Thoughts on the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution: distortion “in the name of the Constitution”

I tend to believe that the cold war created a unique interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  It is a very unique interpretation, one that, in my opinion, has become erroneous and false. In fact, I feel that the cold war distorted the U.S. Constitution.  Not only did it create a warped interpretation but it also brought in all these “issues” that are out-of-place, ridiculous, and not needed.  In my opinion, it has, over the years, turned the U.S. into a joke (its a common saying of mine to say that we should change the “America the beautiful” to “America the joke”).  Overall, its created many weird ways of looking at things and distorted ways that have carried on to American life.  Because of this, it has had great and horrible impact on the country on many levels ranging from superficial to deep.  I tend to view that the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution has, in actuality, undermined the country.  More than once have I caught myself saying, “the distorted views of the U.S. Constitution are going to bring this country down one day”.


Notice how I use the words “cold war interpretation of the cold war”.  This shows that it is AN interpretation.  It is not THE interpretation.  The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Constitution can be interpreted in many different ways.   It can, in fact, be compared to the Bible which, as we all know, has about as many interpretations as there are people reading it.  In actuality, there is simply no single version of interpretation.  In other words, the “cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution” is not the only one nor should it be looked at as the only one!  In this sense, one could say that there are different “schools of thought” of how the U.S. Constitution can be interpreted.  This fact, I think, has never been acknowledged or realized.  We tend to disregard this fact because there is a myth in the legal system that there is only ‘one interpretation’ – that “officially given by law” – and no other.  This is a myth of law created by the need for order and consistency (they must make one ruling and one judgement!).  In actuality, even in law there are “schools of thought” of how to interpret laws showing that not even they are in agreement as it may, at first, appear (I wrote of many things on law in my article “Thoughts on the ‘legal philosophy’” and others).  The U.S. Constitution, being a part of law, tends to be associated with this myth as well.  People think, and assume, that there is only ‘one interpretation’.


We must remember that the cold war was not a “natural” condition.  It is very unique in history and human life.  The threat of a nuclear or total annihilation of the world, by humanity, has never been seen in the world.  In addition, never before in history did we have the news and media to spread this fact.  Because of these, we were dealing with a totally new condition that had never been seen before.  One effect of this was the creation of something like a mania, of exaggeration, distortion, and a tendency to blow things out of proportion, which dominates this time.  As a result of this mania, there developed an attitude of mania which made it color and permeate practically everything.  In this way, the attitude of mania created a tendency to distortion by the generations living during this time.  This tendency to distortion has been carried on down to today and have been taught to the following generations not living during the cold war.  This makes it so that the “unnatural” condition of the cold war, with its mania, attitude of mania, and tendency of distortion, is now being taught practically as a way of life to the younger generations.  Because of this, the “unnatural” condition of the cold war continues to exist even though it has ceased to exist, even after a quarter of a century.


Some dominant traits the “unnatural” condition the cold war created include:

  • A never-ending threat of nuclear destruction:  paranoia
  • The idea of complete and absolute destruction:  humanity is evil
  • That all conflicts are caused by hatred:  hate myths
  • The idea that the U.S. Constitution is the only answer:  self-righteousness and self-glorification
  • A tendency to see the worst in things:  negativity

As I said above, these attitudes, and points of view, have permeated much of life, affecting a lot of things even down to how we think.  In this way, the cold war tendency of distortion has been extended into things that have nothing to do with it.  This can be described as the extended distortion of the cold war tendency of distortion, as the distorting tendency has gone way beyond the cold war itself.  In many ways, this is where the real damage of the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution has taken place.

Some effects of the extended distortion are:

  • A denial of human nature and how humanity is (a good example is how females think they should be treated as if they were guys)
  • A warping of the law (a good example is the lawsuit crisis)
  • A controlling of our everyday life (a good example is having to be “PC”)
  • The creation new abuses (such as people being sued for ridiculous reasons, etc.)
  • The destruction and undermining of authority
  • The destruction and undermining of morality and right/wrong

Overall, the effect this has had is to create a warped and undermined society.   In effect, they have led to a general deterioration of the society “in the name of the Constitution”.   My life, really, has been an ongoing observation of the distortion and abuse that “in the name of the Constitution” has caused.

Because it is said in the name of the Constitution it tends to be overlooked, even though people can see what is going on.  I’ve talked with many people about this theme and it is clear that many people can see what is happening.  Most people, still, overlook it and keep the observation “in the back of their minds”, all because of it is said “in the name of the Constitution”, such is its power

Its become clear that “in the name of the Constitution” has become a license and means for some people to do whatever they want.  Just citing it seems to automatically make a person “right”, regardless of whether they are right or wrong.  This fact has made it a means of abuse and manipulation.  This is particularly so with specific people such as females and minorities.  I know of many cases where certain minorities just have to claim “racism” and they get their way, for example.  Watching abuses, such as these, has completely destroyed the believability of “in the name of the Constitution” for me over the years.  Anyone even mentioning the Constitution is like saying “here’s another abuse” to me.

AND SO . . .

We can see that the cold war has created a particular interpretation of the U.S. Constitution which is somewhat distorted.  This distortion has caused a deterioration of society and the creation of new abuses.  I do not believe this is what the U.S. Constitution was intended to do nor does it reflect a healthy and good interpretation of what it is.  As I have said many times before, we need to move beyond the cold war, its mania, its distortions, and its points of view.  This means the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted in a new way with qualities such as these:

  • Without the idea that everyone hates one another
  • Without the idea that humanity is evil
  • Without paranoia
  • Without self-righteousness and self-glorification (and possibly seeing that the U.S. Constitution is NOT the answer).
  • Without seeing the worst in things

These points of view, originating in the cold war, are out dated and should be discarded.  But, yet, they still permeate practically all interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.   I tend to believe that the stripping away of these out dated attitudes, such as these, will end up creating a whole new interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, one which will be more beneficial, healthy, wise, effective, and more in tune with what the Constitution was intended to do.  Persisting in these cold war warped interpretations of the U.S. Constitution will only undermine things even more.

I think that, because of its absurdity and warped viewpoints created by the cold war, the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should be discarded.  The cold war is over and so should all the viewpoints created during that time (I’ve written a number of articles on similar themes such as “More thoughts on the “cold war mentality” – its traits and its ongoing effects” and “Thoughts on the 70’s mentality and its continuation“).

That’s how it seems to me anyways . . .


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Government and politics, Law and legal stuff, Modern life and society, The Cold War, The U.S. and American society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on two types of learning and the molding of a person

Here’s a thought I had:


To me, “learning” is a tendency  and ability to ‘change’ in such a way that it makes it so that a person is more:

  • Adaptable.
  • Aware.
  • More “in tune” with their life and situation. 

In these ways, it makes a person “malleable” and able to “form themselves” to situations and life.

Keep in mind that “learning”, as I  use it, is not the same as “knowing” things (information, facts, a procedure, how to do something, etc.), though it often entails it.  Most people, in this society, associate “learning” with “knowing”.  I do not believe this is the case.  “Learning” is an act, a process.  A person is only “learned” in the fact that they are in the process of doing that process, not because of what they have done or achieved or that they happen to know things.  In that way, a person can be “learned” one minute and “non-learned” the next.  This makes it so that “learning” is a varied thing and never constant.  This means that “learning” is something that ‘comes and goes’ throughout ones life.  Because of this, there are moments, in everyone’s life, where there is great “learning” and moments where there is great “non-learning”.

We often have moments where there is great “learning” of specific things (such as how to speak).  They generally go through phases:

  1. The initial phase, where something is first confronted.
  2. A pre-climax, where “learning” begins.
  3. A climax, where the “learning” is at its height.
  4. A post-climax, where the “learning” declines.
  5. A “post-learning”, where, once learned, “learning” may practically stop and we basically replicate what we have “learned”.  In this case, it becomes something we now “know” . . . “learning” has stopped.

One could very well call this the “learning cycle” as most learning goes in this format.  Because it ends with “knowing” it is easy to see why “learning” and “knowing” are so easily confused.  But we must remember that “knowing” is an end result of “learning”.  “Knowing” is something static and dead.  It does not describe the process.

“Learning” also changes with age.  Childhood is a time of great “learning”.  There we learn how to talk and walk and begin to learn social abilities.  In adulthood we learn how to live and be responsible.  Typically, though, “learning” tends to decrease as one ages.  That is to say, as one ages there is less ‘change’, adaption, and molding in a person.  In this way, we could say that life, itself, is one big “learning cycle” ending with a static and dead “non-learning” state of mind in which one only “knows” (that is, they become a creature of habit).

In addition, a person may be inclined to specific forms of “learning” as well.  One person may take to one form but be unable to take to another.  This can be to such an extent that a person seems to be “born to do it”.

