Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your turn! (this post will be closed by next Wednesday @11pm)

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with a Skull, (1628).

This is your first post for comment (remember, at least 150 words, you can post and re-post as much as you want).

We started with a stew: The story of the victor and the vanquished. A struggle for redemption. Here are some of the themes (as I interpret them): 

1- Problematization in philosophy (don't take anything as settled or beyond elucidation). Metaphors must be sent to the cleaners and back.
2- Reincarnation (in Hinduism) as repetition.
3- Moksha as "being home" (and our condition of homelessness).
4- Yajna (or sacrifice) as sovereign exchange (or you call the shots). 
5- Dukkha or suffering. How should one approach the finite? I suggested the romantic approach to vanitas, (or, death as an ambivalent friendship)
6- Bhakti (devotion). Think of it as jazz (being in tune with others).

Also, I'd like to stress the importance of poetry, a higher form of philosophy:  Hence, Wadsworth's keen intuition that we're all a whole:

. . . All beings live with God, themselves
Are God, existing in one mighty whole,
As indistinguishable as the cloudless east
At noon is from the cloudless west, when all
The hemisphere is one cerulean blue.

Or this one by Novalis, implying ONENESS:

And shortly, I saw, that now on earth
Men must become Gods. 

In German it sounds better:

Kurz um, ich sah, dass jetzt auf Erden
Die Menschen sollten Götter werden.

What are your thoughts?

Remember our motto: We are all students!


Lava Arms said...

I today, for the first time, had the pleasure of ingesting a piece of fruit that had been elusive to my taste buds for the first 23 years of my life. The Jackfruit, which is usually indigenous to parts of south east Asia, as well as different parts of Jamaica, has a delicious chewy taste similar to that of a mix between mango and banana. It tastes just like a piece of Juicy Fruit gum! Upon seeing this fruit for the first time, I was immediately taken aback by the external structure of this particular fruit; its outer shell is tough, green and spiky, as well as inedible. Yet, inside, when cut into say, a quarter piece, its delicious innards are separated by fleshy, fruity pods which hold within them a seed the size of a regular sized olive. Eating this fruit requires a sort of intimacy, that is to say, your hands will get sticky with the natural fluids of this wonderful fruit, as you pull away pods of flesh, only to suck out the seeds and ingest at your hearts content.
This fruit is a perfect example of Brahman; the seeds can only be spread by the tearing apart of the original fruit, which is sought after by other life forces, such as various primates and wild animals which ingest the jack fruit as a source of energy.
Eating this fruit, I felt as if I was being nurtured, not by the mechanical structure of capitalism and the free american market, but by the fruit that has been made so perfect as to taste so sweet to the tounge; the consumption of the fruit being its only way to spread among the land and flourish.

In the end, the destruction of one beautiful thing, will lead to the growth and nurture of another.

Anonymous said...

Philosophy has always been confusing, well, at least to me. "What is it that we ought to know other than what we need to do to be successful or to survive?" Sometimes that's the thought. But I know that, that isn't always the case. It's like saying, do we ever consider more than what we're taught? For example, when we were taught colors, did anyone care to question if the sky was really blue or grass really green? Did anyone think to bring up why young adults and adults are treated differently yet a teen is always told to "act more like an adult"? It's strange and so confusing how we think we know just about everything only to find out that it's just about the opposite. But then, there's the philosophy of other countries. I found the thought of brahman interesting but hard to really consider. But I understand that it's everything. It's like this; from one thing there is many things within it, and those many things within it is one thing. It always go back to one thing or everything. Actually it almost, if not completely, contradicts itself! It goesw back to how philosophy is so confusing but I guess that's the beauty of it.


Gerald said...

The world runs on death. Many religions concern themselves with what happens after the event, ignoring it while turning life into preparation for it. The medical world focuses on putting off death and grasping at immortality. Cosmetics sell youthful masks to cover how close one is to their end. The very coal, gas, and oil that are burnt in the engine of society are the dead of the past. It may not be constantly noticed but death is all around us. As mankind realized its mortality it attempted to master death, and that would be slave became master of humanity. Death is a primal force of nature and if one does not accept its place then a rift is created between them and the natural world. To deny death is to deny nature. To label death as evil is to label nature as evil. These stances are of course ridiculous because we are nature too.

