The Return of the Beckoning Call

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What is this strange and familiar calling i’m feeling again? Is this call growing in dynamic strength every day the trumpet of renunciation and holiness? I hear it sounding loudly from the depths of my being, and some days (more often, nights) it even deafens me from my ability to discern the unceasing noise and chaos of worldly life. This balancing act between my two natures, my two worlds, is perhaps the most defining characteristic of my being–what in the West we call the “soul”. The essence of who and what i am can be found in the space between full engagement with the world in a proactive, creative, compassionate, and inspired way; and the great silence, sanctity, bliss, effulgence, and imperturbability of the ground of consciousness itself. This is the elusive perfection that i’ve spent my life fighting for. Indeed, it’s the telos of every spiritual seeker and philosophically restless person. The call beckons, and i have truly missed its sonorous melody. Can i listen to its sweet music and taste of its fruit while continuing my everyday obligations and worldly responsibilities? Is it possible to sustain? This balancing act is one hell of a challenge. Where is the Middle Way?

An Essay on Gun-Control

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Both sides of the gun debate are motivated in part by fear. The side against gun-control is afraid for their safety if they give up their guns, while the side for gun-control is afraid for their safety if guns continue to be so easily accessible to everyone. I think it’s important to note that fear is the common root of most people’s views on both sides.

Survey of Core Arguments Against Gun-Control

The arguments on the side against gun-control appear to be split between 1) those who feel guns can protect them from the government, and 2) those who simply don’t want their rights taken from them.

1) While I respect the spirit of this argument because the U.S. government is a terrifying group of corrupt assholes, guns cannot protect any of us from them. Its military power is incomprehensible if unleashed in full, and because of technology they don’t even need any soldiers to act as the gun-fodder anymore. Revolution against the government will not be effective through (fire)arms. Just imagine if a highly polarized political group (tea party or PETA, perhaps) tried to use guns to intimidate the government for their cause. It would destory their cause completely overnight. This simply cannot work or be effective today. It would have when the extent of military technology was muskets and cannons, but that’s not the case anymore.

2) As for the “rights” side, there is a further division between those who a) support it as a right because they enjoy using and owning them as a hobby, and b) those who view them as a right for ensuring personal safety.

2a) Regarding the former it’s absurdly self-centered to continue to push for the right to do something for fun if it means thousands of people will be killed from such easy access to that thing. If guitars were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths from people misusing them, I wouldn’t mind registering and going through extensive tests, training, and background checks before owning and using one–despite the fact that it’s my primary artistic medium and one of my greatest passions. Human life matters more than a hobby.

2b) Regarding the latter, I would say this is the only argument with any real weight or grey-area to it. Every bit of data I’ve seen has been against the validity of this, but more research is required to verify that this is the case (unfortunately, although most people support this, the GOP-controlled congress has blocked such research). Though this is tough, because people care more about *feeling* safe than actually being so, so the data won’t matter for the majority of such individuals. If the average gun-owner feels safer with a gun, they won’t care if data is very clearly saying that they are less safe because of that freedom. We are, as a whole, an emotion-driven species far more than a reason-driven one. This isn’t bad at an individual level and peoples’ fears need to be heard and taken into account. The more gun violence there is, the more people feel they need guns to protect themselves. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of guns. These fears shouldn’t be ignored or discounted or ridiculed (and i admit, out of anger and frustration i’ve done my fair share of this).

The Root Cause

An oft-stated notion on the anti-gun-control side is that the root cause of the “gun problem” is that we are a morally bankrupt people, for whatever reason (Which is also often, perplexingly, used to say why gun-control measures won’t work. I say perplexingly because it assumes we are worse morally than any other industrialized nation on no basis whatsoever, and also ignores the data we have on individual states that vary in their gun-control that shows a clear direct causal relationship between gun-control and lower rates of gun-deaths).

