Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Archive for the ‘personal development’ 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”.

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

Heartbreak Essential to Find “The One”

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 28, 2011

Continuing our lively discussion on divorce and marriage, maybe having a “failed” marriage or relationship can actually help us in our romantic life?

Previous heartbreak is an essential factor in finding “the one”, a US psychologist says.

Despite the pain of heartbreak, those who have had a previous long-term relationship were at an advantage in the dating world, Dr Gian Gonzaga says.

“Think about all of the things that you do in life where you get better with practice, and a lot of times people don’t believe that about relationships,” Dr Gonzaga told AAP on Thursday.

“They feel like once they’ve been in a relationship that’s unsuccessful, they have failed.

“They feel like they’re not worthy of love, so they may treat people in a different way that makes it harder to have a better long term-relationship the second time around.”

But instead of acting out, the broken-hearted should take a big-picture view of their former long term relationship and learn from it, said Dr Gonzaga, who has [edited] a book on the subject of second-time love.

Heartbreak

People should think about what factors contributed to the earlier relationship, both positive and negative, and what they should change for next time.

“Also take a look at your former partner and think about what was it that they were missing, or you needed to have in a partner that you didn’t know.”

Dr Gonzaga also advised looking at the relationship in context and considering all the external factors that contributed to the breakdown.

It really is about using the knowledge that you have be better, smarter at picking out the right partner and doing the right things in relationships,” he said.

“It’s not that people don’t realise this – a lot of people take a lot of individual lessons, but very few people put all of them together.”

He said while many people find looking for new love a daunting task, they shouldn’t lose heart.

~ from here. His book is, Dating the Second Time Around: Finding Love That Lasts.

I certainly feel I’ve become a better person, and a better love-mate after many years of “failure”. Then again, as we were saying in my last post, is the whole concept of “the one” flawed?

Note: I believe everyone should be able to love and marry who they wish, so contributions from my queer friends are welcome. Also, feel free to substitute “long term relationship”, or something else if the marriage concept bugs you.

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Moby | Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (live)

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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 »

Grinning to Death

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 21, 2010

“Think and grow rich”. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. “Your thoughts create your reality.” Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve seen “The Secret”. I was interested to hear Barbara Ehrenreich had published a book on the negative side of positive thinking but didn’t realise it started with her experience of breast cancer. Here’s an excerpt from Smile or Die.

I wanted to link to a friend’s blog reviewing Ehrenreich’s book, but can’t find the article. Message me if it’s you, huh? [Edit: Found it! Linked in the comments]

I did find this perceptive review by Eliza, a Lupus sufferer. A short sample:

My disdain for the Positive Thinking movement only grew as I began to become disabled about four years ago. I cannot even count how many people lectured me about the merits of “thinking positively” once I began to suffer sometimes-debilitating pain. …

rainbow

continued…

Constantly lectured about how I should learn to see my chronic pain and fatigue as “positive developments” that “teach me to be more loving of humanity,” I call bullshit. And I was thrilled when I learned that Barbara Ehrenreich had written a new book on the subject.

On the whole, I would say that this is a highly flawed book that is nevertheless worth reading. …

She effectively draws on her scientific background to expose the pseudo-scientific claims (usually drawn from quantum physics and psychology) that are often quoted in order to add a scientific veneer to what is primarily an ideological movement.

This article notes

While Ehrenreich seems to harbor no ill will toward Christianity, some of her harshest critique is directed at positive thinking’s inroads into American churches. She indicts the usual suspects—Joel Osteen, Robert H. Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale—but she also includes much of the megachurch movement. Like other critics, the author believes the pressures of church growth have caused many pastors to adopt principles from the world of business and commerce at the expense of Christian distinctiveness.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in christian meetings with razamatazz and hyped-up motivational speakers, thank g0d. I don’t like the way positive thinking has crept into spiritualities that have emphasised humility and even poverty in the past. Somehow it just seems fake to me.

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The Streets | Positive

Posted in agnostic, personal development, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 7, 2010

Ironically, I’ve just written a post about how we need to talk to each other if we want less religious conflict. I want to share this:

Santi Tafarella writes:

In response to the “Burn the Quran Day” Florida pastor, I’ve decided to promote a counter day:

The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day

Or coffee.

Initiate dialogues, not bonfires.

And so The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day is hereby declared for the following date:

Friday, September 17, 2010.

Spread the word, find a Muslim, and invite him or her out for some coffee or a bite to eat and a chat (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) on September 17th.

Tell him or her that you’re doing it for The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day—a day designed to open up human conversations between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.

The rules: eat and drink what you want and talk about what you want.

