When geometric diagrams

When geometric diagrams and digits
Are no longer the keys to living things,
When people who go about singing and kissing
Know deeper things than the great scholars,
When society is returned once more
To unimprisoned life, and to the universe,
And when light and darkness mate
Once more and make something entirely transparent,
And people see in poems and fairy tales
The true history of the world,
Then our entire twisted nature will turn
And run when a single secret word is spoken.

Novalis (1772 – 1801), tr Robert Bly

Novalis was the pen name of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, a mystical German romantic, lawyer and geologist, philosopher and poet, who left us much wonder but little joy, and died very young.

To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.

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Truth has nothing to do with it

“Do you think we’re going to make our public believe anything simply because it’s true? They know perfectly well what they are going to believe your fantastic story — you bet your hat. I don’t care if the whole damned beach was littered with mermaids! We’ve got our reputation to keep up. See?…

Look here!—you haven’t learned journalism as I hoped you’d do. Stuff that the public won’t believe aren’t facts. Being true only makes ’em worse. They buy our paper to swallow it and it’s got to go down easy.”

— H. G. Wells
sea_by_trf_lady

The Poetry of Numbers

Numbers are alive for me, as if they sing and dance
All day a spreadsheet full of ciphers holds me in a trance
Data laugh and beckon me, I want to understand
While friends look blank and shake their heads at what for them is bland.
I wish that I could share with you the data-lover’s joy
The millstone of your weary toil, for me a bouncing toy.
Goethe, Maxwell and Piet Hein, Nick Herbert as “Jabir”
They saw the poetry in math, and earned the title “seer”.
If sentences can have aesthetics, why not numbers, too?
They leap to life and preach to me, (and so they might for you).

— JJM

Whirled Peas

I spent a week in Tibet last month.  I spent a day touring Buddhist monasteries, two days in Lhasa, and four days trekking in the mountains.

It was hard for me to relate to the Tibetan brand of Buddhism.  It seemed to be all about burning vats of yak butter and leaving dollar bills at the feet of fierce protector-gods that would save the supplicant from bad luck.  I saw little of mindfulness practice or vegetarianism or temperance or any of the familiar appurtenances of American Buddhism.

Black Mahakala is the fierce aspect of one of the gentlest of Buddhist Deities, the Compassionate One Avalokitesvara or Chenrezig.

The lived experience of trekking was, for me, all about oxygen.  At 17,000 feet there’s just half as much of it as there is at sea level.  I never got nausea or headache symptoms, but whenever we were walking up even a mild incline, I was out of breath.  I did fast yogic breathing (kapalabhati) continuously for hours on end, just to avoid lightheadedness and disorientation.

Four days of this cleared my brain, and I came away with a sense of what is most important to me.  I had been thinking about Psi experiments in which focused attention has the power to change quantum events, change minds, heal bodies, and even alter broad social patterns.  The limited evidence that we have suggests that many minds focusing on the same intention have an outsized power—much greater than the sum of what might be accomplished by the sum of individual efforts.

This reminded me of a lifelong goal of integrating mind into the science of physics.  There is a minority of well-respected physicists who see quantum mechanics in this light.  [e.g. Henry StappDavid Bohm.]

I was also reminded of the bumper sticker from the ’70s which I have quoted in the title of this post.  I came from Tibet with a core vision for a project that we might create together.

give-peas-a-chance

I want to ask you to help me organize a sustained and synchronized world-wide, cross-cultural meditation for peace.  Within the political peace community, it will be publicized as a commitment to the inner work we need to do in order to be effective activists. Within the Buddhist community, it will be committing our meditation practice to an act of service. Within communities of experimental parapsychology, it will be a study about reinforcement of psychic effects with the power of numbers.  Across Jewish and Christian and Muslim communities, it will be promoted by the clergy as coordinated prayer for peace in a time of world crisis. People choose prayer or meditation or focused intention as fits their culture and beliefs, but there is enough common ground in our work to be the basis of a worldwide mental resonance.

I imagine a series of goals, progressively ambitious, each one specific enough that we can clearly say when the goal is achieved. I propose as our first goal: An end to violence between Israelis and Palestinians, with full citizenship rights and freedoms for Jewish and Islamic peoples. The recent Israeli massacres in Gaza have stirred my conscience, and as a Jew, I feel a special call to say, “I do not condone the actions of Mossad and the Israeli military.”

This is not a substitute for collective action or BDS or political protest.  When we do succeed in creating peace, these will be the outward vehicles by which it is accomplished.  Those who do not believe in miracles will have their own story about how it came about.

This is a huge project, and I intend to bring it to fruition.  I will not be its primary organizer.  Maybe there will be no primary organizer.  Writing this post is my first step in the direction of creating a reality of Intention for Peace.

— JJM

Happy Birthday, Gustav

Leonard Bernstein talks about Mahler’s last Symphony as prefiguring not just the music but the tragic wars of the 20th Century.

Mahler’s Third Symphony with a larger-than-life guide:

Flaming chariots of the Titan Symphony:

Gustav Mahler was born this day in 1860.

Fine line between enlightenment and mental disorder

Suddenly there was a fracture between the world and me. While my body was still in the world, my mind had become a disengaged observer…It was as though all the constituent parts of me were still working, but an essential and vital element of my self, of my person, was missing.

I’m conscious even as I say this that I must have a functioning inner life; one that is capable of articulating this experience. But the capacity to knit that awareness into a narrative that I can occupy and own is missing.

This article on Aeon by Anna Ciaunica and Jane Charlton pathologizes the experience as DPD=Depersonalization Disorder.

Symptoms of derealization include:

  • Feelings of being alienated from or unfamiliar with your surroundings — for example, like you’re living in a movie or a dream
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from people you care about, as if you were separated by a glass wall
  • Surroundings that appear distorted, blurry, colorless, two-dimensional or artificial, or a heightened awareness and clarity of your surroundings
  • Distortions in perception of time, such as recent events feeling like distant past
  • Distortions of distance and the size and shape of objects

But this shift in perspective is not negative for everyone who undergoes it.  It is at least akin to and perhaps congruent with the result of ascetic disciplines for detachment from the body.  It seems related to the reports of psychedelic experiences in which a person feels to be outside his body, outside his usual identity.  And there are mystics who tell us that this wider perspective is closer to reality, and that the embodiment of self is a kind of delusion or dream.

The self that feels, that thinks, that is reading this screen—this is not a real entity, but an illusion of the mind.  This is the mother of all truths, and this ability to adopt a perspective outside self is the basis of spiritual enlightenment.

video by Leo, at Actualized.org

Related is the feeling of detachment from agency, as though it is not oneself who is making choices. This can be an alienation from self and avoidance of responsibility for one’s actions; or it can be “going with the flow”, a resonance with larger forces that shape reality, or even surrender to the will of God.

So, is the loss of the sense of self an ultimate psychological tragedy, or is it liberation from suffering, carrying with it courage and empowerment and perhaps seeds of a cosmic love?

I welcome your thoughts…

Lost-head-and-bird

Sohrab Hura, Magnum Photos