abstraction which permitted them to regard the old Greek mythos not as revealed truths but as imaginative creations of art. This consciousness, which had never existed anywhere before in the world, spelled a whole new level of transcendence for the Greek civilization.

3: But the mythos goes on, and that which destroys the old mythos becomes the new mythos, and the new mythos under the first Ionian philosophers became transmuted into philosophy, which enshrined permanence in a new way. The immortal principle was first called water by Thales. Anaximenes called it air. The Pythagoreans called it number and were the first to see the immortal principle as something nonmaterial. Heraclitus called the immortal principle fire and introduced change as part of the Principle … Anaxagoras was the first to identify the One as nous, meaning “mind.”

4: Parmenides made it clear for the first time that the Immortal Principle, the One, Truth, God, is separate from appearance and from opinion, and the importance of this separation and its effect upon subsequent history cannot be overstated. It’s here that the classic mind, for the first time, took leave of its romantic origins and said “The Good and the True are not necessarily the same,” and goes its separate way. Anaxagoras and Parmenides had a listener named Socrates who carried their ideas into full fruition.

5: Mind & Matter – What is essential to understand at this point is that until now there was no such thing as mind and matter, subject and object, form and substance. Those divisions are just dialectical inventions that came later. The modern mind sometimes tends to balk at the thought of these dichotomies being inventions and says, “Well, the divisions were there for the Greeks to discover,” and you have to say, “Where were they? Point to them!” And the modern mind gets a little confused and wonders what this is all about anyway, and still believes the divisions were there … But they weren’t … They are just ghosts, immortal gods of the modern mythos which appear to us real because we are in that mythos. But in reality they are as much an artistic creation as the anthropomorphic Gods they replaced.

6: Cosmologists – The pre-Socratic philosophers … all sought to establish a universal Immortal Principle in the external world they found around them. Their common effort united them into a group that may be called Cosmologists. They all agreed that such a principle existed, but their disagreements as to what it was seemed irresolvable.

7: The Sophists – The resolution came from a new direction entirely, from a group … [who seemed to be] early humanists. They were teachers … Their object was not any single absolute truth, but the improvement of men … they said … “Man is the measure of all things.” These were the famous teachers of “wisdom,” the Sophists of ancient Greece.

8: The Conflict – this backlight from the conflict between the Sophists and the Cosmologists adds an entirely new dimension to the Dialogues of Plato. Socrates is not just expounding noble ideas in a vacuum. He is in the middle of a war between those who think truth is absolute and those who think truth is relative. He is fighting that war with everything he has. The Sophists are the enemy. Now Plato’s hatred of the Sophists make sense. He and Socrates are defending the Immortal Principle of the Cosmologists against what they consider to be the decadence of the Sophists. Truth. Knowledge. That which is independent of what anyone thinks about it. The ideal that Socrates died for. The ideal that Greece alone possesses for the first time in the history of the world. It is still a very fragile thing. It can disappear completely. Plato abhors and damns the Sophists … because they threaten mankind’s first beginning grasp of the idea of truth.

9: The Nucleus – The results of Socrate’s martyrdom and Plato’s unexcelled prose that followed are nothing less than the whole world of Western man as we know it … The ideas of science and technology and other systemically organized efforts of man are dead-centered on it. It is the nucleus of it all.

10: Arete – The one thing that doesn’t fit … about the Sophists is their profession of teaching virtue. All accounts indicate this was absolutely central to their teaching, but how are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue, if it implies anything at all, implies an ethical absolute … “What moves the Greek warrior to deeds of heroism is not a sense of duty as we understand it – duty towards others: it is rather duty towards himself. He strives after that which we translate ‘virtue’ but is in Greek arete, ‘excellence’ … It runs through Greek life.” … duty towards self” … Can the dharma of the Hindus and the ‘virtue’ of the ancient Greeks be identical?

11: Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine “virtue.” But arete. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric.

12: Power & Loss … And now he began to see for the first time the unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he had gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth – but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude: an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.

13: The halo around the heads of Plato and Socrates is now gone … He sees that they consistently are doing exactly that which they accuse the Sophists of doing – using emotionally persuasive language for the ulterior purpose of making the weaker argument, the case for dialectic, appear the stronger. We always condemn in others, he thought, that which we most fear in ourselves.

14: Good Subordinate to Truth But why? … Why destroy arete? And no sooner had he asked the question than the answer came to him. Plato hadn’t tried to destroy arete? He had encapsulated it; made a permanent, fixed idea out of it; had converted it to a rigid, immobile Immortal truth. He made arete the Good, the highest form, the highest Idea of all. It was subordinate only to truth itself, in a synthesis of all that had gone before.

15: An Idea – Plato’s Good was taken from the rhetoricians … the Sophists. The difference was that Plato’s Good was a fixed and eternal and unmoving idea, whereas for the rhetoricians it was not an Idea at all. The Good was not a form of reality. It was reality itself, ever changing, ultimately unknowable in any kind of fixed, rigid way.

16: Usurping the Good – Why had Plato done this? … a result of two synthesis:

The first synthesis tried to resolve differences between the Heraclitans and the followers of Parmenides. Both cosmological schools upheld Immortal Truth. In order to win the battle for Truth in which arete is subordinate, against his enemies who would teach arete in which truth is subordinate, Plato must first resolve the internal conflict among the Truth-believers. To do this he says that Immortal Truth is not just change, as the followers of Heraclitus said. It is not just changeless being, as the followers of Parmenides said. Both these Immortal truths coexist as Ideas which are changeless, and Appearance, which changes. This is why Plato find it necessary to separate, for example, “horseness” from “horse” … Horseness is pure Idea. The horse that one sees is a collection of changing Appearances, a horse that can … even die on the spot without disturbing horseness, which is the Immortal Principle and can go on forever inthe path of the Gods of old.

Plato’s second synthesis is the incorporation of the Sophists’ arete into this dichotomy of Ideas and Appearance. He gives it the position of highest honor, subordinate only to Truth itself and the method by which Truth is arrived at, the dialectic. But in his attempt to unite the Good and the True by making the Good the highest Idea of all, Plato is nevertheless usurping arete’s place with dialectically determined truth. Once the Good has been contained as a dialectical idea it is no trouble for another philosopher to come along and show by dialectical method that arete, The Good, can be more advantageously demoted to a lower position within a “true” order of things, more compatible with the inner workings of dialectic. Such a philosopher was not long in coming. His name was Aristotle.

17: Aristotle & Substance – Aristotle felt that the mortal horse of Appearance which ate grass and took people places and gave birth to little horses deserved far more attention than Plato was giving it. He said that the horse is not mere Appearance. The Appearances cling to something which is independent of them and which, like Ideas, is unchanging. The “something” that Appearances cling to he named “substance.” And at that moment, and not until that moment, our modern scientific understanding of reality was born. Under Aristotle … forms and substances dominate all. The Good is a relatively minor branch of knowledge called ethics; reason, logic, knowledge are his primary concerns. Arete is dead and science, logic and the University as we know it today have been given their founding charter: to find and invent an endless proliferation of forms about the substantive elements of the world and call these forms knowledge, and transmt these forms to future generations. As “the system.”

