9 February, 2021

From my journal

I was thinking recently that it is in the nature of those who aspire to truth to fall prey to folly... in the years to come I want to avoid all movements and places that stink of fakery and phoniness. Places with pretensions to spirituality, in particular, are pretty ghastly. On the basis of my experience with them, it isn't surprising that I feel disenchanted. And, of course, I'm well aware of my own failings. I don't need to make these worse by placing myself in the path of further possibilities for failure. It is best to keep to modesty, the water-course way of the Tao.

In terms of the future of humanity, our best hope is in the increasing confirmation given by science of the veracity of the mystical vision of unity and interbeing. Science gives no indication of whether an integral vision, based on this truth, is attainable on a personal level, as claimed by the mystics. That is less important, in so far as it concerns the future of the human race. What is important is that the scientific truth of underlying unity and inter-connectedness becomes a modus operandi for our future development. It offers a hope for our species, as we go forward. Much more so than the quasi-religious writings of all the mystics. The best way of looking at these is as pre-scientific glimpses of truth.

For us personally, what is important is to bring our lives into line with this truth, part of which means minimizing our needs, avoiding consumption for ego-gratification, trying to accord with ecological principles, and of course living in peace with one-another.

Beyond all this utilitarian stuff, there is still the question of whether it is possible to obtain a more inclusive vision, so that it does not become a matter of the intellect struggling with the mind, emotions and psychological needs.

Currently, I find the most appropriate guide appears to be Lao Tzu. I will be looking for solutions there.

Links blog

"We are a year into the pandemic, and video conferencing tools still don't support 1) queues of who talks next, 2) presenting a consistent view of participants so everyone can say a thing and then take turns." https://mastodon.social/@aza_leah

"I think the main way to uncrumble the fedi is just to give admins and users good enough tools to manage their experience. Adopt a principle of consent, so that people aren't just having random junk dumped upon them. If that happens often enough, then it becomes no longer worth it.

Yes you can try to lower the bar and improve interoperability, but this lifts all boats. So it also lowers the bar to adversaries. Lowering of the bar has to happen in conjunction with improved moderation tools so that communities can effectively practice self-governance." https://epicyon.freedombone.net/@bob

✭Paul Frazee - YouTube
"Decentralization and decency speaker" , fossdem - his youtube channel. Speaks on his CTZN project.

✭The Decentralized Web of Hate – Rebellious Data
This report looks at how hate movements are decentralizing using emerging technologies in ways that make them harder to combat.

✭facial recognition tech by the Govt. of India
Under Project Panoptic, we have been tracking all ongoing use of facial recognition technology in the country. In a letter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, we relay our concerns to them and ask them to call relevant stakeholders such as ministry officials and privacy experts to depose before them.
#india #privacy

"StreamYard is a live streaming studio in your browser. Interview guests, share your screen, and much more. Stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other platforms."

✭'Lazy,' 'Money-Oriented,' 'Single Mother': How Union-Busting Firms Compile Dossiers on Employees
According to a 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute, employers in the United States spend roughly $340 million on union avoidance consultants each year, who often report being paid in the neighborhood of $350 hourly rates or $2,500 a day for their work fending off unions.
#US #capitalism

✭A new lens technology is primed to jumpstart phone cameras
A new company called Metalenz, which emerges from stealth mode today, is looking to disrupt smartphone cameras with a single, flat lens system that utilizes a technology called optical metasurfaces. A camera built around this new lens tech can produce an image of the same if not better quality as traditional lenses, collect more light for brighter photos, and can even enable new forms of sensing in phones, all while taking up less space.
#phones #cameras

31 December, 2020

The illusion of time, the season of superstition

So many legends and superstitions come together at this time of year, from Santa Claus to Jesus, from good will to false promises. But perhaps the most resilient of them all is the illusion of the orderly measure of time; it's something even hardened atheists seem to cling to. As if there are really beginnings and endings of years, years that are favourable or unfavourable, lean or fat; auspicious or inauspicious. For Christians, the year ends and begins in mid-winter; just as the day ends and begins at midnight. For Jews, the year ends and begins in the fall; just as the day ends and begins at eventide. For Hindus, the year ends and begins in the Spring; just as night ends and day begins at the dawn. I've always thought Hindus have the most sensible approach. Mid-winter, just like midnight, seems a rather arbitrary time for beginnings and endings - as if the week should begin on Wednesday or something. Maybe it should.

In Indian philosophy, the pause between beginnings and endings is the time to watch. It is a feature of the Sanskrit language that the place of transition, the sandhi, where words end and begin, affects the sounds that precede and follow the sandhi. The time just before the day begins is the "hour of God", the Brahmamuhurti; the most auspicious time for meditation. The time between the in- and the out-breath, the kumbhaka, is similarly special in yoga. And at the end of every vast cycle of time comes the pralaya, the time of absorption, out of which enough energy is generated for a new cycle to be born.

Every moment is, or can be, a new beginning. If we are present for it, time can actually mean something.

Links blog

✭ Indian state bans government-run Islamic schools from teaching religious scripture - CNN
 the law is passed, the madrassas will become "secular schools" which will not teach students about the Quran, officials said. Opposition politicians have criticized the move, alleging it is reflective of hardening anti-Muslim attitudes in the Hindu-majority country."

