Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming Into Being: Reinventing The Self & The World

Reality is immense. Reality exists with or without us.

This is the utter truth which wise men through the ages have been trying to say to human beings of all ages. This reality is the perennial background of the story of mankind.

Against this ultimate reality is the narrow perception of the world according to individual human beings.

We come into being the moment we gain consciousness.

This is regardless of the view of other people of us. They may have seen us toddling around at infancy but we may remember nothing. We remember from a certain age and it is that certain age that we have our consciousness - and memory.

As we grow older, wisdom comes as layers and layers of consciousness - our realisation of the different aspects and degree of the perennial reality.

But there is a difference between the moment of consciousness/memory and the moment of our realisation of the different aspects and layers of reality.

From birth, we are conditioned by our caretakers to survive as a member of a social unit and as a specie. It is only when we come into realisation that we are each an individual that we come into our own individual being. Instead of being a pre-programmed robot, we try to re-programme individual ourselves. It is that tweaking of our in-built programme that we come into our own being, in the way of imagine ourselves to be.

As a result, we also reinvent our own world. The larger reality exist by itself irrespective of us, but the way we see the world and the way we interact with the world is defined hopefully by ourselves, but most of time by the society in which we find ourselves in.

If we disagree with our pre-conditioning, then we have know how we want to re-condition ourselves by the principles by which we want to live and by the habits which we want to cultivate. This is where all the talk about the examined life and the cultivated or cultured man/woman comes in.

In redefining our individual selves, we are in fact putting our selves together to make ourselves an individual whole. This recreation of self is necessarily ego-centric. But the existence of self does imply that one will be selfish although one is likely to be. The existence of the ego does not mean that one has to be egotistical. The sharing of self with other selves is not selfish, although it may be seen as egotistical but it is really up to the individual to know and deal with it personally and privately.

Once the self is sorted out, the rest of the job of living is simply to survive bodily with the least psychological stress. This is contentment and happiness. The self is settled and one can sit quietly and permanently like a stone, without a care in the world and most likely without a thought of any kind.

But the moment a thought enters the mind, mental activity takes place - which is likely to be concerned with the external physical world, and with the inconveniences and aesthetics of the body and with the problems of the cohesion of societies. This is where the inventions of the mundane world come in.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Being Creative, Being There

It has taken me quite a bit of time to put my thoughts on this one together, because it is an extremely difficult area to treat. What do we mean to be creative?

I hold reality to be infinite, and hence incomprehensible to mankind - man or women of any kind - given the finiteness of our senses. We have difficulty already with what we can see - this is why the early Europeans made such a big deal about their "discovery" of the "new" world. The world is always there, but their discovery belated (and some would wish never). We have already made some discovery peering into the dark skies or deep into inner spaces. Some may even have claimed perception of another world, in another mind or mind-frame. So, in this sense, creating is nothing but the "discovery" of that which is already there in the first place but which our senses have not been able to reach before (to paraphrase an old beer advertisement). So, in this sense, being creative is to be there first, and return to tell the tale. (Unable to return and tell a good story sends one to the madhouse.)

Being creative, therefore, means to have seen another world or another aspect of the world and to be able to describe the "new" world in such a way that human beings can find applications to remove yet another level of uncertainty of life on earth.

For creativity, therefore, I give high marks for the "creation of the world" stories which are probably reflective of the height of human imagination, reflecting the most intense of human anguish. The myths, the religious as well as the so-called scientific, the latter being extremely hard to provide the evidence as well, or to prove or to show concrete results. All "creation" stories and theories are based on faith, religious or scientific.

The importance of stories or theories is that they provide a tentative basis for explaining why certain things happen in a certain way or not in a certain way. They help us to understand ourselves and the world around us, and life as we know it to be.

I am sure all of us are brought up on one set of stories, and by the time we die, we would probably have created our own little stories or amendments to the traditional stories for retelling to our grandchildren (by then, our children would have their own competing stories to tell). Traditions (folk, religious or historical) can have a significant influence on creativity by weighing it down, but for the imaginative, it may provide a fallback for some ways to take flights of fancy.

