Thursday, February 19, 2004

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Belatedness, Blogwagon, Buddhjectivism and Bifurcation

"Yes! Life goes on! Marshall has a new blog entry!" -You

I realize that it has taken a hell of a long time for me to update my blog, and there are many reasons for this:

  1. I went to California for Thanksgiving, as well as Lake Tahoe. (Maybe one day I'll post the pictures that aren't X-Rated.)
  2. I went to Austin, Texas for Christmas and met Brittany's family. (I would've taken pictures, but we dropped the camera in the jacuzzi at Caesar's Palace in Tahoe.)
  3. Because of the pressure from my boss to be more organized, I have started reading Getting Things Done and it's starting to spill over into my personal life, making me far more productive with my free time. (So I don't spend it doing worthless things like blogging. *Pshaw*)
  4. I've been writing a couple essays to post, but they're going to be long and they're both far from complete.

So there you have the explanation for my absence from the information superhighway. I have been inspired, however, by the recent influx of new people jumping on the blogwagon:

  1. It seems that Chris, with his "This is my life...or something like it", was the first one in my cybercircle recently to obtain a blog, and he may have started the recent trend. While I think some of his ideas are a little misguided, he's proven to be an engaging writer and I applaud his efforts.
  2. Then Grant released what sounds like an ode to low self-esteem: "Faint Flicker of Purpose,". Considering the events detailed in his journal, one could easily understand why he might be feeling down on himself -- But upon witnessing the quality of his writing and the clarity of his ideas, one might be confused because of how much there is to esteem. It seems this has become primarily a forum for discussing Jessica, Gambling, and how much Marshall sucks for not sharing his thoughts. Well my thoughts on the subject are: censored *grin* Regardless, I'm glad Grant's become a regular presence in my life again.
  3. Lindsey then followed Grant (but this time not into his bedroom to make out) with her "It's about time isn't it?" Lindsey actually came up with the word in this post's title, "Blogwagon." While not the first person on the internet to come up with it, it's still clever nonetheless -- and the rest of her blog shares a similar quality. While in the past I've found her writing to be, at the very most, worthy of being consumed as dog food, her entries of late have been fairly apprehensible and very entertaining...especially when she bitches about Will. I'm glad Lindsey's back in my life too. Oh, and by the way -- I'm not a Buddhist! Maybe a Buddhjectivist... or Objecti-Buddha, as Joshua Zader likes to say.
  4. Even though his blog would probably be really insightful and entertaining, Will is way too lazy to make a blog, so you won't see one from him anytime soon. (Could that be reverse psychology?)
  5. Brittany does not yet have one, but she's planning to jump on with us. (There will definitely be more X-rated pictures then!)
  6. Joe has a blog now, under his pseudonym "Zachary Bleu". And a picture of his ass on it. Zachary Blue is to Joe, as Slim Shady is to Marshall Mathers. (Sorry if I ruined your secret identity, Joe -- Not that anyone wouldn't have already known from looking at your ass.)
That looks like just about everyone, and it's about time for me to start wrapping up this post, because it will be the last one I every post here!

"No! Life is over! Marshall isn't going to blog anymore!" -You

Now wait a gosh-darn second! Drop that gun, noose, sleeping pills or whatever you just picked up! I didn't say I wasn't going to blog anymore, I just said this would be my last post HERE.

"I don't get it." -Jason

Well, I've decided that having only one blog isn't suiting my needs; I need to have multiple journals to publish different aspects of my life, which brings me to the meaning of bifurcation -- It mean's splitting into two. Except I plan on having more than two, but I couldn't find a word better than "branching" on thesaurus.com.

As many of you know, I have acquired marshallsontag.com. There is nothing there now, so whatever you do, do NOT click on the link!

Oh yeah, Just kidding, Jason!

Update: It turns out that Lindsey followed Chris, not Grant. Information on bedroom activities is pending.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Mama Sure Taught Her Well...

At approximately 5:30 PM Pacific Time, my 7 year old sister Adrienne said to me:

sparklingAD: are you there? Because your not answering
marshmallowcreME: Im cooking dinner
sparklingAD: aren't laydeys sopposed to do that?

