Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

The Symphony of Being

First, please watch this:

Probably the most age old question of all is: What is the meaning of life?

Inspired by Carl Sagan’s words in this video, I will venture to say that maybe, just maybe, the Meaning is in the asking of this question. To ask this question is to express our ability to ponder, to investigate, and to appreciate and experience the world as well as the universe. To ask the questions, but not necessarily find the answers. Pondering those questions, in some form or another, instead of living constantly in our heads and minds and confined little worlds, worlds that are more often than not consumed by materialism: Money, possessions, status.

We should be more aware of the Big Picture. I mean, won’t all the little wars in the Middle East seem rather foolish if a giant asteroid was hurdling our way? They won’t seem important anymore, because they’re not. They’re based on unimportant things. They are based on the “little world”. Oh, it all seems very important to the collective egos of the warring parties. But all the wars and conflicts in the world are a result of the same narrow, petty, problem-creating, frightened and fragile human ego. Same goes for conflicts between individual people. Conflict between nations is just the same thing only on a larger scale. How much misery and suffering, when all that needs to be done is to realize what a miracle it is that we are on this Earth to begin with, as intelligent, sentient beings, and that we are able to write about it and talk about it and think about us being here and what it all means.
We are not something that is separate from the universe. We are the universe. Our bodies are made of stardust, materials from constellations long gone which still live on through us. In our bodies we carry not only the biological imprint of all humanity before us, but also of the space around us, the galaxies, the suns, moons and comets. They live inside us and every one of us is a piece of the whole. We are all indeed connected.
Like Sagan says, the fact that we have been provided with the ability to muse on that on so many different levels is the way of the universe to ponder its own nature and existence, a way for the universe to look at itself. Because how will the universe be able to contemplate itself if not through sentient beings, not only here on Earth, but on countless other planets and in countless other galaxies? How can the universe experience itself if not through us?

And yet, we seem to have lost that connection with the bigger picture and somehow got lost inside our heads. Millions of humans around the world are busy settling scores, making judgments, proving they’re right and the other side is wrong, playing mind-games, poisoning the collective psyche, poisoning relationships, and eventually poisoning the very planet we live on as a physical manifestation of that. What is the corporate culture if not one huge ego streak? What is war and violence if not the human ego getting out of hand?

For eons, Man has felt alone. Religion, in its purest form, stems from the human need to curb this loneliness, to provide some kind of an answer, to make us feel we’re not alone, to let us know there is someone out there looking out for us.
I don’t know if there is or isn’t, but call it what you will: Spaciousness, Consciousness, Awareness, or the most common name but also the most loaded one, God – since we are the universe, this is not something which is external to us. Ultimately, the creator and creations of the universe are one and the same. It’s almost as if we created ourselves. Not in a conventional, physical term, naturally, but to use a yummy metaphor, it’s like there’s a cake being baked in the oven, but the cake is made of the same material as the oven.

We are our own children and our own parents (time as we know it is a concept created by the human mind), because at the core we are all one and the same, and we all take part in this Symphony of Being, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we accept it or not. Our senses give us a picture of the world, but it is a limited one, because there are many other layers that we cannot perceive. So maybe the real answer to the meaning of life cannot be known or perceived, it can only be felt.

On the other hand, here’s another musing on the Meaning of it all:

The Bag Collector

There’s probably no better time than when I’m looking to move from my apartment to bring up a rather peculiar aspect of my life, and that aspect is that I collect bags.
When I say that I collect bags I don’t really mean that I collect them. I don’t go to antique bag stores in dingy alleys on a search for rare, old bags in mint condition. When I say I collect bags I mean that I find it hard to throw bags after I use them.
If you will open the cupboards under my sink or look above the desk in my workplace you will come upon hordes (okay, not hordes, but too many) bags in different shapes, sizes and texture. Stacked or meshed together in a dizzying display of colors and logos. In many of them you may find old receipts, which hearken back to the day the bags were originally used. Canada, where I reside, environmentally-conscious as it is, has recently implemented a five-cent price tag on carry bags. You bought something? You want a bag? Pay up. This can be annoying because sometimes you’re just walking down the street from somewhere to somewhere and want to buy something and you don’t carry a bag, because when you left the house/office/Turkish bath you didn’t know you were gonna buy that something and you find your self having to pay–