There are but three ways of trying to be creative. The first is to see a table with an optimal number of four legs, figure whether it can stand on three (which we know it can) or two (which we do not know). The second is to see a table and a chair and try to figure out whether there is a furniture that lies between a table and a chair (you figure it out). The third way is to "dream of things that are not and ask why not?" as per George Bernard Shaw. The third way of course is open-ended, as varied and as far as the mind can go.

If mind is the constraint, then how do we think when we want to get creative? (I believe we are back to square one as far as this post is concerned.)

There is an infinite number of layers of existence right before our eyes, our noses, our ears, our fingers, our being.

I am sure many of us have experienced all kinds of weird stuff in our dreams, and are unable to explain, recall or use, so we simply dismiss them.

It is unfortunate that the stuff which we all acknowledge to be creative are only those stuff which strikes a cord in the heart of every person (and hence comes down as stories or myths) or which could be made into useful products (and hence comes down as stories or urban legends). The genius is the person whom we salute as whom we are not.

If therefore we were to put aside the commercial aspect of life, then I would there to venture that most of us are creative in our way of living, venturing into all avenues which we are not able or unwilling to disclose to the rest of the world, our own secretive world of great intimate knowledge and great intimate feelings and emotions as we explore our own little world to our own little self. This must have been how all the great religious ones felt when they felt inspired by the divine and expressed those emotions in terms which the ordinary people even today tend to hold to ridicule.

The way to be creative therefore is to unrestrained which means also not to seek public approval which means also to be an introvert. So, by definition, the creative world is understated. The only lament that economic and industrial leaders have over creativity is over commercialisable creativity - this lament is more a reflection of greed rather than of conceit.

Be there, and there will be creativity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nothing, Something: The Beginning of Creativity

We have now come to a stage - a state - which, to me, is probably the most exciting. This is the state of no-mind, no-nothing, the void. While it may be natural to think that after death - after the end of something - there is nothing - or could there is anything - what, to me is quite interesting and exciting is that it could be the beginning of something - which I am always inclined to think - that it could be something new.

When something disappears, it disappears from sight or any one of the senses that perceives the thing or phenomenon. It depends on our ability to see or to sense.

If we were to try to understand how things come into existence in this world, it is our own sense of perception, our own sense of detection, and, I would add, the strength of our memory to retain what we have perceived or how we perceive. I am always conscious that there are many things that are happening right in front of me but, if I do not see them, they do not exist for me. Even if I am absolutely mindful, there is still my sphere of perception at any moment and the level at which I am perceiving. There is also the rate or pace of perception - how fast I can perceive at any one time. And I have come to realise that what we perceive, in the end, depends on our mental preparedness to perceive or observe, the sharpness of our focus and the power of our concentration. Or, are we simply just "absorbing" everything into ourselves, as most of us are apt to say?

Against a blank canvass, what comes out or what comes into our minds?

I am keenly interested in this because I try to indulge in this phenomenon called creativity. People are now no more interested in "thinking" - they want thinking "outside the box." They are no more interested in creativity - they want a "new paradigm."

