The classic Powers of Ten film by Charles and Ray Eames…
I saw the movie King of Kong tonight, a surprisingly fascinating and touching documentary about the two top competitive Donkey Kong (!) players in the world. One, Billy Mitchell, is the “gamer of the century” and is increasingly cast as the villain as the movie progresses. The other, Steve Wiebe, is a thoroughly likable underdog taking on the champion, and unwittingly gets embroiled in an old feud between Billy Mitchel and his nemesis, Mr. Awesome.
Two things struck me as I watched the movie.
Steve Wiebe’s great achievement is how he lives his life, independent of whether he is successful and recognized in sports, music or arcade games (all areas he has a great deal of talent, but never got it quite off the ground apart from in arcade games). And this is probably obvious to anyone watching the movie, although maybe not always to himself.
There must be many movies out there presenting the same story from different perspectives, although the only one I can think of now is Kurosawa’s Rashomon. (If anyone reading this knows of other movies, please tell me about it in a comment.)
Documentaries lend themselves especially well to this as there is usually hundreds of hours of footage which can be edited in many different ways to tell different versions of the same story, each one with a very different message, point and feel to them, and with the audience siding with different people.
In this case, the movie could have been even more interesting if it was made up of two 40 minute or so stories shown back-to-back. The first, told first from the perspective of Mitchell, casting Wiebe as someone associated with his arch enemy Mr. Awesome and out to take him down at any cost. And then from the perspective of Steve Wiebe, as a more tightly edited version of the one out now. Each would independently tell a fascinating story, and together would also remind us of how things look very different from different perspectives.
A good movie does this anyway, weaving perspectives into a larger story, but separating them out adds something extra to it.
Most of the time, even when a story weaves in several perspectives, one perspective dominates or unifies the others, and the other ones are there more for texture. This is of course good and appropriate most of the time.
But once in a while, it would be interesting to see the different perspectives separated out in a more obvious way. It allows for a more thorough exploration of each, how each one seems very real and true when we are absorbed into it, how easily we can shift into another, and how we can find a space holding them all and from here find the limited truth in each.
In continuing to explore thoughts, I keep discovering how thoughts first create a sense of extent and space, and then use this space to map perception and thoughts themselves.
For instance, all perceptions get mapped onto space, which also allows for a sense of I and Other. I, as a separate self, is located here, in the center, somewhere in or around this body and especially this head, and Other is out there, in the periphery, as anything else arising. A sense of extent allows for an easier differentiation, and it also allows for a sense of an I with an Other.
And thoughts in general also get spread out in space. When I notice the play of thoughts and images arising, and how the mind creates connections among them and shift from one set to another, it is very clear how the mind spreads thoughts – mimicking any and all senses – out in space, and then uses it as a canvas for shifting focus around, for exploring relationships, and so on.
At least for now when I explore it, it seems very similar to the gestural interface used in Minority Report. A wide range of images and information are spread out in space, and manipulated in space to make sense of it.
I wrote a post about movies as analogy for Big Mind, and movies can also be an analogy for the process of disidentification.
Imagine watching a movie over and over. If it is good, it may capture our interest for the first few times. But after a while, it gets less and less interesting. We know it already. There may be slight differences in how we perceive it, maybe some new details we didn’t see before, but overall, it gets less interesting. Eventually, it may still be playing, but our attention doesn’t go there much anymore, and even if it does, it does not get absorbed into it as in the beginning. It is just recognized as the same movie, the same story unfolding, the same drama. The charge goes out of it for us.
And the same is the case for our own stories, the ones we play over and over in our own life. The only difference is that if attention continues being absorbed into it, taking it as real, then that pattern most likely continues. But if we pay attention to what is happening, for instance through mindfulness in daily life, or meditation practice (watching “channel me” for hours!), or inquiry, or even just being with the experiences, then the interest in it fades, just as when we watch the same movie over and over. We recognize it as the same movie, the same story, the same pattern, and it becomes less fascinating over time. Eventually, it still plays, but attention does not go there so much, and when it does, it does not become absorbed into it. It is just recognized as the same story as before. In other words, there is a disidentification from it. My identity is not wrapped up in it so much anymore.
I watched Bourne Ultimatum earlier today, and noticed how it brought up feelings of being hunted and memories and scenarios triggering that experience.
It is a nice illustration of the difference between relative and absolute truths, and between having a story as information and taking it as substantial and real.
As a human being in the world, we can of course be hunted in different ways or not. That is just information.
And when we add beliefs to that, such as I shouldn’t be hunted, or even I am hunted without seeing the truths in its reversals, there is drama. It creates a sense of pressure, of an I here hunted by something Other, of separation, discomfort, something being off, fear, anger, frustration, and much more.
Without those beliefs, it is just useful information. With those beliefs, it is pressure, intensity, and maybe even suffering.
And to go from stories as belief to just information, we can either explore the belief itself, or fully be with the experience and emotions around it. Through investigating the story, the belief falls away and information remains. Through being with the experience, the emotions are revealed as something entirely different. They initially appeared as pressure, tension, fear, discomfort and so on, and now are revealed as something we can’t even put a label on.
This is the difference between taking the story as real and substantial, and as just information. And it also mirrors, in a small way, the difference between the absolute and relative. The relative truth is that this human self is hunted. A truth closer to the absolute is the reversals in that story (we are always also not hunted, in other ways) and the reversals of the story that we shouldn’t be hunted (we should be, because that is what everything has led up to). This intermediate truth, holding and allowing the grain of truth in all of the turnarounds of any story we have about it, gives a sense of release from drama and struggle, even as we are active and engaged in our lives and the world. And the absolute truth, which is not really needed for this release from drama and suffering, is that there is no I and Other there.
How does this feeling of being hunted come about? Whether we are hunted in a conventional sense or not, the sense of being hunted comes from an interaction between beliefs.
As soon as there is a gap between my beliefs about what is and what should be, there is a sense of being hunted.
And what is hunting me is several things.
First, it is the truth in the reversals of the story I take as true. I am hunted by these truths, because somewhere I know there is a grain of truth in each of them, yet I try to put all truth in the initial story and none in these reversals. I try to deny the truths in the reversals, yet they are there, I am reminded about them, and I am hunted by them.
I am also hunted by what is, because according to my stories about it, it should not be. I try to hold it at bay, but am not able to, or if I am able to now I may not be in the future, so its presence or possible presence hunts me. It is or it can be, but should not be, so I am haunted and hunted by it.
In the case of Jason Bourne, if he beliefs that he shouldn’t be hunted, and that he shouldn’t die, he will feel pressure and intensity. And as viewers, if we have the same beliefs, we will feel the same. If he is free from those beliefs, he is also free from the drama around it and the stress and discomfort, and also free to act with more clarity and decisiveness. (Not that he seems to lack the latter!)
I watched Forbidden Planet last night.
In the movie, a demonic creature is created from the primitive depths of an otherwise sophisticated and well-intentioned scientist. He wants to remain on an alien planet, and this creature kills his original expedition mates when they decide to return back to Earth, and try to kill all of the current rescue expedition when they too want to bring him back to Earth.
