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A Dream Within A Dream

I love this poem by Edgar Allan Poe. It touches so much with my inner feelings that I feel exalted. The poem with its words captures so nicely the dream and the flow of reality that this body and mind experiences. But yet it expresses desire, desire to hold, desire to grasp, then it still remains suspicious.

A Dream Within A Dream

– Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
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Never stop

We are human being. We are gullible, we are breakable. I was feeling afraid.  I woke up early today, started the day confidently , with determination and will of getting things done. But then after an hour, I got distracted. I remembered a very old memory which made me sad. But then I felt okay. Every time a past memory blows me, now I tell that I need to make a good present memory to fight against. May be that’s the only optimistic way to deal with and be productive in life. But sometimes it’s tremendously hard to accept the loss, to deny the desire of getting something back that was so dear to yourself. But then impossible is a word that should be, arguably !!,  found in the dictionary of the fools, right?  The sudden emergence or intervention of some thoughts is something that I am very fearful about. There are certain experiences that I never want to have again. There are pains that I never want to experience again. That means there is weakness in me, there are holes in my mind where if I fall, I tend to feel unable to get out of. Now can knowing your own weakness be your strength? I think it should be the case. Because as I said, we are all vulnerable, we all have weaknesses. I was thinking about a lot of things. I can see around how people manipulate other people, I can read stories of selfishness and selflessness, it hurts to see how some take advantage of others. We are all linked, aren’t we? If no students would go to the university, what would all the professors, staff do? If no one would want to drink, with whom would all the bars and clubs be filled with? If everyone would like to cook, then how would all these restaurants run themselves? If all would like to walk or bike, would somebody get killed in fatal road accident? If everyone was not interested to see televisions, movies, then who would be the consumer of all those entertainments and advertisements.  If everyone would only focus on his own life, who would worship the celebrities?  There’s so many ifs- I am probably asking questions like a baby who is trying to understand why are all these happening around us. It seems this whole society and all societal acts are based on a service based system. Someone needs something, so someone else needs to help them out. Someone has knowledge about something, that other can use. We are all depending on each other in some way or another. It doesn’t matter whether you talk with anyone or not, you need to eat, you need to work, so you need someone for something implicitly or explicitly. I was thinking about mistakes. Now, it’s easy to see that all these dependencies can not always go without errors. We are all error prone. We will make mistake, then we will hurt other people. So, disaster is inevitable. So, failure is also inevitable. Being cautious is necessary. You just should never stop.

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

I am seriously thinking about starting meditation again. The peace of mind is quite rare to obtain these days. I find myself very easily distracted, find it really hard to concentrate, find it hard to remember, find it hard to forget. I was reading about meditation and it’s different form. I loved some of Sam Harris’s quote (original post) and am reposting. I will elaborate the part that intrigued me when I have some time later on.

Although the insights we can have in meditation tell us nothing about the origins of the universe, they do confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.

 

The conventional sense of self is an illusion [and] spirituality largely consists in realizing this, moment to moment. There are logical and scientific reasons to accept this claim, but recognizing it to be true is not a matter of understanding these reasons. Like many illusions, the sense of self disappears when closely examined, and this is done through the practice of meditation.

[…]

The feeling that we call “I” seems to define our point of view in every moment, and it also provides an anchor for popular beliefs about souls and freedom of will. And yet this feeling, however imperturbable it may appear at present, can be altered, interrupted, or entirely abolished.

 

The self that does not survive scrutiny is the subject of experience in each present moment — the feeling of being a thinker of thoughts inside one’s head, the sense of being an owner or inhabitant of a physical body, which this false self seems to appropriate as a kind of vehicle. Even if you don’t believe such a homunculus exists — perhaps because you believe, on the basis of science, that you are identical to your body and brain rather than a ghostly resident therein — you almost certainly feel like an internal self in almost every waking moment. And yet, however one looks for it, this self is nowhere to be found. It cannot be seen amid the particulars of experience, and it cannot be seen when experience itself is viewed as a totality. However, its absence can be found — and when it is, the feeling of being a self disappears.

