Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Science of Silence

Is your TV set  on? Is your stereo blasting or does your computer stream digital formatted noise through the speakers? Perhaps you are one of those peculiar individuals who can turn these devices off for a moment?
You should try it, even for a few minutes. Not everyone can do this because they need an escape from the sterile atmosphere of the concrete block they live in. Silence tastes like plastic and so we must have a diversion for the brain. Of course I am not saying that music is a bad thing, on the contrary it can be meditative and even therapeutic. However, the topic of today is quietening.

Even all the apparatuses and gadgets are turned off, there is still something buzzing. Something within ourselves. The leg is fidgeting or fingers keep tapping the corner of the table. Where is the switch to turn down the circuits of the brain? Maybe I have ADD? Some sort of hyperactivity? Go to the doctor, get a recipe and a bottle of pills. That seems like the common solution of our time - no matter what the problem is.

Alcohol could do the trick. Numb the nervous system a little bit. This is the logic by which we try to relax after a long week at work/school. Been there, done that. And I must admit it does loosen you up for a while. An escape from reality, reset the cache in the computer of your head. But then comes Monday, and it's time to go back to the mundane world.

"There's nothing you can do about it. That's life".
These are the arguments that people in the rat race tell you. They get a piece of cheese every now and then and carry on living in their maze. They have become so apathetic they don't even try to look for a way out.
They just keep saying these same worn out affirmations they have heard from others of their kind.

Everyone is busy. Some people are so busy they have no idea why they are so busy.
You just need to get from place A to place B as quickly as possible. Everything in between is nothing but a distraction and disturbance - people get in the way. Not fun. In place B you have to do X and then return to place A.

Will death repay your sleep deprivation? Surely you get to rest in the grave if you don't have time to do it now...
Well, I don't think so. I think that people still repeat these mechanical reflexes they have learned during decades of conditioning. "Rest in peace" says the priest but people keep on twitching around even if they have six feet of dirt on top of them.

It is not an easy task to find inner peace, and not many people even try to look for such thing. In order to do so one needs to take a brave, conscious step towards it. The familiar pattern needs to be broken but first it has to be identifed. Recognize the restlessness. It is impossible to get rid of something if you don't even see it in the first place. It is good to observe your own thoughts and actions. Next time you stand in the line in a grocery store or in the bank for example. Why is this so terrible? Why am I making myself miserable by cursing this slow operation? Am I really in a hurry? What if everything is OK after all? When you keep asking yourself these questions for a while you get a reward. You get to smile to the anxious world around you.

It is good to step out of the concrete jungle. If you have a chance to walk or cycle to work/school, you should do it.
If you can walk through a park or a forest, even better. When you begin to find beauty and satisfaction from smaller and smaller chores, you are on the right path. The greatest mistake is to set off to the other direction; you will always need to achieve more, do everything faster and more efficiently.

If you can leave the city lights behind you entirely you have a chance to experience a real quietening. Myself, I have gone hiking to Lapland for a week or so every summer since 2008. No TV, no internet, no phone, no electricity, no tap water, no walls around. Just a big backpack with a tent, cooker, food and clothes inside. Water for drinking and washing up is found in the river or lake. Perfect ingredients for quietening, and a recipe that works.

My last piece of advice is this.
When some of the following plagues of our modern society stars to crawl into your mind:

  1. I think I'll buy a new smartphone or a laptop (even though the ones I have keep me alive quite nicely)
  2. I think I'll buy a car (even though I can cycle to work in ten minutes and walk to the store in five)
  3. I think I'll buy a house (and live also the other half of my life in this same god-forsaken place)
...just don't do it. Rather, buy some time for yourself.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

"Let there be a blog!" And there was a blog.

The ability to create is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most mysterious qualities of the human mind.

According to Wikipedia:

Creativity refers to the invention or origination of any new thing (a product, solution, artwork, literary work, joke, etc.) that has value. "New" may refer to the individual creator or the society or domain within which novelty occurs.

There is a famous collection of writings that people like to interpret in their own ways, each more intriguingly than the other. In these writings there is an almighty character called God, and these writings are of course called the Bible. The first story of the Bible is the story of creation, the Genesis. In this story God creates the heaven and the earth, the plants and animals and so on. I'm sure we have all heard this story and there are many ways to interpret it. However, there is one particularly important detail in this story, and that is how God creates all of this. Remember the part where God simply says: "Let there be light!" And then there was light. Pretty cool, huh?

The Bible isn't on my top five reading list but with this example I just wanted to point out the importance of words. Obviously creation and words have something to do with each other.

If you happen to be a dog owner and you tell your dog: "Come here", then the dog would probably come to you wiggling its tail. If you use different words then different things will follow because words are like contracts. You have agreed with your dog what these commandments mean, and for an obedient dog these are truly like words of God.

I am not planning to dwell on metaphysical gibberish but I would like to quickly point out a connection between God and Word.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

This is one of those mindfuck parts of the Bible. The Word was God? Think about it for a while. The original language of the New Testament is Greek, and the word 'word' in Greek is Logos. Logos has several meanings in philosophy, theology and rhetoric, and from this important term is derived the word 'logo' to describe different kinds of symbols mainly used in a commercial context. Also 'logic' has its roots in this term.

Anyway... then happened something quite interesting. "The Word bacame flesh". This is where the tragic hero character of the Bible, greatly beloved and hated Jesus comes in the picture. So what is the equation between God, Word, Logos and Jesus? Well, that's something you can think about if you wish. In this context I merely wanted to show that word (or Word) is a very crucial concept even in the Bible.

Also the Arabs understood the significance of words a long time ago. In their storybook, One thousand and one nights, there is the story of Ali Baba who opens the sealed cave with the legenday magical words: "Open Sesame". Thus we could conclude by saying that words create worlds and open doors.

Over the course of time people have developed various codes by which spoken words and concepts have been converted into writing. By reading these words you are in fact deciphering a writing system based on the Latin alphabet, and by doing so, interpreting the English language. All this is a very everyday function, and we use these codes all the time without really thinking about it.

Words are also quite faulty and imperfect since thoughts created by the human mind are so complex and sophisticated that they can not always be described by words. How to explain the feeling of seeing your child for the first time to someone who does not have any children? How to explain a rainbow to someone who has been blind for their whole life?

It has been told that the Buddha was enlightened. He understood something very profound that would probably be quite useful for each of us to understand. But he also knew that this understanding could not be simply transferred to or shared with other people. It was a path that everyone had to walk themselves, and so he told his disciples on his death bed not to follow any leader.

Words are powerful. Words can encourage or betray, fascinate and antagonise. Nowadays there is a lot of talk about mental abuse, and that is good. We should all be conscious of the impact of our words. The fact that I am writing a blog will have an impact on the readers - one way or another. Each action (and word) has its causes and effects. Myself I try to have a positive effect on people.

The most important reason for starting a blog was that sometimes I have a need to create something. I have not written this type of text for a long time and now it felt like a good idea. So I decided to take this "brave step" and bring my thoughts forth to you to consider.

Brave step. I chose this name for my blog because I very much like the invention or origination of any new thing that has value. Sometimes it takes courage, but it is also the best and most effective way to develop as a human being. You need to be creative.