In addition, one could even say that there is a ‘learning character’ and an ‘non-learning character’The ‘learned character’ is characterized by always seeking this tendency to change and the ability to be ‘malleable’.  The ‘non-learning character’ does not do this and tends to be somewhat static and unchanging

Interestingly, in this society, with its emphasis on “knowing”, many people with the ‘learning character’ are often slowly turned into the ‘non-learning character’ over time.  In other words, they are forced only to “know”.  This is because “knowing” is considered “learning” and the ideal.  Therefore, once one “knows” there’s nothing more (except to “know” more) and “learning”, as a process, ends.  Being brought  up that way, it tends to dampen “learning” as a process and create the ‘non-learning character.  Not only that, the “knowing” primarily entails information and/or knowing how to do something.  That, in actuality, is a small and limited range.  In some respects, “knowing” is nothing but a form of collecting information or how to do things, much like collecting stamps or learning how to ride a big.  With this we can see that the emphasis on “knowing”, by its nature, tends to lead to a static condition.  “Learning”, on the other hand, is a dynamic and variable thing that is ongoing and endless. 


I seem to think that there are two types of “learning” which I called:

  1. Internal learning.  This is learning or, rather, discovering ones natural inclinations and abilities.  In other words, a person “finds out” what their natural abilities are and what they’re capable of.  In this sense, it is learning that originates from things internally or from ‘within’.  A person is restricted, in this form of learning, by ones natural inclinations and abilities.  That is to say, if it is not there naturally then it simply cannot appear in a person.  A person may imitate what others do but imitation is not a reflection of internal learning, just ones ability to imitate.  Because of this, many people confuse imitation with internal learning. 
  2. External learning.  This is learning things that do not originate from ones natural inclinations and abilities.  It originates from without you, externally.  In this way, one could describe it as the incorporation of things that are not within ones self.   In other words, it tends to entail things that come externally or ‘without’ ones self.  It includes learning ‘abstract’ things, such as information, knowledge, and such. Because of this, they are generally taught in some way whether by a person or by experience.

Both of these are, of course, needed and a part of life and have a unique association. 

Internal learning has a lot of value for the person such as:

  • It allows for the discovering of natural inclinations and abilities.  In that way, one finds what one is and what one is capable of.
  • It makes learning personal and makes learning a part of who one is.  In a sense, one “becomes” ones internal learning.
  • Internal learning makes us grow and develop as people because it stems from deep within us.  Stemming from deep within, its impact is felt there.  I tend to feel that internal learning changes us, transforming us into who we really are.

These all reflect how it stems from deep within a person, a condition that is absent in external learning.  This is its primary power and influence . . . and why it has such an impact.

The situation is different with external learning.  Because things originate from without and tends to be removed and distant from ones inner self.  In that sense, one could compare it to clothing that a person wears or jewelry.  In this way, one can see that external learning, by its nature, tends to lead a person further from themselves.  This is one of the dangers of external learning and why one must try to not get too engrossed in it.  I have seen many people become alienated in life because they “learned too much”.  I even know that from personal experience.

With this, we can see that internal learning and external learning are actually opposites.  Internal learning tends to involve ones inner self.  External learning tends to be ‘worldly’.  So we see this association:

self—–internal learning<<<>>>external learning—–world

In other words, they are diametrically opposed.  As a result, they display qualities found when things are diametrically opposed, such as:

  • They are contradictory and opposite in nature.
  • Though they are contradictory they are also dependent on each other.  In fact, they need each other . . . one cannot be without the other.
  • Both have good and bad points.  Often, which one is ‘important’ depends on the conditions you are in which uses their good points (such as in personal reflection its best to use internal learning and when learning a trade its best to use external learning).  This means that conditions are often the determining factor in whether its good or bad.

In this way, the two learning’s are continually associating with each other.  They may contradict each other one moment, then need each other the next.  This makes it so that the two forms of learning actually form a unique “association” with each other, often to the point of being a “love-hate relationship”.


Internal learning tends to require things such as these:

  • There is no ‘learning schedule’.  That is to say, one does not ‘learn’ by this and that date.
  • A person really has no control over its development . . . it just ‘happens’.
  • It is different for each person.
  • A ‘system’ cannot be developed to ‘teach it’.
  • It can’t really be ‘taught’ by a systemic or organized way.

Because of these, internal learning is very haphazard in nature.  Some people may take to it and some people won’t.  In some cases, they only appear under certain conditions.  As a result of this fact, there has been no real “effort”, over the years, to deliberately develop and create internal learning, at least in this society.  In fact, it tends to be neglected and forgotten simply because it cannot be ‘grasped’ and controlled.

It seems that internal learning primarily consists of taking certain ‘stances’, so to speak:

  1. Being open.
  2. Putting oneself in specific conditions that promote internal learning.
  3. A willingness to discover and act upon what appears.

In this sense, internal learning is actually based in an ‘attitude’ and ‘reacting’.  From there it ‘just happens’.


External learning, on the other hand, is more ‘rigid’, defined, and strict:

  • It can have a ‘learning schedule’.  That is to say, people can be taught this and that by this or that date.
  • There is a degree of control over it.
  • Teaching everyone is practically the same.
  • It can be ‘systemized’.
  • It can be ‘taught’ to people.

These tend to make external learning something that is ‘graspable’ and something that can be controlled.  That is, it gets “results”, can be “systemized”, and be “applied to everyone”.   Because of this, it is used in the education of the masses and is used by the State in educating the people.  This is one of the reasons why this has become the dominate form of learning in this society.


Because of the self-world association, internal and external learning often becomes a determining factor in how one associates with the world.  Typically, though, a person will lean to one side or the other.  That is to say, one will tend to take one of two orientations, depending on ones character:

  1.  Internal learning dominant.
  2.  External learning dominant.

Often, the direction one takes will determines what one will do in life and how one will live as well as determine ones outlook in life.  In other words, the form of learning we predominately use is a reflection of ones character.  Because its so based in our character, it tends to determine our life and how we live.  As a result, it sets the stage for a persons lifestyle.


The internal learning point of view is seen a lot in older societies.  In fact, older societies tend to be more internal learning oriented.  Because of this, these societies tend to emphasize this ‘attitude’.  This often appears as a manifestation of religious and cultural beliefs, such as prayer, ritual, observance of festivals, and such and a particularly strong tendency to rely on their intuition, awareness, and gut feeling . . . their interior self.

Modern industrialized society, on the other hand, tends to be external learning oriented.  It tends to be more ‘practical’ and intent on turning people into machines.  In fact, most of what it teaches has little, or no, interior meaning and significance.  This shows how older societies and modern societies are diametrically opposed in nature.

Since everyone in modern industricalized society is taught external learning one could say that people are, nowadays, “indoctrinated” into the external learning point of view.  In fact, I’d be inclined to say that people are so “indoctrinated” to this point of view that they can see no other, which is one reason why modern people are often so narrow minded.  Another effect of this is that it hampers any internal learning thereby depriving people of its effects.  This is why people are becoming what I often jokingly call an ‘educated robot’ or ‘University robot’ nowadays.  So-called ‘modern education’ is primarily external learning and that’s its main emphasis.  In other words, all we’re doing is memorizing, remembering, doing technique, and such, with no reference to ones natural inclinations, abilities, and interior self.  In fact, most learning, now, is absolutely devoid of ones natural inclinations at all.  This makes any learning distant and removed from us:  external.


An “education”, as I use it, means what can be described as ‘learning-as-molding’.  That is to say, one is ‘molded’ to a particular form or shape.  An education is not learning a trade or profession or facts or information, nor is there a degree or certificate one earns.  In actuality, you cannot learn an “education” at a school (in fact, it will probably impair it).  An “education” hits deeper than that, to ones self and to the changing of ones self.  In this way, an “education” is primarily a molding of ones self much like making something out of clay.  This creates what can be described as a ‘molded person’.  This person is molded deliberately and intentionally to fit a specific ‘molded form’.  This is a specific way of being and living which a person tries to “transform” themselves into.  Because of this, the ‘molded person’ is really the transformation of a person which is one of the reasons why it often hits deep within a persons self.

The ‘molded form’, which the ‘molded person’ takes, often has traits such as these:

  • It is generally determined by pre-established conditions, viewpoints, mentalities, and perspectives.
  • Usually, it originates from experience.  In that way, it becomes a “sum total” of experience of a person, a group, a people, or a culture.
  • Because these are experienced-based it shows a definite association with the world.  We must remember that this association with the world is not ‘casual’ or leisurely.  It is based in living and surviving in the world.  In this way, one could say that it is associated with the ‘survival instinct’ which gives it a great inner attachment and importance.  Because of this, it has a great sense of seriousness. 
  • Because of this seriousness, a ‘molded form’ that has “success” tends to develop a sense of ‘security’.  In many ways, its this ‘security’ that gives the ‘molded form’ such importance and power.  It gives a person a sense of ‘standing’ in the world and confidence that they can handle the world.  This is one reason why a ‘molded person’ is often looked at highly.
  • This ‘security’ tends to not only be in relation to the world but in relation to other people (that is, socially) and even to ones self.  Because of this, the ‘security’ created by the ‘molded form’ tends to be extended to many aspects of life.  In this way, it often defines a persons life and one could very well say that it becomes a way of life.

