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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Oh, before I go fail my biochem final, I wanted to say that this final project really gave me some good insight into working of wikis.  I'd like to know more than I do, but at least I now know that I can set up a working wiki on my own!  If this really is going to replace e-mail (if comapnies like Cisco use it, it just might), then this is a good skill to have.  It's something worth playing with, I think. 



Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Okay.  Here is my final project:


It is not done!  It may never be "done," exactly.  But please wait a couple more hours (say, 7:00 pm today?) before doing any grading evaluation of it.  I have more to put up.  Mobius can grade it or a classmate can grade it, either way; if we need to offset an odd number of peer-graders or something, I can switch to accomodate.


As discussed in my proposal post, I felt like I wanted to link between a lot of different parts and that a regular, written document might be a poor way to do this.  I thought about html.  Then I thought about problems with hosting and posting and realized, hey, I'll start a wiki of my own.  So my final project is this wiki.  I don't know whether other people will actually want to contribute.  It seems very geared toward me personally, in its current state.  If other people end up writing in it, though, terrific!


Thanks!  Hope everyone has a good break and a good future, in whatever you do.



Monday, December 10, 2007 - on eating habits


I just made myself a tofu hummice wrap.  It was excellent.  It filled me up before bed (or before pre-bed wiki posting, anyway).  Lately, I've been skipping a lot of meals out of negligence.  I get hungry and I like food,but I'd rather put up flyers on campus for a concert or do things on the internet or play guitar than get up, make food or spend money, and eat.  I don't really exercise beyond a lot of walking and frequent carrying of music equipment, so I don't need much to keep me going.  As I thought about this, I remembered the way my ex-girlfriend thought about food.  It was so different from my own attitudes about it.  Though not fat, she was always very concerned with her weight.  She'd avoid certain foods and not eat large amounts of some things and be very careful....and then indulge heavily and blow her calorie deficit, or whatever.  The whole attitude seemed so unhealthy to me.  I never knew what to do about it.  I don't know much about anorexia but I wouldn't say she had been nearly bad enough to apply the term, but she was definitely paranoid about her eating habits to an unhealthy level.  I, on the other hand, grew up as the black sheep in an athletic family.  Cutting back was never an issue with food; we were always making sure we were getting enough.  My little sister is one of Penn State swimming's fastest sprinters.  She eats something like 5,000 calories a day (the recommended daily allowances on your food labels just assume you're eating 2,000 calories per day, which is about average), and yet she still struggles to maintain a healthy level of body fat because she burns so much energy in training.  From me, to my ex-girlfriend, to my sister, people have such different approaches to something so simple as eating.  I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with my own.  I'd like to be more regular with my eating times and habits.  This would be one more way to mindfully perform the necessary task of eating and would further facilitate the whole making-food-from-scratch idea I wrote about previously.  Making food and eating it is something I will always have to do, so getting into good habits with it would benefit me in a long-term way.  My life in general isn't terribly routine.  While it's too late to really fix that this semester, maybe I should try to put myself together in that way starting next semester.  New Year's resolution?



Saturday, December 8, 2007


Someone told me something about my writing this semester.  I don't remember exactly how she said it.  It was something to the effect of "you are verbose" or "you like to write a lot" or something.  She said it in a nice way, as if it were either good or neutral.  I like being like that, though.  I noticed just now that, while I haven't written in here as frequently as I'd have liked this semester, I often did pretty well with taking time to develop thoughts and to say a lot on each topic I mention.  Here and there, maybe I did that in 500 words when I could have done so in 300.  I kind of like saying things this way though.  When terseness matters, I can cut down wordy pieces after I write them.


I posted some things on Toolbox's wiki about The Golden Compass.  Read my thing there, read the books, see the movie(s, hopefully).  As an aside: I used the word "denouement" (Unravelling; spec. the final unravelling of the complications of a plot in a drama, novel, etc.; the catastrophe; transf. the final solution or issue of a complication, difficulty, or mystery.....thanks OED) in that comment on Toolbox's wiki.  I remember learning that word in 8th grade English.  I like it.


Thinly connected......not one but two of my chemistry professors this semester have talked about their exams being not just evaluation but also a chance to learn something new.  This hasn't been idle talk; they've actually included some new information on some of their exams and expected us to use material we'd learned in class to analyze that new stuff.  This practice has been good, I think.  I've learned new things during exam time.  It connects to the above because I remember learning the word "denouement" after getting it wrong on a test in the aforementioned 8th grade English class.  But I do really like how those professors seem to care about our knowing the material more so than about the formalities of academic evaluation.



Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I wanted to respond to this, from pages 36-37 (as labeled on pages, not as the pdf would have you believe) of rabbit's readings for tomorrow:


This grammar has changed as media has changed.When it was just

film, as Elizabeth Daley, executive director of the University of Southern

California’s Annenberg Center for Communication and dean of the


USC School of Cinema-Television, explained to me, the grammar was

about “the placement of objects, color, . . . rhythm, pacing, and texture.”


“played” as well as experienced, that grammar changes. The simple

control of narrative is lost, and so other techniques are necessary. Author

Michael Crichton had mastered the narrative of science fiction.

But when he tried to design a computer game based on one of his

works, it was a new craft he had to learn. How to lead people through

a game without their feeling they have been led was not obvious, even

to a wildly successful author.

But as computers open up an interactive space where a story is

This skill is precisely the craft a filmmaker learns. As Daley describes,

“people are very surprised about how they are led through a

film. [I]t is perfectly constructed to keep you from seeing it, so you

have no idea. If a filmmaker succeeds you do not know how you were

led.” If you know you were led through a film, the film has failed.


I've tried playing video games.  I like the simple ones: space invaders, old mario.  They don't pretend to be real; they're just a fun little game to play.  But I've also played Final Fantasy.  I've logged maybe two hours on VII and more like six or seven hours on X.  This is not enough to really be substantially accomplished on these games (beating them takes like sixty, or one hundred, or something).  However, it was enough for me to be disappointed and give up.  Why?  Because I felt like I was being led.  You're supposed to be exploring, trying to save your universe from this or that threat.  Yet somehow, you can't jump in the water except where you're supposed to jump into the water.  You can't climb a tree unless there's something of significance up there.  You can't fight people unless the game goes into fight mode.  What if you thought you needed to jump into the water there, or climb that tree, or fight that person?  I felt like I was just being led through the game.  It was a fancy Oregon Trail; just don't try to ford a deep river or forget to buy food and you're probably going to be just fine.  Later in the game, apparently, there are things like "leveling up" that you need to work on or you're toast, but it's still so canned to me.  Myst was more like what I thought a video game should be.


I could make some connections here to fatalism or to free will, but I am in the lab, so I'm going to go for now.




Unfinished - I DID have that course, but it was last semester and I can't for the life of me remember that phenomenon. I was wracking my brain while I wrote that on my wiki trying to think of it, but I eventually gave up. Maybe I should find some way to record the sound coming out of the class' ears and make THAT my final project :) -Ceridwen

Thursday, November 29, 2007


SO! I think I have a pretty solid idea for a final project. I've known that topic I wanted to cover for a while: toil, etc. And as one might gather from recent posts on this-here wiki page, I feel like there are a lot of different texts that address the topics I want to cover. Meanwhile, in this class, we've been engaged from time to time in the practice of the remix. The term "remix," as I'm sure we're aware, comes from a DJ term. Another DJ term of significance is "mashup." Mashups are not very unlike remixes, in that that they use preexisting material. However, remixes usually involve one piece being transformed into another. Mashups involve two or more pieces spliced into one single piece, often with added parts from the DJ. Mashups have gained popularity recently, perhaps most notably with the rise of mashup artist Girl Talk.* Another set of examples can be heard from Washington, D.C.-area DJ Lil'E's mashups page (The Styx-Killers song is decently well done, but the Clash-Blondie-Smiths piece is, disappointingly, kind of a mess).


Anyway. How about a mashup of the relevant literature? Of course, like any good DJ, I'd keep the rhythm and the flow and things by remixing and inserting my own parts along the way. As with a mashup, particularly the Girl Talk style mashups using only bits of many songs, it would be considerably more involved than a remix would be. Keeping some sort of flow and coherance would require a further degree of twisting of the material. Going back to DJ Lil'E's Clash-Blondie-Smiths "London Call Me In A Panic," I don't feel like she really messed with the parts enough to really make things fit. I want to love it because I like the pieces and I like the idea of them together, but man, if I were her, I'd definitely have changed the key on some of that stuff.


Going along with the title of this course, Composing the Sacred, my project fits pretty well, I think.


