Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Inspiration of the Stars

And by stars I don't mean those celebrities pictured on the covers of magazines, but those far brighter and much more magnificent glowing objects visible in the nighttime sky. You know: Stars. Suns. Each of those stars is a sun similar to our own, and sometimes larger, but each millions of miles away and surrounded by their own unique moons and planets.

I PREFER THE NIGHT, not generally for reading or social gatherings, but for being alone and thinking deeply about things, contemplating the majesty and mystery of the universe under the quietude of the star filled sky.

I enjoy the night primarily for the silence, the solitude, and the stars. Which is why I generally don't like spending too much time outside on a cloudy night.

It is only when the sky is clear and the stars are bright, that I am intuitively aligned with illuminated insight. Don't you like how that rhymed? And it just happened on its own effortlessly without me even trying.

The celestial sky mirrors the inner self. Looking upwards I see a reflection in my own mind of certain thoughts, imagery, and insights which would otherwise not be visible to me. Isn't that awesome? You ought to try it sometime.

You need at least an hour though before your eyes actually properly adjust to the lower light, an hour of just being outside and looking upwards. Though it helps if you're having a beer (or substitute with your own drink of choice). Yeah I have found that SMALL amounts of alcohol can in fact be inspirational, and that is NOT the closeted alcoholic in me resurfacing and inventing an excuse or justification to drink, but really it's true. Alcohol can be an aid to inspiration. A good way to determine a healthy level of alcohol consumption, is if after drinking you wake up the next day feeling good. Then you can safely say that you didn't have too much to drink, and may repeat the same amount next time. But if you wake up feeling like shit, sore throat, headache, dizziness, nausea, cloudy thinking, then ya (my Chicago-ish accent kicking in) may want to cut back the ratios a bit next time.

Spending some time outside at night, or before sunrise, looking up at the sky when it is still dark and the stars are still bright, can be extremely inspirational. I have so many interesting, thought provoking, philosophical ideas, observations, spontaneous questions and answers that enter my mind, too many to write everything down fully intact without sacrificing one insight for another. But it's prolific. The key is to be relaxed though, free of worry, and not in any hurry. That's an essential ingredient, because inspiration generally isn't visible to a stressed out mind. So it's not enough to merely look at the stars for inspiration, but to look at the stars in a relaxed, unhurried, worry free state of mind.

What is it about the darkness of celestial space and its canopy of stars millions of light years away that illuminates my thinking?

Could you imagine what life would be like on this planet if the stars were no longer visible to the naked eye? Or if they were never visible, in the whole history of the earth, without actually leaving the planet?

What would life be like if it was always cloudy at night, with no celestial objects ever visible, no moon, or stars, only the daytime sun?

The night sky is our window to the rest of the universe. Without this view, our view would be significantly diminished. Seeing the stars deepens our perspective, gives us a more accurate idea of where we are. It shows us that our planet is very much like a spaceship, not stationary, not only in space, but traveling through space. When looking up at the sky this is an insight that should never once leave your mind.

The earth is precious and beautiful, but seeing the moon and the stars reminds us, teaches us, that there is more to this world, a whole deeper dimension and a far wider universe extending beyond our planet, which is largely unexplored and vastly mysterious. This is why I love to sit outside at night looking up at the stars, to remind me that this planet is not all there is, that there is so much more out there.

And yet it's all a matter of perspective, just as the universe is immeasurably vast in its hugeness, so also is the microscopic dimension immeasurably vast in its smallness. It's like a perplexing riddle, how the macroscopic and the microscopic seem to be inverted mirrors of each other, infinitely nested, ever-present overlapping parallel worlds and dimensions of big and small.

I've written about the inspiration of the sky and the stars before, and I will probably write about it again. I think the reminder is useful, is something worth talking about repeatedly so that you never lose sight of its importance. Life doesn't last too long, so we need all the helpful reminders we can get, because you never know which day will be your last. You've got to seize the day. See Random insight #3. Don't hold back. That's been my main problem, holding back too much, thinking that I have all the time in the world. But as they say, he who hesitates is lost.

