April 9, 2011
Story Meditation is a meditative practice I discovered whereby one picks a theme, and creates a story in the solitude of the mind. This is very similar to my practice of picking themes for my science fiction short stories. The difference is that I am now picking themes that apply directly to my well-being and difficulties, and I no longer restrict myself to the landscape of Science Fiction. The stories that come out of this are often fantastical and dream-like. They lift from culture and recent experience. Story Meditation is a way of mediating my experience of my own unconscious.
For instance, I was having a really hard time writing this post. Part of it is I want you to want the practice of Story Meditation, so that you don’t pass over it as trivial, and that you try it. I kept writing sentences that were not resonating with me, so I decided to apply some Story Meditation. I sat on this exercise ball that I use while meditating and presented myself with the theme of, “This post I’m trying to write and am having difficulty with.”
I sat and constructed a story: I thought about some dude, and he happened to be on the Moon. And from there, he went to Earth, flew over the face of it and saw much suffering. The people of the Earth were in agony. Finally he saw Buddha on the Earth, he landed next to him and said, “I’m from the Moon. I have many powers. Is there anything I can do for you and the people of the Earth?” Buddha said, “No, the people are suffering from illusions, but it is in their minds. And in their minds is also everything they need to free themselves from suffering.” The Moon Man said, “But what if I alleviate their pain?” And Buddha said, “No, it is not necessary.” But the Moon Man was unconvinced, and he picked up a suffering man, shook him with a slight jostle, and the Man was cured and would suffer no more. The Buddha was quite surprised and he said to the Moon Man, “On second that, just do that for all of the people of the Earth.”
What the hell does that story mean? After writing it, I initially did not know. Sometimes it takes me hours to figure out my stories, with some obvious connection arising quickly, and subtler understandings coming later. In this case the story was kind of obvious. I have a super-power that alleviates my suffering. It may help others. Go tell people about it so they can see if it works for them too. Just do it man! Don’t worry about getting them to discover the mechanisms inside them. Just go and shake the sick man. Buddha will see the obvious value.
Examining the story for it’s meaning, I see I am all three characters. And when I construct new characters for other stories I am always them as well. For instance, in this Buddha-Moon story, I thought the audience (of readers) was Buddha, since I was trying to get my message across. And so it is, but I am also Buddha, who is saying, “No need to use your powers.” And I am the Moon Man with his special gifts, and the sick man who suffers under his illusion/delusion, but can also be cured.
The concept for this practice came to me when I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces.” It is a work describing the patterns between all mythologies. He talked about how myth can be a medium for communicating with the unconscious, which makes a lot of sense when you see how myths confront sexuality, power, destruction, and creation. Sadness and happiness. Enlightenment. It’s a group of people constructing tales to communicate the essence of their internal struggles. The difficulty is that in the age of modern science, where we can illuminate through analysis, myths become absurd historical artifacts.
Seeing myth as a communication medium for the tumult and peace inside me, I thought to create a personal neo-mythology. Which, if this practice ever becomes popular with others, I would suggest the genre name of the stories to be, “Personal Neo-Mythology.” And that’s the idea, you are creating your own non-super-natural mythology to address your problems. Whether it’s a breakup with your partner, the death of a loved one, or any other of the common and unique human discontents.
I have already generated what might be about one hundred of these meditation stories. Initially, I was loathe to share them because I was worried about what others would think. And that they are very fantastic, and sometimes have a child-like simplicity. What changed my point of view was actually a story I generated that made it clear I should began to share these stories. In the near future, I hope to extract my stories and publish them as a series of short books for the Kindle. I’m not sure if there’s an audience, but what I’ll do for each story, is to describe the theme, tell the story, and also show the impact on my life and the events surrounding the story.
So if you’re going to attempt this type of meditation:
- Sit in a quiet place as free from interruption as possible.
- Pick a theme, the more emotionally relevant, often the more powerful the story.
- Trust that you will stick to that theme as you construct it. Let it guide you back if you get lost in your assembly of the story.
- If you get stuck, imagine that a child asked you what happens next in the story.
- Then sit back and create it.
You may surprise yourself. I know I have.
