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THE BURNING QUESTION

A very dear friend recently proposed that we get together to meditate. I have not seen Salome in some time, and I enjoy much more about her than merely her quaint name, so of course I acquiesced. This is 21st century LA, after all: getting together to meditate is what people do. But my inner voice cautioned me against the pitfalls of such an endeavor. Because meditation is not something to be performed solely within the limited span of 20 minutes twice a day, squished into the midst of a hectic schedule laden with plans and desires and after which we go back to swilling beer and tapping ass, in the parlance of our times. Abiding in stillness, in a mind free of thought and a heart open to the Supreme Oneness which alone is, must be a full-time affair. Still my galpal and I will likely get together and, as I like to say, commune. Which I assure you is not code for tapping ass!

Through meditation we learn what the new physics tells us about questions that have puzzled idealist philosopher…

THE GREAT NOSTALGIA

During the Ventura fires I hosted a family of three who had had to evacuate their place in Ojai. Emmanuel, whom my brother calls our shaman, will be overseeing our ayahuasca adventure this New Year's in Hawaii; and his wife and one year old daughter are precious loves. When I showed them to their quarters, his daughter promptly investigated the space and in so doing knocked a book off the shelf. Her father picked it up to reveal its title: The Book of Mirdad. Emmanuel praised the book, which treats matters of the spirit, and remarked that the eccentric mystic Osho had proclaimed it far and above all others of its kind for its depth and expression. And I replied that though I have perused or at least given a cursory glance to most of the tomes on our guest room shelf, I had never picked up this one, whose author is Mikhail Naimy. So I promised myself to give it a read, and not a moment too soon. For indeed there is so much wisdom within!

How the book arrived on what I call the magic…

WE ARE THE WORLD

The universe does not seem to exist without a perceiver of that universe. Subject and object - the knower and the known - are intimately connected. "Nothing-but-consciousness," as scientists are calling it, must be experienced in order to be truly understood.

The new paradigm in quantum physics, as put forth by physics professor and prolific author Amit Goswami, states that consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all being. After centuries of viewing matter as the basis of life - material realism was birthed by Democritis in 460 BC and supported by the theories of Sir Isaac Newton, which around the year 1665 launched humanity on a several-hundred year course that led to the materialism that dominates Western culture - modern science has now validated an ancient idea established by the mystics for millennia around the globe. Namely, that atoms and their building blocks are made not of matter but of consciousness. Matter is secondary to consciousness, which is the foundatio…

THE OMEGA POINT

In Ira Levin's novel This Perfect Day, we encounter a future race of humans who live harmoniously and as individuals exist exclusively for the good of their fellow beings. They wear uniforms called coveralls and eat nutritious if bland-tasting, environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free cakes. Sex is a sure thing beginning at the age of 12 and occurring every Saturday evening like clockwork. The only problem with this seemingly ideal scenario is that the citizens of the future planet are kept in such a docile state with biweekly infusions of powerful psychotropic medications which they have no choice but to submit to; also, everyone is watched around the clock by Uni, the underground supercomputer that tracks their every move by means of scanners which each person must connect to via metallic bracelet whenever entering and exiting pretty much anywhere he goes. In short, life has become a sort of sterile prison with invisible bars, whose inhabitants don't know they are locked insid…

THE WHO PROBLEM

Reading philosophy as I often do I came upon some interesting concepts. They are only concepts, without any independent reality of their own; nevertheless they serve to shed light on the nature of ultimate reality, provided you can tear yourself away from Tinder and Netflix long enough to consider the implications.

From Metzinger's book The Ego Tunnel we gather the following:

The Ego is an extremely useful instrument. It has helped humans understand one another through empathy and even mind-reading. You can guess what another person is feeling in a given situation by putting yourself in his shoes. This helps us relate to our fellow beings. And by allowing us to externalize our minds through cooperation and culture, the ego has enabled us to form complex societies. The PSM - or phenomenal self model - of homo sapiens is probably one of nature’s best inventions. It is an efficient way to allow a biological organism to consciously conceive of itself (and others) as a whole.