18: And Rhetoric. Poor rhetoric, once “learning” itself, now becomes reduced to the teaching of mannerisms and forms, Aristotelian forms, for writing, as if these mattered. Five spelling errors … one error of sentence completeness … three misplaced modifiers … on and on. Any of these was sufficient to inform a student that he did not know rhetoric. After all, that’s what rhetoric is, isn’t it? Of course there’s “empty rhetoric,” that is, rhetoric that has emotional appeal without proper subservience to dialectical truth, but we don’t want any of that, do we? That wouldmake us like those liars and cheats and defilers of ancient Greece, the Sophists – remember them? We’ll learn the Truth in our other academic courses, and then learn a little rhetoric so that we can write it nicely and impress our bosses who will advance us to higher positions.

19: Aristotelian Laughter – And today in those few Universities that bother to teach classic ethics anymore, students following the lead of Aristotle and Plato play around with the question that in ancient Greece never needed to be asked: “What is the Good? And how do we define it? Since different people have defined it differently, how can we know there is any good? Some say the good is found in happiness, but how do we know what happiness is? And how can happiness be defined? Happiness and good are not objective terms. We cannot deal wth them scientifically. and since they aren’t objective they just exist in your mind. So if you want to be happy just change your mind. Ha-ha, haha.” Aristotelian ethics, Aristotelian definitions, Aristotelian logic, Aristotelian forms, Aristotelian substances, Aristotelian rhetoric, Aristotelian laughter … ha-ha, ha-ha”

20: A Madman – And the bones of the Sophists long ago turned to dust and what they said turned to dust with them … buried so deep and with such ceremoniousness and such unction and such evil that only a madman centuries later could discover the clues needed to uncover them, and see with horror what had been done …”

The road has become so dark I have to turn on my headlight now to follow it through these mists and rain.

What is seen now so much more clearly is that although names keep changing and the bodies keep changing, the larger pattern that holds us all together goes on and on.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Quality, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Tagged , , | You are welcome to add your comment

How Electricity Actually Works

n

I remember when I studied electronics and electricity in high school I was able to do the math ( V = IR ). It was presented to me as something “very intuitive” but it didn’t feel intuitive to me … and I didn’t dare to ask, because if it was “obviously intuitive” and I wasn’t getting it then something was obviously wrong with my intuition … then 30 years later a group of youtubers argue openly about it … and well:

Posted in Intake, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

Born to fight

n

Michael was overjoyed to see him. No one had known exactly where Isaac was, or if he was going to make it back. Other young men from the kibbutz had been arriving and disappearing into the war, and it seemed there were questions being asked about the ones who still hadn’t shown up. Maybe not even asked aloud, but implied. These kids had been raised to fight. It was what the Jewish people required, so that what happened before couldn’t happen again. Were they going to do what was expected?

Michael wasn’t just happy to see his son again, he was relieved. He said something that Isaac never forgot, and which he repeated to me in a little kibbutz house a few hundred yards away from where this moment had happened forty-seven years before. He’d repeated the sentence, turning it over in his head, many times. His father said, “I’m so happy you came to the war.”

Isaac loved his father until his death. He keeps a large photograph of him, one he took himself, on the wall. But he never forgot those words—the way his father was willing to sacrifice him, the idea that there were things more important than his only living son. It’s an unsettling story, one of our oldest, from Genesis. If this were a novel, the character of the boy would have to be named Isaac, but in a novel you wouldn’t dare call him that. It would be too much.

… Now he was in the catastrophe, where he belonged.

… There’s a blurry time at the end of a battle when no one’s certain it’s over, and the blurriness can get you killed … the battle is over only when you’re sure that all the enemy soldiers are dead.

Matti Friedman – Who By Fire – Leonard Cohen in the Sinai

i was born into this … into an embattled people
my parents tried to take me away from it … but were drawn back into it
i was raised to become this way … but it didn’t take
it seems I was born to not fight
for a long time, I fought fighting
until I awoke to the irony
reflecting now on this sheds yet another light on my aloneness
even as an adult I still get uncomfortable around two other adults fighting
I check to make sure that it doesn’t have anything to do with me
only to find it doesn’t matter … I am deeply disturbed by fighting
my father is a fierce fighter

Posted in About, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment

The Art Of Life

n

Because sometimes you have to make a film about the man you just met on the beach

a gift from Anna-Maija

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Celebration and … the Sacred?

n

Maija asked me recently about my relationship with celebrating … and I am generally uncomfortable around celebration. Today I encountered these two stories from Rick Rubin, a master of delicacy. The first story sets the context for the second story and the second story (wait for it after the song and forgive the clumsy but well-intentioned interviewer) speaks subtly and intimately to one subtle aspect of celebration that makes me feel uncomfortable.

The stories appear at 1:38:20
(I don’t recommend the interview as a whole, there are better encounters with Rick Rubin out there).

Posted in Fragments, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Realms Beyond Reason

n


” … the crisis is being caused by the inadequacy of existing forms of thought to cope with the situation. It can’t be solved by rational means because the rationality itself is the source of the problem … the solution to the problem isn’t that you abandon rationality but that you expand the nature of rationality …

We’re living in topsy-turvy times, and I think that what causes the topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy of old forms of thought to deal with new experiences …

You look back at the last three thousand years and with hindsight you think you see neat patterns and chains of cause and effect that have made things the way they are. But if you go back to original sources, the literature of any particular era, you find that these causes were never apparent at the time they were supposed to be operating. During periods of root expansion things have always looked as confused and topsy-turvy and purposeless as they do now.

… Moon exploration doesn’t involve real root expansions of thought. We’ve no reason to doubt that existing forms of thought are adequate to handle it. It’s really just a branch extension of what Columbus did. A really new exploration, one that would look to us today the way the world looked to Columbus, would have to be in an entirely new direction …

… Like into realms beyond reason. I think present day reason is an analogue of the flat earth of he medieval period. If you go too far beyond it you’re presumed to fall off, into insanity …

But what’s happening is that each year our old flat earth of conventional reason becomes less and less adequate to handle the experiences we have and this is creating widespread feelings of topsy-turviness. As a result we’re getting more and more people in irrational areas of thought – occultism, mysticism, drug changes and the like – because they feel the inadequacy of classical reason to handle what they know are real experiences.”

Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
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Who By Fire – Leonard Cohen, Israel … and I

n

I’ve been distantly aware that Leonard Cohen visited Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur war and sang for soldiers in the desert. So I went into this podcast episode about this event with a sense of curiosity. The story is told with care and subtlety and I look forward to reading the book.

My curiosity was fulfilled … and then some. I found myself immersed in a wholesome telling of a story of the world I was born into. I was 9 months old when my father suddenly disappeared for 6 months into this war. I know nothing of this world. I do not have childhood memories. Yet this is the world that shaped me.