There is an obvious reference to Freud’s model as the creature is referred to as id, or the it, that in us which is disowned and so appears as it instead of as I or me. Both in the movie and in the documentary about it, this is referred to as the primitive depths of humans, the raw animal hidden under a thin veneer of civilization.
But is it really the primitive depths? Is it really the ugly primitive sides of us rearing its head, in spite of trying to suppress it with our civilized side?
We can also see it as coming directly from certain beliefs, from just a story taken as true.
There are two ways these demonic creatures can be created from beliefs…
First, it can be the direct outcome of a belief, such as they shouldn’t take me with them. If we have this belief, and the world goes in a different direction, something will happen. And if the context of other beliefs are set up that way, a demonic creature can be the outcome.
Then, it can come from the shadow of a belief and identity. If I believe that I am good and well-intentioned, then anything that doesn’t fit becomes disowned and an it, which can then take over in different ways.
If we take a quite reductionistic view, and see it only from the filter of beliefs, the biology or “nature” of a being is not needed to explain these things. Looking at the beliefs alone is sufficient to explain the outcome, and it is relatively or entierly independent of biology or other physical characteristics. Any creature with the same beliefs would act in very similar ways.
Of course, even if a particular view is a sufficient explanation, it doesn’t mean that all the other aspects – such as biology, evolution, culture, economics – are not important. They flesh out the picture, makes it far richer, and helps us see how beliefs are formed by individual & collective history and interact with biological impulses and characteristics.
Ever since I read Yogananda’s autobiography in my teens, and was completely baffled by his movie analogy, I have had an interest in that particular image.
It seems that movies can be an analogy in many different ways…
- Ground free from form. Awakeness is inherently free from its own content. It is stainless, untouched by it. And in the same way, a movie screen is inherently free from whatever movie is shown on it. An image is replaced by another, and the previous image is not there anymore. A new movie is shown, and there is no trace of the old one.
- Perfect and imperfect. The content of a movie can be/include/show imperfection, suffering, confusion and so on. Yet, it is also perfect light falling on the movie screen, or perfect dots on the TV or computer screen. The light is untouched by the form it creates, as awareness is untouched by it content.
- Awakeness is its own content. Light falls onto a movie screen and makes up an endless variety of forms, and these forms are no other than light itself. In the same way there is awakeness and the content of awakeness, and this content is no other than awakeness itself taking on a temporary form.
- Temporarily lost in the movie. When we watch a movie, we may be temporarily lost in the movie. We forget it is a movie, and get absorbed into the story. In the same way, Big Mind (God) can get lost in its own play, forgetting what is really is. And as we at some point remember that it is a movie we are watching, Big Mind at some point also remembers itself (although maybe not within this particular life).
Watching movies, and taking in stories in any other form, is a stocking up of human experiences. And this stocking up allows us to…
- Recognize and find insight into the patterns and dynamics playing themselves out in these stories, and also in our own life.
- Recognize in ourselves what we see out there, including in these stories. Whatever qualities and dynamics we see play themselves out among and within the characters of the stories, mirror what is right here in this human self.
- Release identification with these qualities and patterns, through seeing that they are universally human. They play themselves out in all of our human lives, and are not unique to this human self. There is also a release of identification through seeing these patterns play themselves out, over and over, in this life and in the stories, as an old movie that continues to play, but where there is less interest through being so familiar with it.
Of course, it helps if we are receptive to this. All of this probably happens to some extent no matter what, even if we – on the surface – use movies and other stories to confirm whatever cherished beliefs we have. But if we are willing to allow the movies to work on us, in these and other ways, this can unfold more freely.
I visited the sci-fi museum in Seattle this weekend, and was reminded of how sci-fi is an especially fertile ground for examples of and analogies to what is explored in psychology and spirituality. There are probably books out there exploring that theme, and if there isn’t, it is waiting to happen.
Some topics and examples that come to mind…
- Who am I? The Tuvix episode of Star Trek Voyager is especially interesting here. Two individuals, Tuvok and Neelix, are combined into one in a transporter accident. So what is happening here? What is individuality? If I am first this human self, and then a different human self, what happened to the first one? Who is here now? If we take ourselves to be content of awareness in general, and this human self in particular, it becomes an almost impossible conundrum. But if we find ourselves as awareness, as this awake void, which is both the seeing and the seen, both the awareness of form and the forms themselves, the questions fall away. The content of awareness is always in flux anyway, so this is no different. First, one particular human self arises in awareness along with everything else, then another human self. And that is how it already is anyway. Whatever arises is always new, different, fresh. And there is no inherent I with an Other in there anywhere.
- Sentience. What is the difference between advanced robots or holograms and humans? Are they alive? Conscious? Sentient? Again, if we take ourselves to be content of awareness, the question is almost impossible to answer to our satisfaction (which is why it is such fertile ground for so many stories). But if we realize we are awareness, we realize that there isn’t really such a difference. There is awake awareness and then phenomena arising within, to and as this awareness, and these phenomena may be a human self or a robot or a hologram or a cloud or whatever else. In any case, there is no inherent separate self in any of it. In that sense, it is all equal. Of course, this doesn’t quite solve the question at a conventional level, because here, there is still a difference between a biological lifeform, robots and holograms. The question helps us find ourselves as awareness and all phenomena as awareness itself, and it also leaves a great deal of room for different views on a conventional level.
- Time travel. It is the nature of our thoughts to move freely between (what appears as) past, future, and present, so why shouldn’t we be able to do so physically as well? But when we look more closely at what is happening, we see that any thought is about the past (thoughts about what appears as the present always lags a little behind perception, and thoughts about the future have only the past as their source.) And we also see that thoughts, along with all other content of awareness, arises here and now, within this timeless present. All there is, is this awake timeless present within which all phenomena arises, always new, fresh and different, including any thoughts about past, future and present. The past and future exists only within a thought. So we see that time travel is already happening, whenever attention goes to the content of a thought. We see that the past and future only appears in the content of thoughts, and these thoughts arise within this timeless present. And seeing this, the desire and any perceived need for time travel falls away, and the whole idea of time travel is seen as only that, an idea. The appearance of possibility of time travel itself can only arise when we believe in thoughts, making past and future appear substantial and real.
- Parallel worlds. If we pay attention, we notice that there are innumerable parallel worlds right here, and as attention goes into one after another, we live in a succession of them. There is what is alive in immediate perception, here and now. And mimicking these sense fields (vision, sound, sensations, taste, smell) our thoughts create a wide range of worlds parallel to perceptions. Sometimes, when attention is wrapped up in thought, we are absorbed into these parallel worlds, while the world of perceptions goes on on its own. Other times, we are aware of both, one besides the other. And sometimes, attention goes to what is alive in immediate perceptions, and a thought is recognized as just a thought.
- False memories. False memories, and various degrees of false identity based on those memories, is a common theme in science fiction, from Star Trek to the Matrix to Blade Runner. When we look here now, we see that any memory and any identity is just a thought arising here and now. That is all it is. Ephemeral, insubstantial, transparent, arising within this awake timeless now. Different thoughts give rise to different memories and identities. It is always changing anyway, whether subtly or dramatically. It is a precarious situation. But in the midst of thoughts and identities changing, something does not change. What is that? We may find that there is an awakeness here that does not change, even as its content changes. And that this content, whatever arises here now, is this awakeness itself. Finding ourselves as this awakeness gives a freedom to allowing content to change, to live its own life, on its own schedule, as it does anyway.
