Slavoj Zizek- Philosopher explains True Love


Contrary to what people mean love does not idealize the other. The miracle is that you may say that you are slightly stupid, not the perfect body, whatever. But still you are the absolute for me. True love does not have to idealize. True Love is not either eternal beauty or vulgar everyday person. True love is that you see eternal beauty in the everyday person.


Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

The Great Cornell West on the Examined Life: Courage to think, Courage to love, Courage to Hope

Philosophers are lovers of wisdom. It takes tremendous discpline, takes tremendous courage to think for yourself to examine yourself its socratic and imperative to examine yourself requires courage.  William Butler Yates used to say it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul than a it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield Courage to think critically, courage is denabling virtue for any philosopher or human being in the world. Courage to think Courage to love Courage to Hope.

Plato says that philosphy is a meditation on and a preparation for death. And by death what he means is not an event, but a death in life becaues there is no rebirth no change no transformation without death. So the question becomes how do you learn how to die. Of course Montaine talks about that in his famous essay, “to philosophize is to learn how to die.” You cant talk about truth without talking about learning how to die. I believe that Theodore Adorno is right when he says that the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, that gives it an existential emphasis you see? So were really talkin about Truth as a way of life as opposed to truth as a set of propostions that correspond to a set of things in the world.

Human beings are unable to ever gain any monopoly on Truth- captial T. We might have access to truth, small t, but they are fallable claims about truth, they could be wrong they could be open to revisions and so on. So there is a certain kind of mystery that goes hand in hand with Truth. This is why so many of the existential thinkers be they religious like Meister Eckhart or Paul Tillich or be they secular like Camus and Sarte, that they are accenting our finetude and our inabilty to fully grasp the ultimate nature of reality, the truth about things.

 So you talk about Truth being tied to the way to Truth. Because once you give up on the notion of fully grasping the way the world is- you are gonna talk about what are the ways in which I can sustain my quest for truth. How do you sustain a path or journety toward truth, the way to truth? 

Brian Greene- Darkness on the Edge of the Universe

IN a great many fields, researchers would give their eye to have a direct glimpse of the past. Instead, they generally have to piece together remote conditions using remnants like weathered fossils, decaying parchments or mummified remains. Cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe, is different. It is the one arena in which we can actually witness history.

The pinpoints of starlight we see with the naked eye are photons that have been streaming toward us for a few years or a few thousand. The light from more distant objects, captured by powerful telescopes, has been traveling toward us far longer than that, sometimes for billions of years. When we look at such ancient light, we are seeing — literally — ancient times.

During the past decade, as observations of such ancient starlight have provided deep insight into the universe’s past, they have also, surprisingly, provided deep insight into the nature of the future. And the future that the data suggest is particularly disquieting — because of something called dark energy.

This story of discovery begins a century ago with Albert Einstein, who realized that space is not an immutable stage on which events play out, as Isaac Newton had envisioned. Instead, through his general theory of relativity, Einstein found that space, and time too, can bend, twist and warp, responding much as a trampoline does to a jumping child. In fact, so malleable is space that, according to the math, the size of the universe necessarily changes over time: the fabric of space must expand or contract — it can’t stay put.

For Einstein, this was an unacceptable conclusion. He’d spent 10 grueling years developing the general theory of relativity, seeking a better understanding of gravity, but to him the notion of an expanding or contracting cosmos seemed blatantly erroneous. It flew in the face of the prevailing wisdom that, over the largest of scales, the universe was fixed and unchanging.

Einstein responded swiftly. He modified the equations of general relativity so that the mathematics would yield an unchanging cosmos. A static situation, like a stalemate in a tug of war, requires equal but opposite forces that cancel each other. Across large distances, the force that shapes the cosmos is the attractive pull of gravity. And so, Einstein reasoned, a counterbalancing force would need to provide a repulsive push. But what force could that be?