Whatever…

DODGER BLUES

As I strolled to the market I encountered a homeless man who engaged me in conversation. Most of what he said was incomprehensible to me. The man had no teeth. What did register was his statement that the word "evil" is "live" spelled backwards. Does this mean to live is somehow related with being bad? Is evil opposed to Life itself? Is the Devil alive today? Note the similarities in the words for the red guy with the pitchfork and the opposite of good. Before I could ask these questions a shopper approached the homeless man with a hot meal, which the man brushed aside. Perhaps he was on a liquid diet. I went the way of the proffered chicken and moved on.

Evil. One author defines it as "the deliberate infliction of pain on sentient beings." Which I think is a suitable definition. Since when most people think of Satan what comes to mind is his leading people to their ruin for the sheer pleasure of watching poor suckers burn.

Today scientists have nominated a…

JUST PASSING TIME

Not too long ago I was stopped at a traffic light when I looked to my left at the bus idling beside me and saw on its side a spray-painted advertisement for the video game Assassins Creed: Origins. I had never heard of this game, or for that matter seen advertisements for video games on public transportation. I guess virtual reality is a bigger draw than movies. The advertisement made me think of my gaming days, when my high school baseball teammates and I would gather round the original Nintendo entertainment system for all night sessions of RBI Baseball

I was first introduced to video games at the houses of friends. Intellivision and Atari were among the first of their kind. And remember Colecovision? When I was in eighth grade my father bought my brothers and me our own Nintendo, as an early Christmas present in November. By then I was already accustomed to spending hours feverishly gyrating that joystick at sleep-overs, arguing passionately over whose turn it was to play next, an…

TEN BILLION PHANTASMAGORIA

Recent developments in physics suggest that we cannot analyze the universe by dividing it into parts. At the quantum level, "parts" are seen to be in immediate connection, their dynamical relationships depending on the state of the system as a whole. Thus, "one is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analyzability of the world into separately and independently existent parts."

This is the view of the universe the mystics have been alluding to for centuries. If what the mystics and the physicists are saying is true, we are on the threshold of a remarkable age. The role of consciousness can be reconsidered. The world is omnijective, in that it involves both subject and object in a dependent interrelation. In short, as mystic Sri Aurobindo writes, "Existence multiplies itself for sheer delight of being and plunged into numberless millions of forms so that it might find itself innumberably."

As one physicist puts it, &quo…

A RIPPLE IN TIME

My intials are AD, which stands for other things besides Adam Dave. Not just Anno Domini, which is Latin for "in the year of our Lord," the designation applied to those years following the birth of Jesus - as opposed to BC, or before Christ. But AD might also represent the phrase "about death." Thinking of your own body's death is a zesty enterprise, the natural corollary of which is to ask yourself, “Who was I before I was born?” Doing so brings you back to what’s real. 

I asked a friend this question. This was Michael's response:
Who was I before I was born? No one. No thing. Nothing. I strongly believe we are formed. The sperm and the egg produced an embryo, the embryo grew into a baby that was named by our parents. That said, we were simply formed, created if you will.  When the heart stops, our brief existence here on earth is gone. It’s pretty much as simple as that. Humans want to believe there is more, because of life’s complexities, humans are having…

A JOY ALL ITS OWN

The principal pleasure that parenthood provides is that it allows us as adults to examine those, shall we say, unsavory aspects of ourselves in another human being. These aspects, possibly because they are unsavory, may otherwise go unnoticed or even be indulged in as part of the cherished self-image that almost anybody with a "healthy" ego can be said to possess. 
You might think it's cute to be messy, or ditzy, or clumsy, but when a person who is not you fails to cap the toothpaste or leaves his dirty underwear in the bathroom sink, or is always slamming doors or breaking dishes, or smacks her gum or slurs her words when she drinks too much - those traits which, when exhibited by your person, you feel only add to your charm, suddenly become quite a chore when exemplified by another. 

But if that person is your own flesh and blood, an extension of you, an "evolution of your soul," as my own mother was wont to put it, then you may be less likely to react to these…