 

We wouldn’t attempt to meditate, or engage in any other contemplative practice, if we didn’t feel that something about our experience needed to be improved. But here lies one of the central paradoxes of spiritual life, because this very feeling of dissatisfaction causes us to overlook the intrinsic freedom of consciousness in the present. As we have seen, there are good reasons to believe that adopting a practice like meditation can lead to positive changes in one’s life. But the deepest goal of spirituality is freedom from the illusion of the self — and to seek such freedom, as though it were a future state to be attained through effort, is to reinforce the chains of one’s apparent bondage in each moment.

 

The ultimate wisdom of enlightenment, whatever it is, cannot be a matter of having fleeting experiences. The goal of meditation is to uncover a form of well-being that is inherent to the nature of our minds. It must, therefore, be available in the context of ordinary sights, sounds, sensations, and even thoughts. Peak experiences are fine, but real freedom must be coincident with normal waking life.

 

Those who begin to practice in the spirit of gradualism often assume that the goal of self-transcendence is far away, and they may spend years overlooking the very freedom that they yearn to realize.

 

[This approach] encourages confusion at the outset regarding the nature of the problem one is trying to solve. It is true, however, that striving toward the distant goal of enlightenment (as well as the nearer goal of cessation) can lead one to practice with an intensity that might otherwise be difficult to achieve. I never made more effort than I did when practicing under U Pandita. But most of this effort arose from the very illusion of bondage to the self that I was seeking to overcome. The model of this practice is that one must climb the mountain so that freedom can be found at the top. But the self is already an illusion, and that truth can be glimpsed directly, at the mountain’s base or anywhere else along the path. One can then return to this insight, again and again, as one’s sole method of meditation — thereby arriving at the goal in each moment of actual practice.

 

It is very difficult to imagine someone’s not being able to see her reflection in a window even after years of looking — but that is what happens when a person begins most forms of spiritual practice. Most techniques of meditation are, in essence, elaborate ways for looking through the window in the hope that if one only sees the world in greater detail, an image of one’s true face will eventually appear. Imagine a teaching like this: If you just focus on the trees swaying outside the window without distraction, you will see your true face. Undoubtedly, such an instruction would be an obstacle to seeing what could otherwise be seen directly. Almost everything that has been said or written about spiritual practice, even most of the teachings one finds in Buddhism, directs a person’s gaze to the world beyond the glass, thereby confusing matters from the very beginning.

But one must start somewhere. And the truth is that most people are simply too distracted by their thoughts to have the selflessness of consciousness pointed out directly. And even if they are ready to glimpse it, they are unlikely to understand its significance.

 

Embracing the contents of consciousness in any moment is a very powerful way of training yourself to respond differently to adversity. However, it is important to distinguish between accepting unpleasant sensations and emotions as a strategy — while covertly hoping that they will go away — and truly accepting them as transitory appearances in consciousness. Only the latter gesture opens the door to wisdom and lasting change. The paradox is that we can become wiser and more compassionate and live more fulfilling lives by refusing to be who we have tended to be in the past. But we must also relax, accepting things as they are in the present, as we strive to change ourselves.

[…]

Happiness and suffering, however extreme, are mental events. The mind depends upon the body, and the body upon the world, but everything good or bad that happens in your life must appear in consciousness to matter. This fact offers ample opportunity to make the best of bad situations — changing your perception of the world is often as good as changing the world — but it also allows a person to be miserable even when all the material and social conditions for happiness have been met. During the normal course of events, your mind will determine the quality of your life.

 

The human nervous system is plastic in a very important way — which means your experience of the world can be radically transformed. You are tending who you were yesterday by virtue of various habit patterns and physiological homeostasis and other things that are keeping you very recognizable to yourself, but it’s possible to have a very different experience… It’s possible to do it through a deliberate form of training, like meditation, and I think it’s crucial to do — because we all want to be as happy and as fulfilled and as free of pointless suffering as can possibly be. And all of our suffering, and all of our unhappiness, is a product of how our minds are in every moment. So if there’s a way to use the mind itself to improve one’s capacity for moment-to-moment wellbeing — which I’m convinced there is — then this should be potentially of interest to everybody.