Ooooo, I remembered that we're supposed to write about "what this is not." This isn't just going to be a copy-and-paste thing of clippings from old books, not just a scatterbrained collection of works about the same general topic. The title of this course, after all, is Composing the Sacred, not Piecing Together the Sacred or Throwing the Sacred Into a Pile and Turning That In For Credit. I want it to read like one piece, an effect which is going to need pretty drastic remixing. Perhaps a part of the remixing can be to put it into my own voice, or perhaps some other voice (King James-y English? maybe not....see my wiki post from October 9 for some thoughts on that). Coming off of the idea of putting this into my own voice though....I don't want this to look in any way like I wrote it solely on my own. Perhaps a traditional written document is the wrong medium for this? I could do a lot in HTML.....have links every which way, to other points in the text as well as to the original works from which I drew. Girl Talk's music would be hella cooler if you could somehow click on parts of the song and find out what the original songs were!


Looking in the classnotes, I was also supposed to address "why" and "who cares." I'll get there. First, though, mobius thought about having us write this in the first person. Initially, that made me hesitate a lot about this idea. How can I take this stuff into first person? They're texts about life and stuff, more about humanity in general than about me specifically. However, I've thought about this on my own and connected it to my own experiences. I think I could really have fun with putting everything into first person, somehow. I could even perhaps change some of it into a conversational format ("'Form does not differ from emptiness,' I said to myself. 'And emptiness does not differ from form.'" Probably more creatively than that, but you get me). So first person, check.


Why? At most, with the potentially-blasphemous goal of creating a new sacred text (at which point, the "who cares" becomes adherants to the new-old, mashed-up view of the world). At least, to get some of my own thoughts down and to clarify them through the use of preexisting text in the new medium (at which point, the "who cares" is me). In between, to maybe have a text on hand with which I can explain views I have or ways in which I approach things, or perhaps something for interested friends to read (then the "who cares" is me and whoever else reads it).


Apart from that though, there was something else I wanted to do. I linked in my November 18 post to a website about "dropping out." It was pretty ambitious, but from it, I've retained a couple small things I could do to improve my life and the lives of some who I directly and indirectly affect (or are they all the same, really?). More specifically, I kind of mentally set a goal of subsisting on foods made from scratch before I turn twenty-five (I am twenty-two and three months at present). There are a lot of preservatives and crap in prepared foods, even in the bread you buy in grocery stores. It takes a lot of energy somewhere to make all of those TV dinners (goodness knows it takes enough to farm....I've heard it's an energy-negative process? So much for corn ethanol. Sorry, don't get me started...). Packaging of prepared stuff takes it even further. I could eventually make my own bread, tortillas, tofu, soup, etc. Anything, really. It would take time, but it would be a worthwhile use of my time, I think. This semester, I've made my own salsa, guacamole, and hummice from scratch. Baby steps. Even better, I could find others who want to do this or convince others to do this with me, and then we could have a baker and a tofu guru and so on for the foods that are a bit more involved. But bringing this back to project-ness, I kind of wanted my project to involve me baking bread. No grocery store loaves, no added colors or flavors....not even one of those fancy-pants bread ovens.



*I apologize for linking to myspace pages. Honestly, I fucking hate myspace.....it's a mess of over-coded pages that freeze my browser, crappy bands I never want to hear, and overly-sexed underage kids. However, there are times when society communicates in a forum you may dislike. Many music communities are pretty tied to myspace. Total avoidance of it would prevent access to some important discourses on the topic.



Monday, November 26, 2007 (again)




But anyway, I sort of want one of these bracelets. I wish they actually existed.


Someone else on the wiki....I wish I could remember who....made a comment about WWJD bracelets and I think of how much I want a mobius strip WWED bracelet every time I think of those.



Monday, November 26, 2007


So I think, while trying to fall asleep, I was able to articulate an important part of why I'm interested in tangible work/toil/activity. I was thinking back to my experiences in the tank, and also back to our initial definition of "sacred": to paraphrase, that which is different from the rest, that which is unusual. Somehow, in my life, I have come to think of the passage of time as somewhat homogenous. I know, according to relativistic sciences, that is not the case, but our brains and bodies operate in this physical world, with slight aberratitons in time along with everything else. On our scale of experience, time is roughly homogenous. Getting back "on track," though, a lot of "special" things in my life, while happening, haven't felt special. I think I began to notice this when swimming competitively, first for a YMCA team in middle school and then for my high school swim team. The races were supposed to be special, sacred. They were supposed to be somehow different, not at all like practices. For a while, they were. Eventually I started competing more and more. As I did, I noticed that when I would swim in a race, it was swimming, just like any time in practice. Sometimes I was more nervous, sometimes I was up against someone challenging, sometimes it was a big important meet, but it was all just swimming. I quit swim team halfway through high school, but my mentality of homogenous passage of time persisted. High school graduation? There was a lot of to-do around it, but when I was accepting my diploma, it was me existing just like any other time. Starting college? Yep, a lot of people made a big deal, but I was still walking, talking, studying, breathing....same old same old. And floating in the tank? There was a lot less mental stimulation, though there was still some. There was a lot of anticipation for it. But in there, what concerned me? The saltwater evaporated, leaving an itchy mini-salt flat on my torso. The side of the tank met my foot. I wasn't transported to some new world; I was still on planet earth, in my body, still feeling and breathing and moving. It was like high school graduation, or playing the guitar, or kissing a girl for the first time, or my eighth birthday.....or any nondescript, routine day in my life. I'm still here, I still have to breathe and do some other stuff. Some of it feels good physically or emotionally or mentally; some of it sucks. It's all part of this essentially homogenous thing called life. Don't get me wrong; I'd rather relive some parts than others. I think in a lot of ways, thinking of life as homogenous has helped me get through some of the harder things I've had to do. To think, "this is all just another thing to do, just like waking up in the morning, or moving your arm to scratch an itch, or waving to a friend....it's all something for your brain to tell your muscles to do" probably helped me swim harder in swim team practices at one point, or something.