For full details please go here:

http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/instead-of-burn-a-quran-day-how-about-an-international-have-a-meal-with-a-muslim-day

Posted in agnostic, Islam, personal development, Sociology | 5 Comments »

Who Am I to Tell You Anything?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 20, 2010

Are there some journeys that should never be started? There are people who know me in real life who might sneer on hearing I’m seeking higher reality again. These are people I’ve hurt, lied to, or (think they) know my failings. I’m far from perfect. Even when I turned my back on a religious path, I’ve been a hypocrite in my new path. I’ve criticised other views on this very blog, it’s only fair I turn the lens on myself.

I Was Wrong

I started this journey not wanting to share much about me. Spritzophrenia was supposed to be about the ideas and conclusions, not my self. I’m not that interesting, I’m not that worthy. But the stories are inseparable, and I’m really not proud of some chapters. I feel distress at my own ethical off-the-wagon times. Oh there’s been plenty of failure, moral turpitude, poverty, despair and general crapness in my life: Hear my confession.

I hurt people. I cut off contact with my parents and one of my sisters for a year when they annoyed me and let me down. I’ve lied, and lied again about important things. I’ve broken promises. I’ve stolen. I owe good people money, and don’t know when I will repay it. I may be on a slippery slope to alcoholism. I was once so angry and frustrated I attacked my girlfriend’s car with a chair, smashing a light.

Others question my motives, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. I once overheard a conversation about me getting on my “high horse”. I’d always thought I came across as fairly humble? I wrote earlier about how hard this is for me.

While I think one should be measured by one’s own conscience, it doesn’t really matter which moral code you measure me against. I’ve broken most of the ten commandments. I don’t walk in the eightfold path, I’m deeply attached. Insofar as the golden rule suffices for Secular Humanism, I ain’t been golden. Insofar as the “Love God and love other people” of Jesus, nope. Even Augustine’s “Love god and do what you want” leaves me wanting.

Though I can point to reasons, philosophies and religious paths that enticed me, I make no excuses. My atheism, nihilism and Satanism were nascent anyway, the labels became convenient excuses. I might have been bad even if I embraced Hasidism. Sometimes I thought my actions and thoughts were ‘right’ at the time, only to be confounded by them, sometimes years later. I take responsibility for what I’ve done and I’m reaping what I’ve sowed.

I Walk The Line Between Good and Evil

I recommend listening to Alien Sex Fiend’s I walk the Line.

more below

This apple’s rotten to the core

Get up, off your knees

Get down on the floor

You wouldn’t listen [to me], and I don’t blame ya

I’m already in the gutter, next stop is the drain

[Full lyrics.] I note one can still make nice cider from rotten apples.

Are We Moral?

Some will no doubt point to my christian past and infer an over-inflated sense of guilt. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much guilt when I was a Christian— it gave me a sense of freedom from guilt.

I think we have an inflated idea of how good people are. A piece in the NZ Listener some years back indicated just how common white collar crime is; good moral people just like us are cheating on their taxes and their spouses. I’m not worried about whether lying is equivalent to murder, it’s the general point I’m driving at. What does it take to be a moral person? To always do good? Do good most of the time? What percentage of good makes us a good person? Is there such a thing as one’s “character”? “We’re good people. We just do bad things.” (Larry Norman)

The idea that the christian g0d wants to help us escape our tendency to damage, looks on the money. (If she exists.) The phrase so often quoted by evangelists “All have sinned, and fallen short” seems to ring rather more true than we might like to admit. Christians— the ones who know their theology at least— don’t claim we are as bad as we possibly can be. Only that we are distorted. Like a drop of ink in a glass of water discolours the whole thing.

“If I believed in God, if I believed in sin, this is the place I’d be sucked straight to hell.” (~ Dexter, Season 2 Episode 2) Some think believers parade triumphantly into heaven. I think many of us will crawl there, relieved and surprised.

Only those who are broken can accept being whole.

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Have you ever hurt someone by following your beliefs, or in spite of them?

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Posted in Christianity, ethics, hardship, personal, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

Mixed Nuts

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 16, 2010

Today’s Spritzophrenia Street is brought to you by the letter Orange, and the number Fish. It’s a wild, rollicking ride through what I’m currently reading, so lets get started.

The Laughter of God

I will argue that [science and spirituality] not only can coexist within one person, but can do so in a fashion that enriches and enlightens the human experience. Science is the only reliable way to understand the natural world, and its tools when properly utilized can generate profound insights into material existence. But science is powerless to answer questions such as “Why did the universe come into being?” “What is the meaning of human existence?” “What happens after we die?”