So we see that we are looking at more than just “learning” here.  It goes deeper, affecting deep aspects within a person, such as ones self, the ‘survival instinct’, confidence, standing, and a sense of  ‘security’ and often becomes part of a way of life.   In this way, the ‘molded form’ as if “harnesses” many aspects of ones self and unifies them into one and, in so doing, makes a more mature and ‘complete person’, which is one of its great strengths.

Typically, the ‘molded form’ is a reaction to the many forces of life.  That is to say, we mold ourselves in response to life’s conditions.  This reveals the fact that molding, or “education”, is not something that just happens  . . . its something that life instigatesOne could say that this instigation comes from three areas:

  1. Conditions.  This includes things such as historical circumstance, necessity, and situation in life.
  2. Society.  This includes things such as culture, belief, religion, and social standing.
  3. Personal.  This includes things such as one character, experience, abilities, etc.

I tend to believe that this tendency to molding, in response to life, is an innate reaction.  One could say that it, itself, is part of the ‘survival instinct’, which allows us to survive, live, and grow in the world.

I should point out that through molding, which is a reaction to the conditions of life, we become a part of life and, in so doing, it allows us to live life.  This means that molding is a necessary part of experiencing life.  In fact, one could say that its the molding that creates the experience of life.  One of the reason for this is that molding is not, in actuality, static but a continually changing and altering condition.  In other words, molding requires a continual changing and altering of ones self.  This is why I put emphasis on the process and act in “learning” rather than in “knowing” which is static.  Life is an act, not something “known” or “said”.  In this way, life is a continual active molding that never ends.  Its for this reason that molding is so important in the experiencing of life.  It also means that “education” never ends.


I have always felt the orientation of molding is very critical and may even determine if molding will work or not.  That is to say, how internal and external learning associates with one another is very important in order for molding to be effective.  In other words, a “real education” (molding) is not based in “learning stuff” but by applying internal and external learning properly and in the right place.  In other words, each form of learning must be done in the right way for the right reasons.

In general, I tend to take the view that a “real education” is based or rooted in internal learning.  Any external learning “supports” or “buttresses” ones internal learning.   In this way, the “person” remains the focus and the world is in the background.  It creates a “person-in-the-world orientation”.  There are other people, of course, who would emphasize external learning.  Any external learning focus would tend to create a “world-before-the-person orientation”.  This orientation seems dominant in this society.

Which one is better?

I think that which orientation a person takes depends on you, your culture, and your life situation.  These conditions may make one orientation more important than the other.  In fact, in some cases, the conditions may make one orientation absolutely necessary.

I, myself, tend to view that the “person-in-the-world orientation” as better.  In my opinion, the emphasis on internal learning is very critical and important.  The absence of internal learning, or more emphasis on external learning, creates something more like a ‘robot’, in my opinion, who thinks, does things, and acts robotically based on whatever they have learned externally (such as in school).  Keep in mind that acting the part of a robot can become very involved and almost “artistic” in some ways.  Despite this, it still lacks the ‘inner connection’ of internal learning which I tend to view very highly.  That is to say, it is ‘detached’ from the person, cold and mechanical.  Perhaps its this lack of ‘inner connection’ that gives it its robotic quality?  Because of this, I tend to view that a “real education” must originate from the person and not originate from external origins, such as through schooling.  But we must also remember that internal learning without external learning tends to become misguided and lost.  External learning gives internal learning a purpose, a direction, and a place.  This shows that there is a hierarchy of roles with the two forms of learning which establishes the orientation:

  1. Primary.  This is the main emphasis and focus.
  2. Secondary.  This is primarily supportive and guiding.

One must be before the other.  They can’t be equally the same.  I tend to feel that internal learning must be primary.  This point of view is reflective of the ‘person-in-the-world orientation’ (the ‘world-before-the-person orientation’ has external learning as primary).  This tendency for a hierarchy shows that we need both forms but in the correct role. 

Not only that, we need each form of learning in the proper way and context.  Determining the proper way and context is not always easy and generally takes experience.  Some aspects of determining this include:

  • Why you learn.  What is its intention?
  • What it is that you learn.  Do you really need to know what you are learning?
  • How things are learned.  Are you learning it the correct way?  For example, are you just reading about it or doing it?
  • The context of why things are learned.  How does your learning affect your life and who you are?
  • The worth of what you learn.  That is, what does it mean to you and does it really have value?

These questions, really, quantify and qualify any learning which, in a way, puts them in their place.  The reason I say this is because, in this society, there is a lot of “frivolous learning” which seems important but really isn’t.  A lot of so-called learning is really nothing but what I call “mind stuffing”, basically stuffing your mind with information that doesn’t really mean anything, much like stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing.  If you repeat what you stuffed your mind with properly people might think you’re “smart” and you might get an A in class.  Just the other day I was walking through the University campus (where I went for a year) and the jingle I used to say came to me:

“I’m a mind stuffer, yes siree.  I stuff my mind and think its really neat.”

Typically, though, ‘mind stuffing’ has no deep meaning to the person, thereby creating no transformation of ones self.  Because of this, under my definition above, it is not an “education”.  This is where my saying comes from:

 “The educated non-educated”

This, in my opinion, defines the so-called “educated person” today . . . they know a lot, and may know how to do things, but they have no molding of their person.


The idea of molding a person suggests that there is an ‘unmolded’ condition, an ‘unmolded person’.

But is it a bad thing?

I think it depends on the person.

Molding can affect people in different ways, ranging from good to bad.  What this means is that “education”, or molding, isn’t all good for everyone all the time.  In fact, I believe that “education” only works for those people who have the character that is conducive to it.  From my observation, this is only a small segment of the population.  The effects of molding and “education” on a person has effects that range something like a spectrum:

  • Molding as a form of embracing life
  • Molding as a form of growth
  • Molding as a way to give a person direction and a way to live
  • Molding as a distortion of a person
  • Molding as a way to turn people into ‘robots’
  • Molding as a means for alienation and dehumanization

So we see that to say that molding (“education”) is all good is ridiculous.  It has its dark side too.  The effect it has on a person, as I said above, depends on the person.  What may be good for one person may be bad for another.  This is why I don’t feel everyone, and their dog, should be ‘molded’ or “educated” to a great extent.  In general, though, we all need some molding to become human beings.  The question is how far do we go and in what way.


I have always felt that learning ones natural inclinations and abilities (which is, basically, internal learning) is critical in life and in the development of ones self as a person.  I tend to feel that this is particularly so nowadays in this external learning dominant world.  As stated above, external learning tends to lead a person away from themselves.  Since this form of learning is so prevalent, nowadays, the condition of people being led away from themselves is seen quite extensively.  One of its effects, though, is alienation and dehumanization (see my article “Discovering natural inclinations – a solution to alienation and dehumanization???“).  This fact shows some interesting traits with the two forms of learning.

  • Internal learning makes a person a person.  It tends to make someone who is more rooted IN themselves.  In this society, this doesn’t have much value and, because of this, it is not emphasized.
  • External learning makes a person do something.  It tends to make someone able to DO THINGS.  It does not make a person a person, as it does not originate from within.  But, because external learning creates a ‘robot mentality’, it has become particularly prevalent today where ‘robot people’ are needed to keep this society, and economy, going.

In effect, an over emphasis on external learning, and/or a lack of internal learning, tends to lead people away from themselves, though they are able to do things (be like a robot).  This orientation, if excessive, tends to lead to dehumanization and alienation.  This means that learning, as it is practiced and taught today (that is, primarily external learning), is often destructive and undermining to the person. 


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Education and learning, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on existentialism and the crisis of authority

Here’s a thought I had:

It appears, to me, that I take many views that are seen in a type of philosophy called existentialism.  I, though, tend to interpret it differently.


In some respects, existentialism is primarily looking at a specific quality or “illness”, so to speak.   This “illness” has the quality of a ‘complex’ which has traits such as:

  • The idea that something important has “died”, is gone, or is missing.
  • The idea that we’re lost as a result of this.
  • This creates feelings like doubt, anxiety, despair, etc.
  • This causes a tendency, and need, to rediscover what has died.
  • But, regardless of what we do, there is no solution and, therefore, a dilemma is created in life, one which can’t be answered but is always there.

