Monday, March 24, 2008

How to Use Your Brain to Your Eternal Advantage

When I began blogging, I started the habit of jotting down any thoughtlets or ideas for ideas, so as not to lose them. It was only once I began paying attention to them that I realized how many thoughts our minds are host to.

The exact number -- see page 294, footnote 76 of your Coonifesto -- is 4,000 distinct thoughts in a typical day in the life, one hundred million in an average lifetime. Thus, now we know how many thoughts it takes to fill the average soul (I'd lo-o-o-o-ve to tur-r-r-r-r-r-n th-e-e-e-e-e-e-m off-f-f-f-f-f).

But not all of them, just the worthless ones.

For better or worse, this is where all the puns come from. As I explained in a previous post -- just like those other four blind dumbos -- once I set myself to the elaphantine tusk of trying to describe the translinguistic object with mere language, the words began streaking into my head like shooting stars, or like sparks thrown out of a campy fire. And, like shooting stars, these eternal jokes would only be risible for a moment before passing into perhaps well-deserved bobscurity, so I had to seize them as soon as they passed through bobworld -- not just the wordplay, but the wordwork as well -- you know, the so-called ideas.

Now, everyone knows that some atmaspheric conditions are preferable when you are attempting to gaze at those fixed stars that are muddled in broad daylight. And even then, most of the stars can't be seen by looking directly at them. Rather, analogous to ego death, you can only see them out of the coroner of your I.

In this regard, the problem is similar to what we were discussing last Friday, with the differences between the two cerebral hemispheres. If the left hemisphere is the home of daytime, "wideawake and cutandry" consciousness, then the right side is where we have sufficient darkness to read the Evening World.

It's not so much the content but the mode of consciousness that is so important. However, at the same time, the two modes specialize in very different kinds of content, in that the left mode specializes in digital exhuminations of "dead" knowledge, whereas right mode excels in analogical and symbolic knowing, or a kind of "living" knowledge of Being itself. Therefore, at the very least, it's important to "feed" it with a daily diet of richly resonant starries at breadtime, or you won't mythunderstand a thing about your life. In fact, the soul has always been understood as "passive" or "feminine" in relation to O, which is why we pray, "give us this day our daily broad."

I'm pretty sure that most of you have by now noticed that the quality of thoughts that pass into your night noggin has a lot to do with the seeds you plant there by day (insert appropriate scriptural passage by Nomo here). I don't want to get sidetracked here into making an actually useful point, but this is what I was attempting to convey yesterday with my Easter bungle of a post. Let's take someone like, I don't know, Van der Leun. He is not what you would call an orthodox "believer," but nor is he a "non-believer."

But I also wouldn't place him in the category of "a-gnostic," the reason being that he clearly is, as is soph-evident to so many of his readers. When he "dwells" in spiritual topics, the light is there for all to see. In the skillful unKnowing is concealed the knowing. It reminds me of a wise crack by Schuon, who said something to the effect that "poorly posed questions no more attract the light than they are derived from it," but that "a good question can be derived from the very light it seeks." Likewise, a good quest creates its own journey.

In this regard, have you noticed that whenever one of our trolls confronts us with one of their Opaque questions, we know in advance that there is no answer that will satisfy them, since there is no "light" in the question? Rather, the question -- which is derived from darkness -- seeks only the darkness it needs to illuminate its error and imbue it with a false "light." This is pretty much a summary of the atheist mind, which is the very embodiment of self-confirming false light.

My point is that there are many ways to prove the existence of God -- or let us just say O. One way for the intellectually gifted person -- whose very gift might, under modern conditions, turn him away from O -- is to immerse himself in these traditional, "timeless tested" ways of knowing the self and the cosmos, and to wait and see what your right brain does with them. In ether worlds, when we dwell imaginatively in revelation -- and I don't mean to think critically about it in the manner of the left brain, but to dive into its world with the right -- something happens. I guess my point is that you can still gnaw God even if you can't swallow everything about organized religion.

You don't have to read too many serious spiritual autobiographies -- by which I mean autobiographies of serious people -- to hear this story again and again, under widely divergent personal and cultural circumstances, from a St. Augustine to a T.S. Eliot to countless others. Augustine, for example, was probably the smartest guy alive in his day -- or at least we have no documentary evidence of a sharper bulb in the ancient knifesocket. But his mind wasn't "illuminated" until it abandoned itself to the luminous obscurity of faith, at which time the outpouring of (n) never stopped, and he became a veritable fount of O.