Meditation

continued…

One of the strongest motivations of humankind is to seek answers to profound questions, and we need to bring all the power of both the scientific and spiritual perspectives to bear on understanding what is both seen and unseen. The goal of this book is to explore a pathway toward a sober and intellectually honest integration of these views.

First, I should explain how a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human beings. Some will assume that this must have come about by rigorous religious upbringing, deeply instilled by family and culture, and thus inescapable in later life. But that’s not really my story.

~ Francis Collins The Language of God (Free Press, 2006) p 6,7

We now move from the sublime to the ridiculous – but perhaps the ridiculous can be spiritually helpful too?

I believe that people who have a good sense of humor are usually intuitive people in general. Show me someone who has no sense of humor, and I will show you a very stiff, boring person with no insight whatsoever.

~ Warren Shiller quoted in Romy Shiller Who Knew (Trafford, 2010) p 32

Could a sense of humour mark the kind of intuition that helps along the spiritual path?

You may have heard the recent news that the bones of John the Baptist have allegedly been found. Barth’s Notes has an amusing piece— amusing because of the language and feisty-ness of the Bulgarian officials, who it seems need tourist dollars. Hence they’re eager to proclaim authenticity. The evidence seems pretty flimsy to me, see Rollston Debunks Stupid John the Baptist’s Bones Claim.

Sorry Bulgaria, writing as someone who is open to the idea that faith could be a valid way of life, “faith” in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is not faith— it’s dogmatism and idiocy.

Speaking of idiocy, Insane Clown Posse’s track Miracles. Thanks to Marty Atheist Climber for alerting me. Mysteries do not prove impossibilities, especially when it appears we aren’t to try and figure them out. I do like some ICP, particularly Let’s Go All The Way, but check these lyrics:

Water, fire, air and dirt
F**king magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherf**kers lying, and getting me pissed

Bahahaha! While perhaps it’s a metaphorical point they’re trying to make, it does come across as celebrating ignorance. Even better, today Marty tweeted me the hilarious SNL spoof of the song:

Eat, Pray, Lust

Following on from the allegations about Eat, Pray, Love

Sex between gurus and disciples is common, sociologists and other experts say. The New Yorker magazine reported in November 1994 that female followers of deceased Swami Muktananda, the man who made Chetanananda a swami, had sex with them. Many devotees later left after learning about the sexual allegations.

~ from here.

I’ve had this in my notes for some time. Now I realise Swami Muktananda is the one who guru-fied Liz Gilbert’s Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (formerly Malti Shetty). Another book in my current pile is a biography about following a guru:

All of the people whom [guru Paul Brunton, alias P.B.] had chosen… as his disciples were singularly favoured. They were to be at the center of the salvation of the universe. There could be no greater honor. This was a universe as simply organised as a boy’s adventure story. I found a similar atmosphere when I read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings years later.

[P.B.] is not an egregious example of a false prophet. The story I have to tell about him is not an exposé in the classic sense, although I have nothing against such exposés. Tales by insiders of what really goes on in these cults are not only fascinating gossip, they are instructive of the kind of world this spirituality builds. … I was able to observe, especially in me and my father and in Paul Brunton, the clash, the romanticism, and the ultimate tragedy of these attempts to escape the imperfections of the human condition. I was a direct participant, and I did not escape its consequences.

~Jeffrey Masson My Father’s Guru: A Journey through Spirituality and Disillusion (Harper Collings, 1993) p xiv, xv

Things Mistaken for Meditation

Another misguided notion about meditation is that it’s about becoming enlightened.

You can’t become enlightened. It’s not possible.

You can’t become enlightened for the same reason that you can’t come into contact with Truth: you’re already here, immersed in it. It’s like trying to become human, or searching high and low for air.

When we search for enlightenment, we’re like a fish searching for water or a bird seeking the sky. Enlightenment isn’t something you can pursue. And, anyway, you don’t need to, because it’s already right where you are. Meditation is not about straining or striving for some special state of mind. It’s about letting our habitual striving drop away and simply experiencing what’s present before we make anything of it.

~ Steve Hagen Meditation: Now or Never (HarperOne, 2007) p 21

I’ve begun a very basic practice of meditation, after I get up in the morning. I’ve been quietly pleased with my progress so far, no doubt this is the ‘beginners luck’ that most new practices enjoin. Perhaps I’ll report back sometime, if this blog is about searching for higher reality it will pay me to occasionally record such things.

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Tell me in the comments

Which of the above tickled your buttons? Have a great day y’all.

