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Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

What is the one thing a society needs to maintain a sense of honor?  Innocence. If you can distinguish naivete and innocence then you can be “as innocent as a dove but as sharp as a serpent.” Also I wish to account for, “where there are many rules, virtue will be lacking.” This is the core of what I’m advocating, what I’m trying to discover. As you can see, my thoughts are far along, but have a few holes in them. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on what I’m overlooking.

Lately I have applied for several jobs and I have been in the enviable position of having many potential employers wanting to hire me.  One of them, the one I eventually signed a contract with, wanted to screw over my headhunter and not pay her fees by claiming to hire another candidate while I claimed to work at another location.

I didn’t do this, for a few reasons.  Chiefly, the headhunter has been helping me for YEARS and if someone treats me very well, I like to treat them well in return.  Partly this is pragmatism, I might want to deal with her again later (she DID get me loads of solid leads).  Additionally, this affects the nature of my relationship with my employer — are we starting off entering into a conspiracy to cheat someone?  I’m not claiming that’s a bad thing a priori, but lets call a spade a spade.  But really, the whole decision came down to my wanting to pay this headhunter for her services rendered.

Now I’ve gotten another offer that might be a better one.   I might actually ditch the employer with whom I’ve already signed a contract, but who hasn’t filled out enough paperwork to make it a big headache (for me) to switch jobs.  Furthermore, I’ve entered into this contract, knowing the exit clauses, assuming I’ll probably leave early, but not disclosing this information.  At least one of my friends thinks my cavalier attitude towards agreements with employers is unethical.  However, I can’t see anything wrong with this.

This got me thinking, when we define something as an evil or bad thing, what do we mean?  I have a working model of kinds of transgressions.  I divide them into two categories:  Bodily transgressions such as assault, murder, rape, physical harm through negligence (a tricky one), poisoning, etc…   Social transgressions such as breech of agreement, deception, omission, meanness, playing legal hardball, refusing to do business with specific people, etc.  The former are things that cause, either directly or through strongly causal indirect means, bodily harm to another.  The latter are breeches of society’s rules, written or unwritten, and are almost always violations of people’s expectations.

Now, in the case of bodily transgressions, I think most humans have agreed on extreme ones being wrong outside of specific circumstances.  It’s generally considered wrong to shoot someone unless they’re shooting at me or my friend.  Social transgressions vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture.  In some marketplaces, caveat emptor rules and everyone expects you to try and benefit from information advantage (aka “dupe someone”).  Going into the game knowing this, there is really no problem in this environment (as long as the discount on price in this market equals or exceeds my costs from wrong estimates of value or quality, then it’s fine for me to shop there).  At the other extreme, some social groups consider it a serious social breech if you enter into a simple argument that hurts someone’s feelings.  Most societies frown on nakedness outside of specific circumstances, or adjusting one’s breasts or penis in public in an obvious way.  Some social groups would stop reading this because I said “breasts” and “penis.”

There is a big middle ground in all of this.  Bodily harm through negligence is often difficult to determine, and we’ll usually distinguish between innocent and accidental negligence (a genuine accident on the operating table, or during an emergency rescue) and vicious negligence (leaving a child in a locked car in 101 degree heat as a punishment).  What’s more interesting to me is the problem of social transgressions.

Beyond the two categories I already stated, we can divide actions into honorable/innocent and dishonorable/naive actions.  Innocent and honorable bodily harm actions are generally considered completely okay.  Improvised emergency response in backcountry situations gives us occasional examples of this, where the best action known, given available equipment, skills, and conditions, still results in someone’s injury or death.  Also, most people will understand if I hit someone with a baseball bat who is in the process of trying to stab me and steal my Nikes.  Indeed, in these cases, the actions stem from honorable and/or innocent intentions AND no SOCIAL breech has occurred. However, we may judge them in complex ways.  Why did I possess a baseball bat? What could I have done differently to save my wounded comrade? Legal consequences may ensue regardless of ones actual intentions and behaviors. I’ll talk about that later.

I am starting to think social breeches often trump bodily breeches. Also, I think they are usually judged in a very clear-cut way. The person who honestly didn’t know he was in a social group where everyone is expected to be super nice to each other doesn’t get a pass if he starts an argument with someone, even if his intention was genuinely compassionate calling someone out on some of their bull$#!! such as an addiction or other harmful behavior. He is likely to be judged as a jerk and never invited to the party again. We find extreme examples of the most honorable and innocent actions being punished by society in our great spiritual leaders from Jesus to Socrates.