This notion of moral bankrupcy I don’t disagree with necessarily. The ultimate cause of all immoral action is the immorality and ignorance of the individual. But addressing the issue of the morality of a whole society is so overwhelmingly complex, I think it makes the most sense to take away the proximate cause of so many deaths until the ultimate cause can be addressed to a significant degree. Much like how a parent will take away toys that children are using to fight with each other until they can learn to be nice to one another, except that NOT taking the toys away first results in one or both of them being killed.

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”

Unfortunately, this idea of societal moral fiber, which I think should be a matter of more serious discussion, is typically preceded by the fallacious statement propagated by the NRA that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” The fallaciousness here must be understood. Other, legitimate and valid arguments do exist for the ownership of guns around personal safety and personal liberties. This argument is not one of them. It actually is fallacious enough that it kind of fits a bunch of fallacies all at the same time.

It’s largely a strawman fallacy, which is when a weaker argument is refuted that isn’t actually the argument of the opposition, despite often looking like it. No person supporting gun-control believes guns have agency, so they aren’t arguing that guns are the sole cause of death when someone dies from one. The pro-gun-control side is giving the simple argument that “people with guns kill more people than do people without guns.” It’s also kind of a false dilemma, which is a fallacy where the opposing argument, now strawmanned, is taken to be one of only two solutions, when in reality there are shades of gray.

The slogan could also be said to beg the question or to equivocate, but the biggest issue of what it does is mistake the relevance of proximate causation. There are ultimate, intermediate, and proximate causes, where the ultimate is the initial cause, which in a situation with an agent begins with the intention of that agent. The proximate cause is the cause which is closest to, or the final, immediate event responsible for an observed result (intermediate causes are all those between the two). In the case of guns, a shooter’s intention is the ultimate cause and the gun is the proximate cause. But this tells us absolutely nothing about whether the proximate cause in question should be regulated, de-regulated or otherwise. It doesn’t really say anything at all to support the position of de-regulation. If you replace the word “guns” in the statement with “nukes” or “cars” you see how nothing is really being said. Nukes and cars are both proximate causes of death, but obviously cars should be legal and nukes should not. Simply stating that there was a cause that led to the proximate cause says nothing about the value, significance, or societal worth of the proximate cause in question.


Addressing that inescapable slogan was a bit of an aside to the original intent of this essay, but I felt it had to be addressed. In sum, I believe the value of human life far outweighs any pleasure or hobby-related value of guns and that the government’s corruption is an inadequate basis for fighting measures of gun-control because at this point guns are of no use towards that aim. There is a moral crisis going on in the country right now, but I believe this is likely a symptom of larger issues, and it must be discussed deeply and thoroughly, but this addresses only the ultimate cause instead of the proximate cause of gun-deaths, and it will take so much longer to solve, while in the meantime, thousands of innocents will continue to die without reason. In light of these points and the absurd rate of gun deaths in this country–from daily mass-shootings to suicides–I support strong gun-control measures.

However on the basis of the small degree of uncertainty surrounding the validity of personal safety, and moreso because of the sense of security they can provide, I am open to legal gun ownership, and not an outright ban to all firearms. Abating fear for one’s life is an important function, and should not be ignored, diminished, or dismissed. It’s sad that such fear is as widespread as it is, but we (supporters of gun-control) cannot simply tell people who are frightened for their lives that their fear means nothing. It might be misguided fear, but it’s worth discussing the fears openly and with understanding: This is the ONLY way to remove the fear, and thus remove the highest justification for the ownership of firearms (as I see it).


As a final point, I would say that the specific gun-control measures I support are those proposed by Bernie Sanders. If any of the points I suggest here are to be challenged it’s this list of proposed measures of gun-control which still allow for personal ownership and use under the majority of circumstances. Those against gun-control often erroneously view the situation as black and white (the false dilemma fallacy), between no guns for anyone and the status quo today. But there exists a grey area which deserves our consideration, especially if it means saving human lives.

