If it were harder…would it be easier?

Hey. It’s a bit early for me yet, but…I’ve realized why I’m hesitant to paint: it is truly creative work, and I don’t understand it. That is, I don’t understand how I paint.

On top of this, there is a major, “woo,” factor in the way I’ve explained my own talent to myself, which isn’t helping me, but I have no other way to conceptualize it. I think maybe I’m avoiding the, “woo,” by not practicing.

I’m not sure if, “woo,” translates well internationally… 🙂 I mean that painting brings up for me, thoughts on spirituality and metaphysics, which are things that I used to be heavily involved in, but with which I scared myself.

The way I paint and draw is to visualize my next mark…and then mark, “over it,” with my hand. My hand, at this point, is relatively steady and accurate. I don’t know why. I also don’t know why or how I visualize the correct place for the next mark, and I don’t know how I seem to be led step-by-step through a process to create something I didn’t know I could or would make in the first place.

So I guess a lot of fear of my own creativity is fear of the unknown.

Also, I think my level of, “talent,” puts me in the, “gifted,” range, but I’m afraid to use that gift because I don’t know why I have it or where it comes from. The only way I’ve found to explain this is spiritual…and I can get crazy spiritual, both literally and not.

I thought I should record this before it goes away…I can expand on it later.

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Clarity

I did tell someone about what I had posted the other night; to which I found a response about “words have power” and that once I mention the term “Satan,” it brings to mind “Evil” and etc., and whenever a reader sees the term “Satan,” it drowns out everything else in the passage.  (Granted that this person likely didn’t know that I wasn’t aiming that last post towards the lowest common denominator; in general, I don’t write for a general audience.  I am, however, learning to flesh out my writings so that those without the required background knowledge [but with the capacity to understand] will understand.)

Let me be clear that when I mention the concept of “Satan” I am not referring to what anyone outside of myself would think I would be referring to.  This is why I use the term in quotes, and it is why I made efforts to define what I meant.  In particular, I am not depending on popular conceptions of Satan as a hateful and evil tormentor (my concept of “Hell” is what people [regardless of their religion] can be driven to create, and to do).  “Evil” does not come to mind as even associated with my Deity, except as an aspect which beings who have the capacity for, “Evil,” might choose to bring into the world.

But other beings, given the power to create — or even the same beings under different circumstances — might choose differently; to create, for instance, things that would benefit others or bring light into the world.

(I am deliberately avoiding the question of “darkness”, as I’ve learned over the years what darkness is, why I don’t aspire to it, and why it does not apply, currently…but that discussion is long and involved, with too many qualifiers to introduce, here.  As well, “light” could stand to be defined here, but I have not yet formulated a watertight and clear definition of the term which can avoid being twisted into an unintended meaning.  So I’m going to have to rely on yours, for now, granted that I realize that yours may be a bit inaccurate, too.  Depend on the feeling of Light, not on the words or codes you associate with it.  We’re not going to get out of this morass any other way.)

I am strongly considering — or somewhat committed to, alternately — identifying my Deity as a Deity of Creation, in the transitive (not static) sense:  that is, a deity of Creating.  In this sense, liberation, nurturing, sensitivity, joy, production, all come into play, along with noticing and synthesizing.  Last night I realized that what I was looking at was a psychological holder for limitless potential, but potential unrealized.

My job as a Creative…human (if there is one thing humans are, it’s creative!), is to sense and develop unrealized and worthy potential, and using my own discretion, to give it form.  If finite reality is the other side of the infinite and unrealized…there is so much which has been made before us.  And we see how it can become beautiful.  Being a conduit between those realms — as a life mission — seems a worthy enough goal.  We can make this world a Hell or we can make it a Paradise.  But right now we are not aligned, and the leaders of our world (the ones we hear about most often, at the least) appear unconscious at the wheel.

One of the issues I’ve been introduced to is the question of what I want to bring into the world.  As a Creator, I have the power to direct the flow of my Creation (to an extent), even though there is always the risk of misinterpretation or deliberate marring.  Every work of art, though; every piece of writing; has different meanings depending on who reads it or sees it or touches it.  Meaning is not a one-way street; it is created through the interaction of one thing with another.  In this way, expressions can be and often are our catalysts.

