Thursday, April 19, 2007

Caricature

Caricature, Tokyo, Japan, February 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 82mm, Exposure 1/5 sec @ f5.3, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Caricatures are interesting, don't you think? And they can be quite fun and entertaining as well -- perhaps you've had one drawn of you or someone in your family.

Of course, we understand what we are seeing here. The good ones are recognizable likenesses of the subject, but usually with many of their least flattering features exaggerated for comic effect. It can be a good laugh. Or it can sometimes hurt a bit, if the subject lacks self confidence.

And so we have the Virginia Tech massacre, and the media frenzy. I mean, really, have you seen anything like it? No, no, I don't mean the tragedy. I mean the media.

Some of you may know that I don't watch TV, don't listen to talk radio, and I don't read the newspaper or weekly news magazines. Ohmigosh, how will I ever know what is going on in the world? Well here is my secret. I subscribe to two free news summaries over the internet (CNN and NYTimes). I receive daily headlines and editorials. Based on the headlines, I decide if an article might be worth reading. Perhaps you can guess that I don't read very many of them.

So yes, I did know about the shooting. But that is all I really needed to know. I could easily predict the media frenzy.

In the comments section of a recent post regarding Attention, an anonymous commenter from the other side of the planet and I veered into this topic area. Feel free to check out that dialog if you like. It is where I realized that what we are seeing on the media is simply that: a caricature of American life, intentionally designed to exaggerate our least flattering features.
[D]o not become trapped. This is NOT America, nor the world. This is a caricature drawn for a single purpose: to titilate, to stimulate, to profit. There is no accuracy to the picture. You know that in your heart. Your experiences tell you that as well. But the infernal drumbeat looking to steal your attention will continue. Just turn it off. That is your choice.
OK, so you know my bias. But what on earth is my point?

Just this: Life as told to you by another person is nothing but a concept. There is nothing real about it. You are distorting what you've been told with your own biases, just as that person distorted his perceptions when forming them into concepts and words. This may be intentional (like much of the media) or not (like a friend trying to make you understand their perspective).

But either way, it is not reality. What you must do is find for yourself your own reality. You must directly experience life, and come to a deeply resonant internal "knowing". Some would call this a mystical experience. Again, this is but another concept, which surely means something different to you than it does to me.

And when I look with mindful attention, when I am present and deeply aware of my surroundings, I can see the pain and the suffering in the world, and I can try to be fully present for it. But I can also see the compassion and the joy, and I can try to be present for that as well. And when I am mindful, I keep noticing beauty and safety and kindness and compassion all around me.

So let's not report on what others see. Let us describe our own experiences.
Let a thousand individual voices create the harmony that reduces the media drumbeat to mere background noise. Which your mind is designed to naturally filter out. Until it might as well no longer exist.
When you see the caricature painted by the media, and the frenzy of talking heads feeding at the trough of sorrow, throw back your head and laugh. It is tragic comedy, not reality. The suffering for the families of the victims, and the family of the killer are real. We can be present for that. Respectful of that. And offer them our love and forgiveness. And one act we can take to help heal our worldly family in this time of sorrow, is to turn off the TV. Just turn it off. Be present for your own family. And begin your own journey of awakening to real life.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steven for your insights..." I see beauty and kindness and compassion all around me".Given a choice, I will not shut off the tv or media. To do that is disengagement.Since the media is here to stay, we should engage and see the events in the positive perspective.We have to see the beauty in the media as well.All events should be treated as incidences, whether they are positive ones or negative ones, depending on how we look at them.We evolved to a better level if we learn and look at it in a positive manner.Can I say LOVE would not have developed to such a present level if there are no killings in the second world war??? or perhaps more brutal wars would have been fought?? There was an uproar after the video clips of the shooter was broadcasted by NBC news.In the positive perspective I would say the NBC chairman was courages and positive. The clips were facts and it indicates the view of the depressed. It gave the oportunity for the rich and arogant to review their own behavior.There should not be self denial and should looked at the incidence or the victims with compassion and kindness...by this I mean both the shooter and those shot.They are all victims of society and conditioning. Of course the depressed had taken advantage of the coverage to commit the incidence, knowing that it will be known by many. The positives could also have taken advantage of this to spread the lesson.These are incidences, where society evolve..and hopefully the media will one day have more emphasis towards the positives and society will evolve more positively.
Have a good day...from the other side of the planet.