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
I just now posted this, my summary and analysis of Chapter 2, to the Mudita Forum for the Power of Now discussion:

First off, thank you Mark for your lively and insightful discussion of Chapter 1, as well as everyone else that has contributed to the recent discussion on the forum that I have been enjoying immensely. A very warm thank-you goes out to Joshua Zader, my primary mentor and main source of advice, encouragement and inspiration for this essay. I’d also like to thank my girlfriend, Brittany, for all of her love and support. You’d think I had won at some award show, with the exorbitant amount of expressed gratitude, but this essay was a big deal for me!

Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain

Evaluating the ideas in The Power of Now requires a certain context that, as a recovering Objectivaholic, was somewhat alien to me. Much of what he says would easily be dismissed by many orthodox Objectivists as mysticism, emotionalism, subjectivism, intrinsicism and collectivism; at this point, their vocabulary would be exhausted and they’d have no choice but to withdraw sanction – but I digress. It requires a certain kind of attitude of complete honesty and openness in which you try your hardest to understand something (so long as you perceive some value in it, of course). After letting go of a lot of misconceptions regarding whether I really understood much of what I thought I did, I have since been trying earnestly to cultivate this attitude and The Power of Now has been a fantastic catalyst towards that goal. The specifics of how I applied this attitude will be discussed in the analysis part of my essay. With that said, let me jump right into chapter 2: “Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain.”

The focus of this chapter is the elimination of pain – the emotional pain that Eckhart describes in the first chapter as “resentment, hatred, self-pity, guilt, anger, depression, jealousy and so on, even the slightest irritation.” This pain that one experiences in any given moment is caused by identifying with one’s mind and is “always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.” Through mind-identification, this resistance to the present moment takes form as judgment in terms of thought and is accompanied by its emotional concomitant, negativity, which is the experience of pain. The more “the unobserved mind runs your life,” the more we resist the present moment through judgment and negativity and the more pain we feel.

Eckhart states that this experience of pain is a result of letting your mind run your life by identifying with it and then it subsequently resisting the present moment; But the question remains: Why would your mind seek to resist the present moment? “Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.” According to Eckhart, your mind has “desires” of its own and wishes to control you, but can only do so by removing your focus from the present moment and placing it in the past and future, for only the present moment holds for you the ability to realize the truth of your true nature: your state of connectedness with being.

What is Eckhart’s solution to this self-inflicted pain? “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have… Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment.” When you accept the present moment as it is, resistance to or denial of it becomes impossible and your mind loses its grip on you.

Sometimes, though, we don’t like what the present moment contains; perhaps something is irritating you or perhaps the present moment is absolutely intolerable – surely we are justified in judging it as such and being upset about it, right? No cigar, says Eckhart. “Observe how the mind labels [the present moment] and how this labeling process, this continuous sitting in judgment, creates pain and unhappiness.” The only thing making the present moment so intolerable is our own unconscious resistance to it, the only obstacle to inner peace being the identification we have with our minds. When you disidentify from your mind and instead watch it, you “step out of its resistance patterns, and you can then allow the present moment to be... Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” This acceptance of the present moment -- this allowing the present moment to be -- is the way out of pain.

The pain we do experience starts to accumulate and amasses into what Eckhart calls the pain-body which he describes as “a negative energy field that occupies your mind and body” and consists of the pain you have accumulated throughout your life, including the pain experienced in childhood. Like the mind, but perhaps in a different sense, the pain-body is also given a life of it’s own. “The pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it.”

How does the pain-body survive? By feeding on more pain, of course! “Once the pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain… You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both. There isn’t really much difference between the two.“ When identified with the pain-body, you create painful situations and you sustain them, and in doing so allow the pain-body to thrive within you – that is, until you shine the bright spotlight of consciousness onto the pain-body and disidentify from it. This process of becoming fully conscious, becoming the watcher of your mind and honoring the present moment results in a “higher dimension of consciousness” that Eckhart calls “presence.”