1) Significantly expand and improve background checks
2) Renew the assault weapons ban
3) Make gun trafficking a federal crime
4) Close the “gun show” loophole or Brady bill (which allows for sale by private sellers, thereby circumventing background checks, record of sale, or even identification)
5) Close loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers (and other criminals, including individuals on the no-fly list) to obtain guns
6) End the sale of high capacity magazines

It’s not a perfect list, to be sure, but it’s the best-sounding, clearest, and most specific set of steps I’ve heard at this point in the discussion. What do you think?

Love: A Model

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Love Model

Love is a nebulous concept at best. It refers in ordinary speech to such a wide range of human emotions and experiences that from the standpoint of semantic clarity and more effective communication, as well as greater self-knowledge, it’s of inarguable benefit to parse out this confusing word.

So what should first be obvious about this model (and hopefully in any discussion of love in general) is that love refers to a wide range of phenomenal and emotional experience. To the extent that it is an emotion it is surely a complex one, but in reality its nature extends beyond the limits of mere emotional experience. It is a mode of being: a paradigm of connection and relating to other beings and the whole of the external world.

So where I began in the task of understanding the full range of “love”‘s uses and how they relate to one another was in some of the different terms used by other languages and philosophical systems. Many (especially Christians) are familiar with the four Greek words for love: eros, philia, storge (pronounced store-gay), and agape (ah-gah-pay). Buddhists will be familiar with the four immeasurables (from which I derived loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance) and bodhicitta. These different terms and their differences in meaning formed the basis of piecing together this model.

The initial division to bear in mind of the forms of love is that they are either rooted in desire or in what I’m calling altruism–selfless forms of love. But at their core anything to which the label “love” is applied has one thing in common:

1) Devotion

This is the core, unifying aspect of every form of love that exists, and I define it as a willingness to sacrifice–be it time, energy, preconceptions, values, self, or other things that we care for or love–for the sake of the thing we “love.” As this is the ultimate foundational aspect it’s worth considering the role that sacrifice plays in our lives, both subtle and apparent.

We can sacrifice our lives for another, or we can just sacrifice some of our money and time to watch our favorite movie that we “love.” We can sacrifice our preconceptions about what is “normal” or “right” to accommodate the lifestyle of a person we care about. Or we can sacrifice our energy and time to go to work to support our family, or even to court someone of romantic interest to us. In extreme forms we can sacrifice our own sanity and clarity of mind for something or someone we are neurotically addicted to, or we can sacrifice our very sense of an individual self, our ego, for the transcendent benefit of non-dual connection with others.

Our entire lives are basically a game of resource management, and everything we choose to do or to associate with in life is a choice of what to sacrifice and to what. Thus, love is at its core a question of devotion.

2) Eros

This is one of the more familiar aspects of love, and one of the most frequently referenced in everyday speech. This is romantic love: the love of the passionate, the intimate, the sexual, and everything pertaining to such connection with another individual or individuals. Except in rare cases of abnormal psychology I would say this is limited to connection with other humans, not animals or inanimate objects. Any experience of such desire for another person, for intimate connection with them, for sexual connection, any experience of lust or the like is an experience of eros.

3) Philia

This is the Greek word pertaining to friendly or brotherly love, or in compounded words like philosophy (love of wisdom) or any word ending in -phile or -philia. For me the semantic range is closer to that of the English word “fondness” or to “like” something. But bear in mind that it necessitates at least some degree of devotion or sacrifice. We experience philia with our friends, with our pets, and with any person who we can say we enjoy the company of. But we can also apply it to games, subjects of interest, hobbies, abstract concepts and so forth. Anything that we like to which we are willing to sacrifice some measure of our time, energy, money, and so on, is something to which we are experiencing philia. If you say you “love this show”, that you “love someone like a brother”, or even that you “love existentialism” you are loving that person or thing in the context of philia.

