December 12, 2010

This Secular Humanist Welcomes Christmas

Posted in art, culture, family, fiction, film, friends, holidays, poetry, secular humansim at 8:02 am by Jerry

Christmas can mean so many different things to so many different people.
But I think what might be the greatest meaning we can all share,
If we care to think that sharing Christmas is fair,
Was said best by Dr.Seuss in his popular book,
Listen, or take a look:

Christmas day is in our grasp,
So long as we have hands to clasp.
Christmas day will always be,
Just as long as we have we.
Welcome Christmas, while we stand,
Heart to heart, and hand in hand.


December 1, 2009

My Doubts Sing Beautiful Songs To Me

Posted in atheism, film, philosophy, poetry, psychology, psychology of religion, science, songs at 3:41 pm by Jerry

Within the religious world I was brought up in it was not entirely rare to hear someone (including myself) say, “I felt called”. This often happens after a whole lot of deep, sincere prayer. And what was meant by this calling, this answer to prayer, was that we were called by “God”.

Some were bold enough to outwardly say it was God who called them, but others would only allude to it. I suspect, for the latter, it was not knowing for sure if it was in fact God calling them. They have been wrong about God’s will for their lives in the past and would hate to make anymore false assumptions, because, as the cliche goes – to assume makes an ass out of.. well, you know the rest.

As for those who keep claiming a direct line of communication from God despite being wrong in the past, well, I suppose they feel faith is always a greater virtue than doubt. Which is odd, when you really think about it. If we were to ask religious people how many times a doubt about their personal understanding of God’s will in scripture or otherwise has led to greater understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were to say, “Oh, yes, there have been countless times when God has corrected my limited understanding of Him.” In other words, either God or you have welcomed DOUBT into your spiritual life to make room for greater understanding.

For the more humble-minded religious person who seeks to save faith-face by not claiming “God” to have called them, a psychological perspective can be taken (putting off claims of a direct communication of God’s will for hindsight-prophecy). These believers are freed to accept the possibility that the “calling” might just be a part of us, deep inside, that knows what we really want or really need – to be closer to the truth. And if we’ve repressed this “calling”, ignored it or simply over-looked it in the past only to later find ourselves giving it a voice, it is in those moments we do hear voices, voices that care deeply for us…  voices that are the expressions of our own doubts.

July 7, 2009

Breath Without Breathing

Posted in culture, literature, martial arts, mythology, poetry, psychology, soup at 4:48 am by Jerry

It is said that when you breathe out you contact the Root of Heaven and experience a sense of openness, and when you breathe in you contact the Root of Earth and experience a sense of solidity. Breathing out is associated with the fluidity of a dragon, breathing in is associated with the strength of the tiger. As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does not shift.

Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become one with it…

– Zhang San Feng (widely accepted as creator of “Taijiquan”)

November 15, 2006

Pinnacle of Poetry

Posted in culture, family, fiction, film, literature, mythology, novelists, philosophy of mind, poetry, psychology at 9:40 am by Jerry

After re-reading Becky’s post on our baby blog, I wonder how frustrated our child may get because of how badly we misunderstand him/her. Articulation is such a challenge. I consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. I’m not exactly superhuman in other areas either, but in some sense, ineffability has become my Kryptonite. (Maybe that’s why I’m so hard on those who pursue ineffability.)

I can already see the irony in what I’ve just said here, because, my pursuit to improve my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings about my life and the world I live in, is, in fact, a form of pursuing ineffability. Let me attempt to clarify: I’m not saying any pursuit of ineffability is dangerous. What I am saying, is – destroying or barring forever any knowledge, and the language that carries it, is dangerous. If we pursue ineffability by reaching the limits of knowledge and language after using all knowledge and language available to us, then ineffability can be accepted as a part of our current identity. Arriving at this point, for me, is the pinnacle of poetry.

I say “forever” above, because I see validity in keeping certain knowledge from ourselves until we think we are ready for it. It may seem, at times, knowledge and language can be mirrors that don’t always reveal the best of life, including ourselves. But this shouldn’t make knowledge and language our enemies. I know meaning can often get buried in so-called knowledge and convoluted wordiness. It doesn’t have to. Knowledge and language can reveal meanings, create clarity, and help us understand their limits. These are not characteristics of an enemy, but instead, a friend.