So, how do we go about it? It goes right back to the point I have touched on before in one of my earlier posts about how we think. If I may reposition the sequence of thinking here, we start with (1) Wonder at the world: how to understand the wonders of the world and how to explain them. Myths and stories are then created. This may be considered primitive because it is probably the oldest form of knowledge, but I won't sniff at it because, if we are to wonder at the universe and the immense greatness of the skies as the Hubble Telescope can should us and the immense intensity of the inner world that the electronic microscope can show us, we continue to be dabbling with myths and stories insofar as trying to articulate our understanding or realisation of nature to the person next to us. The String Theory or the Big Bang Theory, for example. Or, what Stephen Hawking is trying to articulate about his perception of nature. They may put old myths to the world, but they themselves may just be new myths. (2) The most arrogant are probably what I would call the "hard" scientists - the "natural" scientists - those who work with data about the natural world. Those data are "hard" only insofar as they are filtered by their measuring instruments. Sure, at that level of observation or abstraction, they can put together what they think is a coherent sequence of cause-and-effect which they called "theory." But, at a deeper or greater level (which nobody knows yet), they could be entirely mistaken - as history has shown. Of course, in the land of the blind, the one-eye jack is the king - which goes to show the importance of knowledge - to know what other people know; or the importance of wisdom - to know what you do not know, and to know what others do not know as well. (3) It is the dissatisfaction with the narrowness of logical thinking that Edward de Bono comes up with what he called Lateral Thinking as a juxtaposition to logic - to show that there is a way out of this quagmire and into the land of the free and easy by having the confidence to link what appears at first to be unconnected entities and with effort to throw away the prejudice and try to look at the essence of each individual entities and find a connection at the core or centre. (4) The No-Mind stuff then takes the mental exercise one step further into the void and see if anything would come of it, not without trying, but without the mistake of putting the hackneyed foremost in one's mind all the time and thereby blocking any new insights that may arise automatically in one's mind with the natural passage of time without any distraction from the mundane world where every little bits and pieces or elements of life may turn into a potentially disruptive spoiler of one's effort to see a new perspective or a new image of the ordinary. Remember, in absolute reality, nothing changes and everything is unchanging, by definition. It is only our mind that changes.

In my mind, it is not easy to be creative, if we want to be strict about creativity. It is easy to do the same old stuff a bit differently. It is easy to do a slight change by modification or repackaging or rebranding - it is still the same old stuff. It is very difficult and challenging to come up with something that is entirely different, for it must satisfy a new thereto untapped demand or desire or fancy of human beings. To be "out of the box", one probably has to be out of the normal ordinary mind which means that one can seek no approval from anyone, not even oneself, if you have not probably understood yourself. This is why many of us buy into new products because you say "This is exactly what I want or what I have always wanted but could not find until now."

It is my guiding principle, when I am trying to be creative, is to use myself as a benchmark as a test as to what is really needed, for if I can satisfy myself, I am sure there will be another who also needs it. I read that Stephen King wrote the horror thrillers because he likes horror thrillers and could find no good horror thrillers for his enjoyment. While market research may be great, but I think there is no greater source of truth or inspiration than the depth of one's own being.

Therefore, when I contemplate death in my earlier posts, I wasn't just thinking about the end of a life or the end of an object, but also the end of a time, the end of an era, the end of an idea, the end of a phenomenon, the end of an economy, the end of a business cycle.

In our current attempt to transform the economy, are we really in the state of a new beginning with new thinking and new ideas and new paradigms or are we still stuck in the same old rut in the same old tattered mat with the same voices crying for the same old milk while the poor maid is trying to pacify those voices by promising that many nice things are coming their way or are surely coming their way? As you can tell from my postings on those topics, I do not think that we have done more than just shuffling feet to make some noise.

I am more concerned with individuals - which means individual readers of this blog and this post - and to be helpful by providing some pointers as to how to get each one of ourselves going and moving ahead, despite the rough terrain that each and everyone of us have to traverse on our own.

I am convinced that the world does not need geniuses. The world has always been run by normal people with average skills and average exertion. But the world does need one and, if lucky, two geniuses to get it going. In the current era, we have seen the wonders done to the world by the many geniuses of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, etc., who I reckon are all babies of the Hippy era. So has the current crop of babies, big and small, lived beyond the comfort of their finger-activated otherwise stationary world in front of flickering lights training their little minds to a narrow group of mental signaling traffic. Would the best that they can think of be within that lighted box, or will it be something that is earth shattering?

So, at the point of the void after death is the point of the void of a new beginning. This is the point of the greatest source of creativity, and the degree of the greatness of the creativity will be defined by the degree of the blankness and the degree of the absence of memory of the past but with the greatest attention to what is right in front of our noses.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Existence After Death, and Before

I am trying to avoid the standard term - Life After Death, or Afterlife - principally because I belief that, after death, life as we know it does not or will not exist.

Life as we know it is life with the physical form for people - and even that I do not think human beings have not even accepted life in all human forms to the same.

