My companion and I have recently completed a three week trip through southern Europe. One might call what we did a vacation, I suppose, but traveling the way we do it involves coordinating train schedules, locating pre-arranged housing, meeting voucher deadlines, acquiring foodstuffs that are compatible with cooking facilities, all requiring miles traveled on foot, all of which is hard work resulting in thorough and complete exhaustion at the end of most days. The rewards, though, are rich in personal encounters and experiences, and, in our opinion, well worth the effort.
Upon completion of such an adventure we are ultimately required by friends, relatives and acquaintances to offer a narrative. The shared experiences, however, don’t translate to a common story, which, I suppose, one could attribute to differing focuses of attention and/or memory lapse, but, it seems to me, the remembered experiences are so varied that one can only assume the unique worlds in which we each exist defy a common reality. We must, I guess, all get along day to day unaware, most of the time that the person next to us is a truly alien presence.
I’ve been working hard lately to subdue my natural inclination to make blanket judgments, but intersecting ,regularly, heavily touristed areas has brought me into contact with, among others, large contingents of camera and selfie-stick wielding Japanese who seem much more interested in capturing their likeness in front of the canons of western art than in viewing and contemplating said art. In addition they’re loud and seemingly oblivious to those around them. I find them quite annoying. To be honest it all just reinforces my cynical nature of mankind in general.
Deep breaths; deep breaths; let it pass; focus on Here and Now.
I’m wondering what they’re thinking, you know, the Japanese. Are they recording their travels in order to bore they’re friends, relatives and neighbors once they arrive home: ‘Here we are in front of a painting by Monet, what a wonderful time we had.’
Let it go; let it pass; I see blossoming trees; beautiful in the sunlight; breeze lightly moving; petals raining; sweet delicate aroma; deep breaths.
I hate those annoying Japanese tourists.
I really need to work on my meditative practices.
I was speaking with a very insightful young Florentine during my recent travels. He commented that the state of American politics (of which I must admit to being a bit embarrassed) isn’t surprising to most Europeans given the populist anti-immigrant goings-on in Italy and throughout Europe. “What we don’t understand about the Americans,” he said, “is the guns.”
This got me thinking about a Goethe quote I ran across recently that goes: ‘There are times when all consolation is base and it’s our duty to despair’, which resonates, no doubt, but I have to wonder how much value there is in despairing, you know, all by itself.
I’ve recently visited a place, an arena where, around two millennia ago, Christians, who apparently didn’t fit in well at the time, provided great spectacle as prey for very angry and very hungry lions. I must admit this particular place has lost a lot of its potentially grizzly impact since becoming a tourist magnet, you know, cleaned up, no blood anywhere. Nowadays the pushing and shoving amongst the hordes of Christian visitors themselves suggests a sort of sadistic propensity for pain.
Anyway, the culture in charge at the time, a couple millennia ago, found the minority sect to be disrespectful of the established gods so lion fodder they became. Of course a few centuries later the Christians were torturing and burning those they found to be heretical to their faith.
Considering the religious maneuverings in politics these days one can only be dismayed at how slowly the wheels of evolution turn.
I was noticing during my recent travels that Rome has a Giordano Bruno Avenue just a block down from one named after Savanarola. It got me wondering, being so close to the Vatican, if there’s a sense of atonement here given the fact the church saw fit to burn the two men for heretical behaviors.
There’s little question Bruno was inclined toward the occult, Hermes Trismegistus and Fra Savanarola was one of the original reactionary fundamentalists, burning books as he did. Still, burning and dismembering the two seems a bit harsh coming from a religion that espouses Christian charity.
The church fathers would seem to present a bit more enlightened front these days but if push came to shove one wonders if there wouldn’t be job openings for inquisitors.
I’ve been reading that most of us limit our perceptual awareness, our capacity to absorb the complexity of the world around us by separating out, isolating and placing our experiences into conceptual boxes.
According to what I find to be very credible sources, everyone would acquire a greater understanding and avoid a lot of discomfort if we could see the inter-connectedness of all, including us, that is before our consciousness. I guess the idea is that ‘seeing’ should supersede ‘thought’. Seeing before labeling, judging and categorizing might provide the means to realize stasis and existential harmony. Of course it all happens moment by moment; enlightening insights will constantly be interrupted by the thoughts daily functioning requires; no one and done here.