. . . the existential dilemma.

In my opinion, this is a naturally appearing condition in humanity at least in some form or another.  But, due to historical circumstance and situation, it has been particularly exaggerated these past several hundreds years in Western society.  Its a dilemma that seemed to ‘appear’ right after the Napoleonic wars, especially, and grew in intensity as time went on.  It almost seems to go through stages (at least in philosophy):

  1. The discovery.  This would be like the early-mid 1800’s.
  2. The defining.  This would be the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. 
  3. The realizing.  This would be the early to mid 1900’s.
  4. The forgetting.  This would be the mid to late 1900’s.

In other words, the existential dilemma, as a whole, has a quality of discovering an “illness” but, finding ourselves helpless against it and unable to cure it, we end up forgetting it. 

But, we must remember, the “illness” still continues.  Overall, the existential dilemma has become a forgotten enigma, as if drowned by the events of history which have, it seems, molded the existential dilemma into new forms.  In other words, its existence has caused other reactions, particularly recently, than the original philosophical explanation.  Despite this, its fact continues to exist and influence things.  Sometimes, the dilemma is hidden behind some form of thought or thinking, of principles or points of view, such as:

  • Justification – As a cause (for example, that its a “liberation”, or a “freedom”, etc.).
  • Explanation – As something to give other explanations for (such as that its caused by consumerism, cellular phones, the Republican party, not enough fiber, etc.).

But, being so deep set it often affects people differently, beyond thought, such as:

  • Experienced – As an underlying despair or anxiety (this, of course, captures the existential dilemma in its original form).
  • Non-acknowledgement – As something not acknowledged and ignored.

In other words, the reaction to the existential dilemma tends to go in a thought and non-thought pattern.  In actuality, this tendency reveals a basic problem found in the existential dilemma . . .


One aspect that the existential philosophy reveals is a condition that is created by philosophy and thought in general.  Since this is a “thinking society” this problem permeates this society and, no doubt, causes the general existential dilemma we now see in society.  To put it simply, the tendency of philosophy and thought is to come up with all these fancy ideas which seem to work but, in reality, we are running around in circles getting nowhere.  In other words, it shows the ‘illusion of thought’.   That is to say, thought actually tends to deceive us in a number of ways, such as:

  • It makes us fabricate things that aren’t happening or true.
  • It gives us the illusion that, just because we thought it, it is “solved”.
  • It makes us get lost in all the complexity, ingenuity, and novelty of thought.

This illusion becomes particularly pronounced with existentialism because, in respect to all other philosophies, it tends to be focusing on a dilemma (the existential dilemma) and, accordingly, it is an attempt at explaining it.  Because of this, it makes it very specific and focused in its orientation.  As a result of this fact, its “philosophizing” brings out the ‘illusion of thought’ rather prominently.  No matter how much they philosophize about it, the dilemma is never “solved” nor does it ever seem completely explained.

The ‘illusion of thought’ tends to follow a particular path of thinking:

  1. The dilemma is defined.
  2. They philosophize about the dilemma.
  3. They find a solution that “makes sense”.
  4. It appears that they have “solved” it.  But they haven’t “solved” it . . . they just “think” they do.
  5. The dilemma is not solved.
  6. They are right back where they started.

In actuality, nothing is “solved” . . . they just philosophized about it to their satisfaction giving an ‘illusion’ of a solution.  This shows how the tendency of philosophy and thought, in general, is to emphasize one phase – the solution that “makes sense” – and to rely totally on that phase as the panacea of it all.  This is typical of philosophy and thought as a rule.  This over reliance is, in effect, the cause of its failure but because it “makes sense” we still hold onto it as if it is true, making it seem or appear true.  The nature of philosophy, then, is not if it is true but if it “makes sense” to us and believe in it enough to give us the illusion of the “solution”:  the ‘illusion of thought’. 

It shows that philosophizing and thought can actually keeps us away from a “solution”.  In other words, the explanation becomes everything to such an extent that it develops an almost god-like quality with great authority.  Sometimes these explanations take on religious proportions as an explanation.  Because of this, we become deceived by it all . . . dazzled by the explanation.  But, yet, it gets us nowhere and are unwilling to admit it.  We “need” the explanation that “makes sense”, whether it works or not.

This shows that “thought” and reason isn’t as powerful as it seems, nor is something that necessarily  “makes sense”.  Since philosophy is primarily based in thought and reason it shows that philosophy is limited in its effects and outlook.  Relying on logic, reason, thought, and things that “make sense” isn’t necessarily the answer to things.  This is why philosophizing often doesn’t work and, no doubt, is why there are so many types of philosophies.  In many ways, the existential dilemma reflects this fact:  the failure of thought. 

One of the reasons why this is so significant is that there is a tendency to view thought as authority.  In other words, there is a tendency to view thought as being the authority.  Oftentimes, this is any thought, particularly if it is thought over “serious” things, such as we find in philosophy.  But thought is not authority.  Just because one “thinks” or has “ideas” does not automatically give it authority.  Because of this, there becomes a confusion between thought and authority, a tendency to equate the two:  the ‘thought-as-authority confusion’.  This confusion reveals that there are several aspects to any thought:

  1. The actual thought.
  2. The authority behind the thought.

Though they may seem identical they are actually totally separate entities.  In other words, authority exists separately and removed from any thought.  In this way, thought only “captures” the authority.  It does this by putting it in words, ideas, concepts, and such.  To put it another way, thought is an “interpreter” of authority.  This gives thought the quality, really, of a language:  how you interpret it depends on what language you speak.  Different cultures, different religions, different points of views, different people . . all interpret the authority differently and, accordingly, give different thoughts to describe it.  I have found that its not uncommon for two different thoughts to sound totally different, at first glance, but actually are saying the same thing, only in different ways.

Because of this, it is very important to not get too carried away with ones thought or, rather, interpretation.  This, though, is not easy.  Very often we tend to get so involved in our thought that we forget the authority that it represents.  This is a common problem with anyone who thinks, such as philosophers.  Too easily, they get deceived by their own thoughts.

And speaking of authority . . .


Generally, the dilemma of existentialism is often viewed in the context of religion, such as in Nietzche’s statement “God is dead”, at least in the beginning.  This, in my opinion, is one of the things that has led everything off the track.  Its no surprise that they viewed it religiously as they were coming from Christian times.  Its only natural that they would look at things in that way and interpret things in that light.

I tend to feel, though, that it is rooted in something more than Christianity.  One of the reasons why I say this is that the change that happened after the Napoleonic wars, it seems to me, is not really religious but cultural.   In other words, it is not god who ‘died’ but something else.

And what do I believe that some thing else is?

It seems, to me, that what died is authority.  Naturally, in the 1800’s, they used the best example of authority that they understood:  religious authority and the authority of god This is what people were taught for centuries.  But there was something else going on underneath the Christian religious teaching, another form of authority.

But what type of authority?

My feelings is that it is cultural authority.  Why is this?  Because it was at this time that there were great cultural changes happening.  In many ways, the centuries old pattern of Western cultural tradition were beginning to be undermined at this time.  But, even then, I feel that cultural authority is too general.  It seems that there is still another authority that is not being mentioned.

But what is it?

I feel that it is the authority of the tribe.  In other words, th authority issue does not deal with religion and god as much as we were led to believe.  The explanation of religion was an easy one as it fit in to the ‘accepted explanation’ and the ‘accepted explanation of the faithful’ of the times.  But the idea of the tribe has all but been forgotten in Europe, hidden behind centuries of Christianity, social and political conflict, change, etc.  In short, we have forgotten that Western society and culture is tribal in nature.  Germanic society is tribal in nature . . . it always has been.

This shows how I tend to feel that Christianity, in particular, has made us forget our tribal nature.  This is because of some traits of Christianity such as:

  • It is taught to us, forcing many of our original beliefs into the background which often made us forget them.
  • Its a formal belief system, meaning that it is defined whereas a lot of ‘tribal belief’ is not so defined.
  • It preaches an all pervasive religious authority in the Church, Doctrine, and God which takes emphasis away from the tribe.
  • It is manifested in overt behavior such as rituals, morals, ethics, etc. to make impress it upon our minds.

In many ways, these have been as if “overlayed” upon our tribal nature and as if hide or disguise it.  These traits are very different from the qualities of the tribe, which include things such as:

  • There is a strong sense of people.
  • There is a sense of belonging.
  • It is a specific style of way of life.
  • It is developed from experience, not necessarily from being taught.
  • The beliefs are not necessarily defined or delineated.