As I mentioned previously, the ideas in The Power of Now ostensibly seem very incompatible with Objectivism, so a certain measure of gentleness and patience is required when trying to integrate them. If we are too haphazard in our approach, we may end up with something like the product of a rushed jigsaw puzzle, with pieces improperly jammed together in an incoherent fashion. One thing a person has to remember when attempting such a daunting task is that the majority of what Eckhart expounds consists primarily of psychological principles. Perhaps you might encounter what initially seems mystical to you and may feel compelled to dismiss it as such, but in doing so you risk discarding a legitimate and potentially valuable principle. I realized this a few months ago when I first started studying Eastern philosophy after several years of disdain for what I perceived as primitive irrational whim-worshipping hippy nonsense. I’ve since had a dramatic paradigm shift and have come to discover that the less expedient I am to judge the ideas, the more likely I am to find ounces of truth in them, even if it sometimes requires trimming away the fat. I still encounter certain facets of Eckhart that seem strangely mystical and I still acknowledge that, but I give him the benefit of the doubt and suspend my judgment, just like I did when learning a lot of Rand’s ideas that I didn’t initially understand. Armed now with an arsenal of appropriate questions, I am going to take on the insidious pain-body.

This chapter is primarily about the source of psychological pain being the denial of or resistance to the present moment, and that the mind’s “continuous sitting in judgment” is the culprit. What initially strikes me here is his denunciation of judgment as being the source of pain. As an Objectivist, I’ve learned the propriety of, and even necessity for, proper judgment in regards to all aspects of my life. In “Fact and Value,” Leonard Peikoff states that “every fact bears on the choice to live, every truth necessarily entails a value-judgment.” He then elaborates:

“As Ayn Rand states the point in ‘The Objectivist Ethics’: ‘Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every “is” implies an “ought.” Evaluation, accordingly, is not a compartmentalized function applicable only to some aspects of man’s life or of reality; if one chooses to live and to be objective, a process of evaluation is coextensive with and implicit in every act of cognition.”

If we are to assume as correct Leonard Peikoff’s interpretation of Ayn Rand, then in every act of awareness or in every fact that we perceive, there ought to be an evaluation that proceeds it. Or, in Ayn Rand’s formulation, “one must know clearly, in full, verbally identified form, one’s own moral evaluation of every person, issue and event with which one deals, and act accordingly.” If man’s life is to be the standard of value that forms the foundation of a proper code of morality, meaning if we are to live a proper life, it is crucial that we evaluate every fact as being for our life or against it -- Right? Maybe not.

Several months ago, in a post on the same subject, stud-muffin D. Moskovitz asked us to consider “what life would be like if we were to follow Leonard Peikoff’s advice.” While I think his supposition was intended as a rhetorical device or a thought experiment, he may have, perhaps unwittingly, been very close to the truth. This phenomenon of “continuous sitting in judgment” that Eckhart adamantly discourages seems to be the same state of consciousness that Peikoff and Rand are advocating we exercise in every waking moment of our lives. Speaking from experience, I believe Lenny and Rand to be wrong in their assessment and Eckhart’s formulation to be correct – the more attention I devote to judging what the present moment contains, the more negativity I generate and the more difficult it is for me to actually enjoy myself.

A certain measure of judgment is still required to live a healthy and enjoyable life, and it doesn’t seem like Eckhart denies this. What he disapproves of is the *compulsive* judgment that our minds engage in, the automated habitual tendency to judge anything and everything that we experience. This is what I believe Eckhart to mean when he speaks of the mind as having a life of its own – years of reinforcement have forged a complex yet illusory self that has its own wishes, desires, beliefs and goals. When we identify with this intricate system of patterns, habits and associations, it becomes us – the mind has taken us over. What then follows, so long as we remain unconsciously identified, is a constant process of evaluation and subsequent negativity.

It is not difficult to realize in our own lives how we unconsciously and automatically create such pain for ourselves. For example, if I am awakened by a barking dog in the middle of the night, here are some things that might cross my mind: “I wish that thing would shut up! Why doesn’t its owner discipline him, he’s such a @#$%&-ing prick! I’ll never get to sleep now! If I weren’t a property rights-respecting Objectivist, I’d kill the stupid mutt!” and so on. If I then burn my turkey bacon in the microwave (or imitation soy bacon for you vegetarians), this too would most likely incur a series of angry thoughts and negative emotions. Before you know it, I’d be shouting vile obscenities at traffic lights, droplets of water falling from the sky and small children crossing the street on their way to school. At this point, I will most likely be looking forward to this day being over, or the weekend or the vacation I have coming up. As you probably can see, our constant resistance to each moment creates an overwhelming amount of displeasure and suffering. We constantly dwell on the past and focus incessantly on the future, and this process creates unnecessary pain in our lives.