After listening to it I spoke to my parents and they corroborated the story. I learned, for the first time, that this is why some years later (when I was 8) we moved to the USA. I did not know that my parents (mostly my mother) were trying to escape the anxiety of living in Israel. I learned that for my father, the anxiety of how to provide for his family in a new and unknown place & culture was greater than the anxiety of being physically in war. I also learned that they chose to move back to Israel because they felt the USA was less safe for their three young children than living in the persistent anxiety (and physical danger!) that comes from living in a place like Israel.

Listening to this evoked deep and wide reflections. How did this contribute to the gross and subtle difficulties I’ve had breathing most of my life? How did this contribute to my deeply rooted and persistent feeling of insecurity? Did I dream of being an astronaut because that would have put the greatest possible distance between myself and all this? Having failed to become an astronaut, was retreating to a Romanian village a feasible resolution to the problem? Though I lived near physical violence I was never subjected to it directly … and if this is how I feel, how do people who directly experienced violence feel? If this is how I feel having grown up on the powerful side of the conflict – what is being shaped right now by the historically inevitable violence Israel inflicts on Palestinians? Witnessing this perpetuating cycle sometimes brings me to tears and sometimes to a deep and peaceful stillness.

This also meets me as I am witnessing the war in Ukraine. I have noticed how I feel different in my surroundings. Having been born into war and lived most of my life in an embattled country I am predisposed and accustomed to the mental presence of war. When I look around me I realize that most people are not. I am also experiencing a sharper and embodied understanding of and respect for the embattled nature (and violence) of the state of Israel. I observe (from a safe distance) how Ukrainian refugees are facing uncertainty about if and how they will be received in whatever country they arrive – will they be let in? And I then realize with shocking clarity that there is only one group of refugees that are guaranteed shelter by law (an unfair law that excludes anyone else, including Palestinians who lived on lands that Jews currently call Israel) – Ukrainian Jews are, by law, guaranteed a safe haven in Israel … within its perennial anxiety and violence.

And though it is difficult for me to imagine living in Israel, I have also felt in my bones how this pertains to me. Though I do not feel personally threatened here in Romania (living 75km from the city from which my grandparents were taken to concentration camps during WWII) I have felt (on 2 or 3 occasions) how thin the veil of society is and how little it takes for it to tear and for anti-semitism to manifest. And I feel that both the society that physically surrounds me and societies all around the planet are heading into treacherous times that will likely introduce more than a little stress and tearing. And I wonder: how much of this feeling is rooted in being born into the war Leonard Cohen walked into?

Posted in About, Enjoy, inside, Myself | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Yoga Practice Charts 2021

n

In some past Yoga check-ins, I tried using graphs to illustrate how my sense of well-being fluctuates. The graphs were created in retrospect and I invented data to try to express how I felt. In 2021 I initiated a journaling experiment to see what real data might look like. I use a spreadsheet to collect both qualitative indicators and textual notes.

In this post, I will describe the journaling process and share charts that describe the second half of the year 2021. In the future, I intend to periodically (probably quarterly) reflect and report in this way on my practice.

Quantitative Indicators

The first set of indicators are qualitative and describe how my feeling changed compared to the previous day. A negative number indicates a decline and a positive number indicates an improvement. I adopted the following value framing:

  • 1 indicates a slight, barely noticeable change.
  • 2 indicates a slight but clearly noticeable shift.
  • 5 indicates a minot shift.
  • 10 indicates a major shift.

I move within this basic framework to numerically express the change I am experiencing.

These are the qualitative indicators I journal:

  1. Phsyical vitality
  2. Physical strength
  3. Physical flexibility
  4. Physial lightness
  5. Breath strength
  6. Breath flexibility
  7. Breath open-ness of channels
  8. Presence

Qualitative Journaling Points

  1. Modality of practice (Healing/Health/Beyond)
  2. Life events that took place the previous day and stood out in my awareness in a way that may have affected my sense of well-being
  3. Emtional observations
  4. Physical observations
  5. Breath observations
  6. Presence observations
  7. Other notes

Asana & Pranayama Practice Journaling

For asana practice, I have mapped a group of columns that correlate each to either specific asana or groups of asana that make up my practice. I then use a number (a rating based on the above-mentioned 1,2,5,10 framework) in each to indicate the intensity and quality within the practice. This is of course subjective (the numbers don’t even offer any equivalency between different asana) but within a constant frame. The sum of those numbers says something about the breadth and depth of the practice. I sometimes also add some comments about the practice or its development.

For pranayama, I notate the actual breathing practice (using breathing formulas) and also give the practice an overall numeric value which is for charting its evolution.

Aggregating & Charting

The following indicators are aggregated and charted:

  1. The physical indicators are aggregated into one indicator.
  2. The breathing indicators are aggregated ito one indicator.
  3. The presence indicator is used as is.
  4. An integrated indicator is created for physical + breath + presence.
  5. An asana practice indicator is generated by summing up the asana indicators. Zero means I did not do an asana practice.
  6. The pranayama indicator is used as is. Zero means I did not do a pranayama practice.

These indicators are normalized to create a unified chart. However, the chart has no y-axis because the values are not really significant or comparable. There is, for example, no meaning to compare physical well-being to breath well-being. The integrated indicators is slightly raised compared to the base indicators for presentation purposes only.

Each monthly chart includes 10 days from the previous month and 10 days from the following month to allow for overlapping that can give some context to what occurred within the month.

2021 Monthly Charts

2021 Yearly Charts

Observations

It has been interesting to look at these charts, especially the overall half-year perspective and reflect on what the chart shows and how it correlates to my lived experience.