It shows a big difference:  Christianity is dogma-centered, the tribe is people-centered (keep in mind that by ‘people’ I mean ‘ones people’, who one belongs to, and not ‘people’ in a general overall sense).  These are two totally different orientations.  One could say that, though Christianity brought in a new orientation in thought, it did not destroy the original tribal orientation deep down inside.  This continued to exist but in the ‘background’ or, if you prefer, unconciously.  As a result, we actually had two forms of orientation in Western society:

  1. A tribal orientation.
  2. A Christian orientation.

Both existed side-by-side in the society.  In actuality, we were influenced as much by one as the other.  One was overt and formally acknowledged (Christianity), the other was not (tribal).  As a result, any change or alteration in the ‘tribal sense’ tended to be ascribed to other things, such as Christianity.  This, it seems to me, is what we see with existentialism:  ascribing to Christianity what actually took place with the ‘tribe sense’.

As a result, what has actually “died” is the authority of the tribe, not Christian dogma or “god”What we actually lost are traits of the tribe, such as our sense of belonging, our connectiveness, and the presence of being part of a ‘people’, which is what happened after the Napoleanic wars.   This loss has created a great sense that something is “gone”, “missing”, or has “died”, which is a significant part of existentialistic thought.

Many things happened after the Napoleonic wars that helped cause the fall of the authority of the tribe.  In fact, many actually pre-date it.  They, or their effects, just became more pronounced after the Napoleonic wars.  These include:

  • The rise of liberalism.
  • The rise of the middle class.
  • The French Revolution.
  • Democracy.
  • Individualism.
  • Overpopulation.
  • Exposure to other ways and ideas.
  • Political strife causing doubt in authority

These all created conditions that undermined the authority of the tribe which affected the ‘tribal sense’.  One will notice that religion does not figure prominently showing, as I said above, that there is a lot more than religion in this situation.

One can see that existentialism, and the existential dilemma it describes, is a reaction to historic circumstance and conditions and reflective of a social problem.  In other words, its a reaction to the conditions of the times. Existentialism, in my opinion, is not a problem of the individual person.  Otherwise, it would naturally be there and we’d see it regularly.

There appear to be phases, based on the mentality and conditions of the times, that are reflected in particular existential philosophers:

  1. Religious phase (1800’s) – Kierkegaard.
  2. Religious/scientific (late 1800’s) – Nietzsche.
  3. Scientific (early 1900’s) – Heidegger.
  4. Political (mid 1900’s) – Sartre.

All these philosophers describe the mentality of the times from the point of view of their specific historical circumstance.  In other words, each form of thought is a reaction to historical circumstance.

Jean Paul Sartre, for example, used French and Western ideas of freedom (which also entailed individualism) in his explanation of existentialism.  He tended to see it as a dilemma of ‘freedom’ reflecting the mood of the times.  To me, this is nothing but the ‘politicalization’ of existentialism.  That is to say, it is seeing the existential dilemma  through the current existing political ideas of the times, caused by WWII.  It seems, to me, that this shows how rooted this philosophy is to the times.

The condition of ‘freedom’, as Sartre describes it, actually refers to the effects of an absence of authority as well as the lack of the ‘tribal sense':  the lack of direction, of belonging, of purpose, etc. . . . all the traits of the existential dilemma.  When these are lacking we feel disconnected and alone (the absence of the ‘tribal sense’).  But he is associating it with the political idea of freedom and, therefore, as a great ’cause’.  In so doing he, in a way, glorified the condition of the existential dilemma by associating it with politics and calling it ‘freedom’.  In this way, the glorification of freedom is really the glorification of the fall of authority, an ironic and contradictory conclusion.


Because the existential dilemma is based in a lack of authority it shows that there is a need for authority.  In other words, it reveals that the dilemma of Western society, after the Napoleonic wars, is a dilemma of authority . . . we are needing an authority but its not there.  Because of this, much of this period of history entails “attempts” at somehow “regaining” authority.  Since humanity is made up of many different qualities the dilemma of authority, reflected in the existential dilemma, appears in different ways, such as:

  • The ‘personal existential dilemma’.   This is the dilemma as felt by the person and individual.  It primarily appears as a form of philosophy and as opinions about things.  This is what is generally spoken of when one speaks of the existential dilemma.
  • The ‘social existential dilemma’.   This is the dilemma in the society in general.  Because it is a social situation it does not entail the individual person exclusively.  Its existence in the society, though, tends to affect the individual person and is often what creates the ‘personal existential dilemma’.  It also often creates a tendency to have great belief in social ideals, morality, etc. as a “solution” to maintain or create social authority.
  • The ‘governmental existential dilemma’Because government is part of the society, and made up of people, the existence of the former existential dilemma’s tend to create an existential dilemma in the governmental (that is, a crisis of governmental authority).   As a result, there is a tendency to try to create governmental authority.  This is usually by the creation of a governmental theory or principle (such as democracy, communism, fascism, Nazism, liberalism, etc.) which was very prevalent in the early-mid part of the 1900’s.

In all cases, a distinquishing trait is the creation or need of some sort of theory, principle, or idea as a representation of authority.  Often, the theory, principle, or idea is treated as “the authority”.  In actuality, it is nothing but the convincing of ones self that it is authority and the ‘final answer’.  Because of this, they come and go like the wind but, to their adherrents, they are treated almost like a god.  Perhaps this shows the desperation behind the need for authority? 

The absence of authority often tends to create a reaction which basically amounts to creating false or pretend authorities to fill the void:  the ‘pseudo-authority’.  This is done in a number of ways, such as:

  1. ‘Mock authority’.  Basically, because there is no authority it creates a tendency for some people to “mock” authority.  This is basically a pretending that they have authority, at least in some way.  When its not there it forces some people to pretend that they have it. I first observed this tendency in myself.  I noticed how I often talked in an authoritative way, often without knowing anything.  As I reflected on it I could see that what I was doing was trying “recreate an authority that should be there but isn’t”.  In this way, I tried to become the “absent authority” . . . I was performing a ‘mock authority’.  This was not done out of arrogance but out of desperation.  I need an authority and, since none is there, I have no choice but to be it.  Once I noticed it I began to see it in many other people.  Its almost pathetic, all of us running around trying to pretend to be an authority that isn’t there simply because we need it.
  2. ‘Glorified authority’.  This primarily consists in making something out as authority even though its not.  In this way, they tend to glorify things a lot, making things out bigger than they really are.  This glorification can be toward governments (as seen in Nationalism and democracy), people, beliefs, ideas, and such.  Its seen a lot in the media and social opinion.
  3. ‘Pining for authority’.  This is not really the creation of a new authority, as described above, but a reaction to its absence in which one has a longing for what isn’t there.  In so doing, it as if establishes a form of an authority – the ‘negative authority’.  This authority does not really exist but is a condition created by its absence making it a false form of authority.  A person basically yearns or pin’s for authority.   This ‘pining for authority’ makes up a lot of the ‘personal existential dilemma’.  In fact, I tend to feel that the existential dilemma is primarily ‘pining for authority’, at least in some form.  This pining causes the desperation, anguish, and despair that is such a big part of the existential dilemma.

Unfortunately, all the ‘pseudo-authorities’, described above, have largely failed.  They simply do not work that well.  Despite this, they still persist if for no other reason than the fact that there’s nothing else.  In this way, Western society is now dealing with a new form of authority:  the ‘pseudo-authority-because-there-is-no-other-alternative’.  In other words, we are no longer dealing with a ‘naturally appearing authority’ in society anymore but, rather, a multitude of pretend authorities.  The question is if I “accept” it or not more than the fact that it is authority.

Because this new form of  authority is based in what one “accepts” we could speak of a ‘whim-based pseudo-authority’.  In other words, what determines what is authority is our “whims” at the moment.  This has created a condition where much of society, nowadays, is based in “catering to whims”, primarily to gain the “acceptance” that it is authority.  This is seen a lot with politicians (particularly during voting season), the media, and consumerism.  In other words, things are now catering to peoples whims so they will “accept” them as authority.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Christian conversion, Existence: Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Historical stuff, Modern life and society, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on fighting with nunchaku’s


(Different types of nunchaku’s.  From

I have always been interested in nunchaku’s.  Normally, people get interested in them by watching Bruce Lee.  Though I have seen Bruce Lee with nunchaku’s, and thought they were neat, I don’t think that is what got me interested in them.  I believe this came from going to all these martial arts stores when I was a kid.  I looked at books on nunchaku’s and thought they were neat weapons.  They were so simple and look so innocent.  This made them particularly unusual.  They do not have the normal image of a weapon which, in a way, was probably what most interested me about them.  I was also fascinated about all the different movements and things that could take place with these simple weapons.  In addition, despite their looking simple, they were quite a weapon and could do a lot of damage and even kill a person.   All these things made this weapon interesting to me.

Bruce Lee nunchaku

(Bruce Lee in “The Chinese Connection”, my favorite film of his.)

