Learning to die and teaching philosophy at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA
Where does fire come from when it’s started? Is it the same place it goes when you put it out? Or, is it that the fire was never there to begin with? Or even that the fire has and always will be burning eternally? The fire burns forever and yet it doesn’t exist. How bizarre. Take them to the land that’s pure, where words and names are experienced rather than exchanged. When a good artist paints a picture or write a sentence, they do so without worrying about convincing others of anything. A good artist isn’t selling anything and cares not the least for economics. The values agreed upon by the masses, by media, by political propaganda and the number game played in the stock exchange do not influence the artist’s pursuit and expression of his own inner truth. With money, we exchange objects of value. With words, we exchange ideas of value. With art, we create value out of nothing. Why do we so admire and standn in awe of a smiling woman painted 500 years ago? Art should always stand for itself. It shouldn’t be a symbol that merely points to something else more important. The Mona Lisa is now a symbol that freely circulates through our media-saturated culture. it is no longer “merely” itself. As soon as art is understood it becomes artifact. it becomes initiated into the mind as another unit of culture, as a meme. It becomes eternal (at least in our minds) when we name it and make a symbol of it. Art can only be experienced now, in the present, as something spontaneous and unexpected. Art is ineffable because the self who creates it is ineffable. Art displays the inside on the otuside, but the image is fragile, not only to decay but to time itself. As time passes, the work’s image is highjacked by the social mind and its meaning is commoditized. By who? By us. By our desire to control ourselves and one another. We carve up mental territory and try to sell it to one another in order to convince ourselves that we can really own something.
Originally posted Nov. 26th, 2006
What does it mean to be enlightened? Surely, it has nothing to do with knowing the answer to every question. Enlightenment has nothing to do with knowledge. It has more to do with asking the right questions from the very start. To know something, anything, you must have not known it at some point in the past. So seeking knowledge has to do with some kind of quest to become more aware of what is going on. All seekers begin their search for God by reading books, or studying under a guru. It all starts with ideas, with abstract notions of what enlightened life would be like if I had it. Or, does it start with that initial experience of something beyond words… something that can’t ever be known because it can’t ever be expressed without contradiction using words? So the seeker experiences God spontaneously, then begins a knowledge quest to explain the original, transitory experience in terms of what can be known. Seekers want to know God, so they search for a medium of expression that could encompass the ultimate. Eventually, they come to find that God cannot be conceptualized. God’s wisdom can’t be translated into English, it can only be lived. So what then? One must stop seeking. But what is left? What, in short, is enlightenment? Would anyone who were enlightened still speak of it as though it were some higher state of attainment? What has been attained? What does a Buddha know that a seeker does not? If enlightenment is not knowledge, it can’t be much… so what’s the difference?
Originally posted Nov. 28, 2006
With all mind and no body we become like a monk. With all body and no mind we become like a ninja. With body and mind together we become a master. A master has realized his Way. He has recognized himself. He flows with the Tao. He is One with God. It is not occult to experience God. The experience of God is the foundation of all religion and, in fact, all reality. Thousands of years ago, people didn’t have many things to base reality on aside from their own memories. Today, we have such an extensive supply of media that every moment in history is available to us. We therefore base most of our perception of reality on the way our sources of media portray it. Culture is most powerful in this way, when its memories have been mediated and centralized.
Originally posted Nov. 25th, 2006