With all of this homogeneity, all of this "I am doing something now that must be done; its level of pleasure or pain is somewhat irrelevant," toil becomes inescapable. The goal for me, then, is perhaps not to learn to meditate or focus or reach my fullest state though lack of sensory stimulation or through hallucination or though imagination. The goal is to use the toil to reach the higher state. This may entail thorough examination of ones actions (i.e. endeavoring to make ones own food from scratch, as mentioned among other things in the previous entry) and greater awareness thereof. This may also entail trying to meditate while doing something.....repeating a mantra not while remaining perfectly still, but while repetitively cutting vegetables or walking/pedaling a long but necessary distance or doing something necessary, physical, and perhaps repetitive.


This concept that I've described in the preceding paragraph is the crux of what I really have been trying to get at with my not-as-frequent-as-they-should-be wiki postings and my not-as-developed-as-it-should-be final project.


I don't know much about the Rules of St. Benedict, but maybe there's something in there about this? Benedictine monks seem to do things like this.....as a scientist, I immediately think of Gregor Mendel, not just sitting and praying, but growing pea plants and analyzing their patterns of heredity. Okay, looking at that wikipedia link, I just found out that Mendel wasn't a Benedictine monk but a monk of some other order. Maybe I should look into his order? Maybe I should look into both? I've also wanted to look at the Karma Sutra and see what it has to say about links between the physical and the spiritual. And at Ecclesiastes and maybe other biblical texts (Proverbs, too, perhaps?) for more linkage between physical toil and spirit. Bhagavad Gita, Karma Sutra, Thoreau, monastic documents, Bible.....maybe I need to focus my topic a little better. Five A.M. is not the time for this, though.



Sunday, November 18, 2007


Okay. I really, really blow at keeping this wiki updated/current/fresh/flowing. Or at least I have...blown?....lately. A lot of times I don't feel like the things I'm thinking about are concrete enough for writing. Maybe I need to read more on what I'm trying to do and respond to those ideas. But! I have been thinking about my presentation. I need to jot down some things that I am going to read/research more, along the same lines as the other stuff. Here are some notes/links:


http://ranprieur.com/essays/dropout.html ...the whole thing, but also particularly making ones own bread/tortillas (or tortillas here too) and Sylvan Hart and perhaps some other details.


I also want to go back and read/reread some Thoreau stuff, because I feel like it's relevant.


I have stuff in my classnotes too....I feel like I've been able to tie a lot from other people's presentations into my own topic of toil/work.


Okay. Reading time for me.




Friday, October 26, 2007






I need to write on these later, but for now, here are links.



Thursday, October 11, 2007


Okay. There were some points I wanted to make in class today during the discussion of the '60s. I decided to wait and bring these up in wiki form, however, for multiple reasons. As we mentioned, material about the '60s in our public education system is quite sparse. Though I was fortunate to study The Things They Carried* in 11th grade English and the Vietnam War in U. S. History, I still feel woefully uninformed on the topic, especially as compared to someone like Mobius, who lived through it. My lack of thorough knowledge on the topic is one reason I held back. On top of that, I thought it would be better to do something in written form because I could get all of my thoughts out, rethink things before hitting "save," and clarify my attitudes so as not to offend anyone or fall out of favor with anyone. So please remember that I understand the limited nature of my knowledge about the '60s and that I have a lot of respect for Mobius and anyone else who may not view my questioning as sensible.


