My Book Some Kind of Garden – A Journey into Zen is up – Get Your Copy and Enter Zen Now !

It is a gorgeous Zen Book with Very Large Photographs and Very Small Poems.

Some Kind of Garden A Journey Into Zen

I grew up middle class but poor – I only had the Public Library as far as Journeys go. I had to wait to grow up and get someone to pay me to be an artist so I can make the journey to Kyoto.  Actually George Lucas paid for this book and he deserves more credit than Star Wars fans give him but this is a subject for another book. Which I am indeed writing but let’s get back to the center of our conversation.

For me going to Kyoto was getting into the Zen space of the Mind. Japanese Zen Gardens have very little to do with Horticulture and a lot to do with sophisticated culture refined by the teachings and reflections of Zen Masters, whose sole focus had been to contemplate and distill reality to simple, vanishing abstractions.

Below you can look inside the book completely free – you know exactly what you are getting, a very Western way to do our Zen part.

Why some kind of? Some kind of is a larger body of work that started long time ago and contains Photographs, Video and Text. Some kind of is a thread that runs through all of my work and hops on various obsessions like one of those Stepping Stone Bridges in my book.

Enough said, Get Your Zen fix Now!

Featuring small poems by Shiko, Hanshan, Ryokan, Huang Po, Basho and myself.  With my poems being the smallest poems.

The Most important Thing you will ever have

When I open a newspaper it is as if we never went through the Enlightenment. It is full of guided content and regurgitated narratives of sex, guns, and money. Have you ever wondered how many girlfriends Kant had, or Plato? Did you ever wonder how much money Van Gogh had? None.

No one ever tells you that the most important thing that you own, apart from your good health and the proper function of all your organs, is your ability to think independently. And the second thing is your ability to express and argue your opinion in public. These were the two Dreams of the Enlightenment.

In his Essay What Is Enlightenment? Kant defines Enlightenment as  “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” For his  second dream he says “the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.”

Once you have traded your goods and services, obtained lodging and food, secured your home, sturdied your frame and medicated your body, feel free to use the greatest gift you may ever have, free thought.

Edge.org’s annual question WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?

A beautiful symphony of thought is the Answers to Edge.org’s Annual Question  –  WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?  And my favorite excerpts.

 

George Church
Author, Regenesis; Professor, Harvard University; Director, Personal Genome Project

I am a machine that thinks, made of atoms—a perfect quantum simulation of a many-body problem—a 1029 body problem. I, robot, am dangerously capable of self-reprogramming and preventing others from cutting off my power supply. (this cracked me up – don’t come near me when i  am hungry) We human machines extend our abilities via symbiosis with other machines—expanding our vision to span wavelengths beyond the mere few nanometers visible to our ancestors, out to the full electromagnetic range from picometer to megameter. We hurl 370 kg hunks of our hive past the sun at 252,792 km/hr. We extend our memory and math by a billion-fold with our silicon prostheses. Yet our bio-brains are a thousand-fold more energy efficient than our inorganic-brains at tasks where we have common ground (like facial recognition and language translation) and infinitely better for tasks of, as yet, unknown difficulty, like E. instein’s Annus Mirabilis papers, or out-of-the-box inventions impacting future centuries. As Moore’s Law heads from 20-nm transistor lithography down to 0.1 nm atomic precision and from 2D to 3D circuits, we may downplay reinventing and simulating our biomolecular-brains and switch to engineering them.

 

James J. O’Donnell
Classical Scholar, University Professor, Georgetown University

3. Can artificial mechanisms be constructed to play the part in gathering information and making decisions that human beings now do? Sure, they already do. The ones that control the fuel injection on my car are a lot smarter than I am. I think I’d do a lousy job of that.

there is a huge difference between fighting for an idea and fighting for a nickel

Youtube cant’ tell the difference but I can.

I had been listening to “The Power of Myth” on my phone and when an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s famous speech came on I went to youtube to look for a longer version.

Here is the most famous bit:

After the video ended I let youtube go on autopilot onto the next video. And next came an excerpt from The Pursuit of Happyness  starring Will Smith.

When at first glance these videos may have something in common – they actually cannot be any more different. One is about the power of an idea, the kind of dough humanity keeps for great holidays. And the other is the fight for the nickel, the daily grind. In the daily grind the pursuit of the stockbroker, the street sweeper are the same, the head is down and the clock is ticking.