This pain, however, doesn’t dissolve the moment we stop feeling it. According to Eckhart, it “merges with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body.” This is where things get strange, as Eckhart identifies the emotional pain-body, an “invisible entity” that consists of negative “trapped life-energy.” Here, compartmentalization becomes a bit more difficult, as we are faced with the idea that something else lives on inside of us, as well as concepts like “life-energy.” What exact entity it is that Eckhart is referring to, I am still quite unsure of, and here is where I say it seems a bit mystical. However, there are many facets of the pain-body I can validate in my own experience, so I’ll hold off on that judgment.

According to Eckhart, this “pain-body” takes us over through mind-identification, and then pursues its own survival by creating painful situations, and then feeding on the pain. Sounds like gobbledygook, but can you see elements of this in your own life? Many times I have identified with an intense negativity and subsequently tried to hurt someone else emotionally or dwelled in my own self-pity. In these moments, it seems that I am hell-bent on creating some kind of pain, either for myself or for others. The moment I become fully conscious of this phenomenon, when I become “present,” this pursuit of pain ceases. Perhaps then, there is some sort of validity to this pain-body, but an entity on its own? Does Eckhart wish to imply the existence of some kind of inner Freudian conflict of distinct mental entities?

I believe the pain-body to be the most difficult idea of Eckhart’s to wrap my mind around, and perhaps he would tell me that is my problem. The validity I find in his ideas is not found in his words themselves or in my conceptual understanding of them, but in my own experience of them. I definitely recognize that mind-identification creates pain, and I have seen elements of the pain-body in my own behavior, but how do you experience something like the existence of trapped life-energy? How would I go about validating that?
I hope these questions, and many others that I have, will be answered in the weeks to come. I know there is a great deal to be gained from Eckhart’s teachings, and I foresee a radical improvement, not only in the quality of my life, but in others as well. Each moment that we experience will be more enjoyable. Every day that we live will be more fulfilling. We will be more in touch with the joyful and radiant experience of being. We will *be* more.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

How is My Driving Blogging?

Now, for a limited time only, you can comment on my blog entries! At the bottom of each entry is a "comments" link. Click on it, and you can leave your two cents! I would prefer at least $5 though, and I do accept Paypal.

Edwin was Evading, but I Forgive Him.

Last Wednesday I attended a lecture entitled, "Post-Modernism vs. Religion vs. Objectivism: Which is the Proper Code of Morality for Living on Earth?" given by Edwin Locke, Senior Fellow for the Ayn Rand Insistute. For those that don't know, the title of "Senior Fellow" means he's paid by the Ayn Rand Institute to think about and write things related to Objectivism. I'm not sure how he acquired this position, as his works haven't seemed very prolific, and furthermore neither did his speech. He's not the greatest speaker as he is very dry, monotone and unengaging. A line from the movie Dirty Work describes him perfectly: "You got the personality of a dead moth."

The speech was standard textbook Objectivism so I didn't learn very much, but I suppose that the speech wasn't exactly targeted at people that already agree with the principles he spoke of. However, I didn't go thinking I would learn anything; I was just there to expose some flaws or shortcomings in Objectivism, and maybe entertain myself a bit in doing so. I'd say I did a pretty good job of both. :-D

Several days before the lecture, I decided I was going to ask about the principle of forgiveness, as it is not mentioned anywhere in Ayn Rand's or other standard Objectivist writings. To my surprise, he brought up the principle of forgiveness on his own accord during the speech, but he didn't discuss it; instead he said to ask him about it in the Q&A and he'll elaborate. Which is exactly what I did. Upon asking him, he shuffled around through his stack of papers to find his notes on forgiveness, which he oddly wasn't able to recall from memory. According to Leonard's dictate -- Oops, I meant Edwin's own independent judgment! -- there four factors one has to consider in deciding whether or not to forgive a person:
  1. How much harm was done?
  2. Is the harm reversible?
  3. How old is the person?
  4. Are they taking steps to change their behavior/Are they displaying changed behavior?
I think these are good questions to ask, but it seems somewhat incomplete. Some other questions that initially come to mind are: "What is their psychological background? What was their emotional state at the time? What factors, conditions or events influenced them to do it?" Also, I have learned that the principle of forgiveness is not just limited to the actions of people, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Objectivism greatly lacks a sound psychological background, and this is demonstrated in this instance by it's lack of concern for a person's mental state upon having committed the wrong behavior. Traditional Non-Kelley Objectivism also places too much emphasis on moral judgment, which is far more evident in many of its other writings. I think there are several problems with this attitude, but for a far better exposition on this subject than I could give, read my lover D. Moskovitz's essay, Moralism in Objectivism, which I highly recommend.