4) Storge

In the Greek this word had a connotation that more referred to familial love, or affection rooted in familiarity. But for me I have expanded this to what I call love out of duty. From the familiarity, from social or societal obligations we experience devotion towards others. Similarly if one can not even remember why they are devoted to someone or something (like religion) it is a devotion from duty. Furthermore, familial love is alone inadequate because a parent can love their child out of genuine philia, and because duty-based love is not intrinsically altruistic. It is a form of love which is selfish because it is fear of social implications, of punishment by a higher authority, or of guilt from of not exhibiting the devotion which motivates it. We see this in all forms of ritual when they are done non-mindfully or without proper understanding and motivation. Storge is a side of love which is often under-acknowledged due to its lack of “sexiness” (in the exciting or interesting sense, not the erotic), but which is important to be mindful of in one’s own life in seeking growth and more profound and meaningful experiences of connection.

5) Attachment

Desire-based forms of love are not unhealthy or inherently negative in and of themselves in any way. In fact, in many ways they are largely what make human life beautiful and worth experiencing. Attachment is what happens when they begin to get a little out of control and we begin to rely out of fear upon the thing we are connecting to. Because these are fundamentally self-motivated forms of love, attachment is when they are deeply associated with our sense of self. No longer do we just seek them, but we are afraid of NOT having that outlet of connection. When the fear of losing a lover sets in, or of whether a friend reciprocates our philia. When we fear even being away from our pet, lover, child, or whatever. This generally breaks down according to the four attachment styles in attachment theory. So long as the attachment remains a secure form of attachment it can actually be healthy in many kinds of close human relationships, like in close family members or in marriage as a kind of connective tether.

6) Neurosis

When attachment gets completely out of hand it becomes all manner of different mental disorders, addiction, or strong afflictive emotions like anxiety, depression, and the like. This is fairly easy to grasp in all manner of obsession and compulsive behaviors. This is the absolute dark side of love.

7) Loving-Kindness

In Buddhism there are the four immeasurables*, which are kind of like a list of four kinds of altruistic love for others that are of benefit to us spiritually or in terms of personal growth and dis-association with the ego. The first of these is loving-kindness which is the desire to see others experience happiness. It is the urge to make someone happy, like when we feel compelled to give someone a present that they will enjoy.

8) Compassion

This is the second immeasurable, and it is the desire to not see others suffer. When others are in pain we feel their pain empathetically. Not to where we are suffering ourselves, but where we feel a vivid comprehension of the other’s suffering and wish to ameliorate it however we can. When you see someone upset and are compelled to embrace them and offer your presence or your ear, you are experiencing compassion. When a mother will selflessly do anything she can to end her child’s pain she is demonstrating pure compassion.

9) Acceptance

This term encompasses the fourth immeasurable of equanimity, but for me holds a wider meaning. Equanimity is the experience of true neutrality of affect. Contentment in the present moment, without desire for something or aversion to anything. Acceptance begins from equanimity, but stresses it in terms of how we are relating to others. In acceptance we are devoted to a person as they are, without wanting them to be different in any way. Doing this is harder than it might seem, as it requires sacrificing our preconceptions, our world views, our ideas about the person, etc. When a deeply religious parent embraces their child’s difference in ideology or lifestyle that goes against their own, they are realizing true acceptance. When a person accepts their lover as they are completely, without wishing to see them change who they are, they are experiencing acceptance.

10) Bodhicitta

This term comes from Mahayana Buddhism and it represents the desire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The key aspect of it which applies to this model, and which represents the logical “next step” from the three basic altruistic loves is that it involves aspiration. On the basis of selfless love/devotion we seek to realize our best in every way, as that allows us to devote ourselves more effectively and deeply. It is the intent of self-transcendence in love. When in a healthy relationship a person wishes to improve, to grow, to be their best possible self, not for their own benefit, but for their partner’s benefit, it is an experience of bodhicitta. As bodhicitta progresses and expands it can grow to encompass the all-consuming aspiration to realize our highest potential to benefit all living things.