- Appearance of solidity. The holodeck in Star Trek (I have watched mostly ST lately!) is an example of how a very vivid reality can be created by something as insubstantial as photons and force fields. In the same way, we take something as insubstantial and ephemeral as sensations, sights, sounds, tastes/smells, and thoughts, and create a very vivid and apparently substantial reality for ourselves. But as soon as we notice this, and how the gestalts are created by conglomerates of perception and thoughts, it again is revealed as insubstantial and ephemeral. The matrix, in The Matrix, is another example of how the rules change when we see it for what it is, and get intimately familiar with the mechanisms of samsara. There is a freedom from being blindly caught up in the gestalts and the appearances created by the gestalts.
- Center of gravity. Some stories exemplify the difference between having the center of gravity in our human self, or at the soul level or Ground. What we find ourselves as, in immediate awareness and outside of stories, determines how we experience and filter what is. For instance, the Star Trek TOS episode Errand of Mercy shows the difference between finding oneself as this human self (fear, contraction, drama, struggle) and as soul (as alive timeless presence, and absence of or greatly reduced fear, drama, struggle). It is quite caricatured, but still gets the basic difference across.
- Processing. A part of the path is processing of unresolved issues and memories. They surface, and we have a chance of relating to them in another way, allowing them to resolve. In Tarkovsky’s Solaris, an ocean planet brings to life whatever (or whomever) we have an unresolved relationship with, inviting us to resolve it. If we identify with resistance, as many in the movie do, there is drama and despair. But we can also take it as an opportunity to resolve the relationship, as the main character does. In real life, this process includes being with whatever emotions comes up, inquiries into the beliefs around the situation, and also heal and resolve our relationships in daily life.
- Duality. In The Matrix, Neo and Agent Smith are reversals of each other, and in their final encounter, annihilate each other. This is also what happens when we explore beliefs. First, a story seems true and good and its reversals appear false or not-so-good. Then, when they are more thoroughly investigated and wrestled with, we see the truth in the reversal and both as only relative truths, so the whole appearance of a split and duality falls away. And this, as in the Matrix, allows the world to start anew, this time without (or even with) a belief in stories. The experience is of a struggle (sometimes), and then a falling away of duality, although all that really happens is that we see what is already more true for us. We see the stories as just stories, each with their own limited, practical and relative truth, and what is as inherently free from both, although available to be filtered through either or both.
- Big Mind. Many sci-fi movies is an invitation to shift into Big Mind… for instance through the cosmic scope of the stories (cosmos as a stage which includes and goes beyond all polarities), and the sheer intensity of what is happening. For me, Contact is a movie which does this, through its opening into a larger whole far beyond what we are normally familiar with.
- Awakenings. Some sci-fi stories are about awakenings. We take life as it appears to us as real, and do not question it. And then something happens which reveals it differently from the way it appeared to us, and opens up a larger and different world to us. Matrix is one example, the Truman Show another.
- Meditation. The Vulcan meditation is an example of the art of resistance, and this has a tendency to break down as many Star Trek stories show. “Real” meditation is a disidentification with content of awareness, including resistance, so there is an allowing of what is. This allows what is to reveal itself without the filter of (identified with) resistance, including the stream of quiet bliss that seems inherent in awareness and experiencing, and emotions as a sweet fullness. And it allows Ground to more easily notice itself, since it is less clouded up by the dust kicked up by resistance.
Then the ones shared by any stories, sci-fi or not…
- Mirror. Whatever we see in the wider world, including in any story, is a mirror of what is right here, in several ways. The qualities we see in the wider world are qualities we recognize because they are right here, in this human self. What is, as it appears to us, is filtered through our stories about it, so what we see out there (our stories about the world) is a mirror of our own stories. And as Big Mind, what arises is this I without an Other.
- Shadow. A subarea of the wider world as a mirror is the shadow. We take stories as true, so their reversals are in the shadow. And we identify with particular identities (formed by beliefs), and these too have shadows. Whatever arises that trigger aversion and dislike in us tends to point to our shadow, and sci-fi stories are not short on these. Alien is a good example here, where the adversary is a completely dehumanized monster. Watching these movies is a good opportunity to see what happens when our shadow is triggered, how it tends to lead to dehumanization of the shadow object, an opportunity to find in ourselves what we see out there, and when empathy comes up through recognition, also explore how we would have dealt with the situation in the movie from this new space. It may even be that our actions would be quite similar, but our experience of it quite different (empathy rather than fear and reactiveness).
I used to be identified with an identity as cultured, which lead me to read a good amount of literature classics, philosophy and art history, watch obscure and sophisticated movies, listen to music such as Arvo Part, Palestrina, Bach, Philip Glass, and so on, and although I genuinely enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, it was also a one-sided life and identification.
During the dark night this identification, as so many others, wore down, and there is now more of an open space for anything… deep and shallow, artsy and popular… it matters less now.
The irony in this shift is that now, finding more fluidity within the wide landscapes of literature, movies and music, I am also more easily able to find the depth in the shallow, and the same dynamics and patterns in all of it. Popular or sophisticated… it is all reflections of the same basic dynamics and patterns of the mind.
There is a depth in the shallow that, although I was aware of it all the time, I held at arm-lengths distance. Now, that it is right here in my life with no distance, I can appreciate it much more.
Conversely, I guess I can say that there is a shallowness in the deep as well, often an identification with a particular identity which sets up boundaries where there really are none, and a self-congratulatory attitude about things that are really not that sophisticated, and sometimes not even that important.
I have gone through different phases in how many and what types of movies I watch, from mainstream action movies in my early teens to international and classics in my early teens to none for a few years to just about anything now (from obscure documentaries, to international, to classics, to sci-fi, to mainstream movies).
And since my late teens, in addition to watching movies for enjoyment and education, I have seen movies as practice… initially mostly as a way to work with projections.
Movies can be an invitation for…
- A shift into witness, into pure seeing… of what happens on the screen, in the surroundings, in this human self.
- A a shift into Big Mind, as the seeing and seen, without being caught up in the content or identified as either the seeing or seen. (And when identifications arise, just notice that as well.)
- A heartfelt seeing and being with what comes up in this human self… any emotions, any reactivity, any stories triggered.
- An empathy with the characters in the movie, whether defined as good or bad or a mix. (A shift into Big Heart.) And also noticing when empathy does not come up so easily. Who and what do I exclude from my empathy? What do I need to let go of to open up for empathy for even them?
- Seeing the movie as a mirror for my human self. Anything happening in the movie, any story lines, any characters, any behaviors, any settings, each reflect something very similar in this human self. Can I find it? Can I feel it, equally much in here as out there? Can I be with it in an heartfelt way?
- Noticing projections. Whom and what trigger an attraction and sympathy in me? Whom and what trigger aversion? Can I find (and feel) what I see out there in myself? What do I need to let go of to see it equally well in here as out there?
