Sunday, March 29, 2009

Triangulating on the elusive woodpecker

Off in the distance i heard the striking of a woodpecker. And the thing about this is that there really was no way for me to find out exactly where it was without moving. From a single perspective it is not possible to find it.

My ears can give me a rough line to it but depth is another issue.

So, to find the woodpecker I had to move to another spot so I could "triangulate" on it and get a better sense of where it was.

Is this the same thing with the meaning of life? Is it not possible to find the elusive hammering of an answer from only one perspective?

This particular riddle might be perfectly fine with me - I have no problem seeking out, finding, observing and feeling from as many perspectives it takes but..... What if all of these perspectives, in this current life as I know it are actually just one perspective?

This leads us to think that the only way to get another perspective is to cross that cloudy veil into the next. (If there even is a "next"). Hmm... For that matter what if I am the woodpecker?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Should I stay or Should I go?

Should I Stay Or Should I Go is the title for an old song by the Clash and it's fitting for what I want to talk about in this post.

It is a neverending question that spins around philosophers. Do you search for the meaning of life within yourself or do you travel and quest to find it? Of course it seems to me that both are necessary. And Paolo Coelho, in his famous book The Alchemist he lays out an excellent answer to this question. And I won't tell you about what he says or how he says it just in case you want to read the book and discover for yourself.

But I want to propose that both are absolutely necessary and here are my arguments for the case.

What would you be like if you were born in a cardboard box? ( The Box Man: A Novel )
And your whole life you lived in this box? The sum total of your experience would be what you experienced within the four cardboard walls. What would your internal dialogue be like? What information had you gathered to help you understand yourself and the world? For one thing the world is, to your experience very simple and small, corrugated and smelling of processed paper.

So, this is a good argument for adventuring out into the world and gathering data and experiences, of which in this world, there is an abundance. And this experiencing isn't just hedonistic. They are important because they enrich you and make you more capable.

But it goes beyond this. Because I believe there are places in the world that are something more than they appear to be. There are places in this world where the wall between what is, and what appears to be, is very thin. The ancient Celts had a name for places like this. They called them thin places.

So, you need both the internal and the external, and the two have to compliment and help each other. You can't just sit in one place and discover the truth and you can't just adventure out looking for the truth. This is the truth.

About Thin Places

I have been working on my third novel for quite a while now and it will be finished soon, the pieces are falling together. But, what I want to say is that well before I heard about thin places A portion of my novel takes place in this large stone structure that juts up into the air. At the top of this structure is a monastery. In the novel I call it Speyer after a town in Germany.

The thing about this place is that I thought I created it on my own. And its a funny thing how just a few days ago I discovered a thin place called Skellig Michael in Ireland. And it has me wondering, because I am Irish, if there is something more to what I have written down in my novel. Is it just a coincidence that I "created" my own Skellig Michael? Or have I been there before?

Anyway, It is now on my list of places to visit.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Being Michael Crichton

There is this great little indy film called "Being John Malkovich". It is a wonderful, quirky and insightful movie where the characters actually find a doorway right into John Malkovich's head. I read somewhere that they were making the movie and when John Malkovich heard about it he volunteered to join in the production. Anyway its a great movie.

But, I am envisioning a movie called "Being Michael Crichton". This comes about because of his recent battle and death to cancer. He was quite an amazing man who did a lot of fantastic things including directing movies, writing blockbuster books and graduating from Harvard as a medical doctor. He had the curiosity to deeply look into many things and the courage to say and do what he believed was right.

I always felt a bit of a kinship with him, I am not sure why, but since I read "The Andromeda Strain" at some point in the early seventies. He went on to pen such amazing works as Jurassic Park.

Now to the point:

Of all the things he has done and written there is one, in my mind, that stands above everything else. It is one of his lesser known books called "Travels". It is a very personal account about his life and his travels in this world in exploration of the external world and in an attempt to uncover the mystery or possibility of another world. Its a remarkable book and I believe it is the only one where we get a real peek at Michael. He was a very private person when it came to his own life.

Anyway, this book had a profound effect on me and I am going to re-read it to see what further insights I can gain from him and his quest to find an answer.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Battling the inevitability of my eyes

When I got to a certain age I started having a little bit of trouble with my vision. I am a heavy reader and this was quite a challenge for me. Right around the time my vision started giving me trouble two people I know, who are the same age as me also started having trouble with their vision. We all ended up getting glasses around the same time.

What's my point here?

Well, this little coincidence got me thinking. Is something going on here? Or is it just a coincidence? I did some research and sure enough, if you have had normal vision eyes since birth it is pretty certain that your vision will deteriorate at a very specific and linear rate. An ophthamologist can tell how old you are by examining your eyes or by just looking at your prescription.

This is mind boggling to me. What is the purpose of this? Why all these changes as we age? Skin, organs, eyesight, hearing, teeth. The whole shooting match. Why the decline? What is the purpose that is being served here?