I think this is because Social breeches are actually sins against the fabric of society.  Society itself (through its social contracts and leaders who execute them) claims the right to transgress people’s bodies. The examples above, Jesus and Socrates, invoke society’s claim to this right to harm. Society also claims this right by imprisoning people or drafting them, and in some places by physical punishments such as caning, torture, and harsh prison conditions. American society, among others, also claims the specific right to harm people through direct and intentional negligence, as food and medicine are not considered “rights” but rather privileges.

My own moral life seems to be evolving more to pay attention to my own compass of honorable and innocent, and less to social norms. Now this may seem trite, but to say I am ignoring societal norms actually implies that I’m ignoring and often violating what most people would consider “right” and “wrong” or at the very least “offensive.” But culture and subculture is often broken. I personally find it repulsive to let someone starve or suffer from lack of medical care simply because they cannot find enough payed work or inherited money to buy it. I also find it repulsive to try to create an insular group to hypnotize each other into thinking highly of ourselves regardless of merit. I find I have little investment or care for things like other people’s feelings or expectations. So, while I remain a compassionate individual, I don’t bother to pull any punches, cup anyone’s bollocks, or pat anyone on the bum (unless I believe it will actually help them in the long run).

Nor do I bother about the social contracts such as whether a specific arena is caveat emptor, or supposed to play by gentleman’s rules, or we’re all putting (or pretending to put) all our cards on the table. I can trade based on personal reputation, so that matters to me, but all these social and societal concerns are purely utilitarian.

I assume little and choose actions based on expediency relative to my own intentions. I strive to keep these intentions honorable. I treat my three employees well, but we’re pirating and cannibalizing some old designs, no longer patented, in a market where people are playing by some Euro-specific “gentleman’s rules” and creating artificial market inefficiencies. Some might say I’m harming the particular culture, I say I’m evolving it.

Laws are a strange part of all this. It seems in many cases they are kind of farce, where the intention behind them takes second place and the unintended consequences are high. The war on drugs hasn’t kept a lot of my personal friends from getting addicted to soul-stealing chemicals like meth, yet I have seen it ruin a few people’s lives over less harmful drugs like marijuana. Further, dealing with immigration rules has taught me that social intentions underlying laws can be damned, I’m going to write what I need to in this paperwork to get what I want, so long as its either legal enough or legally illegible enough to spare me any consequences. I’ve never stayed a day illegally in Taiwan, yet I’ve circumvented the intentions of a lot of regulations, as have almost all the foreign teachers here.

My ultimate intentions of goodness reside only in my own sense of honor. I find my conscience is cleaner lately, yet I have an almost cavalier practicality and flagrant disregard about social rules, norms, and expectations along with other people’s feelings. I think I offend more people, yet I rest easier at night. I calculate more decisions based on advantages and disadvantages, and I feel less need to run over them again and again in my head to decide if what I did was morally right or wrong somehow.

I can point to timeless virtues, which withstand the eternal reality of change and evolution.  Such virtues include patience, equanimity, innocence, compassion.  I can also point to very real vices. The virtues and vices I can come up with are highly personal in nature, and don’t point to any specific rules or social norms per se.  For example, addiction, impatience, lust, greed and envy don’t point to any specific social norms that could stand for all time. Murder does, along with the other extreme examples of bodily violation, but that’s about it.  Almost everything else seems entirely situational.

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A wonderful observation was made by Venkat Rao. People desire for things around them to be “legible.” He was quoting someone else, but he’s brought a lot of people’s attention to the concept. In this context, Legibility refers to how easy it is to understand the purpose and the meaning of a thing, not just a text, but anything.

On the very legible end of things is something like an office chair, or a cup of coffee.  These are designed by humans, completely contrived for the types of purposes that anyone can plainly gather from their adaptation to these intentions.  On the far side of illegibility is the pattern of plants in a forest.  Not to say that it’s random, but without an extremely specialized understanding, the patterning, the whys, the meaning of it is indecipherable.  The only other way to access a complicated image like a forest or a city is to simply experience the gestalt of it, the sense of it as you are there, in the moment.

