Archive for January, 2013

Projections of Instrumentality

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Mayakovsky, a poet of Bolshevism, wrote in 1914:

If the stars shine —
well then — somebody needs it?
Then — somebody wants them out there?

This is what I call “projections of instrumentality.” Human mind seeks order, sense, meaning. We are in a continuous state of apophenia – in a state of meaning-making, in a never-ending process of connecting the dots. Except for when we don’t – when we let go of this meaning-making, illusion-making search for reassurance.

I find it ironic that Mayakaovsky had the Sanskrit word for “illusion” (Maya) built right into his name. The Maya of Meaning is a kind of Kantian apriori, along with time and space.

Ramakrishna explains:

Ornaments cannot be made of pure gold. Some alloy must be mixed with it. A man totally devoid of Maya [Illusion] will not survive more than twenty-one days. So long as the man has body, he must have some [Illusion], however small, to carry on the bodily functions.

Mayakovsky committed a suicide at 33 years of age. Must’ve run out of Maya, must’ve run out of the illusion, must’ve run out of meaning.

What’s on your mind?

I hope something.


Here’s the entire poem “Listen!” by Mayakovsky (in translation by K. Rusanov)(note a slightly different translation of the first stanza).

If they kindle the stars —
well then — somebody needs it?
Then — somebody wants them out there?
Then — somebody calls these tiny gobs
And sweating blood
in the blizzards of midday dust,
rushes up to god,
is afraid of being late,
kisses his sinewy hand,
begs —
that there be a star, without fail! —
swears —
he won’t survive this starless torment!
And then walks about uneasy,
but calm on the surface.
Says to somebody:
“Now you’re ok, right?
Not afraid?
If they kindle the stars —
then — somebody needs it?
Then — it is essential
that at least one star lights up
over the roofs
every night?!

Philosophical Tooth

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Socrates (in reply to Antipho, in defense of a philosophical way of life) said about eating:

“He who eats with most pleasure is he who least requires sauce.”

What does that mean in today’s self-help lingo?

“He/she who eats with most mindfulness (with most presence, with most savoring-of-the-moment) requires no dessert (or seconds).”

That’s my spin on this ancient pearl of wisdom: a philosophical tooth is a sweet tooth.

Adapted from “Reinventing the Dessert” (Reinventing the Meal, Somov, 2012).

Enlightenment Under the Birmingham Bridge

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

We Are Goo (Pavel Somov, copyright 2012)

I snapped a picture of this graffiti a couple of months ago, in Pittsburgh, on the historical South Side, by the river walk, under the Birmingham bridge. It’s been long painted over.

There is so much in this: a light bulb (of insight) is going off – “I am goo.” Happy goo. Smiling goo. A blob of living, thinking, feeling protoplasm that’s winking at you with an ironic call for self-awareness from a random wall.

Enlightenment under the bridge – no less.

On Protoplasm (from wiki):

The word “protoplasm” comes from the Greek protos for first, and plasma for thing formed. It was first used in 1846 by Hugo von Mohl to describe the “tough, slimy, granular, semi-fluid” substance within plant cells, to distinguish this from the cell wall, cell nucleus and the cell sap within the vacuole.

Thomas Huxley later referred to it as the “physical basis of life” and considered that the property of life resulted from the distribution of molecules within this substance. Its composition, however, was mysterious and there was much controversy over what sort of substance it was. Attempts to investigate the origin of life through the creation of synthetic “protoplasm” in the laboratory were not successful, yet.

image: We Are Goo (Pavel Somov, copyright 2012)

Social Prediction

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

As the human civilization becomes progressively imprisoned online, the inmate population of the world’s prisons (where people still have time to read) will become the last bastion of true literacy.

Imprisonment comes in many different forms, Fellow Mind, and so does freedom.

Mother Certainty

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Here’s a pattern-breaking syllogism to get you started today:

1. A desire for certainty is a search for reassurance.
2. A search for reassurance is a mother issue.
3. Thus, a desire for certainty is a mother issue.

Mother Certainty, comfort me.
I am afraid of not-knowing.

Nonpredatory Touch

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Blue tit on the handEating is predatory touch—touch turned into destruction. The first touch is taste, as the molecules of flavor intermingle with the tongue. Then we must grind the food down to a pulp (touching it again and again) before we swallow it. Then we digest (and therefore again touch) the food through chemical hand-to-hand combat. We certainly touch the food as it moves through us, along the length of the digestive tract—the tube that runs through us—in a kind of gustatory massage of peristalsis wherein we are now touched by the reality we swallowed.

Mahadevi, a twelfth-century female devotee of Shiva, suggested another option:

“Finger may squeeze the fig to feel it, yet not choose to eat it” (Ramanujan 1973, 133).

Indeed, why not, every now and then, touch food without eating it? Why not, on occasion, take the predatory element of touch out of eating? Rescue one of the apples you brought home from its digestive fate by tossing it out the window. Let the random chaos of nature do the chewing for you this time. Set a precedent of nonpredatory, nonutilitarian touch.

For a change, let food be something other than food, and let yourself be more than just an eater.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2011).

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Body Is a Temple, Food Is the Sacrament

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

body is a templeIndian architecture offers an intriguing reversal of the concept that the body is a temple, as described by Indian poet and scholar A. K. Ramanujan (1973, 20):

Indian temples are traditionally built in the image of the human body. The ritual for building a temple begins with…planting a pot of seed. The temple is said to rise from the implanted seed, like a human. The different parts of a temple are named after body parts. The two sides are called the hands or wings, the hasta; a pillar is called a foot, pada. The top of the temple is the head, the sikhara. The shrine, the innermost and the darkest sanctum of the temple, is a garbhagrha, the womb-house. The temple thus carries out in brick and stone the primordial blueprint of the human body.

Nifty—but entirely unnecessary. Here’s what another Indian poet Basavanna had to say on the topic:

“The rich will make temples for Siva. What shall I, a poor man, do? My legs are pillars, the body the shrine, the head a cupola of gold. Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers, things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay” (Ramanujan 1973, 20).

Indeed, why imitate what you already have? Your body is a temple. Why build another one? For that matter, why burn the gas to drive your Self to where you are not in the name of worship? Why not worship at home?

What do I mean by “worship”? I mean love. However you want to see the ultimate source—Reality, Creation, Universe, Dao, Cosmos—find a way to connect to it, from within and without brokers.

Even if your body isn’t a temple, it certainly has one. Touch your index finger to the side of your head to point to the cupola of golden presence inside the brick-and-mortar of your skull. And as you next partake of the sacrifice of life that is food, sanctify it with your presence.

When you know yourself, there is no need …

Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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