 

And here is another take on pursuit, the relentless pursuit of a goal, brought to you by Arnold:

Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there  – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

The pale Blue dot as imaged by Voyager:

The Pale Blue dot as imaged by Voyager

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrated y Carl Sagan on youtube:

BBC animations on the History of Ideas

A History of Ideas is a BBC Radio 4 program of the same name.  BBC created animated shorts illustrating different ideas from the history of thought and narrated by Gillian Anderson.  Wondering about questions like “Why are things beautiful?” – philosophers and thinkers have already been wondering the same thing, for couple of millennia.

Here are some of my favorite animations from their collection. I have transcribed the first one but when i get a chance i will do the others as well.

Diotima’s Ladder

“In Plato’s dialog the Symposium Socrates recalls Diotama’s teaching that a desire for one beautiful man’s body is just the first rung in a ladder that leads up to the appreciation of the form of Beauty. And so is merely a means to the higher end of appreciating the Abstract Idea.

This is Diotama’s teaching. To learn about beauty first recognize the physical beauty of your desired lover. Then, if you are rational, you’ll appreciate not just the individual loved one’s beauty, but also the physical beauty of others too. It would be absurd to only see beauty in one individual since bodies are so similar. From this the next step up the ladder is to see the beauty that lies beyond appearances. The beauty in wisdom and knowledge, the beauty of beautiful minds even if they happen to dwell in bodies which aren’t particularly beautiful. The last step is to come to recognize the form of beauty itself, the Abstract Pure general notion of Beauty. This form of beauty also carries with it moral qualities of Goodness. So if you take the first step of falling for the body of a beautiful youth, Diotima thinks you can progress from this to a more cerebral appreciation of Universal Beauty. Lust is on the bottom rung of the ladder and morality at the top. If you are prepared to make the ascent.”

Feminine Beauty: A social construct?

Edmund Burke on the sublime

A link to the whole collection on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3vVjcY47k2p5Wsnj3ZFHV5W/a-history-of-ideas

The Relativity of Wrong by Isaac Asimov, or, nitpicking on Socrates

My brain gets poisoned by news and chewing through recent events with the teeth of media. So I often find myself in the company of dead people. The thoughts of man and women from the past, with the perspective of the occurred future.

Often find solace in science fiction, with the freaks and creatures that inhabit strange worlds. I recently read a science fiction book written in 1964 by a Czechoslovakian science fiction author Ludvík Souček. It was a throwback to Jules Verne but naive, from a 21st century points of view, in its basking in communist propaganda. Yet I didn’t put the book down as it walked me through a time when selfies from space weren’t very common and humanity was not yet a space faring civilization, yet on the verge of it and dreaming of what is out in the void.

What was I saying – I already forgot why I began this page to begin with, but what Isaac Asimov is saying in his essay is that there is a critical mass to being wrong. Sometimes a difference between a 0 and 0.00000000000003 makes all the difference.

Read  the entire essay here – The Relativity of Wrong by Isaac Asimov.

An excerpt where Asimov literally nitpicks on Socrates but is not entirely wrong in doing that:

First, let me dispose of Socrates because I am sick and tired of this pretense that knowing you know nothing is a mark of wisdom.
No one knows nothing. In a matter of days, babies learn to recognize their mothers.

Socrates would agree, of course, and explain that knowledge of trivia is not what he means. He means that in the great abstractions over which human beings debate, one should start without preconceived, unexamined notions, and that he alone knew this. (What an enormously arrogant claim!)

In his discussions of such matters as “What is justice?” or “What is virtue?” he took the attitude that he knew nothing and had to be instructed by others. (This is called “Socratic irony,” for Socrates knew very well that he knew a great deal more than the poor souls he was picking on.) By pretending ignorance, Socrates lured others into propounding their views on such abstractions. Socrates then, by a series of ignorant-sounding questions, forced the others into such a mélange of self-contradictions that they would finally break down and admit they didn’t know what they were talking about.

It is the mark of the marvelous toleration of the Athenians that they let this continue for decades and that it wasn’t till Socrates turned seventy that they broke down and forced him to drink poison.

 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow. Ian McKellen analyzes Macbeth speech

Analysis by Ian McKellen of a Macbeth speech. It is not the “music” of the verse but rather the “sense”, its meaning that should be expressed. An actor should “think” rather than “act” the verse. In his own words:

“If this workshop has done anything, I hope it scotched the … wrong belief that Shakespeare’s verse is music and all you have to find out is the tune and everything will be all right. Rather, I believe that if you look after the sense, the sounds will look after themselves.