Remarkably, he found that a simple modification of general relativity’s equations entailed something that would have, well, blown Newton’s mind: antigravity — a gravitational force that pushes instead of pulls. Ordinary matter, like the Earth or Sun, can generate only attractive gravity, but the math revealed that a more exotic source — an energy that uniformly fills space, much as steam fills a sauna, only invisibly — would generate gravity’s repulsive version. Einstein called this space-filling energy the cosmological constant, and he found that by finely adjusting its value, the repulsive gravity it produced would precisely cancel the usual attractive gravity coming from stars and galaxies, yielding a static cosmos. He breathed a sigh of relief.

A dozen years later, however, Einstein rued the day he introduced the cosmological constant. In 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that distant galaxies are all rushing away from us. And the best explanation for this cosmic exodus came directly from general relativity: much as poppy seeds in a muffin that’s baking move apart as the dough swells, galaxies move apart as the space in which they’re embedded expands. Hubble’s observations thus established that there was no need for a cosmological constant; the universe is not static.

Had Einstein only trusted the original mathematics of general relativity, he would have made one of the most spectacular predictions of all time — that the universe is expanding — more than a decade before it was discovered. Instead, he was left to lick his wounds, summarily removing the cosmological constant from the equations of general relativity and, according to one of his trusted colleagues, calling it his greatest blunder.

But the story of the cosmological constant was far from over.

When Einstein introduced the cosmological constant, he envisioned its value being finely adjusted to exactly balance ordinary attractive gravity. But for other values the cosmological constant’s repulsive gravity can beat out attractive gravity, and yield the observed accelerated spatial expansion, spot on. Were Einstein still with us, his discovery that repulsive gravity lies within nature’s repertoire would have likely garnered him another Nobel prize.

As remarkable as it is that even one of Einstein’s “bad” ideas has proven prophetic, many puzzles still surround the cosmological constant: If there is a diffuse, invisible energy permeating space, where did it come from? Is this dark energy (to use modern parlance) a permanent fixture of space, or might its strength change over time? Perhaps most perplexing of all is a question of quantitative detail. The most refined attempts to calculate the amount of dark energy suffusing space miss the measured value by a gargantuan factor of 10123 (that is, a 1 followed by 123 zeroes) — the single greatest mismatch between theory and observation in the history of science.

THESE are vital questions that rank among today’s deepest mysteries. But standing beside them is an unassailable conclusion, one that’s particularly unnerving. If the dark energy doesn’t degrade over time, then the accelerated expansion of space will continue unabated, dragging away distant galaxies ever farther and ever faster. A hundred billion years from now, any galaxy that’s not resident in our neighborhood will have been swept away by swelling space for so long that it will be racing from us at faster than the speed of light. (Although nothing can move through space faster than the speed of light, there’s no limit on how fast space itself can expand.)

Light emitted by such galaxies will therefore fight a losing battle to traverse the rapidly widening gulf that separates us. The light will never reach Earth and so the galaxies will slip permanently beyond our capacity to see, regardless of how powerful our telescopes may become. Because of this, when future astronomers look to the sky, they will no longer witness the past. The past will have drifted beyond the cliffs of space. Observations will reveal nothing but an endless stretch of inky black stillness.

If astronomers in the far future have records handed down from our era, attesting to an expanding cosmos filled with galaxies, they will face a peculiar choice: Should they believe “primitive” knowledge that speaks of a cosmos very much at odds with what anyone has seen for billions and billions of years? Or should they focus on their own observations and valiantly seek explanations for an island universe containing a small cluster of galaxies floating within an unchanging sea of darkness — a conception of the cosmos that we know definitively to be wrong?

And what if future astronomers have no such records, perhaps because on their planet scientific acumen developed long after the deep night sky faded to black? For them, the notion of an expanding universe teeming with galaxies would be a wholly theoretical construct, bereft of empirical evidence.

We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that with sufficient hard work and dedication, there’s no barrier to how fully we can both grasp reality and confirm our understanding. But by gazing far into space we’ve captured a handful of starkly informative photons, a cosmic telegram billions of years in transit. And the message, echoing across the ages, is clear. Sometimes nature guards her secrets with the unbreakable grip of physical law. Sometimes the true nature of reality beckons from just beyond the horizon.

