Is the Machine in the Ghost?

Is the ghost in the machine or is the machine in the ghost?

Is the ghost in the machine or is the machine in the ghost?

We too easy accept the idea of the soul as being the “ghost in the machine.” We see different Science-Fiction images of a cyborg – a robot of some kind with a person, or just a brain, controlling it – and think our souls are like that – just a tiny speck of “something spiritual” hidden deep inside. Another idea is that the body is within a greater soul – something larger, which fills and reaches beyond it.

We don’t know, of course, which it is. Where, even, is the mind? Our brains  keep our organs and muscles coordinated, and do the needed calculations. “Muscle memory” lets us do different tasks without having to calculate anything. In fact, it could be that most of what we do doesn’t involve the brain so much at all. How often do we, “talk without thinking.?” A hand might reach for something when the brain doesn’t remember where to find it. We laugh, walk, dance, or make love without the first degree of cogitation. “Where was my mind,” is a common question. Do we ever find an answer?  We always think of the mind as being linked to the soul, as part of it, or our link with it. How is it linked? Isn’t this just part of the Mystery?

Soul Science in Everyday Living

Is the ghost in the machine or is the machine in the ghost? This could explain a lot, couldn’t it? Why do we have different responses from being close to people? These even vary with who they are, or even their intentions. The way that soul issues effect our bodies in so many ways, is it any wonder that Psychology is the most confusing science?

The first book of Moses speaks of God, in the plural, “Elohim,” creating mankind in His/Their image, and of people, from the beginning, not just raising families but creating communities. So long after, we now flock to cities, but simply to make money – to survive, and get ahead (of others). We lift up the Loner, the Maverick, the Strong Woman, and the Rugged Individual as ideals, and tell ourselves that the disease of loneliness is really the cure.

If the soul is the best picture of who we really are then perhaps in recognising its outward-ness we can learn to grow by reaching out when our culture has taught us to merely cringe. More questions, most not quite so thorny, show up in The Tao of Prayer. I hope you will see it soon.

Why Write? A Writer’s Side Note.

I have split myself three ways. How so? Under this name, my own, Non-Fiction name, I write things as they are. What did the ancient sages really say? How do they relate to our lives? What can we learn from how they lived, or how we live?

Under other names, I write Historical Fiction (or Fantasy, depending on the reader’s own experience of magic, miracle, and mystery),  and Southern Gothic, which looks at the skeletons in our own inner closets in a way which, I hope, helps the reader to see those bones a little more clearly, and – just maybe – sort them in their proper order.

Stephen King famously wrote, “All fiction is a lie. Really good fiction is the truth.” There are a lot of things we can lay out in scholarly monographs. We can do all kinds of research into the role, say, of Mystery,  Attachment, or Delusion in human life. We can lay the findings out in self-published hardbacks, or submit them to specialised journals. A few professors might read them. Some might even mention them in their own work. In the end we wind up with two disasters. One is that very few people would read them. A greater one is that these living realities would be presented as cold, dead, dissected, and set into categories that don’t even fit.

Zuang Tse said that the sages can either pass on their wisdom, life-to-life, or they leave it in the form of the dead bones of writings they leave behind. Whether through stories, as in The Tao of Prayer, or in the longer “parables” of fiction, my work is to bring my readers into touch with the Mystery of their own lives.

All in all, this sounds like a job only a crazy person would take on. Maybe it is. And maybe, just maybe, I’m crazy enough to pull it off. Stay  tuned.

Memories, Regrets, Hopes, and Dreams

Memories, regrets, hopes, and dreams. Lots of songs use that theme. Especially memories. Lots of us – all of us, really – build our lives on them. What we’ve learned, what our parents and teachers learned, and so on. Not just what they said. How they said it. How they lived. How they acted towards us. Everything counts. Everything makes a difference. Most of the things we don’t even know we learned. We just take it for how life is. One generation carries the lessons, and the scars, of the one before it. Too often we never even wonder why.

Something to build from.

If we build a house we need a plan. Several, really. One for the ground work. One for the foundation. Framing, plumbing, electrical, and so on. All based on somebody’s memories of how to do these things. If we go someplace we need a map that tells us where to turn, where to stop, and where to eat. Some highways are lined with food stops. Others go on for miles without one at all. The one we find might be legendary, or it might be notorious. We rely on other people’s memories for all this as well. So where am I going with this?