Rao gives us examples of problems that arise when we humans try and impose legibility. His easiest example is the growth of a city.  Old cities have grown in such a complex pattern over decades, centuries, even millenia, and with such a collection of complex human interactions, that their patterning is as nuanced as the trees and ferns of the forest floor.  When planners come along and try to work out a method to set up a city artificially, it so often fails miserably because there is a forced legibility (indeed, it’s hard to imagine making policies about things without first rendering them legible, but for policymakers to grok the complexities necessary to understand things like city growth is more than most mere politicians can muster).

The important points here are that legibility is highest in man-made things and that people desire legibility.  In fact, Rao cites an interesting incident at a neurology clinic where a black and white checkerboard pattern is used to establish a “baseline” of someone’s brain activity, a “calm state.”  When the patient asked the doctor “shouldn’t you use something more neutral, white noise, perhaps?”  The doctor responds, “Oh no, people’s brains go wild when we show a random pattern, because they work hard to grasp at some underlying structure.”

Perhaps it is the fruit of Maharishi’s meditation on who am I? perhaps it is my vows, or just observation.  But recently I have found myself truly switching identity experiences rather easily.  After actual decades of wanting so much to be a woman, and an entire decade of being mostly submissive, I find myself being a true switch.  I can stop what we’re doing at home to force slap her ass, make sure she’s knowing she’s in submission, and leave her begging for more as we’re walking into town. Yes, I can still kiss a whip, scrub someone’s floor, and pine to get held down and fucked.  Honestly, I could beg God for either role just as sincerely, or forget the whole thing entirely.  All of it is surrender!

If you don’t build it deliberately, but let it form, like actions of nature, it isn’t going to have the same kind of legibility of an invention.  I smile this smile that old ladies and children seem to find irresistable.  I alternatively flush a bit from some men’s heat, and then wet some girl’s panties by our immediate mutual knowledge that I would chain her up alongside the others and perhaps horsewhip the living hell out of her in half a second.  And I gain trusting giggles and secret intimacies when I unwrap my Arab kuffiya and smile a blushing conspiratorial sister smile.  No one seems to try to cheat me anymore, in fact it seems they’re mostly quite generous with me.  My employees are artistic and seem satisfied.  I drive hard bargains with a shy voice.  My students mostly do what I say, alternatively seduced, in love, and afraid. My personality is a forest rather than a coffee cup, mysterious to even myself.

Then this all generalizes into other things.  I find myself more generous with money, and managing it all quite differently because I don’t even know what it is anymore.  It seems to have no value at all.  I don’t mean that in a naive sense, but in the sense that we’re all dying so quickly, what the fuck?  Perhaps I will find the capacity for even more generosity, or that great fabled freedom to just cast a fortune away in a moment, without a thought, and the power to create another kind or another kind or even a different kind than that….  How can I lack patience in this case?  How can I worry any sense of morality?  I tested this by lying outright a few times, and find the only thing I have that could be called a “conscience” is confusion brought on by blood sugar levels.

My friends seem to stumble with their reactions.  And I think it’s because I’ve become illegible.  So I do try and maintain some consistency around them lately, but it feels so stilted, and I notice that any real observer should be able to see through the plastic of contrivance. People want you to have an identity though, something to pin down and relate to with a known set of codes.  My girlfriend, fortunately, is blessed with enough innocence to just tell me when she doesn’t get what’s going on, and to roll with it.  She’s uncaring about social norms enough to either not notice or not care when I mix gender, dominance, social class signals, fashions, and actions with the kind of attitude that I would pack a backpack for a walk in the woods.  Toilet paper is good for so many things, I’ll bring a whole roll of that with me for even a day or two in the woods.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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Why would I ever make someone pay for knowledge I have that could potentially improve them? I think of a blogger I know who sells “how to live an extraordinary life” ebooks and travels from the profit. Basically life porn for people too scared or naive to make the leap (judgment I guess). He certainly has knowledge and can profit from it.

I think back to Thoreau’s recounting of the indian in Walden. The Indian makes baskets and tries to sell them in town and gets miffed that people are not buying them and Thoreau thinks he should have asked why go into business in the first place? (Thoreau is a smart ass though ;).

What of the coupon-clipping wife bloggers? The ones who sell seminars to teach women how to buy $300 with of groceries for $20 using coupon and promotion tricks. What of them? If they have the secret, shouldn’t they give it out. And what of a life playing off of primate-created technicalities like grocery rules?