Steven Crisp said...

Anon,

You must be an enlightened soul. Your comment reflects deep insight, and makes an essential point. There is no good and evil -- we must be prepared to accept it all. I agree with you.

However ...

We are all not so enlightened ;-) So what about the rest of us?

Yes, viewing the pathetic and predictable response by the media to this tragedy could be the catalyst for change. Or it could bring thousands of people closer to despair, and waste millions of hours of airtime, reinforcing the wrong points (like calling for the president of Virginia Tech to resign -- I mean, please, the "blame game" is so predictable and tiring).

My point is only this. While everything "is what it is", that doesn't mean that I should go out of my way to expose myself to it. I could hang with the drug addicts to understand the life they live and the conditions they face -- heck, I could even try the drugs to appreciate the addictive effect they have on them, but frankly, I think that would put me at too much risk.

And to me, TV is just another drug. Oh, don't take my teaching point to the extreme. There is (a small amount of) worthwhile information coming across those airways. Indeed, we have Tivo for just such purposes. But splitting such hairs really does miss the point.

And what is that point? That you will not find insight and truth and beauty and wisdom on the other side of a glass box. And even if you are not looking there for that, at a minimum it can waste your time, and for many people, steer them away from just those qualities.

Profound peace. Deep security. Radiant joy. Spiritual bliss. Pervasive beauty. Soothing equanimity. This is the crowd I wish to hang with.

And I find them within. Listening to that calm, quiet, voice of intuition. And with a subtle and yet profound "knowing" of what will be in my interest. Nay, in our interest.

I am not there yet, but I feel confident and comfortable on this path. It may not be the path for others. But for those still wondering if such a path exists. For those finding disatisfaction with their current path. To them, I say, just turn it off. And look within.

Thanks much for your comment, Anon -- from the other side of the planet ;-). I understand your motivation for change. For evolution. And I agree with that. And for me, that begins, within.

Anonymous said...

Common Steven, Anon does not deserve your compliment.Anon is not even a soul.Anon is just a human, still gathering his understanding,most of which are from the media.The media was a western creation and I have good faith and can see the healthy transparent development in the media. Sometime it takes guts to go against the general conditioned public but this is how positives got started.There are many ways to look at the caricature. Irrespective how it is drawn whether it emphasized the positives or negatives, it is a human creation and it represents a human condition holographically.We don't just look at one particular angle. We have to look at it in an overall picture.Then only we can see the true representations.It is easy to quote some, including those pioneers,who had made used of the media in a positive way. Richard Bach in Jonathan Livingstone Seagull-books,Shirley Maclaine-TV..both spreading the spiritual message back decades ago.The butterfly effect-movie as you listed in your blog.The Dalai Lama in western media for peace and politics for his country.Of course not forgetting the World Concert,Al Gore global warming,the Australian Earth Hour etc...all of them are using the media in a positive way.The media is here to stay and to evolve the world in a positive way, we must engage it.Going within is necessary but it should not be construed as isolation.Going within is an eastern culture.It transcend the self by the mind but it does not developed a loving heart.The western culture is expansion and extention. It engage the society for the expression of the love that could be understood by the eastern method of going within.Both the western and eastern need to work together as a whole...this is life representation..looking at the caricature as a whole.
The western way is the SELF CONSCIOUS way.It has self esteem,it has ego,it is extrovert, it extent and expand outward,it has feelings,it engage and participate,it transcend the self by excessive excitement and emotion when the energy expand beyond the boundary of the SELF.This is the only way where universal love can be expressed in the society.
The Eastern way is the CONSCIOUS OF THE SELF way. In order to be conscious of the Self, one must look from outside in..within..as an observer.It is introvert, it isolate,it disengage,it seek within,it is peaceful and blissful, it is aloneness,it transcend the mind, it is intuitional,it has an inner knowing,it transcence the SELF by a mental way.But the heart is empty of emotion. It does not develope interactions.But this is the only way to transcend the mind and realize the universal oneness of all.
I belief we need to combine the western and eastern way in order to have a complete life..In order that we can see the caricature in whole, irrespective of how it is drawn or sculptured... Irrespective how human created it.It is so very perculiar the world is bestowed with all the dualities. The good and bad must exist together. There is no such point as neutral if either good or bad is absent. The body and mind must work in unison.The western and eastern will one day be one culture. Though it started from the east and then the west goes to the east and east goes to the west.We go within and they go external. Steven...you got what I mean..We are all one.The caricature is one.The conscious of the self and the selfconscious is also one. It has to be engaged and united. Then only we can achieve universal love and express it to the world. Thanks again Steven..your caricature is so very wonderful.

