Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making it Real

The Three Persons are real. That doesn't mean it isn't laughably easy to completely ignore them, to your detriment.

The spiritual practice I advocate (but have not followed this past week) requires that one practice every day. Practice is engagement with all three Persons.

Having resisted the idea from the beginning, I now strongly advocate literally putting knees to the floor and talking with God three times a day. Think you have nothing to say? Go over your goals for the day in the morning, make sure you're on track at midday, review at bedtime (feel thankful for what has been accomplished, note shortcomings as you make positive plans to overcome them). And if something more important comes up, you will be there, in the head office, with your chief advisor.

Feed your Muse by practicing your craft, sport, skill, or field of study every single day. If you don't enjoy it, you're doing something wrong or you're doing the wrong thing. Do the right thing.

Practice resisting temptation daily. Determine the biggest negative impulses you are currently facing, and keep a deliberate record of every time you give in or resist. Just stopping to decide which way you're going to have to mark it in that record is a huge first step toward regaining control of your Dragon.
What is happiness? 
The feeling that power is growing, 
that resistance is overcome.

Yeah, I know. But when the man was right, he was right, and this sort of practice is exactly what he was right about. You know it's true.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Religion in a Nutshell

I believe in the Powers that created the universe from nothing and that forge it anew from moment to moment. They are revealed to us by Science, if not fully, more fully as time goes on. I believe the Powers are completely impersonal, but that from their Forces and Laws, Simplicity evolves further and further into Complexity, from which emerge and flower Life, Personality, and Will.

I believe that as living willful personalities it is proper that we value Life over non-life, Personality over impersonal life, and Willful Personality over non-willful personality. The Powers destroy Life as impersonally as they create it; only Life will promote and protect Life; and only the higher forms of Life will promote and protect the higher forms of Life; we should fight for our values.

Within this human universe, I believe only the Present is truly real. The Past was once real, but is now largely unknowable and falsely remembered; there is no living there, and no reason to do so. The future is not yet determined; although many of its aspects seem foreseeable with high probability, almost all of them can still surprise us. Any perspective (for instance, that favored by many physicists) which views the universe from outside spacetime, with Past, Present, and Future visible as finished products, however useful for some purposes of conjecture, is neither valid nor meaningful from within our universe, where we actually live, and where the Future is still actively being formed by both chance and Will.

I believe I have a will to act in the future in consonance with my personality. I believe my personality is built upon my past history, my habits (past, present, and future), and my goals (completely of the future, and therefore only notional until realized). I believe that my personality is influenced by many subminds within my mind, including three important and well-defined enough for my conscious mind to have a personal relationship with each, and that these may be considered Persons in their own right.

None of these Persons is supernatural, none exists outside my thoughts and the reach of my hand. But each is as much a child of the Powers as is my conscious mind, and partakes of the numinous, That Which Is before and beyond analysis.

I know them by arbitrary names. You almost certainly know them and deal with them in your own mind, whatever you call them.

I call them God, the Muse, and the Dragon.

By God I do not mean anything like the God of Abraham, a Creator of the universe Out There somewhere. I mean the God we address in our own mind, where He resides. God, whether thought of as a Higher Power or one's best judgment or whatever you please, is the person to whom one prays and looks for guidance and strength. God knows the past, judges in the present, and offers guidance and strength for the future. He embodies reason, which is a real-time calculation, and morality, which is both an uncalculated judgment based on past teachings and experience, and a consideration for goals based in the future. Rooted in all aspects of Time, he always forgives, without forgetting, my past; I can always return to him in the present moment; he is always confident that I can change course in the future. This does not stop him from judging my present condition as harshly as necessary to spur me to action. I can pledge future actions to him, and the attempt to keep these pledges is one of the most salient and important aspects of Will. By default, I also pray to him when there is nothing I can do about a painful situation—for the strength needed to realize that it is beyond my power and to cease worrying or grieving over it.

The Goddess (who is both the Muse, and the Goddess of Victory) is the person who sustains and inspires me from beneath the surface. She repays practice with skill, exercise with strength, and study with inspiration. She is woven throughout the fabric of my trained body and my trained mind. As such, she is in my past, and while she can initiate relations and send messages to me in the present, I cannot directly address her or converse with her, as I can address God in prayer. What I can do is sacrifice my time in the present to feed her, for which she will inspire me when I need it. She will provide words more clever than I think I can write, she will provide the skill to make that move I thought beyond me. I will reach out for it, and she will place it in my hand. What is laid down as rote learning or practice rises up as creative inspiration and skill. What is laid down as slavish body labor rises up as physical fitness and aptitude.

The third person is the Dragon, whose double nature depends on how he is trained. Ultimately, and irreducibly, he is the ancestral part of my brain most directly interwoven with my body, senses, reflexes, and primal drives. Trained well, in tandem with one’s physical Muse, and kept from bad habits by a watchful God, he will be a great steed or elephant, powerful, indefatigable, and loyal. Trained badly, in default of guidance by God or Muse, he will show the face of the Adversary.

