Selves

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So I finished reading Waking Up, by Sam Harris. Would reccommend it, it’s less a pure “spirituality without religion” manual as perhaps a way to lure pure, innocent atheists into looking at secularized Buddhism.

Which means it ended up being more up my alley than I was anticipating.

The book mentions that the first part of of our brain that becomes “conscious” is the right side of our brain, which is non-verbal. The left, language-baring part of our brain activates later and eventually dominates the other part of our brain…

so essentially, what could be our actual self is eventually shoved into a corner and falsely replaced by a chatty asshole that feels the need to endlessly describe and create a false storyline for everything that occurs. Ever.

Huh.

Relatedly, I have found out that I yell at myself just as angrily for forgetting to check the mail when I’m doing my laundry as I used to about getting high and completely screwing up my life. Then I start laughing and feel insane.

Hahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Otherwise I’ve still been trying to figure out the buddhist soul thing, and keep feeling like I get close to understanding it, and snapping back to not. Is that even possible?

Essentially what is “me” is constructed of a mixture of other materials, generations of other people’s decisions, and a heavily flucuating mindset and a weird little durable body.

And we’re all as weird and complex. Sometimes I hook into the feeling, sometimes, at work, that there’s hundreds of us hooked up to computers, having our own internal dialogues and having our own quiet battles, while parroting the words of a human being we are never going to met, but will know intimately for a few hours.

Mindblowing.

Love just seems impossible to me now, considering how we’re all just kind of isolated in these mind/body units that are not really capable of understanding ourselves, and have no chance of completely understanding the world around us or the other people in it, no matter how hard we try.

Losing Yourself

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Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? … I have seen men in real life who so long deceived others that at last their true nature could not reveal itself…. Or can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become, like those unhappy demoniacs, a legion and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality?
-Either/Or, Kierkegaard

“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” – Walt Whitman

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When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

The Dhammapada

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Not to commit any sin, to do good, and to purify one’s mind, that is the teaching of (all) the Awakened.

….

Let a wise man blow off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of silver one by one, little by little, and from time to time.

Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gather it little by little.

Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gather it little by little.

-The Dhammapada

What a gem this volume is! It’s a collection of sayings attributed to the Buddha, from the Theraveda tradition of Buddhism. It’s one of the least religious sutras I’ve read – it concentrates more of the philosophy of proper living in this world than theological matters.

Buddhism is a religion that recommends moderation in body, spirit, and mind, as well as detachment from emotions and day-to-day life. One goal of the Buddhism is to reduce suffering in this world, by promoting good deeds and a gentleness toward all living beings. The other aspects vary depending on which branch you’re studying, but another common goal is release from the cycle of reincarnation, the multiple rebirths experienced until a being has spiritually purified itself and obtained nirvana.

What I especially love about most forms of Buddhism is its focus on correct living in this world, rather than dogma. Gautama Buddha himself is generally not deified and is treated as a fellow traveler who could have released himself from the rebirth cycle but chose to teach and help others free themselves instead. Anyone can eventually become a buddha, with enough spiritual practice.

As someone who’s experienced chafing at Western religion, I adore the freedom of Buddhism’s flexibility on specific dogmas. I especially like that we’re all given endless chances to achieve heaven and cessation of being – there is no one great chance, instead we’re all fellow co-learners at different points of development…

There are many forms of Buddhism, and there are many deities-Mara, being the king of Hell, and others. For me, right now, I read it more these as a metaphor – a greedy person or addict who dies without is reborn as a hungry ghost in the hell realm to suffer eternal hunger.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested – you can read it as an ancient philosophy that ables to our modern world.

“Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction” by Thomas R. Flynn

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This book is 160 pages of dense information ready to blow your head off at the slightest provocation. I’m familiar with existentialism, and this book nearly killed me. Thomas R. Flynn is highly educated and intelligent, but seems unfamiliar with making concepts accessible to laymen. He does do a nice introduction to basic philosophy, but gets bogged down too much in the history of the movement and in-fights between contemporaries.

I wanted a broader introduction to the form of philosophy itself, but this book was invaluable in learning more about philosophy in general, improving my vocabulary – now instead of day-to-day, I can just say quitodian and alienate EVERYONE IN THE ROOM, ALL AT ONCE

I really wouldn’t reccommend this book unless you’re already somewhat knowledgable and interested in existentialism.