- Seeing the story, or parts of it, as reflecting an inner story. Where can I find similar dynamics in me and in my life?
- Working with shadows. Whom and what trigger aversion in me? Whom is it difficult for me to recognize in myself and have empathy for? What do I need to let go of to see them in myself, and open for genuine empathy?
- Noticing beliefs triggered by the story, characters or setting. What triggers reactivity in me? What is the belief (the should) behind it? And then, later on, take it to inquiry. Is it true? What happens when I hold onto the belief? How would it be without the belief? What are the genuine truths in the turnarounds of initial belief?
- And finally in a more conventional way, notice social and cultural patterns (norms, hidden assumptions) reflected in the movie, and explore how they show up in my own belief system and life and what effects they have.
As I watch, any of these may come up depending on the movie and what it triggers. If sadness comes up, then a heartfelt being with may be the response. If reactivity, then noticing it as a shadow projection and the belief/identity creating it. If unquestioned cultural assumptions are clear in the interactions of the characters, or the apparent intention of the movie maker, then I can notice and explore those. If the action is especially intense, a shift into Big Mind (headlessness) often happens naturally. If a great deal of suffering among the characters, then a shift into empathy and Big Heart (and a noticing of whom my heart may be more closed towards).
There are many stories of obsessiveness, apparent disasters and waking up, mirroring (one version of) the awakening process.
Moby Dick is about one man’s obsessiveness with the white whale (God) which eventually drags him and his ship under (the death of a sense of separate I along with any other belief and identity), leaving only the ocean, the nondual awakening.
The Truman Show is about a man gradually intuiting that his life is a fabrication, the apparent disasters that happens when he attempts to break out (loss of identities and beliefs), and his final breaking out.
The Matrix trilogy is about a man first waking out of the conventional dream, and then through a great deal of struggle finding an awakening that goes beyond and embraces all polarities… Neo and Agent Smith (good and evil, persona and shadow), the machine world and Zion (mind and matter, also in its version of empty luminosity and form), the Matrix and the real world (deluded and awake).
The richest stories have many layers of meaning and can be interpreted in a wide range of ways… which is also why there is often a shared fascination with them.
Moby Dick is one of those stories, and the story can be filtered in many different ways, yielding many different meanings and insights.
- Later, more mature worldcentric
From a later wordcentric view, we hold both the whales and the animals inside of our circle of care, concern and compassion. We see the struggle between animals and humans as an inevitable outcome of both trying to survive, a story they are both caught up in without much (apparent) choice, almost as a Greek tragedy.
- Early, less mature worldcentric
From an early worldcentric view where our circle of care beings to include all of Earth, we may easily side with and have mainly compassion for the whale. The whale is innocent and only tries to protect itself, the humans evil (or at least blind) killing other species without respect and concern for their life and well-being. (Animal rights perspective.)
- Humans vs nature
Humans try to put themselves above nature and to subdue nature. Since nature always has the last word (it is, after all, the larger holon), this is only successful to a limited degree, and it may have dire consequences for humans. We are part of a larger living system, so when we reduce the health and well-being of the larger system, it impacts us as well. Climate change is one of many examples of this.
- Beliefs perspective
Captain Ahab is caught up in blind beliefs, making it appear to himself that he needs revenge and to settle the score with Moby Dick. It not only creates a split between the two and a great deal of drama and suffering for both, but it also brings the whole ship down.
Then there is the awakening perspective. Moby Dick is God (“if God wanted to be a fish, he would be a whale”, “that is no whale, it is a white god”), and Ahab is single-mindedly pursuing God, relentlessly, at any cost, obsessively (which often goes before an awakening). Captain Ahab and the ship is the small self, or more precisely the appearance of a separate self placed on this human self, and that is what is drawn under in the struggle with God. What is left is just the ocean, nondual awakening.
This is of course an experiential truth, not a literal one. The experience is of a disaster, of dying, of a calamity as U. G. Krishnamurti liked to call it with his flair for the dramatic. It is really just the belief in a separate self that dies, but since that is taken as an “I” the experience is of I dying. The human self goes on just fine, although now without being taken as an I.
I initially heard about Moby Dick as an analogy to awakening from a friend of mine at the Zen center a while ago, and know that it has been used by others as well. It is an interpretation that comes relatively easily to mind when we are aware of the characteristics of the awakening process.
Then there are the reflections of a nondual awakening in the text itself (which doesn’t mean the author needed to have awakened, only intuited it), such as… Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. (Ahab)
I watched Life of Buddha last night, and was in particular impressed with The Dalai Lama’s ability to meet people where they are at.
He was asked what is enlightenment, and could have answered in a precise way, or a technical way, neither of which would have been much help for people not already familiar with the territory.
What he said was (heavily paraphrased)… I don’t know, I think it is an energy of peace.
At first, I was surprised. Here is someone who is deeply immersed in the most sophisticated Buddhist philosophy and practice available, and he is using vague new-age sounding terminology…?
But then I saw the beauty of it. Had he talked in a technical or precise way, it would have sounded too abstract, too removed from most people’s experience. They would not have been able to find it in themselves, and they may even have been turned off from pursuing a Buddhist practice if there was such an interest there.
Using familiar and slightly fuzzy terms, and showing that he himself is not exactly sure what it is (which is true, it is a mystery even for those clearly awakened), he allows people to find it in themselves and also see Buddhism as more approachable.
Skillful means in action.
A documentary which shows the journey of Christianity from flavored by amber (fundamentalist, authoritarian, ethnocentric) and earlier to orange (science, rationality, early worldcentric) and beyond.
For someone like me who grew up in a culture that is heavily orange, green and beyond, and where the church is mostly the same, there is nothing new in the approach of this documentary. We learned mostly about the historical aspects of the Bible and Christianity in school, including the authoring of the various parts of the Bible, the politics of selecting the final books, translation issues, and so on.
And since the culture is at orange/green+, this approach was taken for granted… maybe too much so, since there is now an influx of people there who has more of an amber minus background, which creates conflicts and problems they were – and are – not prepared to deal with.
It is still interesting to watch, and maybe especially because it is also a personal journey for the presenter, from amber to orange+ Christianity.
Thanks to Educational Television for finding and posting it!
Since the dream had some associations to Milarepa, I looked him up online, and found that there is a recent biographical movie on him – Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint. It is made by an associate of Khyentse Norbu who made The Cup and Travelers and Magicians.
From the movie website:
Neten Chokling Rinpoche, born in Wandipodzong, central Bhutan in 1973, was recognized and enthroned by both the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from whom he received many teachings and transmissions. Renowned as an accomplished practitioner, he is the spiritual head of the Pema Ewam Choegar Gyurmeling Monastery in India and Tibet
Neten Chokling Rinpoche’s lineage is that of the great terton (treasure finder) Chokgyur Lingpa, and traces itself back to the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, who invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet.
In previous incarnations Neten Chokling Rinpoche accomplished many great activities in association with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a renowned Buddhist saint who played a pivotal role in the revitalization and preservation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 19th century. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s present incarnation is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, aka ‘Khyentse Norbu’ – the critically acclaimed film director.
