Friday, August 31, 2012

There's something primordial, something foundational, about thinking visually

Buddha realizing enlightenment under my striped maple tree: 8/31/12

“Thinking in pictures,” Sigmund Freud once wrote, “stands nearer to unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and is unquestionably older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.”

There is, in other words, something primordial, something foundational, about thinking visually...

Like Freud, Wittgenstein took very seriously indeed the idea that our dreams present us with a series of images, the interpretation of which would reveal the thoughts we have relegated to the unconscious parts of our minds...

It was fundamental to Wittgenstein’s thinking... that not everything we can see and therefore not everything we can mentally grasp can be put into words. *

* The above quotes are from the article, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s passion for looking , not thinkingby Ray Monk in the 8/15/12 edition of the New Statesman

Friday, August 24, 2012

Technology East and West

A Sequence of Connected Ideas
Tree at Wentworth Coolidge Mansion- Portsmouth, NH: August 2012

The following is my summary of Steven Batchelor’s take on technology, taken from pages 70-72 of his book Faith to Doubt, written in the late 1980s: 

A technique is a sequence of connected ideas, which when correctly applied produce an identical result under all circumstances. Whenever a technique is applied, a technology is presupposed.

In this sense, technology is neither recent or modern; it has nothing to do with scientific research or machinery. In this sense, technology is as old as the human mind, referring as it does to a particular approach to reality. 

In the West, technology has been concerned with the outside as an application of techniques to transform the material world. Conversely, in the East, technology has been concerned with the inside as a method to transform the spiritual world. 

Batchelor says, “I can see for myself that a technical approach to transforming the material world works. Yet even here what works on one level is often achieved only at a greater cost on another. Many advances in technology have brought unforeseen, destructive consequences in their wake.”

Climate change comes to mind for me as the latest, greatest example.

 “To submit nature to man's technical desires cannot be achieved without consequences that may cause more harm in the long term than any benefits produced in the short term. A technical attitude is locked in a narrow vision which is blind to the wider implications of its actions.”
A Sequence of Reeds Arranged by the Tide
Adams Point:August 2012
Chinese sage Lao Tzu understood this in the 6th century BC:

Those that would gain what is under heaven by tampering with it–
I have seen that they do not succeed. 
For that which is under heaven is like a holy vessel, 
dangerous to tamper with. 
Those that tamper with it, harm it. 
Those that grab at it, lose it. 

Western technology, Batchelor writes, considers only the causal relations between things that may be exploited to fulfill its own desires while ignoring their deepest interconnections. He illustrates the folly of this approach with a quote by Gabriel Marcel:

Broadly, we might say that man's increasing mastery over nature has been accompanied ... by a more and more complete capitulation of man before his own fears and desires, or even before the ungovernable element in his nature. Man's mastery over nature, then, is a mastery which has less and less control over itself .... A world where techniques are paramount is a world given over to desire and fear; because every technique is there to serve some desire or fear.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kaleidoscopic reflections on the window glass of my speeding life

 Kaleidoscopic reflections on the window glass of our NYC-bound bus
New York City's Skyline:J. Stimmell@2012
To the world of glass and emptiness: 
“I feel like a pane of glass that needs to be shattered.” *

* From a NYT’s book review by Pico Ivers of David Egger's newest book, Desert Pitch.  The quote is by the novel’s protagonist, Alan, describing the tension he feels attempting to maintain his humanness under the crush of modernity’s obsession with  bureaucracy and technology.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Don't take the living world of now for granted!

Polarized Cartwheel Girl: York Beach: 7/30/12

One of my favorite authors and guiding lights is the existential Buddhist, Steven Batchelor. Following Husserl and Heidegger, he convincingly makes the argument that the greatest crisis humanity now faces is that "we have taken this living world for granted and unthinkingly erected upon it the conceptual edifices of logic, mathematics, and science."

 As Heidegger said in his later writings, this has led to a situation where technology is no longer a tool in the hands of people, but a relentless power that is driving humanity toward the brink of its own destruction.“ *

* from Batchelor, Stephen (2010-02-26). Confession of a Buddhist Atheist (Kindle Locations 847-852). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Photography: A Way of Meditation

12'  tall Russian Mammoth Sunflower in our garden: 7/30/12*

The following enlightening quote is by Roshi Joan Halifax 

"As I lived with the camera, the camera was not only my eyes but also my heart. It captured and held light, light that I was always seeking and finding, light that filled the world, even the world of suffering, when light shines through the darkness.

"When I was in my twenties, I discovered meditation... 

"I could also see the world in a different way, a way the camera had taught me. The camera had given me a view, a view that accepted everything into its lens. I had a viewfinder (meditation), and a way to develop the world of action. View, meditation, action are one way that Buddhism is described."

Roshi Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, author, and activist.  Click here to see her work and learn more about her.

* It's really true: the sunflowers are 12 feet tall!
Standing tall amidst the sunflowers with my scarecow

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Morning in America

Photoshop composition with silver maple swamp background shot in Concord
"We were born into a world of ghosts and illusions that have haunted our minds our entire lives. These shades seem more alive to us than reality, and perhaps, by some definition are more actual, hyper-real. We grew up in this world of screens and hyperbole and surreal imagery, and think nothing of a long-dead actor appearing on a wall in our homes to urge us to buy or live a certain way. Some generations ago, we might have all been burned, perhaps rightfully, as witches.

We have no clear idea how life should really feel. The mind adapts itself quickly to commonplaces and absurdities alike, so that a child raised in a phantasmal fun house will assume it is normal, especially if she can't find the door. We sense something is wrong only through the odd clue."*

*quote from Communique 1 which was originally published by in its printed magazine. Tidal