Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fast Food




Fast-food outlets are cultural institutions dedicated not only to dealing swiftly with mankind's compulsion to eat and drink regularly, but also to doing battle with his twin and fatal limitations of space and time. The campaign is waged with weapons of the industrial and technological age; its driving force is our own particular and paradoxical blend of obsessive rationality and relaxed asceticism.

Fast foods are processed and sold by giant industrial complexes which control every detail of their operations, from the smallest ingredient to the carefully calculated appearance of every eating place. The goal is to give an impression of the omnipresence and invariability of McDonalds or Kentucky Fried.: travel as far as you like, and it will always be as though you were still at home, in the arms of the parent company. Space loses its ancient association with change and surprise. You can without difficulty seek out the identical ambience, the very same taste you knew and liked before you set out.

Those parent companies are called "chains." When you travel (and mobility is another of our cultural institutions), they provide links which render your route as predictable and secure, as protective and as limiting as swaddling bands. It is no accident that both the kind of food they sell and their marketing methods make a direct appeal to the infantile in all of us. "Chains" stretch out along the highways, where they supply food as efficiently and as swiftly as gas from a fuel pump. They also, by means of their repetitiveness, bind and homogenize city neighbourhoods. They supply in large measure modern man's apparent need to obliterate the difference between "this place" and "that", and "then."

Uniformity, as every chain retailer is aware, makes good economic sense. Mass sales and ease of packaging and handling merchandise demand predictability-standard quality being , in the end, only one aspect of the sameness required. Everybody gets the same list of choices, everywhere, unless √©litist notions, such as distaste for sweetness or demands for the personal touch, intrude. The aim is to please most people, and not to truckle to the difficult or pretentious few. The tastes of children are catered to especially. Grown-ups simple eat-and enjoy-what their children like. Abundant wrappings and boxes proclaim technologically perfected hygiene and simultaneously suggest a child's party with  presents. Taste blandness also flattens to differences among adults: there is no strong "weird" flavors creating exclusive group preferences and societal distinctions.

speed of service not only attacks the time limitation, it forestalls an increasingly widespread incapacity to be kept waiting, even if waiting might be a prerequisite for superior food. Speed also helps make certain that hierarchal formality cannot arise. Formality stratifies by organizing space and relationship, and to do this it takes time. It is true that we are "served" from behind a counter, and that the preparation and "further processing" which any single food item has undergone is achieved only through the expertise of an army of scientists and marketing agents and the toil of a host of machine operators-but we never see any of this. We witness only the swiftly and smartly performed final step as the food is handed to us, cartoned and wrapped, crumbled and sandwiched. There is no involvement with the personel of the restaurant/ Everything is impersonal; the very language used in ordering and serving may be pre-learned, almost ritualized. The method prevents time wasting and possibly complex exchanges, and irrelevant chat. It is all so honed-down, rational, ad predictable that it is difficult to imagine how we could further mechanize the process.

Margeret Visser, MUCH DEPENDS ON DINNER

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why Do We Have Sleep Problems?

Why do some of us have trouble with sleep?

Because we are afraid to die.

It's goes back a long time and is one of our most practical fears rooted in our evolution. We don't understand this unless we look for clues under the surface of language and who we think we are, and how we misunderstand images about ourselves.

 We can answer part of this issue by looking at one particular word we use about sleep. "Falling asleep". There you have it. Problems with sleep are deeply rooted in a fear of falling. You know that old stereotype drawing of the "march of man"? That figure is an urban myth and totally bad science. We didn't separate from our other primate cousins as knuckle-draggers. We actually, like many primates, lived in trees.

"The march of progress is the canonical representation of evolution – the one picture immediately grasped and viscerally understood by all.... The straitjacket of linear advance goes beyond iconography to the definition of evolution: the word itself becomes a synonym for progress.... [But] life is a copiously branching bush, continually pruned by the grim reaper of extinction, not a ladder of predictable progress." Stephen Jay Gould


We use the word "falling" for a couple of metaphors in our life. Often, people who have trouble falling asleep also have trouble falling in love. The reason we use the word falling for both sleep and love is because there is a physiological connection between the two. We need to "let go" when we fall asleep or when we fall in love. We let go of the day and an awake alertness in order to fall asleep. And we let go of our own self-invested interests when we fall in love. Both of these acts of "letting go" can be disrupted when we feel threatened or stressed. The reason for this is because we used to live in trees. It is our physical fear of falling and either breaking an arm, or dying from a fall, or being attacked by a predator that we have a fear of falling.

In some societies, especially capitalist societies, the definition of freedom and success is deeply associated with the individual and the ego. In North America we find that personal philosophies and lifestyles support the individual rather than the group. So falling in love can be very threatening to people. In order to maintain a capitalistic lifestyle and philosophy demands a lot of personal motivation to succeed. 

The fear of falling asleep and falling in love also relate to a "fear of commitment". Just the word commitment is associated with mental illness (committed to an asylum/hospital) and surrender is related to commitment in that letting go is giving in to something/someone else. When we have a strongly ego-based,  individual-based culture sleep is compromised for many because it is against our primate nature to live as an individual outside a community....even metaphorically. 

If we don't recognize the connection between our ego and "letting go" and combined with our family dynamic and how our families define freedom, love, letting go, and success....we may experience a dis-connect between sleep and love.