But I digress. The bottom line is that it is a good thing. No, not for the environment, for me! Yes, finally I have use for all the bags I’ve been saving! It even makes the bag-collecting more special, because each bag that is stacked in my house has been bought and paid for. It is a product, exactly like the things it’s carrying. So now I may have fewer bags, but the value of the “collection” is much higher. Of course, once in a while a bag is thrown, especially if it serves as a garbage bag. So yes, I don’t necessarily horde them, I use them when I can.
Because you see, that’s the whole point. My mother is a bag collector, and for some reason I followed her footsteps with the same twisted psychology which lies behind this bag-collecting perversion, and here it is:

You never know when you’re gonna need a bag.

That’s right. You never know! Why waste a good bag after a one-time use? Yes! I am the original environmentalist! I didn’t throw bags away before I used them at least a second time after the original usage. Now, I am sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t throw out bags after a one-time use, especially in this environmentally-conscious day and age, but still, I believe that I have taken the bag-collecting skills into a new height, because, well… you never know when you’ll need one!

I can say it without it sounding inappropriate so I’ll say it: there is something very Jewish in the not-throwing-stuff-away school of thought. Jews have been persecuted for many generations by many persecutors and always found it hard to stay in one place, so the order of the day was to move. Move. Move. And when you move, you need to pack, and when you pack, what do you need? You got it. Bags. Lots and lots of bags. So I’m pretty sure it is in our collective gene pool – to not throw packaging materials away. If I could save boxes without filling up my apartment and suffocating on carton fumes, I guess I would’ve collected boxes too, because, you know… you never know when you’ll need a box.

One of the greatest scenes in modern cinema is the scene from American Beauty – pretty much the thematic centerpiece of the film – where the bag dances in the wind, and it is indeed beautiful. One of the reasons it’s beautiful is because it is a bag being set free. It does not need to carry anything anymore. It does not need to obey the whims of man. It is a free spirit, doing as it pleases, jumps here, flies there, and dances.

If I had the guts to do it, if i could let go, I would’ve waited for a particularly windy day, and then take all my bags outside and set them free. I would watch them fly down or up the street, or get caught on a tree branch, or stick to a window like a squashed bug. I would let them all go, all the bags I’ve collected, and let them do as they will, or rather, let the wind do as it will with them.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not really “green” to throw plastic bags all over the place, but it’s a metaphor, right? The metaphor.

Hmm… or is it?

Yeah, it’s a metaphor.

For now.

Riddles with frogs

A couple of weeks ago, during a hike deep in the city, I stumbled upon what could be termed as a “secret garden”. It was very different from the surrounding woods around it. A flat piece of land, with pools filled with lilies floating on the face of the water. Small bridges criss-crossed the water and lead up to a patch of land with low shrubbery.
A heavy rain has just fallen, and now the sun was coming out, along with most of the animals. Birds were flying low over the water, along with all kinds of insects buzzing around the reeds.
When I stepped in, I was the only person there.
Then I herd a strange noise. It sounded like an old man coughing. At first, I was startled. I looked around to see where the other person was “hiding”, but there was no one there. It was apparent that some kind of animal made that noise. The noises seemed to be coming from the edge of the pool. I walked down among the reeds and found the culprits. It was a bunch of frogs. They all squirmed away except for one, who stayed put, frozen like a statue.
You have to understand, that as memory serves I have never seen a live frog in my life, and certainly not in nature. So I was very excited to see it. I took out my camera and took a few pictures from several angles, and the frog still didn’t move. It just stayed there, modeling for me.

So it was just me and the frog, on a wet patch of land near a pool, in a cool summer day after the rains.

