Category Archives: note to self

Desire | بهر آن میلست

For Sashels…

بهر آن میلست در ماده به نر
تا بود تکمیل کار همدگر
میل اندر مرد و زن حق زان نهاد
تا بقا یابد جهان زین اتحاد
میل هر جزوی به جزوی هم نهد
ز اتحاد هر دو تولیدی زهد
شب چنین با روز اندر اعتناق
مختلف در صورت اما اتفاق
روز و شب ظاهر دو ضد و دشمنند
لیک هر دو یک حقیقت می تنند
هر یکی خواهان دگر را همچو خویش
از پی تکمیل فعل و کار خویش
زانک بی شب دخل نبود طبع را
پس چه اندر خرج آرد روزها

bahr-e-an meilast dar madeh beh nar

ta bud takmil kar-e-hamdegar

meil andar-e-mard o zan haqq zan nehad

ta baqa yabad jahan zin ettehad

meil-e-har jozui beh jozui ham nehad

ze ettehad-e-har do towlidi zahad

shab chenin ba ruz andar-e-etenaq

mokhtalef dar surat amma ettefaq

ruz o shab zaher-e-do zedd o dashmanand

leik har do yek haqiqat mitanand

har yeki khahan degar ra hamchu khish

az pay takmil-e-fe’el o kar-e-khish

zank bi shab dakhl nabud tabe’ ra

pas che andar-e-kharj arad ruzha

/purpose [of]/that/desire/is/in/female/for/male/

/so [that]/was/complete/work/[of] each other/

/desire/into/man/and/woman/Truth/from it/put/

/so [that]/survive/[would] be/world/from this/union/

/desire [of]/one part/to/one part/also/placed/

/from/union/both/a product/give/

/night/the same/with/day/in/embrace/

/different/in/form/but/unison/

/day/and/night/appear/contrary/and/enemies/are/

/but/both/one/truth/… [proclaim]/

/each one/wants/[the] other/just like/self/

/for/completion [of]/action/and/work/[of] itself/

/from that/without/night/income/[would] not be/nature/[to]/

/then/what/[into]/outside/spend/days/

Woman’s desire and man’s

exist to complete each others’ work.

From the absolute, desire emanates

into each

For the world of form to be preserved.

The desire of one incompleteness for the other

likewise exists

so that from their union, newness is born.

Just like this, night embraces day.

Opposite in form, always already one.

To the senses day and night appear in contrast to each other.

But both silently attest to the same sweet truth.

Each desires the other as its own self

to complete some hidden purpose.

And as for human nature,

without night,

what income would it receive?

Without that sweet shared mystery,

its days would have nothing to expend.

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi III 4414-20

–translation by halewi

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Love is reckless | لاابالی عشق باشد

To P. Minto…

لاابالی عشق باشد نی خرد
عقل آن جوید کز آن سودی برد
ترک تاز و تن گداز و بی حیا
در بلا چون سنگ زیر آسیاب
سخت رویی که ندارد هیچ پشت
بهره جویی را درون خویس کشت
پاک می بازد، نباشد مزد جو
آنچنان که پاک می گیرد زهو
می دهد حق هستیش بی علتی
می سپارد باز بی علت فتی
که فتوت دادن بی علتست
پاک بازی خارج هر ملتست
زآنکه ملت فضل جوید یا خلاص
پاک بازانند قربانان خاص
نی خدا را امتحانی می کنند
نی در سود و زیانی می زنند

la-obali eshq ni kherad

aql an juyad kaz an sudi barad

tork taz o tan godaz o bi hayya

dar bala chon sang-e-zir-e-asiab

sakht ruyi ke nadarad hich posht

bahreh juyi ra darun-e-khish kosht

pak mibazad, nabashad mozd ju

an chenan keh pak migirad ze hu

midahad haq hastiash bi ellati

mi separad baz bi ellat fati

keh fotavat dadan-e-bi ellatast

pak bazi kharej-e-har mellatast

zankeh mellat fazl juyad ya khelas

pak bazanand ghorbanan-e-khas

ni khoda ra emtehan mikonand

ni dar-e-sud o ziani mizanand


/reckless/love/is/[but] not/intellect/

/reason/[for] that/searches/from which/profit/gains/

/[as fierce as] a Turk/red-hot/and/body-melting/and/without modesty/

/in/distress/like/nether millstone/

/stone-faced/that/has/no/back [at all]/

/gain-seeking/in/[his/her]self/has killed/

/gambles clean [away],/is not/wage-seeking/

/so long as/receives clean/from Him/

/gives/Truth/[his/her] existence/without cause/

/gives it/back again/without cause/young beggar/

/for/devotion/giving/without/cause/is/

/gambling clean [away]/beyond/any/religion/is/

/in as much as/religion/favour/seeks/or/deliverance/

/those who gamble clean [away]/are/[the] special sacrifices/

/neither/God/[do they] test/

/nor/[on the] door of/profit/and/loss/[do they] hit/

Love is reckless–not reason.