What of guest bedrooms and their necessity? What happened to guest tents?!!?

Do I need money to live in this world? It sure seems like I do.

M

My Reply:

M,

I watched Zeitgeist 3 and I was so turned on by it that I almost turned my synth project into all open-source stuff…  I basically think capitalism as we know it now is going to prove itself to be a sinking ship.

Then I put a lot of focus into what Jesus said, “be as innocent as a dove but as wise as a serpent.”  I realized that if I cut my own profits I wouldn’t be getting more instruments to poor college students who just love electronic music, I’d be saving money for egotistical gear whores who want to think they’re cool because they have an unauthorized Buchla copy.
So I’m keeping the trade secrets and selling the sizzle ofunauthorizedclone.com to those people…  because frankly, they want it.  It’s like I’m a prostitute giving them a blow job.  If I stopped selling blow jobs, they’d go pay somebody else or maybe date rape a girl or something….  so I’m just going to peddle my wares as long as there are people who are slaving away under the illusion that you get what you pay for, and if it ain’t expensive it isn’t worth having.
And eventually I can make bigger runs and get plastic housings
made and probably get the synths out to poor college kids.  Plus, with the money I have, me and my sweetheart can spend time fucking in a lot of different countries.  Eventually, maybe I can fulfill my age-old dream of helping child prostitutes, but I have to have some cash on hand before I can do much for them.  I think Steven Covey refers to all this as a “win-win.”
Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about if you “should” “make someone” “pay” for “your knowledge.”  If I was working in a leper colony I wouldn’t dare charge those people a dime.  And they’d probably offer me all the food and free place to stay that I could ever want.  But, we’re currently trying to operate in a specific system, and instead of “lepers” we’re just playing Jesus….
….to the lepers in their heads….
Oh yeah it’s one love, one life….
Okay, so the U2 break doesn’t really cut it but like, seriously, if you’ve got something to offer, people might not even value it if you give it away.  What do you think is the difference between a $150 an hour escort and a $1000 an hour escort?  Have you ever looked into escorts before?  You can get an astoundingly beautiful woman for $150 an hour.  Yet senators and such want the exotic $1000 an hour ones.  Maybe they beat them up, or get beaten up or piss all over each other or something, I don’t know.  And all the same, I’m sure I’ve spent the last coupla years having better sex with my lovers than they’re going to get for all that money.
Still, there’s a demand for the $1000 an hour prostitute.  Do you need some kind of moral judgement to prevent you from fulfilling that demand?  Who is doing the judging?  Why?  What would such judgement do for you?
Love,
J

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Proust’s Madeleine refers to a monument that resonates with many readers, a fan’s favorite in his writings.  A madeleine is a kind of small French cake, usually with ribbed lines across it.  Proust recalls eating one and being reminded of something.  Sitting and pondering, reaching deep into his mind for the remembrance, as he continued sniffing and tasting the little cake.  Finally, all at once in a great flash, the taste and smell involuntarily and instantaneously drew him back to his grandmother’s house when he was ten, recalling eating one of them.

He recounts this experience, not with the flavor of a “triggered memory,” but as actually being there again, being transported completely, in his senses, to that experience.  It is as if for a brief moment, he’d traveled through time.  He was the ten year old boy, in his grandmother’s house.  One can use the phrase, “ma madeleine de Proust” to refer to the trigger of such an experience.  As far as I can tell, to be properly referred to as “Une Madeleine de Proust“, an experience must be a) involuntary and b) drag one into a past experience.

In a similar manner, I notice that little feelings sometimes allow us to gauge where we now are, and to compare the present moment to the past.  Not in as grand a fashion as a person’s Madeleine de Proust in the sense that most people will make that reference, but in the way that we relate to people, places, and objects.  Perhaps a person gives one a familiar feeling, and a sense of ease…  maybe that person carries a similar scent, or way of walking and speaking, or a similar set of tension and ease as a former lover, or an old friend.  In other words, in a small way, that arrangement of movements and scents and words will transport us kinesthetically, to a past experience.  Thus is it “une petite madeline de Proust.”