  1. Allergy – I started the journaling process as I was coming out of the allergy period which is a low point in the year. This is confrmed by the overall rise throughout the year. I feel this is a recurring yearly cycle though I do believe its form has changed over the years. I believe that this “allergy dip” has become more moderate (not falling as much), falls more gradually and less like a collapse, is overall shorter and the recovery is quicker. I am curius to see what future years bring both in terms of my direct experience and what the charts may show.
  2. Emotional Volatility – I experienced a lot of emotional volatility and fluctuation over the year. In my awareness this relates both to my personal sphere of existence and my perceived state of the world within my limited information intake. This is reflected in the continuous fluctuation of both asana & pranayama practice. My body and breath seem to absorb and express these fluctuations.
  3. Breath Sensitivity – at first look there seems to be a discrepency between the breath and pranayama graphs. Within my subjective experience my breath has not been well for quite some time. But when I think and say “not well” is needs to be put into perspective. It is “not well” in relation to my past perception of the potential of my breath. So even when I describe my breathing as “not well” it is still in in pretty good shape. Within this state-of-breath, relatively small fluctuations in my nostril-blockage and chest tightness can severely impact my pranayama. This is why the overall breath indicator is fairly steady but the actual pranayama practice fluctuates.
  4. Breath Blockage – Something in my mentality towards breath has shifted. I used to be in a “healing” mindset towards breath and I have slowly moved away from that. I have realized that my breath has been challenged in some way for most of my life. It expressed primarily as somewhat blocked nostrils and secondarily as tightness in the chest. My lived expereince is that my breathing difficulties are subtly correlated to stress and anxiety. Living in retreat has made stress and anxiety relatively subtle – which means I notice and am more sensitive to smaller fluctuations. In addition to that the emotional fluctuations of the past year have introduced a heaviess and lack of vitality which also negatively effects my breathing. I believe that changes to my overall life and well-being are both reflected in my breath and the key to improving it. So, I have settled into a posture of embrace and acceptance of my breath as it is. I try to inhabit it as best I can without applying any ambition to it.
  5. Body & Breath:
    1. Diminished breathing capacity (reflected as drops in Pranayama) is usually the reason for diminished asana practice. The pranayama and asana graphs either drop together or a drop in pranayama is followed by a drop in asana.
    2. Then, recovery in asana leads to a recovery of breath and pranayama. The asana graph usually rises before the pranayama graph.
    3. In this charted period I am still able to practice a moderated asana practice when my pranayama is diminished or absent. These periods when my breath and body feel diminishes create the conditions for practicing presence: if I am not present asana practice has a negative effect on my breath. So in order to practice I need to be attentive, soft and and caring with my body and breath.
  6. Steady presence and attention – it seems that while my body and breath absorb my emotional fluctuation my sense of presence has been fairly steady. It does fluctutate, it is clearly effected by more extreme emotional fluctuations, but overall I have felt, within this emotionally tumultous period, stable. I attribute this primarily to the Samkhya study process which has had a surprising effect on me (I still find it hard to believe how study of a text can have such an effect). I also attribute this to the mental shift (see 4 above) in relation to the breathing blockage. The shift from “fixing it” to “inhabitting it” also caused a shift from “applying force to it” to “softening into it” and that too has had a stabilizing effect on my sense of presence.
Posted in Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Greg Bryant on Generative Sequences

n

I feel that generative sequences are one of the most overlooked and valuable discoveries in Christopher Alexander’s work. When you learn to see them for what they are you can find examples of them everywhere and then you can increasingly notice when/where they are missing.

I have adopted an attitude in which I assume that if I am unclear about what to do next, it is because I am lacking orientation in a generative sequence that can guide me. Instead of just trying out to figure what to do next NOW, I am curious about my place in a generative sequence.

I feel that discovering or creating generative sequences is very rewarding work … potentially a form of art!

Posted in Nature of Order, Quality | Tagged , , | You are welcome to add your comment

בדל של אור

n

אני מופתע כיצד האלבום הזה נגע ונוגע בי
הוא מעורר בי תחושה של תרבות עתיקה שאולי עוד תקום
הוא מעורר בי תחושה של שייכות עתיקה ושל שייכות עתידית שכבר עבורי כנראה לא תוגשם
הוא מעורר בי מחשבות אודות קהילה רחבה, עמוקה ומהותית

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Custodial Relation to a Sentient Landscape

n

This morning I wrote this in a Samkhya journal entry:

The text itself is not a body of knowledge. It is a place-holder, a seed around which knowledge can crystallize. The knowledge is held in a kind of morphic field of all the teachers and students who have together engaged and explored the text and brought it into their lives. The actual knowledge crystallizes over lifetimes of intimate exploration.

In an earlier revision of the post there was more about how Samkhya reaches back into antiquity, how it originated in oral cultures … and now I read this:

… Archives are great, but they are only temporary. The Egyptians learned that the hard way.
The only sustainable way to store data long-term is within relationships – deep connections between generations of people in custodial relation to a sentient landscape, all grounded in a vibrant oral tradition. This doesn’t need to replace print, but it can supplement it magnificently – those two systems might back each other up rather than merely coexist. Relationships between systems are just as important as relationships within them. Oral traditions grounded in profound relationships represent a way of thinking that backs up your knowledge in biological peer-to-peer networks and provides a firewall against dictators who might decide to burn down your libraries. It also mixed things up cognitively and allows your brain to rewire itself in more healthy ways. I call this way of thinking kinship-mind.

Tyson Yunkaporta – Sand Talk

The phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape” has a strange reverberation. It feels like it points to truth but has no anchor in my lived experience. Most of conscious-me has no idea what this really means … in an embodied, grounded way. Thinking about it doesn’t make it better: I have a feeling that most of unconscious-me doesn’t know about this either:

  • The tribe I was born to has been without a relationship to a “Sentient Landscape” for around 2000 years.
  • The land to which my tribe was supposedly related to has been decimated over that period of time. Historically it is said to have been an abundant landscape. Now it is mostly barren and harsh.
  • When “my tribe” awoke to their need for land they embarked on a violent journey that may have earned them access to this land, but came with a heavy spiritual price. They do not seem to treat the land as sentient.

And yet I sense a truth in the phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape.” I have tried to come into such a relationship with the land that currently holds me. I never felt comfortable “owning it.” I have tried to be a steward to it, but that hasn’t worked out too well either (I’ve really only been able to keep others from exploiting it).

And I think about the teachings that resonate most with me, Yoga and Samkhya. These come from other lands, lands I’ve never set foot on (in this physical body).

The only land I really know is my own physical body. But what is it without earth-land? Where is the earth from which I came? Where does it belong? My felt experience is that it doesn’t.

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סתיו כמו חורף

n

גל של קור עבר פה בימים האחרונים
הלילות קפואים, התנור בוער בבוקר
יבש בחוץ, האדמה קשה
השמש גם היא ביקרה בימים האחרונים
כמעט כל יום יצאתי החוצה וישבתי לקרוא עטוף בקרניה

אני פוגש שוב את החיוניות בתרגול
זו איכות שמופיעה מעצמה כשהתרגול ממושך וכשהלב שקט
לא חוויתי אותה מזה כשנתיים
בשנה שעברה בזמן זה הרגשתי מתפורר מהקשר עם יוליה
הנשימה הייתה שבורה וגם הלב
אז התרגול קיבל איכות של החלמה והכלה
לא הייתי לי גישה לחיוניות שעכשיו שוב מתעוררת

לפני מספר שבועות סיימתי לראשונה את הקריאה של הסמקייה
לא תארתי לעצמי שקריאה של טקסט כלשהו יכולה להשפיע עלי
גיליתי שקריאה אודות פילוסופיה הודית עתיקה השפיעה עלי עמוקות
הרגשתי שהטקסט ראה אותי והכיר בי
זו תחושה מאוד מיוחדת
במיוחד לאור כך שאני לרוב מרגיש בלתי נראה