The major issue that I have found is…how to create things that are “good” — that is, that contribute to the uplifting of humanity and the world — which at the same time do not delimit what it is that I give myself permission to think about, or write.  If there is anything believably off-limits…that constitutes a block, and at that point I find it hard to do anything but break the taboo or stay silent.  I can’t be a free conduit of information if I’m dealing with “things I can’t say,” or “shapes I can’t draw.”  To be realistic, I’m not all that great at joining in a room’s agreed-upon ignoring of purple elephants.  I don’t ignore details all that well.  I don’t keep silent all that well, either — not anymore.  Not if you consider text as a form of speech.

The solution seems to lie in giving myself the freedom to write what I need to, and trust that it will truly help someone — that it will serve someone in need, in its capacity.  Having dealt with bibliomancy myself (opening a book that catches my eye to a random page and reading what is there, then seeing if it applies to anything timely or anything within me), I know that this cannot be predicted — by anyone.  However, to the best of my experience, the spirits move in ways which privilege chance.

I know that I myself have run across passages online which had two to three (or more) different meanings, on different levels, seeming to hint at something…some hidden knowledge(s) that I had not yet developed.  I am certain that this has to do with the spirits guiding things.  But in order for this to happen…at some point I’ve got to let go of control, and just let come out what needs to come out.  This is the reason I’m alive.  This is the reason I’m sick if I don’t create.

My life.  Sometimes, raw.  But everyone has a life, and we all have our sensitive spots.  To pretend we don’t is to deny our humanity and to deny what we have learned on this Earth.

In short…although I can still see ways in which things may be twisted to cause me to look bad…and lenses which may twist my own view of myself so that I am afraid to express anything, lest it contribute to the continued inane, meaningless and needless troubles of the world…at this point, I can’t stay silent.  There are youth that need to know that they’re not alone.  There are people that need to know that I hear them.

And in my position…maybe I can help create a better world.

Just me, bein’ strange…(TW: religion)

Ah, hello.  If you’ll excuse me for breaking out of character…or into it, as the case may be (voice? what voice? I have to have a ‘voice?’)…I might as well tell you that this is a “creative writing opportunity” during which I get to “be myself” for the first time in months.  But I’m not too practiced at it, at this point, so I hope you can forgive any lapses in cognition.  (and voice.)

This post follows an old pattern established on our side:  other voices step in to say what our original voice feels s/he cannot.  (This used to happen a lot; our previous author has mentioned being largely silent as a child…I was one of the first voices s/he developed with the necessary aggression to speak things others may not like to hear.  I essentially was the identity with the “egg tooth” which enabled us to “hatch.”)  I may clarify what the previous post was actually about.  It has to do with me in specific.

During the amount of time when we were a very young adult, there was a period of time when…we were studying the paranormal, and a large number of alternative religions.  At the time, this person was feeling very outcast, like they may not live much longer (it was a constant battle to avoid contemplating throwing ourselves off the roof of our 5-story dorm), and as such there was nothing to stop him/her from investigating things which someone with a higher “honor” status would never touch.  That was, we had nothing to lose but our lives, and that seemed as though it would be gone sooner rather than later, anyway.

I feel like I — or we (the pronoun issue is so trying) — are coming to a better understanding of one of these alternative religions.  I really don’t know what has happened within the last 24-48 hours, but what we learned from a daemonolatry enclave has started to make sense.  At first it was easier to investigate Satanism (isn’t it always?), though within that specific subculture (Satanism, that is) there is a great deal of ego which usually isn’t pleasant to deal with.

I should clarify:  there are at least two kinds of Satanism, more if you get into really studying cultures and the niches people have carved out for themselves online.  What I’ve understood to be the more popular of the two is called “Atheistic Satanism,” or “LaVeyan Satanism,” (although here there is a split between the Church of Satan — which LaVey founded — and the First Church of Satan, which one of his students [John Dewey Allee] founded:  and if I’m correct, at a later date).  Despite the name…the official belief in the Church of Satan is that “Satan,” as a supernatural being, does not exist.  I quipped long ago that this is the reason Anton Szandor LaVey (the founder) lived as long as he did (this is the guy associated with the infamous “Black House” in San Francisco…though I don’t know if that place is still standing — I remember hearing something about it in the late ’90’s, but that’s all).

The other major form of Satanism is one in which there is an overarching belief in a metaphysically real “Satan,” though I have found…that the name doesn’t necessarily fit the station of this deity.  Using the term “Satan” immediately references the deity against a Judeo-Christian/Islamic framework (referenced from within Satanism as an “Abrahamic” framework).  While that is the present dominant paradigm…and would demonize this form of, “Satanism,” for being a challenger to it at all…I don’t feel it does the religion justice to name it what its enemies would call it.