 

 

 

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Why I feel what I feel?

22nd January, 2017. I’m here on a sunday just sitting on my couch thinking incessantly. It’s calm and quiet outside in this cold cloudy winter morning but I wish it was calmer and quieter inside me. I was thinking about how we feel. When I woke up day before yesterday, I felt resentful, hostile; yesterday when I woke up, I felt somewhat afraid, somewhat neutral and today now that I am awake, I am feeling analytical, bit hopeful. I can dig deeper and always using causality relationship, can approximately analyze what happened the last night or last day and bring a reason for my feeling such and such. On a certain moment, there’s various feelings I can feel. I can feel differently for a same incident which means that I can not give a definitive answer for why I feel what I feel. But there’s definitely two big sets of good and bad feelings. I may be able to categorize my feelings as good feelings versus bad. As our emotional, psychic or spiritual interests go, we tend to crave for good feelings but who will disagree that most of the time you are just craving for it and what you really have are complications inside you. But whenever I feel now a days that cravings, I banish myself asking – who told me that I need to feel good, weren’t my bad days were the days that pushed me to change myself. But is it the hope then for a good day that pushes you through your bad day? And when good day comes, you try to celebrate and you get the justification for all your struggle. But are all lucky that way? What if your struggle never stops and you never succeed. So, is there any alternative to this hope based model for living? I certainly based my life on my hopes and dreams. And I can tell you when your hopes and dreams are destroyed, you will feel to cease yourself. This model constantly requires you to be resilient, requires you to create new hope and new dreams when all your old hopes and old dreams are gone. But the problem is you may sometimes have deep attachment with some of these which may be very crucial for your existence. Life is cruel, life is full of struggle, so I don’t think any static model can give answers to all problems in every kind of circumstance perpetually. The complexity of life requires constant awareness and inspection and the ability to change.  What is that brought dissatisfaction to life? Oops, that’s such a big question, right? Isn’t it that you want something and you fail to achieve it is what that causes all discomfort? So, your desire is the cause of your sufferings then? That’s why people go to solitary places, monks confine themselves in caves, an urban monk detaches himself from everything surrounding him- at least tries to, so all are to try to not desire or at least not to desire for some time being? Because our knowledge of our psychology shows that you can not use your logic against strong deceptions, illusions. I have watched several TED videos now on predictable irrationality, cognitive influence and it’s well-known, you just can’t avoid being deluded, influenced. So, what you subject yourself to will influence you and will lead you. Now, when you ride a horse, in every turn you pull so that your horse can choose the right direction, but when there are no turns sometimes you just let your horse ride by its own. Do you really always want to control your emotion? You don’t. Because then you will miss a lot but also you don’t want to get lost either, you don’t want to feel deceived either. So, you have to watch your steps sometimes. I was feeling to sum up a lot of other thoughts but I will keep it short today as I will have to go. There’s always something else that tide me over.

 