מזה מספר שנים אני מרגיש שחיי הם כמו סיום של סיפור ארוך מאוד
אני חושב שהשנים האחרונות הם הבשלה וחשיפה של מודעות
מודעות שכנראה נכחה בי בתת-מודע מרבית חיי
אולי תת-מודעות שהתעוררה בי בגיל שלוש כשתבונת גופי החליטה לחסום את נשימתי
וורק בחודשים האחרונים היכתה בי ההכרה שמרבית חיי התקשיתי, בצורה זו או אחרת, לנשום

אני זוכר שעד אמצע שנות השלושים של חיי, חייתי עם תחושה לא נעימה של ביקורת עצמית
הלכתי למעט מוזיאונים, גלריות והצגות, ולא התרשמתי
אני זוכר הצגה אחת שהרגישה כמו פרק גרוע של זהו-זה
אני זוכר שרציתי לעזוב די בהתחלה אך הרגיש לי לא נעים, אז נשארתי
אני זוכר שבסוף הקהל קם על רגליו ומחה מחיאות כפיים סוערות
ואני התסכלתי סביב ולא הבנתי מה כולם רואים שאני אינני רואה
השאלה הזו התפוגגה כאשר ראיתי את שחר רוקד אל מול השמש השוקעת על הדק בנמל תל-אביב
ידעתי אז, שאני כן יודע, כן רואה, וכן מרגיש … אולי אפילו משהו שאחרים לא רואים
במשך שנים רבות אחר כך רציתי לשתף במה שראיתי לדבר על מה שגיליתי
אך הרוב המשיך למחוא כפיים לפרקים גרועים של זהו-זה, אז ויתרתי

הסמקייה משתמשת בדימוי של צופה בהצגת החיים
הצופה מייצג את הרוח, הצגת החיים מייצגת את הטבע
הסמקייה מדברת על התעוררות של הרוח לכך שהיא צופה בהצגה
הסמקייה מדברת על שלב שבו השעיית הספק עצמה מושעית
שלב שבו הרוח מתעוררת לכך שיש צופה ויש הצגה
וכשהרוח מזהה שהיא הצופה ושהחיים הצגה, חווית ההצגה כאילו נפסקת, מאבדת את אחיזתה
ואני מרגיש כך, שראיתי את ההצגה
אינני רואה את הסיפור שהשחקנים על הבמה מנסים לספר
אני רואה שחקנים על במה מנסים לספר סיפור
אינני יכול, כפי שגם לא יכולתי אז, לקום ולמחוא כפיים
משום שנותרתי כאן, בהווה, ברגע, ולא נישאתי אל תוך הסיפור שלא באמת התרחש על הבמה

וכך אני מרגיש שהסמקייה ראתה אותי, זיהתה אותי וחיבקה אותי, ואמרה לי: שלם אתה, היה שלום
ההצגה נמשכת, אך משראיתי אותה, היא איננה סוחפת עוד
בהצגה שנמשכת, הקור והימים הקצרים והמבודדות מותירים את ליבי סדוק מעט
אני מתעורר מוקדם בבוקר, ער לחיוניות השורשית שבוערת בקרבי
אך אני מרגיש כבדות מסוימת שמתנגדת לקימה
אני מחבק את הכבדות ונעטף בשמיכה, ומוצא עוד שעה או שעתיים של מנוחה עמוקה
עד שהאור בחוץ מתגבר,עיניי נפקחות ומתאקלמות לאור וגופי נמתח
ועוד יום של הצגה ללא השעית הספק יוצא לדרך

התרגול מעמיק
המכחול טובל בצבע ומלטף את הנייר
השמש עושה עוד הקפה בשמיים, מסעה הולך ומנמיך ומתקצר מעט כל יום
הכמיהה לקרבה ואינטימיות עם גוף חי אחר נותרת בלתי ממומשת
הכמיהה היא לחוש עור ונשימה ואור ונשמה מקרוב ובצורה ישירה, ללא הצגה
אך פעמים רבות כל כך ביקרתי בהצגה של הכמיהה שגם שם השעיית הספק כבר מעורערת
אך הכמיהה בכל זאת נותרת

שאלתך חלחלה לתוכי
מרגיש לי מהותי שהיא נשאלת בעברית
כבר אינני רגיל להישאל שאלות בעברית
נעים לי לתהות ולענות בעברית
תודה לבנת, ששאלת

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The Erotic as Power

n

This poignant essay contains a beautiful answer to a critical question: how do you know what Good feels like?

a gift from Jennifer

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Mario Batkovic / Accordion

n

I’ve never really liked the accordion. In my consciousness, it was dominated by a metallic sound and an association with folk music which have never appealed to me. But THIS … I still can’t decide if he made the instrument disappear or presented it in all its glory. This feels like an accordion doing what it was really meant to do. It is as if Mario has an intimate understanding of the instrument (both mechanically and spiritually) and what it wants to be. If I close my eyes I see into myself, if I open my eyes I see into the accordion. Mario is a medium.

a gift from Richard Bartlett

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Balance

n

via Bonnitta Roy

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A gift from the mushrooms?

n

I came out of practice and went to the kitchen to take the next step in bread preparation. I was mixing the dough when Iulia stepped out of her room. This was our first encounter of the day.

I stepped back from tending to the bowl on the counter and turn to face Iulia. I consciously and intentionally made myself available to embrace her. I was communicative in my body and in my eyes. But the next step is up to her. I will only embrace her if I feel clearly invited and welcome. She knows this. We talked about it. Many times. She just stood there. Her presence didn’t say yes and didn’t say no. But in the context of touching Iulia, maybe is a clear no. I waited. I gave it time. Breathe. Nothing. OK. I stepped back and continued tending to the bread.

Iulia: why can’t you just offer me an embrace?
Me: I did, and I didn’t feel a yes.
Iulia: why does it need to be …
Me: It was you who …

And we were almost back on track to a very familiar and unpleasant (to me!) pattern of conversation. But then something switched in me. I became amused … and I softly disengaged. No hard feelings. Embrace is OK. No embrace is also OK. Some psycho-babble conversation about why I didn’t offer an embrace … NOT OK!

In that moment I realized a pattern that I was putting a lot of energy into over the last few years in my relationship with Iulia. I usually assume that I am missing something, even when I feel confident that I’ve thought things through rigorously. No matter how right I feel, I still assume that there is a possibility that Iulia is seeing something that I may be blind to. She likes to remind me that I have issues, and she is probably right. So I stay open … and doubt myself.

Not this time. I was very clear in my intentions and actions. I will not just walk up to her and embrace her. That is no longer in the books for us. I wanted to and offered to embrace her. I clearly communicated that to her and she received the message it. For whatever reason, she didn’t say yes. But she didn’t choose to state her reason. I have a tendency to speculate, but even that was suspended. She chose to put it on me. But I felt VERY clear … and the confrontational mushroom experience resurfaced. There, I tried, demanded, begged her to speak to me directly, without evasion, without avoidance, without deflection. The clarity of the mushrooms came back.

