Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘music’ Category

How to Change Subconscious Cultural Assumptions

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 16, 2011

Tena kotou katoa. Ko Jonathan Elliot taku ingoa. Kia Ora Tatou! No reira, you just had a cultural experience reading those words. Most likely it was uncomfortable or confusing. Perhaps your cultural assumptions of how one should begin an English-language blog were challenged.

We all have subconscious cultural assumptions, things that we think and say and do which are so “obvious” and common sense that we never question them. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a universal condition of being human.

What I want to know is, how do I overcome my cultural assumptions?

I am using “culture” in a very broad sense. For example, I think men have a culture that is distinct from women. Much of it is based on our upbringing and society. Some of it is based on our purely physical differences. Because of the latter, no matter how we try, men will never truly understand the depths of being a woman – and vice versa.

A subconscious cultural assumption could be another way of describing a Foucauldian “discourse”. A discourse, simply put, is what can be said at a particular point in history. In Madness and Civilization he asks why it was possible to talk about “madmen” in the 1800s and yet now we can only talk about those who are “mentally ill”. Foucault suggests that a new type of person, the madman was actually invented when we began to talk about people in a certain way.

Maori

To illustrate a moment that questions cultural assumptions, let me quote from another of Foucault’s works, the opening to The Order of Things.

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

So, I know I have cultural assumptions. How can I be aware of them, and perhaps change them? Here’s
what’s worked for me:

1. Admit You Have Assumptions and be Willing to Change

If you read the above, understood it and agree, you are probably already in this mindset.

2. Expose Yourself to Other Cultures

In the late 90’s I did two overseas tours as a musician/DJ. One to the USA – this wasn’t much of a culture “shock” as the US mainly speaks English (and Spanish). But there were distinct differences – I will never forget the time in smalltown Georgia where I saw a Taco Bell with a sign outside: “Hamburgers 95c – Praise the Lord”.

A second DJ tour was through South-East Asia. In Malaysia we were hosted by local Chinese families. They took us out for an amazing 9 course dinner at a street restaurant. I had always found Chinese people to be a bit “different”, I had never really felt comfortable around them. After this I realised how warm and loving these families were, how deeply they loved their kids and how generous they were. It changed my life and I have always felt deep love for Chinese people ever since.

3. Give It Time

Challenging your cultural assumptions is easy. Changing them is hard. One thing I’ve learned is that you simply have to give it time, and expose yourself to different cultures again and again. For example, when I was a teenager I had heard of this “progressive rock” band called Yes. They were supposedly very good. I went out and bought two albums (on vinyl) to see if I liked them.

At first, I wasn’t impressed. The singer had a too-high falsetto, their lyrics were a poetic mess, and they spent most of their time in interminable guitar solos and fiddly-diddly keyboard solos (Rick Wakeman was in the band at the time). But I made myself listen again. And again. And by the third listen I was beginning to “get” the music, and enjoy it. Now, many years later I’m looking forward to seeing them live for the first time ever.

It was the same experience, but more extreme when I was first exposed to drum ‘n bass in 1996, and more recently to dubstep. Now I love them both. But it took time and a willingness to persevere to understand these musical subcultures.

What about you? What other ways can you think of to help us see through our subconscious cultural assumptions?

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This post is part of the blogfest initiated by Carlos “Iggy” Shelton from Emerging Thought in Montana. If you enjoy this post, please check out the other links:

Blog Carnival: Subconscious Cultural Assumption by Emerging Thought in Montana.
Baked Ham for a Blog Carnival by Tripping and Stumbling While Following Jesus
Subconscious Cultural Assumption And “The Other” by Ben Currin on Facebook.

The Knobz | Don’t Give Me Culture This is a New Zealand post-punk song from 1981. It was written in protest of then-Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s sales tax on records. He considered records not “cultural”.

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Posted in music, personal, personal development, Sociology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Good News!

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 3, 2011

Today my music went up for sale for the first time ever. My music has been picked up and released by a proper record label. This has been in progress for a few months now, but I haven’t been able to give too many details away. My “artist” name is Xhile, and I’ve remixed a track for another artist. The label, BDR Dancefloor, will be releasing original tracks of mine in the near future too.

You can listen here

If you click the various links you’ll be able to hear the other tracks in this release.

