Monthly Archives: May 2008

Oriah’s Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.

I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.

I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool for love,
for your dream,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own,
without moving
to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy,
mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful,
be realistic,
remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know
if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know
if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure,
yours and mine,
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.

I want to know
if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.

I want to know
if you will stand
in the centre of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.

I want to know
what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

–Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The internet vs “real” life

The Internet is often referred to as “a virtual world”. The term implies that it is not a real world. This in turn implies that the personalities developed on the Internet are unreal or fake. We perceive an Internet personality to be representing or misrepresenting the real thing, but I argue that there is no such thing as a “real” personality independent of a medium.

If a medium is an extension of ourselves, talking to someone face-to-face is, in fact, just another medium with its own specific characteristics. The only difference is that it is not an extension, but is built in to us. This fact becomes more apparent if you observe those with physical handicaps. It is certainly a “hot” medium with a lot of information. It takes place in real-time. It involves sound, vision, and even smell. We can pick up not only what the person is saying literally, but also the content of the meta-languages such as a tone of voice, facial expressions, and hand gestures.

“Hot” (hi-definition) medium is not necessarily better than “cold” (low-definition) medium. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. A telephone, for instance, is often deliberately used to cool down the message. If you have to make an apology to someone, using a telephone is often easier than doing so in person. Chatting on the Internet has a similar effect where the coolness of the medium invites an intimate conversation.

It is not possible to say that one medium is better than another. It all depends on the context, what you are trying to achieve. In the same way, it can also be said that no medium is more real than others. Something being high in definition does not make something more real.

I have several friends who moved away far, who started corresponding with me via Emails or letters. I then discovered whole different aspects of them that I had never known existed. These different personalities of people that come out in different mediums are not necessarily phony.

There are people, like actors, who can fake a personality well in person, but not in writing. On the other hand, there are those who are awkward in person, but who can express themselves beautifully in writing. This does not mean that one is fake and the other is real. It simply means that a personality cannot manifest itself independently of a medium, and that there is no medium that is more real in itself than others.

In this sense, there is nothing “virtual” about the Internet. It is as real as the “real” world, if not more.

Why people become evil

“If life’s tendency to grow, to be lived, is thwarted, the energy thus blocked undergoes a process of change and is transformed into life-destructive energy. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life. Those individual and social conditions which make for the blocking of life-furtheriing energy produce destructiveness which in turn is the source from which the various manifestations of evil spring.” (Erich Fromm)

‘EVIL’ AS HUMAN WICKEDNESS Evil is identical with the destruction which results from socially non-adaptive behaviour and derives from the social disorder of disordered societies. Evil is manifest in the forms of human behaviour which are morally wrong such as greed, malice, sadism, cruelty, violence, destructiveness, war and so on. Although evil is real it has no independent existence of its own. So where does evil come from and why does it persist? The ‘problem of evil’ is a question of human wickedness and can only be understood in terms of human psychology. Traditional psychology which emphasizes the pathologies, neuroses and psychoses provides abundant evidence that human acts of wickedness are symptoms of emotional disturbance and suffering resulting from the frustration of the natural development of the human conscience. Wicked acts are willful acts of the immature and irrational conscience.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE RATIONAL CONSCIENCE Development of the conscience is a product of moral or ‘spiritual’ growth. The fully developed conscience or the ‘free will’ impels the organism towards attitudes and behaviours which are beneficial to life. Spiritual growth is a slow process of construction – according to laws of nature – which takes place during continuous concentrated activity in a close relationship with the environment. The development of the conscience and the spiritual values of human goodness requires favorable conditions of emotional security communicated through the affection and trust of unconditional love. Emotional security is the prerequisite for interest in the environment or ‘curiosity’, the natural drive for motivation of spiritual growth through learning. Spiritual growth depends on learning in a social environment of freedom – freedom to learn, freedom to concentrate on work and freedom of self-expression and inquiry. If these conditions are lacking and intrinsic psychological and spiritual needs are denied, then the will of the conscience is broken and development arrested.

IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION Many neurotic conflicts are ultimately determined by educational policy of parenting and schooling within the context of social and cultural conditions. Disordered societies which deny an education providing the conditions which are favorable for spiritual growth create conditions for the neurotic growth of children into disordered adults. They become socially evil as a result of the frustration of their efforts for normal growth. Normal growth is hampered when the basis for the education which is offered is discipline and punishment. Punishment of children develops irrrational emotions of fear and hatred leading to neurotic growth and the prevention of learning from experience and so contributes to the failure of social development. The resulting inability for social adaptation leads to pathological reactions of frustration and destructiveness. Human acts of destruction and evil are the product of continued frustration of the intrinsic human need for spiritual growth. Normal spiritual growth and the avoidance of evil depends on an education which provides for complete human development and the realization of human potential i.e. ‘self-actualisation’

Good people do evil things too

“Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.” – Isabel Paterson

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Blaise Pascal

Letting go

To let go…

doesn’t mean you stop caring, it means you can’t fix someone else

is not to cut all connections, but to cut a few here and lengthen a few there

is not to punish but to allow learning from natural consequences

is not to admit defeat or powerlessness, but to realize the outcome is not in my hands

is to spend time filling my own needs and plugging the drainholes created by others’ unmet needs

is to do what I need to do to take care of myself, knowing I can’t be of much help to anyone if I am slowly dying

is not to judge, but to seek understanding and acceptance

is to stop teaching helplessness by overprotecting and underestimating the ability of others

is to move from denial to acceptance; from feeling defensive to reflective

is to stop nagging, arguing and scolding

is to stop focussing on that which you wish would change, but which is out of your control

is to focus your thoughts on that which you can control: your own mind and attitude

is to stop wanting things to be different and to start making them different

is not to regret what was or wasn’t, or what might have been, it is to learn, grow and prepare for the future

is to invest in yourself; to invest time and mental energy on your own mental and emotional health

is to pursue your own goals, dreams and plans while leaving all doors open to the future possibilities


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Life is a process of accumulating and discarding, of gathering and setting aside. What you gather you reject, and the more you reject the nearer you are to liberation. By setting aside what you have gained, you acquire the knowledge which will give you strength to shape your purpose, which will give you power ultimately to reach the Kingdom of Happiness which each one of you seeks.

As there is sap in the tree which brings forth foliage for the glory of its being, so in each man there is the spark of divinity which through sorrow, through ecstasy, through struggle, through all the processes of life, grows to perfection, to that state of eternal happiness which is the goal for all, which is the truest spirituality – the greatest gift that anyone can give to another.

In what way can you attain this goal and hold this happiness eternally in your heart? If you are thoughtful person, you will recognize that in everyone there are three different beings – the mind, the emotions and the body. And if you observe you will find that each of these beings has a separate existence of its own and tries to create and to act independently of the other, thus causing disharmony. Absolute happiness comes from the establishment of harmony between these three. If you are driving three horses – each desiring to run independently of the other two – unless you are able to control them and drive them all together, you will not reach your destination.

The mind must have a goal of its own, but it must be a goal created by you yourself; otherwise it will lead to superstition.

What is the ultimate goal for the mind?

It is the purification of the self, which means the development of individual uniqueness.

As the seed is forced by the life within it to break through the heavy earth and come into light, so if you are urged by the desire to find freedom, you will break through all limitations which bind you. To gain freedom, great desire is needed. People are afraid of desire, thinking that it is something evil which must be destroyed. But this is a mistaken attitude. Desire is the motive power behind all action. If you would light a great fire to warm and comfort you, you must give fuel to it – feed it with great logs of wood. So if you would fulfil life you must have great desires, for desire brings experience and experience leads to knowledge.

If a man knows how to use desire, it will bring him to the freedom for which he longs. If desire is killed or suppressed, there is no possibility of freedom. Most people in the world have intense, burning, vital desires, but instead of utilizing them and training them, their either suppress them or are controlled by them.

If desire gives life it should be encouraged. If desire creates sorrow, through understanding that sorrow must be overcome. Because man does not want to be free, he kills his desires; because he does not want to attain true liberation, he is making of himself a machine. Use desire as stepping-stone to kindle greater desires, to awaken greater delight and longing.