Anyway, today in class, Mobius asked about negative stereotypical views of people in the '60s, "summer of love" participants, psychedelic revolutionaries.....or dirty, lazy, spacey hippies, depending on who you ask. He then proceeded to provide evidence against the worthlessness of this movement, citing an earlier end to the Vietnam clusterfuck and removal of Nixon from office. And I began to think, yes, those were good things accomplished by that generation. But then I began to wonder, "Where are they now]? And with what did they leave us?" They may have pushed for an end to Vietnam, but most of them are still in this country, paying their taxes, working their jobs, and fueling the war machine of today. A smaller-but-still-significant fraction of them have grown to become what they hated, the suburbanites with the suit-and-tie jobs and two car garages and 2.3 kids and globally-destructive lifestyles. They may have pushed Nixon out of office, but for what? He was a scumbag, sure......but do you really believe that Reagan or the Bushes or even Clinton (from what I understand, somewhat involved in this movement himself) or Gore are a big improvement? The '60s people toppled one administration, but only for others to spring up. They exposed corruption, leaving us not with a less-corrupt government but with a defeated cynicism about everything governmental. At best, they were a bump in the road, barely noticeable to the SUV of the American Empire barreling along the freeway. At worst, they provided us with the illusion of revolution when in fact things are only devolving, make us complacent in our wastefulness and exploitation and corruption.


Again, I don't mean to be insulting to Mobius here. He seems to be carrying on a lot of the ideals in his everyday life....biking a lot, teaching young people, etc.


I also should admit here a certain resonance with something someone said in class (I tried to write it down but it went by so fast....eagerly awaiting that class recording), something like, "It's hard for someone who sees mind-altering drugs as a bad thing to see groups of people who use them as good and productive." Around this point in the discussion, Mobius mentioned alcohol, prozac, nicotine, etc. as mind-altering substances that we rarely recognize as such. Perhaps it is relevant that I haven't had a sip of alcohol while in college (and I'm 22 years old), nor have I ever tried any illegal substance nor legal substance with significant mind-altering effects (salvia comes to mind). I even avoid aspirin and migraine medicines, preferring to just sleep off any headaches; when I had my wisdom teeth removed, I went under anesthesia but afterward refused the tylenol with codeine entirely. I mention this because I am clearly an outsider in the discourse of drug-affected revolution, not just in my lack of '60s knowledge and experience but in my lack of experience with mind-altering substances. I'll admit that there may possibly be something there that I just don't and can't ever understand. I don't have any envy of that understanding, though....I think it unfair for anyone to say I lack a certain experience that may affect me positively without also acknowledging that they lack my substance-free experience that would have affected them positively. Granted, it's not entirely symmetrical--they know what it's like to be sober--but I still feel like I have valuable experiences and insights into substance-affected situations that someone else might not have....particularly as they relate to social situations (I've been to parties and never drank) and to creative situations (I've played music with people who do various drugs and not done any myself).


Anyway.....I also feel like I should say that I'm by no means perfect. I use a lot of fossil fuels and I eat some meat and I pay taxes that pay for bombs and I buy products of exploitation. I admit that I too am a person who has ideals and knows what's right and still sells out for the comfort of American living. I can't point fingers at ex-hippies without having to point at myself, too. The difference lies in the romanticization of the '60s generation. People could have the same discussions about the punks of the '70s or even later movements someday, and maybe they will, and maybe in some places they are already.


*This is at least the second time in this wiki that I've linked to Amazon when mentioning a book. While I realize that the intent of Amazon is completely commercial, I feel as though the website provides other useful information, even to those who would rather buy at Webster's or, even more efficiently, borrow from a library or a friend. Amazon's customer reviews sections on the pages for each book turn out to be among the most popular places for global public discourse about a book. Maybe they're not entirely "public," as the internet has a cost and as writers must have an Amazon account and as objectionable posts may be deleted, but it's about as close as we get. Also, Amazon provides published descriptions, cover design, links to similar work (admittedly, similar work they're trying to sell). All in all, I see Amazon as a helpful tool for quickly learning about literature, even if you don't spend a cent there.




Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Ahhhhhhh! I realize I have been bad about posting here. To an extent, AtomicAtom's sentiments from September 24 sort of resonate with me. However, I actually really enjoy posting on the wiki, I just seem to be terrible about procrastinating with it. Mobius said in class one day that working is easier if you do some work in procrastination with other work, thus having several projects started at once. I've used this to my advantage in hte past and I intended to make wiki postings my procrastination activity for chemistry coursework, but I've obviously not really done that very well. Tying back into my "toil" theme, I usually end up doing laundry or washing the dishes when I'm working to procrastinate.....either that or truly wasting time on facebook or something.