David Perez said...

This painting by Pieter Claesz is such an amazing depiction of death. A skull sitting atop a book. An overturned glass,empty, with nothing more than its fleeting reflections of the room. To the left, an expired lamp. And the writing quill shows attributes of a writer. And yet while death looms everywhere in this painting, there is still life. A book in which this writer can continue to live out his ideas. Its fascinating how most people fear death. We try to elude it, run away from it, eliminate it from our thoughts but we can't. Death is always there, its around us all the time. Yet I pose the question, Why do we fear it? Is it because we are taught to fear it? Is it our instinct to fear it? I believe we shouldn't. Death is nature and Death is the reason for living. We live because of death. We find beauty in things because of death. We value everything in life because of Death. It is essential to human life. Without Ying there couldn't be Yang and vice-versa. and with this I would like to end my comment with a quote from one of my favorite movies 'Troy'.

"The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal. Because any moment might be our last. Everything’s more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again."

niggi stardust said...

it is my belief that the only reason for living is to gain knowledge, or reach enlightenment, only then has your life truly meant something. Of course becoming an enlightened individual is no easy task, most human beings go their entire lives searching and searching for; answers, information, reasoning, and further knowledge as to why we exsist and what, if any is our purpose in living. Others dont even seek out these eternal questions at all but live blindly and clueless in their day to day lives, but thats an entirely different conversaion on whether or not ignorance is bliss.. Except for those blessed few who reach "bodhi" or enlightenment we all die still hungry for more. This is where i believe that reincarnation, the stream of consciousness at least contiues on,and will continue on. We come back into a new live still thirsting for ultimate understanding, an endless cycle of existence and gaining knowledge.Once all ignorance is destroyed there is no need for rebirth, because your being, your mind, your consciousness can go no further.

Alex said...

Philosophy and Eastern philosophy has always sparked an interest in me since I can remember. I have pondered the meaning of life, what is God?, what happens after death?, what is my significance on this Earth?, what is morality and why do we do the things we do and don't. Although hard to understand at first, it motivated me to keep researching and find a clearer understanding on topics and concepts that are presented. As humans, there is always this search for meaning and understanding and it brings us to questions, and disciplines in philosophy has brought us to better clarifying our questions. I feel that it is incredible to have the capacity as human beings to be able to form these questions to fulfill our thirst for knowledge and beauty and be able to pass it down from generations to generations as a tool for understanding the meaning in life in this vast universe. This is the reason why I'm amazed at how some of these concepts created thousands of years ago can still be applied to our present. The Maya and it's appearance/illusion, Samsara with it's wheel or cycle of change and repetition, some aspects of Karma, Moksha, etc.

Alex Molina

Alivia Poirier said...

The words "problematization in philosophy" caught my eye first, so Ill address that with a quote from the Buddha Ive always found interesting:
"Believe nothing,
no matter where you read it,
or who has said it,
not even if i have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

I think there is a lot of wisdom in this, we often get caught up in what is accepted as truth, by our family, our society, religion, and philosophy too would definitely fit into this category. Things should not be accepted as fact simply because they are stated as such. Even if something DOES agree with "our own reason and own common sense" we should question it, see what lies behind our beliefs and feelings. Isn't that maya? The truth behind the veil? It would be ironic to claim one knows everything there is to know about philosophy. I think thats one of the main points eastern philosophy, or at least Hinduism, makes; that once you know, you don't understand.
"We are all students" is a much more reasonable point of view. Not to accept anything as written in stone but to allow ourselves to be open to new ideas and new perspectives.

alivia poirier

Christian Pain said...

