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Buddhist Philosophy + MP3s = Peace Of Mind

November 29, 2007

If an mp3 is just a combination of 1s and 0s stored on a computer, does that mean that every song that could possibly be composed already exists?  This concept combined with what Buddhists call, ‘Immutable Forms’, has really changed my life.

During the past few weeks I’ve come to realize a rather powerful truth, which has literally changed my life completely.

A long while back, years ago, I can remember a thought occured in my mind that life was passing me by.  I was working a job I didn’t particularly care for, and there were so many things I wanted to do with my life.

It was at that time I started contemplating the concept of “noticing”.  What a person sees, and notices, when put in a given situation.  Now what sent me on this thought excursion?

Well I remember going to a family reunion, and when we finally got to the location, I can remember being in the building with all my distant relatives, whom I’d never met.  This family reunion took place in Alabama. One of my cousins, who lived there, asked me, “So, what do you think of Alabama?”  I remember saying, “I don’t know.  All I’ve seen is the interstate and our motel room.”  You can see my tact glimmering and shining.

Now as I sat at that table, I, as I normally do, became absent minded, and began to contemplate, “What is Alabama?”  I began to wonder how much of Alabama there was that I could have seen, but simply didn’t notice, even though my experience was limited.  How much of ‘Alabama’ would I have to experience before I would be satisified, and claim knowledge of this place?

Now this dilemma plagued me for some time.  I’ve gone on several vacations, and ride around all over on my motorcycle, and one thing I hate is the fact that whenever you visit somewhere, you typically have so little time to explore, and see everything that is available.

Oftentimes trips to the big city, or overseas, amounts to seeing a few landmarks, eating at a few restaurants, and staying in motel rooms.  Oftentimes you feel like you really didn’t get a chance to really “know” the people who live there, or really get a feel for that town or location.

When I finally returned home from the trip, I can remember going into the side yard, and contemplating this issue.  I got to thinking, “This is a major reason people are distressed over life.”   I got to thinking about all the things I wanted to do with my life, and all the things which interested me, and how most of them, I’d never get to do.

I thought about all the great foods out there, all the wonderful people I’d love to meet, all the great works of literature, the sciences, history, scuba diving, botany, great TV shows, movies, and martial arts.  I thought, “I hate the fact that I have to ‘specialize’ and be localized to one particular thing.”   You run into a dilemma where, in order to fully experience something, you have to devote your life to it, but then you miss out on all the other things.  But, if you try to do everything, you end up spreading yourself too thin, and don’t get to fully experience that bliss of being an expert in your field.  I thought, “Man, either way I look at this, it’s no good.  There’s no way around it.  I’m going to miss out on some awesome things, no matter how hard I try.”

I soon saw that this was connected with the discontents you see in many people, particularly those who live in a small town.  Young people in the small town think that there’s “nothing going on” in their area.  The real action is going on in the city, and they’re missing out on all of life’s pleasures, and wonders.  They feel they’re being confined to too small a slice of life, and want to experience more.

I got to thinking, “Hmm.  I’m not much different when it comes to studying subjects.  I want to study everything.  I hate being confined to one particular field or discipline.”

This led me, over the years, to an almost frantic rush to always be studying.  It also led me to desire wealth, to free up my time, so I could spend it doing more profitable things, such as learning all the things there are in this world.  If I was working some “stupid job” I couldn’t experience all the things out there.  I’d be stuck in some cubical, writing software, and die, and my life would overall just be a big waste.

I avoided a family, and I also avoided most commitments to anything.  Time was my most precious element, and I had none to waste.  Teach somebody something?  No way, I barely have time to research all I want to research, how am I to find time to teach anyone else the things I’ve learned?

Yesterday, I talked to my mother about a trend in our society, that women (and a lot of men too) view children as this burdern, keeping them from their career and good times.  This would be a rather large discussion, but for the most part, I’ve always hated this view, and hate seeing it develop.  I was ashamed myself to have held it for some time, as I viewed my own pursuits more valuable than giving back to life.  I commended my mom for being good to me, and not viewing me as a burden, and how I’ll always appreciate that.

Moving on, this rat race of discontentment drove me nuts for some time.  I would have done anything just to feel peace, and not desire to know everything.  If that desire to travel could just leave me.  It plagued my mind.  Why can’t I just be happy where I am!  Sure it’s good to improve, but it seemed that self-improvement was going to such an extreme that it was taking away the very happiness its supposed to produce.  I had no idea how to cure it however.

It is then, in the side yard, that I came to my ultimate disappointment.  I sat down, next to a beautiful flower.  I stared at it for literally hours, and tried to “notice” as many things I could about this flower.  Though I was able to notice all kinds of things about it, it eventually ended up to the point to where I was just staring at it, and could no longer notice anything more.  I then lost all hope… If I can’t even notice all the components there are to see in this flower, how am I supposed to travel the world, in the huge cities, and various countries and cultures, and notice all there is to notice?

