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Archive for July, 2013



although i accept that i can only emotionally grunt, i’ve learned that some grunts lead to more suffering than others.



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Two authors



Consider the introduction given by two authors separated by land, language and years. Descartes and Hesse, embarking on heart felt journeys, pause and give us a glimpse of their own personal idea of beginnings. Each according to each. How different their speech. How varied our animal lives and…how spacious the earth!—


“Several years have now elapsed since I first became aware that I had accepted, even from my youth, many false opinions for true, and that consequently what I afterward based on such principles was highly doubtful; and from that time I was convinced of the necessity of undertaking once in my life to rid myself of all the opinions I had adopted, and of commencing anew the work of building from the foundation, if I desired to establish a firm and abiding superstructure in the sciences. But as this enterprise appeared to me to be one of great magnitude, I waited until I had attained an age so mature as to leave me no hope that at any stage of life more advanced I should be better able to execute my design. On this account, I have delayed so long that I should henceforth consider I was doing wrong were I still to consume in deliberation any of the time that now remains for action. To-day, then, since I have opportunely freed my mind from all cares and am happily disturbed by no passions, and since I am in the secure possession of leisure in a peaceable retirement, I will at length apply myself earnestly and freely to the general overthrow of all my former opinions. “


“Novelists when they write novels tend to take an almost godlike attitude toward their subject, pretending to a total comprehension of the story, a person’s life, which they can therefore recount as God Himself might, nothing standing between them and the naked truth, the entire story meaningful in every detail. I am as little able to do this as the novelist is, even though my story is more important to me than any novelist’s is to them–for this is my story; it is the story of a person, not of an invented, or possible, or idealized, or otherwise absent figure, but of a unique being of flesh and blood. Yet, what a real living human being is made of seems to be less understood today than at any time before, and people–each one of whom represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature–are therefore shot wholesale nowadays. If we were not something more than unique human beings, if each one of us could really be done away with once and for all by a single bullet, storytelling would lose all purpose. But every person is more than just themselves; they also represent the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every person’s story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every person, as long as they live and fulfill the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of every consideration…. I wanted nothing more, than to seek to live what from within me wanted to come out. Why was that so very difficult?”


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Yesterday I posted a TED talk on suffering and stigma, with a statement about my own suffering, aimed to continue the project of weakening stigma. On most sites, I got support and acceptance. On one site, I got one “like,” and one message of “man the f— up and quit yer whining!” before the site moderator erased our words forever, without offering any of explanation. Since that time I’ve been sitting with a sense of anger, betrayal, and confusion. This morning I realized: “I did reach at least one person. The waves of compassion are spreading. They may not be spreading equally in all directions. And yet they continue. I can live with that.”


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how much strength does it take to witness someone
working out their process? to stop before any more words
pass one’s lips? and pay attention
to what just happened.


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socrates bought a new day with questions of love
some since have adopted a more irreverent method.
after all these years i know enough
to love that too.


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Chopin played long into the evening, mazurkas
of his birthright because I suspect he knew there’s a sense
in which some believe language is violent as it is.
Covert erasure. Then rebirth is love pain and by
impermanence becomes more honest far,
far from the house of being. Communicate?
Animals know someone else inside you –
follow then, follow. Dig another cave. Huddle another night.
Space was so distant once. But

did we care?


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Why is it that we seem to value competition the way we do? Is it because our culture was built on the ruins of the Roman Empire, a society addicted to war? The roman circus was war for entertainment. And it continues today: in the Spanish Corrida and other “professional” sports events routinely televised round the planet. We criticize children for violence, all the while not acknowledging the adult forms of violence we surround them with every second of their lives.


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It seems to me that many of our contemporary social sciences that developed after Kant can be seen as the working out of this dialectic between the ironies of private limitation and the hopes of communal liberation.


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Kant attempted to chart a course between the two competing epistemologies of 18th century western Europe: rationalism and skepticism. In expressing the errors of the latter, he discovered the errors of the former. The error of rationalism was to assume that because we cannot speak otherwise, therefore the world cannot be otherwise. The error of skepticism was to assume that because words are contingent events, therefore the world must be a contingent event. The errors of both camps mirror each other in this regard: reasoning from words to the world and vice versa. Rationalism saw words as absolute correlates of an absolute world, and skepticism saw words as contingent correlates of a contingent world. Kant’s solution was to learn to accept the inevitable limitations of words, which includes the limitation of not knowing, for example, whether we are indeed free, but also the social pressure to speak in no other way.


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For me the end of suffering came (in part) in the following way: I learned to see my thoughts as features of my emotions, my emotions as features of the situation, and the situation as a feature of the universe. Seeing things in this way, I was able to let the thoughts be what they were, nothing more and nothing less. This was the end of clinging. To be sure, not always the end of pain. But the pain became a passing feature of all the causes and conditions of the universe. Itself it was no longer the cause of suffering.


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