Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Philosphy

Disclaimer: This is a long one, even for me. I am not sure it will even make sense to anyone who has the obstinance to try to make it through the whole thing. Oh well, I can only get better at writing this kind of stuff, so I had to start somewhere.

Also, for some of you reading this, it may be a more palatable entry if you replace the word “universe” with “God” whenever you encounter it throughout the rest of the entry.


It’s a typical Southern California day outside today. Blue skies, warm but not uncomfortably warm. I was sitting in my car after lunch preparing myself mentally to return to the office, and I started staring at these two palm trees against the pale blue beach sky. I started to think about how those trees just looked like an old content couple happy to have grown alongside each other, happy to have existed, resigned to the fact that they were only playing their role in a larger scheme. I guess I had my mini Bodhi Tree moment although The Buddha probably wasn’t sitting in a Subaru at the moment of his enlightenment. I will attempt to share my thoughts, although it is always difficult to communicate a moment of transcendence:

I found myself staring at those trees and thinking about how intelligent the universe must be at a sub-atomic level. The universe knew 14 billion years ago to release all of this energy and matter and left a consciousness vibrating throughout everything. I thought about how the universe set a few parameters for itself (physical and metaphysical laws that we may or may not understand) and began organizing itself, based on the conscious intentions that it had infused into everything that was present after the “big bang”. Sub atomic particles came together to form matter and the matter clustered just perfectly to create the solar system and planet Earth. Did Earth form because it is just one of the billions of permutations that were possible as a result of the cataclysmic birth of a universe? Maybe, if you want to leave things up to mathematical probability…but even given that theory, the consciousness of the universe must have understood its own potential for spawning a planet (or millions of planets) capable of sustaining more organized systems of discrete consciousness, i.e. capable of sustaining life. Whether the Earth is the singular intention of the universe or one of billions of statistical inevitabilities doesn’t really matter. I believe what matters most is that the intelligence and consciousness had a desire and that desire has been manifesting for as long as the desire has been present.

Then I began to think of myself. I am a human being, but what is that? Although I am not the universe, I am of the universe and every single conscious thought or notion has implications on a universal level. I have within myself the power to send out energy that touches every corner of the universe. As a matter of fact, thinking of the universe in terms of a three dimensional space is merely a human concept, a product of my experience-limited awareness and consciousness. Now by experience-limited, I don’t mean there is a boundary of awareness that I cannot cross. What would be the point of drawing an arbitrary line in the sand and telling myself I cannot cross it? I simply mean if the universe contains all there is…there is really no describing it relative to something else. But we tend to try to simplify all abstractions with limiting terms whether it be math, love, or the universe.

I continued to think to myself while watching those trees. Are those two palm trees self aware in the way that I am? I assume that those palm trees are one of countless manifestations of the intention of all the released energy and matter reacting over the last 14 billion years. Those trees are perfect products of the energy and matter that created them, just as I am a perfect product of the energy and matter that created me. Was it the chemical nature of sexuality in my parents, their love, their lust, their desire to affirm the goodness of life by perpetuating it, their reactions to the psychic pressure of wanting to do what was expected and/or normal in their estimation? Perhaps it was all those things coming together and more that resulted in me, a perfect emanation of the consciousness of the universe after 14 billion years of experience (apparently on a two for one deal…twins are evidence that the universe is a bargain shopper).

Here is where it gets interesting (thanks for reading this far if you are still here). Every single feeling I have is a result of that 14 billion years of organization and experience, a perfectly produced and finely honed aspect of consciousness. My desire for love and comfort is a perfect manifestation of consciousness. My fears are perfect products too. Shame, guilt, rage…they may seem like pointless destructive emotions but in the same way that humankind harnesses the destructive power of combustion to create energy, these “destructive” emotions have creative potential too. But it is important to realize that no matter what the emotion, it is a carefully measured reaction of consciousness. Emotion is probably the most powerful form of consciousness there is, for it trumps pure rationality every time How amazing that with six billion people on the planet, that nearly all of us have the same basic psychic structures that allow us to experience love, grief, and a whole gamut of other emotions. Their universality is a testament to how perfect our natural emotions and feelings truly are. Our entire emotional world is a perfect reaction to the environment and our own perfect programming, much the same way that those palm tress have a perfect reaction to rich soil, wind, rain, and sunshine. A tree losing its leaves due to strong winds is natural. A child bawling its eyes out over something an adult might consider unimportant is just as natural. An adult’s emotional reactions are still just as natural and perfect. Of course along the way to adulthood, our environment (that is also infused with consciousness) will shape how we process feelings, but our feelings will never stop being genuine messages of consciousness, a sincere and unambiguous language of the soul.