In a flash, I recognized all that. In a flash, I recognized and accepted that she has her reasons. In a flash, I recognized that this was not coming from me. In a flash, the potential for a typical confrontation between us dissipated (for me!). I didn’t retreat into darkness. I didn’t feel hurt or attacked. I didn’t feel a need to defend myself or convince her of anything. Things were fine. I felt amused. I smiled. I shared this realization with her …. and got on with my life. I am no longer interested in or available for this kind of communication.

I DID NOT expect to experience a lasting effect from the mushrooms. But there it was! I felt clear about myself. I don’t think a clear line can be drawn between Iulia and me. I can never be sure where I end and she begins. But THAT was not mine! How refreshing!

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5.5 grams

n

On June 22nd I finally experienced psychedelic mushrooms. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years.

The previous day I was having yet another “dead-end” day with Iulia and I wanted to look into that. But I awoke to the potential late in the day. My stomach was full with dinner. I was confident about going in within the context of our relationship as it was in the present moment. I was not confident that the actual present moment was the right time. It would have been a night trip and I was not sure that was a good choice (and I do not like to disrupt my natural biological rhythms). I spoke to Josh (who has some mushroom experience) about it (and the context in which it was arising) and from our conversation, it seemed that a day-trip (the following day) would probably be better.

I let Iulia know about my decision and asked not to be disturbed. She would be there to look after my physical well-being. I asked her explicitly not to come near me if she is carrying anxiety, fear, worry, or doubt.

I started my next day as usual. However, instead of sitting with the next Samkhya verse, I watched this video ( a gift from Jennifer) about the Hebrew alphabet and how it may hold a key to a meditative physical movement. It was a conscious choice. Samkhya, especially the verses I am currently encountering, felt like a movement towards a hypothetical abstract that currently feels like a slow and heavy movement. A physical manifestation of the Hebrew alphabet felt like reaching into my embodied roots. Roots seemed like a good idea.

Going In

I then went on to my on-the-mat practice and from that transitioned to the mushrooms. I started with a 1.5 gram dose. Chewed it for quite some time and sat quietly with it. After sitting I laid down. Nothing seemed to happen for almost an hour. After an hour I noticed a quietness in my breath. Though I felt clearly involved in the breathing, I also felt a bit removed from it. Being slightly distant from it I felt it become softer, deeper, and eerily silent. Then I had to pee for the first of many times.

I walked out to the large poplar tree across the road. It is the furthest point (~40 meters) I go to pee so it included a “walk.” I felt a bit light-headed and generally light. As I was watering the trees I realized that something was different about the sound of the leaves shaking in the wind. It was loud and sharp.

This was nice, but I wanted to go deeper. I decided to ingest another 1.5 grams. This also took the better part of an hour to take effect. I recall sitting with it and being deeply involved in my breath. I played with jivha, jalandhara bandhas and uddiyana sthana and felt a charge building up inside me. Then the breath took on a life of its own and my body became much more involved … I remember my head slowly moving up and down and that movement projecting down into my spine. I could now switch voluntarily between what felt like two distinct modalities. One was facing inwards, quiet, deep, indulgently nice … where there was less of me. The other was facing outwards where there was more of me … sharp and alert.

I got up to pee again. This time I took the box of mushrooms and the scale and handed them to Iulia in the kitchen. I asked her to prepare for me another 1.5 grams while I went to visit the poplar tree again – this time it would not just be peeing, but also a social visit. Here the experience took a turn.

Confrontation

Iulia has a gift of laughter. It is a beautiful gift that can bring light into darkness. But I have also experienced it as an escape from … well … rigorous and potentially dark inquiry. Now, in the kitchen, on my way out, I met her laughter and it was different. I couldn’t resist it. When she laughed I also had to laugh. Her laughter felt like a physical quality. I turned around, my back facing her, and recall experiencing the laughter in that physical orientation … and I felt as if that “laughing matter” passed into me from behind and up through me. I thought “wow, this is her essence! this is Iulia!”

I went out to my friend the poplar tree and leaned against it. Initially, I closed my eyes and was engulfed by the sound of the leaves. Then I opened my eyes and saw the bark of the tree so vividly. It’s rough infinite texture and so much moss. I ran my fingers over it and heard with amazing clarity the sound of my fingers scraping over the bark.

When I turned around to face the house Tana and Indi were across the street looking at me. Standing, watching, but not coming. I summoned them over and they both came and they both went directly into their “correct” physical positions, manifesting their relationship with me. I was kneeling. Tana sat to my left and bowed her head to be touched. Indi laid down on the ground on my right, slipped her head under my knee, and assumed her place of surrender to me (early in our relationship we had to do some work and she had to learn to surrender to me). But though she assumed a surrendered position she was pawing me demanding attention. I placed my hand on her leg and held her down and immediately connected to an essence of struggle. Indi and I explored struggle together for a few minutes. Again, I felt like I was meeting some kind of essential-matter that was Indi. After a few minutes, we did find stillness together.

I walked back to the house enjoying the enhanced sense of seeing. Everything seemed brighter, sharper, and slightly tinted with a blue-ish cool quality. Iulia left the next 1.5 grams in the kitchen for me, I took them and went back into my room. I ingested that too and as I was chewing it something shifted.

From here on out my recollection has a mixed quality. There are parts that I remember with a feeling of extreme clarity. There are parts that I am not sure happened and there may be things that did happen that I do not recall. Also, the timeline starts to become less clear.

I picked up a scent of incense. I thought I saw Iulia moving around with it. She knows that I am sensitive to incense and am not always open to it. Yet she made a decision to use it. When I sat down again the smell of incense was me … and it was not just a small but a feeling. I called out to Iulia (who was in the other room) and said “please do not do things I did not ask you to do” … no reply. In retrospect, I believe this was a turning point. I do not know if I would have initiated communication with her if it wasn’t for the incense … for the intervention. In my sober-conscious mind, it represents an interventionist pattern, a pattern where she assumes she knows what I think or need. Now, with the mushrooms, uninhibited, I spoke it out.

I was bothered by the lack of reply so I called out “Can you hear me?” … and I recall feeling a change in the silence. It felt like it went from a silence where she didn’t hear me to a silence where she chose not to answer me, to ignore me. I was sitting on the floor and my eyes were closed … still chewing. I became more demanding: I called out asking her to stop ignoring me, and to answer my calls. Eventually, she came into the room. Still chewing.

I started a conversation. She felt distant. Though my eyes were closed I felt like I could see her. Both her words and her body language felt distant to me. I asked her (and would ask many times in the coming hours) to drop the narrative that “I am high on a trip” and to speak to me directly. She was avoiding me. She snapped quickly into her trainer/coach/therapist mode and, no matter my pleas, responded with “this is not about me, it is about you.” Her responses felt violent to me. I became more firm in my talking (though I moved back and forth between speaking loud and clear and whispering). I asked to address and acknowledge the violence I was feeling from her. She avoided … silence. I remember telling her “I did not put that violence in you” and to that, she responded … and her response remains in my consciousness as a pivotal moment, she said, “that is true.”