So, I think the best that we can try to discuss is existence after death.

Wisdom dictates that we do not discuss what we do not know.

Siddhartha kept what his disciples have called the "Noble Silence" - he just won't not talk about it.

Confucius scolded his students: "You don't even what life is all about, you want to talk about life after death!"

From the scientific point of view, or rather to come to grips with possibilities in the scientific terms that we now understand: Life as we know it is life in dimensions we know - basically sensory dimensions. The blind has one dimension less. The blind and deaf has two dimensions less. The blind and deaf and dumb as three dimensions less. The blind and deaf and dumb and no-touch as four dimensions less. And so on. But there is life as we know it.

Once we die, logic tells us that there could be other dimensions - which are totally different from the dimensions that we do know. Now, this is purely speculative and we really do not know what that "existence" is even if we encounter it.

If that is the case, then we really do not care.

What do we really care in this existence?

I think there are two basic concerns in this existence - this bodily existence, and hence the concerns only deal with the survival of the physical form: nutrients to sustain the body and sex for the continued survival of the genetic proteins.

It is quite interesting to realise that life as we know it knows that each particular bodily or physical form will not survive forever (and this realisation should really knock out lot of nonsense from the activities of some human beings as they waste a huge chunk of their lives trying to prolong their lives).

At the end of the day, it is the prolonging of the survival of genetic proteins that is of interest to life-form in general. While human beings would worry about the future of the human race, in such concerns as over the environment as we know it, it probably should be realised by individual members of the human race that the human race may probably be just a blip in the long history of the existence and survival of life-form.

I have this little theory that as life-form is dwindling in the variety of its manifestations as well as its sizes. I can imagine a time when there is literally an infinite variety of life-forms, from the very big to the minuscule, and that somehow the environment has turned hostile for some or most of them, and the present environment is only good for human beings and some other life-forms. No doubt, the environment will continue to change (I won't say evolve because I do not think the changes are always marginal nor smooth) and human beings will surely disappear from this earth and this world, and all the worldly concerns we have now will also disappear and there will peace on this earth and in their world without the clamour and shenanigans of human critters. (I would like to read the stories told by germs, bacteria and parasites about how they through centuries or millennia have destroyed the evil giants called human beings - which just kept reappearing until some asteroids or other destroyed them for good.)

So, if we are just proteins and other fatty acids and molecules - just as the television or the radio or the handphone or the computer or the internet - then really the existence as we know it is nothing but an illusion caused by the accidental combination of sub-particles which happen to auto-animate and giving the impression to human beings that human beings are really alive - in the way human beings understand life to be. (I can imagine the mountains laughing at the silly human beings, and while having a smoke unwittingly created a volcanic eruption which killed some human beings nearby.)

Our problem is that we choose to see the things we want to see, within the small confines of our narrow perception, and think that the views and realisation - and illumination and enlightenment - that we have derived and obtained for ourselves are such big deals - when they really are not. They do not matter, to us nor to others.

When everything is deconstructed down to their basic components, we are nothing but little bits and pieces that come into shape - and dare I say being - as a result of movement, a shake, a vibration which gives rise to energy - which is a tautology as energy is anything that can cause a movement.

The biggest puzzle for the human mind is how that movement comes about. Who made that first move? Or should it be, how did (does?) that first movement come about?

Some sacred texts say it was a breath. Or it could easily be the release of gas.

Things come into being when conditions are right. But all kinds of things come into all kinds of being as all kinds of conditions exist.

Whether the conditions that come together are the conditions that we want is quite another matter. It is as if we have a say or control. We could be beyond our depth.

My final thought is this: As we do not know where we came from when we were born, we would not know where we would go when we die.

The truth may be that we neither came nor go.

We flicker - and we are lost to the flame.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How I Die

This sounds morbid, but it really takes me to the dead end.

I have been contemplating for a while whether to get here or not. Now, I think it is necessary.

The grammar looks a bit wrong, but it is not. I don't think that the process of dying is in the future, although death is, for now.

