June, 2014

Jun 14

Fabulous Philological Phantasms

I am not only sarcastic, I’m sarclassic; I’m not only ironic, I’m ironmanonic; I’m not only whimsical, I’m whimwhambangthankyousical; I’m not witty I’m wittastic; I’m not only humorous I’m humorousidelic; I’m not only sardonic I’m sardoniFUNKic; i’m not only intriguing I’m intrigastronomicallysatisfactioning; I’m not only mellifulous I’m melonsizedifulous…

I’m not only not witty, I’m witwitheredy; I’m not only not capable of irony, I’m imoronironic; I’m not only not sardonic I’m sardunceic; I’m not only not whimiscal I’ve got whimsuckitude; I’m not only not humorous I’m humortumorous; I’m not only not mellifluous I’m smellafloorous; I’m not only not intriguing I’m intrigriefinducing; I’m not only not sarcastic I’m sarclueless

Jun 14

The Gurdjieff Work–and the Use of Psycho-Active Drugs

While the following was written for people interested in (or practicing) the Gurdjieff Work, it could be applied to other forms of spirituality too.

Now that marijuana and hashish are on the road to legalization, people in the Work should probably decide how they feel about psychoactive drugs with regard to the Gurdjieffian path. My own view is that narcotic use is counterproductive once one has seriously taken up the Gurdjieff work–but there are howevers and modifiers to apply here.

I was told by my teachers in the Work that Gurdjieff was opposed to their use while one is engaged in the Work. Lord Pentland, a very influential teacher in the work, was quite strictly opposed to any use of narcotics. Late in life, Ouspensky recommended against them–but he tells of his own experiments with Hashish in one of his books. Gurdjieff certainly knew a good deal about mind altering drugs–he wrote discourses on opium and cocaine–and I have no doubt he had some experience of hashish and probably other drugs, early in his search.

That’s a key phrase, to me–”early in his search.”

Here’s what Gurdjieff told Ouspensky: “There are schools which make use of narcotics in the right way. People in these schools take them for self-study; in order to take a look ahead, to know the possibilities better, to see beforehand, ‘in advance,’ what can be attained later on as the result of prolonged work. When a man sees this and is convinced that what he has learned theoretically really exists, he then works consciously, he knows where he is going. Sometimes this is the easiest way of being convinced of the real existence of those possibilities which man often suspects in himself.”

So, Gurdjieff acknowledges that mind altering drugs may have some value at a certain point, for some people. (Other people, psychologically fragile or over suggestible people, should avoid them entirely, in my opinion.) That is, psychoactive drugs, like mescaline, say, or certain mushrooms, or even hashish, may open the curtains on a small window. And one can then look through the window and see a wider world out there: the world of higher consciousness. One may briefly be able to perceive more vividly, more intensely, sometimes more insightfully…One’s “frames per second” in the film of reality will increase in number–more will be included. Often it can seem too much more–the experiencer, without the being to handle the increase in perception, can feel overwhelmed.

While a glimpse of something real can be had there, the view of higher consciousness through drugs is blurred by one’s own mind; distorted by hallucinations, personal obsessions, cerebral wiring. And to me it has always appeared that the more frequently people take a drug, the less real use they’re getting from it.

Gurdjieff, in the quote, spoke of knowing the possibilities better “in advance”. Implied in his putting it that way is that it’s kind of like climbing a tree to see the lay of the land before a journey. But you do not stay in that tree–and don’t try to jump from tree to tree! You have seen something that confirms that there is a place you can travel to. But now you have to find the practical way to get there: step by step, on the ground, with your eyes wide open.

Use of mind altering drugs has risks. It would be irresponsible to recommend it. But I can’t say it didn’t help me a few times, as a young man, many years before I found the Work. It briefly opened those curtains for me and that was encouraging–I learned that there was something more. Ram Dass said that LSD insight is like a business call–once you get the message, you hang up.

Bottom line, what is attainable by work on oneself is far more vital, more rewarding, more nourishing than drug experience. Higher consciousness achieved through the Gurdjieff work is something that accretes in us slowly–but permanently. And it comes to us without hallucinations, or bad trips, or throwing up, or fits of paranoia.