I’ve always felt that most peoples view of fighting with nunchaku’s is what I would call ‘theatrical fighting’.  No doubt, Bruce Lee had a hand in this.  In a way, it made nunchaku’s a form of a performance or show.  This ‘theatrical fighting’ with nunchaku’s seems to primarily consists of things like this:

  • ‘Flipping’ the nunchaku’s around excessively.
  • Repetetively changing from one hand to another.
  • Using big arcs and movements.
  • Using unnecessary positions and movements.

Stuff, such as these, makes nunchaku’s look really neat and impressive.  But I always felt that a real fight would be totally different.  I’ve never seen an actual fight, of course, but it seems that it would require different priorities and concerns than is found in ‘theatrical fighting’ creating a whole new form of behavior and action.  In fact, I can see it being something totally different.

To begin with, it seems to me that there are three main points in actual fighting with nunchaku’s:

  1. ‘Control, control, control’.  Fighting with nunchaku’s is nothing but control.  Because of this, one must avoid things, and movements, that decrease ones control.  This would be most of the bulk of ‘theatrical fighting’.
  2. ‘Safety, safety, safety’.  That is to say, one must use them in such a way that one doesn’t get hurt.  This may sound easy but its not.  A big part of learning nunchaku’s, I think, is learning to handle them safely.
  3. Be directed in ones actions.  When you make a movement make it count.  Nunchaku’s are no weapon to do frivilous actions with.

Some aspects of these are:

Do not ‘flip’ the nunchaku’s around excessively.  The reason for this is that once its in motion it has to finish its motion.  In effect, when ‘flipped’ the nunchaku is out-of-control . . . you are at the mercy of its movement.  You might be able to alter its movement, to some extent, but it primarily has a life of its own.  Because of this, its best if there is minimal ‘flipping’.

Not only that, if you have to move while its in motion (which, I suspect, happens in real fights) you may actually move yourself into the nunchaku’s movement and hit yourself!

Use single action movements.  Try to limit movements to one action as much as possible.  This makes the nunchaku more in ones control.  In addition, it makes ones effort more directed and ‘final’.

Use your dominant hand for the main motions.  The dominant hand allows for more control and directedness in ones actions.  Use the non-dominant hand more for supportive motions or only as necessary.

When making a movement, make it strong, forceful, and decisive.  With ‘theatrical fighting’ almost all movements are done as if casually as the intention is to flip it around for show.  Basically, the nunchaku’s are just moved about the place with little strength and force.  In actual fighting, I’d think that you’d want to make each strike count as much as possible.  Because of this, one would want to put more force and energy in each movement.

Another reason for a strong, forceful, and decisive movement is that it makes the free end of the nunchaku’s more determined in its course and thereby follow a specific path.  This will help prevent the free end ‘flipping’ around unpredictably, even after a hit.

Avoid changing from one hand to another.  When one changes hands with the nunchaku’s, one actually loses an element of control and may even lose control of the nunchaku’s completely.

Learn how to stop the movement of the nunchaku’s with the body.  Because of the high movement of the free end of the nunchaku, one has to be adept at stopping its motion.  This often entails letting it hit part of the body, such as the shoulder or leg.  This is often best done by having the end of the free nunchaku closest to the rope or chain hit the body.  In any motion, one must have a means to stop it on ones body.  Therefore, all actions really entail three elements:

  1. Setting up for the motion.
  2. Making the motion.
  3. Stopping the motion.

Of course, one must learn to stop the nunchaku without hurting ones own body.  Since this is so critical it seems like this should entail a lot of the practice on nunchaku’s.

Learn different ways to slow the nunchaku’s movement down while in motion.  One way to do this is to ‘flip’ the nunchaku in a circle while in mid motion.  This movement sometimes ‘absorbs’ some of the motion making it slow down abit.

Another technique, that can sometimes work, is to quickly move the nunchaku in a direction that is not in its originally intended movment.  In this way, it disrupts the normal movement of the free end of the nunchaku.  If this is done, in mid-action, it can sometimes slow the movement down abit.  For example, if a person ‘flips’ the nunchaku downward and then quickly moves the nunchaku outward, for example, it disrupts the movement enough that it can sometimes slow it down.  Usually, though, you have to be careful where the free end of the nunchaku goes.

I’ve always felt that, to have any effect, a person has to primarily aim at an exposed bone on the opponents body.  Hitting body mass, such as muscle, will hurt but I don’t think it will automatically incapacitate a person (though I’m sure it can if done properly).  If one hits an exposed bone (such as the shin or ulna bone of the arm) one may very well break it or, at the least, make it hurt horribly, which can bring someone to their knees.  Hitting someone on the head may crack their skull and possibly kill a person.  What this means is that the nunchaku seems to have three ‘hit zones and effects':

  1. Cause pain – hit body mass such as muscle.
  2. Break bones – hitting an exposed bone.
  3. Death – hitting the skull.

Because of this, we see that nunchaku’s are only deadly in a limited sense, but it can cause a lot of pain.

Remember that the nunchaku’s don’t always have to be ‘flipped’ to be useful.  ‘Theatrical fighting’ emphasizes movements of the nunchaku’s making it seem that this is all it can do.  They can be used in many other ways such as blocking the opponents weapon or to hit the opponent.   In fact, I often wonder if this should be the main orientation of the nunchaku’s, with the ‘flipping’ done only at certain oppurtunities and times.  In this case, the nunchaku’s would be handled something like a double stick weapon most of the time (which happens to have a rope/chain connecting the two pieces).  In that way, they are ‘flipped’ sparingly and only as needed.

The nunchaku’s are limited as a defense.  The length of each end of the nunchaku is only about as long as ones forearm (something like 12-14″).  This does not give much defense against attack.  It would be like defending oneself by two small sticks.  In addition, having two pieces of wood connected by a rope/chain doesn’t off much either.  I’ve always felt that this limited defense capability was one of the nunchaku’s main weaknesses.  This is why I always felt that, in actual fighting with nunchaku’s, one will want to try, as soon as possible, to make a decisive strike upon ones opponent.  In other words, one should try to bring the fight to a close as soon as one can otherwise the opponent may be able to use the nunchaku’s weakness as a defense to his benefit.

The great strengths of the nunchaku’s are its longer reach and that a strike can be damaging.  The free end of the nunchaku extends the weapon quite aways, even beyond some weapons.  Not only that, the movement of the free end, with its momentum, has a damaging effect.  In fact, it has the potential of being more damaging than many weapons, such as a staff or even a sword whose strength is in its cutting ability.  One could very well say that the momentum, caused by the movement of the free end, IS the main strength of the nunchaku.  Because of this, any fighting with the nunchaku should take advantage of this capability and use it as effectively as possible.

The power of the nunchaku is in the momentum created by the rotation of the free end, caused by two rotation points:  the rope/chain and ones joints.  The rope/chain offers a very small and restricted rotation point with a small arc.  By itself, it can’t really achieve much momentum to be effective.  Ones joints, on the other hand, offer many variations and forms of rotation points.  This is because there are a multitude of joints and combinations of movements originating from the wrist, elbow, shoulder, and even waist.  A movement of the nunchaku from ones joints tends to make the nunchaku swing in a greater arc than the rope/chain by itself.  As a result, it develops great momentum.  A typical movement of the nunchaku, though, entails rotation from both points – rope/chain and ones joints – which as if gains the benefits of both rotation points and, in a way, amplifying it.  Because of this, in any movement one wants to try to ‘flip’ the free end (that is, cause a rotation about the rope/chain) and rotate the nunchaku about ones joints.  In general, the movement of ones joints will follow the rotation of the free end of the nunchaku.  In a movement with great force the movement of the joint may actually go faster than the movement of the free end to the point that the free end is actually pulled by the rope/chain making it as if follow along.  Probably the most powerful, and used, joints are the shoulder and elbow, which are generally used in conjunction.

With all this, it seems that an actual fight with nunchaku’s would probably entail little ‘theatrical’ or showy movement.  In fact, it may entail very little movement, only quick sudden actions.  This would give a whole new image to nunchaku fighting .


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Other stuff, Stuff involving me, The military and war | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the ‘experience gap’ – the importance of experience in “personhood”

Here’s a thought I had:

I often speak of what I call the ‘experience gap’.  This basically refers to a condition where we are seeking or relying on an experience that we never had.  Because of this, the experience is replaced by other things, such as concepts and ideas – mental fabrications – which give the illusion of experience.  As a result, we develop what can be described as an ‘experience-as-mental-fabrication point of view’.  In this way, the experience becomes an abstract mental fabrication and, therefore, is not a “real” experience in any way.  We tend to treat it as real and, in so doing, we deceive ourselves.