Now, one important point is that, once this happens, you don't arrive at any "finality." Rather, in an analogy I have stolen in the past, it's as if the soul is a series of concentric circles, only as you move toward the center -- unlike left-brained Euclidean geopneumography -- each successive circle is bigger, until you get to the center, which is infinite.

We know this is true, because we know of a number of transhistorical personagelesses who did not just speak from that infinite circle, but became it, for example, Ramana Maharshi, Meister Eckhart, Shankara, Denys the Areopagite, Jacob Boehme, Sri Aurobindo, and countless others. Scripture itself is O objectified, where as these diverse spiritual maestros represent O subjectivized, so to speak.

Well, I have almost no time this morning, being that I caught a cold and overslept. Plus I'm behind in my work-work, and had better get started on it. I was going to use this post as an excuse to clear my files of a few dozen incomplete thoughts from my overflOwing (n)otebooks, but I guess my oriental brain occidentally came down with enough for a post.

Escape your left-brained cage once in awhile and check out the wider world:

24 Comments:

Blogger River Cocytus said...

The bard knows that often a series of 'la's with the right execution mean more than a generous ten minute poetic exposition.

When I told a friend that music was a language, he asked me what I just played was saying. But music is its own language, which is subtle and on a more definite level than left-brain discursive language, which makes the subjects obscure by making the terms definite.

Or, in other words, I couldn't tell him. This explains why some music is musicians' music, and I guess how some people can stand Schoenberg. Jazz is musicians' music, but good Jazz is musicians' music on one level and on the other it is ordinary music. In this way, it is kind of a bridge between the two. Great pop music is the same way: Musicians respect the execution and craftsmanship, and everyone else just 'gets it'.

As to what this has to do with the post, I guess we're talking about shedding obscurity, and in terms of discursive language music is 'obscure'. But in terms of the absolute, it is more definite. It would be likened to having a very short field-of-vision so that only very close things are in focus. To be a musician requires one to have a slightly less focus on the nearer - and smaller - things and a wider field of vision. Focusing on the absolute would be likened to bringing the surroundings of everything you see into immediate and complete focus: it would be in essence a complete and total defocus. But that's different than having such a narrow focus that you can only see your nose.

The key is to somehow get the right things in focus at the right times, and at all other times look beyond all focus...

Speaking of which, I had an odd visual experience with an Icon of John the Forerunner on Saturday.

It forced me to examine the icon very, very closely to make sure it really was flat. Because it didn't look flat at all when I walked up the stairs.

3/24/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Dusty said...

"The exact number -- see page 294, footnote 76 of your Coonifesto -- is 4,000 distinct thoughts in a typical day in the life, one hundred million in an average lifetime."

"I'm pretty sure that most of you have by now noticed that the quality of thoughts that pass into your night noggin has a lot to do with the seeds you plant there by day"

Or, in general, the far off past. After about of month or so of discipline towards some internal goal, like the suppression of what Aurobindo and the Mother would call "formations," which I guess is just a little more specific a word than sanskara, since it implies a sort of cohesion of being and the thoughts that are kind of trapped and stuck within it, there comes after a while a surfacing of this movement as if it were trying to catch its breath out of desperation. In classical elemental science, like the Chinese, for example, this eruption of sub-being (parasite) and its dissolution would be called the 'cycle of overcoming,' or when the cohesion painfully breaks apart releasing, or rather unleashing, its contents into the psyche. It's among and within this cycle that I notice what Bion calls "thoughts without a thinker," or "wild thoughts" seemingly in a state of poverty and without a home, or mind to think and contain them. In this movement, there also comes those insightful, but often uneasy dreams where 'thoughts of varying quality', i.e., affective, mental, etc, empress themselves on the psyche so as to hint that they are ready to come home, or at least, as the object relations camp would say, there is an emergence and re-association of content that has heretofore been paranoid-schizoid-- basically pre-affective in the normal understanding of the word--into the depressive condition, which is the beginning of socialization as normally understood, and a condition that normally results in depression, hence the name, I guess.

About the questions posed from darkness in the context above, it's is only in a state of identification of self to sub-being, or what coons would consider sub-being, and a disruption of the transactional spiritual economy--uncs<-->conscious<-->supra, all divided by O (O being the unknown and the mediator of the contact barriers between the beings), which is, I guess, what Bion would call "attack on linking," or contraction into a closed system and the consequent blind pursuit of horizontal power that we can observe in...well, current political affairs.

"which is derived from darkness -- seeks only the darkness it needs to illuminate its error and imbue it with a false "light.""

A lie, then, is the false light; and the power the guise.

"poorly posed questions no more attract the light than they are derived from it," and that "a good question can be derived from the very light it seeks."

