31 August 2014

Costumes; a cornerstone of benevolant democracy

I like costumes. They are a cornerstone of democracy. The capacity to express oneself pseudonymous enables free-expression; it is a way to protect free-expression and allow people to speak out against corruption for example. As such, I see it as a foundation for benevolent democracy.

So, time to dress up and support benevolent democracy!

10 August 2014

feelings towards, and the object of attention

One of the less inspiring window displays in Chelsea. But it makes me smile to see it!

I've become enamored with a couple of concepts recently... here's the first: "We have feelings towards the object of our attention"

Feelings don't happen to us. They are not a direct result of us, or our environmental: they are the result of the application of attention to something. It's kind of obvious at the extremes: you can't feel much about things that you don't know anything about and never experience. 

The phrasing itself entices one to ask what is the object of my attention that produces this feeling?

Claim: we don't control the way we feel much, but we can control much more easily our attention. But not completely - a loud noise can capture our attention for example. But in many ways we do get to choose the focus of our attention. And what's more, focusing attention is a learnable skill. 

But here's the real punchline: there are 'fixed points' of emotion: there are some feelings that when we make them the object of our attention result in the same feeling! If we make our grumpyness the object of our attention (we think "damn, I feel so grumpy"), it often results in exactly the same feeling of grumpiness ("crap, I'm so grumpy feeling, I hate it!"). It's an attention-feeling fixed point! How cool is that? I noticed this while feeling grumpy one day :)  

Attention itself is a fluid, partially malleable thing. So it begs us to think about what is attention? What flexibility do we have in its focus? 

This also provides a neat model for the impact of breathing meditation. Making breathing the focus of our attention takes our mind and emotions off of other things.  And breathing seems to inspire common feeling among pretty much all people: paying attention to our breathing... feels good. 

Happy breathing.