The DMV is a horrible place. horrific, better said. It's full of beastly like creatures lurking around timid, innocent inmates. These creatures do not physically attack you, but hatred is bound to enter your body if you aren't cautious. That is how they strike you. At arrival, I danced my way inside. only to find a harsh truth painted all in white. I stretched out of the building, five hours later, and realized: these are creatures! Angry, I angrily headed home. Having read what I just wrote, angrily, since not thirty minutes from now I was in a monster pit, I come to realize all this can't possibly relate to philosophy. Then I start squirming myself in between the words. And i find what I wasn't looking for; philosophy!
You see, the aspect of Moksha is playing a role here. Maybe these creatures aren't creatures at all; maybe my exaggerated anger towards them made me see them in a different, unfairly way. And even if they were hellish minions, which I still believe; just at a lower degree, they are Brahman. And I am Brahman. So they can't be all bad. Samsara is also throwing its repetitive dice in this strange table: I have to come back tomorrow! hopefully with different eyes. Same color though.

So I come out from in between these words, not squirming but marching, with a new vision. The DMV isn't a horrific place. It's just a crappy place. Mind you, it might be horrific tomorrow. But it isn't now. My fictional friend Bilbo Baggins was right when he uttered the sweet words "It's a dangerous business, taking out your pen. you face it with paper, and if you don't mind your ink, there's no telling where you might be swept off to."

I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Christian Pain

Johanna Meneses said...

Well my thoughts on The Victor and the Vanquished are that…. one can never be the Master because you depend on the slave or other factors. In a way we are all slaves of some type striving to be unique and free. However, we are never free or as unique as we think. We are slaves to money, things, desires, society, religion, etc... And I don’t think we are that unique because we dress, act, eat, think on mostly what is in fashion, cultural / family influence, and media. How is it even possible to have one complete thought that is truly your own?
In reference to the other two passages posted they are all about Brahman. I really think the concept of Brahman is beautiful and is a way to see life. If you are able to see yourself as a piece of something divine it empowers you to believe anything is possible and that there are no limits but the ones you give yourself. It also is very humane. If a person could see how everything is connected to them then maybe it would change to way we treat one another, the animals, the environment, pretty much everything. It’s like living life by the golden rule “Treat others how you want to be treated.”

Vanessa Vergara said...

Specific images come to mind when thinking of the homeless: makeshift homes made out of boxes, tattered blankets and whatever else is nearby. The thought of living in such a state makes us extremely uncomfortable, but in a manner it is really us who don’t have a real home. As much as we try to ignore or fret over it, this realm and even our own bodies are passing things. Nothing can change that. We are wasting our time by buying more junk and ignoring the things that can make our short time on this earth truly significant. According to the principle of Moksha, those of us who cling to our material things and have bought into this money-oriented and competitive capitalist society are doomed to suffer forever.

Moksha offers an alternative to this empty lifestyle by liberating ourselves from the ultimate source of suffering itself, the physical world. To alleviate our suffering as much as possible, Moksha teaches us that we must get past this illusionary physical world by amassing a different, more spiritual form of wealth. Gandhi explains this mindset perfectly, “A satyagrahi is dead to his body even before his enemy attempts to kill him, i.e. he is free from attachment to his body and only lives in the victory of his soul.” This is truly easier said than done.

I am the first to admit that I have way too many useless things I could really do without. Would getting rid of all my unnecessary belongings be effective in achieving Moksha or can this be sought in other ways? That we’ll have to discern for ourselves, but until we find spiritual enlightenment (and whatever that entails) we will remain shackled to this physical life.

Adrienne Jackson said...

I really enjoy Eastern Philosophy. I totally agree with the concept that everything is Brahman. I see God everyday. I see God in the faces of children, family, lovers, nature and so much more. It's reassuring to know that whether I am a human being, a bug, or a flower, I am a part of something so much more which is God.

I also wonder if a person can ever truly be enlightened. The world is constantly changing and there is always so much to learn. It almost seems impossible. I guess maybe becoming enlightened is more about searching for spiritual knowledge rather than earthly or human knowledge.

tatiana p. said...