Likewise, Neten Chokling Rinpoche is fascinated with the power of cinematic art and the emotional influence of storytelling through sound and moving pictures. He greatly admires the directors Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.
Neten Chokling was a principal actor in Khyentse Norbu’s ‘The Cup’ and assisted in his latest production ‘Travellers and Magicians’ as a stuntman, assistant to the director and 2nd unit director. The tradition of accomplishing remarkable activities with Khyentse Norbu, which dates back many centuries, is apparently very much alive and well in this century.
Neten Chokling’s rigorous training in Buddhist meditation and philosophy, combined with a deep interest in the film medium, make him well-suited to bring the teachings alive in a way that is accessible to a modern audience.
I finally watched Wings of Desire tonight, and besides being a beautifully filmed, poetic and deeply human story, it also has some parallels to some of the things I have written about here recently.
The angels in the movie bear witness to human lives, and also consoles, they provide a gentle and quiet presence. And this reflects the wakeful aspect of Spirit, as pure awareness, and also how (it seems) we experience the soul, or essence, as an alive presence, tangible, quiet, supporting, nourishing.
At the same time, there is nothing more (some of) these angels wants than to fully experience an embodied human life, and many of them do as Peter Falk mentions. And we also see one of the main characters choose a human life.
There is a desire for Spirit and soul (essence) to fuse into human life, for all three to be alive as one, in this individual life. For it to awaken to what it is (Spirit), and who it is (individual soul and human), alive, fused, deepening and maturing into and as this human life.
There are several headless movies at YouTube.
Here is a fragment of an interview with Douglas Harding, where he among other things says… I am absolutely, deeply convinced that Douglas is designed to let me down!
Our human self is finite, evolving, not living up to any ideals, so it is good thing to be let down by it, and be nudged to find ourselves as headless, Big Mind, as capacity full of the whole world.
After seeing the rather heavy-handed and one-dimensional use of symbolism in The Fountain last night, I thought of how it could be done differently, and also what type of stories I am more drawn to.
Mainly, they tend to be multi-layered, functioning at many different levels, the way mythology and many fairy tales do. One the surface level, they are adventures, exciting enough in themselves to hold people’s attention and interest even if the adventure level is all they are aware of. At another level, they symbolize our path through life, our relationships with others, ourselves and various life situations. They also represent dynamics within our psyche, for instance the drama between persona and shadow. And finally, the most interesting of them also represent the spiritual journey through to awakening.
More specifically, it would be interesting to see contemporary stories that dramatize the path of individualization and awakening: (a) the field of seeing and seen, (b) filtering itself through a sense of I and Other, (c) identifying in a conventional way with a human self, going about its daily life, (d) breaking out of the trance, recognizing the trance, (e) struggling with the dynamics of persona and shadow, peeling of new layers of the shadow, including (f) finding itself also as energy, soul and the formless, (g) and then die to a sense of I and any identity whatsoever, awakening as the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.
And this is, of course, the Matrix Trilogy: multi-layered, offering something for everyone, representing the hero’s journey to individualization and finally full awakening.
Neo starts out living a conventional life, as a drone in a corporate office (c). He is kicked out of the trance through circumstances beyond his control (d), and awakens to himself as far more than he had imagined. He starts embracing the positive (immediately desirable) aspects of his shadow (through the training), and is also forced to face and eventually embrace the negative (apparently undesirable) aspects of his shadow (Agent Smith et al) (e). At the end of the first movie, he also finds himself as more than just a human of flesh and blood, but also as energy and consciousness (f). Finally, through the face-off between the final remains of what appears as I and Other, he dies as what he takes himself to be, and awakens to a new life.
As traditional mythology shows us, there is no end of variations on this story, and no end of aspects of it to be explored more in detail, so there is lots of room for many more movies exploring this, even after The Matrix. Especially if they are a little more sophisticated about it than The Fountain (a good attempt, but does not quite make it.)
I saw The Fountain tonight, and my initial impression is that it is a strangely disjointed movie. The first hour and fifteen minutes or so were about as flat as a comic book or a computer game, with hardly any character development, and enough overdone pathos to last for several B movies without adding any depth or richness. While the last fifteen minutes blew me away.
I especially enjoyed the anthropos scene, the conquistador drinking from the Tree of Life and not being able to help allowing a whole world to grow from him. This is an image that is especially alive for me now as it showed up in a dream some days ago. The parallel is quite close, as I in the dream climbed up a mountain, was helped up the last steps by someone already up there, and then became the ground of a whole city and bay area. In the movie, he climbs up a pyramid, meets somebody there who is a gatekeeper, and becomes the ground of vegetation – of life.
And I enjoyed what seemed as a final acceptance of death and impermanence by someone who had been fighting it for centuries, which allowed him to find the real immortality. When we fight impermanence, we remain stuck in the world of form. We are closely and exclusively identified with it, and struggle within it, as one part, our human self, fighting another, time and change. When we finally accept transience and death, allowing it to be, to live its own life, we can find ourselves as the timeless, as the awake emptiness all forms arise within, to and as. That is the true immortality, the timelessness that is already and always here.
First, we need to find true wholeness as all of us, represented by the anthropos image. Then, often much later, we can find true immortality, through awakening as the awake emptiness and form that is always already here.
Of course, the ending also parallels the ending of The Matrix, and the ascension of Christ.
The most recent one was Keep the River on the Right, about a New York artist and anthropologist who lived with tribes in New Guinea and Peru.
As with all of these movies, it is the human story that is most touching and interesting to me.
And then other things coming up as well.
Fog of War and parallels to Iraq
For instance in Fog of War, some of the parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
(a) In both cases, the US got into it partly through a serious lack of understanding the historical and cultural background and filters of the Other. In Vietnam, reading into a civil war something far beyond just that: as one more body falling victim to the virus of communism, ready to spread everywhere if not stopped there. In Iraq, not taking into account its history with the British empire, and how a destabilized Iraq inevitably would go in the direction of civil war.
(b) Apparently believing in each case, or at least pretending to believe, that they can “win the heart and minds” of the people they slaughter and who’s country they illegally invade and (try to) occupy.
(c) The US going into it, in both cases, with very little support from the international community. As McNamara said, if even your friends and allies don’t think it is a good idea, maybe you should cool down and see if they have a good point. They are most likely seeing something you don’t.
(d) And finally, how an obviously very intelligent and well-intentioned person can get into trouble through setting loyalty over his own judgment.
The draw of primitivism
At some point in Keep the River on Your Right, the topic of a draw to primitivism came up, and I got curious about what it is about.
For me, what is in the foreground now when watching these types of anthropologically themed movies is just the diversity of human cultures, world views, experiences and filters. But I also remember that in my childhood and early teens, the primitive was fascinating to me in itself. What is it about?
Two things came up for me…
:: Free from beliefs
The first is a draw to a natural, unhindered state of mind. A freedom from the shoulds and rules of civilization and culture. A more open and receptive way of being, more spacious, just doing what comes up next to do.
This is of course a projection.
All cultures have believes, norms, shoulds, rules, unquestioned assumptions, including tribes living in New Guinea and Peru.
