Belief, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Satori, Self-determination, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Transformative Experience

New Eyes

SUMMARY:  A look at maximizing our freedom by freeing us from our cultural assumptions so that we might pick and choose which aspects of our culture are of value to us and which aspects are not.  Life experiences (including travel), education, love, and mystical experiences are all considered as means of freeing us.

(About a 6 minute read)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

My first wife, Jana, was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation.  At age 9, she escaped with her family to West Germany.  Two years later, they immigrated to the US.

Her mother and father, both being doctors, were able to send her back to Europe to attend a private Swiss boarding school for her high school education.  After high school, she lived in England for awhile, before returning to the US to attend university, where I met her.

By the time I met her, she was a confirmed traveler.  But travel was much more to her than an exciting adventure.  It was a way of learning new things, new ways of doing and thinking.  Or, as Proust might have it, travel was Jana’s way of gaining “new eyes”.

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Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Buddhahood, Enlightenment, Goals, Human Nature, Life, Living, Love, Meaning, Mysticism, Purpose, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Values

More to Life

SUMMARY:  Many of us at one time or another in our lives feel that life is passing us by, that we are not getting as much out of it as possible.  For most of us who feel that way, there are ready remedies in entertainment, consumerism, and so forth — at least at first.  But for others, the desire for something more cannot be solved in such ways.  In this post, I look at what I consider the ultimate solutions to the problem of wanting more from life.

(About a 9 minute read)

It’s a curious fact that when a person is down and out, they can be too down and out to want to think there is more to life than their current fate.  The thought of a better life can be too painful to contemplate under the circumstances.

But for most of us, there are times in our lives when we are discontent, profoundly discontent, and in search of something more.  That sort of feeling is usually accompanied in my experience by boredom with life as it is, and perhaps a sense it will never get much better.

At which point, many of us instinctively turn to entertainments, to consumerism, to self-improvement books and articles, to politics, or religion.  Sometimes we switch jobs, buy a bigger house, take a vacation, or even — and I have seen this happen — get married or plan children out of boredom and to escape that feeling there should be something more to life than what we have.

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Attachment, Buddhahood, Buddhism, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Emotions, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Ideas, Knowledge, Life, Living, Memes, Mysticism, Neuroscience, Psychology, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Science, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Spirituality, Thinking, Transformative Experience

What is Spiritual Enlightenment?

(About a 9 minute read)

When I was at university, I met a woman two years older than me who seemed to me at the time to be so psychologically healthy that I had not expected people could be that “together” before I met her.  She changed not only my ideas of psychological health, but a number of my ideas of what people were and could be.

One day, she and I were talking when the topic of enlightenment came up.  I had only recently heard of the idea and I told her I wanted to find out if it was true.

“Oh, it’s real”. she said, “And it’s my life’s goal to attain it.”

I didn’t know — and I didn’t ask —  how she knew it was real.  The idea was so new to me that I had scarcely heard any evidence for it at that point.  But I did realize she was a very rational person and most likely had reasons she considered solid for believing it existed.

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Allies, Attachment, Consciousness, Death, Dying, Enlightenment, Fear, Friends, Human Nature, Impermance, Life, Living, Lovers, Meaning, Meditation, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Satori, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Spirituality, Transformative Experience

The Fear of Death and Dying

Disclaimer: The following opinions are my own — I am usually wrong about most things — and so you should examine these issues for yourself. On the other hand, only a boring, bumbling, berkle-snozer would disagree with me about anything.​

(About a 5 minute read)

It is my esteemed and noble opinion that the fear of death is a major factor in how folks experience life, and a major motive behind much of human behavior.

How much of a factor and motive, you might ask? Ernest Becker, the psychiatrist who authored, The Denial of Death, thought it unconsciously drove most of human experience and behavior. And here the word “unconsciously” is key to understanding the fear of death.

I do not agree with all of Becker’s ideas, but I am in complete agreement with him about the fear of death being very largely a hidden, unconscious fear. Ask ten people if they fear death, eight or nine will not be aware of themselves fearing it.

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Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Buddhism, Christianity, Deity, Enlightenment, Free Spirit, God, God(s), Hinduism, Human Nature, Islam, Judaism, Life, Love, Mysticism, Religion, Satori, Science, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-determination, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Spirituality, Taoism, Transformative Experience, Wisdom, Zen

If I Were a Theist, I’d Still be a Madman

(About a 3 minute read)

If I were a theist and believed in gods, I would be an insufferable theist.

Indeed, my opinions might be a tad insufferable already.  At least, I think that could be a reasonable conclusion based on the number of encouraging emails I get from my loyal readers that include a pic of someone’s buttocks, along with the usually brief message, “Thinking of you, Paul!”.

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Buddhism, Christianity, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Hinduism, Human Nature, Ideas, Islam, Judaism, Life, Meditation, Mysticism, Myth, Nontheism, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Spirituality, Taoism, Transformative Experience, Wisdom, Zen

Why Fools Point at the Moon

(About a 7 minute read)

It is a charming, ancient conceit that fools are secretly the wisest among us.  Everyone has heard that somewhere or another.  It is pervasive not merely in Europe — home to the court fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear — but worldwide.

Every culture seems to recognize the truth of it.  In Europe, fools are fixtures at the court of kings.  In the far East, they are sages.  In Africa, they are sometimes deities who wear multi-colored hats.  And among the Native American nations, they are Raven and Coyote. Jung would recognize the fool as an archetype of what he believed was the “collective human subconscious”.

But why do humans so often think wisdom is a property of fools?  It is easy to see why we ascribe it to wise men and women, but why specifically to fools?  What does the fool actually represent to us?

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Enlightenment, Religion, Satori, Self-Integration, Spirituality, Transformative Experience

Have We Been Placed Here to Learn Spiritual Lessons?

(About a 2 minute read)

The notion that we have been placed here to learn spiritual lessons progressively leading to ever greater wisdom is a curious one — just as ancient and widespread as it is unquestioned and unexamined.

But is it true?

Ultimately, of course, there is no way to be certain that anything has placed us here to learn wisdom.  That’s a matter of mere metaphysical speculations.  So I ask the question in a practical spirit, rather than in a metaphysical one.

That is, what would it mean in practice to say that we can learn wisdom?

Continue reading “Have We Been Placed Here to Learn Spiritual Lessons?”