As the first and second weeks of class progressed so did my understanding of such concepts as Brahman, Samsara, or Dukkha which compromise parts of the Hindu philosophy. Concepts such as these -largely concealed from me due to my upbringing with different views and later on in life, due to my embracing of a different ideology as a preferred world view- provoked my interest in wanting to probe deeper to understand what was this of the One spirit or the consistent cycle of birth, death and rebirth. I read words, listened to words, being said by my fellow classmates and professor on this philosophy, beauty was found in Brahman; how all is Brahman, teaching humans to respect all (insects were given the most sympathy) or even the beauty ascribed to death. But after all this a feeling of abjectness just saturated me, why couldn’t I relate to any of this: was is it ethnocentrism, apathy, have I just become insensitive?! My internal conflict persisted until past memories brought elucidation to this current sentiment of mine. Travel to India, there poverty, inequality and diseases prevail in the millions but what surpasses this to the billions mark is the religious devotion of the populace. Varna or the caste system which dictates the society in India are divided into four caste, the top caste being the Brahmin (or Brahmans). So, is this philosophy simply just another way in which those living in dire conditions can find solace and justification for their state?

Daniella de la Riva said...

As a child I attended Catholic school where we were taught, to live is to suffer. This idea is not an uncommon one amongst many religions, so why is it, that people refuse to identify with the truth of it? Suffering comes in all shades: death, heartache, failure, but in terms of Hinduism one must recognize that all of these emotions are made possible by Brahman and the ever turning wheel of Samara, so how bad can they be really? Which leads me to assume: where there is suffering, there is happiness only a few steps away. Then the same should ring true for death right? Where there is death there is life, following it. So then why are people so afraid of death?

I will not pretend that I am not terrified of it myself, but why is that? If I were a Hindu, even a Catholic, I would know that death is natural and beautiful all at once. But as a human, I think I can say that it is the “the hearing behind the hearing,” “the sight behind the sight,” “The breathing behind the breathing,” the eminent death that lives just behind the very life I’m living, the breathes I’m taking, and the things I see, that makes death so intimidating. So maybe the only way to be “freed completely of these,” is to embrace our fleeting presence here so that we can fully appreciate the sound of Samsara rumbling at our heels and billowing before us, and great death at the end as old friend (which is not a simple task by any means).

Anonymous said...

Philosophy has the inexplicable ability to bend our thoughts in order to let us open our minds with self-realizations that we never considered before. A certain Lewis Carroll quote I once read can be seen as a way of explaining philosophy. “Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t; and contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would.”

Eastern Philosophy however, varies from its western counterpart. In eastern philosophy, one would be searching for enlightenment within us. Eastern philosophy is more intertwined with religion and for me this creates a problematization as the truth can never be proven. As a person who relies on facts rather than belief, it confuses me because nothing can be considered absolute, everything can be questioned. If this were to be the case, if we must question everything, than we can question the ideas of reincarnation and the life cycles we are meant to suffer before we reach liberation.

Now the same can be said with western philosophy, that everything must be questioned as well. Yet, I find myself noticing that western philosophy tries to find the reason in reality. That the reason we are a certain way is due to events or environments we’re placed in.

If I had to take myself out of this common-sense approach I live by, I would see these philosophical ideas as being a cycle of suffering which is a form of self-punishment for the wrongdoings we have committed while alive. That we will never reach our nirvana until we live a life with sacrifice (Yajna) and devotion in order to create good aura in the world. I don’t think there is any way we can approach the finite without considering it as an enemy. Yet it is a natural part of life that as we must accept as we grow older.

Anthony DeCollibus

Vanessa Quiroz said...

We as humans never stop learning. We are on a constant journey to learn more,our curiosity is what gets us in trouble while it also sets us free. Philosophy is a pathway we often encounter while on this journey. Philosophy questions everything and is never satisfied with one single answer,because there never is just one single answer. That is why Philosophy interests me so. Religion is as diverse as we are which is why Eastern Philosophy has so much to offer to me. While hearing of the story of the victor and the vanquished I have come to acknowledge that we are but a part of a whole. That each of us is as important as the other because together we make something much bigger. That is why when one dies another is born,to fill in the empty space left in our whole. My mom always says no one has life bought,and I couldn't agree more. Dukkha and Yanja are needed for us to see just how beautiful life is.In our worst we shine as bright as any star,why is that? Because in our worst we are vulnerable,we are weak,we are humans. In our worst we sum up strength and courage from places we never sought to look for. We are so much more than we give ourselves credit for. And how do we become self-aware of this new found self value we have? By questioning everything. Opening the mind to the endless possibilities of the universe and absorbing everything like a sponge. That is why we are all Brahman. Because we know it all yet we know nothing. When we feel we have advanced in one task we are never satisfied because there is always a higher level,a way to learn new things. As my professor said "We are all student" Not only are we students,but we are Brahman.