Now I feel like a real musician– it really did feel like that to me when I saw my track available for purchase on the website where I buy much of my music (Juno). I’m really excited! I’ve mostly recovered from the bug I had, and managed to celebrate with a small glass of wine.

If you know someone who likes this kind of music, do me a favour and pass this link on to them please?

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yes!

Posted in music | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

Great Music You Haven’t Heard Before

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 30, 2010

I was chatting with Liam Lahey13 on twitter yesterday about music. Being from Canada and New Zealand respectively, we know there’s all kinds of great music that doesn’t make it to US and European-driven MTV. So here’s some New Zealand music for you. If you like what you hear, you can find more on YouTube and other places.

Tom Cosm – Live at Canaan Downs
Weird glitchy dance music. I prefer Tom’s other stuff but the video makes me happy as was there. (I was performing and a stage tech for the main stage.) You could be forgiven for thinking all New Zealanders are hippies with dreads judging by the audience.


Shihad – My Mind’s Sedate

A heavy number by this long-running alternative-rock band.

Strawpeople – Beautiful Skin
Melodic electronic duo who often feature guest vocalists.


Concord Dawn – Raining Blood

Heavy drum n bass, sampling Slayer. They couldn’t get a clear sample so Evan played the guitar tracks himself.


Rhian Sheehan – Hiding Place

Beautiful ambient electronica with guest vocals.


JGeek and the Geeks – Maori Boy

Pop/Hip Hop/Humor. I don’t think this is a great song, it will probably be forgotten in a few years. But it’s trending massively in NZ right now and I thought I’d help make it viral.


The Fucking Champs – What’s A Little Reign?

Lastly, a token non-NZ act. Progressive alt-metal with amazing guitar work from the US West Coast, via Lahey13.

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There are many unknown-but-good bands out there. Would you like me to share more? What unknown-but-good music would you add to this list?

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band

Posted in music | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Taken For Granted

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 1, 2010

My girlfriend took me to see Leonard Cohen on Friday night— thanks babe. It was a fine performance and the sell-out crowd was enthusiastic. Enthusiastic, but nevertheless genteel; everyone stayed seated apart from standing ovations at the end. The front row sat demurely only a few meters from the stage, no need for security guards to keep the moshpit back.

The much-talked-about sound problems at Vector Arena weren’t in evidence. I did my usual tech geek thing, wandering around at half time studying the setup, but I won’t bore you with that. My body wanted the volume just a little louder, though it was sufficient. Perhaps the low volume was to keep the oldies happy, I’ve never seen so much white hair (or lack of hair) at a concert. Ruefully I remind myself that I’m not so young either.

The band put on an extremely professional show, so perfect that I wondered if they get bored playing the same songs night after night. A couple of Cohen’s band have been with him for 35 years, and if you go on YouTube or buy the concert DVD, you’ll find them playing exactly the same songs for the last few years, the same encores and even the same stage banter. The set list doesn’t vary much. Not that I was complaining.

Greed

My personal favourites were “The Gypsy Wife” (beautiful and complex), and the Webb sisters singing “If It Be Your Will”. It amuses me that 76 year-old Mr Cohen skips onto and off the stage like a gleeful child.

In the airport on the way home I had an experience which made me think. Sugarpop got us entry to the Koru Club, a private airport lounge for frequent fliers who can afford it. I can see why you’d want it: Comfort, quiet, internet, newspapers, showers, coffee, food and wine, on demand, as much as you can eat, free. A glutton’s paradise. I determined to make full use of the facilities, after all we had several hours to wait and this is not the lifestyle I’m used to. I gleefully allowed myself to feel like a rock star and began stacking up a decent pile of empty wine glasses.

What surprised me is I began to find myself judging the vintages inferior, and the range too small. Wanting a little more variety. Feeling the choice of salads, hot and cold foods were not quite what I felt like, couldn’t they make something else? Feeling just a little disgruntled when they replaced the cheesecake I’d been scoffing with not-very-nice pumpkin pie (it’s Halloween, y’know).

Then I realised. “Oh my God. This is where it starts. I’m beginning to feel entitled.”

Instead of feeling grateful that I had an abundance of delicious food and drink, I began to complain in my head. I was turning into one of THOSE people, who have an expectation of service and have forgotten just how close they are to starvation. I now understand how quickly rock stars become self-indulgent.

