A Brief History of Time

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An improvement on the theories of Stephen Hawking

The mind cannot fathom nothingness.  It tends to equate it with blackness, which is something, or emptiness, which is the essence and source of everything.  By bringing the Eastern notion of emptiness into the conversation, nothingness paradoxically fades into nothingness as the reason for its unfathomability becomes clear.  However, before the limitless potential of emptiness expressed itself in myriad lifeforms big and small, those lives experienced nothingness by virtue of the fact that they didn’t exist and hence were incapable of experience, even that of nothingness.

A yawn in the void, a Bang, a whimper, an expansion.

Spirograph patterns of symmetrically arranged stars coalesce into galaxies; nuclear reactors toss sediment into orbit around themselves: planets, moons, meteors — each massive body glued to its rotating corner of the Universe by gravity.

Blast furnace heat rips from craters on a small round rock.  Thick streams of molten lava cool and solidify into an uneven topography.  A billion year bombardment of rocks and ice from above delivers the raw materials that disperse and combine to form oceans, rivers, atmosphere and strangest of all, life.

Root systems suck at the teet of the planet, feeding, growing, limbs expanding, joining hands until a dense canopy obscures the sunlight from the forest floor that gathers cast off leaves and bark into an amorphous organic blanket.

Below the glistening surfaces of seas, lakes and ponds, imperceptible bacteria swim and swirl, join forces, grow, morph, evolve and adapt.  Pores become gills become lungs engender limbs and the journey begins.

The clumsy crabwalk wobbles into four-legged stability.  Some take wing, others head for the trees and establish primate communities, hierarchies and social norms on land masses that continue to fissure, split, crash and occasionally float away.  A few crane their necks toward the heavens until they stand upright and learn to ponder the meaning of the chaotic magnificence all around.

Crude communication engenders language.  Language engenders commerce.  Commerce transforms lifestyles of fight or flight into cooperative enterprises yielding plentiful food supplies and an exchange of ideas.  Ideas become philosophies become religions become warring factions of the wise and the ignorant.  Jesus teaches unconditional love to the West.  Buddha teaches unconditional love to the East.  Many hear, few understand, but all choose a side.

Discovery runs riot.  Fire, wheel, the written word, aqueducts, electricity, steam, transistors, locomotion, automation, the sum total of humanity’s knowledge on a microchip.  Science and spirituality join hands creating a road map of perfect wisdom for intrepid travelers, while others live in the comfort of frivolity from those selfsame efforts.  Another millennium turns and man finds himself living in a future whose attributes bear no resemblance to his primordial home.  His possibilities are limitless.  And then…

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Vroom vroom!  The leader of the free world plays truck driver on the front lawn of the White House while his country descends into chaos, creating an existential threat to every living thing upon the beautiful, blue ancient rock orbiting its sun.  “Look, Ma, I’m driving a big ol’ truck!  Beep beep!”

The sum total of evolution’s efforts; the end result of 13.8 billion years of creation.  Wisdom may not be the essence of the Universe, after all.  In retrospect, viewing Universal history as nothing more than a long, strange saga of a bunch of colliding rocks makes much more sense.

Crash!

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This morning, I was too lazy to pack a lunch before I left for work.  “Fuck that noise,” said I.  “It’s Friday and I’m gonna treat myself to McDonalds.”

On my way to indulge this midday craving, some kid in a pick-up truck decided that waiting for an economy sized sedan to pass through the intersection before making his left turn was just too unbearable, so he did what any impatient jackass teenager would do and plowed into my vehicle.  Now I am without a car for a couple of weeks.  My office is easy walking distance from my apartment, so this won’t inconvenience me half as much as it would most people.  No big deal.  But I expect to be housebound for much of this weekend, and maybe next weekend, too.

Rather than pass the time generating one idiotic blog post after another, I’ve decided to challenge myself with parameters.  Most blogs are by their very nature extremely self-indulgent.  Hopefully, the fact that I often choose to pontificate about philosophy and physics and politics and pop culture counteracts some of my other posts whose upshot is some variation on “woe is me” or “hurray for me!”  But since I’ve got some time on my hands, I now want to challenge myself even further in that direction.  I am going to attempt, in my next post, to compose the entire thing without once using the words I, me, mine, my, Paul, or any variation thereof.