And the freedom we are looking for is available right here, by allowing the shoulds to fall into the background for a moment through dance, ritual, nature, mystical experiences, drugs, sex and so on, or more stably and deeply through questioning beliefs and allowing them to fall away.
It is not only available right here, it is here right now. It is the awake emptiness right here, which we usually don’t even notice, or just take for granted, or don’t explore enough to see what is about – how it can transform what we take ourselves to be and how we live in the world as human beings.
:: Meeting and getting to know the shadow
The other aspect is meeting and getting familiar with the shadow.
In our civilized culture, the “primitivism” we project onto these tribes is not allowed, not OK, held at bay by our shoulds, outside of our conscious or ideal identity.
Yet, we yearn to be more whole, to allow all of us into our identity, to be OK with all of who we are, so we seek out the shadow in many ways. We want to meet it, get to know it, become familiar with it, befriend it. Some of the more acceptable ways of doing this is through stories, such as movies, books, dreams, fantasies, and more consciously through active imagination.
I finally saw Borat tonight, and found it far more disturbing than I had expected.
Mainly, it was disturbing to see all the ethnocentric views exposed in the character Borat and in the people he interacted with, all reflecting the ethnocentric in myself.
It also struck me how much fear is tied in with the ethnocentric. We create a strong division between us and them, which naturally brings up fear. And that was very clear in the movie, to the point of people reacting with fear (sometimes expressed as anger) even when he walked up to people to give them an innocent kiss on the cheek…!
And it was a reminder of how many in today’s world are mainly at ethnocentric, including here in the US. Not that it is a surprise (US domestic and foreign politics is rife with ethnocentrism, in a large number of areas – from homophobia to racism to islamophobia to we-are-the-greatest and everybody-for-themselves attitudes.) But in a world that is in great need (on a relative level) of worldcentric solutions, it does not look so good.
So what I am left with is a sense of how disturbing the ethnocentric can be in some of its expressions, that the ethnocentric is right here as well, and a sense of compassion for us all for having to deal with this – in ourselves and each other.
Not what I expected from this movie, but maybe more what I needed than just comedy.
Common themes: what to do with powerful women, and rationality and sentiment
From the few episodes of TOS I have seen, there seem to be some common themes.
In Spock’s Brain, it is powerful (although sometimes vacuous) women, and how to relate to and deal with them. In The Galileo Seven, the relationship between rationality and sentiment as played out between Spock and his shipmates.
Fascination with polarities, and how it looks in daily life when embraced
In both cases, and I am sure many others (which I would discover by watching more episodes), there is a fascination and curiosity with polarities, and an active attempt to reconcile the poles with each other.
What is the relationship between men and women, and the masculine and feminine, when women gains more power in society, when men must learn to share power with women, when women find the masculine in themselves and men ind the feminine in themselves? What is the relationship between rationality and sentiment, between head and body, and how does it look when both are included? How does it play itself out in real life? How does it look in the grittiness in our daily interactions?
Mirroring at cultural and individual levels
This is pretty obvious: those themes, and many others from TOS, were very much alive in the mid and late 1960s, at both collective and individual levels.
As a culture, the leading edge in the western world of the 60s was at green, shifting into the postmodern, pluralism, a widening circle of concern that includes women, other ethnicities, and the Earth as a whole. It was the larger scale birth of the ecology movement, the human potential movement and deepening feminism.
And along with this, as a rough parallel on a personal level, there was a shift into the centaur level, finding ourselves, in our own immediate experience and daily life, as the whole beyond and including body and psyche. This was the larger scale birth of the western fascination with and exploration of mediation, yoga, projection work, and innumerable (other) mind-body practices.
Star Trek picked this up, which may be one of the reasons there is still an active interest in the original series (apart from nostalgia, and its quirkiness and humor.)
Shift: found and worked at
Any shift from having the center of gravity in one end of a polarity to embrace the polarity as a whole, has two aspects.
One is the discovery and the noticing of the polarity. It has always been there, it just looked fragmented when there was an exclusive identification with one end.
Men and women have always had both masculine and feminine qualities. It is just that culture and gender identity has filtered these qualities so that some come out and are embraced, and others remain hidden and excluded.
And there is always the whole of psyche and body: of rationality and feelings, of feminine and masculine, of persona and shadow. It is always there, although again may not be noticed if the conscious identification is with only aspects of this whole.
All that is needed here is just to notice what already is. Nothing needs to change, apart from this noticing.
I can just notice that there are indeed feminine and masculine qualities in me, independent of my biological sex and cultural gender. I can notice the whole beyond and embracing my whole human self, including psyche and body, the feminine and masculine, persona and shadow.
:: Worked at
At the same there, there is an aspect of exploration, discovery, testing out, seeing how it plays itself out in real life.
How does it look in society when women and men are more equal in terms of power? How does it look in my life if I find myself as the larger whole which includes the feminine and masculine, the rational and feelings, persona and shadow? What are the roles of these aspects in this new situations? How does it play itself out? How does it change and mature over time, as I become more familiar with all of these aspects, these ways of being in the world?
And this exploration is what some of the TOS episodes seem to mirror: how does it look at collective and individual levels, when we embrace more of what we already are?
Although The Fifth Element is a sci-fi comedy, it does have an interesting core story. Evil is approaching, and only the four earth elements along with the fifth element, the divine, can save us.
How does that mirror what is going on right here, in me?
Where do I find evil in me? It comes when there is a strong attachment to an idea, and the world (inevitably) shows up in a different way. If the attachment is strong, and the world shows up in a very different way, there may indeed be evil… in the sense that I am willing to go far to make the world conform to my idea of how it should be.
This evil also has an alien quality, as in the movie. I become less human, more obsessive, my view and concerns narrow, I am more willing to ignore my natural empathy and compassion for myself and others.
The five elements
In the movie, the only way to stop evil from destroying earth is the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and the divine.
For me, this is the deeply and ordinarily human. The inclusiveness of all that we are, as Earthly beings composed of the four elements, and with the element of the divine included.
It is the inclusiveness that is naturally here when we are relaxed and comfortable with ourselves. And the inclusiveness that equally naturally goes out the window when there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform.
Dealing with evil
As the movie pointed out, attacking evil only makes it stronger. If we attack it in ourselves, we only amplify the narrowness and obsessiveness that gives birth to it in the first place. If we blindly attack it in others, their narrowness and obsessiveness, and anger and resentment, is only fueled and directed back at us. (A good example is of course the “war on terror” which, in its current form, only fuels resentment and hatred.)
So the only remedy to evil when it arises in ourselves is to find ourselves as a more fully human being, to connect more with the whole of us. And when it arises in others, to remain in contact with and act from our own deep humanity: our compassion and empathy, as well as our decisiveness and action. An action that comes more from clarity and less from blind reactivity.
(In dealing with terrorism, this could mean to strengthen international cooperation and use legal means, as we would do to deal with any other form of criminal activities committed by smaller groups of people.)
Fortunately, there is no lack of tools to connect with our more inclusive humanity: The many forms of body-oriented practice, such as Breema. Allowing the mind to unwind and everything come and go on its own, through mediation. The many forms of self-inquiry. And maybe most importantly, the many ways of working with projections in general and the shadow in particular.