Andrew McLaughen said...

Eastern Philosophy is one of those philosophies in a strange place. It seems to be based on both cold, hard, facts and hopeful religion that can bring out both warm acceptance to their fate and annoying pretentiousness to the people who hear it. The statement of everything is Brahman and how Maya is unseen and yet connects everything can be interpreted in many ways. In fact they may seem to be already discovered. Everything in existence is in fact made of basically the same subatomic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. I know there is more to it than that, but I’m new to this. Anyway, these subatomic particles, depending on the number, can make many different elements with many different properties. These elements can bond with other elements making even more unique properties creating the world around us. Brahman may be subatomic particles. Maya seems to be also discovered. It’s already noted that we cannot see atoms or their particles with our eyes, but did you know that not even light can illuminate atoms? The shortest wavelength of light is 4 * 10-7, but anything lower than that cannot be illuminated. An atom is only 10-11. This would mean we can’t technically see an atom or its particles. A substance that can’t be seen, but connects the universe: Sounds like Maya to me. There is also the view of reincarnation which can be viewed in religious terms with karma or through scientific reasoning. I personally believe religion should butt heads with philosophy since most statements begin with the phrase “I believe” which most of the time translates to “I hope”: I believe I will go to Heaven/I hope I will go to Heaven. Reincarnation with karma seems to be based on nothing more than just hope to me. That your being will live on with future lives seems to go against Eastern Philosophies basic principles. However, if reincarnation means that what your made of (your being) continues to exist and will create another form, than that’s actual truth. Matter cannot be created or destroyed; these are the rules of Conservation of Mass. This seems to be reincarnation. These views seem to continue the belief that everything in existence is merely an equal gear in a perfect watch. Apparently.

Anonymous said...

i very much enjoyed the two short poems on this post and i do agree with the statement that poetry is " a higher form of philosophy". so much can be said in a poem with very few words. that is to say, it is much more potent than writing in prose. the careful selection of words to fit with the specific poetic form can have a profound effect on what the reader takes away. such simple and familiar thoughts on the "human experience" can become much more poignant when rendered in poetic form, and thus the beauty of our language and indeed our lives may be revealed and received in a manner much more memorably than if it were received in prose. i think that to be a good poet and to be a good student of poetry, one must become more in tune with their true self or inner god or whatever. so when the guy says that "all men must become gods" he wasn't referring to poetry specifically but i do believe that to be "god-like", one must gain knowledge of self. and the more true knowledge of self that one has the better they will perceivably be at nearly everything in their lives including poetry. anyways....thats all i got.

-tim smith

Anonymous said...

It’s hard to understand and make sense of most of the topics discussed in a philosophy class. Most of the language, the ideas are hard to comprehend for someone who is trying to always understand EVERYTHING and not be left with a question. I can simply put into three words what the experience of our lessons mean to me. Become better people. That’s simple enough.
As I write there are ants crawling in between the computer keys and I have to hold my human instincts to not crush them with my gigantic hand. There are words I refuse to utter, as I see my family feuding. It’s not that Philosophy has caused me to have an epiphany and become a better person. It’s the simple fact of talking about ideas of life, of being alive, and even of death. This exposure will allow us to truly be in contact with who we are and the role we are playing in our world. It’s an ideal to hope to end war in the Middle East, but it can be a reality to finish a family feud in our own homes. If we are all Brahman, and form part of a greater being, shouldn’t we strive to be a better people every single day?
My answer lacks philosophical insight because I simply don’t have it. I have only an honest answer of why I listen and enjoy being in class every day.
Laura vargas