Will the eschewing of first person references make for a more compelling article?  Or will it sound lifeless and read like a text book, regardless of the subject matter I choose?  Dunno.  We shall see if a voice that refuses to identify its source has the ability to entertain.  I’ve been wanting to experiment with something like this ever since reading “Quantum Psychology” by Robert Anton Wilson.  That entire 200+ page book was written without once using “essence” words such as is, be, are, am, was, etc., and was therefore a much taller order to accomplish than what I’m proposing for myself here.

I’d be interested in your honest feedback after I publish the results of this self-challenge.  If the general consensus is that it’s still readable and entertaining without first person interjections, perhaps I’ll utilize that method more often. But even if the consensus is that it’s about as interesting as watching flies fuck, it still will have been good practice in ego negation, like literary Dzogchen.

Moral: Just pack yer damn lunch, you lazy schmuck.

it’s insomnia kids you know its drivin’ me crazy …

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“Turn out the lights lie my head down, I lie my head down I close my eyes.  Now all I do girl is lie here I think I’ll die here insomnia.” – The Dirty Heads

Because the brutal allergies and sinus headaches from mucosal disease of the sinuses is just not enough to send me into Allegra and Mucinex induced delirium … I can’t sleep.  It’s been about four days now.  I have a whole lot to accomplish and not enough strength and motivation to do it.  The lack of sleep is killing me.  The confusion and stress of my daily life I’m sure plays a large role in this as well.

I did manage to throw up my portfolio website for my artwork and I will place a link for it here.  There is a “blog” on the website, but really that is just for art announcements and will have nothing to do with the lunacy and self depreciation that I post here.

Find Me Here!

In the last few days I did at least manage to start a new series of artwork.  As my pieces are completed they will be posted to the portfolio on my personal website linked above.  I doubt that the gallery will be making regular image updates to the site.  So, if you are at all interested in seeing what I am up to, mazmisc.com is the place.

I’m conflicted and confused but I might actually be in a good place.  It’s hard to tell.  Without sleeping I am having a hard time deciphering dream vs. reality.  Maybe I’m not quite a lost cause yet.

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“I need some Valium, Xanex, Percocet, Darvocet, Vicodin, Klonopin, sleeping pills and Nyquil … Turn out the lights lie my head down, I lie my head down I close my eyes.  Now all I do is lie here I think I’ll die here insomnia.” – The Dirty Heads

Until next time.

Bang A Gong, Get It On

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Last night’s post necessitated that I submerge myself in a sea of metaphysics.  Now I wonder if this wasn’t my way of refusing to face my grief.  The world lost a cultural revolutionary with the passing of Chuck Barris, creator and host of The Gong Show, hit song writer and alleged CIA operative.  Of those accomplishments, his legacy was cemented with the most shamelessly moronic game show ever televised.  The 1970s was an era when people inexplicably laughed uproariously at the likes of Ray Jay Johnson, Shields and Yarnell, and Steve Martin parading around a stage in bunny ears randomly shouting, “Excuuuuuse me!”  Chuck tapped into the zeitgeist by creating a platform for Gene Gene The Dancing Machine and The Unknown Comic, knowing full well that the viewing public would enthusiastically devour all this schlock.  He extended the show business careers of people like Jaye P. Morgan, Nipsey Russell, Rip Taylor and Charles Nelson Reilly, long after kids like me forgot how they became celebrities in the first place.  Rest in peace, Chuck.  When the shock of your loss recedes, we’ll all still remember you for being…someone who existed.  That’s more than most of us can claim.

The Magic Interval

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Well, if it’s so deep you don’t think that you can speak about it, don’t ever think that you can’t change the past and the future. You might not think so now, but just you wait and see — someone will come to help you. – Kate Bush

There is a gap between action and reaction.  An infinitesimal interval, a flash between off and on, too fleeting for the conscious mind to perceive.  As far as we’re concerned, this pause does not exist.  But it is, in the truest sense, the most crucial moment of everything we’ve ever experienced, said or done.  In fact, it’s the moment of creation.  What is created in this unregistered blip on our internal radar screens is the essence of all that will follow.