I was later called on again to ask another question, but I deferred my question so that Luke could ask his question which I noticed he had been waiting to ask for quite some time. I said, "I have a question to ask you, but I noticed this gentleman in the corner has been raising his hand for quite some time, and I like to help people, so I'd like him to ask his question first." Luke laughed, then explained how the engineers he works with at NASA are extremely rational except when it comes to belief in God, followed by inquiring into how to penetrate such a belief bubble. I didn't pay attention to what was said afterwards because I regard such an issue as highly trivial. What does it matter if they believe in god? As long as they're not flying planes into buildings or even devoting a large part of their life to serving God, is this really all that important? Is it really worth the time and effort?

When it finally came to my question, I inquired about something else that Edwin had mentioned in answering someone else's question regarding charity. He had spoken of giving charity out of generosity, which he said was just a minor virtue and a part of benevolence. This threw up a red flag for me because, in the past, ARI has been adamant about denying benevolence as being a virtue, perhaps especially so because David Kelley considers it a major one. My question, stated so innocently, went approximately as follows...

"Before, you mentioned the minor virtue of generosity and how it's a part of benevolence. I've studied the Objectivist Ethics several times, and nowhere in that essay did I see any mention of benevolence as a virtue. I also didn't see any instance of it in Leonard Peikoff's book, Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, so I was wondering where..."

He interrupted me in mid-question by shaking his head and blurting out, "It's not in there. It's not in there." He then elaborated, paraphrased:

"You won't find it in there as a virtue because benevolence isn't a virtue. In Objectivism, there is this positive outlook called the 'benevolent-universe premise' which is basically the attitude that happiness is possible to man and that we should approach people with the assumption that their interaction will be beneficial to us."

I asked, "So what you're saying is, we should treat all people as potential traders?"

"Well....yeah, that's right," he replied.

"So benevolence is a means too value, then. Correct?" (For those that don't know, Ayn Rand defined a virtue as the means to value. *grin*)

He started fidgeting. "No, no, it's just a positive outlook that you have. Next question?"

It seems as if ARI has begun to advocate benevolence without it being a virtue under the guise of the "benevolent-universe premise." I surmise that the reason for this is so they can say, "See? It was already in Objectivism! Ayn Rand already said to be benevolent!" in face of David Kelley's introduction of benevolence as an additional virute, but of course it was never stated by her as a virtue (despite it being a means to value), so Peikoff and Co. are keeping it that way. This seems like evasion to me, but why get upset about it? I succeeded in making Edwin Locke squirm, so my mission directives had been completed. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable evening.

Except during the 2 hour car-ride back from Gainesville, in which Jason was getting angry, yelling obscenities and beating the steering wheel because of the speeding tickets "the government" had given him almost a year ago, as well as "the government's" refusal to let him defer payment because of financial troubles. I tried to explain him that a) there is no such entity as the "the government" that gave him these things, that it was just the decisions a select few individuals that were responsible, and b) he needs to learn to forgive these things.