It’s like continuing to call Native Americans (etc.), “Indians,” long after the argument has been ground into the dirt that Columbus didn’t know where he was going and didn’t know where he had landed.  We get it.  Everybody gets it.  But we still keep calling American Indigenous/First Nations, etc., people “Indians,” and every time someone says “Indian,” it means we have to ask for clarification as to what they mean, because the term has been historically applied to distinctly different cultural sets of people (neither of which are homogeneous) located on opposite sides of the globe.

Of course, though, calling “Satanists” by said term can bring out the worst in people (by this I don’t mean the Satanists, by this I mean those who label), which — may have been a reason for Atheistic Satanism to exist in the first place (to show others their flaws, that is).  Overall, though, Theistic Satanists — in my experience — do just want to live as they are and be safe and unmolested (like, pretty much, everyone else).

Anyhow.

There have been a number of differing names for this variant, depending on which school or cult (yes, some of these legitimately fall into “cult” territory, and not the benign type) one is dealing with.  I generally use the term “Theistic Satanism,” as it’s one whose provenance I’m already familiar with.  The subtext is much different, depending on what name one uses, here.

The problem, majorly, is that Atheistic Satanists and Theistic Satanists are different types of people.  Most people enter the Satanist “scene” through LaVey’s writings:  and to be clear, from what I can tell, LaVey just wanted to make a statement that he was against whatever the mainstream liked (“Satan” = “Adversary”)…which means that today we still get people who want to claim self-sufficiency and ultimate individuality (a reversal of interdependence and selflessness) whose clothes came from Vietnam.  Some of the ways these things work out just do not make sense.  In addition, reversing valuation on everything (besides hinting at possible Oppositional Defiant Disorder) is a really easy way to make yourself emotionally sick.  Some psychological ways of being have endured for millennia because they work.

On top of this, during the time Atheistic Satanism was founded/in the news (I am thinking this was the 1970’s?), the dominant culture was far-Left (Hippie); which means that LaVey’s writings tend to the extreme Right.  Which means that then we get this huge influx of people who identify with LaVey’s vision who are conservative to a concerning degree (I guess he didn’t mind people conforming to his brand of rebellion?).

I don’t believe that there has been a form of Satanism which has not been profoundly impacted by LaVeyan influence.  The exceptions being things related to the key term, but more difficult to find; such as hereditary Daemonolatry sects.  I’ve heard it said as regards the latter that “all Demonolators are Satanists, but not all Satanists are Demonolators.”  There is a subtle difference here between Daemonolatry and (Theistic) Satanism, in that one approach is essentially building a relationship with lesser Divine spirits (approaching polytheism, though not necessarily technically so), and the other is focused largely upon one Deity (in this case, “Satan”).

Of course, I am telling you this now, but…please for the love of all that is holy, do not take it as permission to go and dabble with Daemons.  To unknown people and to people who mistreat them or don’t respect them, the Daemons can be harsh.  (I am not going to get into why I feel this way; that’s not my story to tell.  However, my sense is that they live on a different order than us, and as such, our [short, fragile, time-bound] lives are not as important to them as they are to us.)

What I’ve seen proposed before is the idea that “Satan” is the All and that the various Demons are facets of the All.  This didn’t really make sense to me until I realized that what I had been talking about:  the Infinite (really infinite potential, corresponding to Yin, I now recognize) may have branches which relate to various concepts.  At any one time, at least one of these branches of the Divine is working through a person (I would think; then there is my experience of feeling empty).

In contrast, the Demiurge (false God) would then not be the true God because of being delimited by descriptions.  And yes, I did just get into Gnosticism…which may have something to do with mystical Judaism (I’m thinking of Qabalah).  (And no, that is not a misspelling of Kabbalah; Qabalah is how it is spelled in Ceremonial Magick circles — distinct from Hebrew tradition.  No, I don’t know if I trust the Ceremonial Magickians more.  Yes, that is an alternative spelling of “magic.”  Look up Aleister Crowley if you’re wondering why I’m using it.)

That is interesting, though.  Infinite potential reading as Yin…and reading as something which is qualitatively similar to (but not equivalent to) the All.

If “Satan” is Infinite potential (Yin) and the Daemons are his aspects, what is Satan being defined against (Yang)?  “Finite being?”