So, I’m thinking, I’m thinking too much; I need to clear my mind and just See the ebb and flow of existence; it may lead to a greater understanding of the predicaments that I regularly experience; at the very least ‘just seeing’ might temper the petty discomforts my delicate ego tends to create for me.
I’ve been reading that quite a number of people these days are relying on various chemical enhancers to improve their intellectual functioning. As I understand it, widespread use of psycho-stimulants like Ritalin are being used to prop up memories and quicken access to stored information (quicker even than a Google search, I guess) for those wishing to function more effectively or maybe just to appear smarter than they really are. There are also those out there seeking more intense religious adventures than they might otherwise experience using psycho-stimulants like psilocybin which have apparently been used for millennia for the purpose of traveling to the far reaches of consciousness.
I find this idea of psycho-stimulation somewhat intriguing in light of my own diminishing memory, which, of course, I can attribute to the considerable amount of information processed and experiences experienced which has come with aging. I do find myself a little slow on the draw when it comes to participating in fast paced conversation as well. Considering the eye opening potential psycho-stimulants may offer as consciousness ex pander and a means of subordinating personal ego perhaps some experimentation is in order. Getting to a deeper understanding of mankind, the environment and universe has to be a good thing. Maybe our politicos could benefit from a bit of psycho-stimulated enlightenment.
I’ve been thinking, lately, about what it might mean to realize an extended period of calm, peacefulness and tranquility; halcyon days of pleasant meanderings through a benevolent natural world and happy encounters with grounded, enlightened people. It seems a bit of a fantasy requiring, in this day and age of political unrest and perpetual world-wide tragedy, a sort of head-in-the-sand dismissal of reality.
Maybe I’m just allowing myself to be distracted, not seeing the whole forest, lost among the trees. I suppose I could strive to remain awake in the moment, not get overly obsessed with situations beyond my control, you know, realize the world around us is ever-changing. I, perhaps, need to reacquaint myself with a Nature in constant flux and modify my sense of propriety so as not to assume it should be for everyone, everywhere.
Can right mind, I wonder, see a reality in which all live happily ever after; if not, how about a centered life free of the sufferings of expectation?
The thinking seems to be these days among neuro-scientists and phenomenologists that the concept of Self is an artificial construct evolution has foisted upon us in the interest of fending off extinction. By providing a focus upon which to differentiate options for action, evolution has provided, over considerable time, the means to improve our potential for personal survival. I’m guessing things like:” is that Sabretooth Tiger looking at me thinking about a meal in which case “‘I’better think about reacting” and so forth, has developed and perpetuated the myth of the Self.
So, I guess there really is no ‘Self’ other than a concept our consciousness has found useful to limit possible choices in order to provide some bit of stability within our limited sensible abilities; which also means the ‘World’ our artificial ‘Self’ recognizes is but a tiny fraction of what is actual out there existing around us.
But our sense of Self, researchers assure us, is pretty much impossible to eradicate as enlightening as it might be to do so. We can, though, I suppose, think seriously about growing our world awareness through meditation which is, after all, a ‘Self’ subordinating enterprise.
It appears neuro-scientists, brain researchers, have determined that there’s an innate sensibility, a pre-language understanding that all humans and some other mammalian species have in common. The theory is that this sense of existential commonality could only have occurred after the evolutionary neural development process that first produced a ‘self-model’ or individual identity in our early ancestors and that through observation and mirroring their cave mates, social connectedness and empathy developed from which cultures and civilization followed.
So, I’m beginning to understand that what I am, who I understand myself to be, my personal identity is little more than a particular aspect of neural development no more or less significant in the greater stream of consciousness than the world experienced through my sensual awareness.
Along with the sense of personal identity I’ve inherited self-consciousness, moral second guessing and the anxieties that go along with the desire for social inclusion as well as all sorts of other desires that have a tendency to pre-occupy my consciousness, all of which temper the positives a bit.
One could romanticize, I suppose, that a step back on the evolutionary scale would offer a simpler mental engagement. At the very least social media wouldn’t be an issue.