I posted (finally!) on the syllabus that I want to discuss that Bhagavad-Gita passage from last update. I really want to find other translations of it, though. This one seems to be sort of King James-y or Shakespearean, with a lot of "thou"s and other archaic language. To digress a bit, I can't even think of intercultural, inter-era translation without immediately recalling Douglas Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language.....a long but worthwhile read if the topic interests you. Anyway, the Bhagavad-Gita dates back to several centuries B.C.E., well before the English language was around. I feel like the archaic English does a disservice to the text. One could almost argue that it tries to rob the text and its authors, almost implying, "Oh, these ideas were only great if written by white Anglo-Saxon men several hundred years ago." Something tells me that people translating the Bhagavad-Gita in the first place probably wouldn't have that intention, but it comes to my mind nonetheless. A translation in current language, on the other hand, could communicate these ideas more effectively to a modern audience. Current language would also, I think, detatch itself more starkly from falsely flavoring the original text....readers would know "oh obviously this text is older than this language, but here's the message for me to understand in my language analogously to how others understood it long ago in theirs."


I wish I could learn Sanskrit so that I could read this as it was originally written, or at least in a closer version to that than English could ever provide. I've also longed to read the Koran in Arabic, though I have zero familiarity with the language. With the Koran, there is so much current geopolitical weight from people using the Koran one way or another, and I wanted to find out for myself what it really says, but from what I can tell, the disputes extend through to the English translators of the text. I suppose for that matter, were I to take the time to learn Arabic, I might still be flavored by my Arabic teacher/textbook. Even if you disagree with that likelihood, I obviously can never understand a centuries-old Arabic text as a centuries-old Arabian would, nor as a present-day Arabian would, nor as an American who had been Muslim his or her entire life would....



Wednesday, September 25, 2007


I just did a search of sacred-texts.com for "toil." I must be off to class now but I wanted to remind myself to re-search (research?) that term on the website, and particularly to further examine this passage from the Bhagavad-Gita. "The body's life proceeds not, lacking work."



Monday, September 24, 2007 (second post, related to the first but not really a continuation)


After my tank experiences (see last post, of course), I began to wonder if sensory deprivation is the way to go for me when I wish to meditate. Faced with nearly nothing, I start to focus on little itches here, little drop-drops there. It's the same when I am trying to sleep.....small appliance lights I never notice during the day seem to be glaring in my eyes, keeping me awake.


Then, Thursday, we discussed the slow foods concept, in which foods are supposed to be prepared more slowly and deliberately. I'm not sure I got the exact intent/methods of the movement really, but I mentally connected the discussion to the satisfaction I get when making myself a meal from fresh ingredients rather than popping a teevee dinner in the microwave or picking something up from Pita Pit (generally pretty healthy, but thrown together in haste). Moving completely away (or perhaps not? I don't know) from slow foods stuff, though, I realized I get much the same satisfaction from doing my laundry or cleaning a room or helping someone carry a bunch of heavy things. Yet the satisfaction seems to be absent from more abstract tasks, like solving a chemistry problem or even completing a wiki post. I seem to get a sense of satisfaction from working with my hands on sort of simple, "mindless" tasks.


And I wonder if maybe these "mindless" tasks aren't maybe a little bit more mentally significant than that for me. More to the point, I wonder if I could achieve a better focus in meditation with some sort of repetitive, simple task to perform. Rather than trying to deprive my senses, I would be dulling them, lulling them to sleep in a way, distracting them and boring them into letting my mind really go and do its own thing. This kind of loops back to many of the themes in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes and to that Ecclesiastes page I made a bit ago, which presently has pretty much nothing on it but to which I'd like to consider adding bone and eventually flesh and spirit.


(time elapses while I actually go browse--somewhat heavy browsing--the book of Ecclesiastes, which I really haven't read in maybe a decade)


After looking through the book of Ecclesiastes, I initially felt like maybe the ideas I thought were there weren't, but maybe they are. Particularly in Chapter 9, I think there are some attitudes toward toil that resonate with my own experiences/attitudes toward "toil."


At this point, though, I'm going to go toil by putting some rice krispies into my mouth. I'm hungry. I'm interested to dig deeper into this though too.


I still have to write about Rumi. Don't let me forget.



Monday, September 24, 2007


I have neglected my wikiposting for a while and I apologize. Last week saw me stricken with a plague of migraine headaches and unforeseen tasks, so I am a little behind in classes and life in general. I have much to write on, though, so hopefully I can make up for lost time.