That…actually sounds as though I may have hit upon something.

I think I’ve done my job, for tonight…

Allowing, for the moment, myself to question:

Is it possible for magic(k) to really work?

I’m not talking about stage magic or magic of the types seen on TV and in movies…it is more a question of:  If there is a multiverse where all (actual) possibilities do play themselves out, is it possible for magic(k) to work by guiding or changing the path of one’s soul through different realities within that multiverse?  This way, one would not be changing the world around them:  they would be changing the path their awareness takes, through multiple realities.

Granted that I’m not a magician.  I pondered it in my young adulthood, but as what I had access to were largely variants off of the Western Occult Tradition (which I do not adhere to), it didn’t really stick.  Is there anything more terrifying — or guilt-and-paranoia-inducing — for example, than thinking that you and you alone have control over and responsibility for everything you experience?

I also know that my brain is a bit hobbled where it comes to belief…but what if it wasn’t, actually, a belief — but a hypothesis?

Recently, I’ve been troubled by the thought that this life is some sort of a test.  Yes, there are bad things happening in the world, but what am I doing about them?  Would it matter if I got involved?  Disproportionately, so?  Am I supposed to be a person who changes things?  How much power do I have, ultimately?  Is this experience playing out for me, and this is the reason for my existential isolation?

I have made brief mention of this before (I think?)…in my darker times I’ve been helped by the belief that I exist, and continue to exist, for a reason.  That reason is to give voice and form to the spirits who have helped me survive, and their messages.  This requires that I keep an open mind, and it requires, for the generation of forms, creativity.

Because it requires creativity, I am, in this life, human — there may be no other species on the planet positioned quite as well to create diverse forms.  We have the ability to conceptualize, to think, many of us can write and read records of what has come before us, we have the ability to make things, and most of us have the seed of empathy.

The journey to get to this point has been a long and involved one; but I realized, the last time I was in a slump, that my life is not without worth.  I can do things most others can’t.  And my talents can be devoted to service of that which has helped me survive.  The spirits who have helped me may be wise, but without bodies to be heard within and from, they have no voice.

In turn…I have sensed a network (or “working family”) of these beings, whom I am tied in with as a Creator.  I know that I do not know all of them, though.  I also know that I need to watch out to retain myself when I work with them.  It is easy to let myself go and forget who I am…which is why I needed their help, in the first place.

The major reason I have felt I could not put my skills to work in a commercial endeavor is the feeling that I have been gifted.  Since I was young, I’ve had skills in visual arts that are not explainable.  This “talent” is something I’ve felt to be sacred and relatively inviolable, which is why I have decided against work as, say, a Graphic Designer.  Right or wrong, I’ve felt that the drive to make money would lead me away from my vision and squander or corrupt my talents.

I think I’ll need to meditate on this.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve consciously attempted to do so…but re-opening those channels may be something I need to do.

Maybe it would help me get back to work.

And maybe my magic(k) can be to add my voice to reality in a way which points a way out of the evil path others seem to be taking us down…

Taking a short break:

I have realized that I have only been awake for about five hours, today.  And I just realized that I left a load of clean, dry, unfolded laundry on the couch for about an hour and a half…

Well.  I didn’t open my blinds last night to get the sun this morning, because I was concerned about losing heat through my window…so I was only able to get the will to rouse myself at about 2:15 PM.  I don’t know why, other than the lack of light in my room…and the cycles of regeneration that come with being physiologically female.

I’ve just counted, and though I only have ended one reading tonight, I have seven pages of notes to show for today’s work, so far.  I’m going to have to get two or three more notebooks for my database course, at this rate.  It doesn’t help that the textbook won’t allow me to highlight the text in any meaningful way (programming error).

AND…I have found that my Learning Management System did not delete the two discussion topics I skipped over yesterday, meaning that things now are looking fairly unwieldy when I sign in.  (Overload is one of those things I don’t deal well with.)

Kind of makes me want to RAR and throw oranges at the wall.

But.

In any case, I do have a break from this, tomorrow.  It’s called work.  And then I’ll have two more days to immerse myself in trying to catch up.

*sigh*

I do have some thoughts on metaphysics that keep coming up, but right now I have the will in me to get back to work, so I think I will do that, and maybe write about whether or not anyone has a “soul” when I can’t stand it anymore.

