I’m still alive…

Just checking in to say I haven’t given up on blogging. I’ve been doing a bit of traveling lately: three weeks in Hawaii, a weekend in Willits (3 hours north of San Francisco) for an ayahuasca ceremony, and soon a 10-day excursion to Black Rock City for the Burning Man festival.

Lava Tube
Becca and me inside a lava tube on the Big Island of Hawaii.

I’ll be back in action making regular posts in September. For now I have to double down on my dissertation research, on top of recording the remaining lectures for my online undergraduate course “Mind and Nature in German Idealism” (contracted with the University of Philosophical Research), and continuing to shape my track at the 2015 International Whitehead Conference.

In other news, a version of my paper on psychedelics, religious studies, and participatory theory should be published next month in The Journal of Transpersonal Research. My contribution on Ralph Waldo Emerson to Param Media’s anthology The Beacon of Mind is in its final editing stages with the publisher. Finally, a poem of mine, written in tribute to Walt Whitman, was recently published by the magazine Sufism: An Inquiry.

The Colorado Shooting: Why it’s Time for Critics of “The Newsroom” To Lay Down Their Guns

Reel Change

NOTE: This post has been updated from its original content.

Critics of HBO’s “The Newsroom” – and there have been many of them – have chided the show’s writer-creator Aaron Sorkin for being too preachy. These criticisms have come from both the right and the left. The Wall Street Journal wrote that “preening virtue…weighs on this Aaron Sorkin series like a great damp cloud.” At the other end of the political spectrum, The New Yorker found that it “treats the audience as though we were extremely stupid.” The prevailing opinion of critics is that the show is too didactic and self-righteous.

The aim of the show is to shine a light on the failures of our journalists and elected officials over the last two years. When these criticisms come from an author or journalist, it’s fine. We give Pulitzer prizes for that sort of thing. When a television writer weighs…

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A Long-Expected Journey

For those wondering why I haven’t posted in a while, Becca and I are on a cross country road trip. She is blogging along the way…

Becca Tarnas

So it begins…

This is the first day of a long-awaited journey, one that is two years in planning, and will at last be embarked upon. Two people, a Ford Focus, 18 days, and 6,000 miles (at least!) This morning Matt and I depart upon our cross-country road trip from San Francisco, California to Bennington, Vermont and back. The purpose? To retrieve my belongings that have been languishing peacefully in my dear uncle and aunt’s basement. The true purpose? To have an adventure, a real one, by driving deep into the heart of the American continent, and emerging on the other side to inhale the breeze on the Atlantic coast.

The first leg of the journey may indeed be the longest, as we leave the Bay Area and head east, aiming to arrive in Wendover, Utah by late evening. We will be camping out for our first two nights, before…

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Heading to Pyramid Lake for Symbiosis Gathering

I’m off tomorrow to Pyramid Lake, NV to attend the 3rd Symbiosis Gathering. I attended the last gathering in 2009 just outside Yosemite. Here are some images from that event:

It’s a dazzling mix of art, music, and culture all put together by two graduates of CIIS, Karen and Kevin KoChen. This year we’ll have the added thrill of a solar eclipse. Also, the event is on native territory this year beloning to the Paiute people. A discussion surrounding the issue is ongoing over on Reality Sandwich. This will be the first public festival held on the Paiute people’s grounds for a quarter century, and it seems that the tribe’s decision making process has left some members a bit frustrated. A newly formed board created to handle the tribe’s economics has apparently been making most of the decisions, and the $130,000 the tribe stands to make on the gathering isn’t being funneled to the right places, according to some tribe members.

Symbiosis has decided to allow alcohol at the event, despite the protests of some members of the tribe. Other concessions were made, however: for instance, no public nudity is permitted (something that is rather the norm at most neo-hippie festivals).

I’ll have plenty of video and photos to share when I return, including some shots of the eclipse. It will occur close to sunset, so I should be able to get some interesting shots.

“black bloc” anarchists strike again…

Last fall, I expressed my frustrations with the “black bloc” tactics of some anarchists after attending the otherwise successful General Strike in Oakland (HERE and HERE). Now they are at it again, only this time in San Francisco’s Mission district.

Across the country in NYC, there have been reports of white powder being sent to the mayor’s office, corporate banks, and various media outlets.