I am involved in organizing a local, informal, slow paced and ongoing film series, mostly focused on sustainability issues and followed by a discussion. And a friend of mine pointed me to the perfect source: The Film Connection.
They are based in Portland, Oregon, and ship DVDs to local groups for free, with the one condition that they organize a discussion following the watching of the film. A quick browse through their collection revealed a large number of movies I personally would like to see, along with some of my old favorites such as Baraka, Escape from Affluenza, Fierce Grace, Rivers and Tides, and Dersu Uzala.
The Film Connection offers a diverse and compelling film lending library intended to inform, challenge, entertain, and gather communities together in conversation. Our mission is to promote community, civic engagement, and positive social change through film and an open exchange of ideas, opinions and perspectives.
I watched the BBC documentary Walking with Prehistoric Beasts last night, about the evolution of mammals from the demise of dinosaurs and up to today.
Since I was a kid, I have enjoyed nature documentaries. And since I got into systems theories in my mid-teens, I have been aware of the discrepancy between how many of them are made and what I would like to see.
Here is a simple and very general way to look at it, using the levels of consciousness outlined in the aqal model:
First tier documentaries
Nature documentaries can be seen as inherently orange or beyond. They draw on information, views, models, findings from orange level – or beyond – science.
At the same time, nature documentaries are often presented with lots of red or below mixed in, with a dramatic and sometimes exclusive emphasis on nature red in tooth and claw, dramatic struggles, everyone for themselves, and so on. (Even some of the BBC documentaries do this… which makes it look a little silly, as if twelve year old boys were the only audience for these programs.)
What we don’t see as much yet are documentaries that take a green and beyond view: looking at cooperation, partnerships and symbiosis, at whole systems dynamics, at ecosystems and ecoregions as fluid wholes of matter, energy and patterns, of which individuals are just temporary forms, aspects and expressions.
Of course, if we look at nonhuman species, we will see a lot of the early levels (in particular infrared) as that’s where they are at, so it certainly needs to be included. But it can still be presented within orange, green and second tier frameworks. A few documentaries already do this, and it may be more common in the near future.
I wonder what a blue take on nature documentaries would look? If religious fundamentalist, it would of course conform to whatever story told within their tradition.
Second tier documentaries
A second tier take on nature documentaries seems far more interesting, probably even for many first tier folks. Second tier takes on nature have the potential to easily be rich, fluid, engaging and thoroughly entertaining.
It would include a wide range of perspectives and levels, fluidly shifting among them and weaving them together into a more integral view.
It could use current science and an integral model (for instance aqal) as the overall framework.
And then include any or all of these…
Nature red in tooth and claw. The struggle for survival. The birth, survival, procreation and death of individuals.
Views on nature from various cultures and religious traditions. How do we humans relate to and view nature, filtered through a wide range of cultures and traditions?
How has scientific methodology and views shifted over time?
Cooperation, partnership and symbiosis in nature. An emphasis on communities within and among species, rather than individuals.
The views from ecopsychology and evolutionary psychology. How can an evolutionary perspective help us understand how humans function today? What role does nature play in our sense of belonging, quality of life and health?
Where is evolution going? What can we tell from past patterns? Where are current evolutionary nudges taking us as a planet and species?
A systems and holarchical view, looking at individuals, ecosystems, the Earth, the Universe as wholes within wholes. Each as temporary expressions of their subsystems and larger systems.
And if they were really brave: all of this as Ground or Spirit, as the many manifestations of Ground, as the evolution of form within and as Ground. As the form aspect of God evolving over time into more and more complex forms and expressions of consciousness. This is all emptiness dancing, and dancing in a way that appears to itself as evolution.
This is an approach that would offer something to just about anyone, and it would also offer something to each of these levels and areas in each of us.
I watched the movie Munich last night, and found it far more interesting and engaging than I had expected.
For one, it allowed me to see my own reactivity surface around some of the issues in the movie.
My personality reacts to any form of blind and stupid revenge, retaliation and use of violence, especially when it is very likely to just fuel more bloodshed, so there was a wish there for the main characters to be taken out early – knowing that would not happen.
It is actually interesting how my personality tends to have reverse sympathies, often for those others don’t have much sympathy for. I guess it is the sympathy for the underdog, whomever or whatever that may be in the situation.
And of course, as the movie set the stage for, there was also sympathy coming up for the main characters since we got to see at least two of them (the main character and his wife) in a more relaxed universally human setting.
In the beginning, they were set up as the good guys fighting the bad guys, in the familiar way. Yet, as the movie went along, it all got more complex.
In the safehouse conversations, we got a glimpse into the views of the Others, and they turned out to be human and having some good points as well. They may even be acting exactly as I would in their situation.
And we – the audience along with the main character – started to see that maybe this strategy of killing off opponents left and right may lead to more opposition, hatred and bloodshed on both sides.
Going beyond the polarity
I thought this was one of the strengths of the movie, and where it went further than most – at least US made – movies out there. It took us from the usual polarity of us versus them, and into a place where we see the similarities between us and them.
We are not so different. If I were in their situation, I would probably do exactly what they are doing. And if they were in my situation, they would probably do what I am doing.
Similarly, in the way Israel and Mossad responded to the Munich situation, they were exactly mirroring the terrorists, their opponents. They became the mirror image of their opponents.
This is a given these days, when people are a little more psychologically savvy: We become what we hate. Or rather, I have it in me anyway, and by shutting it off in myself, seeing it just in others, and blindly reacting to it in others, I set myself up to blindly live it in myself.
And we see it all around.
Becoming the terrorists
In the way the US reacted to 911, they themselves became the mirror image of the terrorist, although with one difference: Since they have far more resources and support around the world, they only do it at a far larger scale. Instead of less than 3,000 killed, they have killed – or been responsible for the killing of – tens of thousands, maybe hundred of thousands. In the process, they predictably and effectively erode whatever sympathy is left for the US, fuel resentment and hatred against the US, and recruit new terrorists worldwide – in far greater numbers and fueled by far more hostility. It is a suicidal approach.
There are of course situations where forceful measures, even war, is needed. But this was clearly not one of them.
This is where the movie led as well: All this blood will come back to us.
In the grips of irrationality
Why does it happen? Because we are in the grips of emotions. When there is a blind projection, we have little choice but to live out whatever would rather see in others than in ourselves.
And how to loosen it up and find release from it? Through taking a sober view at what is going on. If we support violence against those we perceive as our opponents, are we not doing excatly what they are doing? If our soldiers kill large number of civilians, are they much different from the original terrorists? How am I doing what I see in them? How am I living what they are living?
In seeing this more clearly, there is a release from blind reactivity and emotions. There is the space for a more rational approach, for more sane choices. They may still involve forceful tactics if that seems needed, but now at least from a different view and with more ability to let go.
Of course, it doens’t help that the US now has a government which systematically uses this form of irrationality for their own purposes, a government that uses fear as a strategy for getting their policies through. And that the US has a media that to a minimal extent question what is going on, and function more as stenographers than anything else.