But intelligence is necessary in order to develop your individual uniqueness, to purify your desires, to realize that self which is the self of all – to realize that absolute union with all things which brings to an end the sense of separation. It is necessary for the mind to be simple, but simplicity does not mean crudeness. We should not turn our back upon the results of progress and evolution, but on the contrary we should utilize them.

A mind that is simple will understand perfection because it is part of perfection itself. A mind that is crooked cannot understand the Truth. A mind that is complicated, that is full of the knowledge of books, though they have their value, is apt to become crystallized. In all great architecture, painting and sculpture, in all the greatest forms of beauty, there is simplicity and there is restraint. Simplicity of the mind is the greatest and most difficult thing to acquire, but in order to be simple you must have had great experience. Simplicity of the truest kind is the highest form of spirituality.
What is the ultimate goal for the emotions? It is affectionate detachment. To be able to love and yet be not attached to anyone or anything is the absolute perfection of emotion.

As a barren tree in winter without leaf or flower to give scent to the morning air, so is a man without love. Those who would attain to Truth, must cultivate, as the gardener cultivates his garden, this flower of affection, which is to give delight, which is to be a source of comfort in disappointment and sorrow. Love – however envious, jealous, tyrannical, selfish it may be at first – is a bud that will grow into great glory and give the scent of its perfection to every passer-by. Without love man is as a desert of dry sand, as the river in the summer time, without water to nourish its banks. Those who would attain the perfection of happiness, the beauty that is hidden from the human eye, must cultivate this quality of love. You must love all and yet be detached from all, for love is necessary to the unfoldment of life. To cultivate it you must learn to observe, you must gather experience – vicariously, or through your own treading of the sorrowful paths of experience. It is through experience that you know sympathy, that you are able to give affection to those who desire it, for if you have never experienced sorrow, then your heart it incapable of sympathy and understanding.


See also

The art of giving up

One winter night, one of the few Japanese friends I had in my early 20s was playing a guitar at his company Christmas party. He was an architect and was about 10 years older than I was. Before he decided to study architecture, he was making a living as a guitarist in Japan. This was not the first time I heard him play, but I was still stunned by how good he was. After his performance, I told him that it was a shame that he was no longer pursuing his musical career. He then shared with me his recent realization that life is a process of giving up. At the time, I didn’t think much of what he said. I think I remembered it only because of its unusual reversal of the popularly held beliefs. Especially on this land of dreams, “giving up” is seen almost as sacrilegious. Everyone’s livelihood seems to precariously hinge on holding big, albeit distant dreams. For some people, the more dreams, the better. So, what did my friend mean when he said that life is a process of giving up?

Now, I not only understand it, but also believe it myself. Another way of saying the same thing is that life is a process of letting go of your own ego, or letting go of your attachments. Contrary to what one might assume from the connotations of the expression “giving up”, this is done in order to enjoy life more. For instance, you cannot enjoy alcohol if you are attached (or addicted) to it. Enjoyment of anything requires a certain distance. When the idea of self (ego) is attached to the object of enjoyment, you lose the ability to see it for what it is. I believe this is partly responsible for the phenomenon called “writer’s block”, in which the identity “writer” is attached to one’s ego so much that the fear of losing that identity becomes greater than the enthusiasm for writing. It is by giving up the idea of becoming a “writer” that one is able to be a writer and enjoy being one. This is difficult to do especially in a country where one’s existence is defined by one’s profession. The fear of not living up to the reputation of the greatest American writer is probably what killed the writer in Truman Capote, for instance.

“Giving up,” in this sense, isn’t the same as quitting. My friend was still playing guitar; he just wasn’t pursuing it professionally. Most alcoholics cannot enjoy alcohol in moderation; they have to quit entirely. In the same way, when you are attached to something, your choices are either to quit altogether or to depend on it for life. Either way, it is not enjoyable. It is also common to see aspiring artists, musicians, and actors entirely drop their activities once they come to a conclusion that they are not going to make it. At that point, it becomes clear that the driving force behind their creative pursuits was not their enthusiasm or passion, but their attachment to the idea of becoming someone. Or, it is also possible that whatever enthusiasm they had was overwhelmed by their fear of failure. Ironically, I believe that, if you can give up the idea of “making it,” you would have a better chance of actually making it. If you were not under pressure from your own expectations, you would enjoy your activities more, and therefore produce better work.