But here comes a however–some people may have legitimate reasons for moderate use of marijuana, or hash or “magic mushrooms”. Medical reasons perhaps, with pot–and there are legitimate therapeutic uses of psilocybin in psychotherapy. I don’t know as these milder drugs should be entirely forbidden to people in the Work–it’s up to those people themselves, of course. It seems to me that someone could smoke their weed occasionally if they’re not foolish enough to come to a work group stoned, or to try to sit in Fourth Way meditation while stoned. My opinion is, they probably won’t find it a terrible impediment to the Work if they do it occasionally, not in a Work context.

Jun 14

You know what’s EASY?

You know what’s easy? What’s real safe and easy, what just makes things so much simpler, is to say, “The Democrats are no better than the Republicans” And to say, “Msnbc? Just more corporate shills!” And it’s easy to say, “Al Jazeera America? They’re working the corporations too”. And it’s so safe and easy to say, “Don’t vote, it’s a waste of time. You just keep the two party system going in this country” and to say “Obama is just another corporatist.”

Easy all inclusive statements that dismiss possibilities are a way of escaping from responsibility. They’re a shortcut that doesn’t take you where you wanted to go after all.

“It’s all hopeless now. Nothing can be changed.” That is a greased slide. It’s easy to just slide down that way of thinking. So some people go for it because it’s a lot easier than really caring, really trying to make a difference.

And it’s sure easier, way safer, way less work, than looking at the actual complexities of the real world.

Jun 14

America’s Plan for Canadians After Our Invasion of that Nation

Some have “joked” of the possibility of the USA invading Canada. The simple baldfaced fact is, climate change will force the USA to invade Canada. There’s lots of room up there–and we will make treaties with Canadians. Our treaties with other groups have worked out fine in the past. The Canadians, after being moved out of their homes, can have a certain amount of land, which we’ll set aside for them.

These Canuck Reservations will have giant water towers filled with Moosehead beer. Really obedient Canadians can have three glasses of Canadian Club whisky every two hours. They will also be working in our maple syrup plantations. They will be allowed to ferment some maple syrup. They will be given Poutine to eat. The reservations will be reasonably comfortable, with every shack having sturdy tin roofs.

Jun 14

Will there be a “hetero pride day”?

Next week is gay pride parade in San Francisco. Have the conservatives ever launched a hetero pride parade, or a “traditional family pride parade”? I know: *every day* is hetero pride day; nearly all the media is a hetero pride parade. Fashions are all about enhancing reproductive suitability symbology.

An all inclusive sexuality pride parade would not be a bad thing…excluding bestiality fetishists and pedophiles–cruelty, as such, is not sexuality. Cruel sexual acts, like rape, child molestation, and bestiality, would not be permitted. Consenting adult humans would be the common factor in the parade. I exclude consensual S&M and B&D when speaking of cruelty–consenting adults engaging in B&D and S&M would be invited to the inclusive sexuality pride parade. As long as people don’t end up really harmed, and as long as it’s about consensual ADULT humans, it’s not cruel.

Can you imagine how DULL a traditional family pride parade would be, to watch? And one thing that is NOT dull is a gay pride parade.

Jun 14

…and a Switch is Thrown in the Brain

Group identity empathy fall-off. I’ve called it various things over the years. I think it comes up as a theme in fiction a good deal–Jackson’s The Lottery, The Ox-Bow Incident. More pronounced the bigger the group: identify with a corporation, while at work you’re likely to feel less empathetic. The same guy who, at Enron, laughs on the phone about some old lady getting screwed over probably goes home and kisses his kids and gives money to a charity.

“Oh the gangster looks so fright’ning /With his luger in his hand/ But when he gets home to his children/ He’s a family man” – Rolling Stones lyric.

Strong nationalist identity, carried to an extreme beyond ordinary patriotism, suppresses empathy. The same people are capable of empathy, often, in other circumstances…sometimes with the target of their ordinary hate, if they meet them individually.

Once the group gets big enough, the group we identify with, a switch is thrown in the brain.

Unless…we add in some form of more objective consciousness. Then we can choose whether to identify with the collective agenda, or not. But there’s something wired into us that makes it unlikely we can make that choice, unless we’re schooled to make it; unless we’re awake enough to make it.

Jun 14

Size Matters?

When I was a kid (and this happens to many people) I had an overwhelming sense of insignificance when I contemplated what we knew of the cosmos even then. I thought, Oh, I’m tiny, hardly more than an ant or a bacteria, in the scale of things, and strikingly temporary, so nothing matters. But I grew out of that, partly because, as I told my sons, we are sentient beings and in the unthinkably vast cosmos, and while there are certainly others out there somewhere, they are rare.