Reason searches for a profit.

Love comes on fiercely, scorching, melting all form, shameless.

But in despair, sturdy as a millstone.

Stone-faced, loyal, selfless.

Love is love because it’s killed all self-regard.

Love gambles itself away. It doesn’t look for payment.

It receives everything it needs

from beyond.

The absolute gives us life for no reason.

The lover gives it back again just the same.

For true devotion is giving–without cause.

Gambling  yourself clean away is beyond any religion.

While religion is for seeking favour and deliverance,

Those who gamble themselves clean away are

the choicest sacrifice.

They don’t put You to the test.

Nor do they knock on the door of gain and loss.

All they want is to give

Everything.

 

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi VI 1967-74

–translation by halewi

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Gifts | گر بیان معنوی کافی شدی

گر بیان معنوی کافی شدی
خلق عالم عاطل و باطل بدی
گر محبت فکرت و معنیستی
صورت روزه و نمازت نیستی
هدیه‌های دوستان با همدگر
نیست اندر دوستی الا صور
تا گواهی داده باشد هدیه‌ها
بر محبتهای مضمر در خفا

gar bayan-e-ma’anavi kafi shodi

khalq-e-‘alam ‘atel o batel budi

gar mohabbat fekrat o ma’anisti

surat ruzeh o namazat nisti

hediyeh-ha-ye-dustan ba hamdegar

nist andar-e-dusti ela savar

ta govahi dadeh bashad hediyeh-ha

bar mohabbat-ha-yeh-mozmar dar khafa

/if/spiritual discourse/enough/had been/

/creation of the [temporal] world/useless/and/vain/was/

/if/love/thought/and/[temporal] meaning/is/

/form/fasting/and/prayer/is not/

/gifts of friends/to/each other/

/is not/as to friendship/but/forms/

/so that/witnessing/being given/gifts/

/to/tacit loves/in/mystery/

If spiritual words were enough

the created world would be useless and vain.

If love was all thought and sense

fasting and prayer would not exist.

Friends’ gifts to each other,

compared to friendship,

are nothing but forms.

But their giving is what

testifies to those mysterious loves unseen.

 

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi I 2625-27

–translation by halewi

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Homo analogicus interconnectivus

As i’m toiling away on my first comprehensive exam paper, i thought i’d document my current, perhaps rather muddled, thinking. Lately, when not procrastinating, i’m working on synthesizing the literature on mental models, conceptual metaphor and cognitive anthropology to develop a new (“folk”) model of human cognition–homo (analogicus) interconnectivus –that can be applied to analyzing social-ecological (amongst other) systems.

Without giving too much away (i.e. boring you, the imaginary reader), the core idea here is that humans tend to reason analogically, meaning they make sense of new information largely in terms of past experience. Whenever we’re confronted with some sort of ill-defined conceptual domain (e.g. love), we tend to draw on more familiar, concrete domains (e.g. journey, partnership, attachment) to discuss, think and make inferences about that new domain. And underlying that tendency toward analogical (or ‘case-based’) reasoning lies a pretty simple principle of relative association or, put another way, qualified interconnectivity. (Haven’t really settled on one or the other yet. None is perfect.) Anyway, this is the idea that each object of cognition or memory, be it a word, a taste, an emotion, an image, etc., shares ‘tags’ (in a metaphorical sense) with other objects. What matters for the purposes of cognition and inference is the strength and quality, or nature, of the connection between a given object and  other objects, which we could imagine as a function of tag-similarity, or tag-closeness, etc. This means that objects of cognition exist in a sort of ‘cloud’ of relative interconnectivity with other objects in our minds, which pre-disposes us to making certain inferences, and not others, when confronted with something new.

It likely sounds complex, but that’s just because i’m not explaining it well at all. It’s actually very, very simple, and provides a pretty good shared base for generating (and validating) other constructs related to how humans reason and act in response to their environment (e.g. schemas, scripts, prototypes…). I’m sure someone else has said this before, using much better language. In any case, the task i’ve set for myself in this case is showing how mental models, conceptual metaphor and model-based reasoning all overlap on this core principle, and what sorts of pragmatic utility such a lens affords us when analyzing complex systems.

Below are some of the tag clouds i’m thinking of using as part of a figure in one of my sections. They’re created using Wordle, a fun little online app.

Wordle: analogyWordle: cognition

Wordle: interconnectivityWordle:  culture

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a zizekian ramble on truth and ideology

This is a new kind of post where i have no idea what it is i want to say, other than that i need to say something. I just finished watching yet another brilliant Slavoj Zizek talk, so brilliant that i find myself uncomfortably close to deifying the man. I don’t know how to post the talk up here, since it’s not widely available. That said, let the rambling thoughts begin.

What i like about Zizek is that he’s constantly reminding us that life as we know it *is*, inescapably, a contradiction. A series of contradictions leading up to one big contradiction. I can’t help but try, in my own groping way, to see my own ever-adapting worldview reflected in this man’s genius.

To my mind, so long as we experience subjectivity–that is, an only *partial* experience of what *is*–contradiction is inevitable. So to be really truthful is to actually embrace that. Of course, these inherent contradictions… the inevitable product of experiencing reality on the temporal scale, on the ‘secular’ scale in the original meaning of the term… can be found everywhere. The contradiction that ‘i’ exist yet that there is really only one transcendent reality… the contradiction that no matter how hard we try to ‘acheive,’ let’s say, ‘justice,’ it will never be a fully accomplished project… the fact that any system that tries to explain everything *must* fall short somewhere… the contradiction that when i reassure someone i love them, even i don’t know what kind of love i mean, let alone whether i mean it.

This is the ‘differance’ of Derrida, the ‘separation’ of Rumi, the ‘dialectic’ of Hegel or whoever. The pursuit of truth (or rather, the fundamental submission to it) means refusing to pretend that the world as we see it isn’t broken, that everything is, or will be, OK in the secular sense… It won’t! It can’t be! That’s ideology, i think. Or i think that’s the inner truth of what Zizek means when he talks about ideology, anyway, whether he thinks he means that or not. Difference, distinction, language, constructs… these all entail incompleteness, a violence against the whole. An inevitable violence. Stop trying to pretend it’s not there! Just accept it, damn it, don’t pretend! Submit! Submit! Lament! Long for it! Don’t accept lies that tell you you don’t have to!

Hmm… that feels a little better. I don’t think that really does it justice (ha!), but maybe someone somewhere someday will read this and just go *yes* … *exactly*. That would be cool. I’d be lying if i pretended i didn’t care, even a little.

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Evolution, agency, and Darwinian discourse — part I

As follows are my comments on an ongoing evolution-education post over at ecobobble:

I agree 100% with the argument that ID is trying to present itself as something it’s not (science). This is disingenuous, misleading, and fraught with lameness. …

[However] What i’m suggesting is that the reason ID proponents feel the need to promote their agenda is inherently tied up with the fact that, not least through the semantic terms it uses, *science* tries to present itself (inadvertently) as something *it’s* not: a worldview expressing an opinion on where there is ‘agency’ and where there is not. Where there is ‘order’ and where there is not, where and what ‘intelligence’ is, and where and what it is not. This is not science–this is metaphysical opinion!!! This is hubristic. Subtle, perhaps, maybe indetectable for those engaged in science, but hubristic nonetheless.

E.g. by saying genetic variation is the result of copying “errors” — which is precisely the word that’s used in modern darwinian discourse — the implication is that it’s a ‘machine’ that *mal*functions occasionally. I.e. it’s imperfect and ‘tries’ to do something, but ‘fails’ at this.. because of these ‘failures’ we get variation, adaptation over generations, and voila, evolution… a ‘mindless’, ‘random’ process. This assumes ‘mind’ and ‘intention’ are *produced* by complex neural structres such as the human brain. But there are alternatives to this view–current mainstream darwinian discourse ignores this.

Conway Morris tries to account for this by inverting the whole idea of agency, consciousness, or intelligence. He posits that material structures are not ‘producers’ of intelligence/agency, but rather ‘receivers’ of intelligence/agency.

His point is that we may be mistaking the radio program as a *product* of the radio, rather than something ambient that we can receive via the complex machinery of the radio!!!

It’s like mistaking your browser for the cloud. My grandma makes this mistake all the time. She thinks all the stuff she can access via the internet is somehow stored permanently on her computer, and she has to continually ‘erase’ all the stored up data. She makes the simple mistake of thinking the browser *is* the information, not a tool for *accessing* the information.

Darwinian discourse so far hasn’t accounted for this. The Evo-ID debate could probably be somewhat defused if this was taken into account. It takes some metaphysical humility on the part of scientists, however.

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Life, meaning and |truth| — part I

On another blog i contribute to–ecobobble–i recently replied to a co-author re: the ‘meaning of life’ … Here’s an excerpt of my comments, which basically reflect my inklings of |truth| (more to come):

Like many, i’d been struggling with this q how to derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’ for years. Somewhat recently, i stumbled upon something which, it seems, happens to work quite well. It turns out similar schemas have been around in ‘mystic’ [i cringe at this term], esoteric religious traditions since time immemorial; so, accordingly, i lay no claim to it.

Essentially, begin by stripping away all assumptions, regardless of whether they seem true or not. This is in the spirit of pure logic; the ultimate rationalist approach to reality. What you are left with, if you cross the rubicon of Descarte’s assumption of individualist agency (i think therefore i am, etc.) … is, well, nothing!

No assumptions at all leads to a kind of metaphysical nihilism; emptiness; non-existence… nothing… 0. (…this might resonate with those familiar with Buddhist scriptiure …)

…now, how helpful is that for functioning in the world? Not very.

Ok, so let’s make the next simplest assumption… …something… ‘existence’ … ‘everything/time/place/space,’ etc. … 1 … ‘the axiom’ … |reality| …

(note the similarity to the 1/0 binary system used in technology) … its essentially choosing 1 over 0… this is a belief–an assumption… trust in existence, |reality|, |truth|

…stop here! yes, stop!

…Now, if you keep to this–|truth|–as the most ‘real’ assumption possible, how should you then act? …

This worldview implies that our subjective experiences are merely miniscule, inherently ‘imperfect’ or ‘incomplete’ subsets of our primary axiom (i.e. 1, |reality|, |truth|…the set of all sets, etc.). [Although we perceive ourselves as ‘separate’ entities, which we must do in order to function, at root, ‘we’ are in fact unfathomably interconnected parts of one whole. This can have interesting implications for what we assume to be individual, separate ‘consciousnesses,’ ‘intentions,’ and so on, although perhaps that’s best left for another post.]

What we view as in our own individual interest, therefore, is most apparent to us, and we should not ignore it. But, in terms of how we behave … [towards entities we perceive as separate and distinct from ourselves, in the spirit of truth, we must then do our utmost not to lose sight of our primary axiom: namely, that there is only one reality, one complete, absolute truth; that the ‘independent’ existence of ‘separate’ things is relative, transitory and ultimately less than absolutely true.] … it then follows we should try to imagine what others’ (social groups, humans, animals, etc.) ‘view’ as in their own interest , [regard this as our very own interest (since our ‘distinctiveness’ is transient and relative)] and act accordingly… if our actions are related to something more abstract, with less perceived ‘agency,’ like a landscape, or population of a given species, etc., we have to really exercise our moral imagination and act according to what *we* think is in our objects’ best interest … this, of course, has to be weighed with the interests of everyone/thing else of which we’re aware!!

[In a way, the normative implications of this non-dualist assumption is to make an effort not to act like autistic children with respect to the world around us. Autistic children have a genuine inability to imagine how others think and feel. Being non-autistic, but acting as if you were, is essentially ‘untrue’ in a metaphysical sense, insofar as it flies in the face of our primary axiom/assumption of non-duality, and is arguably akin to ‘evil,’ in the moral sense.]

That’s pretty much it.

Sounds simplisitic at first, but as you can see, the implications get quite complex, as we must constantly apply this principle to all the temporal and spatial contexts of our everyday lives.

This, in my opinion, is where religions (or personal philosophies, such as GerBear’s) have key roles to play … they’re basically heuristics for applying this rather daunting principle to the exigencies of day-to-day banality.

Along the same logic, certain religions/philosophies emerge, and catch on, in certain temporal-historical contexts.

A problem with this is that contexts continue to change… all these heuristics are only *relatively* true/helpful insofar as they are products of their time and place.

E.g. stoning adulturers to death may well have been the necessary execution of our |reality| in the socio-historical context of ancient Canaan. Today, obviously, this is no longer the case. Similarly, 1000 years from now our present-day norms may well appear ‘barbaric’ or ‘backwards’ … this is normal.. with respect to our axiom (|reality|), it is apparent that we live in a contingent, incomplete world (a factor, i postulate, of our perception of time as linear..but who knows)… change is a constant from our limited human perception (although rate of change is also subject to change) …

Where problems arise is when people mistake the temporally-contextually specific heuristics for the axiom they aim to approximate.

…anyway, these are just some thoughts on my inherently imperfect, incomplete heuristic for deriving the ‘ought’ from ‘is’ ; )

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