It was a salutary moment.

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The Webb Sisters with Leonard Cohen | If It Be Your Will

Posted in music, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

My First Music Video

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 26, 2010

In September I was re-inspired to make music. Some of you heard a short excerpt I posted via Twitter. “September Sun” was finished a few days ago and I want to share it with you. It’s ambient/chillout/relaxation music.

Honest feedback is welcome – how can I improve unless I know what people think?

If you enjoy, you can download the track for free. Please share it with your friends.

Chatting to my son, Master T, yesterday I commented how lucky he is to be born in this generation. When I was twelve, there is no way an average person could create this kind of music without a lot of expensive hardware and a decent music studio. And then to be able to make a video and share it with the world? For free? No way!

We are living in amazing times.

Posted in music | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Mindless Belief

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 20, 2010

The role of our mind or reason has been a past theme here. I want to share what someone said in a recent post on Beliefnet. Here’s the verbatim quote:

The idea that there is a God and the idea that there is no God are both mind conceptions. The mind can go on developing the idea one way or the other, but it just goes around in circles. The rational mind is incestuous and keeps recreating itself endlessly.

The perception of Reality is beyond the rational mind. The experiences that people have on drugs, for instance, happen when the drug annuls the rational mind.

In Zen Buddhism there is a practice based on koans, which are questions that have no rational answer, like “what is the sound of one hand clapping”. The purpose is to have the mind make the efforts to find a logical answer until it short circuits itself. That is the time when the transcending experiences, called satori happen, moments when reality is seen as it is.

I would add that the aim of all true spiritual practices is the wearing off of the rational mind. Not to kill it or remove it, but to transcend it and not be the center of one’s perceptions.

meditation

I feel uncomfortable reading this. I think there are two extremes, one is to have too strong a role for the mind, the other is not to value it at all.

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Listen to Plus-Tech Squeeze Box make genre-busting crazy music. This is “Early Riser”.

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Posted in agnostic, Buddhism, god, music, Mysticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

I Used To Believe

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 6, 2010

The public image of contemporary philosophers is that their personal stories are all stories of losing faith or of never having had it. The stories in this volume shatter the image. …

… They are stories by contemporary philosophers— many of them world-renowned— of coming to faith or returning, or of enduring in faith. The spiritual journeys narrated were never easy, there’s a lot of suffering and desperation here, and perplexity.”

~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale

Man before Buddha

God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, features Christian and Jewish theists. One of the longer pieces is Peter van Inwagen’s Quam Dilecta, which tells the story of his rejection of teenage spirituality, twenty years of atheism and his long slow turn to Christianity. He writes with an urbane cynicism that I find amusing:

My attachment to Unitarianism (and its three pillars: the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Neighbourhood of Boston) did not survive my going away to college. That sort of thing is, of course, a familiar story in every denomination, but it’s an easier passage for Unitarians, since it does not involve giving up any beliefs. My wife, who is one of my most useful critics, tells me that this is an unkind remark and ought to be omitted. It seems to me to be an important thing to say, however. I did not experience the crisis of conscience so common among Evangelical or Roman Catholic university students who leave the church. … It is, however, simply a fact that a Unitarian can sever his connection with Unitarianism without changing any of his beliefs.

~ p32

Have you given up a belief? (Perhaps one belief out of many, a scientific belief or belief in humanity, if not a spiritual one.)

Is it possible to have a spiritual life without beliefs? Perhaps we could say that Buddhism is also a practice that requires no intellectual assent. But is this, in fact, the case?

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“In yourself, believe. It’s alright”, sing the phenomenal King‘s X. There’s a live version here, with an inspiring message— recommended. Or, you can listen to

King’s X – Believe. Belief Lyrics.

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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, Emergent, Judaism, music, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

100 Posts!

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 25, 2010

Welcome to my 100th post on Spritzophrenia! Not bad for a little over eight months, don’t you think? Perhaps I should wait for the 108th post, a Hindu mystic number? Or the 888th, a propitious Chinese number? Or the 69th, Hugh Hefner’s sacred number? Meh, let’s get on with it…

Numbers make me think of the ancient Hebrew story of the Babylonian King Belshazzar having a feast, and suddenly seeing a ghostly hand writing upon the wall of the banqueting chamber, the words:

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

Number, number, weight, division.

