Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stream of Consciousness

For what if man was doomed.  The aliveness that is, is its own journey and destination.  So the nihilist believes.

To be free is to have no contradiction inside.  The discontent of civilization is its force within oneself which prevents total freedom.  Civilization is within.  Total freedom can exist only in death.

To be torn is simply the fact of being alive to others.

To collect seeds and see them blown away by the wind.  To see one's offspring devoured by a predator.  Who says birds don't suffer.

In the midst of all this incoherence and chaos, there is absolute stillness.  To center oneself and to be still while the storms, including in one's own mind, rage, is what man is capable of.  And this stillness can be felt in great joy as well as in great suffering.

The self might be a construct, a useful mechanism built by eons of strange twirls of evolution.  The essential suffering of the self is that of feeling that there are vistas of experience which it has not experienced.  To be aware of inexperience and simultaneously, of mortality, is the tragic sense.

"Life is to be lived" is not a meaningless statement, but aliveness can be lost in the cacophony of everyday life.  One of the authentic depictions of death is white noise.  Michael Haneke knew that when he showed the television playing "The Power of Love" and then to meaningless pixel-snow in Der Siebente Kontinent.

The feeling of direction can keep alive those who are trudging through inhospitable terrains.  But a vision of absurdity, of the futility of it all, can strike at times of elevation.  At lower elevations, everything is going somewhere.  At higher ones, there is no destination and no movement.  What shall you fix as the journey's end if you have gone around the world?

Chain gangs still exist in this world.  To respect the chains requires that one admits the larger goodness and worth of the roads, the homes, the fields, the children, the cycle of life.

"The bigger you build the bonfire, the more darkness is revealed." (Terence McKenna)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

To say "just listen" is bad manners

To hear is one thing, to listen another. To hear is to understand the words, to listen is to understand the feeling behind the words.

To listen to someone is to be silent inside, and to not construct a story, or an ongoing commentary track. To first understand what is sought to be communicated, and then to understand where it comes from, and then, to respond.

It is important and part of politesse to not interrupt when someone is in the middle of a monologue. But an inward interruption - an imputation of motive, a disagreement before the monologue is finished, a revulsion born of labeling - though not rude, is as disastrous for understanding as an overt intrusion.

To listen requires passivity as well as effort. Passivity in that no imaginary narrative should form in the listener's mind. Effort in that one needs to be alert, watchful of the body, the expressions, the tonality, the vibes. To fully listen can therefore be exhausting.

To listen is obviously useful, when the other person wants to lighten their heart and talk about something that is bothering them. It is important to let the speaker continue without interruption and to let them complete. Especially if the conversation is about one's relationship with the speaker!

Sometimes, to make someone listen is to share one's pain. Just the fact that now another human being knows and understands what is going on inside oneself is a relief.

Mostly however, to make someone listen is to seek validation for one's feelings or one's point of view. It is to feel good about oneself or to rationalize an act or a plan that is irking oneself.

It is unfair, but all too common, for the speaker to ask for agreement in the middle of their monologue: "Do you agree?" or "Am I right?" Till now only to listen attentively was involved, now even agreement is being asked for. The only correct response to this is: "I am trying to understand your point of view." If the speaker persists with "But do you agree with me?, " then just as one considers some people as bad listeners, one must conclude that the speaker is a bad speaker. One can continue to emphasize agnosticism, till the speaker leaves infuriated or till they understand that agreement doesn't come cheap.

More often than not, an injunction or request to "just listen" is to take the other person's time, and feel good after having vented. It is a veiled way of saying: "You listen to me, but I don't want to listen to your comments or evaluation or judgment or suggestions about what I am talking about."

A communication is an interaction. If you are subjecting someone to "just listen" to your monologue full of problems, then you are also thereby obligated to "just listen" to their response to you. To ask the other to "just listen" and then to refuse to listen when it is one's turn is to take something of value and to give nothing in return.

When one expects the other to spend some effort to understand oneself or a problem, it behooves one to also then spend some effort at listening to their advice to fix the problem. And ideally, if the advice makes sense, to sincerely put it in effect. If you expect the other to be a good listener, then after they have listened, be a good listener yourself.

To say "just listen" is bad manners.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Three Safe Cities

In New York, people don't like to make eye contact with strangers.  There are supposedly, and perhaps not without justification, lots of "weirdos" around.  One can hear police sirens all over, and at all times of the day.  Marked police cars are never out of sight.  All this has some effect: violent crime is almost non-existent in the Big Apple.  There is plenty of graffiti and trash, though, and people regard each other with suspicion.

In Irvine CA, considered one of the safest cities in the US, criminal activity is limited to illegally being in the carpool lane.  There is no graffiti or trash anywhere in sight.  This is a posh, white-collar suburb of Orange County.  But janitors, construction workers and restaurant staff come to this city from less posh cities.  One wouldn't find anyone napping on a street or park bench though, and homeless people are quickly transported out of this town.  Despite the environment of safety, people are quite careful to not take unnecessary risks.  Conversing with someone not at one's own level of affluence is quite rare.

In Baker NV, near the Great Basin National Park, I once gave a ride to two kids in the back-seat of my car.  I was on a solitary road-trip.  I was as strange as they come in that little town, what with my with long hair and my obviously non-Caucasian looks.  The kids were not more than ten years old.  After the ride, they muttered politely, "Much obliged, Sir."  There wasn't a cop for miles and miles.  The road was mostly empty too.  But there was safety in the air, somehow.