Steven Crisp said...

Anon, you surely have achieved a new honor ... Longest comment on any of my blogs ;-)

And of course, you have made some very important points. Let me acknowledge a few.

”Anon is just a human, still gathering his understanding, most of which are from the media.”

First, you correctly characterize the media very broadly, including books, etc. Let’s talk about books for just a minute. There are millions of them published every year. And thanks to Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, you can peruse thousands of them, even have a cappuccino while you read them, for free, if you wish. Or order them on-line and magically they will appear at your door.

I love books. Am usually reading one at all times. Well, some books. Others I find to be a waste of MY time. But the beauty of books, as generally contrasted with TV or radio, is that you pick and choose whether, when, and what you read. TV sets the schedule for you, and interrupts each show with advertising, trying to sell you something you didn’t ask for. Its purpose (advertising) is to create a “want” where there isn’t a “need”. Furthermore, the news is presented to you as the “facts” of the day, but is actually filtered and distorted by the editorial and commercial interests of the TV station or conglomerate. (As I said before, “if it bleeds, it leads.”) These are the aspects of “the media” that I wish to warn against. You can put down the book, or never buy it in the first place. You can turn off the TV (or throw it out the window). If it isn’t going to contribute to reducing your suffering, or help you to “awaken”, or if you find yourself being drawn to it like a drug, then just turn it off.

”The media is here to stay and to evolve the world in a positive way, we must engage it.”

This is called “vote with your feet” engagement. If you turn off the trash, the advertisers will lose interest, the TV show or news producers will lose money, and the programming will change.

Now moving on to your assessments of Eastern and Western cultures and philosophies. You have also identified some meaningful characteristics here — but one area you emphasize does not ring true to me.

”Going within is an eastern culture. It transcend the self by the mind but it does not developed a loving heart ... The Eastern way is the CONSCIOUS OF THE SELF way ... But the heart is empty of emotion.”

I do not see why you think Eastern culture does not develop a loving heart. The Bodhisattva vow represents the ultimate act of unconditional love and compassion — to forgo one’s own enlightenment to help all sentient beings alleviate their suffering.

And your view of the West, once again the love theme is raised, along with the ego.

”The western way is the SELF CONSCIOUS way. It has self esteem, it has ego ... This is the only way where universal love can be expressed in the society.”

I don’t agree with this, or I should say, my understanding of what you wrote. My view is that the ego more often actually gets in the way of “universal” love, or unconditional love.