Someone cuts me off in traffic.  Later on, I relate the story with bravado, “As soon as that asshole pulled in front of me, I laid on the horn and flipped him off.”  Wrong.  As soon as ‘that asshole’ pulled in front of me, my subconscious scanned my entire history of memories, conflicts, opinions, prejudices, humiliations, fears, perceived victories and perceived failures.  It searched ego’s stock of masks, roles and images.  Regardless of its final choice, still it imperceptibly looked at the level of importance I attached right at that moment to the virtuous notions of empathy, understanding and forgiveness.  Finally, it decided that understanding the possible motives of a total stranger at rush hour was not worth the effort, then – and only then – did it instruct my conscious mind to pummel my horn and extend the obscene gesture.  That’s an awful lot of activity occurring in less than a nanosecond, but still I made the regrettable choice in this hypothetical traffic confrontation.

Some might ask why it was the regrettable choice.  That driver cut you off, right?  That’s dangerous!  Fuck him!  And of course, it was a pretty mild road rage event that I just described and thus probably wouldn’t really have had all that significant of an effect on the recipient of my ire.  Within minutes, all involved would most likely have forgotten all about it.  Except that we never forget.  Everything we do, everything we feel, everything we say creates the perpetually new paradigm called “You at this moment”.  That’s the only “you” there is (and even that you’s existence is debatable, but one convoluted topic at a time, right?).

We can learn to gradually access that gap through meditation.  The type of meditation to which I’m referring is not a matter of meditating about anything.  It’s the practice of non-conceptual awareness.  And it’s a bitch.  I’m not trying to say that the act of sitting still is a bitch.  Sometimes I can sit still for hours on end and I assure you, it’s easy as pie (again, contemplating ‘just how easy is pie?’ would require a blog post unto itself).  What is exceedingly difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, is achieving the willingness to let go of yourself completely.  Many people who are keen to embrace a new-agey lifestyle filled with yoga and mantras and meditation tend to define letting go of themselves as something whose progress they can mark by how many minutes or hours they dedicate to self-conscious breathing techniques and how good of a write-up their “guru” received in the Shambala Tricycle.  This kind of “spirituality” is futile.  Ego runs rampant through such endeavors and all one can reasonably learn from years of this kind of spiritual materialism (thank you, Trungpa Rinpoche) is what flavor of incense they prefer to have smoldering in the yoga studio.

To lose oneself completely means to forget who you are – to stop the flow of thoughts that seem to come at you from the past and the future.  This only sounds frightening to those who haven’t tried it.  But in fact, every single one of us enters a realm of no-self every single night in dreamless sleep.  You, quite literally, die every time you drift into unconsciousness.  When you wake up, everything looks as it did when last you were conscious and this makes you assume that you have been alive in an uninterrupted time stream whose duration is always increasing.  Yes, your vital functions continued as you slept.  Your body did not die, obviously.  But is your body “you”?  If you define yourself by your physical form, then you are a completely different person every seven years as every cell died and was replaced according to your DNA blueprint.

Your mind isn’t “you”, either, but it is capable of crystalline awareness unfettered by notions of self.  This type of awareness isn’t thought.  It does not express itself in language or symbols.  When a bird swoops from a tree in a graceful arc in front of eyes seeing without self, without concepts, it is seen – and more clearly than usual, because the experience isn’t polluted with the concepts of “bird” or “tree”.

Why is it so important for us to learn how to access this Mind, this Self that is by its very nature unconcerned with self?  Because it only exists in the gap, the moment of creation.  Without this Mind that lives in the gap, the Universe would not have materialized and there would be no life.  This Mind belongs to no one because the apparent existence of separate personalities with individual destinies is an illusion.  A man-made fiction.  The gap that I previously described as infinitesimal is also eternal.  And we have always been abiding there as one.  Before we were “we”, We created the Universe, and We continue to create it moment to moment, but non-linearly, always now.

The imaginary man in the car who cut me off was me.  He was you.  My split-second decision to express my anger actually resulted in a middle finger extended directly at my own face.  This is pure folly.  Be kind to yourself.  Love yourself.  The only way to do this is to love everyone with perfect equanimity.  Every single person you meet is a mirror.  I look at you looking at me looking at you and down the rabbit hole we go!  Our bodies and minds become insubstantial, leaving only the Love that plays a never ending game of hide and seek in and with our temporary selves.  If you can’t enjoy this game, it’s not worth playing.  So play on and enjoy every moment, my beautiful friends.

Teen Dreams

From my earliest recollection, I have been obsessed with music to a far greater degree than most others possessing a set of ears.  Rush was the first band that attracted my fanaticism.  Three guys from Canada producing meticulously tight and virtuosic music with a lyrical message clearly aimed at cerebral adolescent outcasts awoke the dormant geekdom for all things sonically engaging that I assume was embedded in my genetic code from the moment of my conception.