The first implies a closed circular system, whereas the latter is open the transaction potential, through the mediation of O, with beings, higher and lower. And this does imply justice.

Anyway, this is what I thought of after reading the above lines.

3/24/2008 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Another way to look at it, Dusty, can be found in the parable of the tares (or weeds, depending on the translation) (Matt. 13:24-30). Actually, come to think of it, just about any of those parables apply quite handily to dealing with thoughts welcome and unwelcome. (I seem to be catching NoMo syndrome :) It really is amazing to read the Bible with activated cOOnvision; so different from my first horizontal and derisive forays.

Have I thanked you lately, Bob? Really - thanks.

Great pics, by the way :)

3/24/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

riverun - >>This explains why some music is musicians' music, and I guess how some people can stand Schoenberg<<

I honestly don't think anybody really liked Schoenberg's 12-tone miasmas. The theorists/modern critics liked the *idea* of his music because it, in effect, overthrew the natural order. It was *revolutionary*.

Same deal with much of modern art - it's not aesthetic balance or anything of that nature, it's the daringness of the concept. And that concept usually amounts to "transgressiveness" or "this is art that challenges our idea of what art really is, " blah blah. Thus you get one "artistic" perversity after another, all seemingly vying with one another to see which is the most offensive.

Actually, considering some of the perversitities that pass for modern art (eg., the literally excreable "Piss Christ"), Schoenberg doesn't look/sound all that bad.

3/24/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie, try your cOOnvision on William Blake.

3/24/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

will: Well, that's the problem, as I see it; a musician can love Schoenberg just because it's interesting, and not because its really music. Just as 'deep calls out to deep' so is the real communication of musical language. So there's a line where the music goes from being musician's music to just being an esoteric interest of musicians. Modernity has the problem of producing a lot of noise. If you've detuned your discernment you might not be able to tell interesting static from I Love Lucy. Or you might not care.

3/24/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that in a significant sense Schoenberg saw himself as a traditionalist/Classicist--in that he felt, oh so humbly, that he was continuing the line of Mozart/Beethoven/Brahms etc. It would appear though, at least in retrospect, that his assumption on how to do so was somewhat flawed.

But once the "mistake" was made it opened a whole can of worms leading to Boulez, Stockhausen and "total serialism" which seems about as far from Beethoven as one can get and still be, nominally at least, in the same classical tradition.

But I suppose someone had to explore that musical/psychological space, if only to see what a relative dead end it actually was. Though in some significant way he lives on through movie music when horror, confusion and disturbance need to be conveyed musically. That's something...

3/24/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

anonymous - >>in a significant sense Schoenberg saw himself as a traditionalist/Classicist--in that he felt, oh so humbly, that he was continuing the line of Mozart/Beethoven/Brahms etc<<

He did see himself that way, but he made the same mistake as did so many other revolutionary types in the 20th century - that being a conscious attempt to accelerate the evolutionary process.

This, to be sure, was an "attempt", not the same spiritual maturation process that the great artists had experienced. As an attempt, it was probably wholly left-brain-oriented. No doubt it looked really good on paper, just as the Russian commie revolution did. Right there, you have a prescription for disaster.

I have the feeling that Schoenberg's motives in devising his anti-music were similiar to the political revolutionary mvts of the 20th c. in that he wanted to create or at least help along the creation of a "new man". I think this was and is true of many revolutionary artists - by jumbling or discarding traditional aesthetics all together, they hope to instill humanity with a new type of perception, one that they believe is "higher".

But - they are not changing traditional form by virtue of a natural right-brain, spiritual process, one that requires sacrifice and the conquering of self. Instead, it by blueprint, rationalism, ego. Again, the limits of science misapplied to what should be the domain of the spirit.

3/24/2008 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

anonymous said "...in a significant sense Schoenberg saw himself as a traditionalist/Classicist--in that he felt, oh so humbly, that he was continuing the line of Mozart/Beethoven/Brahms etc. It would appear though, at least in retrospect, that his assumption on how to do so was somewhat flawed.

Same could be said of the intellectual rhythm section of Descartes and Hume - each saw themselves as lovers of wisdom carrying forward the quest, but with some basic 'mistakes', the cacophony of disharmony and destruction that has followed....
shiver

3/24/2008 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

Music is different than art in the sense that if you listen to a Schoenberg piece several times, you may appreciate it more and begin to like it or understand what it's trying to do, whereas bad art never gets any better.
All musical styles and periods become more complex over time, as musicians are trying to achieve something new. When they have exhausted the possibilities, a new period or style may emerge. For example, Baroque became complex with four and five part fugues. The music became so complex that very few composers could write that style and few people understood or appreciated it. So everything became simple with vertical harmonies and simple folk melodies, hence the beginning of the Classical period.
Schoenberg only serialized the notes. He retained most of the other "classical" music techniques. It wasn't until 1951 that Boulez serialized every element of the composition.
Anyway, just follow any style of music, and you will see that it progresses from simpler to more complex as does our lives.