However, I would argue that it can happen without people being aware of it.  It is simply that they will have a good familiar feeling.  I often think that in this way people go on seeking to repeat the same set of experiences again and again, but not really noticing how it happens.  I have come to suspect that much of our moral imagination is formed of such links to our past.  That a house can be built, and a life can be lived within that house, consisting of things that one has chosen for the kinesthetic reality they create for that person, the lovely little things they constantly drag from one’s long lost years.  But it is merely a house of cakes, “une maison des petites madeleines.”

Isn’t it true that a new person one meets, or a new place one visits, if utterly alien, will be far more challenging than the “instant ease” we judge things by as being “good?”  It is as if “instant ease” or “a sense of initial familiarity” were a sign from God that we’ve found a person or place we belong with right now.  It is only a small leap from one’s feeling of ease and rightness to one’s sense of what is “right” and “wrong.”  This is the reason I have said that the “moral imagination” is linked to the “house of cakes” I have described.  Perhaps it is only a sign that we’ve found une petite madeleine and some feature of that person or place has simply drawn us back to a time when we felt comfortable or happy or else the petite madeleine simply refers to something we like about ourselves.

I write all this from the perspective of a traveler.  I have lived 8800 miles from where I was born for around two years.  Long enough for it to feel like “home.”  I have also felt love for places spread across Europe and the U.S.  Moreover, some types of people are incredibly easy for me to get along with.  The Irish are known for being friendly.  The Taiwanese are very helpful and usually try very hard to impress foreigners.  The provincial French are easygoing, laid back little people, among whom I could easily unwind many years.  I can ultimately interact with all these people with similar rules of politeness to what I would use at my parent’s church, and expect similar responses.

Another example: I know well the scent of autumn, and it is striking because it blurs my reality by being the same scent in Atlanta and in Taipei.  The familiarity the scent creates, here by the Taiwan Straight, on this rogue island off the coast of an ancient empire, takes me to any number of times I’ve walked through my grandparents’ field, or the forests of North GA mountains, or sat on the porch of the house I grew up in.  It creates that reality around me.  Smells are so powerful this way.

However, at a documentary film festival, I recently watched a film that stunned me:  “Let’s Be Together.”  The film depicted a Danish boy who was a serious cross-dresser.  He identified himself as a boy, and seemed to enjoy being a boy, and he later admitted that he liked boys, and man-oh-man he liked to rock some fancy 6″ heels.  Such queer material was not what was stunning, indeed it is a bit old hat for me.  But the culture in which it appeared was utterly alien to my senses.

The Danes he lived with weren’t too bothered by his behavior.  One must bear in mind, Denmark is a country where, if he was transgendered, he could probably start taking hormones around age 13 or 14, probably have surgery after 18.  Also this country is one where a bunch of hippies once took over a military base in the 1970s.  Instead of the government either shooting or arresting all the hippies, they just let them keep the installation and run it as an independent government within the city of Copenhagen.  This prefecture still exists and is called “Christiania.”  In other words, the Danes are coming from a radically different place than what I’m used to.  Any country I have lived in generally views transgendered as some sort of disease and would have arrested those hippies forthwith, not given them their own independent government!

The boy’s father was Brazilian.  I was amazed at the way he spoke to his son.  He was emotionally transparent.  Initially I thought he was being overly angry as he seemed to be reacting intensely.  Also, the father was a masculine guy and most masculine fathers get threatened by the first show of femininity in their sons — or so I have seen in cultures I know.  But this guy was different.  In his honesty and transparency he revealed that his concern was that the boy would alienate himself from society and therefore face physical danger and fail to find love.

The father (apparently a clothier) was fine with making a dress for his son so the boy could be Cleopatra at his 15th birthday party.  As his expert hands sewed on sequins, the dad shared stories with his son about how he was lost and confused at 15; but he found a man he fell in love with and had a sexual relationship with, who helped him find his way.  This is all very interesting because the father also had a wife at the time of the movie.  But he told his child about gay loves and straight loves.  And concluded the long conversation with the words, “this is all I want for you, for you to find this happiness that was so important for me.”

What?!  I cannot imagine such a conversation between a father and a son in my culture.  This was a conversation in which the boy was viewed with respect as a person with some right to privacy and choosing his own way.  The father brought concerns only to help the boy find all the best in life — not blushing at any aspect of sexuality or discovery.  And the father shared his own very personal experiences, with frankness and emotional honesty throughout!  Mon Dieu!