I don't mean forgive in the traditional Christian sense of turning the other cheek for the people that wronged him, but just to let go of bad things that have happened. You cannot change the past, so dwelling on and getting upset over things that have happened is at the very least futile, but most of the time causes undue suffering because of the anger, guilt and regret that it causes as well. You do not need to suffer through these negative feelings in order to know that you don't like something or desire it to change; These negative emotions only bring pain and suffering. This, in my understanding, is the Buddhist concept of forgiveness, and it has a much broader scope than the traditional concept of forgiveness in Christianity. In fact, several Buddhist teachers claim that this was the intended meaning of the Christian scriptures, but such meaning was lost over the centuries. There is plenty of evidence to support this conclusion, and it's a subject that has become of moderate interest to me lately, as Eckhart talks in length about this in The Power of Now.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Wanna Vipassana? Ahmunna.
Last night, Brittany and I attended the Orlando Insight Meditation Group for the second time. The meetings begin with 45 minutes of meditation followed by a dharma talk (a discussion or lecture on the teachings of the Buddha) given by the founder and leader of the group, Peter Carlson. Peter is a professional cognitive psychologist, and so it seems as if the talks consist primarily of principles from cognitive psychology and how they relate to Buddhism. And they integrate so beautifully, which should give you some insight into the nature of Buddhism. It teaches sound principles of mind, so it's not the mystical garbage that I always thought it was, at least not in its entirety. I'm seeing that even karma has some validity, despite prior misinterprations that lead to my conception of "Karma Fairies", but I'll get to that later.

The word "vipassana" literally means both "To look deeply" as well as, "To see clearly." As one page describes it:
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
I see it as a way of cultivating awareness of my mental or emotional states and as a result, dissolve the constant mental chatter and emotional drives and be in total control of them. I view it as a means to being fully conscious and aware, to prevent me from getting caught in reactive patterns and destructive or unproductive habits. In essence, I see it as a means to freedom.

The topic of last night's Dharma talk was "Right Speech." One site describes it as "Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter." Peter explained that speech is fed by thoughts, which many times arise from different patterns or templates or filters that he referred to as schemas, a concept he extracted from the book Emotional Alchemy by Tara-Bennett Goleman. It also has a foreward by the Dalai Lama! (I'm not sure why that's so great, but I'm sure I'll find out when I learn more about him, and I'm almost certain it's not because he's a bald asian hippy with glasses.)

According to one online discussion of the book:
A schema is a powerful set of negative thoughts and feelings that were developed to help us cope at one time, either in childhood or in our developing years. Because these learned patterns protected us during those early years, our brain continues to believe in their necessity now. But in fact, as adults our schemas lead us to think and act in ways that keep our needs from being fulfilled. These same habits that at one time protected us as children, now sabotage our true desires, offering us neurotic solutions. Our schemas are maladaptive and self-defeating.

I strongly urge you to visit the Section Summaries of this online discussion, particularly Section Two where it lists and describes the schemas, so you can identify which one or ones are yours.

On another note, Jason didn't go with us this time because he "didn't feel like it." My hypothesis is that the stress and anxiety from not having a job and constantly worrying about having money to pay bills and the depression from not being productive with his time are starting to severely impact his behavior. He has become substantially more negative and hostile in the last several months, frequently taking issue with and getting upset over extremely minor things. I don't think he's even aware of it, at least not to the extent that I've observed, but he'll eventually read this and find out. *grin*

It's kind of ironic that he didn't want to go to the study group, because it's those exact negative reactive patterns that the Vipassana practices aim at dissolving, and I think he understands that to some extent. As he says in his blog:
I really need to gain more focus, attention, and volition. I need to break my habits. Quit smoking, quit eating out of boredom....quit succumbing to any destructive desires, and start emersing myself into productive yet enjoyable activities.
When he wrote that, he was obviously being much more conscious than when he said he "didn't feel like" going. Hopefully he'll realize what's happening to him and try to resolve it, as it's compromising his relationships as well as his own well-being.

If you're interested in attending the study group, let me know or visit the website.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

A few months ago, I noticed Jason frequently saying "Ahmunna."

"Ahmunna?" you say, "What is this Ahmunna?"

According to this page, Umunna is The Second Child of Chief Nzua Oboli. Hmmm... No, that can't be it.

Here's a definition, according to Pseudodictionary.com:
ahmunna, omminnuh - A foreshortening or corruption of the phrase "I am going to..." Heard in everyday conversation many times a day, especially in northeastern cities.

e.g., Ahmunna get some lunch. Ahmunna go straight home after work. Ahmunna go to the Pirates game Sattidy. Ahmunna start speaking clearly.

That sounds more accurate. It's an extremely lazy way of saying, "I am going to" and I have determined that the transition was "I'm going to" to "I'm gonna" to "Ahmunna."