Relationships with people

Imaginary vs. Natural Relationships

Natural Relationship (NR): Given any two persons, there is a natural way that both would interact with one another. It could be adversarial, harmonious, synergetic, neutral, and so on. “Natural” does not mean it is positive. Just as a relationship between a mouse and a cat is naturally adversarial, there are naturally adversarial relationships between two people with no faults of their own.

Imaginary Relationship (IR): Imaginary Relationship can potentially override or interfere with the Natural Relationship. It could make a Natural Relationship more harmonious or more adversarial.

Social etiquettes and manners are strategies used in Imaginary Relationships in order to get along with one another.

If the relationship is naturally harmonious, these protocols can largely be ignored; it would still remain relatively harmonious.

Most of us naturally gravitate towards harmonious NRs.

A person can choose or refuse to enter into an Imaginary Relationship.

A skillful salesperson, for instance, is adept at maintaining harmonious IRs with a variety of people, including those who are naturally adversarial to him.

NR and IR are opposite ends of the spectrum. They are not discrete entities. As such, only relative distinctions can be made.

Some consistently relate to others imaginarily. All of their relationships then become imaginary. They may not be able to have rewarding or intimate relationships with others. They may eventually feel alienated from themselves.

Some consistently try to relate to others naturally. This requires that one disregard established social protocols, which can be seen as socially abrasive, provocative, confrontational, offensive, or intrusive.

Not all human conflicts can be avoided, like adversarial Natural Relationships, but adversarial Imaginary Relationships can be avoided. Much of our everyday fights, arguments, conflicts, and even wars are results of adversarial Imaginary Relationships. Two people or even two nations that could otherwise get along well (harmonious NR) can find themselves in conflicts or wars with one another because of the adversarial IR.

An Imaginary Relationship is a game whose rules are defined by our culture. We are trained to play it. Its purpose is to manage and control relationships.


Society’s Stupid Conventions

There are a number of situations where convention prevents communication, pressures people into doing things they do not want to, and makes it too dangerous to even attempt problem solving (at least that involves the other people).

For example take politeness. The stakes are offending people if you are not polite, and being outcast from doing activities with them. Asking them their ideas about politeness itself and attempting to discuss bears exactly the same risk: being offending people and being outcast. If you don’t like particular thing expected of you, too bad. You can’t expect sympathy. If you reveal your interest in acting contrary to politeness you’ll be seen as dangerous to decorum and watched and held to an extra high standard. So you’re pressured into acting politely to be safe, and reason never gets to play any role in the decision of how everyone should act.

This can happen even if everyone there hates politeness, because no one dares to say so. Few people dare to send off signals that they don’t actually like expected decorum. If you do break a social convention then, even if everyone there agrees with you, the likely result is to be condemned. The reason is they still think everyone else prefers politeness, so they all have to ostracize you to avoid taking a risk themselves.

You might try to defend yourself. You might say, “I don’t want to do that.” At this point you can expect replies like, “So what? Everyone else has to.” and, “What makes you so special?” Neither of those replies attempts to address what is the best way to act. They simply are thinking more like the status quo is good enough for everyone else and getting offended you’d imply it isn’t good. Do you think you’re better, or something horrid like that?

At a birthday party you are expected to bring presents. This is dumb. How should I know what he wants better than he does? And the presents are supposed to be surprises: you can’t just ask what he wants you to get him. And you aren’t allowed to bring money. Money is the best thing to give because it gives him the power to get what he wants. But convention hates it. You were supposed to think about what he would want and get a “personal” gift. If everyone gives each other money on their birthdays, the total result is everyone ends up with the same amount of money.

If you question or criticize any of this stuff people think you are trying to get out of doing it, so others have to do the work for you. They view it as bad work that should be divided so everyone suffers equally. They don’t imagine there is a positive solution where everyone is happy. They just accept there is some amount of pain required and any attempt to find a solution for yourself that doesn’t hurt is just trying to cheat everyone else.

Dating has a lot of ways of suppressing communication. Like when you ask a girl out you are supposed to decide where to go. You do this with confidence and self-assuredness. You do not do this through discussion with her of where would be nice. If you say you don’t know where you want to take her, you seem like not much of a man, shy and embarrassed, don’t know what you want, that kind of thing.

