A Moment In Timeless

Into The End (dragon)As I was leaving the coffee shop, a boy sitting outside asked me if I wrote a Star Trek book. I said no I never wrote a Star Trek book. I let it hang there like that, like it was a possibility that someday in the very near future I could write a Star Trek book–because, you know, I’ve got that kind of clout. It’s a deceptive tactic I learned by watching Steven Greer lectures.

The boy asked, “But you did write a book, right?”

I said, “Yes. I’ve written three. I think the one you’re talking about is a sci-fi horror novel called Into The End–but I don’t think you’d like it.”  I told him that last part reflexively to warn him off of adult material. It really isn’t for kids.

He said he must have gotten Star Trek: Into Darkness mixed up with my book title. He asked me how long it took to write it and I told him that’s a tough question because I actually wrote the first draft back in high school. Then I thought how ironic that I’m warning a kid about 2 years younger than I was when I wrote the thing originally that he shouldn’t read it because of the adult language and themes. I caught myself feeling old.

“Do you like Star Trek?” he asked me.

“Yup,” I said.

“What about Star Wars?”

“Oh, yeah. In fact I like Star Wars better than Star Trek,” I said.

His eyes went wide with a look of nerdom I remember well. “Me, too!” he said excitedly.”It’s got a way better story than Star Trek and way better characters.” He launched into a mini lecture on the greatness  of the Star Wars saga. I caught myself feeling timeless.

I cut him short. I had to catch a bus. “You’re catching a bus?” he asked kind of incredulously. Maybe he didn’t picture a rich writer taking the bus. Or maybe he thought I was blowing him off. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was a poor writer. How do you tell a young boy with his whole life ahead of him, “Chin up, kid. You can be anything you want in life. But, you’ll probably still work a soul-crushing 9-5 job. They don’t teach you that part in school, do they?”

I also didn’t have the heart to tell him I was blowing him off.

Sorry, kid. My generation invented the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate.  It’s people like you–little people–for whom George Lucas invented Jar Jar Binks, the character that single-handedly changed the debate of Star Wars vs. Star Trek to Star Wars vs. Star Wars for my generation.

Then I felt my eyes go wide with a look of nerdom.

On Cults and Culture

As I finish reading Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright, an absolutely fascinating glimpse at the world of Scientology, I am struck by our need as a society, as a culture, to figure out whether Scientology is a cult or religion. We don’t like cults; we call them taboo. Ostensibly, we do this because we associate cults with brainwashing or some sort of mental and/or physical torture–coercive techniques to get one to believe in a person or an idea that one would presumably find nonsensical if not for having been tormented into thinking otherwise. That’s a fantastic reason not to endorse cults. However, we live in a culture. Isn’t that an interesting word? It’s got the word cult built right into it.

So, I ask myself, ‘Self?’ I ask me. ‘What is the difference between a cult and a culture?’ If you look up the definition of culture you find that yes, yes, the origin of the word has to do with the cultivation of the soul–but nowadays it has to do with the education of the people. However, since this education is not universal, we can go ahead and add that religious element right back in there, because let’s face it: what we’re educated to and how we’re educated has everything to do with belief. In America, we’re still straddling that line between the old guard of Judeo Christianity and the new guard of science.

All religions, Yes, including Buddhism, came to prominence in different areas of the world at least in part through torturous coercive techniques. The main difference between the Spanish Inquisition and drinking the Jim Jones Kool-Aid is the time of death. So, the difference between a cult and culture?–A cult must engage in coercive techniques to get you to buy their bullshit, while a culture is built upon the foundation of bullshit coercively earned long ago.

Unlike religion, science has a chance to gain preeminence in-and-as a culture on its own merits, but the human drive to believe is overpowering. Science becomes scientism. Or in the case of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology. If scientists stuck with their ideal of what science is, what they tell the public their life’s work is about, which is basically discovering how everything works, there would be no question of belief. But that isn’t generally what they do. They generally try to boil everything down to a material and mechanical process or an unprovable theory that somehow works out mathematically even if it can’t be demonstrated in reality and then assume that everything that they haven’t discovered will be discovered in one of these ways. So, any information running contrary to their views is considered outlier data is to be scoffed at is to be marginalized is nonsensical. This they call healthy skepticism. You may recognize it by its real name: coercion. In the case of science, the price you pay for unorthodox thought is lack of funding (if you’re a scientist) and being laughed at/made a social outcast (if you’re anyone). New religion. Same techniques.

