Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Re-Framing Enlightenment

I have been thinking for a while that the concept of enlightenment is a trap. If I may quote from my own reddit comment,
Personally, I think enlightenment is a trap and should be avoided at all costs. It sets an unachievable goal, it creates division between people, and it makes them talk for hours. Oh boy, does it make them talk! On and on about all the silence and calm. Babble babble babble. Monkey mind and monkey talk, from dusk till dawn about nonduality and enlightenment.
On the other hand, I am a lot into tantra and meditation and all that fancy "spiritual" stuff. I even have some vegan yearnings, sometimes, for crying out loud!

So what to do.

I think maybe we should replace the word enlightenment with something simple, "western", that people actually know: How about the word consciousness?

One consequence of that is that things become tremendously easy to explain.

The idea is that you are not truly conscious of your thoughts as long as you identify with them. It's more like they colonize your thoughtspace, rather than you grant them their space, graciously and with joy. A mind under occupation is not a free mind.

You can only be concious of that screen in front of you because you are in some way separate from it. You can observe it.

You can do the same thing with your thoughts.

The only difference is that you can hardly identify with the screen (or so I hope), but you will naturally tend to identify with your own thoughts.

But you don't have to.

If you choose to give your mind something to focus on, to train yourself to focus. You do that by focusing on your breath, simply because it is there, it is cheap, and it has a rhythm. Nothing more to it. It takes time and dedication, but that's really it.

Of course, total consiousness, 24/7/365, is still a complete and utter illusion. You just cannot have it. But you can have a fair share, and it's gonna be legen.... wait for it.... dary!

But it might be easier to not fall for the metaphysical trap, if you use terms that actually have meaning in the real world, rather than religious mumbo-jumbo.

An Example Of The Detrimental Effects Of Religion

There is a lady. Let's call her Carina.

Carina is 75 years old. Raised an atheist by socialist parents, she converted to catholicism at 30.

A few weeks ago, she told her children about how St. Anthony, the saint in charge of lost items, helped her find her lost wedding ring. Not only that, but her minister found the keys to the sacristy, which he had misplaced during some repair work on the building, after he had prayed to St. Anthony for help.

She was absolutely serious about that story. She really thought that the saint had helped her.

Now, Carina is highly intelligent, well educated, and had a pretty straight career going as long as she was still in the work force.

Ten years ago, she might have told the same story, but in a different tone. There would have been some irony, some winking, some tongue-in-cheekness. All that is gone.

It would not be that tragic. In fact, it might be amusing. Except that, due to the family situation, Carina has a certain amount of power over her ex husband. She drags him to church and practically forces that host down his throat. Her ex husband, of course, has left the church a million years ago and never wanted anything to do with that organisation after he left it. He used to be a very strong-willed individual, stubborn even, a successful businessman. Now he's in a wheelchair after a stroke, has trouble communicating and just lacks the willpower to assert himself. His current wife plays along because she won't risk to be the troublemaker.

Would Carina do stuff like that to anyone, if it were not for religious reasons? I highly doubt it. All her life, she was in favour of tolerance, a liberal within her community, an organizer of shared services between christians, jews, hindus and buddhists, all without any attempt to proselytize.

Of course, this development is probably due to old age, at least in part. But I maintain that a lifetime of training yourself to believe in idiotic, inconsistent, counterfactual doctrines comes at a cost. I maintain that religion is the huge destroyer of empathy, the enemy of compassion.

One cannot save another's soul without harming their personality.

Marketing Fluff

I am firmly convinced that religion is pretty bad for the world.

I am radically opposed to ideological extremism.

I think discrimination is an evil that we need to eradicate.

However, all of that is trumped by marketing fluff. Marketing fluff is so poisonous it should not be touched, felt, smelt, heard, looked at by any human being. Not through a looking glass, not with 100 feet poles, not with protective clothing. It slowly seeps into your brain and disintegrates it until it becomes a pus infested mush of nonsense and idiocy.

Marketing fluff is the true motherload of truly, utterly terrible ideas.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ghost In The Shell (2017) Movie Review

*spoilers ahead*. You have been warned. Overall, I have almost nothing good to say. It's a decent popcorn flick if you possess the ability to shut down your ghost for 90 minutes.