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Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, cosmology, God, Hinduism, humor, humour, personal development, Science, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Celebrating The Weeds

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 4, 2010

In the comments last week someone characterised my project as “sorting out the weeds”. I like that. Weeds can be beautiful as well as inconvenient in my opinion. Here’s a scattershot bouquet to admire or throw away.

Chickweed

I’ve been getting some balance back into my life. I pushed myself too hard writing critically and intended to get away from the computer. Instead I spent a large part of the weekend coaching my 12 year-old through his science project. So much for getting away from the computer.

I’ve also been thinking about balance in terms of spiritual paths. Reading the last week or two’s posts you could get the impression that only atheism or some kind of christianity count here. I don’t claim that all religions are the same. I do want to be open to insights. Have a random Bhagavad Gita quote:

“There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”

Dandelion in the sun

Dandelion

I do believe serious thinking needs to be done as part of my spiritual journey. There’s still gonna be some intellectual heavy lifting here, it’s part of who I am and I can’t escape that. But I don’t want to neglect the rest of life or get stuck down the rabbit hole of endless philosophy, obscure science or irrelevant theology. Let me know if I’m doing that, won’t ya? Sometimes I’m unable to back up everything I ponder with academic research, which disappoints the ego in me, but that’s life. I want to let go my attachment to being right.

We’re allowed to change our opinions. Some days I will be logical to the point of inanity. Some days I will be fluffy and mystical. Some days I will appear to favour one path, others another. It’s all part of my journey, and I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn. This is Spritzophrenia, after all.

This is not to say I think all is one, or there are no answers, merely that the path is sometimes unclear and may require backtracking.

Henbit

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
– Helen Keller, quoted in Who Knew.

I’m valuing the experience of friendship, and the discussions of late. I think there is so much we can agree on, even if we can’t agree on everything. I value you. You don’t have to be an intellectual or spiritual giant to belong here. I’m not. Besides, giants can scare away the little people. I’m sometimes amazed and delighted at the connections people make with what I write. When I see your comments I find myself thinking, “I really love you maaaan”. No, I haven’t been drinking 😉

I thought you might enjoy the hilarious “Internet verses real life” sketches, particularly the final section on what internet discussions can be like. (Some language may offend.)

Wood sorrel

I’m valuing life experience in spirituality, and remembering the path contains joy as well as hardship. (Read “personal development” for spirituality if you prefer.) After a brain-draining and exhausting weekend I spent time on Sunday sitting in a pub reading, drinking cider and eating hot bread. The good things in life are indeed good. I like the Celtic christian way of talking about deity as “The good God”, who brings good things to our life. Hopefully a genuine spiritual path involves celebrating this life, extreme asceticism has never appealed to me. Judaism often has an earthiness and a real-world focus which is warming, as I understand it.

I think I’ve finally worked out who I’m writing for. Me, of course. But also other seekers, people who haven’t got a fixed, firm and final perspective on everything and who are looking to grow, to learn and to share. Do you know anyone like that who might enjoy reading this blog?

So there you are, a few weeds to either keep or throw. Which did you react to or resonate with? Have a great day.

Posted in agnostic, god, Hinduism, humor, humour, life, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

This Is Hard

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 19, 2010

My twitter friend Anne complimented me recently saying “It takes guts to blog about personal spirituality”. I took a great deal of comfort from that, because she’s right. It’s hard.

The post-Enlightenment West is unusual among many world cultures because we regard talking about religion as a private matter. I read of somewhere – was it Bali? – where a typical meeting of strangers includes “How are you? “, “How is your family?” , “Are you married?”, and “What religion are you?”. I assume not all in the same sentence!

I firmly believe that not talking about the inner life diminishes us, yet fighting your own culture ain’t easy. In the words of the song, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Many people simply do not want to engage with this stuff. I’d probably be a millionaire by now if I switched to blogging Oprah-esque personal development.

Writing about what I do is difficult because it’s personal. It affects me. I don’t talk about spirituality, agnosticism, atheism out of mere academic interest. It’s apatheism, a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism which says, “I don’t know and I don’t care that I don‘t know.” I care that I don’t know. The question of whether or not there is some higher reality to be found affects my life, my emotions, my fears and my frustrations.

Not having a firm position feels rather like rowing a solitary boat through a rolling sea. Up, down, no safe haven in which to anchor, and no fellow passengers to share the oars.

“Doing” spirituality is hard and I’ve never been fond of spiritual “work”. If one is going to include spiritual practices as part of one’s search, such as meditation or even just listening openly to a friend of a different faith, that takes time and effort. I can’t honestly say I’ve spent a lot of energy on this yet. It’s ambitious to think I could experience enough in one lifetime anyway. Books are safer.