Which means, “you’ve been weighed in the balance, and found wanting”. (And your kingdom will be divided among the Medes and Persians.)

100 posts!

Woo!

I don’t know in whose balance I shall be weighed, but I appreciate you guys approving my “weight”. Today, I’ll simply point to some Spritzophrenia posts you might have missed:

* Mystical experience in a godless universe More of that atheist spirituality stuff.
* Satanic Panic Some thoughts on satanic hysteria.
* My Avatar spiritual experience Can a film be a spiritual gateway?
* Let there be light relief Cartoons via BiggerThanCheeses.
* There’s Probably No God? Atheist advertising.

I’ve quietly been adding more features. You may have also noticed the new Search box which will help you find topics of interest more easily. Also, because I’ve never had one before, I present my first poll so that you can dictate my future spiritual path

To conclude, I present not one, but TWO of my favourite tunes, if you wish to listen and enjoy. First, “Run” by Ecano (Oliver Lieb in one of his many incarnations). I DJed this song over a 120,000 Watt system to 13,000 people. Ahh, memories.

and Abyss by Wizzy Noise

Thanks for reading Spritzophrenia! Tell me something I didn’t expect to hear:

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Posted in agnostic, meta, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Dance of God

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 9, 2010

For some reason I’ve been listening to two versions of the Gayatri Mantra over and over and OVER these last few days, pondering the gateways to the divine. I think there are many ways to have a mystical experience, depending on what works with your personality. Music is a common gateway, and certainly one that works for me, at times.

This is hard to write, because so much of my academic side wants to challenge and define things like “spiritual”, “mysticism” and so on 1. Today I’m just writing about experience without over-analyzing too much.

While named for the goddess Gayatri (mother of the Vedas), I think anyone who believes in a deity can sing this mantra with integrity as the words are honoring to any true g0d.

Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath

God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.
You are all Light. You are all Knowledge and Bliss.
You are Destroyer of fear; You are Creator of this Universe,
You are the Greatest of all. We bow and meditate upon your light.
You guide our intellect in the right direction.

The other version I’ve had on repeat is by Ravi Shankar, as it turns out. There is so much more music I could add, some mentioned during music week but I’m keeping things short, mmkay?

I found you not, O Lord, without, I erred in seeking you without because you were within. ~ Saint Augustine

I’d be remiss in describing Augustine as a mystic, he’s famous for his logical philosophy. This is the feeling side of him, perhaps? I think warmly of Charles Hodge, a christian theologian in the “Reformed” or “Calvinist” school which is traditionally suspicious of mysticism. Hodge is wary too but almost plunges in, writing of those whose “heart” theology is deeper than their head theology 2. “Until recently it was widely believed that India is ‘mystical’ and the West is ‘rational’, and many still hold this view. But in fact Indian thought has a strong tradition of rationality”. 3 There is so much more to write in this area, but insh’Allah, another time.

All this makes me desire to find a group of intellectual mystics. Now, THAT would be something! Practitioners committed to exploring the ways of both reason and the spirit.

Here’s a track that invariably made me cry, and can still do so. Tilt | Invisible

Listen to my voice
You won’t see me
You won’t see me with your eyes
Listen to my voice
I am a feeling
You will feel me deep inside

When I was a christian, I interpreted these words as speaking of the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes considered feminine), the part of g0d who interacts with us here and now. I have this record on vinyl, it’s one of my treasured possessions.

Music… wine… drugs? Ah, it might just be a feeling, but if that feeling hints at anything true, how wonderful that would be. When I was a DJ, it was these moments I lived for. To dance – preferably outdoors – to ecstatic music and maybe feel a glimpse of something special. It didn’t happen often, but when it did…

Here’s a film of an outdoor party I curated. You can even get a glimpse of me DJing at one point.

The particular music doesn’t matter – that tends to be an individual thing. For some it might be opera, for others heavy metal. It’s the sense of beauty and transport the music evokes, in the best of moments at the best of times. If the transcendent is there, if there really is something more, and if we can somehow touch it… How can we not yearn for this?

Is music a gateway for you?