I started creating compromise philosphies.  If I couldn’t notice everything, I’d least find mindsets where I could at least notice as much as possible.  But, that was futile as well.  I read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and saw that new components of a thing in question is revealed to us by our projects, due to negation.  In laymen speak, “What you see is what you’re looking for” or as Jesus said, “Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.”  If you don’t know what to look for, you don’t notice the beauty that is there, even though it’s right in front of your eyes.  You’ll be staring at a room full of closed doors, and it’s up to you to choose to open them by desiring something from the flower.

A master martial artist can watch a Shaolin monk demonstrating stances, and see things a laymen would never see.  A master chef can taste things in foods which those unskilled in the culinary arts simply never notice.  A master architect notices things about buildings which to the rest of us remain invisible.

So what does did this leave me with?  Well, it left me with having to study everything, and as we just saw before, this is impossible, as you run out of time.  Inevitably, all I found was discontentment, and wore myself out.

Now I had been studying Western philosophy and religion for some time, looking for answers.  I had found a great deal of what I was looking for, but this particular dilemma’s solution was nowhere to be found in any Western text.  That’s not surprising, as I couldn’t find a person in any of the Western world (America, Europe, etc), who seemed to know the answer to this question.  Everyone seemed to advocate an oversimplied, “Just get out there, and experience as much as possible.”  As I just stated earlier, this is unsatifactory, and ultimately, depressing.  My mind wasn’t at peace.  Oh, how I wanted peace.

I came to a place where I felt it was time to temporarily throw in the towel, and take a long needed break.  I felt I’d reached a plataeu in philosophy, and struggled to find that next upward movment.   I left the subject hoping my unconscious mind would work toward a solution while I took a break doing something else.  I ended up studying a subject which I thought had nothing to offer – mythology.  I was bored, and thought I’d divert my mind with something less demanding, such as writing fiction for children.  I sat down, and read Joseph’s Campbell’s, ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’, mainly because a story writing book had recommended it.  I started to learn about old Eastern philosophy, and old Eastern myths… and, I found what I was looking for.  My mouth dropped.  I almost fainted.  Who would’ve thought I’d find the answer from “primitive” peoples, living thousands of years ago.  Old Buddhist monks knew the answer to this question?  How remarkable…I wanted to learn more.  I had to learn more, before desire for learning killed me.

Well, what’s the secret? — The Immutable Forms — Who would’ve thought something so mystical sounding could help me – not only help me, but literally change my life.

Now if I was to use the talk they used, it probabaly wouldn’t make sense to you.  In fact, this lesson is also taught in Western religion (such as Christianity), but I’d never seen it, because of the improper interpretation of scriptures I’d been taught, blinding me from seeing what they were really saying.

This concept is really as old as the history of man.  My best friend Greg and I once had a discussion related to mp3s (mp3s are computer audio files which hold music, and other audio clips).  Greg brought up a point which we both pondered on for some time.  He said, “You know, every song that could possibly be composed, and sung, already exists.”  I said, “Hmmm.  You’re right!”  He said, “Yes.  A 10 MB mp3 computer audio file – a long concatenation of 1s and 0s – could theoretically hold every composed song, up to approximately 10 minutes in length.”  We both pondered this strange fact.

What did it mean to compose a song?  The song, after all, already existed.  Though beforehand I thought the composition of a song was “creating” a song out of nothing, it was really more of a “choosing” a song which, technically, already exists.   This blew my mind, and though I’d wondered about it, I really did not know what to do with this truth, until just recently.

The next step in this realization came from the Buddhist texts, delivered to me from Joseph Campbell’s book.  There was talk about these Immutable Forms, which came from the void, when the void would roll over itself in an egg.  Then Campbell related this example to energy dynamics, quoting a famous physicist’s interpretation of energy, space, and matter.

Now Einstein has proven the relation of energy to matter, and vice versa.  Matter is basically compressed energy.  If you could imagine this logical fluid “energy”, existing almost like an ether, floating in nothingness, you’d get where I’m going.  Now this energy compresses (that dynamic I do not understand, but it’s irrelevant for this discussion, you only have to understand that it does), and when it does, matter is formed.

You’ve probably heard talks about how a small coin has enough energy inside of it to power an atomic explosion.  (E = mc^2).  Energy, matter, and the speed of light (perception of matter via movement), are the three foundational principles of physics.  All else is details.

If you completely understood this principle (which scientists as of yet, do not), you could plug in a device into your wall, and convert electricity into water.  You could create water out of nothing but energy.  You could literally create any form of matter, out of raw energy.  Amazing fact, I know.  It really blows your mind to think about it.  That’s why I’m studying mathematics at the moment, and next going to hardcore study physics.  I really want to understand this.  It’s crucial to the very underpinnings of how reality works, and my worldview as to life, death, and everything.

Once a person came up to me, knocking some TV documentary talking about evolution.  She advocated the defense that Christians often say, “Well how did the first cell come into being?”  God had to have created the first cell to start the process… I thought, no, not actually.  Energy compressed, and matter was formed.  Why?  I don’t know, but out of raw energy can come matter, and from matter, energy.  E=MC^2 is their relational principle.  But I suppose God could have been the one to compress the energy?  (No way of knowing without furthur research).  I don’t know enough technicals to say.