11) Agape

This is the final of the four Greek loves, and for this model represents the highest, most altruistic, ideal form of love–the love of non-duality. It is complete abandonment of the ego, complete conceptual unity with another or with all others, and all actions, words, and thoughts are an expression of altruistic love. Eating at this point is done with love felt towards the beings who provided the food for you and with the mindful, profound hope that the food can help to sustain your body so that you can continue to love others. This is enlightened love. The love felt by Jesus or the Buddha. Because you’ve conquered the self and realized a felt sense of unity with all things you enter a state of pure non-aggression. The realization of agape is the realization of our highest potential as human beings to love.

Final Thoughts

Each of the three basic altruistic loves and the three basic desire-based loves can easily become any of the other basic kinds of desire or altrusim based love, which are here represented by the arrows connecting them to each other. And even the lines between the three basic forms of desire-based love and between the three basic forms of altruistic love are fine and blurry. Compassion is the desire to not see others suffer, but that’s done through seeking their happiness sometimes. When does sexual attraction become philic love of the person or vice versa. It’s no wonder the concept of love is so nebulous!

But it is this quality of these characteristics that allows for one form of love to so easily lead to others. An initial connection in eros can lead to philia and storge as the emotional connection deepens, and even to loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance.

“Being In Love With Someone”

When all of the six basic desire and altruism-based loves are experienced towards a person we have truly “fallen in love with them.” That experience of “being in love” with a person typically leads to both attachment and bodhicitta as well. When the bodhicitta fades it is no longer a healthy love of growth. When the attachment fades it can lose stability, groundedness, faithfulness, and security in the face of change. This is the ideal, or healthiest** form of “being in love.” Attachment rooted in eros, philia, and storge and bodhicitta rooted in loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance, experienced as a unified whole towards a single person.

*I combined into loving-kindess the third immeasurable of empathetic joy or mudita which is experiencing happiness when witnessing the joy of others.

**Within this though, the attachment style can vary according to the four attachment styles presented in attachment theory. It is of course ideal that the attachment style experienced be the secure type, though experiencing it as one of the other three doesn’t preclude the real experience of authentically “being in love” with the other person.

Love Model

The Higher Death

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It is mind; it is empty.
It is mind; it is empty.
It is all mind; it is all empty.
All this false being is intrinsically devoid of essence.

There is no “is.”
There is no “is not.”
Every phenomenal thing is trapped between being and non-being for eternity;
It is this neutral ground which holds the key-spark.

From this fundamental truth we can see our own true nature,
As well as that of all sentient beings.
All are the same.
All are naught.

Out of this void rises wisdom and compassion.
With these two-fold wings every being may know the highest peace.
They may transcend pain, and even non-pain.
They may transcend transcendence itself.

But transcending transcendence means nothing to an ordinary sentient being.
Beyond “beyond” is unfathomable.
One’s mind must know its own depths as unfathomable,
And through this see truth.

All that we see is mind, and yet we abide in ignorance.
All that we know is mind, and yet we abide in ignorance.
All that we experience is mind, and yet we abide in cyclic pain and despair and woe.
We ignore this pervasive void of essence, and so cannot see beyond the promise of bliss.

I too, am lost.
All beings are lost, until they taste of the well-spring of infinity.
This may only be found through the path of loss and renunciation.
But who can know that this renunciation is beyond mere possessions or perceptions?

To lose our very being, our souls;
To negate all pain with bliss, and all bliss with equanimity;
To let go of our very instincts of self-perservation, connection, reproduction, sustenance, and being;
To embrace demise and void as though a loving long-lost friend–this is the highest practice.

Find yourself in your Death.
Find Death that transcends the duality of mortal existence.
Seek the ultimate Death who resides at the core of life itself.
She is your lover and guide to a world beyond conception.

But It is still mind, It is still empty.
Yes, It is still mind, It is still empty.
Even here, It is all mind; even now It is all empty.
All this true being is even still devoid of essence.