Noel Isama Editorial: Religion and Reality

For many the killing of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, by his own bodyguard was another bad omen for Pakistan. According to guard, he murdered the Governor because he dared to defend a woman that was sentenced to death after being accused of ‘speaking against Islam’. He believed, rightly so, that killing someone for a such an accusation was a wrong that went beyond religion, but violated our basic concept of humanity. His death is not a good sign as Pakistan lost another rational voice in a sea of insanity.

An even more menacing omen could be seen on the bodyguard’s face. With chaos surrounding him,  the assassin had a smile of inner satisfaction as he sat cuffed in the back of the police van.  The expression was most grotesque. There was no expression of distress at not getting away. No expression of remorse at the thought of killing another man.  No expression of disdain for those who arrested him.  No expression of worry for impending consequences that may await him (i.e. beatings and torture).  

 What force could suppress the most natural human reactions? What could inspire humans to  devalue life, such that it can wantonly snatch away? Radicalism.  But that is only a trait. In order for one to be a fanatic or radical there must be a source. This source is a belief in something so great that it is worth killing, note not dying, but killing for. In Pakistan and many other countries it is religion, plain and simple. For these countries religion is a destructive force.

 Religion need not come in the form of the divine (i.e. the North Korean state and it surrounding mythology could be considered religious). But one common trait is creation of system of action based on a belief.

When one “believes”, they’re ascribing truth to something that they cannot completely substantiate themselves. Often times this indicates a disconnect at some point with the reality or the world around them. It is in this space or disconnect that the seeds of religion is sowed. It deals with the inner workings the human being that are so mysterious, yet so powerful.

What drives us? What motivates us? What we need that can’t be provided by the “real” material world.  Religion is there to account that which we don’t know. This is often a good thing because it helps identify the feelings in humans that compel is us to act in ways that aren’t obviously beneficial in a personal sense. It keeps us pushing in the face of adversity. It helps us locate compassion and assist our fellow man. It helps us cope with death and despair. No religion is not a bad thing, it is in fact very good. It becomes negative when it leaves this mysterious realm and falls into the hands of those who want to use it to shape their world view.

The point at which religion becomes a destructive force is when you take something which is supposed to account for uncertainty and act as if it is certain. On the basis of this supposed certainty you then try to force the world to conform to your belief. This implies the use of religion as  the motivation in coercive actions against the outside world. Because religion occupies the space of uncertainty, that disconnect with reality, it can ignore it and serve as unextinguishable fire that burns all.

 Religion stands apart from other forms of radicalism, political or otherwise, which can be challenged by reality. However, the most radical believers in religion can choose to ignore realities that would otherwise require them to reconsider thier beliefs.  To illustrate one could look to the rise of communism in Russia, whose most ardent followers passionatly believed in the concepts of equality and fairness in thier society. However, to accomplish the ends of changing societies, the Communists utilized acts of brutal violence that violated all respect for humanity.  The fall of the Soviet empire was a time when reality challanged the communist fanatics because thier governments failed and thier economies couldn’t sustain thier people. The reality for many of these governments and systems could not be ignored, and it was reality that was the impetus for change.

 It is hard to see what role reality plays in fanatic interpertations of religion.  The abject focus on God becomes a tool to blind people to the truth that may exist arround them, to realize the suffering of thier fellow man here on earth. It is the most convenient of masks because unlike politics, the masked figure purporting to act on a higher power’s behest is not held accountable for his actions whereas the politican must face elections or public dissidence. In the fanatics mind, everything is for God to take care of at some point, and man is forever never responsible because  it is not the individual who is acting, but allegedly God acting through him. (A presumption to say the least, unless the individual has a direct line to heaven)

It is difficult to carry on a discourse with a fanatic because they utilize mysterious divine concepts rather than looking to the world around them and rationally explaining a belief. As a result  religion thrives in circumstances where there is a deprivation of knowledge, where mystery rules all things. It is no surprise that the destructive religious force has found its base in one of the poorest regions in the world. It is no surprise that some of the most oppressive countries are religious in nature.