One of the greatest things of 21st century is the ability to learn from other people’s process. I really am not a big fan of celebrity worship. It just happens that the thoughts of more productive people are more readily accessible. It is not necessary that their thoughts are more valid. I always make a point to have not just understanding, but critical understanding of what surrounds me. So, even if it’s McKellen, take it with a grain of salt and let it enhance your own understanding, rather than replace it.

The relevant excerpt from Shakespeare’s  Macbeth:

MACBETH

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Relevant excerpt from Extras on Sir Ian’s Method ( I so much love Extras by the way, and although I gave up television about 6 years ago it is as if I’ve never left the good stuff behind wink-wink netflix wink-wink youtube ):

Hoe to do archery properly. Actually, how to do anything properly

The perfect example of practice makes perfect and committing to a craft. Welcome to Archery. It has less to do with the actual craft and more to do with the “eternal values of centering our lives” ( line in quotes by Joseph Campbell, I am just using it frivolously and out of context because this video is not about archery, it is about a level of comprehension and awareness ).

Tokyo walks

Tokyo walks.

Music – ( Public Domain recording ) Ride of the Valkyries performed by The University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Barbara Schubert:  archive.org/details/uso-2004-10-31

 

I created Tokyo walks for my some kind of street series, for the some kind of project. Tokyo and Japan in general have never been a tourist destination but rather an obsession I have had to pursue. It is only appropriate that I picked the Ride of the Valkyries for this piece as my experiences during my solo trip to  Tokyo and Kyoto were pure ecstasy and until this day I cannot unravel this feeling into anything that makes sense, on any rational level. I simply have the hots for Japan.

Every cake I ate, every fist of rice, every foot I planted on the pavement felt emotionally charged and even today I feel as much charged about my experiences as I was the moment I dropped into Narita airport.

The note in my diary reads:

My plane ride to Tokyo was a bit like a train ride on a train with square wheels.
I was flying from nearby Korea and despite the fact that the ride was fairly short – I was crazily afraid of flying, I still am afraid of flying and every flight I take is a rigorous test of my character.

Yet, the most exciting parts of my life have and are starting with a plane ride. After the rocky introduction to Japan I entered into an immigration procedure in a room with a sign that read:

PRIORITY LANE – only FOR:
-GREAT AGED
-FEEL BAD
-PREGNANTS

Since I was fairly amused I wasn’t feeling bad anymore, neither too aged or pregnant, and proceeded without trying the Priority lane, into what I eagerly awaited to get into – Japan.

 

Day 4000 of Mars rover Opportunity’s 90 day mission

As I sit here on my little desk in front of my little computer, the last thing I’d like to lose is the ability to be astounded. It is important to get groceries and to plan the next big drawing, taxes are also pretty valid concern. But what will get us out of the pit of ignorance and every-day obtuseness is our continuing ability to be astounded.

It is pretty astonishing the Mars rover Opportunity has been on Mars 45 times its intended lifespan. And, thank God, there are these crazy people that continue to run it.  The rover was designed, built, and operated by JPL, which is managed by Caltech.

NASA”s Opportunity tracks on Mars:

Opportunity tracks on Mars
Opportunity tracks on Mars

Here is Opportunity’s detailed  traverse map on Mars:

Opportunity: Detailed Traverse Maps - link goes to NASA's website
Opportunity: Detailed Traverse Maps

The entirety of Opportunity’s decade of driving on Mars:

Opportunity map of driving on Mars
Opportunity’s First Decade of Driving on Mars

Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on Bird Flight is also on Mars.

For all those who submitted your names, Congratulations! Your name was successfully etched onto a microchip and is officially on Mars!

And here is how it all happened – http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/sendyourname/

Opportunity map of driving on Mars

 

And, finally, the ability to be astounded as borrowed from a 3 years old:

 

A dreamlike drawing produced in a dreamlike manner.


Dreams, 31 x 32 inches, dip pen and ink on hot pressed board

The purpose of this drawing was to implement a new language and the way it worked was that it developed into a language as it went. Never knew what a particular detail would look like until the very moment it was done. It was like a play with no script where I was the only audience.

Tiny changes happened along the way, and the world of the drawing changed incrementally.

By the time the drawing was fished – it had evolved into a dream tapestry that would draw you in just like a rabbit hole.

More on the happening of works here:
http://mirenarhee.com/mirena-rhee-video.html

uncategorized on purpose