The Tragedy of Dying Languages


One global issue of great concern to me is the alarming rate of language death happening in the world today. It’s estimated that half of the world’s 6000 living languages will be extinct in the next 50 years, many with little to no record of their vocabularies, grammar, or potential for expression. I deeply love and am fascinated by language as it forms the vital medium for clear and direct communication at all levels. Without it there is no science, no politics, no philosophy or religion, virtually no art, and no substantial form of education. Every natural language carries with it some thousands of years of cultural history with it, shaping it as a unique lens to frame life and new experiences. Each of these lenses gives us a new view, a new angle to approach problems of the world or to be more creative. These languages are the backbone of unique indigenous culture, and indeed, one cannot separate language from culture itself. The death of a language is the effective death of a culture and the reduction of human diversity. This being at such a time where humanity is more capable of learning from one another than ever before is one of the greatest unspoken tragedies of modern man.

Coming from a multicultural background and having a diverse group of friends at a young age brought me to early consideration of the differences between cultures, and this only grew as I learned about religions and world history in high school. Having now traveled the world a bit and spent a great deal of time studying languages, I have learned just to how great an extent psychology and philosophy can be shaped by language. Language has long been considered the cornerstone of humankind and it has the potential to elevate us to unimaginable heights in the arts, sciences, and philosophy. Such an incredible tool is remarkable in its own regard but with a huge array of different such tools at our disposal, and for the sake of the over-all well-being of humanity such diversity must be maintained and promoted to make the world that much richer and more beautiful.

Imagining the Wealth of the Plutocrats (Happy Valentine’s Day!)

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I got to thinking about wealthy people and how to go about comprehending the large volumes of wealth possessed by the richest people in the world. There are graphics and charts and simple facts like the fact that the bottom 41 percent of Americans have less wealth than just the Walton family alone. But i wanted to make it even more personal in a way. We can all imagine how incredible making a million dollars would be, even over the course of decades. Sit and really imagine what you would do if on your taxes next year you had seven figures as your total amount…

Now imagine that you make that every week. A million dollars a week exactly. Every week. Even the weeks you’re doing nothing. Now let’s say that happens for you from the age of 16 all the way until 66. A typical time-frame of working ages to begin and retire. A million dollars a week, every week, for 50 straight years. That’s 2.6 billion dollars. Is there a job in the world that you could imagine being justifiably paid that kind of money for? It would maybe be justified for Superman, but even then just barely. You cannot possibly EARN that kind of money. You just can’t. And then now please consider that there are roughly about 700 people who surpass this amount of money. Seven-hundred. 700 individuals who make more money than anyone could even justify making in terms of “earnings”.

But let’s take it further.

Instead of a million a week, let’s make it $1,000,000 each and every day no matter what. Let’s then go from the working period beginning at age 16 and start from the moment you are brought into this world. And let’s assume you do not spend a dime of that. And then let’s assume that you luck out with genetics and live for 100 years, dying on your 100th birthday just so we can keep the math nice and even. Now, assuming you spent none of that money, that amounts to $36.5 billion. And still, there are real people in this world who possess MORE money than this. 13 of them. 13 people who have more wealth than you would if you made a million dollars a day for no reason from the moment you leave your mother’s vagina until your death after living for 100 years, and NEVER SPENT A DIME OF IT. That’s more money than more than half of the world’s countries can say they have.

More than half of the world’s countries.

I don’t care what your reasoning, you have to be mental to think that these people have EARNED that kind of money. You cannot EARN wealth to that degree. Nothing short of saving the planet from complete destruction single-handedly deserves the term “earned” in the context of this kind of wealth. And because they didn’t really earn it, they don’t have the right to all of it. Defending such disgusting greed is morally reprehensible and absurd.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

sun and moon

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oh my longing for love
likens to that of how the
sun wishes to meet the
moon once again
how the shadows of
the deepest caverns
long to once again be
yielded to the light
as the dark becomes
enlightened and
the sun and moon
eclipse that what i
know is naught
feeling is devoid of truth
and this love to be felt
from the source
personified in a monad
of false self is
what i seek and yet not
as the goal and path
are united by this source of love

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