I pray to God, I sacrifice to the Goddess, but the Adversary is the one who approaches me. He tempts and distracts, he criticizes and discourages. He sees me as base, and wants me to live down to his image of me. He speaks for the body and its immediate desires, but is capable of rationalizations that can sound like God’s own reason. He resists and pushes off all hard work and difficult effort. He promotes self-destructive pleasures, such as intoxication and the seven deadly sins, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Vanity. But because idle fun and sexual pleasure and sometimes even violent aggression have their place in a healthy life, we cannot seek to completely extirpate the Adversary. He is the ladder which we have climbed to high reaches, but without which we still cannot stand.  We cannot do without his survival drives; we must instead just dampen and control the impulses which so often threaten our more developed way of life.

In the Louvre, there is a picture, by Guido Reni, 
of St. Michael with his foot on Satan's neck. 
The richness of the picture is in large part 
due to the fiend's figure being there ... that is, 
the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, 
so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
William James

The Dragon can never be completely tamed, will always be both Noble Beast and Serpent. Holding him as much as possible to that useful path is one of the great challenges of life, but we have God and the Muse to help us.

Those are the Three. I think you know them too. Let me go on.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Today It Is

Enough talk. One of my rules would have been don't wait for a special day, an anniversary, a day with historical significance, etc. Any day that divides all of the past from all of the future and is realer than either phantom realm ought to be a good enough day to start. But I see that the day I'm finally starting with is 8/8/16, not chosen for that but kind of catchy. Wish those were lucky numbers of mine, but anyway, it will be easy to remember.

Stripping certain games off my computer, enabling the app that bans me from my time-wasting websites, and beginning the day with a plan and a prayer. Speaking of which latter, about time for me to start writing about the Way of Three Persons itself. Let's see if I can do a small piece every day for a while.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Work and Exercise
(Today Is The Day 4.)

Not quite the same mental adjustment as diet.

I mean, you have to eat, and unless punishing yourself with a grotesque diet, you will enjoy it. The only problem is staying away from less healthy foods, or portions, that you think you'll enjoy more. Exercise and work are trickier.

You know for a fact that even though you frequently don't want to begin exercise, you almost always feel great about it when you're done (unless you've overdone and injured yourself). So the problem is really just powering through those first ten minutes.

As to the work you have promised yourself you will do when Today Is The Day, well, this too is a question of attitude. How much you have always thought you'd love working on that novel, that popular song, that website from which you will sell the product you understand so well. I'm on your side. I believe that you not only think you can do that stuff, you can do that stuff, and once you get in the swing of it, you will frequently love doing that stuff. But you know, you have to power through the first ten minutes there too, and sometimes it's more than ten minutes.

Once again, I offer you advice that is not original, just good, and proven.

Schedule it. Dress or otherwise accouter for it, go to a place you have assigned yourself to be at for this thing, and stay there doing nothing else for an hour. You must at least start it, and do some small piece of it, and when you stop, you can't leave, but must just sit there until an hour is up. (You could practice meditation, I suppose.) This doesn't sound very appealing, but great multitudes of people have found that it does work. Once you start, you warm up, and it's much more fun than doing nothing. You can't say that the risk of doing nothing for forty or fifty minutes is holding you back, because you frequently do nothing but watch TV or surf the Internet (you wouldn't be reading this else) or play some game you've played a million times or talk to strangers in a bar--and all for hours and hours and hours. Want to break those habits of wasting time? Sit and count the minutes as they go by, with no alternative but going back to something constructive.

The big work project, unlike exercising, which you can just start in on, often has a daunting startup phase that breeds procrastination. You can't write a novel without an outline. You can't build a website for, and market, your housepainting business without researching how to do those things. Okay. The first hour, you make a list of what has to be done. You turn each vague item on the list into something specific enough to do. Get that book out of the library. Call that guy and ask. Read those instructions. Next hour, you go down the list and start doing every little thing. You will get to the good part eventually, and enjoy it all the more when you do.

Oh, one more thing. On the exercise, start small. If you've been sedentary a long time, and it doesn't have to be a very long time to reduce your stamina to zero, you aren't going to do an hour of vigorous exercise. It would kill you. You laugh, but you won't do it, and if you try, it will put you off exercise for another year. And it's not necessary to go a full hour to begin building a very healthy exercise habit. I recommend at least starting with this sledgehammer workout for fourteen minutes. If you never get past fourteen minutes, it will still do you a lot of good. I have no association with the author of that page, I just think he's gotten a lot of things right (the fourteen minute time limit is particularly clever); you may notice that he also has a diet plan, and that I have borrowed ideas from that too. Great minds, etc.

Tomorrow Is Not The Day
(Today Is The Day 3.)

I'm going to be harsh and unfair now, and assume you're like me. You've got the idea of how to implement Today Is The Day, and you're planning on doing it real soon. Just going to celebrate tonight first with a big meal, a bottle, and whatever else might not require thought of any kind. Because you're still seeing Today Is The Day in terms of big effort and big sacrifice forever, and you say, sure, I'll commit to that, but first one more day of doing what gives me pleasure.