All of this is further hampering the Occupy Movement’s attempts to gain respect and draw mainstream attention to the social, ecological, and economic injustices that have become the norm in America. Instead, it is becoming easier for the media to dismiss the whole thing as a juvenile temper tantrum and for the US government to begin using anti-terrorism tactics against it.

Is there anyone out there who might be able to explain the motivations behind these kinds of actions to me? I’m having trouble understanding the logic…

Question for my readers…

WordPress has offered to allow me to place ads on my page in order to bring in a little revenue for my traffic. It’s tough to say how much I’d actually make until I try it, but as a graduate student, every little bit helps. The thing is, I’m at bit uneasy about mixing marketing and philosophy. I’d be thankful if you, my readers, would be so kind as to give me your opinion on the matter… Would it bug you if there were ads here?


An Anonymous American in Amsterdam

For those who read my original itinerary in Europe, posted here in June, I should first explain why I ended up in Amsterdam instead of Florence and Rome. There are several reasons, one geographic, another economic, and a third intuitive. The geographic has to do with my being unable to switch my flight back to the States out of Rome instead of London. I decided to save time and money by staying closer to my port of departure. I can’t be entirely sure what I won’t see in Italy, but after a few days here in Amsterdam, I feel I made the right choice by coming north to Hell instead of going south to Heaven.

The first observation I’ve made probably holds true of every city, but especially this one: you cannot live here. You can definitely find, for a price, a bed to sleep in (and, for a price, someone to sleep with). There are plenty of places to chill, drink, toke, and trip. But you can’t stay anywhere too long before the air gets stale. The whole city is for passing through, for window shopping. Sure, people will also stop and buy, but its over before they know it and then its on to the next thing a little lighter in the pocket and heavy in the soul.

The red light district centers around the oldest church in Amsterdam, Oude Kerk, originally built in 1306, and steadily renovated ever since. Across the narrow cobbled alley running along its back wall are a dozen glass doors leading up a red carpet stairway or through a red curtain. At dusk, women of every age, shape, and color take up temporary residence. Until the Reformation of 1578, priests would sell writs of indulgence to sailors and prostitutes who wanted to be absolved of sin. Nowadays you just buy a beer at the cafe.

Amsterdam is perhaps the first city to support a global economy. Its 17th century golden age saw the birth of the first stock exchange and central bank. Money still rules this city. It can buy you almost anything, legally.

It is about as international as they come. I’ve never heard so many languages at once. English (at least in the more tourist-oriented places) is the bridge language, the common denominator. Street performers speak it. All the cafe and coffeeshop people speak it. Most of the signs are written in it.

That’s it for now, time to find some pancakes.

Basel on Fire

I arrived in Basel this morning after a very tiring (and very expensive) 2 days in London. I’ll return to the English capital on better terms in a few weeks before I head back to the States, but I couldn’t have been happier to leave it behind today. To make a long story short, Kel and I drove into London hoping to stay with a friend near Paddington station, but I didn’t plan ahead very well and ended up getting stuck in traffic for hours and struggling to find a phone or Internet to contact him. Eventually, after paying 6 GBP to park for half an hour to find WiFi (unsuccessfully), we had to give up and find a hotel, which is where the really expensive part comes in. Everything in the city was either booked or way out of my price range, so we ended up heading towards Heathrow airport in search of something cheaper. Mind you, Kelleigh was not my biggest fan round about this time, because I lead her to believe it would all work out easily when I first contacted my friend about crashing at his place. So with stress levels high, we pulled up to one hotel after the next only to learn they had no vacancies. Finally, I got a room at the Marriott for a somewhat reasonable price. We got up early the next morning to find a DHL shipping center to send some books and my tent home, but we got lost and ran out of time because the rental car had to be back by 10:30am. We dropped it off, got charged 100 GBP for a nail in the back tire, and parted ways with apologies, her for not being patient with me and I for not preparing for London more appropriately.

Anyways, my short story is getting longer than I intended. Suffice it to say that I’m very glad to be in a cheaper bed in Basel listening to the rain and the fireworks (just so happens to be Swiss National Day).

I got in early and my room hadn’t been cleaned yet, so I decided to drop my bag at reception and take the 45 minute tram ride south to Dornach to visit the Goetheanum. It was a blisteringly hot day, and there is no A/C and only small ventilation windows on the trams, so by the time I arrived, I was drenched in sweat. Most of the locals here speak a Swiss dialect of German and little English, which made it difficult to find the bus to take me up the hill to the Goetheanum from the tram stop. But I found the right route with a little guesswork.

