What is context?

I asked Miru what 배 ‘bae’ and 눈 ‘nun’ means. She says ‘pear’ and ‘snow’. But in Korea, bae also means boot and nun also means eye. I tell her that it depends on the context. Context is the concept I want to explain to her today.
“Papa what is that, context?”
-“Context is a story. It is the story you are in.”
“What story?”
-“For example, I say it is a cold day and there is a lot of nun.”
“That is a short story.”
-“A context-story can be short. What does nun mean here?”
-“And when I say grandfather is looking for his glasses because his nun is not so good any more?”
-“Exactly. So you know what context is.”

Why am I sharing this? I believe there are some very useful concepts that are generally not taught to children. I already explained her what an oxymoron is. Next up will be paradox, irony, justice, equality, compatibility, intentionality, relativism. Any suggestions?

What is context? was originally published on Meandering home


Simple focus exercise

Type one thing and say something else. For example, type the word ‘blue’ while you say ‘red’. You can almost feel how your brain is creating new neuronal connections when you do this.

Simple focus exercise was originally published on Meandering home

A Meditation on power

Find a comfortable place to sit. Be aware of your posture. Is your back straight, are your knees below your waist? Breathe in calmly and deeply. Focus on the phenomenon of power. When have you experienced power over another living being or another living being exercising power over you? How did it feel? Is the power something more than this experience? How would you know? Keep breathing. Let us define power as the experience of power. All the power that affects us happens in our mind. Yes, let’s think of a ‘powerful’ person who hits you on the head with a club. It hurts. But is it an exercise of power? What is the likely motivation of the person bludgeoning you? He doesn’t get what he wants. He fails in exercising his power. Violence is a sign of impotence, we often hear say. But we cannot be sure. We were guessing at the person’s motive. He might have any motive imaginable, for all we know. He might want to try to trick you into believing he is impotent. He might be playing a game with you.

It is possible. Still, this consideration happens <i>inside your mind</i>. Power happens in our mind. Political power happens in many minds simultaneously. Focus on your breathing. We are nowhere yet. What is this experience of power and how does it differ from other experiences, like love, hate, fear, shame, pride, greed, thrift. Or are they the same thing? Is power the more general term of experiences of what we assume are the effects of other minds? Everything is the will to power. There is the will to power – und nichts außerdem, and nothing else, Nietzsche said. Come back again to your breath.

What do all these power-emotions have in common? They are types of expectations. Are they, really? Go through them, one by one. Is there always an expectation involved in love, hate, fear, shame, pride, greed, thrift? What kind of action do we expect from the other person or persons our emotion is directed at? Does the action benefit us or the other person? What do we fear? What are we ashamed of, proud of, greedy about? Focus on the power as it happens inside your mind. Whose power is it? We don’t know? Experience the power as such, don’t try to disentangle the complex expectations involved. Widen your understanding of power. Breathe more deeply.

Think about the narrow definition of power as “making somebody else expect negative consequences” and go through examples of such power. The power of the general over his army. The power of the armed robber over his hostages. The power of an abusive father over his children. The power of a rapist over his victim. The power of a frog over a fly. Focus. Distinguish conscious and subconscious power. Are we aware of the negative consequences? Go through some situations of power that you know from your own experience. Choose experiences in which you are exercising that power and also experiences in which you are undergoing that power. Find words for the expectation you have in each case. You are not making the power relation itself conscious but pretending it is conscious. And return to your breathing again.

Power is relational. There is no ‘seat’ of power other than your own mind. Pretend you control your mind fully. Breathe deeply. Keep your eyes closed. Observe the power as it happens in your mind. Enjoy the struggle that takes place before your mind’s eye. You can pretend you are an independent observer of this power struggle. You possess a kind of ultimate power as a host of all these power vectors. Forget in which direction the power vectors point, toward you or toward others. It is irrelevant now. Now. Breathe calmly and observe. Are you smiling inwardly? You can pretend to smile outwardly if you wish. Or actually smile. It is up to you.

A Meditation on power was originally published on Meandering home

A birthday wish

One year ago, for my 38th birthday, all I could wish and hope for was the absence of toothache. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get it. ‘If and only if’, my daily mantra became, ‘my mind is not distracted by that pain in the upper jaw, so very close to the brain, I will do great things’. My life pretty much revolved around this and it contitutes a dent in my biography, so to speak.

I have been working on a job that lacks even a shimmer of meaning when measured by my admittedly high standards (now, that sounds a lot more eloquent than ‘I hate my fucking job’ doesn’t it?) to earn the money for half a dozen dentists to drill, fill, crown, and whatever, my mouth. As of yet, that pain isn’t totally gone and for my 39th I wish, again, the absence of irritation and the ability to focus.

This might sound dramatic but it really isn’t so bad. I know of people whose wife died of cancer or, perhaps worse, suicide (read about our remarkable ‘ice man’ Wim Hof and how he overcame his wife’s suicide), people who have aids and tbc yet refuse to be defeated, athletes with hand nor feet and – I’ll be damned if life is a pissing contest of doom and gloom.

For this new year I wish focus. To me personally, that translates into no more nasty nervous distractions like that toothache, so that I can focus on getting focused. I can focus on doing my regular meditation, eating a healthy diet, taking cold showers, doing physical exercise, you name it. These things both seem to require and produce focus, so what I wish for the new year is a way into this catch-22 vortex.

a religion or some other story that pictures the unintelligible as an anthropomorphic and often sadistic power that manufactures ultimate meaning and always perverts one of our noblest feelings, that of humility.

It wil be my fortieth year and I am going to say here that a good way to celebrate such a milestone in a human life is to find a Cause that is ‘bigger than yourself’. By that I don’t mean a religion or some other story that pictures the unintelligible as an anthropomorphic and often sadistic power that manufactures ultimate meaning and always perverts one of our noblest feelings, that of humility. It is no trivial task either: I think that now, 129 years after Nietzsche collapsed on the streets of Torino, the specter of nihilism goes around again, and can poison our fragile idea of a shared goal that can claim ultimate meaningfulness. We may stammer our enlightened formula of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and still the nihilist will shrug because the existence of humanity is no ultimate goal. Indeed I think we can speak of practical philosophy as a way of countering this nihilism, or to put it more aggressively, to cut off its oxygen supply.

So, what sort of goal could be ‘bigger than myself’? And should it be a whole lot bigger or is it enough when it’s just a little bit bigger? Could it be something like ensuring permanence of human culture on this blue planet (permaculture) or helping this human species and its successors to colonize the rest of our solar system and ultimately escape before the sun gobbles up the earth (elonmuskism)? Or are these ideas too big, so that ‘being a part of it’ is no meaningful concept, like it is not meaningful for an atom to be part of an acorn as much as it is meaningful for the acorn to be part of the oak. Perhaps I should ponder ideas that provide both myself and the greater whatever-it-is-we-are-in-it-all-together with the optimal amount of meaning, where optimal is something like the greatest leverage?

Above, I wrote I wish focus. In the last two paragraphs I lost that focus in an attempt to ‘flow’ writingly to someplace beautiful. To repeat it for a world in which the beast of nihilism has been slain (shouldn’t we slay it every night in our dreams lest we cease to be human?): Focus translates into our better cooperation on the rapidly aggravating problems humanity faces. More serious grown-up work that adresses inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, illiteracy, diseases, religious fanaticism, species extinction, habitat destruction, and here we go again – focusing on one thing that is only meaningfully bigger than yourself is not easy. But I have an entire year.

A birthday wish was originally published on Meandering home