synthetic zero


August 30, 2002

When you look out into a room full of people, or things, you really get the sense of taking it all in at once; yet what you are really seeing is hardly anything that is there --- the detail in the center of your vision is really all that you can clearly see. More than this --- each person in that room is a universe in themselves, which we can only glance over, typically.

But there is a bit more to it than this --- somehow I think it is possible to see more than one usually sees. If you're really careful, you can catch a bit of someone's true condition if you pay attention. There really is something remarkable about seeing, something deeper than what there seems to be there. I think it is possible to know more than you might ordinarily think is possible when you see (and when you hear, and so forth).

August 26, 2002

It's interesting to wake up slowly from a dream, rather than suddenly, all at once, as we usually do. Then you can trace the waking itself, which is interesting in that it seems to illuminate the process of falling into a dream as well.

August 23, 2002

It's official, I am going to be in New York for an extended period starting in September. I have my high-speed Internet ready for when I arrive and everything. (On a side note: S.B., I'm not sure if the address I have for you is working. You said you didn't get one of my emails the other day, now I'm not sure if you got my other email.) It finally all seems quite real.

August 20, 2002

Via Invisible City: the relationship between the fundamental structure of the universe and why buttered toast tends to fall face down. More on the author.

Sex shortens lifespans --- at least for beetles. The Chinese have always had this idea that sex shortens the lifespan of the male --- unless he has sex without ejaculating (except once in a while), in which case it is thought to increase lifespan. I actually spent quite a bit of time when I was in college trying to perfect the "sex without ejaculating" method --- with some success. But this also meant that sex could take as long as four hours ... which was sort of fun in college but who has time for that? However, there are some benefits --- male orgasms are possible without ejaculating (yes, indeed), and they can last for minutes. On this subject, by the way, if you're really interested, I would recommend the work of Jolan Chang and I would NOT recommend Mantak Chia. I have heard bad things about Mantak Chia from people I really respect, so please be careful --- some of these practices can be actually harmful. Chang's work is simple and practical, and it does work, I can tell you.

There are basically three main subjects which I think of as fundamental: art, science, and spirituality/philosophy (or contemplation or whatever you want to call it). Reconciling these three, understanding the relationship between them, and so forth, has always been of interest to me. Artists, for example, often stumble across issues that are of fundamental significance to spiritual practitioners --- they deal with perception, being, action, time, space --- many of the fundamental matters which concern spiritual practitioners, Zen masters, etc. Yet although Zen developed a number of art forms, it never developed the sort of art forms prevalent in the West which have delved the most deeply into these matters --- modernist and postmodern and post-postmodern art. Science and technology, of course, stands over on another side, seemingly operating in a different arena as well --- yet of course as we all know, with the advent of certain discoveries in the last century, it has begun to reincorporate the mind and has begun to question the limits of its own traditional ways of understanding the universe --- Godel's Theorem, quantum mechanics --- they point to the need for a new way to approach understanding. I don't know the best way to resolve this tension between these three great arenas, but I think this is the great project of the 21st century.

August 18, 2002

In movies people always do the most secret things in bathroom stalls; they have sex, they read notes from their lovers, do drug deals, etc., etc. Of course, bathroom stalls aren't actually very private at all --- people can easily hear you in there, they hardly have any walls, etc., yet they still feel intensely private. When I'm in a public bathroom stall I feel strangely protected, even though there's not that much reason to feel that way. It feels like a place where we can do things we wouldn't even do at home.

August 17, 2002

There are some stars that women swoon over whom many men get annoyed at... like Brad Pitt. I think I can say that a lot of guys are annoyed by the fact that Brad Pitt is attractive to a lot of women, and I would have to say that I am one of them. However, today I came across this paean to Vin Diesel, and, surprisingly, I found myself cheering Vin on. Somehow I find the whole Vin Diesel phenomenon not only not annoying, but even somewhat exhilirating. I stopped for a second when I realized this, and wondered why I liked the fact that women like Vin... and it occurred to me that part of it is the fact that I basically identify with the characters he portrays. It's not that I look anything like him --- but there's something about his characters, particularly that of Riddick in Pitch Black (one of my favorite movies, even though I don't usually like horror films), which strikes a nerve in me. It's my ancient feeling that at one time, long, long ago, I was some sort of arch-criminal, somebody with great power who abused it, and I have spent a lot of time attempting to rectify those mistakes. I also tend to love dealing with emergencies and crisis situations --- I become extremely calm and very matter-of-fact. So I feel this tremendous affinity for the Vin Diesel characters --- I suppose I feel he's kind of an underdog in a way. "Not for me, not for me," Vin's character said at the end of Pitch Black... tears came to my eyes. I knew exactly what that feels like.

August 16, 2002

When I was a junior in high school I attended a summer program for smart high school students. It was an extremely intense experience; I still keep in touch with some of the people I met there. I was in a fairly performance-oriented mode; one day, at lunch, I decided to slowly, quietly, over a period of a half-hour, lean, bit by bit, closer and closer to my food. Nobody really noticed at first, people just kept talking around me. I kept getting closer, however, and finally people began to notice. My nose touched the mashed potatoes and vegetables... and I slowly began to press my face into the warm nutritious mush. Finally, I was resting, completely submerged, complete.