January 29, 2011
January 1, 2011
Tim walked through the holiday crowd at the mall. He shuffled past a women’s clothing store. Inside he noticed a dress that his ex-girlfriend would wear on occasion. It was a black number, with vertical stripes along the wasteband. He was amazed it was there considering how fast women’s fashion turned over. Tim started to tear up a little. It had only been a month since they broke up.
In the crowd, a woman pushed her way toward Tim. Her name was Xeni and she was about thirty five. She saw him standing, looking in the window. She wasn’t sure what he was sad about, but she approached. Xeni aimed her phone at him, to make sure, and then she turned him around and gave Tim a great big hug.
Tim was surprised and totally derailed from his sadness. He did not know Xeni at all. She was a random person in the mall, but he knew why the hug had come. Small variations in his heart rate were transmitted to his phone. They were compared to a statistical base line of a communal historical heart rates. Then a program flagged him as having a high likelihood of sadness.
Xeni was a Universal Acceptor. This meant that she would hug anyone who needed it. Not everyone else was as kind as Xeni. Tim had already been passed by two Mutual Christians, who would only hug other people from their particular sect. Xeni didn’t care that Tim was an Atheist. She really didn’t care what anyone was, as long as they needed her help.
After a thirty second long hug, Tim wiped the tears from his eyes and looked into Xeni’s. He asked her if he could buy her some hot chocolate and she gladly accepted.
October 19, 2010
I traveled to Las Vegas with my girlfriend. We were driving by car, and we had a little GPS unit with us. On the way there we got hungry and decided to look for a restaurant. While at the gas station, we looked through the list of restaurants that were nearby us. This was something I have done multiple times before, but this time I was struck with a paradigm shift: The exposure a simple list offers a restaurant, eliminates the problems of bad physical exposure.
With GPS listings of restaurants, the Indian Restaurant buried deep in the strip mall has as much exposure as the McDonald’s on the corner. Of course, this does not eliminate the competitive advantage Starbucks and McDonald’s have of being familiar. And if you’re traveling by visuals, you’ll still see the restaurant on the corner first.
With self-driving cars, this will go even further. The necessity to discriminate by visuals could disappear. You simply get hungry, dial in your desired food, and arrive at the location. The car will have become the mobile room it has always attempted to be.
August 26, 2010
Cultures have generally grown through reproduction. The more people your culture has, the better the odds of your cultures survival. However, we live in an era of modern telecommunications. What if we had cultures that did not just grow through reproduction but through advertising and recruitment?
Companies do this to some degree, but their societies are preoccupied with product creation. This artificial society would only be preoccupied in the perpetuation of culture, not products.
Religions also do this, but are generally tied to a concept of supernatural activity of some sort.
As a necessity, the culture would have to be distinct, otherwise there would be no reason to join. I imagine someone putting their culture’s values on the internet, talking about the people they already share this culture with. And then going about establishing funds for the centralization of this culture.
July 30, 2010
Invoke, by Adrian Perez
Charlie looked out the window of his office at the kids on the other side of the street. There were three of them, all raggedy looking and about the age of twelve. Charlie hoped they would not cross in his direction. His negative thoughts beckoned them across the street and Charlie slammed his keyboard.
Ever since he had published the article on his new programming language this stuff happened all the time. Maybe the kids would skip his building. He was in an obscure part of town so most of the Teen Swarms stayed away. They walked near the industry museums and took classes at the Gymnasium, surrounded by artificial forests. The kids stayed in their part of town, and Charlie stayed in his hacker commune.
He heard the door of the building suck open and closed, creating a pressure ripple. The teens were in the building. Charlie sipped his coffee and scooted his chair next to the whiteboard, so it would be hard to see him in his office.
“There he is,” he heard from his doorway, “Are you Charlie Roth?”
“Yeah, you caught me,” Charlie responded, still not turning around.
“Hey dude,” he heard a female voice chime in, “It’s not so bad. We’re only going to be here an hour.”
“Yeah, but you plus two more groups in the morning means six hours out of my day.”
