Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mind the Gap!

The man just gets it, doesn't he?


Monday, April 10, 2006

The PPFs of Counterfactual thinking

Being the philsophical smarty pants that I am not but try so hard to pretend to be, I thought one of my greatest insights is as follows:

We spend too much time living in the past and in the future. We don't spend enough time living in the present. We regret the past and worry about the future far too much. Why regret the past when we can't change the past? Why worry so much about the future when it has not arrived yet? We should just live in the here and now. Since we can't do anything about the past and the future, we should just do something about now. Simply, live in the present.


Or so I thought.

I have had to revisit this philsophical mambo jambo recently in a most... how should I say it?... "dope!","...*blink*...", and "hmmm..." manner. (read: "I am such an idiot!", "Did i think what happened, just happen?" and "oh f*******ck......")

Isn't it so enlightening to have your past philsophical musings play out in your own life only for you to gush "what the f*ck was I thinking????!"

The past is the present preparing for the future:
I cherish and regret yesterday but I will never forget. Yesterday tells me who I am today and tells me what to expect tomorrow.

The present changes the past to change the future:
I look to yesterday with today's eyes so that I can think of tomorrow with clarity.

The future makes a promise to the present that the past was the best thing that ever happened: I look to tomorrow with the hopes of today's fond memories of yesterday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Shared Beliefs

A dear friend posed this question to me last week.

"Is Buddhism a religion?"

Never one to back away from pretending like I know anything and everything about something I know nothing about. I got some coffe and kit kats, sat myself down and proceeded to blabber away. The following is the email product of a highly caffinated and chocofied mind.

"Sweetie.... God is fair and unfair. First, ditzy man may be aesthetically beautiful but he is clearly intellectually challenged. God is unfair because YOU are both aesthetically beautiful and clearly intellectual. =)

okay... to address your concerns.

Defining religion is difficult. The problem with defining religion is because religion is at the very basic level, a shared belief amongst like minded people. Meaning religion is fundamentally an organized manner in which people of a same belief congregate, both physically and nonphysically. And by nonphysically, it includes but not limited to terms such as psychologically, spiritually, sociologically, etc.

The problem is, the definition of religion as merely a shared belief makes it no different from the definition of culture, i.e. shared beliefs. Whenever, more than 1 person (i.e. 2 and above) share a belief, culture exists, at least between the two people. How is this different from the definition of religion as shared beliefs? If we conclude that religion is no different from culture, then religion is also no different from defining religion as a way of life, a philosophy of life, or whatever other permutation. Hence, in this sense to define Buddhism as a religion then, would also require that one defines Buddhism as a way of life, which is exactly how one would also define a group of people who swear by their beloved football club. Simply, supporting a football club is no different from religion which means supporting a football club is the same as being a buddhist.

But, intuitively, we know that is wrong. Religion is not "merely" a culture is it? Yes, there is a culture associated with religion but religion is not in itself a culture.

So we need a definition of religion that is above and beyond that of culture. We need a definition of religion that is not merely a shared belief.

So we include faith.

Religion is a very specific form of shared beliefs in that the focal point of the shared belief is faith. It is a shared belief in a supernatural form of existence, be it God, gods, deities, etc. The necessary condition for a shared belief to be properly defined as religion is the existence of a spiritual or metaphysical dimension of existence embodied in a being or beings that is sentient, omniscient, and omnipotent.

This is where it gets difficult to separate religion, in the traditional sense as we know it to represent the likes of christianity and islam, from a philsophy of life such as Buddhism. As much as we traditionally argue that Buddhism is not a religion and is "merely" a way of life, we cannot necessarily include Buddhism as a religion on grounds of the existence of spirituallity. We can say that Buddhism originated from a human man, and not some spiritual being. We can say that the focal point of Buddhism is nothing to do with a God or deities. However, the problem with excluding Buddhism as a religion is that as much as Buddhism is centered around a way of life, there is a critical element of spirituality in Buddhism. Perhaps, the most central aspect of spirituality in Buddhism is the concept of Karma. Every human being is volitional, i.e. every act or behavior is done knowingly and willingly by the actor. And with every volitional act, there is a consequence that cuts across time and space. That is, the consequences of a volitional act I do today can occur in another life time and so on. While for the most part, Karma seems void of spirituality or the metaphysical, the fact that Karma involves consequences that can run across time and space, especially in terms of "another lifetime", then there is an inherent spirituality in the concept of Karma.

And yet, we are still uncomfortable with the notion that Buddhism is a religion and is really a philsophy of life instead. Which beings us to to the narrow definition of religion. Religion is the shared belief based on the faith that there exists a focal, spiritual, entity that is beyond my own existence. And that my relationship with this sentient being is important and natural to my existence. In most religions, this sentient being, other than myself, is commonly known as God. The practice of religion is centered around a personal relationship between me and this other greater, sentient being.

Buddhism does not fall into this narrow definition of religion. Buddhism involves a spiritual relationship between me and, oddly enough, myself and my existing environment. My actions have a moral consequence on myself. The recipient of the consequences of my volitional acts is me. What ever act or behavior I decide upon, it may be that the effects of the consequences can affect others and my surroundings but eventually, it really affects nobody else more directly than it does me. In this sense, Buddhism is not a religion.

Simply, for Buddhism to be properly accorded a status of religion, religion cannot be different from being a culture. (As a consequencce then, the role of monks and nuns is really nothing more than practitioners of the culture.)

But if you want to adhere to the narrow definition of religion in that religion is more than "merely" a shared belief, or culture, than Buddhism is not a religion since this strict definition of religion is centered on a relationship between me and a sentient existence that is above and beyond my existence.