Just writing

I think everyone at some point in life wishes that there’s some meaning or purpose of the life they are living. And I think most people have some sort of sense of purpose that help them move to their next moment. Some derive the purpose from their religion, some find it in pursuing happiness, some find it in their job. Billions of people are around me and almost everyone is living a slightly different life than mine. Sure, there are similarities. But what I mean is that everyone has their own individual world, own purpose of why they are doing what they are doing. I was watching the TV show Vikings and it struck me in so many ways. The morals that we have were way different back then. What is good for society, what is right versus what is wrong was quite drastically different in ancient times. The conflicts between in group and out group are still prevalent. Do you kill your husband or wife because of adultery?  Can you love someone but be wife or husband of someone else? Can you raise someone else’s  baby in your wife’s womb? How you act when all your efforts come down to failures. What makes you famous, what makes you remarkable? How we have changed into a society where we feel the necessity of knowledge? There’s so much that was different. So, are we better? May be we don’t even need to look at ancient times. In our modern life, culturally a part of middle east is so different than this small city of Midwest US. We can all say that everywhere in the world there are some changes compared to the past. But still the norms, structures, activities are quite significantly different. Now, at an individual level, at any certain moment, you are living somewhere. You can not live in two places at the same time in your physical world. But you, having an experience of difference, can create multitude of virtual world inside you, you can compare, you can judge and you may act upon your thoughts, your beliefs. A woman who is wearing hijab, a man who is following some Hindu ritual, a priest who is being ascetic in a city like Paris or like Chicago where most are drinking, singing, dancing and consuming everything the capitalistic culture provides, is definitely living in a different world within their surrounding physical world. It’s astonishing how our thoughts, beliefs can take over our reality, or shape our reality. How same things mean so differently to different persons? Anyway, sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom all these. What do most people do? I think thinking about all these are pretty exhausting for most. That’s why people stop thinking, stop worrying. Yeah, by thinking, by worrying too much, what can you change really except stressing yourself? But then we can argue that if you can not critically think, you will miss a lot of things. I am drinking in a bar in this Saturday evening, waiting for some friends and writing everything that’s passing through my head. What I feel like, everything I or and my body does is just to pass this moment. Sometimes I’m enjoying the moment and sometimes I’m not.

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I was reading “On the Genealogy of morals” by Friedrich Nietzsche. It is a very dense book to absorb and I felt like I need to read it again and again and also read some explanations by others. I found a good review on goodreads that I am feeling to post here just to keep track. Thanks to Rowland Bismark’s Reviews.

On The Genealogy of Morals is made up of three essays, all of which question and critique the value of our moral judgments based on a genealogical method whereby Nietzsche examines the origins and meanings of our different moral concepts.

 

The first essay, “‘Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad‘” contrasts what Nietzsche calls “master morality” and “slave morality.” Master morality was developed by the strong, healthy, and free, who saw their own happiness as good and named it thus. By contrast, they saw those who were weak, unhealthy, and enslaved as “bad,” since their weakness was undesirable. By contrast, the slaves, feeling oppressed by these wealthy and happy masters, called the masters “evil,” and called themselves “good” by contrast.

 

The second essay, “‘Guilt,’ ‘Bad Conscience,’ and the like” deals with (surprise, surprise) guilt, bad conscience, and the like. Nietzsche traces the origins of concepts such as guilt and punishment, showing that originally they were not based on any sense of moral transgression. Rather, guilt simply meant that a debt was owed and punishment was simply a form of securing repayment. Only with the rise of slave morality did these moral concepts gain their present meanings. Nietzsche identifies bad conscience as our tendency to see ourselves as sinners and locates its origins in the need that came with the development of society to inhibit our animal instincts for aggression and cruelty and to turn them inward upon ourselves.

 

The third essay, “What is the meaning of ascetic ideals?” confronts asceticism, the powerful and paradoxical force that dominates contemporary life. Nietzsche sees it as the expression of a weak, sick will. Unable to cope with its struggle against itself, the sick will sees its animal instincts, its earthly nature, as vile, sinful, and horrible. Unable to free itself from these instincts, it attempts to subdue and tame itself as much as possible. Nietzsche concludes that “man would rather will nothingness than not will.”

 

Nietzsche is difficult to read because he demands that we overturn or suspend many of the assumptions that our very reasoning relies upon. He is one of the Western tradition’s deepest thinkers precisely because he calls so much into question. If we can come to understand Nietzsche’s genealogical method, his doctrine of the will to power, and his perspectivism as all linked, his arguments will become much easier to follow.