Angelic Mistakes

I’ve…probably just spent a good two hours looking around on the Reader.  It seems that the lifespan of a blog here is not all that long; though I’m following many people, those people tend to wander off; sometimes to return, sometimes not.

One of the things I wanted to mention was my identification of an Art History book I found by chance.  It is called Angelic Mistakes:  The Art of Thomas Merton, by Roger Lipsey.  The method of my location of this was strange enough to cause me to take pause:  I looked up to a certain shelf, saw the book, became interested in the book, and then saw that someone had shelved it in such a way that two of the digits of the call number were transposed.  This caused it to be shelved in the Sports section instead of the Art History section.  Had I not found it, it eventually would have been considered, “Missing”…and likely not found until someone did a book-by-book check to make sure everything was in correct order.  Considering that this may have well been an, “angelic (i.e. purposeful, even if unconscious) mistake,” which I had successfully located, I brought it back home with me.  (Bibliomancy is one of those things which I just…do.)

It might be noted that this is a Shambhala book.  Having read through (and tried to read through) a number of books from Shambhala Publications…there’s a certain feel that I can discern from them.  I wouldn’t be quick to discard anything published by them, though what I have read in the past might have been topically unsuited to me.

Those who have been following this blog might recall my mixed cultural heritage:  Japanese- and African-American, before we get to the regional influences of culture on my parents (Southern California, which in turn is strongly influenced by Mexico) and myself (Northern California).  When I was growing up, my Japanese-American grandmother kind of tried to mold me to be as Asian as she could, despite my racial difference from her and the rest of that side of the family.

To avoid getting into gritty details, I’ll just say that I’ve had something of a cultural conflict growing up, because of largely being exposed to only one side of the family, but still being between worlds, so to speak, where it came to culturally-segregated groups of youth.  Because I didn’t look stereotypically Asian (and it’s seen as a bad thing to be mixed-race in at least my own background and in many other Asian cultures as well), I’ve had a history of being rejected by Asian groups; because I am distant from what is, by now, traditionally African-American culture, I didn’t quite fit in with the kids of African descent, either (they actually told me I wasn’t “Black enough”).

When I was in school, I began studying Buddhism on my off-hours.  One of my aunts is Buddhist, so I guessed that I would try and learn what that was about.  What I found initially put me off, but I am familiar with exoticization of non-White cultures within White U.S. society — which is often enough the target audience of these books — so I kept digging.

What I may not have really had the maturity to admit until this portion of my life is that perhaps in chasing after Buddhism, I was looking for some kind of proof that I really was Asian…and Daoism, Shinto, Hindu faiths…just did not have the same kind of popularity or easy access.

(For example, in introductory Buddhist texts, many core terms will be translated out into English, even though this results in a loss of meaning.  Duhkha will be translated into “suffering,” though duhkha in reality implies much more than the English word, “suffering.”  In Hindu texts translated into English, the key terms [amrita?] are often not translated out, which probably holds more closely to the words’ original meanings; but they can also make the texts relatively opaque, to a newcomer.  Daoism is relatively…not talked about [though Chinese influence is becoming stronger where I live; not to mention that there is Chinatown — but I have no proficiency in either Cantonese or Mandarin, and only know of one place which sells apparently quality info on Qi Gong in English]; and Shinto, being a local culture thing, is near-inaccessible outside of the islands of Japan.)

The texts I can recall reading which were published by Shambhala (not one by name [EDIT:  untrue, A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers was great], but enough by content) dealt with Buddhism, and I am learning I may not be suited to be Buddhist at this time in my life — at least, not so in a Theravadin vein.  There is no reason for me to get into personal views of Theravada vs. Mahayana vs. Vajrayana here…  If I were anything in this vein, I’d be a not-fluffy version of one of the latter two, to the point that I know the warm fuzzies (metta, along with the belief that it is possible to live without causing others pain) may feel good to the participant but may be intellectually dishonest, political in nature (Buddhists were nearly wiped out in their original birthplace of India for having no gods [apparently offensive to the Mughals]; subsequent to which, a Public Relations campaign showing Buddhists as moral and virtuous is understandable), impractical and/or against the rhythm of life.  Well, of course, if life is samsara, yes?