Back to the Danes: The boy’s stepfather took him fishing, and treated him perfectly well.  He didn’t even seem phased by the fact that the kid had taken to such extreme behavior (though he refused to spend 200 USD on a pair of sunglasses).  The stepfather and the mom only seemed to care that her son might be hurt (physically) by some ignorant kids.  Moreover, the way the family interacted just had a tone to it which was completely different than what I have known.  Their formalities and informalities, their tension and ease, were in places that did not resemble any family I have ever seen in my life.

The strange thing is that the Danish family and the Brazilian family initially gave me a very dark feeling.  I felt uncomfortable, and I put up a kind of moral judgement about them.  After a little while, I noticed that this sense of “evil” was because their ways of doing things were putting me in a kinesthetic feeling I only knew as “evil.”  But once I set that aside, and watched them….  I realized that nothing they did could be called “evil” in the sense that if they, or even all the world, acted that way it would bring any harm to people, either in their bodies or their souls.  It was simply an “evil” by my own tribe, the one I have left, and perhaps the one whose soil I stand on now.

But that sense of evil, what is it?  It is just a trip into another place, another time, something dredging the depths of my brain and dragging me back to my childhood where I see my father’s lips recoiling into a grimace when certain things come to pass.  Or hurling me headlong into my grandmother’s house, where I see her self-righteous smile as she pronounces God’s judgement on certain “wickedness.”  Or my mother’s tightening jaw as she sees a thing, and wonders how she’ll speak of it to me, because “God says that’s wrong.”  In other words, whether I have been aware of this or not, many of my moral feelings just come back to my own “Petites Madelienes des Proust.”  And it was only in opening myself up to something difficult, where I wanted to put up barriers and judgments, that I was able to see that kind of morality for the tribal superstition that it is.

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“All sickness comes from loneliness. ALL.”

Loneliness. To feel incomplete, empty, unfulfilled – to yearn for something you feel you don’t have yet. In an illusion of time, to forget about timelessness. To constantly journey to fill oneself up, to walk to and fro, from school to work to retirement, every now and then being hit with loneliness and falling sick. And when the loneliness is really gripping, it manifests into greater diseases. If you don’t want to fall sick, all you have to do is find your completeness – to be self-sustained – self-fulfilled. Because to feel incomplete is to leave yourself feeling broken, only half-fixed, half created, easy to fall apart. Even structurally, no half-constructed building can last nor stand firm. Then, how can the body, when the mind feels incomplete?

So lately, my social life has about been a bust.  It seems that many times I’ve tried to go out and socialize, romantically or just with pals, a million things have gotten in my way.  If I go to all the trouble to get out to Taipei, then something bad happens, stuff gets complicated, someone can’t meet with me, I get sick, wires get crossed and meeting times are mixed up, etc, etc, etc.  It’s been a strange situation.  Part of it is because I live in a somewhat remote location now.  It takes a lot of effort or expense (often both) for me to go anywhere that other people will be.

And I’ve had the most persistent sickness I have ever had in my life.  It started with a fever.  Then I had a week of being unable to speak.  I had a week or two of a cold.  I had one week when I could barely hear at all.  I had gotten used to it almost, having been sick for 7 whole weeks.  I had adapted to the point where I just accepted I couldn’t do much on the weekends and wondered if I should cancel business meetings and tutoring sessions during the week.  It’s been wretched.

I know some things require moving through with definite intention (optimally like Qi Kung pushing hands — always moving forward but never resisting).  And I know some things require not fighting and just going with the flow, the intention being acceptance.  I’ve not really known if this is a time to notice what choices I’m making and move forward, to seek the answer to this situation and make a new choice, or just sit back and accept that it will all work out.

But, Saturday night I went to a concert.  I had heard about it through a new friend who lives in a different city.  When I arrived, I checked my email and discovered my grandmother seems to be winding down, finishing up, getting ready to leave this planet.  It was a bit odd because I really only found out by reading facebook updates from my family.  I felt saddened, or at least very introspective.  Had I done a good job of treating her well when I was there?  Did I make peace with her when she was alive?  Is there anything else I need to do to contribute to my family?  What about the situation with my uncle, should I use this opportunity to speak with him?  Could he listen and maybe bond with his brother during this time of grieving?  I almost decided not to go to the show.  But after walking around for awhile and eating some M&Ms, I went back to the concert hall and walked in.