Some statements for inquiry for myself…
They shouldn’t use violence to get their way.
They shouldn’t act in a blindly reactive way.
They should see how violence turns itself towards those using it.
They shouldn’t use fear tactics to get their way.
The US media and public shouldn’t be so stupid and unquestioning.
See YouTube for some wonderfully simple and clear Headless experiment videos. These are from the Headless Way website, and uploaded with permission from Richard there. He also mentioned that a new website, with more videos, is coming up soon.
When I first saw the borg – cybernetic organisms with one mission: to assimilate any species they encounter into their own collective – I was struck with the power of this image. They seem to have the same clear and resonant archetypal quality as classic creatures from ancient and more modern stories, such as cyclops, the centaur, dragons, goblins, witches, wizards and dracula.
The borg qualities
Exploring the borg image for myself, I notice that I see them as cold, inhuman, machine like, relentless, twistedly rational, single-track, without concerns for the views or interests of others.
Attachment to ideas
Where do I find these qualities in myself? When I strongly believe in an idea… When I am absolutely dead certain it is true, that I am right, and that the world does not conform to this idea.
That is when this same cold, inhuman, twistedly rational and persistent quality can arise, and the more seems to be at stake, the stronger these qualities may come up.
When it comes up
It can come up in daily life, whenever there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform. It can come up in small, apparently insignificant, situations.
It comes up in our culture, and maybe especially clearly seen in politics and religion. I see it in some progressives relationship to Bush. In Bush’s attitude towards terrorists. In some scientist’s view of religious fundamentalists. In some religious fundamentalists relationship to science. In some Americans view of United Nations.
The borg is right here
There is a strong conviction, a world that does not conform, and the ideas become more important than just about anything else. We become single-tracked, cold, relentless, machine like, with an absence of empathy and the willingness take other views.
The borg is right here. And when present, it assimilates and cover up our more human qualities. Our receptivity, flexibility and empathy. A creature emerges that is part human and part machine: relentless, cold, single-track, without concern for the views and interests of others.
That creature is any one of us, when we believe strongly in an idea. Fortunately, there are many ways to soften or disarm the borg.
We can distract ourselves with something more pleasant, temporarily shift attention away from it. We can come to the breath and the body, shifting out of the contraction.
Or we can find the thought we believe in – that which we are so attached to, that we see as so clearly true, that which holds us in its grip – and we can inquire into it.
When a belief is inquired into with some sincerity, it loses its grip. It becomes just another thought, and we are free to shift fluidly among multiple perspectives without holding any one of them too tightly. In a way, we become more human again. More organic.
It is interesting that in the Star Trek universe, the only species the borg has no power over is species 8472. They are all organic, including their space ships, which may represent a more fluid and flexible approach, more organic in a wide sense of the term.
I watched The Sting again last night, and was reminded of how much I enjoy well-crafted stories with surprising reversals. In The Sting, the audience is repeatedly led to believe certain stories about what they are seeing. Later on, the audience is given new information and insights which completely reverses what they see as going on.
For us humans, there seems to be a built-in delight in these forms of reversals, especially when they appear in what is clearly just entertainment. In my own life, I see that I either appreciate the reversals as they happen, or at least learn to appreciate them later on.
Reversals in awakening
In the various forms of awakenings, there are also numerous reversals. Here are some variations of just one reversal…
- The reversal from identification as a human being, an object in the world, to that clear space and awareness within which these objects, and this human self, arises within and as.
- The related reversal from seeing myself as an object, as finite in space and time, subject to birth and death, to that clear space and awareness these objects, space and time, and birth and death arises within and as. The clear awake space inherently free from any of these, from any characteristic, which allows any of them to arise.
- The reversal of seeing myself as finite in space and time, to that which space and time happens within and as.
- The reversal of seeing myself as identified by certain characteristics, to inherently being free from characteristics and thus allowing any to come and go on their own.
- The reversal of identification as an I, to realizing that everything is inherently absent of any I.
Dance of emptiness
Seeing existence as lila, as the play of God, as God playing hide-and-seek with itself, we could see this delight in reversals as reflected in both human and divine life. And that seems accurate in a certain way.
Yet, the Ground, the clear awakeness everything arises within and as, is inherently free from any wants, any desires, any delights, any suffering, any polarities. It is free of these, so it allows any and all of them to arise within and as Ground.
And in that way, the delight in reversals found in human life, is indeed God’s delight in reversals. Although it is only a delight at the relative level, temporary, not absolute in any way, not an inherent characteristic of what is. And it exists side-by-side with the resistance to reversals, which is also found in human lives. That too arises within and as Ground, within and as clear awakeness.
Ground forms itself into delights in and resistance to reversals, and is inherently free from either. It sheds both as a teflon pan.
And that Ground is that which reads this.
I have been watching some nonduality (advaita, zen, buddhism) video snippets on YouTube. There are quite a few of them there already, and I am sure more to come. Here is one of several of Adyashanti, amazingly fresh and clear as he usually is.
Even if a part of me is somewhat embarrassed, I can’t help looking forward to this movie with a good deal of enthusiasm: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, scheduled for release in November.
Besides being very funny (to some of us), the exchanges in the movie is a good example of Spiral Dynamics orange (scientific, rational, early world-centric) or higher making fun of blue (traditionalist, ethnocentric) or lower, while also exposing the prejudices we are all holding onto in various ways.
When I see the prejudices exposed by people in the movie, I see a mirror of my own myself. I do the same, although it may look different on the surface. I even do it here now: I relate to these racist and homophobiacs as they relate to people of other ethnicities and sexual orientations. When I go into beliefs about them, I see them as wrong, sometimes as subhuman, as someone who needs a good lesson.
Here is the second trailer.
During the Breema intensive in Oakland, I ran out of t-shirts and went down to a second hand clothing store to find a couple to tie me over until I had an opportunity to use a washer & dryer. Among these was a black one with a mix of Russian and English words, saying Night Watch 6-26-06 on the back. I thought that whatever it refers to, it probably fits, and was curious about what it would be. After all, the world is my mirror – reminding me of what is already right here.
Looking it up in an idle moment today, I found that Night Watch is a Russian science-fiction movie, and the date refers to the release date of the computer game.
Living among normal are the ‘Others’, who possess various supernatural powers. They are divided up into the forces of light and the forces of dark, who signed a truce several centuries ago to end a devastating battle. Ever since, the forces of light govern the day while the night belongs to their dark opponents. In modern day Moscow, the dark Others roam the night as vampires and other evil nightmares, while a “Night Watch” of light forces (among them Anton, a kind of seer and the movie’s main character) try to control them and limit their outrages. [source]
And yes, that indeed fits. According to conventional views, and really any view that divide the world into “good” and “bad”, I can find both of those in me – and it is often hidden, often masked by politeness. Which ones govern fluctuates, as day follows night follows day. Nothing new there. The movie is, as any movie, a portrait of me. (How clearly and thoroughly I see it and allows that seeing to inform my life is another matter.)
The night watch itself mirrors shadow work, including in the form of inquiry – which is catharsis, shadow work, and insight meditation rolled into one.