But it is not just my feelings that are a perfect product of the last 14 billion years. My thoughts and choices are perfect products too. No, I am not saying that every thought and idea that I have is ideal for the betterment of society, but my mind is a natural aspect of me being a human, just as the roots are a natural aspect of those two palms being trees. If the roots expose the trees to a toxic substance in the dirt below, the trees will be poorly affected, but the roots are doing what they are meant to do. It would be pointless for the rest of the tree to resent the roots. In that sense any thought my mind produces at any moment is a product of what the universal consciousness (working inside of me and outside of me) has infused me with up to that point. My mind is doing its job no matter what thought it conjures or what choice it makes. The branches and leaves of the tree are organized to choose to grow toward the light, but the tree cannot grow in complete darkness. My mind is the same way. It will produce the best thoughts and choices given what it has access to. My mind and my thoughts are doing nothing but manifesting the desire and will of the consciousness that exists in the trillions of sub-atomic consciousness packets all uniquely organized within me.

The fact that I have a conscience, and a sense of morality is a product of my perfect thoughts and the perfect thoughts of those who helped teach me. My choices that have tested my conscientiousness and morality have also been perfect. The repercussions such as guilt, shame or lack thereof I have experienced as a result of those actions has been the perfect feedback that has shaped future decisions. I have been born into a society that has laws with discrete repercussions to be carried forth if I am found guilty of violating these laws. These laws function to influence my perfect thinking, but more importantly they work to influence the perfect thinking of those who may not have been infused with the same conscience and morality. Those who fear the results of other’s decision are having a perfect emotional reaction, but what other choice do we have but to respect the legitimacy of other’s conclusions. We can throw people in jail, but we can never have the authority to damn someone to hell, except maybe ourselves. I guess I could judge a law breaker as good or bad and speculate about what is wrong, but I would have to have some kind of personal knowledge about being consciously amoral to identify the wrongness wouldn’t I? How could I conceive of an evil in someone else greater than the evil I can conceive of in my own heart? If I consider myself basically good, but I have acted selfishly under certain conditions, why am I any different from anyone else? I mean if we aren’t all inherently perfect, than we are all inherently imperfect, which basically still means we are in no position to decide one kind of imperfection is worse than another. I just find it hard to be believe in my own inherent perfection without assuming that everyone else has the same thing.

Although I will never know what goes on inside of others, I have a fairly strong feeling that every human being is feeling and thinking for themselves, that we are all naturally programmed to make choices based on an ultra-complex algorithm that seeks optimum results for the individual given their desires, experiences, and inborn inclinations. (Only a sociopath would have desires, experiences and inclinations that drive his algorithm to make choices that completely disregard other human beings.) All of our choices are just products of this algorithm which varies from person to person. Of course, I assume that most of us arrive at a point where we realize that we can expose ourselves to certain things that will shift the output of our own algorithm, but we only arrive at this point by virtue of indwelling intelligence and instinct. We are not born with any sense of responsibility for what we expose ourselves to. Somehow we are infused with enough organization of consciousness (and blessed by a particular environment and set of circumstances that are a result of that same kind of organization of consciousness) that we succeed in coming to the awareness that we might all be algorithms. By the time we realize that we are algorithms, our algorithms are very sophisticated, and we also realize that we are quite inexperienced at programming.