Then my sister, who is 5 years my senior, went to college and began exposing me to all sorts of music that would somehow inspire me to sport the dumbest haircut ever devised throughout the remainder of my high school years.  It was the 80s, so at least I wasn’t alone in opting for such a ridiculous coiffure.

Some songs stand out as having been definitive of my high school years.  These are the songs that played a perpetual loop in my brain as I fell in love for the first time, drank my first beer, began to express myself in writing, and made a veritable hobby of rebelling against the Depression-era rules that were an unavoidable part of living under my parents’ roof.  It was a time filled with formless hope and equally formless wear-it-on-my-sleeve rage resulting from a spotty understanding of the political diatribes of my punk rock heroes.  Here are a just a handful of those songs that, more than just occupying a nostalgic place in my mind, still have the magical ability to transport me directly back to a time marked by teenage romanticism, melodrama and bittersweet anticipation:

Ah, Kate Bush.  One of my earliest crushes using her beautiful four octave dog whistle of a voice to capture the dark Brontean romance of Catherine and Heathcliff.  Heavenly.

Psychedelic guitars, cryptic lyrics and a boatful of questionable haircuts.  Echo and the Bunnymen should have been so much bigger.  Like most teens, I found myself infatuated with some seemingly unattainable fragile beauty on an almost weekly basis.  Ian McCulloch captured such yearning perfectly in this song: “Just look at you with burning lips — you’re living proof at my fingertips!”

Not the John Hughes, slick movie version, but the original in all its rawness.  “Wasn’t she easy?  Isn’t she pretty in pink?  The one who insists he was first in the line is the last to remember her name.  He’s walking around in this dress that she wore.  She is gone, but the joke’s the same.”  Prescient, to say the least.

I like to pretend that Bono & Co. hung it up in 1987 right after releasing The Joshua Tree.  Of course, they didn’t and hence they continue to sully the legacy of their first five wonderful albums.  This Brian Eno-produced tune is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, in my humble opinion.

Oh, how I miss college radio.  Princeton University’s WPRB turned me on to this brilliant nugget of neo-psychedelia.

The The.  Matt Johnson was a one-man force of nature when it came to deceptively upbeat sounding new wave music underlying some of the most poignant descriptions of melancholy and self-loathing.  Along with The Smiths, The The was my go-to artist when I needed to pretend that my life was so much more difficult than it really was.

If nothing else, I hope that I was able to provide some nostalgic listening to brighten your day.  Or at least to make you cringe while recalling how silly you looked as a teenager.

The Dude Abides

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All phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness; their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death, no Being no Non-being, no Defilement no Purity, no Increasing no Decreasing. – The Heart Sutra

The morning breeze performs a pas de deux with each newborn yarrow flower that came bursting through the grass in tight bunches under cover of night.  Silent and unwitnessed, the earth creates a fresh array of sensory seduction while we sleep.  On awakening, we can look, inhale and join the dance.  We can draw our blinds and shield our eyes from the fragile reminders of our own vulnerability.  We can shatter the silence with a catharsis of feigned indignation.

We can sit still and become a purple yarrow flower, the silent power of Maya enticing a low-flying and bottom heavy yellow drone in search of nectar.  We can be the nectar and we can drink of it.  We can wordlessly understand that nothing is other than ourselves.

When the breeze feels like hope, I know that Mind is grasping forward.  When it feels like regret, I know that Mind is arching backward.  When Mind is mute, aware without specificity, time stops.  This is where god lives.  This is the home to which we inevitably return, finally oblivious to the cold sweat dream remnants of arrogant fears and scheming.  No body.  One Mind. Om tat sat.

I, me, mine approach their expiration in subtle increments every day, every hour, every minute, fighting with futility and brute force for survival.  But sometimes, caught off guard, eyes following a whirlpool of cream spinning a circuitous route around the spoon in my coffee, I forget to remember myself and stumble into the paradise where I no longer have a name.  Can I stay here? I ask no one in particular.  By way of an answer, Mind recalls yesterday and my name and the things I’ve told myself to love and the things I’ve told myself to hate.  Paradise lost.

No worries.  True Love, the undiscriminating life force, is never out of reach.  It silently sustains everything by doing absolutely nothing. All one has to do is forget.  Remember?