Ok, this is no big revelation. But the thinking here is that nature always finds the optimal solution and it seems to be a pretty optimal solution to insure no individual of a species lives too long. It is necessary, for flexibility in the species, for new individuals to enter the stream.

That's the easy answer. But are there other possible answers?

How about the "Everybody gets a turn answer?"

It sounds silly but it could be true. The plan could be to give everybody a turn at the mystery and the miracle of life. Why not? Kind of like a pass on the roller coaster. Hey, you had your turn now step aside and let somebody else ride!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Horseshoes, Sneakers, and the Meaning of Life

Horseshoes, Sneakers, and the search for the meaning of life

It is common knowledge that nature finds elegant solutions to problems and amazing answers to questions. This ability of nature is evident in every aspect of life and the lessons nature has for us are manifold - from the mathematical patterns that ants follow in their foraging to the amazing navigation of bees, to the structure and strength of balsa wood and bamboo.

I could go on and on about the solutions nature has found to problems but you already know all about it. We are all aware of the fact. And we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to seeing the ways nature has solved problems.

Of course, this is what the sneakers are about.

I have these really great pair of sneakers that are comfortable and feel really good to run in. They were a gift and I didn't at first realize they were horseshoe shaped underneath - until one morning when I ran in a light coating of snow. Upon a second lap I noticed the horseshoes!
They seem to be very well designed and very comfortable. And an interesting thing about them is the very subtle clip-clopping sound my feet make as I run. It seems to be a kind of feedback and I can get a good sense for the evenness of my running by this subtle clip-clopping. It makes me wonder if horses use their ears to monitor and correct their running?

But, About man and nature:

I do have a couple of criticisms about these sneakers though. First off, in the picture you can see that the horseshoes are backwards! The open end is toward the front.. hmmmm.... And secondly, a horseshoe is not a creation of nature, it is a man made invention that is put on the foot of a horse. I am willing to bet that a sneaker designed after a real horses foot would be even better than the horse shoe design. Just a thought.

Now on to the Chatauqua

There are two distinct parts to this. The first part is the obvious part and in the second part I will be a bit more penetrating.

What nature has to say about the meaning of life

First Part: First of all she says to live according to how you are supposed to live, do the things you were meant to do, in the ways you were meant to do them. Second, be the piece of the puzzle you were meant to be, the good of the whole is good for you too. Eat, sleep, drink, procreate, be fecund, contribute to the circle in the way you do. All of this is easy but is there more?

Second Part: Yes, I believe there is more. I believe you should be grateful and thankful for this mystery and this existence. And this is evident in nature. I have a reasonable proof of creatures actually being grateful here (The thankyou bird)

And you should enjoy and appreciate the mystery of life and your existence in it. I am certain that my cat diitto does. He really revels in the joy of his life and the beauty of things, particularly in springtime. The philosophers Garden

Now for the really hard question. What is the "purpose" of all this? Is it simply to be? Is it to enjoy and appreciate the gift? Is it something more? Is it much less? What is nature showing us?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will I die when I find the answer?

I have been on my quest for many years now and the idea that I will die when I discover the answer to the meaning of life has crossed my mind many times. It's an interesting and very weighty idea. And a bit of a paradox.

Here are some variations on this theme:

Fulfillment of my quest: This is the biggest thing. Often I could consider that when I discover the answer my role here is complete and it's time to move on. Of course that is conjecture because I don't really know if there is anyplace to move on to. I would imagine the answer would answer this question. or maybe it wouldn't.

The quest is the meaning - I definitely do not like this one at all. It says that the meaning of life is the quest itself. Robert Pirsig sums it up pretty well: "Life is not about getting to the top of the mountain, all the life and beauty is along the side and the climb". That's a rough paraphrase of how I remember it anyway. If this were the case I probably would die, of heartbreak. Seems too pedestrian to me.

A Revelation before dying - I also have this thought that each person, just before dying, is revealed the meaning and answer to everything. Seems like a neat package with a great bow but beats me if its true. If it is true I haven't been able to verify it seeing as I am unable to talk to anyone who has been there. And it brings up the added thought that I am attempting to short-circuit the way it is meant to be. If the revelation comes just before or during death then is my search wrong? Will my answer come to me in time (of my dying?) And if I found the answer sooner would I then force the hand and die?

Here is how I feel about the whole question raised in this post.

About a month ago I injured my right calf during a run one morning. It's one of the risks of running in very cold and icy conditions. While it still bothers me, I haven't stopped running. I get out there every morning. Why? Because If I stop to let it supposedly heal, I may fall into the rut of not running and never start up again. Or worse, once it heals I may not run again for fear of a re injury. And that fear is not something I will allow. Same goes for my quest. I will not allow the fear of dying to stop me from questing. Especially seeing as It's only conjecture. Anyhoo, Like Percival I must continue on in my search for this grail of grails.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wisdom, Truth, Honesty and Ethical Dilemmas

Being a seeker of the ultimate truth and the ultimate answer I often puzzle over ethical dilemmas. First off there is always the question of if there is a higher truth to things. I mean that a lot of ethics and morals are based in societal needs. There are a lot of ways we act and think in order to keep the harmony in society. And these values change over time and vary from society to society. As an example some cultures don't mind picture taking but some cultures consider it very taboo to take a persons picture without permission. And some cultures don't permit it at all.