✭ Mob attacks and sets fire to Hindu temple in Pakistan | World news | The Guardian
"Crowds reportedly led by Islamic clerics attempt to destroy ancient shrine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region"

✭ How has Israel launched the world’s fastest Covid vaccination drive? | World news | The Guardian
"Israel on track to have vaccinated 10% of citizens by weekend but Palestinians might wait months"

26 October, 2020

Paying Attention

I’m thinking that our lives are like a rich field of individual moments and responses; interactions with persons, things, situations. Whatever way we find to allow these moments to reverberate in our consciousness permits the weaving of them into an intricate tapestry, that gives joy through its beauty and intelligence. Processing our experiences through private journals, or communicating them in social media or in direct conversation may help us in this patient weaving. The question of whether this takes the place of something greater or more unitary may eventually be a false dilemma. Some of the world’s creative geniuses neither wrote nor expressed themselves through any art. Others started out by writing a short poem that organically grew, without prior intention, into a major epic; still others left short haiku or sutras that together assume a similar grandeur. Life, the listening to life, and the sweet or discordant music that we are sometimes able to discover there and express, are not amenable to our egoistic manipulation. Our only responsibility is to pay attention, and not to sleepwalk through this divine comedy. And to love; to love and do what we want, and to leave the rest to the universe, and whether we bloom like a rose or stink like a stinkweed is not in our hands.

Autumn Weather

It's an old dry season
Now the nights are drawing in
The olive trees are ashen
Under a grey mantle of summer dust
The lemon tree is wizened and dry
Its leaves puckered, its fruit sparse
Despite the dripper line

No ants stage commando raids
On the crumbs we leave behind
No little black beetles
Scamper under our door
To litter the stairs with their husks
No moths flutter around the lights
Left on in the entrance

Dusty hamsin winds
Are forecast
Rising up to heat the air
Making everyone feel worse
An unwanted warmth
Come to spoil the cooler days
And parch the morning dew
So needed by birds

But ah, the birds,
Yes there seem to be more of them!
More bird song,
Making every dreamy afternoon
Into a songfest
Are they down from the north,
These birds that brighten our days
In this season when windows are left open
And air conditioners remain unused
Will they pick up and leave
With the coming of the rains
Please linger on
And winter with us
It won't be long or cold.


Up at sunrise again. Actually I was up twice in the night too, so my days and nights are similar periods of rest and wakefulness. I'm still reading "The Earth of the New Sun", and am enjoying Wolf's conception of a universe where space and time and creatures inhabiting these worlds are highly flexible, and tend to flow into each other. Genders, strange creatures, androids, all are in a fluid mix. I could well imagine a similar combining of time periods in our own world, where wisdom from past times augments the knowledge of the present, with intimations from the future. This is very much the universe of science fiction writers, an embracing of all that is possible, and a refusal to reject anything outright.

We are a little stuck in our conception of what constitutes reality, in our mainstream culture. reality is actually quite a free-for-all. I am maybe too tough on the people around me and myself. For example, when A. embarks on his fantasies, I tend to close off; but that is because, in his real life, he constrains himself ridgidly, and is unable to conceive of even minor adjustments to his reality. So his fantasies involve only a superabundance of what he already has; more possessions.

Freedom of imagination does not have to involve hankering after goods, experiences, but instead can involve the realignment of one's current reality, in ways that had not been previously conceived; just as small children do not relate to the rigid world and constraints fixed by grown-ups. A chair isn't just something to sit on, but is an object to be climbed over; they see many more interesting possibilities in their environment. An adult can become a wild animal or a monster; they lack the conviction that the world is a safe, reliable space and don't really know where the boundaries lie. Anything could happen.

In the world of adults, we are shocked when the stock market falls or a new pandemic changes everything we know.

In my life, I have been doing some things right; my journeys to India, my time spent alone; of course I'm still a fairly ridgid person, but not as much as many of those around me. I'm able to adapt to new realities without too many difficulties, and tend to accept the present moment. I dont' dwell much on the past. Perhaps it's just that the patterns of my life do not change much.

I should read more poetry, as poets, like science fiction writers, are capable of seeing our existing reality in alternative ways. Sri Aurobindo was amazingly skilled at this too, actually. Instead of turning up my nose at his ideas, I should actually be awed at his courage to transform reality through the power of his imagination. Why shouldn't there be a downpouring of divine energy that can transform the brain and the body, to the level of the cells? Who can say that our ordinary humdrum reality is not simply a mass illusion, constantly reinforced by the constraints we put upon it? Why not assume completely different interpretations of this reality? Religious people of all hues operate from a different set of assumptions to those that are prevalent in secular society.

I don't think the reality we witness is a mass delusion, but the interpretations we put upon it are. For example, the furniture upon which I am sitting may be seen as "elegant" by me, but ugly / outmoded / uncomfortable by others. A person with no cultural knowledge of chairs would probably see a chair in a completely different way. And if this is true of simple, solid, human-created objects, it is all the more true for more complex aspects of our reality. How would a person from a patriarchal society relate to a woman president? Or someone from a homophobic society relate to the gay rights movement? How would someone who knows only tribal villages relate to nations, courts, constitutions? Or someone from the future relate to these things? A whole lot of what we simply take for granted is normalized by our culture, and alternative understandings can be imposed upon it. In order to function properly within this reality, we have to be familiar with the conventions of seeing it. We have to learn how to relate to it, and how to behave.