Essentially, I consider the beginning of my self-determinism to be the moment we stop questioning and resenting certain aspects of our algorithms that we didn’t like, and accept the state of the algorithm in its totality. At that point we began slowly learning what inputs create what outputs and some crude methods for modifying the coding. (Incidentally, the modern American mind[main]frame often arrives at the conclusion that it is easier to control the inputs to the algorithm in the first place and thus the typical American mental algorithm spends most of the time figuring out how to control the external world that produces the inputs, rather than fuss around with the code. I have observed that the more focused I am on controlling the external world, the less faith I have in my ability to impact how my own algorithm processes those inputs I am trying to control. e.g. if I don’t trust myself to get through some kind of failure without feeling shame, the harder I will work to not input the experience of failure in the first place.)

Now some may say, “Kacy, you are reducing yourself to nothing but a product of fate, a predetermined chemical reaction simply being governed by entropy.” My statement is so what if I am? Why can’t the same laws that govern how oxygen reacts with iron to create rust, be at work within me in a form that is so complex (and evidence of the grand intelligence of all matter) that it creates free will. Why can’t free will be the product of entropy? Perhaps free will is nothing more than the awareness that we are perfect beings and thus constrained by nothing but ourselves? As my friend Rod always says, “the one thing you can never fail at is life.”

There is saying (I think from Aikido) that says “there are many paths to the top of Mt. Fuji. Similarly I imagine there are a lot of ways to change our algorithms, some for the good and some for the bad I am sure. I think the different spiritual and religious disciplines are often time-tested processes that create certain results in terms of how they impact the algorithm. I imagine that some will always feel most content traveling the path that appears to be well populated with fellow pilgrims. Of course when it comes to the algorithm, some of us are always going to be “open source” types who will develop our own implementations drawing from wherever and striking out on their own path all together. I would like to think the universe intended for things to be just as they are. As a natural result the intention manifested the universe in the first place has unfolded through consciousness to produce some people who chose the well documented path, and it has also produced some who experiment more in their journey, or we would not have the well worn paths we have today. Maybe the universe has to create conditions that spawn a few thousand “megalomaniacal naval gazers” writing unremarkable blogs in cyberspace in order to spawn a Jesus, a Buddha, a M.K. Ghandi, a M.L. King, Jr. Then again, as far as the universe goes, I am probably just as much a part of its intention as anyone else, even those guys…

mr. wilson

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

beige brothers of the blogosphere...

I found the blog of this guy who call's himself the assimilated negro.

Who knew the world of the light-skinneded black man was mired in so much existential angst? He seems to enjoy being a slight asshole so that he can assume it is his assholishness that makes people dislike him and not his soaring intellect. I wouldn't know anything about that. I am fairly certain this guys is smarther than me because he is much more comfortable with being an ass than I am.

mr. wilson

You can take the boy out the hood...

So there has been a bit of controversy recently over the new league wide NBA dress code. Some say the guidelines have racial overtones, and some say the multi-millionaires should just "suck it the fuck up", and keep getting paid.

Before I get my cultural critic on, I have to say that I really wish I were able to address a weightier issue than throwbacks, oversized white-T's, doo-rags, and 40" cables being banned from the NBA sidelines. But sometimes exploring a small issue illuminates the same societal pathologies that leads to the bigger issues...

Although the dress code may help sell the NBA, it won't probably make a dime's worth of difference in the way the players carry themselves or in truly changing the image of the league. And we are losing something here. Hell, knowing that the players are being forced to wear suits/business casual attire will rob us of the benefit of separatigng the good negroes from the bad ass stag-o-lee types. At least we knew to keep an eye on Allen Iverson all these years, and not let our kids worship him, right? Now we will be forced to judge players strictly on the merits of the way they play the game. Without the context of seeing gawdy jewelry on a player, how will we be able to dismiss him as having no heart and passion for the game, calling him squandered talent and a freak of raw unthinking athleticism?

But seriously, my problem with the dress code, is that the league is not interested in the well being of these young men that make them so much money. The NBA works like any other corporate industry in that they try to keep the talented people as clueless about their real worth and yet extract as much profit from their abilities as possible. In my estimation, the league simply wants to control these young men that are the key resource in making money, the same way the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal wants to control oil reserves. Just like America claimed to be liberating the Iraqi people, the NBA is preteneding to be doing this for the betterment of the players, the sport and society.