But to die is a process that starts, to my mind, at the age of 40 years - the first indication being the loss of the elasticity of the muscle in the eye and I cannot quite see the subtitles on TV as I suffer from long sightedness - which the experts say is a sign of old age.

It takes a while for me to accept that I have started to die, although conceptually and philosophically it does make one feel heroic thinking and talking about dying.

The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying starts by saying: "To know how to live, one must know how to die."

It is a profound statement and puts life and death as two sides of a coin.

In mathematical economics, one is the prime and the other is the dual - as in: if the prime is profit maximisation, the dual is cost minimisation.

In simple English, it is: To live is to die.

This is all theory. The reality and the practical aspects of life makes things a bit hard.

How does one choose to die? How do I choose to die?

All things considered, the best way is the natural way - which translates into biology means the failure of the most vital organ, the heart.

Heart failure is very different from heart attack. Heart attack is a sudden and unexpected (in terms of timing) contraction of the heart muscle (akin to cramps) which jeopardises the circulation of the blood.

Heart failure is the failure of the heart as a muscle as a result of wear and tear over the years, just like the muscles in the eyes which gives long-sightedness; in this case, the increasing failure of the heart to pump and hence the slowing down of the circulation of the blood. Eventually, the decline of the blood circulation affects the whole body system and it shuts down. This is the natural way to die - and, in ordinary language, it is called "to die of old age."

I know a healthy old man who exercised everyday to keep his heart strong. He had a stroke of the throat, and couldn't eat properly and couldn't exercise. He sat on the wheelchair, and died three years after. Now, I know, it takes three years for a good heart to die. That is the down-side of having a strong heart - it just takes too long for the system to shut down.

The heart attack is a much more self-inflicted way of dying. One can have a heart attack by maintaining a nasty temper at every moment every day, eat plenty of fatty meat, drinks well, don't exercise (such as by having a big nice comfortable car), and be involved with tons of projects all at the same time as a sign of great busy-ness in life and a sign of doing well. Well, to live well is to die well. At the appropriate moment that one chooses, one can just fly into a temper and that's it. End of the line.

Not a bad way to go considering the alternatives. Internal organ failure is quite a nasty way to go - the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas, the prostate, the breast, the cervix. These are problematic because of the heart. If the heart fails first, nothing else matters.

Physical handicaps are tough because one has to contend with the disdain of others in society which as a result can really make an otherwise ordinary life quite uncomfortable by disqualifying the handicaps from the mainstream of society. One just can't get into the game, and therefore cannot participate in whatever everybody considers to be the good life.

Unless one is born with the physical handicap, one can become one by doing gangs that think that the way to live is to dismember each other's limbs as a normal form of everyday activity. Sometimes, they over-estimate their ability to maim and as a result kill which then gets them into trouble with the law which gives them life imprisonment which is really a slow death sentence with a full stop.

The conventional wisdom is that we die by the heart as a result of sedentary way of life and eating "good" food, by having a good degree and getting a good job that puts us in a nice air-conditioned room to sit down for eight good hours a day, except the weekend when we sit in the un-air conditioned room in our own house watching TV. Education therefore gives us an early death of younger than 80 (if 40 is the peak of bodily deterioration).

So those who are considered "poor" and "toil the land in the hot sun" gets to exercise as part of living, eat minimal, and stay slim and tough and hopefully not unhappy - unless badly advised by ambitious politicians whose only strategy to get votes and stay in power and become rich and taking from others is to convince these poor people who are doing well one their own that the grass is greener on the other side when in fact the other side is dying from obesity and internal organ failure of all sorts.

Well, of course, everybody dies and it is just a question of the style of leaving. We think we have a choice, but in the end it is Hobson's choice.

In the end, the only way to die is to die happy - by embracing whatever comes, and smile when the time for us to exit is here.

For those who are into this philosophy and thinking and the only moment is now, it means that now is the moment of life and now is only the moment of death. It's a fifty-fifty chance or, I prefer, a zero or one probability.

There is really much that we can think or do about death. Having realised it, to live. That's all. Death is a default, a fallback.