The ego usually wants to know what it gets out of the deal. It tends to create “transactional” love. “You love me, and I’ll love you.” Or the common parental model “you do what I tell you to do, and I will love you.” No, I actually believe the ego gets in the way. That is why I feel it is wise to "transcend" the ego, and to realize it is nothing but a mental concept and construct of the mind. Surely it was “created” as part of the evolutionary process, to help keep your biological self alive long enough to procreate, and continue the evolutionary process. But now that we have become self-aware, we have awareness of the choice to be controlled by our ego, or to transcend the ego, and realize our true Self, and then continue to use our ego’s as simply a “tool” for the work-a-day world.

So Anon, perhaps we have created enough “words” on this post. Once again, you have triggered off some new thoughts in my mind. I suspect another post will transpire accordingly. You will have to see if you can recognize it. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have drawn you into an equally lengthy dialogue.You are typically eastern and full of humility..especially your last paragraph.It may seem you have lost your western origin of being direct.I will keep it short then.
The metaphor of the Bodhisattva could not be believed. As you mentioned we are all Ati.One can only realize enlightenment..one cannot forgo enlightenment.The Bodhi's vow is but just a vow. It lack guts and will to implement it.Look at India, a country full of Bodhis, but for two thousond years and yet they can't get rid of the cast system.There are still so much suffering there.The ego had two sides of the coin.Your explaination of ego is only the simplistic side. As also mentioned by you,when the ego was transcended, the true ego is a mind concept.The other side of the coin comes with the GUTS and WILL.Without these characteristics, the vow of universal love is just a mist.It could not be expressed.Can one take the risk to love the drug addicts? Can one take the risk to hug the leper? America had the guts to go through the flower culture,and survived.I can see the american media will evolved out the negatives into a very transparent media.Today I see in the media two captive victims in Iraq ,who came forward to reveal the previous fraud as given to the media.You see, people are getting more guts to be transparent. It is going to be "You make life or Life make you." I have learned a bit of western attitude too...so anon will end short.Thanks again Steven.

Steven Crisp said...

Anon,

I will accept as a great compliment if you feel I have dropped my Western proclivities, and am adopting an Eatern mindset. I'm sure it is not really true, but thank you.

You point out -- as other friends I have been dialoging with also have -- that I keep harping on the negative aspects of the media and am forgetting the positive aspects. Indeed, you hold out hope that they will become a transformational source of power and inspiration in the future.

I agree with your assessment of my bias. It is true that I too am creating a caraciture to make a point. And certainly lose much of the "reality" of the situation in such a process. And I hope you are correct about their ability to help us transform. I have no doubt the will "hop on the bandwagon" once (and if) that "tipping point" is reached. But will/can they be the true catylist for change? Alas, I am doubtful. But your view is more hopeful, so I will keep my fingeres crossed (see, Western ;-)

As to your thoughts on the need for "GUTS and WILL". A very wise counterpoint. Perhaps in our dualistic nature, we begin to take our own tendancies for granted, and see only the benefit of the greener grass across the fence. Or more Easternly ... not see the Yin for the Yang ;-)

In any case, my intuition and experience (limited as it may be) has led me to the power of "intention". This subtle force, gentle and internal in nature, to me combines both aspects of GUTS and WILL. When I set for myself (or is it more of a recognition?) an "intention", it is always there, reminding me, causing me to pause before my choice, giving me the space between action and response. It gives me the awareness to choose what to do. So certainly that covers WILL. As for GUTS, time will tell perhaps just how much GUTS it also provides -- as in strength of conviction. I suspect I have not been sorely tested at this point.

And a good point about the caste system in India. I was just making reference to that myself in other correspondence. Gandhi's emphasis on equality across the caste system, vice its abolishment, I think shows the tenacity of cultural biases. It will surely test our ability to find common ground.

But I think this also brings up two other attributes that needs to be considered along with GUTS and WILL. And thos are humility and acceptance. Is there something of an arrogance implied in our poisition, that we need the GUTS and WILL to follow-through on? Are we so sure we are correct? Have we walked in the other's shoes yet?