Let's start with the good:

The visuals are stunning, and Scarlett Johansson is, of course, a very beautiful woman.

Now for the rest:

They played it so safe that the result is a stillbirth.

The acting is abysmal. Johansson never was a lot more than a pretty face, in this flick she has one facial expression, and one only. I could live with that if it did make sense in-universe, but Major Kusanagi is most emphatically *not* a robot.

The melancholia of the 1996 anime has been replaced with melodrama in this one, caused by shitty dialog and severe overacting -- most painfully, on part of Juliette Binoche, whom I still remember as a real first-class actress with a lot of bandwidth.

The story is just a stereotypical origin story.

They lost the humanity of it.

Heck, they even lost the humor. As an example, one of the four scenes that are almost straight copies from the anime is the one on the boat, where Kusanagi and Batou bond over some beer, and banter a bit. In the anime, when the Major chnanges out of her swimsuit, Batou sneaks in a peek, then looks away, but peeks once more. It's obvious that he likes what he sees, but his relationship with Kusanagi is a mixture of friendship, comraderie and professionalism, and he's rather protective of her, so he cannot go there. It's humane, it has a touch of humor, it's something to watch again.

In the update, they play all that in complete and utter seriousness. Major: "I can't trust anyone anymore." - Batou: "You do trust me, don't you?" - Major: "Yes I do." Gnarf.

I could probably live with the above -- I'm perfectly happy just watching Scarlett Johannson be pretty.

What I cannot live with is lack of character motivation, nonsensical plot points and actions that are out of place for a character.

Aramaki would not shoot Cutter like that, vendetta style, thus exposing himself to legal action. Why would the Yakuza host a hacker? Why would it be dangerous to just be in the same room with a ghost-hacked human? Why did the trash collector have to stand during the interrogation? How could Kuse get away after being shot by four machine guns on short range? Why did Cutter remote control the spider tank in the boss battle, when it was clearly established in the anime that those machines possess AI? How on earth did Kuse even get away, after they killed 97 predecessors? How was he able to sneak back into the building? Why would Cutter allow Section 9 to go after Kuse, risking exposure for his murders, when he has all his mooks and could easily just kill him with that spider tank all the time? Why would Cutter, when he monitors his disloyal employee, monitor her in a way that would easily allow her to give the Major an antidote instead of a poison? Why would they rely on their victims taking their "medicine", so their memories remain hidden, when those victims have to come in for regular inspections anyway? And, finally, why is the Major so incredibly valuable to Section 9? She might be powerful physically, but she's basically a borderline psychotic, ticking timebomb. She completely ignores a direct order in the first scene, for crying out loud, without any consequences from a boss who is supposed to be super strict.

Duh.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Help me, I'm SANE!

I've been doing some kind of tantric exercises for, I don't know, maybe 10 years or so, on and off.

Never once did I experience anything like "kundalini syndrome". No involuntary twitching, no sleeplessness, no itching, no hallucinations, no headaches, no mood-swings.

Instead, I consistently experience bliss, better confidence, more calmness, and greater sex.

Clearly, I'm doing it wrong.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Intolerant Yogis

I took a taste of attacking yogic ideas in a yoga discussion group.

It is quite interesting to see the very same reactions that christian fundamentalists would show: They interpreted the idea that was under attack in a metaphorical way to save it, they attacked the person to discourage criticism, they engaged in mind-reading and took offense at having their faith attacked.

It makes perfect sense. Every "spiritual path" is really just as dogmatic, closed to change and intellectually fragile as any other. It's not the content that matters; whenever you accept anything for religious reasons, you will tend to jump to defend it against attacks, or silently retreat from the discussion into some weird form of "tolerance". It's fight or flight. You have no way to defend your belief intellectually, therefore you have to react with anger and violence.

The virus was hidden in the way you adopted the content, not in the content itself.

Me and My Soapbox

Before you go to your war, learn empathy.

How do you learn empathy? By relaxing.

How do you relax? By being happy.

How do you be happy? By relaxing.

How do you get both? By facing yourself.

How do you face yourself? By breathing.