And this is the kind of friend that can empower us. There’s validity in the saying, “Knowledge is power,” as long as that knowledge is in the right hands. How alienated and powerless would we feel if we were not able to articulate who we are to others? How blind would this world be if we barred knowledge of others from ourselves?

Here’s a clip from the movie “Waking Life” – an elaboration of language and the human need to communicate with others…


*[Coffee break needed here. This post doesn’t know if it’s two posts or one.]


There is power in being known and knowing someone’s identity, someone’s true name

My baking and brewing I will do today,
The queen’s son to-morrow I will take away,
No wise man can show the queen where to begin,
For my name, to be sure, is Rumplestiltskin.

Rumpelstiltskin – one of many ineffable names, only, this one was ineffable out of ignorance, not out of fear. Out of fear, other monsters’ names are not uttered because it is felt the utterance would call the monster’s attention to the one speaking their name, as if the monster was omnipresent. This kind of superstitious fear gives more power to the monster and its name than deserved. (A lesson kids can learn from Rowling’s Harry Potter.)

And what, exactly, are the evil doers’ motivations for wanting others and themselves to believe misrepresentations of their own identity? I think it’s because the truth would reveal how small and incompetent the evil doers really are. I think this is the reason why some myth-making novelists portray the paradoxal vampires as incapable of seeing their own reflections. And I say “paradoxal” because these “undead” creatures are also created to have the power of immortality. To me, this represents the lofty value of life, recognizing that as long as life has existed, its always been larger than death.

But I’m getting off track here. Tangents – for good or bad, you’ll find them in all daydreamers.

At a loss without a segue, I’ll return back to the beginning about my child’s articulating abilities and say that I’m also looking forward to the day when our child articulates his/her recognition of us parents by calling out, “Momma” and “Daddy.” But before the little one tries to articulate our self-imposed names, the two of us have to try to make our nameless child named, which is no easy task.

Whatever his or her name will be, someday, I may end up telling the little one that as much as I try to understand her/him, I will not be able to define who s/he is in a few syllables (or a 300 page biography); but I’d be more than willing to help her/him pursue the ineffability of his or her identity through the means of all available knowledge and language. I know it’s presumptuous to pre-plan my fatherly role here, so I’ll just say – I’m looking forward to being there when my child needs my help on his/her journey of struggles.

October 21, 2006

Literary Personality Test

Posted in fiction, literature, poetry, psychology at 6:39 am by Jerry

Haven’t been around much, probably due to the amount of work I’ve been doing on my novel. Took a literary personality test a few days ago. I know people shouldn’t take these cheezy personality tests seriously, but I have to ask, “Are there any advantages for a novelist to BE “A coloring book” instead of a novel?”

You scored as A coloring book.

Children love you–and so do many adults. They find you approachable, simple and friendly, all of which perfectly describe you. Instead of throwing big words around, you communicate in the international language of pictures. In order to be as open as possible, you present yourself simply, allowing those around you to customize you to their liking. Sometimes this results in you turning into a primitive masterpiece, and other times you resemble a schizophrenic’s daydream. So long as the one talking to you understands you, you’re happy. Zen and the art of crayon-sharpening.

A coloring book
A paperback romance novel
A college textbook
An electronics user’s manual
The back of a froot loops box
A classic novel

March 7, 2006

Searching Among the Ashes

Posted in mythology, poetry at 11:47 am by Jerry

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

We are the clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!–yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.–A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.–One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond foe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!–For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

[There's no error here. Both poets from the Romantic period were inspired to write about the same theme, giving their poems the same title.]

by William Wordsworth

From low to high doth dissolution climb,
And sink from high to low, along a scale
Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail:
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whitened hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time.

Lately, I've been wanting to wear a pair of magical glasses with one lense that would only reveal that which is unchanging and the other lens revealing that which can change. It would be a curious experience, to look at the living and see if there is anything that doesn't move, their own statue self.

After reading Homer, I thought the Greek gods were created to represent statues that exist beyond the experience of one person. These statues are "Love," "Thunder and Lightning," "Marriage," "Sea/Earthquakes," "War," "Artisans," "Wisdom," "Travel/Thievery," "Home," "Agriculture," "the Sun/Poetry," "the Moon," and "Death."

What remains among the ashes? What can endure the power of Mutability?