Category Archives: Spirituality

Rote Memorization

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Some people memorize poetry, and some people memorize song lyrics or rap lines (which is really just a kind of poetry anyway); some people memorize movie or TV show lines and some people memorize jokes and one liners. Overall, in the end, everyone either knows someone who has an extensive listing or memorized content – or, they even do it themselves.

But why? Why do people feel such a drive to memorize and recite content? After all, who doesn’t get a thrill learning and singing along to a favorite song? Or who doesn’t have a flush of happiness at being able to drop a line from a favorite TV show at the appropriate point in a conversation? Why are people almost seemingly programmed to love memorizing and reciting content? Continue reading Rote Memorization

The Pull of Mevlana

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As I wandered through the Mevlana mosque complex, caught up in my own thoughts and the beauty of the area, I didn’t notice the two covered young teenage girls shyly making their way towards me. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. I almost certainly bumped into one of them when taking a step back to frame a picture properly.

The Pull of Mevlana
Seeing Rumi’s tomb from afar may have been one of the most exciting moments in my life.

The Pull of Mevlana

Continue reading The Pull of Mevlana

You Are the Universe Experiencing Itself

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A few days ago, a friend posted on my Facebook a link to a website full of amazing wallpapers that he said reminded him of me; the picture to the left is from that sight, and is currently my active wallpaper.

At first I was just drawn to the quote because it completely summed up my own world philosophy – it was not until a few minutes ago, when I was reading up on what the name of this philosophy might be so I could share it in this post, that I realized that this is a quote from a Alan Watts, a renowned Western philosopher who tried to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thinking. So, what drew me into this line of thinking was not Watts himself, but rather the ideas embodied in this quote.

Religion for me is a difficult and intriguing question. I used to be a strident atheist – although never a very good one, I admit, as I was still always terrified of ghosts and other inexplicable phenomenon. In time, however, my positions softened and I ended up becoming a fairly strong believer in God; this in turn then softened to an exclusively personal ever-evolving inclusive spiritualism.

Continue reading You Are the Universe Experiencing Itself

The Vibrations of Music

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I was watching a movie in a seminar about Rumi last Fall semester, struggling to stay awake as always when in a three hour long class at night with the lights off, when something caught my ear. The film was a documentary about the role of music in Sufi practice and a particular Turkish sheikh – whose name I unfortunately forgot – was being interviewed about the vibrations of music. Although I can’t remember exactly what he said, the general impression was something like:

[quote style=”1″]All things in this world vibrate. Drums vibrate when you beat on them just as your voice box vibrates as you sing. Even atoms vibrate and spin, creating inaudible music as they take part in creation.[/quote]

The general idea of this message really caught me off guard. It suddenly made all the music I loved seem like much more than music; instead they became gateways to my soul. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes, in the exact right conditions, certain songs have extreme power over us. For instance, when I saw mewithoutyou last Friday the opening band – Buried Beds – closed their set with every member of the band playing a simple beat on a drum. The rhythm became so strong it simple washed over me and I felt very open, in some way, as if the music was freeing me. Continue reading The Vibrations of Music

A Moralistic Gold Standard

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moralistic gold standard
Photo credit at contemporarycondition.blogspot.com

Our drive down to Bonnaroo was divided into multiple stops, the first of which was Pittsburg, PA. Each part of the drive was punctuated by listening to new music, epic sax man on loop, or various types of scintillating conversation. For this leg of the journey in particular, I ended up talking about morality and the possible existence of a moralistic gold standard with my friends Tim and Mike – Mike, by the way, also has a wonderful blog worth checking out.

Morality is always a difficult concept to discuss, since everyone automatically has a different reference point. Tim, for example, pointed to the fact that he believed strongly in a Nietzschean style of morality – essentially, there are no such universal truths such as good or bad. What really only exists is the overall pursuit of a personal happiness and meaning. Of course a vast number of people would take issue with this, and I am not entirely sure if even Tim would stick to this moralistic standard for the rest of his life; this realization lead the three of us to an interesting conversation.

People’s morality change over time, as they are exposed to new ideas and new experiences. I doubt anyone reading this views morality in the same way now than they did even a year ago. The mind constantly adapts to new experiences – to compensate for this, so too must our way of dealing with the world. This constant change and flux can lead to stressful

moralistic gold standard
Photo credit at sophlylaughing.blogspot.com

situations for individuals. For example, if someone has a strict moral code and is unable to live up to it they may experience some painful cognitive dissonance – a feeling of psychological discomfort which occurs when someone’s actions don’t live up to their world view.

It is for this reason that I believe it would be best if people, instead of dealing in absolutes, chose to live their lives according to a moralistic gold standard. No matter what your moral code may be, you will always be put in situations that make it near impossible to live in complete compliance with your own standards. To compensate for this, people should instead realize that the world does not work in absolutes but in degrees.

Essentially, instead of having an uncompromising ethical standard for yourself set yourself a gold standard to shoot for, knowing full well that you may fail to live up to these goals. That’s fine! It is the aiming for perfection is what truly matters, not the actual achievement.

Morality should never be uncompromising – no matter which code of ethics you subscribe to. At the same time as having a moralistic gold standard, allow yourself to live with an open mind. You should be confident that your morality is correct and best fits you, but you should never shut yourself off from debate and new ideas.

Through discussion, who knows what new things you may learn? Not all ideas are inherently inimical to various belief systems, and with an open mind you may be able to combine various disparate standards into a more all-encompassing whole.

 

The Dark Side of Human Exceptionalism

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I’m going to start this post off by very clearly stating that I am a spiritual person, and a general belief in some sort of encompassing deity – whether it be some sort of life force or clock maker, it doesn’t matter – is extremely important to my everyday way of thinking; however, having said that, I see no reason why a belief in religion needs to be tied into the general belief of human exceptionalism.

Maybe this is just a tad nihilistic, but the idea of a deep rooted belief in human exceptionalism seems likes a waste to me. Simply, it seems to perpetuate a belief that we, as a species, are able to do whatever we wish with our lives and everything will work out fine. This human exceptionalism makes us incredibly self-centered. It makes us entitled, and selfish, and lazy.

For a large part of human history, people have been spoon fed a belief that this world, this universe, was created solely for ourselves. People have been made to believe, speaking from a viewpoint of Western religions, that this idea of human exceptionalism should be the norm. I will not deny that many things have been accomplished thanks to this view. As this blog points out, in rebuttal to an argument against human exceptionalism, the world in many ways did adapt to us instead of vice-versa. Cats, for example, seemingly did this.

I too have mentioned, in this earlier post, how the world we know is totally built upon the thousands of small – and not so small – advancements set forth by the billions of people who came before us. People are definitely capable of amazing things. We have changed the entire world around ourselves, to suit our needs and our belief of human exceptionalism. We have changed the world so that now, when we look out on it, there is really no possible way in which someone could not believe in human exceptionalism.

That, then, is the problem. Human exceptionalism shouldn’t be a pre-determined and accepted way of life. By accepting, right off the bat, that humans are the best beings in the universe we become completely complacent. We longer strive to reach the heights we are capable of. Instead, looking around, it seems that this belief of human exceptionalism becomes more and more mythic.

Of course, there are still scads of people alive who are doing their best to improve the world; there are also untold amounts of people who look at this belief in human exceptionalism as a self-fulfilling prophecy. That worries me. That general belief that just by existing we are entitled to something, to being exceptional, is perhaps one of the worst things to believe.