But here is the revelation — just as a computer can store any audio file, and has the potential to store any audio clip, and all audio clips already exist, so can any form of matter birth from this energy.

Just as any computer audio file can be restored after being deleted (death), matter can always be rebuilt, into any form, by taking a portion of energy from this reservoir and recompressing it.

I thought… Wow.  This is a huge discovery; at least for me.  I got to wondering about my body…I’m compressed energy.  My thoughts are compressed energy.  All objects I perceive are compressed energy.  My family, everything of this world, and all objects I treasure are compressed energy.

My finger could be chopped off, and converted back into energy, and create electricity for the entire city of New York for a few years.  When I get a haircut, my hair could be used to power the world, if you knew enough Physics.

The real revelation though was this — Nothing can be taken away from me.  All things always exist, and will continue to exist.  I literally have infinite time, because time is the perceived movement of matter, and matter simply energy taking different forms.  Even if I die, and my consciousness takes on a different form (maybe I become a spirit and rise to heaven, or maybe I reincarnate, or maybe I simply become energy once more), I’ll always have time to learn about everything.  All the wonders of this world, and new wonders to come, will always be available to me.

This left me with only one worry – those things which are alive.  My parents, my family, and friends, all seem to have a divine “spark” if you will, which we call life.  They’re different from just matter – compressed energy.  At least, I think so.  This leaves me with treasuring those who are alive, but as for matter, there’s really no need to rush.  The laws of physics will always be there, waiting for me, no matter what form I take.  Every form matter can be shaped into, and all there is to learn about these forms, will also be waiting for me.  Once again, I want to stress, there’s no need to rush.

As for life, I don’t have to completely understand how that “divine spark” enters into this compressed energy (matter).  I simply have to know that it does.  How it enters and leaves is a matter I’d love to understand, but as for now, I feel a lot better knowing there’s no worries.

This has to be what Jesus is thinking, when the man comes to steal your coat.  Jesus says, “Just let him have it.”  You think, “But Jesus, I’ll no longer have my coat!”  Jesus is thinking, “You’ll always have a coat.  I could compress energy right now, and make you another coat.  There’s coats of every form, and every variety.  There’s certainly no lack of existing coats, or potential coats.  Don’t let these physical things cause you problems.”

Kung Fu will always exist.  All the great works of literature will always exist.  Every great movie and TV show will always exist.  All of them stored, in immutable form – energy.  Every logical possibility is there.

This brought me a lot of peace.  I hope it does you as well.

Before ending this entry, I’d like to talk about a misunderstanding I had toward Buddhist philosophy before.  I said, “How could Buddhists advocate celibacy, and disdain sexual pleasure?  After all, we’re going to have to procreate if the human race is to survive.”  No, not really.  The immutable form ‘homo sapien’, is a logical energy configuration which will always exist.  Nothing ever “dies” and ceases to exist permanently.  A better way of looking at it is like an image displayed on a computer monitor, or television screen.  It may be displaying one thing at the moment, but it has the potential to display all kinds of other images as well, and a TV can always play a re-run, or a movie from a disc you place in a movie player, or a file stored in its memory.

There’s one last thing I’d like to speak on, mainly so that this concept will be linked to all of this when you think about being discontent over what you have in this life.

A long time ago, when I was probably 18 or 19, Greg and I started reading your typical success, “live your dreams” books.  I remember after reading one of them, the book said to draw out, and write up each of your goals, and look over them each and every day.  I knew one of the things I desired was my own house, so I took out a pad of paper, and a pencil, and began drawing my dream home.

At first the home was very small and cozy.  It had a bedroom, a study, a living room area to play video games, and a bathroom, and small kitchen.  That was it.

Later on, I thought I was being too small minded.  I’ll only achieve what I believe I could achieve, so I might as well strive for something greater.  I later found there’s no need to be content with such a small amount of things, so I started adding onto my house.  First came the gymnasium, to play basketball and hockey in.  Later came a science lab.  Then a tennis court, then an ice hockey rink, then an indoor track, then a huge swimming pool, then a giant weight room, then an astromical observatory, then a huge library, then a giant classroom to give lectures, then a huge garage to store my harley motorcycles, then a huge hotel like building to accomodate guests, then a giant spacious grounds to place all this on, then horses and stables, and the list went on and on.

I next thought that it’d be more ideal if me and all my best friends could all live near each other, and share all these facilities.  Then as things came to expand more and more I began to wonder: if I removed the roof to this “house”, and removed the property line, I’d already have all of these things.  If we’d simply share what we already have, most of the time, we don’t need to all have our own, we simply need to just be more generous, and share the things we do have.  Hopefully, after this example, you’ll see the flaw in the personal prosperity mindset.  If all things were shared, we wouldn’t all have to strive to become wealthy to enjoy these things.

I suppose to help prove this point, I myself have lived with very little, wanting to be a living example of not hording, but sharing all that could be shared.

That was good, but this new philosophy has greatly added to that.  I feel really good about these new discoveries.  I’ll end this entry on that note.

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