I ingested her answer and that became a seed in my consciousness. Still chewing. I asked her “Is your statement ‘that is true’ an acknowledgment of the violence?” and this turned into a dance. She avoided it “this is not about me, this is about you” and I refused to turn away or surrender. Eyes closed, still chewing. I felt my own energy rising in intensity (I felt sharp and demanding) and settling into softness (where I felt deeply understanding and accepting of our situation). I tried and tried to reach her … until I accepter her evasion. I remember laughing and saying to her “you thought this was going to be about me, that I was going to have some kind of hallucinatory experience, you did not expect this to become about you.” I felt I could see her, into her, past her … to the events that made her distant. I recall feeling amused and sincerely surprised that this was the direction this experience was going. I expected it to turn inwards … yet it became a deeply relational experience. I felt so whole, so completely me … as I write these words this seems at odds with the so-called “ego-death” … but this did not feel like it was coming from a place of ego … I felt surrendered and indifferent … all that was left was a “Truth of the moment” and I felt like I was speaking from and into that.

I felt a wish for Iulia to sit in front of me and to take my hands so that I could see her. But I felt that she was not available to be seen. I shared with her my wish and that I am not expressing it as a wish becuase I feel she is not available.

I had been watching the time between dosages. I allowed for at least 40 minutes between doses and I tried not to allow for more than an hour to pass … I wanted a build-up and not an extension. Feeling that Iulia was not meeting me in conversation I felt a sense of surrender and settled back into myself. I also realized that I want to go further. I told Iulia I wish to go further and take another gram. I am not sure if her response was immediate or there was more interaction … but I remember her running to the bedroom. I KNEW soooo viscerally she was manifesting mistrust, she was having an opinion about my choice, she thought she knew better and she chose to interfere. This was another turning point.

She got to the bedroom in time to hide the box but I got there quickly. I stood there and felt the mistrust. I realized that it had something in common with her laughter. I felt the mistrust as a physical quality, I could now feel it moving inside me. Then I realized that there was something deeper at play. I felt BECOMING. I BECAME her laughter and now I was BECOMING her mistrust. The extreme open-ness I was experiencing made me susceptible to BECOMING … and I felt and realized it in the moment. Then I felt another quality arising … she was willing to stand in my way … violence! I shared this realization with her … the presence of BECOMING and the potential for violence. I’d intuited this potential when she bolted from the room … now I was feeling it. I knew I would not, could not hurt her, but I knew that if she stood in my way I would go through her.

I spoke it out, I felt very sharp and elaborate and I believe I spoke clearly. And we were back on the theme she avoided minutes ago … violence. I asked her again to acknowledge the violence that she presenced. She refused. I repeated it becoming more demanding … she stood in silence … I repeated it again … and again … I was projecting A LOT of power. She closed her eyes. I demanded that she open her eyes and look at me. She turned away. I moved closer. She moved away. She made a quick gesture (to light a candle?) and I stopped her. I felt her fear. I asked her what she felt RIGHT NOW … silence … avoidance. I brought her to tears. I stepped back with a sense of satisfaction. I said, “good, very good, NOW we are relating, NOW we are together, finally.” There was some silence … and settling.

I was aware that I did not know where the mushrooms were. But I knew they were in the room. The mistrust was vital and alive in me. I told her that I don’t trust her. I felt that if I stepped away from the room it would give her more opportunity to hide the mushrooms from me. We talked. In our conversation the following day, Iulia said she felt that I just wanted “more and more” and I know that not to be true (and I felt that even in the sober conversation the next day, she still didn’t believe me). I was not experiencing any craving or “drug obsession”. I was not able during the trip nor after the trip to convince Iulia that she is relating to her own projections and not to me and my experience. Distant! I clearly wanted to take one more step in. Iulia asked to wait a bit longer before taking the next dose, We reached an agreement.

I remember going back to my room and Iulia coming after me. I remember standing there, face to face. I don’t remember how the conversation started. But I remember pointing with my finger into the space between us … I remember asking, begging, demanding her to acknowledge that she placed violence there in the space between us. “We both did” was the best she could offer … escape … escape escape. Never mind. These conversations don’t go well when “I am sober”, there was not reason to expect it to go well when “I was high.”

However this conversation took some time … so I asked her to go get the last gram. I sat down and she went off. I was feeling sharp and clear and wanted her to be that way. But I heard her bustling around, going from the bedroom to the bathroom … I did not know what she was doing … but the mistrust was still there. I called out to her and said “please do only what you have to do to come here with the mushrooms, I am experiencing every single sound you make right now as deep vibrations of either trust or suspicion.” In the conversation we had afterward she made clear to me that the noises I heard were her trying to get the box out of hiding.

She brought me the last gram on a small plastic tray and I asked her to place it on the floor before me. There it was. This time I did ask her to sit in front of me. She did. My eyes are closed. The gram is between us. I asked her to take my hand. She did. I could feel some physical discomfort in her. I asked her to make herself more comfortable. She replied she is comfortable … more avoidance. I took the gram and ingested it and gestured for her to move the small plastic tray away. She did. I thanked her for noticing and understanding my gesture. Then she moved and made herself more comfortable! I asked her to acknowledge that she was now more comfortable. She kind of did … still avoidance. I asked her to take my hand again … her touch felt distant. I asked her to recall the shift she just made that made her more comfortable … and asked her to take my hand that way. She took it … her touch felt slightly more present, softer. I asked her to place my hand back where she found it. We repeated this numerous times … until I felt that we again arrived at a limit … that she was not available to come any closer. My eyes closed the whole time … I did not get around to opening my eyes and to seeing her. I asked her to leave the room.

At some point during this phase, I asked Iulia to try to reach out to Josh. I knew he knew I would be tripping and that he was aware of the context I was carrying into the experience. I did not wish to speak to Josh. I wanted for Iulia to be able to talk about what she was experiencing to someone who could relate to the situation. I scared her, I wanted someone to tend to her fear. She reached out, but it would take some time until he would respond.

Complete

After sitting quietly for a while I got up. I picked up a few cherries from the kitchen and went outside to sit on the steps that lead into the house. It was sunny. I was 5.5 grams in and I felt intensely focused and present. I remember the feeling that the light was very bright. I remember being curious about being curious about (<- not a typo ) the succulent cherries in my mouth, but I wasn’t. I was enamored by the trajectory of the pits as I tossed them into the grass … it was as if they moved in slow motion and I could easily follow their trajectory.

I felt complete. No mystical experience. No veil penetrated. No hallucinations. No monsters. Just me. Full, present, intense, radiant me. It was self-affirming. I did wonder though … was there more ahead? was I resisting? would I discover a blind spot if I went further? how many grams would it take for me to lose myself? how many more grams to astral visions?