So what are you going to do tonight? If the sky is clear, make a date with the stars tonight, they won't disappoint.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Difference Between Thinking and Reading, Realizing and Repeating

Our creative faculties are all too often stunted from living in noisy overdeveloped urban environments, and spending too much time indoors watching television and looking at computer screens, but did you know that even reading too much can also be detrimental to your creative faculties?

How so? Well as someone who absolutely loves books, spends a lot of time reading books, and whose life would be significantly diminished without books, what the hell do I mean?

It's not that reading in itself is detrimental. Of course not. Reading is good. Reading is the surest way of rapidly improving your education. But reading too much, without regularly taking time out for personal contemplation, to process what you've read, to think for yourself, to directly listen and observe and ask yourself questions and form your own answers, without doing that, both reading and watching television, or doing anything that becomes a substitute for thinking, can become detrimental to your intellect.

It is possible to be an avid "well read" reader without being a thinker, without being much of a creative, independent, or innovative thinker.

There are a lot of repeaters in this world, many who are overpaid and overrated, people who dutifully repeat whatever the experts say, without really understanding or verifying the facts independently for themselves.

It is possible to appear quite learned and intelligent by merely memorizing what you have read or what you are told by others, to be a walking encyclopedia, a human computer regurgitating assorted facts and trivia, while at the same time being little more than a thoughtless repeater, a programmed robot parroting other peoples ideas without having any actual experiential grasp or understanding of those ideas independent of books or words, or without even having any original thoughts and ideas of your own.

Well maybe you'd counter that there are no original ideas, that there is really nothing new under the sun, everything is borrowed, recycled, rediscovered, and re-exchanged. That all ideas are a collaborative affair, and that nothing is truly independent or original. Maybe so, but in this case, when I speak of an original idea, I mean it in the sense of the idea arising from the quiet contemplation of your own mind. It doesn't matter if that idea was partially shaped and influenced by other ideas not uniquely your own, nor does it matter if you are not the only one, or are only one among thousands receiving the same insight or realization. What matters is the experience of the idea arising seemingly independently within your own mind, rather than being feed a prepackaged version that requires little to no thinking or experiential knowledge.

I hope I inspire you, but ultimately your inspiration is your own, is a personal relationship between the inner you and the outer world. You may feel as if the inspiration comes from outside of yourself, but actually inspiration always originates from within each person. Or rather, it is an experiential connection between the microscopic and macroscopic, between self and the cosmos.

Inspiration is like a radio frequency that's always on, but is only received if you are tuned to the right channel. When you are inspired by someone or something, it's not that they are the source of inspiration, but that all that is happening is that they've helped you turn the channel within yourself in alignment with the frequency of inspiration, that they too are tuned into, but it is up to you how long you maintain the connection, whether you raise or lower the volume, or whether you change to a different channel completely.

All knowledge and insight emerges from a receptive state of mind, but there is a difference between receiving ideas from others in their finished product already translated into words, and having the same ideas emerge independently in your own mind. There is a difference between experiential knowledge obtained on your own, and theoretical knowledge obtained from others. Theoretical knowledge can be experienced if the abstract ideas can be applied to the real world, as theoretical principles visualized affecting objects in space, or otherwise conceptualized having some real world application. And of course experiential knowledge can be translated into theoretical knowledge the very moment it is articulated into words.

If you get most of your ideas from books, from other people, without actually experiencing the insights yourself or applying them to the real world in your own way, how many ideas in your head are actually your own? Not only that, but to what extent do you truly understand and have personally tested what you are reading, and to what extent are you merely repeating?

That's the primary danger of reading too much, that of thinking too little. When reading and absorbing other people's ideas becomes a substitute for thinking, that's what I mean when I say that reading too much can potentially be detrimental to your capacity for independent creative thought.

Read to enhance your mind, not to completely erase your mind and replace it with somebody else's. The goal should be the expansion of consciousness, not the annihilation of consciousness. So by all means don't stop reading, but do consider turning off the television and going outside more.

Just make sure to also spend some time thinking, questioning, contemplating, realizing, and better yet reading the wordless wisdom written in the tapestry of the earth and the sky, and listening to nature's wordless sounds circulating all around, within and without, above and below, and beyond the written word of pseudo experts, thoughtless repeaters, and other overrated clowns.