The more I consider the world, the less sure I am about who is right and wrong. The less black and white life becomes, suffused instead with the recognition of the infinite spectrum. "It is what it is."

And I guess the end result of that recognition could be seen as someone having less GUTS. But perhaps it is instead a fusion of conviction, awareness, humility, acceptance, and flux -- a recognition of the evolutionary process.

Thanks, as usual Anon, for your thoughtful comments.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are beautiful.You may have unknowingly given a new definition to the 'middle path' in the fifth paragraph of yours.Your idea of choice , intentions, pause before action and response is all about the multiple possibilities as postulated in your other article..the movie.. butterfly effect.Now how do one choose.One way is to choose by criteria of own perception of good or bad.Another way is to choose to remain neutral and not take side or abstain.Is this the middle path? There is one more other way of choice where it is both good and bad, or neither good or bad. This is a choice with your wisdom of pause with deep contemplations or a choice of spontaneity.When one reach a state of stability and centered calmness, one is not affected at all by good or bad. The dualities become just another possibilities...and one is left to choose or better said as left to act at will without bias, without even considering good or bad, right or wrong. The action or non action is done on spontaneity or just BEING.This is the path of non dualities...the REAL middle path. This is the path that has no cause and effect as well as encompassing all the cause and effect in ONENESS.It leads on to another new definition of cause and effect...Karma??? If one interpret in this way , one will notice that each of all the five precepts can stand alone. If one understand only one precept fully, it will be sufficient to lead to enlightenment.Now what is life make you or you make life; because you choose you make life,because you choose more causously by pausing you make a preconditioned life,because you don't choose life make you.You make life and life make you, are the two sides of a coin.
Wish you well..Steven.

Steven Crisp said...

Anon,

"The action or non action is done on spontaneity or just BEING.This is the path of non dualities...the REAL middle path."

I love this point. It rings true to me. Nothing to do or not do; just BE. So simple, perhaps only a child could understand.

I thank you for your interest, and your comments.

Tol said...

Talking about action and non-action,one normally has the tendency of applying judgement in most cases based on conscious decisions made. However, if it's a spontaneous act, then it's non-judgemental. Unlike a child, he would just act spontaneously in any given situation by simply BEING himself, so transparent and without judgement, that is why most children live a happy, jolly and a life of simplicity by just BEING themselves.

Early this morning, I received a surprised call from this very special man and I must admit that he had, brighten up my day despite the fact that in the midst of our conversation, I could feel goose-pimple "popping" out on the surface of my skin !! He actually rescued a poor little spirit, oops, I mean a flimsy,slimy greenish and yellowish looking snake across the path with a stick as it was struggling to do so. Most people at the sight of it will probably scream their hearts out or they will just run away and withdraw. Gee, I would never be a able to overcome the fear of all the crippy crawly insects, let alone lifting up a snake !! This guy is the real Hero of my life and it takes a lot of courage to do that- what a splendid act on SPONTANEITY !

Steven Crisp said...

Tol,

These are great observations -- probably one of the reasons many spiritual faiths make reference to children. Their lack of pre-conditioning does make them much more spontaneous and un-self-conscious while in their moments of joy. Ah, to be child-like at heart. We can all be that way, can we not?

Can you watch a child playing with full attention, awareness, and imagination and not smile? Would it not gladden one's heart, and even the hearts of those with which one might disagree. Perhaps together, we would see each other smiling at the child and realize our commonality, and this might help to minimize our differences.

As for your story about the snake -- how interesting our conditioning, eh? One person hears this story and feels goosebumps; another imagines putting down the stick and picking up the snake with their bare hands. Educated (so he knows if the snake is poisoness) and experienced (so he knows how to handle snakes, and not exhibit fear), this is no problem at all.

Kind of like life. We need both wisdom and experience to walk along the path of life, and understand how to deal with snakes and other slithery creatures that cross our paths.

I appreciate your comments! Thanks.