At the end of the date you can’t ask if the other person wants to kiss, or have sex. That’s taboo. That “ruins the mood”, surprises people, and lowers the chance of doing either. You have to figure it out without explicit communication. And also after a certain number of dates you have to have sex — there is a lot of pressure to. If you don’t, the relationship is “not going anywhere” so what’s the point? Which reminds me there is always this pressure in romantic relationships to have progress, which sounds good, but what it means is to move towards getting married, and you have to get married by the end of about 2 years or a lot of advice says you never will and you quite possibly break up, quite possibly over the issue of marriage. “If you won’t commit to be with me forever and ever, right now, because we’re so perfect for each other, then I never want to see you again, it’s completely over.”

If you want to kiss and she doesn’t, that isn’t a matter for problem solving. Discussion will be interpreted as pressure. Asking why she doesn’t want to and saying reasons you do is trying to force your want in to her pants. You aren’t supposed to discuss, criticize, and agree. You just go on a few more dates and see if she changes her mind, and if not stop wasting money on her meals and dump her.

At funerals you have to be sad. You can’t bring a book of jokes and spend a lot of the time laughing, even if they are really funny. People will get mad. And God forbid you argue this point. Giving reasons it’s OK to be happy not somber is “disrespecting the dead”. Arguing with that is disrespecting the dead more. Criticizing that is also disrespecting the dead. There’s just no way out of it. Respecting the dead means following the convention whether you want to or not, and whether it’s fun and enjoyable or not (it isn’t). Also funerals waste a lot of money. So do coffins or urns. Why seal away a dead body? It’s dead. Who cares? The whole thing reeks of superstition. Oh and if you just stay home that’s disrespectful too. If he was your friend you are expected to go. People will hold it against you for years if you’d rather go to your frisbee game or World of Warcraft raid.

Weddings are perhaps worse. You know that parts where everyone is asked if they know any reasons these people should not be wed? That’s a lie. A dirty lie. It’s a trap. They just want to pretend they are doing the right thing. But if you actually say any reasons (and it’s easy to think of lots) then everyone will gasp in shock and turn to you angrily. You will have disrespected the whole wedding. You won’t be invited to the next one (when they remarry other people after their divorce — what? it’s common.) Everyone will be really offended. Certainly they won’t actually discuss your reasons. The only things you can say there are like, “he cheated on her” or “he’s a Russian spy”. You can’t say, “marriage is a bad idea because…”. And you can’t say that any other time either. People don’t want to hear it.

More: (Seriously, read the whole thing. It’s hilarious.)

See also

Best Quotes

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” -Hafez

“At Day’s End”. John Hall wrote it.

Is anybody happier because you passed his way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today? Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you? Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that’s slipping fast, That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed. Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said; Does the man whose hopes were fading, now with courage look ahead? Did you waste the day, or lose it? Was it well or sorely spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness, or a scar of discontent? As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that God will say, “You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?”
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

“The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” – Albert Einstein

“There is nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school” – George Bernard Shaw

“If you don’t have a plan for yourself, you’ll be part of someone else’s.”

“To come upon love without seeking it is the only way to find it.” – Krishnamurti –

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’ – Dr Suess

“A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then there will be true peace.” – Sri Chin Moi Gosh

“People used to explore the dimensions of reality by taking LSD to make the world look weird. Now the world is weird and they take Prozac to make it look normal.” – Bangstrom


A philosophical view on sexual orientation

Pansexuality (sometimes referred to as omnisexuality) is a sexual orientation characterized by a potential aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for anybody, including people who do not fit into the gender binary of male/female implied by bisexual attraction. Pansexuality is sometimes described as the capacity to love a person romantically irrespective of gender. Some pansexuals also assert that gender and sex are meaningless to them.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear
Is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful
beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
“Who am I to be Brilliant,
Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous?”

Who are you not to be?

You are a child of the Universe.
Your playing small
does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened
about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel
insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest
The Glory of the Universe
that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It is in everyone.

As we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated
from our own fear,
our presence automatically
liberates others.
by Marianne Williamson

And yes, Nelson Mandela did use this in his speech at some point, but he didn’t actually write it.