On a wonderful migraine-free afternoon last week, I floated. Finally. However, after reading others' posts about their wonderful floating experiences, I was somewhat disappointed. I want to say here that I went in with a hopeful, open mind. I was excited for it, even. At the very least it would be peace, quiet, and freedom from toil; any further enlightenment from the sensory deprivation would be welcome. Upon completion of all of the preliminary door shutting and other preparations, I waited for something to happen. Two or three times in the first five? minutes, a sort of enclosing, claustrophobic, yet serene feeling momentarily engulfed me. I wondered if this was the start of something in particular that was happening.


Soon, though, these feelings stopped, and I was left with minor irritations of my own body. My nose itched; scratching it left small amounts of saltwater on my face, which eventually found my eyes. The salt content seems to be pretty high in there, so a few subsequent minutes were devoted to focusing on blinking and tearing. I soon also noticed that my head and torso were floating somewhat out of alignment, causing my neck some discomfort. Would putting my hands above my head adjust the weight distribution and fix things? No, my hands fell asleep. How about putting my arms behind my back, with the upper arms at my side, elbows bent at 90 degrees, and my forearms clasping each other to bring up my midsection? No, still uncomfortable. Eventually, I found a good position: arms foldered across my chest. By this point, most of my time in the tank had elapsed. I also realized that my body position was very similar to a position in which I often sleep.


Mentally, in the tank, I often tried to focus on one thing or another. I began to wonder for a little bit if I perhaps had not misunderstood something going into the tank, if I had not perhaps somehow died without realizing it. Was this what things were like after death? I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what was really happening (I was in a research tank on the northwest end of campus), but I doubted it slightly. When the abovementioned distractions started getting to me though, I abandoned these thoughts and tried to make myself comfortable.


Overall, I'm not sure the environment was any more conducive to a meditative state for me than a quiet, dark room would be. I may very well be a poor judge of this, having had little meditative practice. I also don't feel like I am very good at quieting my mind. In any realistic environment, my nervous system is still going to be working, pestering my brain with signals about mundane irritations from the physical world. Some enviroments, such as the tank, have fewer mundane events, but they're still there. For me, a quiet room wouldn't really have significantly more, at least not as far as I can distinguish in my state of un-training and wandering.


More on Rumi later. I want to get caught up.



Thursday, September 13, 2007


I am excited for class today. The Rumi material seems pretty interesting. More on that later though....


I e-mailed Dalton a few days ago about floating. As I wrote last week, I didn't get a form when he discussed floating with the class. That wasn't entirely accidental. Without getting too personal, I'm going through a breakup with a now-former significant other. We had had an argument that morning right before class, and all I could think about even while Dalton was in front of me was how upset I was about everything. The thought of isolation terrified me. What if I got in there and couldn't stop thinking about my romantic misery for the duration of floating? That would be quite unpleasant. However, the friend mentioned a while ago who encouraged me to meditate because of my fixation with these problems. He said I should practice controlling my thoughts. It sounds like a great idea, but it's certainly a foreign concept to anyone in our culture who hasn't done anything like that before. I'm sure Dalton will probably get back to me at some point; I've heard he's involved with critical mass and a bunch of other things so he's probably a busy person. Hopefully he hasn't fulfilled his necessary number of floaters, leaving latecomers like me out to dry (ha....ha). I'll e-mail him again in a few days maybe.


Also, he's using this for research? As he alluded to, it's nothing near a random sample. Maybe as a chemistry major I don't realize the difficulty, even impossibility, of getting a truly random sample when it involves human beings with jobs and lives and fears and consent.....it's easy to get a random sample of fluid from a jar or something, but that's not going to be too busy or run away from you or anything. It just seemed bizarre that he was just talking to our English class. I had never heard of the floating thing before, probably because he doesn't go to other classes to discuss it. I'd suggest such a practice to him, but even if he tried to do that, I don't know that a lot of professors in disciplines other than this one would want to give him class time to talk about it. These human-related sciences seem really difficult. I never thought I'd say this, but thank goodness for chemistry!



Monday, September 10, 2007


After re-reading Genesis, I have chosen to further examine and remix chapter 11 verses one through nine, shown here in the King James translation:


1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.


Toward the end of the summer, I was poking about wikipedia, looking at different articles on random topics. I looked at some of the non-English wikipedias and marveled at some of their alphabets and words, many unintelligible to me. I began to search into the grouping of languages into groupings: Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, etc. I really only began to scratch the surface of it all, but I certainly gained an appreciation for the complexity of language analysis. So initially, this passage caught my eye.