One of Steiner’s mystery dramas was being performed today, and I walked up the path passed the archive to the front of the building just as the intermission was beginning. The building itself is surrounded by high grass, wild flowers, and several small trees. It is snuggled perfectly into the hillside overlooking Dornach. I made my way through the talkative crowd of German, French, and English speakers to the main entrance and stepped inside. It is truly a magnificent structure, built with the closest attention to detail imaginable. I’ll take pictures to share when I return for the first day of the conference tomorrow.

The biggest speaker this week is Sergei Prokofieff, and I decided to purchase one of his books on the Christology underlying Steiner’s “Philosophy of Freedom.”

I’m exhausted and want to get a solid 8 hours in for the first night in a while, so I’ll have to wrap this update up. Expect a reflection on the day’s activities tomorrow night. Gute Nacht!

Tapadh leat, Dublin.

One would think two days is hardly enough time to get to know a place, but Dublin is small and her people know how to show her off. I arrived on the 4th of July, my first abroad, to celebrate a different sort of independence. The small prop plane that flew me from Plymouth across the channel was scary enough, but the wind on the approach to Dublin was whipping us around like a toy. We didn’t so much descend into the airport as drop out of the sky. Even the locals who take the same flight quite often were squeezing their armrests and looking around nervously. All the adrenaline from the scare went to waste, though, because after dropping out of the sky, I had to stand in line at customs for about 2 hours, and then wait almost an hour for a bus into the city center before I had truly arrived. By that time the terror of our approach was mostly forgotten. Kelleigh and I had booked a hostel near Trinity College, just south of the Liffey River in the Temple Bar district. After a bit of wandering and well-meaning but contradictory direction from a few students, I found the hostel and dropped my bag off. Kelleigh left a note for me to meet her around the corner at the Purdy Bar, and I rushed over, nearly skipping across the narrow brick street unable to conceal my excitement. Temple Bar is one of the more commercialized neighborhoods, filled with more foreign tourists than locals, but the pub-to-person ratio reminded me I was in Ireland. I spotted Kel sitting outside, chatting with a middle-aged Dubliner with long greying hair and intelligent looking glasses. I hugged Kel, sat down, and he offered to buy us a round of Guinness. He and Kel had agreed not to share each other’s names as a way of staying in the moment. A few pints later and Kel accidentally said my name, and then I accidentally said hers, and so the gig was up. Our new friend lead us around the city, seeming to know every other person we passed. It wasn’t long before one of them outted him as Steven. He pushed his bike along the cobbled street as he told us about the trouble he’d been having with his freezer. He contemplated stopping for some ice and running home to fill it, but decided to show us a good time despite his thawing mixed veggies. A few blocks from the pub he wanted to show us, he told us to wait outside as he ran into a bookstore. He came out with two titles by Flann O’Brien, a writer he’d been telling us about earlier. I’ve not read them yet, so can’t offer much, but Steven assured us he is extremely imaginative and loves his characters enough to truly give them a life of their own.
We arrived at the pub (whose name escapes me now), and it was oddly laid out, with an outer carpeted room with tables and an inner room with booths and the bar counter. Steven explained that Irish men are quite serious about their drinking, and though they didn’t prevent ladies from entering the bar, the custom up until the late 70s was for them to stay in the carpeted area and leave the bar itself to the men. Nowadays, though it often works out the same way, ladies are free to roam as they please. After a few more drinks, we walked several blocks to another pub called the Independent and had a seat outside by a leaning street lamp. Seated several feet away was a table of about 7, with an older street savvy Dubliner belting out traditional Irish folk songs. Steven offered up his own tune when he had finished, and he received a rousing round of applause from all of us. Eventually, Steven had to head home to tend to his freezer and his girlfriend, in what order I am not certain. We figured it would be the last we’d see of I’m, but a night later I ran into him on the way to the toilet at another pub Kel and I randomly stopped at. Turns out he is a DJ and was putting on a show there that night.

Our first night in Dublin was more welcoming than I could ever have imagined. The spontaneous show of good faith by Steven will leave a lasting impression on me. After our last Guinness, and being dragged by a poor young fellow (who apparently had nowhere to sleep that night) to a party we were unable to get into, Kel and I wandered back to the hostel and fell asleep the instant our lids closed.