And then, I had this uncomfortable feeling of being an invader. Since I was the only person there, and since I’m not a National Geographic photographer, I’m not used to interacting with animals in nature all by myself. I felt like somehow I was interfering with the sacredness of the place. Taking out my camera, pushing through the leaves, hunkering down, taking the pictures, making noises. Of course I shouldn’t have felt that way. Aren’t humans part of nature? That’s right, sometime we forget it, but we are. As long as we are being an organic part of any natural scene, we are usually welcome. Of course, most people don’t know how to do that. I took out my camera because I wanted to preserve the moment. But you can’t really preserve a moment. All you can do is create a visual memory. The moment is right there in front of you as it happens, and it should be cherished.

When was the last time you went to a zoo? People take out their cameras and are busy taking pictures about 90 percent of the time. The amount of energy they put into photographing the animals is much more than the amount of energy they put into looking at them, actually watching them. They’re too busy creating the visual memory than to actually experience it. I see excessive photographing like this as an offshoot of Western consumerism mentality. We want to “buy” the moment. We want to capture it, put in a little box so we can watch it later – or not. Sometimes, people just take tons of pictures because they can. They have the gadget, don’t they? It’s digital, right? Don’t need to save film with that, you can easily take 400 pictures, so they use it. But it’s an illusion. You can’t save a moment in a little box. It’s already gone before you know it. That’s why it’s so precious.

Being there, in front of the frog, I tried to spend more time actually watching it than photographing it. Between each click I stared at it, looked at its eyes, it’s glands, its yellow mouth.

It was beautiful.

And then it struck me. I’m the only one here, I thought. Except for me, it’s just the animals and the plants. But what if I wasn’t here? Would it still be same? Would there still be frogs? Would the ground still be wet? Would the reeds still be yellow and green?
The minute I stepped into the garden, it became a “garden”. The minute I saw the frogs they became “frogs”. But there was no garden or frogs before I arrived there. It was all just there, existing, being, but it didn’t have any labels attached to it. As humans, we created a set of labels, that sometimes prevents us from seeing the big picture which is always the more real one. Of course, it’s very hard for us to do it any other way. When we see a frog, then it’s a frog. That’s what it’s called. But is it really a frog? Try and say the word “frog” many times one after the other. If you do that (as with any other word), it will lose its meaning and become nothing more than noise. So when a human steps into a situation where a human did not exist before, the situation becomes labeled. It all goes back to that famous riddle:

If a tree falls in the the forest, but there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?

If I would’ve tried and come up with an answer, then it would be probably be “of course not”, or maybe “it creates sound waves, not sound”. But incessantly looking for answers is another labeling process. The mind wants to understand everything. Sometimes a riddle is much better than any given answer. It opens up many possibilities, while an answer only leaves one.

As we all know, reality is subjective. We perceive the world trough out mind and through our senses. What we see as one thing, is another thing altogether for other creatures that share our world with us. Many of them we can see, but it is also very possible that many we cannot. The world, and the universe, I think, operates on many many levels, and we, as humans, can only comprehend a small part of it.

That is why we should be aware of the labeling process we as humans have. Not only towards nature, but towards other people too. Imagine, if there were no labels, there would be no judgmental thought. Then there would be no hate, no wars, and much less violence in our world. Imagine a world where blacks would not have been feared and hated just because of the color of their skin, or a world where Jews would not have been sent to extermination camps because they were considered “impure” by the horrendously effective Nazi labeling machine.

It is important, for each and every one of us, to be aware that there are many layers to everything in life. It is much reacher then our minds can ever perceive. If we see it solely through the mind’s labeling process, we are missing all the possibilities that this same labeling prevents us from seeing. The world was here before we emerged as a species, and will probably still be here after we’re gone. We should respect it as our home, and we should respect the ones who share it with us – plants, animals and other people. Words are a means of communications. A means to understand the world. But they are not all there is. Beyond the words there’s a vastness of beauty and life that we are ignoring too many times because we’re too busy turning it into something that we can comprehend mentally. Something that we can call by a name. So we can have an opinion.

This post, as is the custom in blogs, will be labeled like crazy. Tags, categories, you have it. This is how the system works. Internet is information, and information is made out of labels.
Because if a post is written, but there’s no one there to read it, was it really ever written?

Indeed, something to ponder…..