I initially figured it was just a result of the mental laziness so characteristic of Jason, but then I caught myself saying it. Surely I must have picked it up from Jason, right? Then I heard Brittany saying it, but it's very likely she got it from me. And then I heard my Boss saying it. Then I heard my other friends and coworkers saying it. Then I heard Neal Boortz saying it on the radio.

Sometimes it takes the form of "Uhmunna," but less frequently it's ironically spoken as the somewhat more proper "I'munna." I've even heard Jason say "Ahma," which is just plain ghetto!

The pseudodictionary.com definition says it's most prominent in the northeast, but I can attest that it's extremely prevalent in the southeast. It seems that everywhere I go, I hear someone saying "Ahmunna." Even last night, at the Orlando Insight Meditation Group, the leader said "Ahmunna," and it definitely wasn't a mantra!

Speaking of which, ahmunna post about that shortly.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Ayn, meet Eckhart.
I received The Power of Now several days ago, and I have to say that so far I'm very impressed. I'm trying to be tolerant and keep an open mind (read: avoiding jumping to conclusions unneccessarily) as many of the ideas are new to me and don't exactly fit easily into the context of what I have previously held as correct and proper. Objectivist writings create a very rigid framework, and I think this is good to an extent as it protects the philosophy from negative external influences. But at the same time, it prevents positive external influences from expanding its scope and efficacy, and many of it's dogmatic defenders make this much worse, though I won't name names or identify Any of the Responsible Institutions. ;-)

I think the question one must ask if he wishes to be objective when evaluating new and potentially or seemingly incompatible ideas is not "What does Objectivism have to say about this?" but rather, "Is this right or wrong? Is this good or bad by the standard of my life? If this idea were implemented, would it promote or demote my life?" That's what all appropriate value-judgements reduce to. If one were to ask the first question, they would quickly discover the contempt that Ayn Rand (perhaps justifiably) had for eastern ideas and steer clear of them; I would consider this choice a grave mistake.

By my own experiences, I can readily identify many truths in what Tolle speaks about. I also can see how, if practiced, the different principles and methods described could be incredibly life-enhancing, so the answers to the prior questions are RIGHT, GOOD, and PROMOTE! I would even be so bold as to assert that several of the principles from Buddhism are actually missing from Objectivist philosophy, being that the Objectivist ethics are firmly grounded in choice and mental discipline. I understand that I haven't gone into any detail and it's because I haven't developed an adequate enough understanding in order to explain the majority of what I want to. But I promise, an elaborate and detailed explanation is on it's way.

In the meantime, I definitely recommend you buy The Power of Now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Hokeod on Pohcnis wkroed for me!

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Tnhkas for tihs one, Jsicesa.

[Wed Sep 17, 1:49:48] Update: Important is spelled with an A! (But I bet you didn't notice)

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Kutest Kitty Kat

Look how cute this kitten is! I want one!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The Power of Now... Later.

I am soon to be the proud owner of The Power of Now. Yes, that says "Winning bidder: sontagm" on there. I just paid $27.80, although Brittany's compensating me for it (It was a birthday gift! Isn't she great?) I will soon be on my way to spiritual enlightenment, thanks to this recommendation from Joshua Zader.

Which brings me to another point: You might have noticed I didn't post anything to here for almost two weeks. I lost interest in this blog for awhile and I understand that this is because my life is largely directed by my drive for variety. That's one of the prominent reasons for making this purchase... I promise I'll clarify this statement later. (Later, of course, because I'm also largely directed by my desire to avoid effort and procrastinate.)

Marketing to the Market

After work today, Brittany and I stopped by this small Grocery market that opened near our house last week. I think it's called "The Market at 511 Mills" or something similar, and it seems like half of their inventory consists of wine. They also have various canned goods, refrigerated drinks like at 7-11, and freshly-made sandwiches and smoothies. One of the owners there mentioned how their menu frequently changes, so I told him it looks like he needs a website for his business. He inquired about the price of one and then we joked about trading for smoothies, but I'd be perfectly happy with trading a few hours of my time for a practically unlimited supply of sandwiches and smoothies. Yum!