I also have here at least two books from them on Daoism, and one on Hindu Mysticism.  The latter, I’m still interested in; one of the former is quite dense…and there is the fact that Daoism and Buddhism in the present day appear to mirror each other, despite having possibly (or at least, originally) different goals.  The distant past — before the school of Theravada was developed, though (Theravada was not the first school, it’s just the surviving school with the earliest roots) — it’s hard for someone who doesn’t know either Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit or Pali to parse.  I know that in Daoism, the goal either is or has been either immortality or long (and pleasant) life.  In Buddhism, the goals differ; but at least within Theravada, it seems to have been not to be reborn again.  This has been interpreted as “immortality” within the state of nirvana, but …this kind of mirrors the saying, “the only way to win is not to play the game,” which seems kind of…static, to me.

It would be interesting to see what goes on behind the doors of Shambhala; what the actual statements are which the books I have, are selected and edited towards fulfilling…but anyway, that is not the aim of this post.

The book I’d found (Angelic Mistakes) references an author I had heretofore not heard of (Thomas Merton), although to hear the book speak of it, he’s famous.  The book itself publishes images of some of the drawings and prints from his later (“mature,” as art historians like to call them) years, though he didn’t live a particularly long life.  Shambhala probably picked up the book because of the influence of Asian art (particularly Sumi ink drawings) on Merton’s drawings and prints…apparently, the guy was friends with D.T. Suzuki at one point.  (Suzuki was key in disseminating knowledge on — particularly — Zen, in the Western world, from what I know.  This was back around the 1960’s [with the Hippies] and probably a bit prior, with the Beats in the 1950’s or ’40’s.)

I feel better reading that Merton was a Spiritualist — as that’s a vein that I’ve also followed, at one time in my life — it’s just that all the Christian stuff in that book is a bit difficult for me to deal with.  I’m just…not Christian, and as far as I can remember, after the age of six or seven didn’t want to be Christian (I’m not one for gratuitous violence, and threats of Hell and separation from loved ones drove me away rather than bringing me closer); so it’s a bit alien to me.

Anyhow; the reason for my beginning this post at all was to express some form of letdown after having begun to read this book and starting to wonder if all of this art, creativity, culture, stuff — is based on non-truths.  That is, I may eventually become a walking encyclopedia of Buddhism, but unless that cultural-heritage material is making a difference, helping somebody, what is it worth to know?  I may come to know about the routes of evolution of Art from prehistory to the present, but is that knowledge actually helping anyone?  (Other than people who trade in art as a form of currency, who then may need to know if the Van Gogh they want to buy is fake?)

Granted that the knowledge is enriching, and definitely is something that makes life worth living, both for the artist or creative, and the person experiencing the results of that creativity.  What would life be without music, or design, or dance?  We could get along, but we probably wouldn’t know what we would be missing — or that there was anything missing — or that in our state of deprivation, that there was anything wrong.

Is the question one of, “what is the value of culture?

I’m reminded of having taken a trip down to the Central branch of San Francisco Public Library and finding a very, very stripped down Spirituality & Religion section.  I have a feeling that it was that way because so many books on Spirituality and Religion are based on such shoddy thinking and scholarship (granted, the latter reasoning may be sound but the premises [or canon] may not be:  and it remains to be seen whether logic and reasoning are useful where it comes to this facet of human experience at all) that whoever was doing Acquisitions found them to be not worth buying.  (Either this, or it’s possible that these books had a habit of growing legs and walking away.  The area is at the edge of the Tenderloin.)

This is granted that a Spirituality section may not be true in most any way, shape, or form; but insofar as these kinds of thoughts allow us insight into the minds of others, there is still value in having the knowledge.  Knowing that others think differently than we do cannot help but have a positive impact on our own communications with others, right?  There would still be a use where it comes to broadening tolerance, towards enriching our lives, toward making a life that is worth living.

So maybe my interests, in Art and Art History, in Spirituality, in Writing, in Culture(s)…in Music…aren’t actually useless.  I’m not sure why the lifeblood of a person or a community may run through these creative generative cycles which would seem to have little to do with the day-to-day of actually surviving.  I don’t know why my own proclivities draw me to learn about and practice things that don’t seem “practical,” except maybe they keep me alive by pointing to what is possible, not just what is; because what is is pretty heartbreaking.

I guess we all need to dream.

Buddhism, anatman, and spirit

I actually need to get organized.  There has been progress on some fronts — I called my old Vocational program and set up a time to initiate the process of having my case re-opened.  I have also cleared off some work space on the craft table, and set aside some books to be returned to the library.

