We All Deserve Better

“You must will the liberation of all beings; you cannot handle attainment with a careless or arrogant attitude.”

– opening of chapter VI of Cleary’s translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower

The above sentence got me thinking in my meditations. This has been a thread through Taoism for ages, that liberation comes with wanting to share it, fitting the tale of it’s creation (the story is some Taoists channeled it from Lu Dong-bin). It echoes with some of the fusion Buddhist sentiments from the time it was published. What is the role of wishing the best for others in the attainment (of the Tao, Enlightenment, etc.)?

So, simply, I started thinking about it, and it’s one of those moments where a few simple thoughts opens your mind. So of course I share it.

I realized how better the world would be, how happier people would be if they were more “practically” enlightened. If people were driven to be better, to be happier. It wasn’t just willing the liberation of others, it was hoping they’d seek to be happier that way.

I realized how hoping the best for others improved my own actions and meditation. I realized maybe I could help others in my practice, but also that they were fellow travelers on a journey. I wasn’t above them, or behind them, or whatever – we on the same path and it was best to do it together.

Finally I realized how people deserved better. Yes, even the assholes.

Call it Samsara or the mundane mind or whatever. Life didn’t come with a user manuals so between sages and gods and philosophers we’ve tried to figure it all the hell out. A lot of us yes, even the worst of us, could be better, could have been better. But we’re all here just trying vaguely to figure it out. So many of us would be better if we had a better idea of just what the hell we were doing.

We don’t have a full roadmap. We deserve better. We don’t deserve to suffer, and we don’t deserve to be assholes who cause suffering. This doesn’t mean I spare the assholes per se, but I can at least know things could have been better.

I’d like us to have better and we deserve it. Even when it’s time to slap some assholes down, it can be with some regret that it happened.

It really is best when the journey to self-improvement of whatever kind isn’t alone. It takes down your boundaries and your ego, and opens you up to others – and maybe to the you you want to be.

Amazing one a few sentences can do, can’t it?

You deserve better.

– Xenofact

The Double Void of Artificial Intelligence

My regular readers are likely to be split on me discussing Artificial Intelligence. For some, you are doubtlessly curious or at least hope to see me be entertainlgy sarcastic. For others you’re just tired of hearing about “AI,” a concern I share. Don’t worry, it’s well within my usual discussions of mysticism, psychology, and religion.

As I write this in 2024, many a person is glad to sing the praises of AI. They also want to shoehorn it into every product and technology available. This desire to raise stock prices while creating bad will and endless security problems is painful, but the claims are also grating. It’s obvious to anyone with some understanding that so-called AI is essentially complex probabilistic systems that produce what (on the surface) seems to be “real.” Well, real except for being told to eat poisonous plants or presenting pictures with inordinate numbers of fingers.

Fortunately this age of faux AI also has people asking “what is intelligence?” One of the things that pops up again and again is that “intelligence is a process.” Intelligence is not something we can hold on to or grasp (or put in a box), but is a thing that occurs, it is an action. Intelligence is not something activated and shut down, but an ongoing activity.

If you’ve ever done studies of meditation, religion, and so on, this is going to sound quite familiar. Many a Buddist practitioner knows that moment where you can’t find a solid self, just a whirling thing. Taoist Meditators may speak of the entangled complexities that create the everyday mind, and the hope to see through them to a kind of spontaneous Celestial Mind. Practitioners of energetics experience mind and body as wheels and swirls and flows of energy, without solidity..

In my own meditations and experiments, I’ve experienced moments where I realize there is no me, there are just these processes. Yes the goal of many meditations is to refine oneself or see through illusion or however you want to put it – but you do learn a lot about your mind. If you practiced any form of meditation, I’m sure you’ve had those moments where you’re there but you’re not there because the you there isn’t a solid thing at all.

You’re a constant process. Evaluating. Thinking. Feeling. Modeling. Adjusting. You’re not going to be duplicated by some language toys, though your employer might try so be careful.

Now I’m not saying that “Ancient Wisdom” explains everything or predicts AI. I am saying that thousands of years of meditators, breath practitioners, and people asking “what does this mushroom taste like” will have accumulated a lot of insights in time. When you’re there looking into the self – and intelligence – you’re going to learn things.

And one thing I’d say is screamingly obvious from all these psychonauts is we’re processes so intelligence clearly is. This also is yet another reason to disregard AI as any form of actual intelligence. It’s not a process, just a bunch of triggered code and data using some complex math.

Kindly respect that your fellow humans are processes, void of any solidity whatsoever.


The Spoons of Taoist Energy Work

The Spoons of Taoist Energy Work

No, this isn’t about a highly obscure magic item (yet). It’s a bit more exposition on how my takes on “energy” work in mysticism has some benefits even if it’s not scientifically true. Energy as a metaphor is quite useful in my meditative practices, if only because it gives me better ways to understand myself.

In my meditations, I practice a kitbash version of “Internal Alchemy” from Taoist practices. Essentially I clear blockages of energies, generate energies, and circulate them. There’s 3 basic “treasures” (vitality, chi (sort of general energy), spirit), meridians, etc. But the key thing for this column is you conscience of your body’s forces as having certain functions and being able to be refined, expended, and conserved.

Taoist works often talk about conserving these treasures (usually all three, as they affect each other). One does not wish to waste one’s vitality in pointless sexual and physical indulgences as one cannot generate chi. One does not waste chi with poor habits and racing emotions as that is the powerhouse of the body and source of spirit. One preserves the spirit so it does not drain away, limiting your mental abilities and your ability to achieve higher states.

This may sound complicated, but it really comes down to “stop randomly expending your energies with worries, disconnected indulgences, etc.” One “guards” these treasures and refines them into mental and physical health and even enlightenment.

I found this simple idea of “guarding one’s energies” to be very useful for understanding how I waste the resources of mind and body. Pointlessly pushing oneself at work, obsessing over things you can’t change, etc. just burns you out. Having a more complex and poetic framework just makes it easier, no matter how “real” it is.

In fact, I realized how these ideas go to the idea of “Spoons,” the metaphor used for how much attention/mental energy one has in popular culture. Though a recent invention, it compares to multi-aeons old practices rather well. Another reminder of how metaphors for complex human behaviors are so useful, even if they are not technically or scientifically real.

Now admittedly Taoist practice isn’t just spoons – it’s sort of more forging spoons, using spoons wisely, and making better spoons. But in many ways, the preservation of one’s powers (especially spirit, which is closer to “spoons”) is part of both metaphors.

Ancient practices and modern metaphor. A reminder that a little poetry goes a long way towards our spiritual health.

Plus I get to make jokes about the title of my essay.