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Notes
1. Check some of my loose definitions and writing on atheist spirituality if you’re uncomfortable and want to go down the intellectual path.
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1871). Hodge spends considerable ink on mysticism, and it’s gold, for a post-christian like me.
3. From Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Posted in agnostic, Hinduism, music, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

I’m Not Driving That! – Strong Rationalism

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 6, 2010

On the way to the airport today I saw a billboard with two photographs of a single car, one labelled “the emotionally satisfying view” and the other, “the rationally satisfying view”4. Picture one showed happy people crowding around the vehicle, the other displayed engineering cutaways of the engine, safety and comfort features. Which vehicle will get me to my destination?

You may recall me wondering if I am a rationalist, given that I value reason and think it has a part to play in my search for the numinous. Simplistically, when deciding what to believe I can either say “there’s got to be rational proof ”, or simply try it out and say “this belief makes me feel good and gives me trippy spiritual experiences.”

I have doubts about spiritual experience alone as a guide, which I’ll save for a future post. For now, I came across a section in a recent book1, which helped me:

[The new atheist] authors are evaluating Christian arguments by what some have called “strong rationalism”. Its proponents laid down what was called the “verification principle”, namely, that no one should believe a proposition unless it can be proved rationally by logic or empirically by sense experience. What is meant by the word “proved”? Proof, in this view, is an argument so strong that no person whose logical faculties are operating properly would have any reason for disbelieving it.

Fractal rainbow self

A few theists also hold to strong rationalism, suggesting their arguments are so strong that you’d be a fool to disbelieve. I’m thinking of some Islamic apologists here. I met a christian rationalist in an online forum not long ago. Sadly, he was belligerent and rude.

For those of us who find the path of the intellect to g0d challenging, put this on repeat, enjoy some beautiful music and imagine the experiential path to g0d as we continue:

The Gayatri Mantra. I also really like this version.

Keller continues:

Despite all the books calling Christians to provide proofs for their beliefs, you won’t see philosophers doing so, not even the most atheistic. The great majority think that strong rationalism is nearly impossible to defend 2. To begin with, it can’t live up to its own standards. How could you empirically prove that no one should believe something without empirical proof? You can’t, and that reveals it to be, ultimately, a belief.

Strong rationalism also assumes that it is possible to achieve “the view from nowhere,” a position of almost complete objectivity, but virtually all philosophers today agree that is impossible. We come to every individual evaluation with all sorts of experiences and background beliefs that strongly influence our thinking and the way our reason works. It is not fair, then, to demand an argument that all rational people would have to bow to.

The philosophical indefensibility of “strong rationalism” is the reason that the books by Dawkins and Dennet have been getting such surprisingly rough treatment in scholarly journals.

If we reject strong rationalism, are we then stuck in relativism – without any way to judge one set of beliefs from another? Not at all.

He suggests an alternative approach called “critical rationality” 3. I’m not sure what he means by that, but whether or not I agree with critical rationality I don’t think I’m a strong rationalist. I think some things in life just have to be believed – my own existence, for example. However, I do want some rational underpinning for my beliefs. I hope that one vehicle, both emotionally satisfying and rationally satisfying will get me there. Somehow I want to hold these two together.

On the way home I saw a bumper sticker on a car: “Don’t follow me, I’m lost too”.

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What do you think? Comment below.

Notes
1. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Dutton, 2008), pages 118, 119, 120.

2. Keller’s footnotes explain more, and cite Alasdair MacIntyre Whose Justice, Which Rationality (Notre Dame, 1988) in particular. He says “One of the best critiques of the Enlightenment view of strong rationalism is Faith and Rationality: On Reason and Belief in God A. Plantinga and N. Wolterstorff, eds (Notre Dame, 1983). The Enlightenment view has been called classic or Cartesian “foundationalism,” and that approach has been almost universally abandoned among philosophers. See also Nicolas Wolterstorf, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Eerdmans, 1984).”

3. Keller footnotes “For a non-technical introduction to the difference between strong and critical rationalism, see Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea (Inter-Varsity, 2003), pp 30-44.

4. [Edit:] I saw the billboards again, and realised they say “emotionally appealing” and “rationally appealing”. I wonder if there’s a difference between “appealing” and “satisfying”?

Posted in agnostic, epistemology, Hinduism, music, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments »