Saturday, October 29, 2005

Little Kung-fu Girl

A little girl on the National Geographic channel inspired me today. I happened to switch the TV on this afternoon (I don't really watch TV except for Discovery, National Geographic, for cricket matches, or for the news) and the show 'About Asia' was on. They featured a kung-fu school in China where the best martial arts masters came from. I've always been fascinated by the Chinese art of war because it is more like dance and it is actually more peaceful than our modern 'beating up methods'. There are many kinds of kung-fu and weapons include swords and sticks but they said that the most deadliest weapon was the human fingers.

The program showed how students from all over China come to study kung-fu at the that school. Some students receieve more attention as the masters believe they have a special potential to become great kung-fu masters. One such student was a little 10-year old girl. In addition to 6 hours of kung-fu everyday, students had to do chores, meditate daily, and also get lessons in history, english, geography, and calligraphy. This little girl seemed to make big life decisions for her age.

She openly confessed to hating doing the chores, especially washing clothes outside in the harsh winter but she did it with committment that was required as part of her training. Wow.. how many of us adults would willingly undergo living in silent isolation, no TV/phone/computer/music, and dedicate life to learning and perfecting one's inner and outer discipline.

I am so moved by the extraordinary story of this young one. She had been abandoned as a baby by her natural parents. Although loved by her adoptive mother, she was repeatedly physically abused by her adoptive father. At the age of 6, her mother sent her to the kung-fu school for her to get away from being beaten. As she spoke to the interviewer in her girly Chinese language, she cried when she spoke about her father.. saying things like "I wanted to kill him everytime he hit me". Although life at the school was not a walk in the park, she felt more empowered than ever now that she knew how to protect herself. Learning kung-fu also gave her the discipline and patience needed to help deal with her anger. It was funny when she'd say that meditation never worked and that she'd always think of her mother when she was supposed to think of nothing.

But like the founder of Taoism said, everyone has to find their own path to enlightenment. So at 10 years old, this little girl missed her mom too much and decided to go back home. Kung-fu monks are supposed to live in isolation all their life, they are not expected to raise families, and they must be celibate. I guess this 'little dragon' girl's path was to be there for her mom for the moment.

The show also talked to monks who had renounced their families, given up any contact with the outside world, a 103 year old woman who was as dexterous as ever, and even one guy who thought he could become immortal like a Tao God if he perfected his kung-fu art.

The idea is for each of us to find our own way. We need to find our purpose. People who have found purpose are more evolved. I truly believe that the next evolutionary principle in the human race is on the spiritual level. The ability to find peace in a turbulent world, and to be free of negativity, jealousy, egoism, and money-mindedness will give us a greater chance to be selected by nature to survive.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Illusive Love

In keeping with my personal committment to get up early in the mornings and get some exercise, eat healthy, and work right, I feel extremely elated this morning. I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and surprisingly did not feel like I had to go to war with my body over the need to sleep. I think that is because I didn't have to wake up FOR something.. other than putting on my running shoes and getting out for a brisk walk with my lovely mom. The weather was absolutely beautiful.. It was wonderful walking around my compound listening to the birds singing their chirpy chants.

As I walked, I went into one of my deep thought trance moods.. and the subject that came up was one that has boggled age old philosophers from the beginning of time. Whats this love thing all about.. I remember my Philosophy of Love course I took in college which ended up leaving me with more questions than answers about this thing we call love. What on earth does it mean to fall in love. I know a lot of the contemporary thinkers believe it is a product of chemical reactions in our brain that give us the sensation of being in love.. similar reactions occur when we consume chocolate and feel warm and tingly inside. I don't know what it is about love that is so mysterious and hard to understand. If it feels so good, why don't we see it more than we should? Is love really just some biophysical process and we're fooled to believe that there is something noble attached to it?

Think about how difficult it is to find the right person to spend the rest of your life with these days. My mom always tells me how simple love used to be back in her day. If a girl and guy liked each other, there would be no question about them talking about spending the rest of their lives with each other. They weren't afraid of committment back then, because it was viewed as increasing the support system. When I look at my own stories and those of my friends, I really wonder about the probability of you wanting someone and they wanting you back. Its just not that simple anymore. Committment in a relationship has become a fear factor for many in our generation.. is it because we are seeing so many marriages break right in front of our eyes? Or maybe its the fact that our priorities lie more with success in business rather than success in our personal relationships. I am afraid that one day in the near future, the word love will come to mean an inconvenience, pressure, and too much work especially since it isn't all for yourself the individual. It requires giving.. and many young people feel that this would be a big risk as you could lose everything if it all went wrong.

People like to have control over their lives more now than ever. Falling in love seems to make people vulnerable and powerless even if it feels good in the beginning. Many older singles that I know have told me that they do not need to be in a relationship anymore.. they are 'beyond' that need. One woman told me she left her first husband because there was just no growth in her marriage. It seems that today, the value for people is to become more advanced. Change is the only constant and so it is with people. We change and grow all the time.. how could an illusive concept like love hold for eternity if this is the case?

As much as I'm an optimist, I'm also a realist. I have yet to experience that deep true love that is often the subject of movies and books. On the other hand, love is so abstract and I may be totally wrong trying to explain it rationally. As in a dream I had one night, the strong man with a brilliant smile told me "Love just IS."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Robin Sharma: the high-tech guru

I discovered Robin Sharma about two months ago after reading his book 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari'. The book is an amazing journey into the potential world of how we can live our best lives using our most treasured faculty, our mind and heart. The book tells a story about the transformation of a hot-shot lawyer who does not have time for anything besides making money, attending high-profile social events, and winning in the courtroom. The transformation comes about when he is faced with himself after a heart attack caused by his selfish and unhealthy lifestyle. He comes to the realization that he hasn't accomplished anything meaningful in his life.. he sets off to India to learn the way of the happiest, healthiest, and most peaceful monks on earth.

As with any genuine self-help book, the good ones are those that actually give you things to DO to make you develop and grow. 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari' is one such book that doesn't only inspire with big-talk but gets down to practical habit-forming strategies that can alter the course of each day, and so your life can change in a matter of a month or two. The biggest lesson I got was one of hope and optimism.. you don't have to believe that changing your life is not in your control. You have full control over your life because you can control the thoughts in your mind, even if you are helpless in certain situations. Life CAN be better.

I highly reccomend this book to anyone looking to find purpose and drive for living true happiness. I didn't realize how important habits are in the state of your happiness.. my mentor Mr. Yogi always pushes me to live healthier and to try to be in the best physical shape. It truly increases your chances of smiling more, being more kind, and elevating your daily life.. not to mention you would be better equipped to handle unavoidable stressors. So I am thinking about cutting down on alcohol, getting my ass to the gym, and waking up earlier in the mornings (one of the most emphasized habits encouraged by Robin Sharma). Listening to his podcast the other day, Robin talked about overcoming fears, those things that block us in every way.. I loved the story he narrated about a man entering a temple that was guarded by these ferocious barking dogs. The man decided that instead of running away from the dogs, he would run to them. He noticed that the dogs' bark became lighter and eventually they just sat down in front of him. Why do we have the tendency to believe that our fears are so undefeatable.. they may be nothing in reality.. we make them to be more than what they are. It is not easy to run to your fears, and I'm the first one to admit that. But then I keep going back to this story because it spoke to me so deeply due to my real-life fear of dogs. .

I think I really like this guy Robin. He seems cool and doesn't seem afraid to admit that he likes material things.. I was just reading his blog about how he loves India while he is touring there right now. He talked about the service of the hotels, the fact that Indians are among the happiest people on the planet (think thats because we're so good looking!!), and how he overlooks crime, poverty, and corruption that is so rampant.. he does have his shortcomings in this respect.. but I think he prefers to look at the brighter side of things. It also struck me just how similar we are with our observations. I've always told people to listen to cab drivers.. Robin Sharma has read my mind on many occasions. He truly is the contemporary high-tech guru of our times.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Metaphysics: Experience vs. Thought

On the ever interesting philosophical course of Metaphysics, I came across a blog posting on the fundamental definition of this line of thought. In the age of post-modern constructivist thinking, contemporary thinkers leave little room for the immutable existence of the Absolute. I'd like to open up the debate on whether it is fruitless to think about time, space, and infinity just because our senses cannot reach them objectively. I for one know that I would hate to give up the quest for exploring the ultimate metaphysical truth.

My dear friend and fellow-thinker Philo arrives at the following juncture at his own quest:

"Thus metaphysics is beyond our senses because it realises that though we don't see an obvious connection between matter, reason tells us there is (e.g. earth orbiting sun, that we can see stars across the universe). Further, since the time of Kant, it has become increasingly clear that we cannot describe reality correctly (i.e. from one metaphysical foundation), while we have theories founded on many separate / discrete things. Thus Space and Time cannot both exist, nor can particles and forces (the current paradigm). This explains why we now live in a post-modern relative culture of no absolute truths, because our theories are founded on many things, thus at the end of the day these are merely human constructions, ideas approximating reality, but not absolutely true. So how do we overcome this? By rejecting particles, forces and time, and explaining / connecting these many things from One thing Space."

And my thoughts at this moment in time:

The definition of metaphysics is about the only concept that would remain constant in my mind, despite full awareness of our post-modernist era which does not rely on solid everlasting foundations. The word 'meta' comes from the meaning of 'our own'. For eg. 'metacognition' is a term used in cognitive psychology which refers to "knowledge of one's own cognition". In this esoteric regard, metaphysics warrants a definition of "Knowledge of our physical elements" or something to that effect. The definition alludes to the study of such, rather than the definition of the perceptions of how these physical elements are - which may be contingent upon the make-up of individuals' experience, perceptual predispositions, etc.

I must agree with Kant and Hume that nothing ever has to be absolute because our senses are never objective enough to perceive it. On that token, that does not mean the absolute does not exist. I still believe in the sheer logic of something must have to exist foundationally for us to be able to perceieve our own existence and the progress of science and technology which has clearly affected our existence. The only reason Descartes claimed to believe only in one's own existence is because of his ultimate belief that thought was proof that we exist: "I think therefore I am" his famous quote from the Meditations sums up metaphysics in a way - our thoughts tell us that we surely must exist - this metacognition is the basis of all ontology.

Experience may affect thought, but if we are aware of our cognitive workings to go higher into 'metacognition', our thoughts can guide us how to react to experience.

Metaphysics is definitely one of my hot destinations on the Philosophy Coaster. I love the idea of the big picture and the wonderful possibilities that await discovery. My idea about philosophical pondering is not whether we can find answers, but I feel more alive with the kind of questions that arise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

those teeny stem cells..

Got the latest issue of my Philosophers' Magazine. If anybody doesn't know about this brilliant publication, please explore it as soon as you get a chance. I have been enjoying reading their articles and I think the magazine is a great resource to stimulate your philosophical mind and get it off your daily troubles.

I just read the little news section and couldn't help thinking about it and so writing on this section which had a little blurb on the future implications of stem cell research. I am divided on this contemporary bioethical issue.. I'll be looking for your comments.

The article titled 'Warnings on Primate Stem Cell Research' in Issue 32 of The Philosophers' Magazine pg. 4 starts with a provocative claim:
"...experiments that implant human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates can unintentionally change their moral status."
The underlying argument being that human stem cells could potentially change the cognitive and emotional capabilities of animals, hence even their moral status. I believe we could learn a lot from animal behavior but how would they be classified if they were to develop more pronounced cognitive and emotional faculties than they have at present? I have come to the tentative conclusion (I'm full of contradictions aren't I) that all life evolves and no matter how much is done to stop or prevent anomalies, these anomalies are the very basis of evolution and the progression of our universal life force.

Moral status is a big question. I am all for any kind of healing research. I believe stem cell research could be a breakthrough for neurological setbacks like Parkinsons even Alzheimers. Is it really necessary to stop researching stem cell therapy? Why are we so afraid of experimenting with the environment we dwell in? The playing with nature argument does not cut it for me anymore. Morality changes along with our technology, freedom, political process, and biological tendencies.. let's face this fact.

As with any philosophical problem, there are other sides to the story. Some scientific dissidents believe that implanting stem cells in animals may lead to their suffering. This debate is a contemporary twist in the 'Don't test on animals' ethics campaign. Animals are precious creatures that make our planet vibrant and resourceful.. but we still use them for our benefit.. as herd, for food, for skin, for protection, and for medical experiments. Even when we treat animals in the most ethical way, we use them for our selfish survival goals. Sad but true, we're animals after all. I have no time to explain the connection, but this debate ties up with post-modernist determinist thought which throws ethics and free will out the window.

Back to the issue, the article ends of course inconclusively. (Boy do I love getting lost in Philosophy!!)
"There is no philosohpical consensus on the moral significance of changes in (cognitive/emotional animal) abilities if we could detect them".
These experts spent one year discussing whether stem cell experiments on animals should continue. Even if experiments were to stop now, they will start up inevitably.. the temptation to find a cure for neurological ills is too great for our selfish brains.

Bottom line is.. I'm still a proud member of the human race. Even though we've done some sucky things in the past, good is around us only if you choose (or are wired) to look at it. Playing with nature can find us answers. On the flipside if stem cells do prove to be the answers to Parkinsons and Alzheimers, we still will not rest as more diseases creep into us all the time. Trust me on that.

on the Philosophy Coaster..

Welcome Junkies! If you end up coming back to visit me here, you are a true basement philosophy junkie just like me. I am glad to meet you and would like to commend you on your brave journey into the most dangerous discipline of all -- Philosophy. Heavy thought characterizes this dark, deep, infinite space composed of the philosophical academic elements: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Existentialism, Psychology, Technology, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology, Divinity, and the Paranormal. You in for the ride? Hop in if you dare.. it could be a scary, frustrating, discouraging, and emotional ride but you are sure to come out being who you truly are.. (and out of the Matrix)

My philosophical arguments should have no bearing on you except on your thinking process. I never expect to teach unless I learn in the process. I apologize in advance if my posts are disorganized, random, and seem nonsensical when you read them the first time. It is only because this space reflects me in spontaneous action. Like the mirror. And it is my every intention to let you figure out who I am and what is it I REALLY believe.. I am full of mystery as I am full of wisdom.

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