Upon further reflection, I realized there are some small details in the text that I find to be pretty weird. "And the Lord said, '...now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do'?" Seriously? So they had bricks and slime and common language and the creator of the entire universe was afraid of them? I find this to be very baffling. I'm so hung up on this part of this passage, in fact, that I'm going to remix it with a more modern view of the miniscule scale of their efforts in comparison to the universe.


After God made the Universe, got frustrated with a little speck within it, drowned most of the speck's life, and allowed life on that speck to rebound a bit, some of the most complex life was able to achieve basic communication within its entire species by making physical disturbances in the gaseous atmosphere. These creatures crawled around the speck a little bit, but didn't really go very far. They also played in the dirt and figured out how to make dirt hard like rocks and how to make their dirt-rocks stick together nicely. Then the creatures got a fancy idea. They would stick a bunch of these dirt rocks together, making a sort of barely-visible earthen blemish on the speck. With this blemish, they would be the masters of the universe. After all, their blemish on their speck must really be about the biggest, baddest thing out there.


God laughed at them, half in amusement and half in frustration. "I just about drowned all of these little buggers without even trying and now they think their dirthill is some sort of monumental achievement? How often am I going to have to put them in their place? Maybe if I can get them to shut up a bit, they'll quit for a while and spread out." So God confused their physical atmosphereic disturbances that they used for communication, giving them unique kinds of patterns so they couldn't understand each other. They spread out for a while, but eventually figured things out anyway, first with traders and translators, then with pocket dictionaries, then with the magic of Google Translator.





Tuesday, September 4, 2007


So. I'm unsure if I'm going about this correctly. After some poking around under different names on this wiki, I chose the handle "unfinished" and immediately created a new page with the same title. Is that how I'm supposed to make my wiki blog page? Well, if not, too bad for now. Having had no prior communication with mobius aside from a facebook friend request (initiated by me) and possibly seeing him play music at some point (or at least seeing people with whom he's played), I'm sort of confused by the whole Composing The Sacred class setup, but I think I'll get the hang of it soon enough. I'm excited for this class.


Certainly we, as participants in a western culture, all have been impacted by the sacred texts that kick off the readings for this class to one extent or another. I grew up in what many might call a fundamentalist christian family and adhered to many of those beliefs and customs until a few years ago. Because of this, reading these texts kind of takes me back to a time when I would study them quite thoroughly but from significantly different perspectives than I would now on my own (if encountering them for the first time) or than this class seeks to use. I feel like maybe I have a bit of a rut with these sets of words, falling into a set mode of thinking about the material. On one hand, I might have an interesting perspective, something for me to compare and contrast to my own interpretations now and those of others in and around the course. On the other hand, I feel that this older perspective of mine might be difficult to break out of in my pursuits to really glean new insights from the text. For example, the phrase "after their kinds" from the first lines of Genesis has been used literally and even extrapolated to be seen as a denial of the processes of Darwinian evolution . . . new species cannot arise, some churchgoing readers of this text would argue, because God made organisms in the beginning to (re)produce only more members of their same species. Certainly modern genetics would have at least a thing or two to say in response, but that's not the point here. While the class discusses various meanings of "face of the deep" or "the earth was formless," I have been distracted by that dreaded "after their kinds" phrase. This phenomenon partially worries me because I may miss something interesting from those around me, but also partially excites me because I have a familiarity and an angle on the text that contrasts significantly to my own right now and to most others'.


I tried using some html (the hr tag to put pretty lines between same-day entries instead of stupid hyphens, and the center tag to center said pretty lines) when I updated the last entry, but apparently html doesn't work here? Poop on that.


I just went through some other people's newborn blogs. Some of the meditation-related sentiments in happygirl's entry resonated with me. A friend of mine who is more interested in supernatural/spiritual matters has been encouraging me to meditate, particularly with the aid of A Course In Miracles. I, however, have been resistant to do so. Why sit there and do nothing? Why quiet your mind? While I believe there are things going on (on a spiritual plane, or whatever) that cannot be sensed as one would sense College Avenue or an ipod or a full moon, I have trouble giving credence to anything of the sort, precisely because I don't know whether other peoples' extra-ordinary experiences are truly connecting with something or whether they're complete bullshit. Why should I be trying to quiet my mind when I could be out doing something, out helping somebody or having fun or learning new information about the tangible world? There's no shortage of tangible things to deal with, why concern myself with the supernatural? Despite all of this thought, I have to admit that the timing of the start of this class so close to my friend's encouragement to meditate should at least pique my interest.


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