I am very glad as the music was quite special.  The band had a vibe light seeing beauty in darkness.  They played these wide, expansive washes of synths and distorted guitars that morphed easily from bright light to pulsating darkness with stark echoing vocals overlaid upon them.  Underneath, the beats made the music very danceable.  The snippets of lyric here and there were consistent with this vibe . . .  all from a tight and experienced professional band.

Now, my friend who had told me about this band is rather into movies and music that put one against the darker side of life.  Her favorite movies are very intense ones and the music she loves has all these textures of life, like i described above.  As the show progressed and I got into the vibe, I felt that the band’s purpose really was to help people see beauty in loss and uncertainty and certain universal senses of darkness.  I could feel the foreboding aspect of the beautiful washes of sound really affecting the people around me at a primal level, even as I felt the music driving me to see above the ocean of hopelessness we can sometimes feel as humans….  To dance on those vibes was to truly see the light in the darkness.

Of course, music like this, like a good story, is discovered, and the band could replace any of its members — the music is of a popular sort nowadays and it feels like it has an important purpose, even if it is subconscious to most listeners.

Also, the way I was dancing and paying attention to the music helped me to feel it much more deeply.  I was taking a Wujifa stance to dance from, which felt as if I were moving the whole world underneath me with my feet.  This enhanced the awareness of my own heart being the center of the entire universe, and of the feeling that everyone in the room was myself reflecting back to me…  it was even as if the lights and the support beams were one with me, and just myself speaking back to me (this is a meditation that a close friend of mine had suggested — but until that night I hadn’t been able to do it without a lot of effort and concentration).  The dance felt like a powerful Earthquake.  Earthquakes are one of my favorite things in the whole world.

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After the show, I met my friend from Taichung who had told me about the show.  Actually, I had met a few other people, including the band that I was to see on Sunday night.  Those guys were really cool.  However, I and my friend from Taichung were quite excited to see each other.  We got to spend a little time walking around, hanging out.  But she had also come with a work friend (mostly, I think, as she didn’t have any money and needed someone to give her a bit of a loan).  So, though I would have loved to have just sat in a coffee house and chatted with this girl into the night, or walked around a park, we needed to part ways so they could get to their hotel room.

Several of my pals were at a birthday party at a club, but I decided I wasn’t in the mood to go dancing.  So I called another friend, who invited me to come by her house.  Both of us have clearly had sexual intentions for some time.  However, after I was around her for a few minutes, I started to get the clear feeling that she really needed someone to speak with.  She told me a very long story about the last few months of her life, and what had been drawing her down towards feeling depressed and self-hating.  Also, she’s lost a lot of friends recently, which is always sad.  She asked me for advice.  I gave her advice on the practicalities of a dispute she was in.

But more importantly, as we talked, it came out that she had been trying to live more authentically.  I shared something I say to a lot of people, but most people don’t seem to really grok.  I said that it’s very easy to use the truth as a way to market myself.  Like I have my collection of stories I tell under certain circumstances.  I can gather from a situation if it would be good for someone to think of me more in one light or another, more safe or more sexual, more respectable or more badass, more femme or more masculine, etc, etc….  so I can just cherry pick the truth to build the vibe I want for whatever my intention is.  This is 90% of why I am very socially savvy.

I told her about this and told her I’m pretty sick of doing this kind of marketing and I want, more than anything else, to just be real and honest all the time.  She actually felt the same way, and was beginning to try and do this herself.  It was so nice just to share that with someone.  By the time we’d finished talking, I was sack tired, and also the sexual vibe had kind of melted away…  I went to sleep feeling a bit lonely.  I had come over and largely done for someone else.  I guess this girl also told me a couple of times that she loves me, which makes me tend to tread quite carefully.

Beyond that, the vibe wasn’t quite there for me.  I mean, when she came back out wearing her underwear, I felt astonishingly turned on.  But at the same time, it’s very easy to look at a person and feel where they’re coming from and know what it would be to share time with them…  to have them in my bed…  to spend time being romantic or just to fuck.  Honestly, I just don’t feel it with this girl.  Not that I don’t like her.  It’s only that right now I don’t think she has the feeling I’m looking for.