The ‘experience gap’ shows that there are two conditions:

  1. The ‘false-experience’ condition.
  2. The ‘actual experience’ condition.

The ‘false-experience’ condition is when it is just something ‘imagined’, usually, or that is ‘abstract’ . . . something considered to be true but not a reality. In other words, it is an experience that did not take place.  The ‘false-experience’ condition sets the stage for the ‘experience-as-mental-fabrication’ point of view.  The ‘actual experience’ condition, on the other hand, means that it has been experienced.

In actuality, most people live in the ‘false-experience’ condition most of the time, particularly nowadays.  This is particularly aggravated by things such as:

  • TV and media
  • Too much news
  • Too many ideas
  • Too much learning
  • The social media

Things, such as these, tend to cause a prevalence of things like:

  • Imitation
  • Abstraction
  • Information
  • An absence of actual doing

These tend to create a condition that promotes mental fabrications of experience, creating an illusion of experience.  This is basically the ‘experience gap’.  Being devoid of ‘actual experience’ we could speak of an ‘experience poverty’ that the ‘experience gap’ creates.  This may progress, with some people, to what can be called an ‘experience starvation’ where people are so desiring of experience but can’t seem to achieve it.  My observation is that people who reach this state will continue to seek experience in mental fabrications which is actually what caused the problem in the first place.  Because of this, it becomes like a viscious circle that goes around and around and gets nowhere.  Perhaps we could call this the ‘circle of the experience gap’?

Problems, such as these, are far more serious than it may, at first, appear.  The reason why this is so serious is because we ‘become our experiences’.  We rely and need experiences to live, grow, and become someone.  We do not become what we imitate, what we think, or what we know (that is, mental fabrications do not make us a person).  In many ways, “personhood” is found in experience.

This fact shows a close association between the person and experience.  But, as I mentioned above, the person is based in experience making experience an integral part of the person.  Because of this, one could say that the “person” is made up of two elements:

  1. The self.
  2. Experience.

This makes it so that the association between the self and experience is critical.

But what is the quality that makes this association?

It is relevancy.

Basically, the self, by its nature, is something that is removed from experience.  Because of this, it needs something to connect itself with experience and unite them into one.  Relevancy establishes this connection.  It makes the experience important to the self, establishing an association.  Personhood, then, needs relevancy to make experience important and meaningful.  Without it, experience tends to have no value.  This connection is the ‘person-relevancy condition’.   To put it another way, relevancy allows the experience to be “absorbed” into the self.  This “absorption” becomes “personhood”.  So we see this pattern:


This association creates the person.  But, in the ‘experience gap’, relevancy is removed creating this condition:


The lack of relevancy makes it so that experience is not “absorbed”, creating a ‘gap’ in experience:  the ‘experience gap’.  When this happens there developes a ‘dilemma of personhood’ as one of the qualities of personhood is missing.  In effect, personhood is disrupted, altered, or prevented.  Because of this, the ‘dilemma of personhood’ creates a number of problems such as:

  • Anxiety and despair.
  • An absence of growth.
  • A sense of detachment . . . alienation.
  • A sense of artificiality.
  • A tendency to blind following of things, such as trend.

In other words, the ‘experience gap’ tends to cause various forms of mental problems and dilemma’s.  This is because it disrupts with “personhood”.  This shows that relevancy is very important in a persons life.  This is why it is wise for a person to seek relevancy in life.  This must be done in a variety of ways such as:

  • Active relevancy – finding relevancy in what one does.
  • Observational relevancy – seeing meaning in things.
  • Passive relevency – finding meaning in what happens to us.

This shows that there are different forms and grades of finding relevancy and meaning.  In other words, a person doesn’t just “find” meaning and that’s that.  To truly find relevancy and meaning is to discover the many different forms of it.

Another significant aspect of relevancy is what I call “para-experience”.   These do not consist of experience, itself, but are qualities that as if supports, guides, and buttresses experience.  Because “para-experience” is so closely associated with relevancy it can be as important, or even more important in some cases, than “actual experience”.  This is because “para-experience” as if aligns or directs experience to a good end.  In this way, “para-experience” is critical in giving experience a relevancy.

“Para-experience” seems to have two main forms:

  1. Social “para-experience”.  This primarily says that society determines a lot of relevancy and meaning in experience.  Examples include culture, belief, social framework, etc.
  2. Personal “para-experience”.  A persons character and personality can have great impact on ones “absorption” of experience and its relevancy.  Examples include awareness of ones situation, the framework and context of what one does things, how one views ones worth in what one does, one emotional state, etc.

Both of these, really, seem to consist of the creation of a number of qualities:

  • A persons “stance”.  That is, how they see themselves in the scheme of things.
  • A persons “attitude”.  This is the general way in which a persons looks at things.
  • A persons “awareness”.  This is how much a person knows what’s going on.

These, in a sense, are the qualities of “para-experience”.   Through these qualities experience is aligned and directed, helping to give relevancy to experience.

An absence, or distortion, of these qualities (the “para-experience”) can create an ‘experience gap’ even though a person may do things (that is, have experience).  Without the “para-experience” to guide and direct it experience can become almost worthless and have no meaning.  Perhaps we could call this particular type of “gap” the ‘para-experience gap’?

A good example of this is how a person who has no culture to give their experience meaning has a similar reaction as the ‘experience gap’.  What this means is that even with experience the absence of the qualities to support it and give it meaning can have the same effect as not having the experience!

Another example is the following of ideals.  When a person “does things”, because its the ideal, it tends to create an ‘experience gap’ (some examples of that, seen in this society, is a lot of sports, going to the University, and such).  This is because a person is “doing things” because of the abstract idea of “its the ideal”.  The focus is on the ideal not the experience.  This makes the experience “less than experience”.

The ‘para-experience gap’, because of its nature, can create unique effects such as:

  • An emptiness in life
  • A meaninglessness.
  • A feeling that one has done nothing in life.
  • A sense of not being connected.
  • A nihilism, a belief in nothing.
  • A poor view of life.
  • A narrow view of life.

So we can see that the ‘para-experience gap’ can have great impact on how one lives.  In fact, it can make life miserable.  This is because its absence leaves a big hole in a persons life . . . something it missing . . . ones experience has no value.

The existence of ‘para-experience’ tends to create what can be described as ‘character’.  One could say that character is the “absorption” of the ‘para-experience’ into ones self.   In other words, character shows the impact the ‘para-experience’  has on ones personality, personhood, and self . . . it “absorbs” it making the ‘para-experience’ part of its nature.  In this way, ‘para-experience’ is critical for the development, growth, and health of “personhood”.  This is why things like culture, belief, and being genuine to ones self are so important.  In short, for character to “work” a person must:

  • Believe in something (like a religion, a world view, etc.).
  • Belong to something (like a culture, a people, etc.).
  • Be a ‘person’ (that is, participate in life and uphold themselves).

In ways, such as these, character develops in a person allowing the ‘para-experience’ to manifest itself.

Character can be described as a ‘pre-ordained’ way of reacting or, to put it another way, a “guided reaction” or, perhaps, a “guided experience”.  It does this by creating a pre-established way or pattern of reacting and doing things.  This makes it so that a person “knows”, at least deep down (and usually unconsciously), how one will react and do things.  This creates several effects:

  • It builds and grows with experience.
  • It creates a confidence.

In these ways, character as if “builds a person up”. It ends up helping a person in life, helping one to adapt and grow with life.

One of the unfortunate effects of character, though, is that it becomes limited.  The ‘pre-ordained’ reacting to things becomes monotonous and one sided over time.  It may make a person ‘rigid’ and predictable, decreasing any spontaneity and originality.  It often leads to ‘habit’ in experience.  This seems to be a problem as a person ages, in particular.  This can become an ‘experience gap’ in itself.  Perhaps we could call this the ‘over-character gap’?  In this way, it shows that there is actually a “climax” with character and its effects.  In other words, it follows this pattern following ones age:

  • No character – birth to late childhood
  • Growing character – late childhood to adulthood
  • Climax of character and its effects – adulthood
  • Decreasing effect of character – late adulthood to early old age
  • Rigidity (the ‘over-character gap’) – early old age to death

Character appears to “climax” in adulthood (about the 20’s to 40’s).  In other words, old age, itself, creates an ‘experience gap’ by the growing rigidity of character (the ‘over-character gap’).  Perhaps we could speak of this as the ‘old age experiential gap’?  This ‘over-character’ is probably what makes people “old”.  They become more narrow-like, limited, and lacking in spontaneity.  This makes them appear detached, unconnected, and such.  Interestingly, these are signs of the ‘para-experience gap’ described above.  In other words, in old age it often happens that character, which is the result of ‘para-experience’, ends up becoming so strong that it ends up creating a ‘para-experience gap’.  This, of course, is the ‘over-character gap’.