 

In Nietzsche’s distinction between a thing and its meaning, we find the initial doubt with which Nietzsche unravels so many of our assumptions. We are generally tempted to see things as having inherent meanings. For instance, punishment is at once the act of punishing and the reason behind the punishment. However, Nietzsche argues, these things have had different meanings at different times. For instance, the act of punishment has been at times a celebration of one’s power, at times an act of cruelty, at times a simple tit-for-tat. We cannot understand a thing, and we certainly cannot understand its origin, if we assume that it has always held the same meaning.

 

Central to Nietzsche’s critique, then, is an attempt at genealogy that will show the winding and undirected route our different moral concepts have taken to arrive in their present shape. Morality is generally treated as sacred because we assume that there is some transcendental ground for our morals, be it God, reason, tradition, or something else. Yet contrary to our assumption that “good,” “bad,” or “evil” have always had the same meanings, Nietzsche’s genealogical method shows how these terms have evolved, shattering any illusion as to the continuity or absolute truth of our present moral concepts.

 

Because they can have different, even contradictory, meanings over the course of their long life spans, Nietzsche does not believe that concepts or things are the fundamental stuff that makes up reality. Instead, he looks beneath these things to see what drives the different meanings that they adopt over time. Hiding beneath he finds force and will. All of existence, Nietzsche asserts, is a struggle between different wills for the feeling of power. This “will to power” is most evident on a human level, where we see people constantly competing with one another, often for no other purpose than to feel superior to those that they overcome.

That a thing has a meaning at all means that there is some will dominating it, bending it toward a certain interpretation. That a thing may have different meanings over time suggests that different wills have come to dominate it. For instance, the concept of “good” was once dominated by the will of healthy, strong barbarians, and had the opposite meaning that it does now that it is dominated by the will of weak, “sick” ascetics.

 

According to Nietzsche, then, a belief in an absolute truth or an absolute anything is to give in to one particular meaning, one particular interpretation of a thing. It is essentially to allow oneself to be dominated by a particular will. A will that wishes to remain free will shun absolutes of all kinds and try to look at a matter from as many different perspectives as possible in order to gain its own. This doctrine that has deeply influenced postmodern thought is called “perspectivism.”

Nietzsche’s inquiries are thus conducted in a very irreverent spirit. Nothing is sacred, nothing is absolute, nothing, we might even say, is true. Our morality is not a set of duties passed down from God but an arbitrary code that has evolved as randomly as the human species itself. The only constant is that we, and everything else, are constantly striving for more power, and the only constant virtue is a will that is powerful, and free from bad conscience, hatred, and ressentiment.

 

Nietzsche’s main project in the Genealogy is to question the value of our morality. Ultimately, he argues that our present morality is born out of a resentment and hatred that was felt toward anything that was powerful, strong, or healthy. As such, he sees our present morality as harmful to the future health and prosperity of our species. While the “blonde beasts” and barbarians of primitive master morality are animalistic brutes, at least they are strong and healthy. On the other hand, our present ascetic morality has “deepened” us by turning our aggressive instincts inward and seeing ourselves as a new wilderness to struggle against. Nietzsche’s ideal is to maintain this depth and yet not be ashamed of our animal instincts or of the life that glows within us.

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Zlenko

On Art and Aesthetics

Serguei Zlenko at work

“My approach to art evokes a Wittgensteinian philosophical equation which holds that, ultimately, the reality of existence is something which cannot be reduced to logic or pure fact or, as Renoir had it: ‘There is something in the painting which cannot be explained, and that something is essential,'” says Serguei Zlenko, born in 1960 in Georgia, educated in Moscow and now based in Helsinki, Finland. “While the tradition of realism constitutes the foundation of my art, the works always approach reality as a challenge, as something which must be interrogated by both painter and viewer.”

Serguei Zlenko’s subjects include detailed topographical studies (land- and seascapes), ballet rehearsals and performances, carnivals, domestic portraits and mysterious surreal works containing marionettes and sculptures and quills and parchments. One notable work shows a shower of currency notes. All paintings are bright and colourful, radiating some very positive vibes.

The artist is a member…

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