While scientism may not be as outlandish as Scientology or any of the religious movements we’ve used to tie together clusters of people afraid of  mortality, scientists born of these cultures tend to play by the same rules they were indoctrinated into at birth. This may not be a conscious act, as with the cult leader, but conscious or unconscious the result is the same.

Cults leaders, religious leaders, and scientific leaders claim to have the highest mutually-exclusive truth. In actuality, what they have is the same interest: projecting a dominant standardized meme for people to live by. They only differ in degrees of crazy. That fact in and of itself is crazy.

There’s no point in calling attention to all of the flaws of religions and cults, because I’m sure you’ve thought of them all or heard them all by now. But let me draw attention to something you might not have thought of or heard about regarding how science cannot discover that everything is a material process or a mathematical formula. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. We say this to denigrate the subjective experience as if there is an objective experience to be had. Is there? Or is the objective experience the god-ideal of the scientist?

In religion, one can never be godly so one has to set that up as an ideal and strive to be as close to godly as possible. In science, they claim not to hold beliefs–that’s the whole point, right? To do away with beliefs and figure out what’s objectively what? But there is no objective situation to examine. It’s a belief. The scientist creates an ideal called “the objective world” and then downplays the subjective as a thing for assholes. Problem is, the more we come to understand about how the brain works and how human perception works the more we see that how we view the world–including how we store and recall memories–is completely inaccurate by any objective standard. And since all we have to perceive the world with is our inaccurate selves, how could we ever perceive an objective anything with a 100% degree of accuracy?

More concretely, about opinions, science won’t ever be able to tell you why you find one piece of music stimulating and why you find another boring. It doesn’t matter how much your brain lights up under an fMRI while listening to Bach or Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the data will only tell you which part of the brain is being triggered by listening to the song, not why. And not why it makes you feel the way it makes you feel.

Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. And that’s all the proof you need to know that there is more to you than the material processes in the brain/body. But it’s not enough to tell you what that means. And every religion, every cult wants to tell you what that means. Perhaps if there is truth, if there is some objective, universal stage of things… If there is that?–Perhaps it can only be perceived through complete liberation of the conscious and unconscious ways in which we seek it. The first step to figuring that out is to admit the one big secret hiding in all of our coercive chatter. It’s the reason for such chatter and for cults and cultures in the first place: we don’t want complete liberation. We want the ideal of it.

Doing the 1+1 math here, we see that liberation is from the subjective–from the opinion-maker. From you. So, if there is an objective world, you can’t know that you exist in it even if you do exist in it. What are these conscious and unconscious impulses that have to go away if we’re to discover anything beyond them? They’re also you. Who is that scientist scoffing at the worth of the subjective? You. Who is the religious zealot barking down other zealots who don’t believe their zealotry? You.

It’s all subjective. It’s all you.

Get it?

That’s how things are. There is no you apart from the components of you. You are the subjective experience that must surrender to discover if there is anything beyond yourself. You can’t drag the alleged objective to you, for then it enters the subjective sphere and is no longer objective. Right? This is not theory. This is all duh material when correctly stated. I mean just look at it. Duh, right?

So why do we choose duh world over the real?

Every time. Including science.

Throughout the ages.

New disguises.

Same old faces.

Duh.

Welcome to Level III, Ascended Master. Golgon will see you now. He’s over there behind the curtain. If he looks familiar without the smoke and mirrors, that’s because he’s also you. Wanna see a final trick? Read the inscription above the gate to hell. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” What is hell to the subjective?

Level IV awaits your answer.

 

 

 

 

Aumakua

I was waiting for the bus when my friend Jacki waved me over. We talked for a bit, me afraid I’d missed the bus; she sweeping the sidewalk, keeping busy on a slow day at work. I was thinking of going home defeated by Hawaii’s bus system. She said it wouldn’t be a defeat. Who knows what the day will bring? Perhaps I’ll go home and write the next great story.