Iulia came to sit by my side. The confrontation with Iulia was now complete. I had an embodied sense of the gap between us. A gap I’ve been experiencing for a couple of years. I could see there was no point in me trying to move forward as long as she responded with evasion and avoidance. I felt surrendered and empowered by the acceptance. I asked her how many more grams would she like to see me ingest? How many more grams until the mushrooms gave HER a more desirable outcome from me? She thinks I need therapy, that I have blind spots, that I am traumatized. The mushrooms didn’t heal, didn’t shed light on the blind spots and I don’t resonate with the trauma-framing, not when sober, nor when high. I was not dissolved by the mushrooms, I was crystallized, solidified. I asked her, in a direct, present, clear tone, if she would like me to take more … maybe more will get me to where she thinks I need to get? She replied “No.” I asked why? The only reply she had to offer was “you’ve had enough” … distant, evading, refusing to meet me in the moment. But that is OK. It is how we have been for a long time. It is how we are now. It is probably how we will continue to be.

She moved closer to me and embraced me.

Suddenly a thought landed sharply and clearly in my mind. I turned to her and said with some urgency: this is a unique moment, an opportunity, since you and I will not get past this point, please go, right now, and call someone, whoever you want, and have an honest and sincere conversation about what YOU are experiencing right now. RIGHT NOW! She started evading … this isn’t about me it’s about you … what about you … how about you talking to someone (5.5 grams and she is still pitching me therapy). I turned to face her … looked directly into her eyes. I begged her to stop evading me. We were both in tears. I repeated the proposition that was so alive in me … go speak to someone RIGHT NOW. Her last reply was “but what if I don’t want to?” … to which I replied, “then don’t! you don’t need to fight me.” She went in and spoke to a friend.

I felt complete. I was done. I did what I came here to do. I went back to my room, grabbed a pillow and laid down on the floor.

Lost

From this point on the experience changed and became more trippy. I do not recall hallucinations. I recall lying down on the floor … and getting up to go outside to pee. Many times. I lost track of time. I did not feel disoriented but I was not sure where I was. I aske Iulia many times: what time is is? how much mushrooms did I take? I knew the answers, but wanted to check myself.

During one of my pee excursions, Iulia called out to me – Josh came online and responded. I went to her room. The chat was open but an audio/video connection was not yet established. I couldn’t handle the technology and asked her to connect us. Josh was coming out of a shopping mall and his connection was unsteady – he was breaking up. I remember thinking: “I definitely don’t need a breaking up experience right now!” Iulia tried to fix it … she asked Josh “Are you on?” and I broke into uncontrollable laughter so hard I was barely able to say the words that were in my mind: “I don’t know about Josh but I AM ON!” and added, “maybe you could choose your words more carefully?”

Finally, a connection was established. Josh and I had a short interaction. Iulia moved away, clearly signaling that she did not want to partake in this conversation. I said this to Josh. I wanted him to witness the situation. To witness me and to witness her. I indicated to him that the way the conversation was happening, that I was forcing it on Iulia because she didn’t want it. I asked Josh to repeat to me what he heard me say and indicated that I will wish to talk to him after I come down from the trip to hear what he witnessed (we had a conversation the next day).

At one point I told Iulia I wanted to speak to her friend, to hear from her what Iulia told her. She called her and held up the phone to me. I was direct: “can you please share with me what Iulia told you?” She answered “we talk a lot, which conversation do you mean” … there it is again … evasion. We had a short interaction … I quickly realized it wasn’t going anywhere … I had no interest in playing games … I was being direct and sincere and wanted a response in kind … no luck … so I said thank you and goodbye.

During most of this phase, I felt mellow. But the time disassociation made me wonder if I was being manic. Sometimes, when I went to pee, I felt like I had just been out to pee … so it felt like an erratic back and forth movement. I asked Iulia if she felt I was being manic? She had to look up the word and told me that no, she didn’t think I was manic. I do not know how many such cycles I went through, I do know it went on for ~2 hours.

Iulia was present in many of these iterations, while I was lying on the ground. THAT made me feel a bit delusional. I was not sure she was really there and asked her many times: are you really here? I felt like I was in a movie coming in and out of scenes with Iulia – like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

I wasn’t sure when a scene started or when it ended … but the scenes felt distinct. Each time she was in a different position. Sitting next to me, standing next to me, sitting behind me, strumming her Ukelele (which sounded so out of tune – but whole in its own way) – I took this picture near the end – so I could confirm it was real:

I remember her hands … finally holding my hands softly. I remember thinking: “she figured out how to take my hand.” I remember talking, now feeling more vague and distant … no longer sharp and present. I was surrendered, I had said what I wanted to say. Because of the fuzziness at this point, I do recall saying to Iulia that I hope that I did say out loud everything I thought I said. I finally did get to look at her … it was a soft looking … not the penetrating looking I desired earlier. I saw her face age … her wrinkles deepening and spreading.

I remember a recurring feeling of being “alone on the ground” … it persisted even when Iulia was next to me holding my hand.

I remember feeling and expressing to Iulia a sense of deep tiredness. Not just from the current experience … but an accumulated life experience.

I remember that my perception of the carpet changed. It felt so bright and clean … and now it was fading into a darker color … it felt like it needed cleaning.

At one point our shared sober understanding and the gap between us began to re-appear. I began to feel tiredness and heaviness. Another round outside to pee. Walking back inside … this time not lying down. Standing, a bit confused. This is ending. I plugged my phone into the amplifier, sat in front of the speakers and turned up the volume, and played this song:

The song ended … silence remained. I opened the door to my room and found Iulia crouched in the door frame.

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Aphantasia?

n

This came to me via Bonnitta Roy:

When I shared this with Sunni she asked me if I feel I have this … and this was my answer:


I am not sure that “it” is really a thing. I do not trust the dichotomies of “it-ness” that mechanistic thinking likes to assume and impose.

I do resonate with some of the experiences associated with “it.” I rarely experience visual memory (or other expressions of felt experience), most of my “memories” feel like stories that have been told to me about myself.

“Guided Meditations” (setting aside that I think the title is an oxymoron) have rarely worked for me, visualizing just doesn’t seem to play out well for me. I wonder how many other people have been alienated by “guided meditations” making them feel inapt and disconnected because the so called “guides” are not well informed?

In my painting I have come rely on a process of writing because, once again, visualizing does not works for me.

I would be hard pressed to describe people I know, even people with whom I’ve lived for years … I can’t recall features visually … I can’t tell you something like eye-color (unless I intentionally memorize it, and I am not good at memorizing either).

I think I may experience less emotional attachment (than others!?) … and that could be related to not having images present in my mind.

I do not experience much “missing” … of people or places … and even when I do … I feel doubts about what it is that I miss.

I can imagine that “it” is not a fixed phenomenon (like disconnected wires or inactive areas in the brain) and I suspect that “it” is effected by conditions and circumstances.

I do appreciate the recognition that different people (in different contexts?) experience visualization differently.

I do appreciate the breaking down of assumptions that we are all similar … that a brain is a brain … or a mind is a mind …

I do appreciate when mainstream scientific thinking moves closer (albeit in small steps) to respecting complexity, refinement and subtlety of perception and cognition.

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