Before you jump and say "when in Rome you follow the Roman rules" I just want to say that this is not my real point. My real point is the question of if there are ethical rules that go above all else and are universal. And by universal I mean the whole tootin universe.

Let me get to my point here. It is a theory I have called "Path Interruption" and it applies to conscious beings (but then again I am not going to say a rock is devoid of consciousness, who knows right?)

Path Interruption

I feel that a potential universal ethic is that of awareness of path interruption. I think that every human being is on his or her own path and he or she must find and follow that path. And, you as a person have to be very careful about that path. You have very limited right to interrupt that path in any way. This ties in very nicely with the ethics of hurting someone else which is bad according to path interruption. You have changed their path. And forcing someone to do something they don't want to do is also a bad form of path interruption.

Now, what about ethical dilemmas and path interruption.

This brings to mind a pretty common psychological test. In the test the subject is told that they are watching some railroad tracks and a train is coming. Now the subject can see three people working on the tracks and they have no idea the train is coming. They are wearing hearing protection and the train will run them right over - it is certain that they will die. Now the subject as an observer of this is right near a track switch where the switch can be thrown and the train will change tracks and avoid the three workers, but, on the other track there is one person and this person will be killed. hmmm... interesting ethical dilemma. So what would you do?

Often times people will choose to kill the one person because its better to save three than one. But, how does the theory of path interruption fit into this? If you do nothing, three people die, true but if you take action one person will die - the difference being that you have taken action and in effect you have, by your action, killed this person.

So, what is the absolute right thing to do? Do you get a karmic point bonus for saving a persons life? Or do you get a karmic minus for killing somebody? Does it really matter?

(The interesting thing to remember is that the choice you make determines the path you take)

So, is it ok to just be an observer in other peoples lives, or is it right to take action based on what you feel is right? I am sure if you asked that one man standing on the railroad tracks alone he would give you a very strong opinion about what you should do and how you shouldn't interrupt his path by throwing the switch.

Where does wisdom fit into this?

I have always considered wisdom to be very important however intangible it is. A good portion of wisdom comes from experience and understanding that many of the rules we live by are not set in titanium. They are good in most cases but sometimes it is best for all parties involved to not follow the rules. This is wisdom on the level of society. But what about the ultimate ethics and wisdom? What is it and how do we acquire it? Or is there even no such thing?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Half a Sufi?

I am not an expert on Sufism but it does seem rather interesting to me. There of course a lot written about it but I will give you my nutshell thoughts on what it is and what it means.

It pretty much can be boiled down to two points, I think.

The first point is the search for truth - and I really like this point which is not unexpected seeing as what this blog is all about and that truth is the thing I seek. So this part of Sufism is something I really like.

But, the second part of sufism is the rub for me. I kind of can sum it up by saying it is all about moving toward enlightenment or purity or a oneness with everything and with god or the god force, or the soul and spirit of the everything.

Now, it seems to me that there is a basic contradiction there - And to point that out let me pose you a question. What if we are perfection? What if there is no need for striving toward anything? What if we are the perfect in every way? If this is the case then the second half of Sufism is not really valid. And the first half hasn't been successfully accomplished because we didn't see that.

Interesting conundrum there. Nonetheless, I am not saying I am right. I have to stick to the golden rule, but what If I am? The implications are staggering.

SO It is possible that I am half a sufi. And if I were to discover the truth (that we need to strive toward) then I guess I would be a whole sufi because I would surely strive toward it.

Okie, Tomorrow I have another interesting essay called " Wisdom, truth, honesty, and the ethical dilemma.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I am heading to Japan and looking for suggestions

I am booked, paid for and all set. I am heading to Japan for a while. The funny thing is that I am going there for reasons other than my quest for the answer to the meaning of life. But, as wonderful and mysterious as the world is I can fold my quest right into the trip. But I don't really know much about Japan, Japanese culture or even Japanese Philosophy. So I have to do some research before I depart. I have some time to do this.

I thought maybe you could give me advice on what to see and what to visit that will help enrich me on my path to enlightenment. Do you know of any special places there that I should visit? Are there any must sees when it comes to the meaning of life, philosophy, religion and wisdom?

Any insight you can lend me will be greatly appreciated. - and even the fact that you are reading my blog is greatly appreciated !!

Thanks - you can email me privately or just post comments. I don't want to say exactly when I am going or how long I will be there - its just prudent internet security :)