 What the death Salamaan Taseer and sadly the positive reaction of many Pakistanis to it, illustrate is a dissociation from reality caused by religion. This may be our greatest threat as humans. Taken to extremes it has given people the “strength” to engage in needless war (i.e. George Bush) and is surely a path to sure destruction. Look at the threat of nuclear Iran or the possibility of a American president completely entrapped in the armagedon mindset. But the greatest tragedy is the satisfaction people will gain from such actions. In the past reality served as that which brought us down to earth from heaven. Can it save us from the gates of hell and wipe that smirk of the face of the monster who took an innocent man’s life?

Richard Cohen: There Goes The Sun (Why We Celebrate the Solstice Across the Globe)

WHAT is the winter solstice, and why bother to celebrate it, as so many people around the world will tomorrow? The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol (meaning sun) and statum (stand still), and reflects what we see on the first days of summer and winter when, at dawn for two or three days, the sun seems to linger for several minutes in its passage across the sky, before beginning to double back.

Indeed, “turnings of the sun” is an old phrase, used by both Hesiod and Homer. The novelist Alan Furst has one of his characters nicely observe, “the day the sun is said to pause. … Pleasing, that idea. … As though the universe stopped for a moment to reflect, took a day off from work. One could sense it, time slowing down.”

Virtually all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment. The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness,” while the Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” first day of “the stripping time.” For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook. According to local lore, each winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers. The red bean in the rice balls repels him.

In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young women don candle-embedded helmets, while families go to bed having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming year.

Street processions are another common feature. In Japan, young men known as “sun devils,” their faces daubed to represent their imagined solar ancestry, still go among the farms to ensure the earth’s fertility (and their own stocking-up with alcohol). In Ireland, people called wren-boys take to the roads, wearing masks or straw suits. The practice used to involve the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the corpse from house to house.

 Purification is also the main object for the Zuni and Hopi tribes of North America, their attempt to recall the sun from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another turning of their “wheel of the year,” and kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are opened to mark the season.

 As it is, the time between the spring and fall equinoxes in the Northern Hemisphere is slightly greater than that between fall and spring, the earth — being at that time closer to the sun — moving about 6 percent faster in January than in July. The apparently supernatural power manifest in solstices to govern the seasons has been felt as far back as we know, inducing different reactions from different cultures — fertility rites, fire festivals, offerings to the gods. Many of the wintertime customs in Western Europe descend from the ancient Romans, who believed that their god of the harvest, Saturn, had ruled the land during an earlier age of abundance, and so celebrated the winter solstice with the Saturnalia, a feast of gift-giving, role-reversals (slaves berating their masters) and general public holiday from Dec. 17 to 24.

The transition from Roman paganism to Christianity, with its similar rites, took several centuries. With the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, customs were quickly appropriated and refashioned, as the sun and God’s son became inextricably entwined. Thus, although the New Testament gives no indication of Christ’s actual birthday (early writers preferring a spring date), in 354 Pope Liberius declared it to have befallen on Dec. 25.

The advantages of Christmas Day being celebrated then were obvious. As the Christian commentator Syrus wrote: “It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same Dec. 25 the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity …. Accordingly, when the church authorities perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.”

In Christendom, the Nativity gradually absorbed all other winter solstice rites, and the co-opting of solar imagery was part of the same process. Thus the solar discs that had once been depicted behind the heads of Asian rulers became the halos of Christian luminaries. Despite the new religion’s apparent supremacy, many of the old customs survived — so much so that church elders worried that the veneration of Christ was being lost. In the fifth century, St. Augustine of Hippo and Pope Leo the Great felt compelled to remind their flocks that Christ, not the sun, was their proper object of their worship.

While Roman Christianity was the dominant culture in Western Europe, it was by no means the only one. By millennium’s end, the Danes controlled most of England, bringing with them “Yule,” their name for winter solstice celebrations, probably derived from an earlier term for “wheel.” For centuries, the most sacred Norse symbol had been the wheel of the heavens, represented by a six- or eight-spoked wheel or by a cross within a wheel signifying solar rays.