August 15, 2002

The Bush Administration seems to be spending more and more of its time in laughable and tragic side-maneuvers to deflect attention away from its failures on the domestic front and its absurd strategy in the international arena. The war drumbeat against Iraq is one such effort --- an enemy of only limited threat against us, yet we're focusing far too much effort on them, and not nearly enough on the terrorist networks that persist primarily in Saudi Arabia, Syria, in Pakistan itself, and elsewhere. The rubber-stamp "economic forum" was another --- how ridiculous was that? He isn't planning to attend the Earth Summit despite the fact that this year will be the second hottest in the last 20 years, the state of Alaska is melting, and ocean life is dying at a horrific rate --- and he's avoiding it to appease conservative interests. Our country faces severe dangers both at home and abroad, and this administration is doing everything it can to do nothing effective. Bush is a smarmy pawn of corporate interests, dishonest, without principles, attempting only to misdirect our attention so his regime won't get blamed. He's exactly that sort of smirking frat boy arrogant asshole who will carry that vapid grin all the way through to our collective ruin.

August 11, 2002

Saw some wonderful Indian (as in from India) dancing in Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, this evening. It was quite sexual and flirtatious, I guess it's something like the sort of thing you might see in Bollywood movies --- though I have to admit I haven't really seen many of those (I think I've only seen one all the way through --- of the musical type). There was one non-Indian among them (okay, I'll just say it: he was a "white guy"), the crowd (mostly Indian or Indian-American) really seemed to love that. He had the movements down, though they seemed a bit ungraceful. The whole scene was a lot of fun and not something I have ever really seen before. One thing's for sure: on the whole, Indian culture does not seem to be afraid of sex.

The scene was quite different from my ancestor's Japanese culture --- yet there was a kind of dim affinity or echo there. Japanese culture is also, traditionally, not afraid of sex, although Japanese sexual expression wasn't typically quite so overt. It was traditionally pretty understated. But there is a general sense in Japanese culture that there is nothing especially dirty about sex --- at least not dirty in the sense that it has in Western culture. But Japanese express this in much more restrained ways, more stylized and formal, at least traditionally (of course this has changed a lot in modern times). It's funny, but in East Asia, Japanese have something of a reputation of being sexual libertines, even though in the West this isn't typically recognized or associated with Japanese culture.

August 10, 2002

In Detroit, the airport has signs in English and Japanese, and no other languages. The airport announcements, however, are in English, Japanese, and Chinese. Easier to update the announcements to reflect shifting geoeconomic realities than the signs.

A Taoist master once said: "If you do good, don't take credit. If you do evil, don't get caught." I'm not sure I entirely agree, but I can see where he was coming from: not that one should try to do evil and get away with it, but if you do happen to do evil, it's better to punish yourself than to have others find out and punish you. In other words: try to avoid making even more karma.

August 6, 2002

I want to say something about the life and death of the greatest basketball (and sports) announcer ever, Chick Hearn. I don't talk about sports much, but I really love basketball. It's a sport of both large and small scales --- it's much more than statistics and much more than pure individual skill. There is a magic to it, a flow, a rhythm that surpasses analysis into parts --- the whole is greater. Basketball transcends ordinary thinking --- often the best thing to do when something is going wrong is --- nothing. Sometimes when you're falling behind, the trick is to relax. It's like this, it's like life, and Chick was one announcer who really understood this. He implicitly understood the feel of the game --- the fact that there was a psychology to it, a flow. A team could be defeated even when they had a statistical chance --- that's when he rhetorically put games into "the refrigerator." He had immense experience and a feel for the intangible aspects of the game that really set him apart from almost every other announcer I have ever heard. He would call shots while in the air --- he had compassion for the opposing team, even though he was the voice of the Lakers and he loved his team. He was unabashed in his criticism of the home team when he felt it. It is a pity and a shame that people in other cities rarely got the chance to hear him --- I really believe Chick had a major impact on the city of Los Angeles, on the people in it, on the way that Angelenos think about life, competition, and sportsmanship.

As for his death, I have to say that tragic as it was, and perhaps this is a morbid thing to say, but I can't imagine a better moment for him to go out. Better this than to fade away, than to have to be let go, or even worse, to die halfway through a season, in the middle of the playoffs, or something like this. Retirement was not for Chick Hearn --- this was a man who deserved, if I could say that, to die while still employed, but after having called the Lakers' tremendous and even improbable rise to their third title in a row. It might not be what his loved ones would have wanted, but I myself couldn't begin to hope for a better death than this.

This whole thing segues into thoughts about large and small scales of description, etc., etc. It's funny but Chick really understood something about basketball that many great philosophers fail to understand about ordinary life. Thinking about the effects of the whole is quite different from thinking about the parts, and this is really, really strangely difficult to grasp.

August 5, 2002

Thinking hard for very long periods of time is more exhausting than a tough physical workout, I have noticed. I need more sleep both before and after.

One can allow one's life to be drawn forward by the force, so to speak, of its future... in this sense it becomes like being pulled ahead by a river current towards destiny (or destinies) --- it is a strange sensation (except that it isn't sensed so much as lived), and it can be quite surprising (I wake up one morning, much earlier than usual, and a series of events transpires which leads me to meet someone whom I wanted to talk to, at just the right moment, and say exactly the thing I needed to say). I sometimes feel there is a kind of reverse direction to time, as well as the forward direction, and we can live, as it were, in both directions.

The problem with this is that it is kind of passive, so to speak. There is a kind of forward-in-time aspect to this as well, where the effect of one's interaction with the world can flow in a direction out from one's being, forward in time. Ordinary action-following-intention feels like this also, but one can enlarge the basis of what one means by interaction with the world so it includes much more, and yet still has this forward-in-time quality. At least this is an intuition I have which I have not fully explored.