Yes other sentient life exists, on other worlds, but is exquisitely rare, astoundingly rare, because of all the factors naturally working against it, and all that must happen to fall into place to make it possible.

Hence we are, in that sense, not insignificant, we are gemlike rarities: organized matter that is aware of itself. Not unique, but rare. Special. If anything is special, that is.

Jun 14

A Cognitive Experiment that could Involve Bees or a Scrapyard or…

Exercises described “out of school”–kind of uncool to do, if it’s a real esoteric school. But sometimes our experience in working gives us a chance to come up with our own little variations. One exercise in awareness I like is, taking a walk, to look at things with a new three dimensionality, more inclusivity in seeing, in a particular way. This could be done with anything–a scrap yard, even–but I walk near gardens and tend to use flowers, plants, whatever’s there. Garden hose included. It’s like this: I stop and look at some lavender plants, in bloom; I see bees going from one to the next. Beside them are some yellow flowers. I deliberately try to see the lavender plants first (arbitrarily picking them) in as focused a way possible, then I keep that focus and awareness of them, in the present moment and maintaining some sensation of the body, and I then include the bees. I see the bees too, the way I see the lavender, both; then I include the yellow flowers. Then, perhaps, a stick lying amongst them. Then a bit of concrete nearby, in the same view.

I keep the awareness of each of these objects simultaneously in my vision, in the present moment with sensation of the body, having added them one at a time, and I get a sudden additional quality of three dimensionality. The point is the simultaneity of perception of each thing, to the degree possible. I then include the space between them–but that is perceived mostly as a sort of field of feeling. I maintain my attention to the body, keeping all these things in my mind. I then add sounds, if I can. I try to keep this for a few moments–it’s not easy.

The process, for me, yields remarkable results. Again, it could be done with a pile of tools and some cardboard, too. It doesn’t have to be something “pretty”.

Jun 14

Identity Theft is Real–I stole Mine

Identity theft is a real thing. I mean the original kind. What sometimes happens is that when the identity thief steals an identity he forgets he stole it and thinks he was always that person. I’ve pretty much forgotten who I was before I stole my current identity. Sometimes though I do remember my original identity, before John Shirley. I was Elliot Furbell. “Putz” Furbell to his friends. Anyway, to his acquaintances. He…I… had almost no chin, very bad skin, an extremely long neck with an extra-protuberant adam’s apple. I also had a speech defect. I didn’t like it. Then I read an old book, in Latin, on identity theft.

And I found John Shirley. And people said I was a putz. What a twerp Shirley was. He had a desirable form and he wasn’t using it intelligently. So I took it. Sometimes he comes back, ghost-like, and complains. I tell him to go to Hell. He doesn’t have the will, the sufficiency of being, to resist the order. So back to Hell he goes.

Jun 14

An off the cuff review of the new TV series CROSSBONES

Saw the first episode of the NBC show CROSSBONES with John Malkovich as Edward Teach (Blackbeard). It’s about piracy in the grand old days of pirates. It seems to be part of this television phenomenon of creating loveable evil people, like Dexter and the television series version of Hannibal Lector or The Blacklist or The Following or…there are a couple of others. Malkovich has never been better, actually, than playing this over-the-top witty, learned villain, constantly threatening hideous cruelties with a lascivious gleam in his eye. When he’s talking the show becomes worthwhile.

Other characters are strongly written, including the physician/spy hero (inspired by Dr Maturin from Patrick O’Brian I assume); dialogue is often surprisingly provocative and intelligent…but having said that–the plot is fatally modern Network tv. They jump the shark in the first episode, really–very improbable turns of story. I mean yeah it’s heroic action about pirates (our hero gets in all kinds of unlikely fights right out of Pirates of the Caribbean, in just this first episode) but its twists are so eye rollingly improbable it makes Captain Blood seem like a naturalistic New Yorker story. There is so much poison (literal poison) spread about it’s surprising the physician can keep track of who he’s poisoning and why.. .

The IDEA of a show about Blackbeard matching wits with a British spy in the days of powdered wigs and gun powdered muzzle-loaders is very appealing and the production values are good. So if you like pirates you may not mind the torturously contrived plotting, the fallacious plot Mcguffin about a special navigation device…and again, Malkovich is so delightful in this, that makes up for much. . .