Our unconscious unresolved issues from childhood can manifest in cleverly disguised devices. Like being in relationships with commitment-phobe partners, or married people, or long-distant relationships. or excessive traveling for work, or drinking heavily, or substance abuse, over-eating, gaming, and many others activities that become dangerous if done too much.

The fear of falling is from a million years ago in our past, manifests unhealthily with unresolved connections. Fear of falling is ultimately a fear of death. Living in a  conspicuous consumption, capitalistic, patriarchal culture triggers "falling fears". This sort of economic dysfunction triggers our unconscious fear of death (falling).

North American society triggers a fear of falling because attempting to maintain and achieve the lifestyle demands a disconnect from community.

Primates are made to live and  thrive when they spend time with each other, sharing food, sharing resources, sharing stories and images. When we have an economy that creates hierarchy and divide among individuals with extreme internal competition an unbalanced fear of death will manifest via fear of falling in love and asleep.

Now that we know this...what do we do about it? We need to find things in our life that not only reveal the history of the words we use, but also the patterns of our ego. Threatening our sense of individualness and our ego also triggers a fear of falling and love. So we need to find a way to challenge our sense of reality without scaring our selves yet...the ego must be challenged in order to lower it's power of controlling our thoughts. The ego is in cahoots with social structures in North America. How do we shake loose from this control system? Well, talking about it helps. So does exercise, meditation, volunteer work and spending time with loved ones, and studying things about our own minds and lives that are tricking us into letting a fear of death hold us back from living as a sharing cooperating community.



Monday, September 08, 2014

Landscaping Project Day 1




Today we began landscaping at The Buddhist Temple of Chicago. Two crews, 8 guys, 4 large pizzas, 15,000 pounds of stone. 
Three of us were at the Temple today, and going to be there all week while a rather major landscaping project is executed: a few of us have been planning and meeting and facilitating this project for a few months. I really had a wonderful time today. I love organizing and getting this sort of thing done. I love the Temple which was designed around the Dahrma Wheel. You can see the Dahrma Wheel motif on the from corner of the Temple. Inside the Temple are all walls and furniture and offices that are made on wheels. The garbage pails are even on dolly boards with wheels. Our "bookstore" is on wheels. (I'll try to post a picture of that later).

The Temple was built ten years ago but landscaping was out of the budget until now. We had all these stones surrounding the property. and kids and dogs ran across it. Dog owners would use the stone property to walk their dogs (god knows why they would use such a building to let their dogs shit?) And kids having fun would run around on the gravel sending it out on to the public sidewalk.

So we needed to have a salvaging service remove the stones. Then a landscaping company is paving, and digging down 8 inches and removing gravel littered earth. Then pouring new soil in it's place. Then we are planting some small trees and flowers. 



















Sunday, September 07, 2014

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Even In Death There Is Life, Even In Life There Is Death

"I GET IT!" Stagg and I finally did it. We watched THE SOPRANOS. Neither of us had even seen five minutes of the series, ever. We went in totally not knowing what to expect other than it being a goodfellas premise. Holy shit!!!! It's not unusual for me to watch a tv series years after it has been popular. It's kind of how I watched tv all my life. I watched Hill Street Blues, Rockford Files, Barny Miller, NYPD Blue all years after they had originally aired as reruns.  Stagg and I already knew we would like this show... it was just a matter of getting time to watch it and getting our hands on all the seasons. This summer we began. We started out slowly in July. Taking a break and then binging like crazy the last two weeks. This really just might be the greatest tv show ever made. No wonder people obsessed over it. For me....every day I have been thinking about the episodes. Part of my waking state has been like a dream thinking about the actors body language, looking over my shoulder with paranoia. Filled with dread and laughing and laughing. I also cried a lot during the show. It is really one of the most saddest and profoundly life-affirming experiences.. At one point I had to stop and go research the writer. A some point during the seasons it becomes apparent that whoever conceived the show is a deeply thoughtful, wise person who has suffered...? And research about David Chase confirmed this feeling. The show is about the voice. I mean duh, right? "the sopranos". ha ha ha.  It's about vows of silence, codes of speaking and not speaking. Decorum of words, rolling rules, breaking these rules. It's about "talk therapy" and keeping quiet. It's about the human act of speaking revealing who we are. All hyper infused with life and death. People live and die by what they say or don't say. A subtle comparison between the code of doctors, therapists is mirrored to the code of old world Omerata which existed because social structures and people in power were corrupt so ...the little guy made their own codes and laws. As we learn from the play Hamlet that humans know who we are by talking and listening and reflecting...The Sopranos portrays this all the way. There wasn't anything that wasn't pushed to the limit and explored completely artistically and professionally and spiritually. The last thing I expected was the show being a spiritual narrative (much like like David Lynch's body of work). So cleverly disguised as a crime drama. The series was totally self-aware of itself...down to characters almost saying they knew they were superstars and cult heroes. The characters endlessly watched movies and tv shows and referenced gangster stories and anti-heroic figures. Like us, they found themselves in art and in speaking and repeating and cycling...they replayed their lives and memories and grudges over and over like home movies or classic movies. In fact, the series has about 30 actors from "Goodfellas" movie...it's that self aware. (and there are only just so many Italian American actors out there). Over the years of the show James Gandolfini changed physically morphing more and more into a likeness of Buddha. In some scenes he sat in Buddha poses.  When James Gandolfini died last year, I knew we had lost a great actor. I had no idea we had lost a soul mate.