The Post-Humanist, Biocentric Films Of Darren Aronofsky

Humanism is your religion. Even if you’re an atheist, you’re probably a humanist. It’s the basis for most of our society, truly rising to prominence since the Enlightenment. It’s a secular philosophy, one that forwards rationality and critical thinking over divinity and supernatural beings. It is a philosophy that places humans at the apex of all things, and makes us responsible for our own greatness and our own destinies.

But how is that a religion? If you follow the reasoning of Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens (and I do, and I think you should read this book), a religion is “a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order.”

Note the word superhuman here. This doesn’t mean supernatural, and it doesn’t mean Spider-Man. It means order that is not mandated by humans, that is above humans. Under Harari’s definition Communism is a religion, and I love his reasoning:

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The Ending Of THE WIZARD OF OZ Isn’t Complete Bullshit After All

The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies, but I used to really hate the ending. I couldn’t get with Dorothy’s realization that there was no place like home, especially after she had been in candy-colored Oz and seen so many wonders. It felt like a cop out to me, like the movie just needed to end and it couldn’t end with this girl separated from her family forever.

Like so many other things in my life, I was wrong about the ending of The Wizard of Oz. Sure, Dorothy’s last lines are a little extreme (“And I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all!” Like, leave the door open for a nice vacation, or even a road trip), but it’s the insight she gets in her final moments at Oz that has become meaningful to me:

“And it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, l won’t look any further than my own backyard… because if it isn’t there, l never really lost it to begin with.”

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“Dude, Who Are You Writing This For?”

Someone left a comment on one of the personal blog posts here, asking a question.

“Dude, who are you writing this for?”

Good question, and it’s one I’ve been thinking about for a few days. The obvious answer is “Me.” That’s the really simple answer, and it’s correct. I write little essays about spirituality or recovery or philosophy or whatever because writing is how I process stuff. A lot of the time I’m writing about things that are bothering me, or ideas I’m trying to understand, or about failings that I have, and I’m trying to work through them.

But that isn’t the whole answer. If I were writing for me, why even bother publishing (beyond narcissism)? It’s because I believe that whatever I’m processing at the moment can be of value to someone else.

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How I Blew It When Adam Yauch Died

When Adam Yauch died I totally disrespected him.

It was six years ago today that Adam Yauch ended his incarnation. Yauch was always my favorite Beastie Boy – I love his gravelly voice – and has long been an inspiration for me. Even before I hit bottom and had to find a different way to live my life, Yauch’s public change and growth served as a beacon of hope. What’s more, his public Buddhism brought me into the Free Tibet movement in the 90s, which opened the door for me to study Buddhism today.

But when he died I had not internalized the lessons he was trying to get across in his music and life. The gratitude and compassion that Yauch had found in Tibetan Buddhism was foreign to me, and I was trapped inside my own stories, anger and judgment. It led to one of the dumber episodes in the history of BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH. (which I think was still Badass Digest at the time).
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Do No Evil

The problem of evil! It consumes Western Abrahamic philosophy – how can a God who is both all-powerful and all-good allow evil into His universe? People tie themselves up in knots trying to answer this one (without taking a step back and wondering if their base assumptions about God are, in fact, not correct). And it’s not just the West that struggles with the nature of evil; even supposedly non-dualistic Eastern philosophies spend time trying to figure out why evil exists.

But what if it doesn’t? I’m not a Zen Buddhist, but I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of Zen Buddhist icon Dogen, and his thoughts on evil are really intriguing to me. The basic idea: there’s no such thing as evil. Evil isn’t a thing. It’s an action.

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Struggling In The Swamp Of Sadness

Note: this is not a cry for help (I am actively getting help). It’s a statement of solidarity with other people who are suffering right now.

This is going to start pretty dark. It will get more hopeful as we go. Content warning: this is all about suicidal ideation.

I spent a lot of time this weekend reading up on famous suicides. I ended up on a site called Lost All Hope dot com, which bills itself as one of the most comprehensive suicide resources online. I was there looking at painless ways to commit suicide. (Spoiler alert: it turns out that a lot of the ways you think might be painless in fact are not, and that the ones that are more painless are messier, and that the best way to kill yourself actually requires the help of another person, which makes it more of a murder.) I was not in what we usually consider a good place.

Right now I’m dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety. Some of it is situational – I’m unemployed, running out of money and don’t see a clear path towards being a position where I can get a real job that will allow me to move out of my current living situation, where I’m accepting the charity of friends. But there’s something I’ve learned in my 18 months of sobriety and spirituality – it isn’t my situation that’s making me want to die, it’s how I’m relating to it.

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Grappling With My Own Racism

How to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr? There are many options, plenty of them ways of making white people feel better about themselves. Ways that allow white people like myself to look at the most egregious examples of racism – Bull Connor, the KKK, our sitting president – and compare ourselves to those perfidies and feel better. By defining racism only as extreme examples of acting out on racial bias, we get to let ourselves off the hook, and tell ourselves that we are part of the solution just by our very existence as woke, enlightened people.

I won’t be commemorating this day by patting myself on the back for thinking the descendants of slaves deserve reparations, or that cops should stop shooting unarmed black men in the streets. I’m going to be using my mindfulness practice to interrogate my own conditioning and biases, and I’m going to spend it grappling with my own racist tendencies. Because like all white people in the United States of America in the year 2018, I’m at least a little bit racist.
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The Story Of Gethsemane

I sat at the spot where Jesus Christ begged God to not kill him, and I wept.

Well, probably not at the spot. There’s a lot of archeological uncertainty about whether the places in Jerusalem that we connect to the events of Christ’s life are the actual locations, but over the past few centuries millions of pilgrims have made the journey to visit these spots whether they’re legit or not. The Basilica of the Agony (aka the Church of All Nations) is built on what is said to be the place where Jesus, accompanied by a trio of sleepy apostles, got down on his knees and, said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.”

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BLACK PANTHER vs The Guy Who Is Ignoring Trump

Did you see the New York Times story about the guy who is staying ignorant of all Donald Trump related news? It’s so crazy that I half think it’s a hoax; the premise is that on November 8 this former Nike executive was so traumatized by Trump’s win that he decided he would ignore ALL news about Trump, going so far as to wear white noise headphones when at the coffee shop.

Let’s assume this is not a hoax. We can approach this guy from a few perspectives. The least helpful perspective is the one where we clown him and say bad things about him. Slightly more helpful is the perspective where we note that a wealthy white guy has the privilege to just ignore the horrors Trump is visiting upon our nation. But that’s only helpful if we turn it inwards – what are WE ignoring in the world thanks to our privilege of living in industrialized nations? Recognizing where this guy is wrong is useless unless we take that recognition and internalize it.

But maybe the most interesting (for me, a nerd) perspective is the Wakandan one.

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It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Different

Yesterday was a bit of a struggle for me, but I’m thankful for that. On the days when it’s hard I get a little more opportunity to practice.

A year and a half ago I went into recovery and therapy; Buddhism followed quickly behind. My goal at the time was simple: eradicate all my negative traits. Remove my anger, end my fear, conquer sadness, erase jealousy. 17 months later I have made absolutely zero progress on any of that… and it’s totally ok. Because what I’ve learned is that it isn’t about getting rid of those negative emotions, it’s about handling those negative emotions.

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