The search is also hard in an intellectual sense. I’ve spent time reading very obtuse philosophy debates in online forums. “Before we debate God,” says one, “let’s decide if ‘god’ is a coherent concept.” Phew. At the end of this, often my head hurts and I feel stupid. I do value good reasoning, after all, half my undergrad degree was in philosophy. But at the end of the day, there will always be a better argument around the corner and I simply don’t have time to understand them all.

I’m also bruised by the times when someone who likes to be seen to be intellectual wades in and wins the battle, while simultaneously killing her friends. I’ve been one of those people, and I’d rather lose the ego. It’s a weakness of intellectuals; some of us learned to feel self-worth because we knew more big words than someone else. When others do have better arguments, it’s humbling.

Writing about a spiritual search also exposes me on a whole different level. See, there’s a funny thing: When it comes to religion people not only judge what you think, they also judge your character. Online friend Kimh asked if my writing will be abstract study, or more of a memoir. I think it has to be at least partly personal because otherwise it‘ll be dull as iron. But I don’t want it to be about me. I want to hide behind argument and erudition. I don’t want to have my life up for scrutiny as well. Frankly, sometimes I’m not a nice person at all. Apparently we all have secrets, and it’s OK to keep some of them hidden– at least that was the theme of Dexter season three. But he’s an imaginary serial killer.

Writer Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote of the difficulty of being truly honest in a Christian context where you’re not supposed to talk about some things. I think it’s hard being honest full stop, regardless of one’s persuasion. What if I’m making some obvious mistake and people laugh at me? What if my friends disown me? What if I offend people who don‘t share my (non)beliefs? It would be much easier to merely present ideas. Ideas are external to me, I‘m safe. However, in the case of spirituality, ideas are carried within a life.

Right now, the sun is shining through my window, and warms my chest. With support from friends, much of the time I’m happy. I remind myself this is a path I’ve chosen and I can step off it any time. The adventure remains, and also a hell of a challenge.

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PS: Go check out Anne’s very cool blog if you’re interested in innovative small business.
How do you feel talking about your personal beliefs with other people?

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Posted in agnostic, hardship, life, personal, personal development, Philosophy, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

If You See The Buddha On The Road, Kiss Him

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 23, 2010

I’m thinking about benevolence. And compassion.

Early this morning the sky is grey and the Snapper card on the bus doesn’t work. I have only $4.80 left to my name. Just enough for the coffee which I’m hoping to treat myself to before the long walk home. I don’t tell the driver that. I’m too embarrassed.

I offer to pay cash and she tells me not to worry, “It’s the machine’s fault”. She gifts me a free ride into town.

I’m mulling this over as I leave my appointment and walk through the gentle rain. It’s so light it feels like prickles of mist on my face. Pleasant sensations.

Compassion is a word that Buddhists use a lot. It’s one of the really good things about Gautama’s “middle path”. I want to have more compassion for others, and even more so, for myself.

coffee flower

Coffee Flower.

Tiredly trudging along Willis Street, I’m conflicted. I really owe a gift to the couple who let me live with them when I needed help. Even if I buy a card from the thrift shop I won’t have enough for coffee. I decide I want to do the right thing, and buy the card. Ironically, the only blank card there has a photograph of a full cup of coffee. At the counter the friendly Chinese New Zealander gives me a large silver candle with my purchase. “We’re giving them away to celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year”. “That’s right,” I think, “we’ve just had the turn of the winter solstice.” I’m amazed and grateful. I love candles.

I walk into a trendy Cuba Mall café, planning to ask them what my remaining $2.80 will get me. “Not much”, is the answer I’m expecting. Wonderfully, a long black is only $2.50. I was hoping for a latté, but that will be fine. I put my remaining silver, copper and brass on the counter, explaining I want to check if I have a few cents left in my EFTPOS account.

“Don’t worry about it mate, sort us out another time.” He gives me a discount latté, again unasked.

Now I’m sitting at a comfortable wooden table, feeling serene. Thankyou Cafe Plum.

Sometimes the search for meaning can seem long and hard. I’m not suggesting ‘the universe provides’. I don’t believe that. Whatever our beliefs, I think we can all agree the world could use a little more compassion.


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more below

When I’m not listening to Deicide I’m listening to Carbon Based Lifeform‘s eponymous Hydroponic Garden I cannot rate this album highly enough.

That thing about ‘the Universe’? I’m going to come back to it in a future post.

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Posted in agnostic, ethics, Meaning of Life, personal development, spirituality | 32 Comments »