The turning of the sun was perhaps even more important in the New World than the Old. The Aztecs, who believed that the heart harbored elements of the sun’s power, ensured its continual well-being by tearing out this vital organ from hunchbacks, dwarves or prisoners of war, so releasing the “divine sun fragments” entrapped by the body and its desires.

The Incas would celebrate the solar festival of Inti Raymi by having their priests attempt to tie down the celestial body. At Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian Andes, there is a large stone column called the Intihuatana, (“hitching post of the sun,”) to which the star would be symbolically harnessed. It is unclear how the Incas measured the success of this endeavor, but at least the sun returned the following day.

Yet above all other rituals, reproducing the sun’s fire by kindling flame on earth is the commonest solstice practice, both at midsummer and midwinter. Thomas Hardy, describing Dorset villagers around a bonfire in “The Return of the Native,” offers an explanation for such a worldwide phenomenon:

“To light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of men when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, ‘Let there be light.’ ”

So there is good reason to celebrate the winter solstice — but maybe that celebration is still touched with a little fear.

Soveriegn Mind Cheryl Matthews- Perception v. Reality

This topic and short paper were discussed at the weekly Sovereign Mind Meetings, to which there was a great dialoge of exchange between those who believed that all reality was subjective and those who believed that objective truths exist in the world as well (such as the scientific laws of gravity, etc.)

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information.  The word perception comes from the 15th century Latin word “perceptio or perceptionem” meaning “receiving, collecting, acting or taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses.”

Essentially, there is a two fold process: sensation occurs, where the sensory organs absorb energy from a physical stimulus in the environment, convert and send the energy into neutral impulses to the brain; perception is the physical process of “collecting material data” in order to deducing meaning or constructing our reality from the things we hear, see, touch, taste, and feel (our 5-peepholes to the universe). By funneling these sensory neural impulses through the limitations of our 5-senses (biology), culture, past-experiences, what we are told to fixate on, etc, we selectively fixate on things in our environment and ultimately construct a picture of our reality.

 So what is reality? Although artwork is beautiful, it is only a glimpse into the mind of someone else – how they fixated on certain objects and translated the objects into symbols containing meaning. Physics, likewise, is the study of how others perceived the universe, converted their sensations into numbers, and plugged the numbers into equations that produced another number, which they gave meaning.

 At this cultural and technological juncture, there is little that we actually perceive first hand (at least speaking for myself). With television, movies, itunes, telephone, cameras, skype, facebook, etc., there are barriers between the concrete material word and our senses, which create this funneling system (which I mentioned above) not after the sensation process begins, but before. What I mean is that receiving sensations first hand requires an interplay between many different senses – from which we are able to gather more information (sensory data) in order to create more complex and varying temporal realities and meaning. By creating a technological barrier between our senses and the material world, we limit our perception (gathering of data) to one, or at most, two senses (eyes and ears). This is what I call: the Dulling of the Senses.

 EX: having conversations on the telephone, we hear the sound-waves from someone’s vocal chords translated over wires, microphones, and electrical conductors (I definitely don’t know the true mechanism, but please follow my thought process), through the receiver of an electrical device. Although a telephone does assist in our ability to communicate with others over a greater amount of space-time – allowing this to be the primary means of intimate communication (especially with friends and family) may (although I have not done any studies) affect our ability to encode deeper and more complex neural imprints of these people.

Another example: television is the most widely used telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images. The images are distorted through the use of high-powered radio-frequency transmitters that broadcast these distorted images through the TV receivers (however big or small). Now, these distorted images are translated through digital signals. After this funneling process occurs, with our eyes, we view and intake the limited waves lengths light, process this data, and give this information meaning.

 As the level of sensation is dimmed, the ability to perceive and thereby construct a variety of “out-puts” or meaning is also affected. I believe this can ultimately affect our sense of reality.

 My theory is that when this dulling occurs, in addition to creating weaker and less complex neural and psychological imprints, we either loose trust in our sensations and perceptions, accept others ascribed meanings and explanations for the unperceived material word, or seek for outside sources to ascribe meaning to perceptions.

The author has a blog I reccomend-