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Death Mantras

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Zum
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Zum
Posted 09/15/09 - 11:02 AM:
Subject: Death Mantras
Of course, obesity is a big deal in the U.S. Because of its implications regarding health, the topic came up over the radio recently in the context of health care reform. The moderator had invited a guest, and the program had a call-in format.

I was struck by the passion and incoherence of the guest and of those who called in (before I changed the station). In some cases, it was hard to figure out what they were saying. But out of the garble came several messages.

One was that it was mean to BLAME people for their obesity. They worked hard and did not have time to eat properly or to exercise. (The issue of blaming and not blaming seemed irrelevant to me.)

Another was that somehow obesity was associated with noble self sacrifice. This was truly startling. An individual called in and said that he was a health care worker: he worked so hard caring for others, he did not have time to care for himself. smiling face (He had to eat junk food; taking vitamins would have required too much of his time; he could not possibly walk anywhere...)

Don't be deceived by the smilie. I'm not amused. Self-destructive irrationality bothers me. But I am interested in what I think of as the death mantra.

I have it on the authority of Aristotle, of all people, that a simplistic affirmation is a precursor of addiction. (He does not call it addiction; an equivalent of the word may not have existed. The translator has "incontinence," in the sense of, a failure of self discipline.) He cites as an example the statement, "All that is sweet ought to be tasted." When this has the status of what he calls a universal statement, and when desire is present, the person will always eat the candy. This material, by the way, is to be found in Aristotle's Ethics...

Presumably the simplistic affirmation happens somewhere in those obscure territories of the mind where the interactive, public intelligence may or may not go. That is, the individual may not be aware that he has a death mantra posted in the center of his operations where the instrument panels are.

Okay, this is me: when a death mantra is patently ridiculous, one covers it up with incoherent garble...

I tend to doubt that the contributors of Forum have obesity problems themselves. You all sound very lean, spare and disciplined, despite the time you probably spend with computers... But I would love to read what you have to say about this and related topics.

libertygrl
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Posted 09/15/09 - 1:37 PM:

hi zum,

i came across the following blog post on "neurology and agency":

speculativeheresy.wordpress...9/11/neurology-and-agency/

which called to my mind this topic. are we merely a product of our circumstances, or do we truly have the agency to choose our path freely? personally, i feel it's a synthesis of both scenarios: we do have some agency, but we are also bound by some material restrictions.

as a general comment, i find the idea of blame troublesome, and believe it more productive and proactive to evaluate situations in terms of responsibility rather than blame. some naturally confuse the idea of blame with responsibility, so i want to emphasize that i think of responsibility as response-ability: the ability one has to respond to a problem. the problem with assessing blame is that there seems to be in our culture a deeply ingrained notion of punishment: that the blameworthy must be punished. in my mind, punishment only serves the sadistic impulse.

take for example the serial killer or serial rapist who is imprisoned for life. i think it should be clear that punishment is most often of little use in dealing with the situation. quite often the perpetrator has already suffered extreme punishment as a child, or lacks the cognitive faculties for remorse. more importantly, society should act on the responsibility to protect the public from further harm from such individuals.

Zum wrote:
Presumably the simplistic affirmation happens somewhere in those obscure territories of the mind where the interactive, public intelligence may or may not go.

i recently watched an interesting lecture on hypocretins, which are very specific hormones involved with the neurons in the brain that control wakefulness. they also promote cravings of various sorts: food, alcohol, drugs. it has been discovered that narcolepsy is actually a form of hypocretin dysregulation, and that due to this unique dysfunction in their brains, narcoleptics are also able to use highly addictive substances (such as meth) without becoming addicted.

obscure territories of the mind, indeed (or at least of the brain). can it be said that such a mantra, as you/aristotle describe, is simply a metaphorical expression of some neurochemical reality? and is this always the case? and what conclusions are we to draw about it pertaining to agency? this is where i found the above-linked blog to be relevant.

cheers,
lib
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Posted 09/15/09 - 4:21 PM:

This remind me of what D. Dennett calls a slice of cake: a super-stimulus.

Whereas just a few hundred years ago getting food was a more laborious process that took up more of our time now we live in the midst of super abundant super-stimuli.

As to why some people become obese and other do not is probably due to a combination of the influences of nature and nurture. I watched a science program about what they are calling the epigenome. In an experiment researchers cloned mice, fed them different diets and were able to turn off and on certain genes by means of DNA methylation. A radical change in phenotype took place between these mice. One became obese and turned brown, while it's twin remained slim and gray.

Take a look.

Nova Science Now:Epigenetics
Zum
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Zum
Posted 09/16/09 - 5:57 PM:

What interesting comments and cool information...

I'm in agreement with lib. We have some personal agency and lots of determining factors. And for me, the question of blame is irrelevant and uninteresting...

I'm currently interested in the modicum of agency that I think we do have.

I think that that dram of agency can be accessible to those who practice introspection. Just that. I'm not saying that it's available only to them, or that people should look within. Not saying that people who do not look within are culpable. Not even saying that all who look within, who try to watch what they are doing, necessarily have full agency.

I think that the simple idea, which is recorded as a simple statement (a mantra) with respect to some fun thing, like eating, can assume a place of power within the mind (or, if you like, the brain).