Someplace to go.

Our lives are just that way, too. On the one hand, we don’t get a map. We take it all as we come up on it. Maybe we try to predict the road ahead by what the road behind us was like. We might just strike out cross-country and wind up trying to make it up a muddy slope, or out of that sink hole we didn’t see coming. We might get a whole stack of maps, and get so wound up studying them we never get on the road at all.

If we look at our lives as something we need to build – and both pictures are pretty accurate – we have the same two pitfalls. Some people dwell on the blueprints until their eyes ache. Else they stare at the heap of materials as if in whatever heap they landed in off the truck is the plan for the future. Others try to blot them out and try to “create” themselves out of their own dreams. One winds up living in the rubble, while the other keeps adding to the plans as if they are all that matters.

While we’re on the road,

Let’s stay with the road trip. A house stands awhile, then we move, or it falls victim to time and nature. Termites, winds, mortar decay, and the lot all take their toll. The home I restored five years ago needs constant work to maintain. “Historic homes” take even more. Our own lives are no exception. Our houses, really, aren’t where we live, but who we are and what we become.

Whose road is it, anyway?

Wherever we live, however long we stay, we’re all traveling along a road we call “life.” Truth is, that road isn’t just this one’s life, or that one’s, yours or mine. The same road has always been, and each of us is on it, some place or another. Are we making progress? Camping out? Up a side road? Others who have traveled it have left markers for us, how to move ahead, how to reach our Goal. Lao Tse wrote, “the way that can be named is not the eternal and unchanging way.” Only the side roads have names.

The Tao of Prayer is a simple book, filled with “traveling tips” from some of the wisest guides there have been, spiced with the odd smile, and odder belly laugh. It will be well worth your read.

The Unbroken Thread – Life!

It’s all an unbroken thread. The unbroken thread of life. What do we want? A better question, what do we need? We can say we want a better job, a bigger house, respect, love, or security. Are these enough? Unless we’re really different, we get these things and there’s still the same want. It’s just for more of it, or something else. We just can’t say what it is, can we? The better job might mean more frustration. The bigger house is a pain to keep up. Respect is hard to measure, love is elusive, and security, well, what is that, really? How do we untangle that thread? Where does it end?

What we look for is beyond form; what we listen for is beyond sound; what we would grasp cannot be held. So says Lao Tse. Like following an unbroken thread it has no beginning, and no end. How do we grasp it? How do we use it? This, he says, is the essence of the Tao. We can’t see its beginning. It has no end. Socrates said that the wisest words we can say are, “I do not know.” This is the beginning, and this is the goal, of all true wisdom. The unbroken thread of life.

So what is “wisdom?” Is it just about having the right answers? Clever words to impress people? A trained jackass can impress folks! Wisdom is knowing what is right – how to live a life that works. Not just “works” for getting what we want, but releasing our wants – whatever they are at the moment. After all, how many times have we wanted something more than anything, but had no use for it once we got it? A puppy chasing its tail gives us a better picture of our lives than we often like to admit, doesn’t it?

We are born into this world. Into this universe. Something in us, some foolishness, drives us to live as if we were not part of it. We see our circumstances as something we have to control. The puppy just has to catch that tail. Philosophers might call this “individualism. Psychologists, “Egotism.” The Bible calls it “sin,” and the Hindu traditions, “Samsara.” We can call it “delusion,” and remember Alan Watts’ pithy warning, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

So what is wisdom? Not a strategy for getting our own way. Not a collection of “wise sayings.” Not a plan, and not a book, though wisdom can be found in books, and we can plan wisely. Wisdom, non-attachment, or freedom from delusion, however we put it, is not something to red or write down. It is a life. It is life. It is love. The unbroken thread of life!

When we begin to love we live a life that is freely given, not fervently grasped after. Love is giving; lust is grasping – the delusion that we are here for ourselves. To love, then, is to deny ourselves – die to ourselves, and our own desires. Then we begin to live. This is the paradox – that love begets life, and death begets love. Only when we embrace our death do we begin to live.

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