Hope this helps... =)"

Friday, January 20, 2006

Empty Spaces: The origin of creation

I received an email with this quote from an incredibly well read and thoughtful imagination:

Chapter 2 - Empty Spaces

'A sense of loss pervades the paintings of Peter Diggs (the main character of the book),' wrote the critic Cecil Berkeley about my last show at the Fanshawe Gallery. 'His palette is muted, his compositions unsettling. The figures in his pictures seem about to depart, and there are odd empty spaces that make the viewer wonder who or what has gone and who or what is coming.

But that's life, isn't it? And those of us who think about the empty spaces tend to paint pictures, write books, or compose music. There are many talented people who never will become painters, writers, or composers; the talent is in them but not the empty spaces where art happens.'

The most striking thing about this quote is the idea that art (and therefore creativity) has its origin in emptiness. Art cannot occur without an empty starting point. Only when something arises from the ashes of nothing can we call it art. With all the talent and craft in the world, if that talent does not have an empty space to grasp, that talent is effectively useless and art cannot be created.

Empty spaces lead to creation.

But what exactly are empty spaces? What exactly is the nature of empty spaces? Are any two empty spaces the same? What sets one work of art apart from another work of art? Why write a book instead of painting a picture and not compose a song?

Empty spaces are different.

Empty spaces can have different origins. There was nothing there to begin with. Something was misplaced. Something precious was lost. Something insignificant is now gone. Something was removed to prevent harm. Something was removed for improvement. Something remains unnoticed.

Empty space differences lead to different acts of creation.

When empty spaces do not exist or goes unnnoticed, nothing gets created. Only when an empty space is discovered or noticed can something be created. The nature of the emptiness drives different human needs for exploration of the undiscovered, discovery of the new, recognizing of the ignored, filling in of the lost, and replacement of the broken.

Empty spaces are inherent in human nature.

Thus human nature has an innate need to be creative.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fluid Longitudinals Underlying Foucaultean Fundamentals

On thursday night, I heard, not listened but heard, one of the most profound constructive opinions of what I like to think will be my life's work. As I asserted myself as the leader of the pack with DiOgee, the Australian cattle dog that I will spend some quality time bonding with over the thanksgiving holidays, I heard these very words in a friendly but intensely engaging banter over free will:

"That you hope to discover and demonstrate that the cognitive mechanisms underlying creativity is not mystical and nothing more than your garden variety cognition underlying everyday thinking, you inherently believe that there is no free will."


The idea here is that if the creative process, at least at the cognitive level, does not entail anything particularly special, then free will cannot exist. The origin of a new idea is not some mystical phenomenon but the necessary result of prior knowledge or thought that already exists. Anything new that comes into existence is necessarily the product of already existing ideas or knowledge. Similarly, when we make a choice or act, what we think is an act of free will is really, or more precisely, the result of an infinite chain of deterministic causes. Right down to biology and culture, every thought and behavior we exhibit can be clearly traced to a systematic, orderly chain of events that, unfortunately does not originate from my own free will. Instead, everything I say or do or believe is the result of my innate biological drives, what my parents and TV tell me, the books I read and those conversations I have had. Interesting. There is a simple logic to this argument and admittedly, it makes so much sense. It seems so obvious and right. This almost feels like a theory of everything. Everything is determined by something preceding and the precedent in question is in itself also determined by some other precedent and so on. Apply this simple logic to human action and it is clear that free will does not exist. It makes perfectly good sense.


There is one very odd and yet important implication of such a view of free will, or lack of. That free will does not exist because of deterministic forces, free will is demonstrated when a person acts contrary to basic biological, cultural, and environmental drives. However, keeping to the logic of determinism, for an act to be appropriately charactirized as free, the origin of that act must have no cause or origin. Because an act that has an origin, or reason, that act cannot be free since it is determined by an origin or reason. Thus, for an act to be truly deemd an act of free will, that act must have no origin, reason, or precedent in any sense. Simply, only a random act can be said to be truly free.

In a theory of no free will in the deterministic tradition, true randomness and nothingness cannot possibly exist since everything is preceded by something else. This seems logical enough. But, for a theory to hold any weight, that theory must be testable. And in its simplest yet must critical form, a theory is only good if the opposite can be imagined to exist or happen. Thus, for a theory of no free will to be any good, this theory must provide a description or explanation of what an act of free will looks like. But by its own very definition, a deterministic theory of no free will cannot possibly provide such an example or explanation.

Of course, I have done nothing to prove the existence of free will, and at best have only provided some suggestion that a deterministic theory of no free will may be flawed. More importantly, I could be totally wrong and playing way out of my league here. And since this is clearly not a random act, I cannot be held accountable or be responsible for such flawed thoughts and perspectives. With much affection and due respect, blame my teachers instead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Furious Sleepovers

An ingenious concept if you ask me...


Also a very cool idea: http://www.kid-at-art.com/

There is hope.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Never say Never

When I was 18,
I remembered that in secondary school
I told my family and friends
That I will never go to Hwa Chong
Because I hate studying Mandarin.
Now, I remember graduating from Hwa Chong at 18.

When I was 18,
I thought I will never serve my country at Hendon.
Now, I remember jumping out of perfectly good airplanes at 18.

When I was 18,
I joined the Airforce to be a Fighter pilot
Telling a good friend that I will never want to write a book.
Now, I want to write a book.

When I was 18,
I hated studying and believed I would never do something
So boring as to be sitting behind a desk
Reading, writing, and using the computer all day.
Only geeks do that.
Now, I am too embarrassed to admit what I like doing.

I believe a wise old man once said "Never say never again"