Doesn't this seem awfully familiar? This Last Fling Feast has preceded every diet and New Year's Resolution regimen you've essayed for years, many of which have never gotten any further than the feast itself.

Today Is The Day is not a crash diet and war-footing five-year-plan. It is living one day just as you have claimed you dream of doing. Enjoying your meals, enjoying a little light exercise, enjoying a work project of your own choosing. Do not put it off until tomorrow. If you find out that going even one day without goofing off and over-indulging is beyond your capacity--well, you might as well know that now. But if you find that--what do you know?--the life you always dreamed of isn't half bad, then you've taken the first step to living it day after day after day.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Post-Diet Diet
(Today Is The Day 2.)

So we're decided. We're not going to wait until we've suffered and sacrificed to become a wholly new person before we live the way we always dreamed of living. How does this work? A good example is diet.

In our fantasy future, when we get up every day at the weight we always dreamed of being at, how did we eat in such a way as to a) stay lean, and b) enjoy life?

I think most of us would agree on the following principles, which show up again and again in the advice of those who successfully practice moderation.

1. We will eat a well-balanced diet, with no extreme prohibitions or overloads in any one category characteristic of fad diets. I am tempted to add my own dietary suggestions here, based on science and experience, but really, it's not my business. I will point out that nutritional science is turning against the anti-fat crusade of recent decades, and fat satisfies hunger, whereas simple carbohydrates like sugar can, if anything, stimulate it. But people who don't overeat can pick their own proportions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein, and usually do fine.

2. We will eat three moderate meals a day. That's three servings, or small-to-medium-sized platefuls, not piled high, with no seconds. Or two such meals and a substantial snack.

3. We will eat mindfully. Let me make this clear. We will not shovel food into our mouths while watching TV or playing a computer game or having a political argument with a deranged relative. We will set aside time and space to a) pay attention to what we're eating, b) eat it slowly, and c) enjoy and feel grateful for it. Remember, the mental attitude that has made us fat is the belief, often the insistence, that we love food because it makes us happy. Yet fat people eat ninety percent of their meals unconsciously. Those first few bites can be ecstatic, yes, but then it's a matter of making sure we get everything available and fitting it all in and being done with it, hard labor, even if we feel bloated and distended by the end of it. Whereas when someone eats slowly and mindfully, there is time for the chemical components of food to hit the bloodstream and send satiety messages back to the brain. You enjoy it, you know you enjoy it, and you don't need seconds (although sure, that habit will still have to be broken.)

4. We can have a glass or two of wine or beer a day, if they don't undermine the rules above, and as much coffee or tea as we enjoy. (If caffeine happens to over-affect us, of course, we wouldn't enjoy that.)

5. We will not regularly have sweets or sweet desserts, only very occasionally and in small portions, to be savored slowly.

That all sounds about right, doesn't it? We won't be deprived, we will enjoy what we eat, but we will no longer imagine that packing it in makes us happy.

If you believe that you will eat like that after you lose your current fifty or hundred extra pounds, congratulations. Today Is The Day. You can start now. Never diet again, just eat good food in moderation. If you also exercise in moderation (as you surely intended your future self to do), you will soon begin to lose weight. Slower than you would on a "strict diet"--maybe a little slower, maybe a lot slower, that depends on a lot of things. But you will lose and lose until you are at a healthy maintenance weight and can shake hands with the future self you only imagined. Don't tell me it might take two or three years and that's too long. Never is too long. And that's where we came in.

What is this Way of Three Persons you speak of?

We'll get to that eventually. It's a little more esoteric than Today Is The Day. Taking my own advice has led me to start Today with that topic, but it's all one ocean.

You can't get there from here.
(Today Is The Day 1.)

The future seems like a wonderful place. Having finally lost all the weight you wanted to lose, you won't have to diet, but will be well-satisfied with 2000 (or whatever) calories a day. Having built toned muscles to go with that lean body, you will be able to keep that good shape with less than an hour of working out a day, and it will mainly be stuff your new body genuinely enjoys--tennis, or some other sport, perhaps. Having cleared your plate of distractions and other projects, you will work at what you really enjoy--and not at the mercy of some stressful deadline, but putting in perhaps four hours a day which pass quickly, you being in the flow state and all. The future will be wonderful.

But you'll never get there.

Between you and that future loom the six months of murderous diet and exercise it will take to lose that forty pounds. (Eighty pounds, a hundred? A year at least.) And you find that just starting that exercise at your current weight hurts and hurts and hurts, and at the end of the day there is no comfort food to make it all seem worthwhile. And you can't do that creative work until you clear your plate of other demands, and it's very hard to do that when all the distractions of the Internet beckon.

You can't get there from here. You will spend the rest of your life ... here. In the present.

Somehow, you must skip the part where you have to make superhuman efforts and sacrifices that in your heart you know you will never make, and start living now the way you imagine yourself living then. Because that could actually work. Let me go on.