3/24/2008 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Great post and comments. Thank you, O, mighty coons.

Don't know much about music or the visual arts, but would it be fair to think of the left brain as necessary structure through which the creativity of the right brain could flow? Like a river needs banks?

Poetry seemed like the height of literature well into the nineteenth century. Poetry today seems mostly stupid and degenerate. Is that because poets began to think meter and rhyme were passe'? Really, really good poets who fully understood the structure could get away with free verse and stuff. But there were lots of bad imitators who thought they could just write down anything and call it poetry.

Why does Maya Angelou come to mind? The Jackson Pollock of poetry.

Anyway, the same seems to be true of the spiritual quest for most people. A few great saints seem to go off outside any religious tradition but it's because they have transcended the traditions.

People hear something, think they understand and think they can leap the froggy disciplines and go straight to princedom, only to crash land back in the muck.

3/24/2008 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Shroom,

I'm going to have to disagree with your Maya Angelou comment. I mean, ya don't git ta reecite poetry at a Presidential Inauguration unless you's reeeeeeal goooood. Billy Bob Jo Bob was recitin' poetry ta his honeys in the back bed of that el-camino, layin on that astro-terf carpet since his teen years. How do you think he talked Monica out of that blue dress?
The man knows his stuff! ;*)

The Rock!......The Rivah!

3/24/2008 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Mushroom,

Most of what you say is clearly right on, but the breakdown of left and right hemispheres has gotten a little too concrete here to hold your concepts properly.

Rhythm and rhyme are actually right-brain phenomena, not left. For that matter, in music itself there's a dichotomy in that a musician who is reading and playing a structured score is emphasizing left hemisphere, with the best musicians also integrating the emotional, right hemisphere influence into their creation. Improvisational music, like jazz in particular, places more emphasis on the right.

The best breakdown is probably left = verbal and detail oriented, right = holistic and integrative. We can say that the ego is on the left, but that kind of overlooks the apparent fact that people with weak right hemisphere functioning lack what we used to call an observing ego, the ability to step back and experience yourself less subjectively, and this would have to, it seems to me, impair self-awareness and, thereby, ego functioning and development.

There are other complications, too, like the fact that early damage leads the plasticity of the brain to "house" different functions in different places. In cases where severe epilepsy has resulted in the removal of an entire hemisphere, people often grow up with minimal deficits -- although I doubt that their spiritual functioning has ever been studied.

So I think we would be wrong to overemphasize the role of the right brain in spiritual development. After all, in the beginning was the word, right? So the verbal, left hemisphere has a pretty prominent position in all of this.

3/25/2008 04:53:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thank you, Maineman. Actually I agree completely that:

So I think we would be wrong to overemphasize the role of the right brain in spiritual development. After all, in the beginning was the word, right? So the verbal, left hemisphere has a pretty prominent position in all of this.


You articulated what I was trying to get. The Word, the discipline, and the structure is necessary for true spiritual development. Trying to bypass the left brain will resulted in a stunted development.

Yes, there's a Mozart every so often but it usually winds up being a Credence Clearwater Revival.

Still quoting Maineman:
We can say that the ego is on the left, but that kind of overlooks the apparent fact that people with weak right hemisphere functioning lack what we used to call an observing ego, the ability to step back and experience yourself less subjectively, and this would have to, it seems to me, impair self-awareness and, thereby, ego functioning and development


Just a day ago I had this discussion with someone about a family member. I suggested that even if you explained the error she was making she could never understand because she lacked the ability to step back and view herself at all objectively. Or, as King David put it, There is no dread of God before his eyes, for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to discover and hate his sin.

A weak right hemisphere makes perfect sense in that case.

OK, Hoarhey, you're right, except I think BJ's problem was he didn't get her out of the blue dress -- in time anyway.

3/25/2008 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "But there were lots of bad imitators who thought they could just write down anything and call it poetry. Why does Maya Angelou come to mind? The Jackson Pollock of poetry."

LOL!