We got to talking about writing. She suggested I take the bus around the island and write about all the interesting characters I bump into–like that one crazy guy who walks around with a baby doll and a blanket. I said that to do so and make it interesting I’d have to interview him, get inside his head and see what makes him tick. She said no, just watch him and write about it.

I bid her adieu and started walking home when I caught the bus bouncing up the road in the distance. I hadn’t missed it; it was just really late. I hopped on and went about my day uneventfully.

The ride back was far more interesting. Across the isle sat a mother with a baby on her lap and her adolescent daughter to her right. In front of her two middle school girls fidgeted with their phones. Somehow they got to talking with the mother. Turns out  mom is from Alaska and the two girls, Hawaiians, have an uncle moving there. They talked about that and they talked about the ocean. Mom was a surfer but she was always afraid of sharks. “I swam with ten sharks today. Black tip and white tip,” the smaller of the two middle school girls told her nonchalantly.

“You did?” the mom asked.

The girl told her where she went to school, that it was after school, and that her and her sister and some friends decided to go swimming. They were jumping off a pylon where a tiger shark lived, just underneath. At some point they were surrounded by sharks because it’s whale season and sharks are following the whales. But it’s no big deal because she isn’t afraid of sharks. At all. The mother said she would have been scared out of her mind but the girl said, “We use them for guidance.”

“Oh, I see. Like a spiritual thing?” the mother asked.

“Yes. The shark is our guardian. They were there to protect us,” the girl said.  She went on to tell the woman that not long ago her sister was playing in the ocean and some sharks began circling her. But they didn’t harm her because “They’re there for us.” She intimated that sharks would never hurt her or her family because they’re not afraid and they have a different relationship with them than most people. She wasn’t bragging, just explaining.

And I’ve heard this before. Numerous times in different ways–but never from a child. Hawaiians have a completely different relationship with sharks than those of us who grew up watching “Jaws.” Relationship with, not view of. A social anthropologist would say that Hawaiians hold different beliefs about sharks–but to leave it at that is to deny the relationship. The relationship informs the beliefs, not the other way around. And this is one of the blind spots of the Western mind, a holdover from colonization. Colonization demands that belief or prejudice comes first to justify what comes second. You don’t “conquer” equals. You make them primitives or barbarians or savages in your mind. You make them animals and you make animals less than that.

When we erect hierarchies of being like that and place ourselves at the top, we look down to judge, don’t we? All looking becomes a top-down view even with the best intentions. Because we don’t see equals we cannot take Hawaiians at their word that they have such a relationship with sharks–unless there’s some scientific way to verify that sharks pick up on and respond to the lack of fear in the human by way of heart beat or magnetic resonance, scent, whatever material process it is. Until we have that, we cannot fathom that such stories are anything more than stories. And with that, we turn the “real” story into one of cold biochemistry.

But here’s the thing: I challenge any meat eater to spend time with fish. Or chicken. Or cows. Or any of the animals you eat. Spend a lot of time with them, getting to know them, playing with them–not just feeding them but communing with them in whatever way you can, like a friend. Do that for a while and then tell me that you don’t feel it necessary to thank them when you eat their kind. You have to because they’re no longer just “food.” Yes, even fish are sensitive, emotive beings when you’re eyeball to eyeball. It’s not because you’re feeding them or providing them protection from big fish. It’s because they like you. They see you as an equal. And you know something? You’ll see them as an equal, too. Not that we think alike or act alike, necessarily, but there is something exactly the same in all living things–in all things, period–and that something is how we connect. That connection leads to thankfulness and this is the beginning of the natural order of things.

Again, you don’t have to take my word for that. Go be with nature and see for yourself. That’s science. It’s also how things are regardless of science.

I haven’t encountered any sharks yet. I may never. I know plenty of people who have lived here their entire lives and never encountered one. But if I do, I will not be scared. I will be understanding no matter what its reaction is to me in that moment. Something tells me it won’t attack me simply because I’m not Hawaiian. That special trait is ours and ours alone.

Now, where’s that crazy guy with the baby doll? And what makes him crazier than people communing with sharks? Or people who don’t believe that’s possible? Or the guy listening to strangers on a bus?