So you don't want the league being represented by a bunch of rebellious 20 year olds? Your best solution is to try to make them dress way Ron Artest is going to lose his temper if he has an Armani to throw over all that internal conflict. Why not make counseling sessions with a specially trained therapist mandatory for rookies? You can even include financial incentives. Why is some kind of professional development program not enforced if you really want to exude professionalism in the first place? If the NBA is really interested in conveying an image, why not come up with more creative ways to foster the development of character in these men? Nah, don't want to educate them or they might end up outspoken and keenly aware of how much power they do have. We just want the big bucks to make us some bigger bucks by dressing a little better and doing a better job of fooling the world about the true nature of their character. Is that it David Stern?

I have heard a lot of people speaking about how the players shouldn't complain about having to wear a uniform because of all the money they make or something to the effect that it is a condition of employment, like all jobs have. I love how we like to point our fingers at these guys unsympathetically and call them a bunch of whining, ungrateful multi-millionaires, but the majority of the people reading this post are probably in the richest 1% of the world population or will be once they become professional wage earners. These NBA players are still young men who may be talented and have access to resources, but they are also human beings under a lot more scrutiny than any of us at an early age. All of us know that dignity and individuality are hard to give up for any amount of money so why are we so quick to assume these guys should not gripe and express their dissidence, even if it isn't very articulate dissidence. Forcing these guys to accept more mainstream (and WASP-y) image guidelines might just stir up more resentment by illuminating the hypocrisy of America every time they get dressed. It might anger me more if I have to put on a tie/noose everyday, and I am constantly reminded of how much my identity goes unaccepted by America even if my athleticism is lauded. It might arouse even more anti-social and misanthropic behavior in me just to re-establish my sense of pride and self estem. And lets be real here...the NBA brought this forward just as the season is getting under way and the players have other issues to deal with. They don't have time to organize and really come to some group conclusions. So the players will comply, but why shouldn't they at least be vocal and express their dissidence? It seems that they are being good role models for a democratic society by not simply caving to power without at least speaking out about it.

On a personal note, if my company enforced a dress code on me, I would be highly upset...why? Because as a professional, I like to be left to my own decision making about what kind of image I put forth and how I go about earning the trust and respect of my customers. True I could wear a suit every day or be more formal and professional in the way I carry myself, but it is not a sign of immaturity if I would rather be informal and express who I am through my attire. As a professional, I am glad that I am given the room to choose the balance between being myself and being consistent with expectations. And besides, if i know what the hell I am doing, I do it well, and I do it with an expertise that cannot easily be replaced, my appearance becomes less and less important. You deal with a surgeon based on how successful he has been in the operating room. You deal with a lawyer by how successful he has been in the courtroom. Who gives a damn what they present if they get results?

The sad part about this is that the mainstream American public has never been good at discerning those with character from those who lack character, so we get caught up in dumb things like appearance, religious affiliation, etc. I cannot understand why in spite of knowing a book cannot be judged by its cover, that a society we still continue to harvest mostly fools who cannot see through image. Some of the people with the most integrity and professionalism do happen to wear doo rags from time to time. Hell, I have on one as I am writing this. At the same time, the truly criminal and sociopathic knows to exude a conservative professional image so as to go unsuspected for as long as possible. All those Tyco, Worldcom, Adelphia, and Enron fellas probably wore suits every day. Maybe Tom Delay got away with so much bullshit because he knew the secret to being an extraordinary criminal was to not look like a common one. So next year when some NBA player in a suit gets caught up in some criminal or unethical behavior, remember that it was the NBA that suggested a cosmetic approach to changing the image of the league. Maybe it is a good start, but they have a long way to go.

One final thought. If they stop with this dress code, it will probably backfire on the NBA anyway? Don't underestimate the ability of urban black men to look completly unorthodox within the supposedly conservative guidelines put forth...or have you not seen Steve Harvey. They will continue to express their unique identity within the framework of any dress code.

mr. wilson