Charlie turned around. He looked at the teens and his overlay lenses told him a bit about the kids. Mik, Jef, and Kina. All born in the thirty-forth district and subscribing to the North American Standard, and the Former-US Coda. Charlie wished the Invocation Protocol did not pass into the Standard last year.
“I Invoke Charlie Roth,” Kina piped.
Charlie stared at the girl. Not saying a word. Things had gotten bad in the last twenty years. Peak oil happened. The Great Recession turned into the Big Suck. Society fell apart pretty badly. Low grade warring persisted in the background of mass personal depression and impotence. Twenty years later, truly efficient solar started to get everyone back on their feet, but the Big Suck had left a giant scar across the system. Most nations did not exist anymore. Everyone got used to driving bicycles. People did not travel long distances and this resulted in huge swathes of economic stratification mixed with cultural divides that for a brief period made the world a very scary place. The girl in front of Charlie didn’t remember any of that. She was just excited to exercise control over someone older than her.
Jef asked insecurely, “Do you accept Invocation?”
“Of course I accept,” Charlie answered, “I don’t want to get sued. I’m just thinking of…the past. How much programming do you know?”
“We’ve all learned to modify our Interface Lense Profiles. The last program was an intelligence plug-in for our Autonomous Assistant which is how we found you,” Mik told Charlie, “And we’ve all written Coda.” Coda referred to the law of their particular Enclave.
“That’s mostly human stuff,” Charlie answered, “Have you written any mechanical stuff?”
All three of the young men and women looked at each other quizzically. They had come here to Invoke Charlie Roth, to force him to teach them, as was their right under the new law passed from Coda to Standard. They had not thought long enough or been polite enough to do research.
“Well, as is my right under Invocation, I can send you away to do research I know can be found, but seeing as you’ve already interrupted me and that you’re already here. Let’s get started with a ‘Hello World’ for Assistant Speech Comprehension for past tense narratives.”
The children glowed and vibrated with enthusiasm. Sitting straight down on the floor of Charlie’s office to listen and learn.
June 3, 2010
John Boyd has influenced my life greatly. His ideas for creating self-renewing social systems to increase our capacity for independent action constantly challenges me to rethink my approaches to problems. And it is with great happiness, that I realized I can honor John Boyd by incorporating his name into my vernacular as a verb.
Recently, I was playing Team Fortress 2 with my brother. It’s a first-person shooter where you are running around on teams trying to capture flags and deliver bombs. Teamwork goes a long way in this game. At one point, my team started to get cornered and all of our momentum deflated. We were getting our asses handed to us. My brother and I have both read about Boyd, so I said to him, “Let’s Boyd this problem,” as if John Boyd’s name were an verb.
Now what does this mean, to Boyd a problem? It means to apply the OODA loop to a problem, an activity that would take up many words to describe, but can be summarized by just saying, “Boyd it.”
The OODA loop is composed of four concepts. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The OODA loop initially looks very power-pointy and meaningless, but it’s integrally important and rich with meaning. Essentially it is about changing your point of view to be constantly appropriate for the circumstances in a repetitive feedback loop. When organized against an opponent, this comes out to moving faster on many wavelengths, and folding them back upon themselves until they cannot contest you for resources.
Breaking up the OODA loop into discrete components and analyzing it in a piece meal fashion wouldn’t be appropriate for a highly tactical response. So just saying, “Let’s Boyd it,” worked to break us out of our defeat, and reorient ourselves to the problem at hand and find new ways to interfere with the enemies momentum. By Boyding the other team, and ourselves, we were able to turn the defeat into victory, in a way that made our victory look surprisingly lopsided.
Understanding Boyd’s philosophy is aided by understanding him as an individual. John Boyd was a fighter pilot, military strategist, and systems theorist that illustrated a path to developing ourselves and institutions such that we are increasing our capacity for independent action. The book Boyd is a good synopsis of his life. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed/dp/0316881465 I would also recommend the wikipedia article about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_%28military_strategist%29 And the wikipedia article about one of his key concepts, the OODA Loop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_Loop And for the best insight into a concise summary of his philosophy, I recommend reading his work, Destruction and Creation. http://www.goalsys.com/books/documents/DESTRUCTION_AND_CREATION.pdf