I say I went to sleep feeling a bit lonely — actually, I was feeling very lonely.  I think the reality of my grandmother’s death was still sinking in, along with just feeling dog tired.  And the girl was clearly playing with where her emotional barriers were with me.  My guess is that she couldn’t tell if she felt safe with me or not…  and all that oddness, moments of extreme openness mixed with distance and pushing away, was taxing me as well.

Immediately after I fell asleep, Taiwan had its first Earthquake in months.  A very large one by everyone’s account.

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I woke up sicker still.  Sunday was pretty bad.  Monday was far worse, and I had to work on Monday.  But by Monday evening, I was starting to feel it waning.  I bought some whiskey and honey, damming the codeine cough syrups and decongestants that the doctors had given me, and sipped at a half shot of each.  Then I decided to go to the hospital, as I was in reality very very sick.

Now, I hadn’t expected much from this visit, as I’d gone to the doctor on average almost once a week since getting sick.  People spoke with me as if I must have neglected this illness in order to have been sick for so long.  But once again, the doctor told me this isn’t something that can be treated by antibiotics.  He gave me those SOLELY to prevent a secondary infection, but just gave more decongestants and told me to try and keep my sinuses unobstructed.

But I’d already started feeling myself getting tuned back into a sense of wholeness.  I have to be honest and say I haven’t fully gotten it yet.  However, I can feel it as one choice to be made, one current to be tapped into.  And perhaps I can learn to let go of the attachments that I see so starkly clear that created the loneliness that plunged me into such a long and intense sickness to begin with.  Attachments to companionship, mostly.

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For some time I have noticed my mind will spin around, like a little dust devil, like leaves in the wind.  For some time I’ve noticed it’s mostly irrelevant, unimportant patterning and manic grasping.  Yes, this can feel depressing and dark, or frightening, or can feel like nihilism….  Much of the time it feels like I have a mouth full of novacaine and my real meaning and feeling is muted and fucked up.

However, recently I find that sense of all my thoughts being as a dust devil can also feel liberating and joyful.

In Tantric quest, Devi repeatedly puts Daniel’s focus on his heart.  She suggests the meditation of feeling the breath pass through the heart.  So I started working on this meditation.  I like it because it’s simple and clear.  I think it gives my attention a place to focus, besides the wrongness, repetitiveness, and uselessness of my thoughts (not to say that thoughts cannot often be useful — at best the mind can learn to recognize patterns and join in accord with intuition to make great leaps).

I started placing my attention on my breath through my heart and didn’t notice much at first.  The shift was subtler than I thought it would be, but over a couple of days I came to see it’s very grounded and clear.  Easier than I’d expected, actually.  Partly I had long been deceived about what lies within my heart — thinking it the seat of emotions, or certain attachments or sentiments.  Now I see it’s a place of unity.

My experience at the club on Saturday was mixed enough to explore equanimity with several different situations.  First, almost immediately after I walked in I felt a little out of place.  But breathing through the heart — I felt deeply at peace.  Beautiful.  Suddenly I could walk around the club and have fun very freely, while everyone else obsessed over their image or insecurities.  I stopped to watch some amazing dancers.  One of the regulars at the club is even frequently on “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Next a really cute Asian lady starts talking to me, then pulling me closer, then hugging and brushing her lips against my cheeks as she talks.  Everytime I stepped away, she pulls me back towards her — we did the dance well, and we both enjoyed each other.  Then my friends came, and pulled me elsewhere.  Nice places to practice…  throughout the night I reminded myself, anytime I felt elated or depressed, to simply go there, attention on my heart chakra.  Again and again I felt equanimity, peace for no particular reason.

I danced a lot.  I had the blessing of being able to drop attachments enough to dance joyfully immediately after moments of depression, or moments of elation.  To dance well, I cannot hold to any moment.  I felt blessed as well because I hardly drank at all that night, only a little to share socially with my friends.  Yet I still felt very free, moment to moment.

Then I went home.  I practiced some more as I walked to my car, and as I drove.  I was very tired, yet able to maintain the same equanimity by placing my attention on my breath passing through my heart.  My heart is clearly full of peacefulness and compassion, and it transcends whether I’m working hard to drive carefully while feeling tired, or whether I’m getting blown off by some boy that’s not interested, or pulled in close by some girl who is.  I don’t believe I’d ever tasted equanimity like this before.

And this finally balances my awareness of my mind, so I don’t feel nihilism from that sense of my thoughts just being leaves in the wind.

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