Examples: a fellow always says, "Man is happy only when drunk on liquor, love or poetry." Great emphasis is, however, laid on the first six words, considerable emphasis on the first eight. They become his mantra. The fellow almost drinks himself to death. True story factually; the cause and effect relationship is my idea. The mantra does not have the status of exclusive cause, to my way of thinking, but is a significant cause.

There is a family of risk takers; all of them, at various times, come within my purview. And all they want to talk about are big accidents--"wipeouts," they call them. They have a lot of wipeout stories. Eventually one of them dives off a high board and does not clear the board. She lands on her face; the accident is quite messy and potentially serious. She recovers, and the event takes its place among her brothers' wipeout stories.

They are free to wipe out all they want, and I don't mind. I'm just looking at a possible relationship.zen

Thinker13
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Posted 09/19/09 - 2:11 AM:

Zum wrote:

I think that the simple idea, which is recorded as a simple statement (a mantra) with respect to some fun thing, like eating, can assume a place of power within the mind (or, if you like, the brain).





Indeed. Even,in case of witness-perspective,a central thought,whatever it may be,however ludicrous,acts,as a pointer,consistent and hence Mantra. For example 'I am' or 'It is a thought' is also a thought,but it acts,to reinforce witness perspective and hence liberates life energy,praana,pure consciousness from thoughts.



Thank you.
Zum
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Zum
Posted 09/19/09 - 10:45 AM:

Awesome, Thinker...! Thanks. What a valuable post...
Thinker13
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Posted 09/20/09 - 2:11 AM:

Zum wrote:
Awesome, Thinker...! Thanks. What a valuable post...



Welcome.
Zum
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Zum
Posted 09/24/09 - 10:42 AM:

Hmm. Behind the principle mantra, of which one is aware, there can be a clutter, a mutter, of partly-heard, subversive petty mantras.

This seems really important.

Image: an individual is trying to meditate in a crowded room. (Bad idea from the start.) The individual is a novice, like me. She has achieved, let us say, a mantra that will work; she strives to ignore the hubbub around her. (I envision gentlemen at a nearby card table; they are having a very bad day, or a very bad life.)

They go after her mantra by murmuring negative statements, specifically chosen. The volume is the key thing: they speak softly enough so that consciously she does not hear what they are saying. They speak loudly enough so that she picks up their purport subliminally.

As a meditator, she needs to advance to the point where she hears such contrary sotto voce talk and gives it the status of "only thinking."

Now make these gentleman subliminal.
Thinker13
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Posted 09/25/09 - 2:04 AM:

Zum wrote:
(Bad idea from the start.)
.



I dunno,what your notion of 'meditation' is. Still,it does not seem to be so bad an idea .
Zum
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Posted 09/25/09 - 2:52 PM:

Well, I meant a noisy, crowded room. Wouldn't a quiet one be better?smiling face
Thinker13
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Posted 09/26/09 - 2:21 AM:

Zum wrote:
Well, I meant a noisy, crowded room. Wouldn't a quiet one be better?smiling face



I know what you mean. My suggestion was regarding meditation. Sitting cross-legged,chanting mantras,visualizing things is not meditation. If life,activities,as you know them,are not in meditation,it is not meditation in totality. For a very monkey mind,a beginner one,yes,a quiet surrounding would proffer betterment,still,it has to become a 24*7 meditation. Awareness burning as a flame. Consciousness acting as a fuel to it.



Thank you.
Zum
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Posted 09/28/09 - 10:42 PM:

I'm sure you're quite right, Thinker. I'm sure not there yet.smiling face
Zum
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Posted 09/30/09 - 9:49 PM:

I think life mantras are possible, too. I was reading in the Goncourt Journals about the hard times authors had in their youth. "Zola recalled a period when his trousers and his overcoat were generally at the pawnshop and he stayed in his room in a nightshirt. Yet he scarcely noticed the poverty in which he is living, his mind was so absorbed in a poem in three parts . . .an epic and cyclic story of our planet, before the appearance of mankind, during the long centuries of its existence, and after its disappearancelaughing.. .This, he explained, was because he had never for a moment had any doubts about his future success. . .So Emile Zola, half starved, in his nightshirt, was forever repeating, sotto voce and subliminally, "Damn, I'm good, I'm gonna make it; even if my talent is not extraordinary, I can out-work anybody; damn, I'm good, I'm gonna... In French, of course.

Zum
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Posted 10/24/09 - 10:28 AM:

It would be interesting to be able to trace, neurologically, the patterning of key beliefs in the brain. Anybody know about that?
Zum
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Posted 11/02/09 - 11:31 AM:

Image of a pool table. With a skilled player, a single stroke knocks the balls in a specific, PREORDAINED sequential pattern. Why is the game beloved? Why is it awesome to watch this game? Theory: it is an image of proficient willing.
Zum
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Posted 11/21/09 - 11:07 PM:

I think that if these mantras are repeated with conviction often enough and especially if they are emotionalized, they enter a key spot in the mind and brain and come to seem...well, obvious and unquestionable. Indubitable. The ground under one's feet. I believe that after that they become quasi-invisible: one does not need to think about one's first principles, though everything else follows from them. They become as diffident as one's heartbeat.

These first principles, resulting from the mantras, would come out of hiding, if at all, only during times of trauma or other transition.

Mantras by key people, uttered during childhood, could have the same definitive effect, I think.
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