Yep. The good ones, those who were educated through the last gasp of the previous age, Byron, etc, had that structure in place from which to form the Rousseauian naturalism of the 'Romantic' period into powerful poetry, but those who came after had only the punch of the perceptual, emotional flourishes to grasp; the underlying structure and discipline unnoticed and soon forgotten. Naturally, falling at 32 feet per second per second, we soon wound up with the measureless drivel of today’s Jackson Pollack’s of poetry.

3/25/2008 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

D'bas - >>just follow any style of music, and you will see that it progresses from simpler to more complex as does our lives<<

True, although it seems a tendency for many of the great composers to have simplified in their later years. They returned to the fundamentals, so to speak, as if searching for a center, a stasis point.

Ideally, that's what we should all do.

3/25/2008 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Maineman and Mushroom,

Yes, the right and left hemisphere are interesting how they in general handle the division of functions, but we don’t think to ourselves “Ok, now… I’ve spent too much time on this side, I’m going to work on this side of my brain now” or even “Alright Left hemisphere! Now you’ve pissed me off royally! It’s Right side only from here on out!”, and of course the brain itself has an architectural plan that is not based on sides, but functions, and rolls with the needs of the moment – at least until the concrete’s set.

We don’t deliberately make those choices, but our minds do follow the aesthetic and logical choices we do make, and if we don’t artfully integrate form and function, if we deliberately try to favor one side or another, to ignore one or the other, to shortcut one or the other, we find ourselves first possessed of enthusiasm, soon forced, and increasingly hollow and ineffective, even in expressing or conveying what originally had seemed so important.

Rousseauian naturalism, was a deliberate attempt to focus attention to one 'side', to the emotional at the expense of the intellect, and predictably there was the push back from the logical 'side' against the emotional, with the result that the Whole person, the balanced person and view, is exceedingly difficult to find.

Evidence a plenty in music, art, literature….

3/25/2008 07:06:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

And then there's the Minimalists, eg, Riley, Reich, Glass.

They just got sick of the heavy hand of the Academy and its bloated complexity, and they decided to simplify.

3/25/2008 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I agree with Maineman about being too concrete about the left/right hemispheres. Whatever the neurology, I still look at it in a largely metaphorical way -- perhaps as a neurological way of talking about the complementarity of vertical and horizontal, which are the prior metaphysical realities. Likewise, the wave/particle complementarity in physics can be looked at in roughly the same way, as the inevitable instantiation of a higher, immutable principle. In any event, humans are essentially "one," refracted through the contingent or existential lens of neurobiology. The One always implies two and three, while the two and three always resolve into the One.

3/25/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Did anyone see the movie August Rush? It was very good and centered around a boy searching for his parents by following the music and creating his own music so his parents could hear him. He wrote symphonies inspired in every day sounds and noises. It gave me a new appreciation for the sounds in my everyday life and how rhythm and the pulse of creativity can be found anywhere. [I also live next door to a fellow who gives singing lessons using a piano. It is really a treat to hear live music all day, at least when the students are good! ;) Feels like I have my own personal soundtrack for my life.] I'm not sure who the actual musician is in the movie, but the music and unique sound is excellent. Plus it was just a good and sweet movie, rare these days!

3/25/2008 08:26:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Still, the dichotomous distribution of functions in the brain is fascinating as an analogy of the cosmic lobe-oratory, isn't it? Take Van's point about the cultural split between the more emotional, impulsive contingent vs. those more bound by structure and reflection -- evident in the current left/right political split that mirrors, in some ways, that of the brain.

3/25/2008 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"However, at the same time, the two modes specialize in very different kinds of content, in that the left mode specializes in digital exhuminations of "dead" knowledge, whereas right mode excels in analogical and symbolic knowing, or a kind of "living" knowledge of Being itself. Therefore, at the very least, it's important to "feed" it with a daily diet of richly resonant starries at breadtime, or you won't mythunderstand a thing about your life. In fact, the soul has always been understood as "passive" or "feminine" in relation to O, which is why we pray, "give us this day our daily broad."

Ha ha! Er...I mean, gno O'ment. :^)

3/26/2008 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"...it's important to "feed" it with a daily diet of richly resonant starries at breadtime,.."

Speakin' of feedin', I have always noticed that I get "unbalanced" (well, more than usual) if I don't eat enough to good music, or the tasty fare here at the OC, rich in Alpha n' Omega 3 saturated O'live Oyohs!
And for dessert (not to be coonfused with desert) the highlarious huemore that leaves me gideoner than the best grog known to man.
True liquidated courage (not to be coonfused with the currage of the impty callowreed trolls).

3/26/2008 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lisa-
I'll check that flick out. Thanks!

3/26/2008 05:33:00 PM  

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