Friday, September 23, 2005

Solitude and reflection

The opportunity to think deeply about various matters arises easily in solitude. Reflection is the domain of a mind at rest, it requires still waters and an outer fortification against worldly din, media, worries, anxieties, interruptions. It requires a temporary quelling of the desire to give our opinions - a silencing of our inner fountain of preset habits, thoughts, assumptions, suppositions, attitudes, inferences, conjectures, and interpretations. With a brief respite from the noise and unceasing demands of daily life and our own habits, it becomes possible to turn inward and contemplate the inner kernel of a matter.

What is reflection except turning inward to allow the mind the quiet, calm, concentration of its powers, in order to understand with depth. In order to allow the mind to place a matter in its proper place, to see the subtle connections which join and envelop all things but which escape our daily perception.

To perceive not just form, but meaning, to perceive inner content, requires a change of the focus of concentration from the outer world to the inner. The shell of a seed protects its inner kernel so that it may gestate and grow. So too our thoughts need to gestate and grow. In this manner we create and shape our inner world giving it depth and texture and real understanding.

We become the sculptor rather than the sculpture, we become the shapers rather than the shaped, we create our own internal configuration rather than allowing the external world to impose its configuration on us.

Then we can act in the din and strife of the external world with a measure of thoughtfulness and wisdom and depth. We can act with consciousness instead of reacting in ignorance. Unruffled, collected, we can bring our inner resources (nurtured to fruition) to bear on the complexity of life and bring steadiness to our own selves and possible benefit to others.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Relationships of expediency and dominance

Relationships of political/economic expediency, hierarchies of power and dominance define international relationships. Tensions exist because injustice, imbalance, and unfair advantage are the natural outcome of such relationships. Conflict occurs when players in this game seek to strengthen their positions and undermine others - expansion and gain for one often spells loss and reduced autonomy for others. There are many levers/tools/weapons in this game - economics/politics/military power/media/religion. Machiavellean politics pushes limits to achieve the desired end - a player seeks a particular goal and musters available resources to achieve this end and manage it's populations perceptions along the way. Everything becomes a resource to utilize - everything is a commodity or tool to be managed or used. The profound danger is that truth, compassion, justice - religion itself, become distorted, having been manipulated and spun out as simply another tool used to achieve a questionable end.

Mass entertainment

Too much of what passes for art has the function of deadening or debasing one's consciousness - it attempts to appeal to what is base in man since this is far easier and more lucrative than appealing to what is noble. To consider art as merely an entertainment, something with which to keep people occupied, or as a relief from the strain of modern life is to give a low task to a sacred activity. "The state of art is such today that the worst of duties and the most mischievous of missions is (given in its hands)." (Ali Shari'ati).

But if much of art is a false and pointless or egotistical enterprise (fabricated around the feeblest and most self-indulgent whims of the "artist" and the profit-making ambitions of the media institutions), it is also true that "...if there is a forged coin in the market, know that there has been a golden one which was a true means of exchange." (Rumi) Misuse of art, truth, religion etc. is no reason to cast these things aside - it's an estimable if difficult endeavour to discover their true use and worth.

Litany against TV

TV is the mind-killer.
It is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

Do something else

Don't watch TV. Walk away from it. Kill your cable. It's eating up your life...swallowing down hour upon hour and giving only emptiness in return. Nothing of any consequence will be lost by darkening its tube. Try it.