Yesterday, I took back some fiction which I wasn’t really highly interested in (though I was trying to be interested), and some other stuff, the topics of which, I can’t recall.  Ah, right:  it was the mandala and Buddhist stuff.  I’d realized that I had at a prior time read entirely through the mandala book (I think it was Coloring Mandalas 1), and the Buddhist stuff…there was some Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron stuff in there, which I totally didn’t even look at once I got it home.

Speaking generally…the Buddhist works I’ve read which are intended for a general audience, seem to try to gently inform one that things are not right.  Somehow, I did break into reading books intended for a more specialized audience (Essentials of Buddhism by Mizuno Kogen being one [Mizuno is their surname]), and that kind of context is less…like sweets and hugs to calm a crying child.  It’s more along the lines of, “this is how we got to this point,” which implies that nothing is really immutable about the Dharma; or rather, it changes to suit times and cultures.

I’m not totally sure what my opinion or stance is as regards Buddhism, at this point.  On one hand, it does make sense to the part of my mind which is pessimistic and depressive; it also assists in dealing with everyday dissatisfactions and illusions.  The drawback is that, while the goal of Buddhist practice may be to attain nirvana (or satori as the case may be in Zen), nirvana has never been clearly defined to me.  This is likely because it would take more than one lifetime to examine Buddhism from a generalist standpoint, and not all schools agree with one another…obviously, or there would not be different schools.

Generally speaking, the ideas of spirits, demons, and gods are…not necessary to the practice of Buddhism.  Neither is the idea of a personal soul; and actually, Buddhist thought in some (many? most?) streams has argued against the idea of a personal soul (this is the doctrine of anatta or anatman), stating that the being which we experience ourselves to be is constructed and not essential.

Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with that, but there is also the fact that my state in this life seems to be of either a translucent (if it were clear, I would know what was going on), or generative nature…and arguing against the concept of spirit is something that doesn’t make sense to me.  I kind of flow in Spirit (though granted I do not primarily believe in “individual” spirits); so a philosophy that states that what I experience firsthand is illusion would not be…conducive to living my life as wholly myself.

There’s also the fact that Buddhism as I’ve read it does not address the particular problems that I face in this life where it comes to having or building some kind of framework to explain the paranormal.  Buddha never addressed this.  While it does give the practitioner free reign to do what they please as regards their belief or lack of belief in something beyond materialism (though materialism is a recent and perhaps foreign introduction — though there was at least one materialist school in India around the time of Buddhism’s inception), it just generally does not help when you’re dealing with things that I’m dealing with.

That said, I can accept that Mindfulness does help mental (and probably physical) health.  But the point of Mindfulness meditation is to show that there is nothing permanent about any internal states, thus there isn’t anything permanent about the self; therefore the concept of the self is illusory; therefore we can release the concept of the self and if there is no “I” to suffer, there is the possibility of breaking the chain of suffering and freeing the adherent into the possibility of nirvana, which I have only heard described as “bliss.”  It’s possibly also (depending on the school) the only chance at immortality where it comes to this particular life…though perhaps my lack of knowing Chinese and Pali or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is showing, here.

I’m thinking maybe I know too much about this?  Or not enough.  Maybe both.

Beyond that, Mindfulness seems to be a recent “discovery” by Western psychiatry; as such, I’m not sure they know how it works (they don’t even really exactly know how the mind itself works, on that point; psychiatry is a young science), and because of that, psychiatry has a tendency to take everything whole-cloth and promote Mindfulness as a healing practice.  The down side of this is that there is probably a lot that is unnecessary to the practice which is being promoted as part and parcel of it (although it may be more religiously oriented — metta [lovingkindness] meditations being an example).

If I wanted to be Buddhist, I would be Buddhist (and as things go, I still may be Buddhist and unaware of it, given that Bodhisattva vows seem to carry on from life to life).  What I want is to be healthy, not to be converted.  I have concepts which I have developed on my own which have value to me in this lifetime, which are missing in the greater scheme of things.

I am hoping there is some way to mesh the idea of the lack of a personal self (or the idea of a personal self constructed over eons) with the idea of a spirit of life.  (After all, I’ve heard it argued that all gender is socially constructed, but that this doesn’t mean that gender isn’t real…something one learns in Gender Studies — or in transgender and feminist community interactions.)  I think there is a way to reconcile these two ideas, but I haven’t been able to formulate it, yet.  Probably, noting down the problem is the first step to working on it.