This story may seem trivial to you, but it's actually a very significant development; It's the first time I decided to confront a business owner about making a website for them. The reason for this newfound assertiveness is from an essay on self esteem I recently read at the alpha version of The Atlasphere (which you're most likely not privy to-- muahahaha). In his essay entitled, Grow Your Success By Growing Your Self-Esteem, Carl Harvey stresses the importance of taking action in improving your confidence and sense of self-efficacy:
It is only by taking relevant risk-taking action that we can experience ourselves as efficacious. It is only by taking relevant risk-taking action that we can give evidence to the self that our accomplishments are real.

It is our action -- not our attitudes, affirmations or insights -- that drives and grows our capacity to deal with risk, challenge and uncertainty. And as we take relevant risk-taking action in the various areas of our life, our sense of self expands and our fears and self-doubts shrink. Competency is the cure for fear.

I found this insight to be very motivating, and as a result of taking this action I feel 100 times more confident. The only problem was, I didn't have a business card, nor a website to send them to, so I need to get moving in generating both of those.

But this presents another problem, because of that whole avoiding effort thing.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Tell the world I'm not interested.
If you haven't already done so, you need to hurry up and put your name on the National Do Not Call Registry. If you don't do it by September 1, you have to wait 3 months until you stop receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls. Which makes me wonder why I'm pressing this so urgently; I don't think I've ever received a telemarketing call in the nearly three years that I've had my cell-phone. But I can sleep more soundly at night knowing that, despite the incredible unlikelihood of such a thing ever happening, I will never have to waste 12 seconds of my life telling a telemarketer, "I'm not interested."

When I initially considered it, I thought it was improper for the government to be involved in such a thing; The telephone company should offer that as a service, and if they didn't offer it, a competitor could then offer it and... Oh wait. Local telephone companies, like electric companies, are government-mandated monopolies. So in this highly convoluted system of free enterprise and government control, I contend that nothing is wrong with the government offering this service that would otherwise be provided for in a free market.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Have you had your third-degree burns today?
Remember the so-called "frivolous" lawsuit about 79-year-old Stella Liebeck, who successfully sued McDonalds for coffee she had spilled in her lap? Like many others, I was apalled to hear about this great inversion of justice and cursed at this old lady for her complete abdication of personal responsibility.

That is, until today when I learned the actual facts of the case. Apparently, McDonald's had a regulation that required their coffee be served at a scalding 185 degrees; this temperature will cause third-degree burns (also known as full-thickness burns) in a matter of seconds, which Stella can testify to after spending eight days in the hospital receiving skin grafts for burns over 6% of her body. McDonalds' quality assurance manager later testified that the coffee was not fit for consumption as it would burn the mouth and throat.

I fully endorse Stella's lawsuit against McDonald's. Food served at a restaurant should be suitable for consumption, unless given prior warning. For the same reason, food shouldn't be served laced with rat poison, containing hypodermic needles used by heroin junkies with AIDS, or injected with the Ebola virus.

This is a completely different issue, however, from the recent trend of ridiculous lawsuits against "Big Food." These people are sueing over conditions that took several years to accrue and resulted from consuming large quantities of foods that are known to cause severe health conditions; who doesn't know that being morbidly obese can be a detriment to your health? I've known that since I was a wee lad (Maybe "wee" isn't the correct term to use; I was a little on the plump side, I think weeeeee would be better suited.)

Now I think I'll go bite into McDonalds' new tasty McEbola Sandwich.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand
I just got my free copy of The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, by David Kelley, from the Objectivist Center. So far I've read the preface and part of the introduction, and it seems like it's going to be an excellent book. Here's the description from their website:
The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand is an engaging introduction to the Objectivist movement, its core ideas, and its central fissures. At the same time, it offers a case study in the sociology of intellectual movements and a frank discussion of the issues that arise whenever thinkers leave their studies to promote their ideas in the public realm. It features Kelley's response to the accusations of Leonard Peikoff and Peter Schwartz.
If you're wondering what accusations it's referring to, you can read all about them in the Introduction to Objectivist Schismology, which includes links to excerpts from this book. I'll publish my evaluation here when I'm done reading it, so you'll have to wait until then to know whether or not to judge me as evil, and hence ostracize me so as to not sanction that evil. ;-)

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