With the “climax” of character it seems that experience becomes a “full experience”.  Here, everything is mixed together in the correct way like a bowl of soup (the self, “personhood”, experience, relevancy, ‘para-experience’, character, etc.).  Often, this is perceived as “living”.  As one ages this period of time is often looked at nostalgically and can be spoken of as “back in the day”.

But, as the ‘over-character gap’ develops and grows there often becomes a splitting of the self.  This splitting seems to be a result of the fact that the rigidity of the  ‘over-character’ becomes so strong that it begins to “strangle” the self.  As a result, the self as if “detaches” itself and becomes separate.  This creates a new orientation of the self or, perhaps, a ‘new self’ begins to appear as a response.  This new orientation of the self tends to be a moving away from experience in the outer world and a growing development of a more interior-based self.  A person becomes more self-absorbed.  Their experience and views often becomes the measure of everything.  There begins to be a growing rift or division between the world and the self.  This can go to such an extent, in old extreme age, that the outer world practically disappears.  Perhaps we could speak of this as the ‘post-character self-absorbed self’?

One of the effects of the ‘post-character self-absorbed self’ is the deterioration of the “full experience”.   Life seems “less lived” or “less vivacious”.  For some people, life may of even seemed to of “died”.  This can become one of the dilemma’s of growing old.

We must keep I mind that a person cannot truly experience everything they do.  In addition, a person should not seek to experience everything to the fullest.  That’s as bad as having no experience.  Its simply too much.  Instead, one should seek experience that is relevant.  To put it another way, a person should seek quality in experience.  One could very well say that a “full experience” is experience that is relevant to the person, giving it quality.

Another aspect of the “full experience” is the need for awareness.  A good example of this is something that happened to me.  In my twenties I suffered from a lot of anxiety.  During this time I was Mr. Scholar, studying this and that.  I became very ‘cranial’ and learned a lot about things.  That is to say, I became too abstract dealing with ideas, information, and such.  And then, one day, I had this strange sense that I had become too ‘cranial’ and have become alienated from my self in some way.  And so, what I did is to sit and observe myself doing things.  That is to say, I’d become aware of everything I did.  I no longer brushed my teeth, for example, but became aware of myself brushing my teeth.  When I reached up to open the door I became aware of my hand reaching up to reach the handle.  In short, I became aware of what I did, however small.  Once I did this, I found that a number of things happened, such as:

  • My anxiety went down.
  • I seemed to be more “in the word”.
  • I seemed more “in tune” with life.
  • I seemed to grow and develop.
  • I felt more of a person.

In short, I had developed an ‘experience-as-mental-fabrication point of view’, because I spent too much time thinking and studying, which created, in me, an ‘experience gap’ which deprived me of a “personhood”.  This caused me anxiety.  Only by becoming aware of the experience of living did this anxiety go down.  This shows that, sometimes, just the lack of awareness can cause an ‘experience gap’.

This lack of awareness can be caused by a number of things:

  • Not being aware.
  • Having other things that interfere with awareness (such as my studying and thinking too much).

This shows a close association between experience and awareness.  In other words, to experience one must be aware of the experience.  I spoke of similar things in “Thoughts on ‘Practicing Awareness’“.

In actuality, the ‘experience gap’ can be described as a form of dehumanization and alienation.  This is particularly so as a lot of this is caused by the condition of the times (too much info, machines doing too much, etc.).  In so doing, it degrades the person and as if undermines them causing problems with growth and development, as described above.

We see, then, that the ‘experience gap’ reveals the complexity of experience as well as its importance.  It also shows how many things can interfere with experience and that it can have great impact on a person.  More importantly, it shows the importance of having a good healthy relevant quality experience.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Existence: Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the three most influential men in my life and their significance to me – Newton, Freud, St. Antony – and the “great inquiry”

In my life there have been three influential men in my life.  Initially, I thought this meant nothing significant but that they only had a quality that influenced me for some reason.  But now, after all these years, I tend to think differently.  I can see that they had great and tremendous influence to the point that they, really, helped determine the direction of my life.


In actuality, as I reflect on it, I can see that these three men did not necessarily cause a change in me but, rather, they represented a quality that was already in meBecause of this, I ‘identified’ with them and, in a sense, saw myself in them.  In this way, they became a reflection of me, more than anything else.  In my ‘identifying’ with them they gave a ‘means’ for these inner qualities to appear, allowing them to come out.  In this way, my ‘identification’ with them helped to give these inner qualities a direction and meaning.  It is for this reason that they have had great power in my life.

The three men are:


(Isaac Newton.  Painting by Godfrey Kneller, 1689)

1. Isaac Newton

It was in grade school that I saw a documentary on Isaac Newton.  This was some time in the late 1970’s.  For some reason, there was something about him that attracted me.  I began to like him and have ever since.

For years, though, I thought that I liked him because of his intellectualism and how he thought about things.  Recently, I’ve begun to realize that there is actually another reason.  Interestingly, it took 40 years to realize this (it shows how slow I am).  The quality I admired in Isaac Newton is that he inquired for the sake of inquiring.  In other words, he had no ulterior motives.  He did not seek money or fame or even a desire to make a discovery.  In other words, what attracted me to Isaac Newton is his honest and pure inquiring for the joy of inquiring.  When I look back on my life I can see that I moulded my life on this idea.  I have sought, for 40 years now, to inquire for the sure joy of it and for no other reason.  Its rather interesting that I’ve only realized this after a lifetime of following it.

As part of this inquiry I cannot express the importance of honesty and purity here.  That is to say, it must be done to satisfy an inner need only, not for social benefits (like status) or monetary benefit.  This makes it a very personal and deep affair, hitting to the depths of ones soul.  These qualities of honesty and purity I have never seen in any other person.  As far as I know I’m the only one who “preaches” it.

Freud 1921 2

(Sigmund Freud, 1921)

2. Sigmund Freud

In the mid 1980’s I became interested in psychology and, subsequently, in Sigmund Freud.  I even intended to become a Psychoanalyst for a period of time.  Naturally, I would practice a ‘self-analysis’ as part of learning psychoanalysis.  This would have great effect on me.

Looking back on it now I can see how Sigmund Freud and ‘self-analysis’ taught me a number of things:

  1. The free association of psychoanalysis taught me to let things come out naturallyThis emphasized, again, the importance of honesty and purity in what I was doing.  I could not distort things but let them happen in a natural way being pure and honest about it.
  2. Analysis taught me to watch for whatever appeared I had to be observant and watchful for the things I felt, thought, said, and did.
  3. It taught me to find a meaning out of the things that appeared.  I had to put what often appeared as a bungled mess into an order with meaning and value.  I also had to put them into a greater context.
  4. Analysis taught me inner inquiryI had to be an ‘observer of myself’ and look within myself.

In other words, what attracted me to Freud was the means for inner inquiry and the use of a technique and the putting of everything into a greater meaning.  These have had great impact on me to this very day.

Antony the great

(St. Antony the Great of Egypt)

3. St. Antony the Great

My interest in monastacism, beginning in about 1990, introduced me to St. Antony the Great, who was the first hermit monk in Egypt.  He had great influence on me and still does.  His life I admire and respect.

Looking back on it now it seems that I was attracted to several things in St. Antony the Great:

  1. He abandoned the worldThis taught me that one can go beyond the world and look into areas one did not realize was there.
  2. He revealed to me the power of mysteryI was able to see that things were beyond me and to appreciate it.  This taught me a whole new way at looking at the world.
  3. He taught me courage All this required a courage as one is as if walking blind in the world.
  4. He taught me contemplation.  Through him I would begin to see what contemplation is.

He was the one who helped me to ‘turn away’ from convential logical thought and to go beyond ones society, viewpoints, and self.  This is because he, of course, abandoned everything and went to live in the desert.  As a result, St. Antony became a model for ‘pushing the limits’ and ‘facing the unknown’.


Each one of these men I loved.  That it to say, they weren’t just “guys” to me . . . they were like mentors.  I loved who they were and what they did.  I would learn about their lives and looked up to them.  Looking back on it now I can see that this love was, perhaps, the most important aspect of them.  Without it I don’t think they would of ever had the impact that they had.

I should point out that this love was not for the person himself (all of who died before I was born and of which I only knew through books).  I loved what they represented within me.  In this way, I actually loved the representation.  This made it so that the representation became, in a sense, my mentor.

Because it was a representation it went beyond the person and what they did.  As I got older, I began to find that these representations actually referred to something in particular . . . they referred to an association with the world.  That is to say, each mentor represented a specific way of relating with the world.  Not only that, the representation each represented referred to an active me-world association.  Because of this, the associations they represented had the effect of “opening the world” to me.  This made it so that the love I had for the mentors became a love for these associations and, accordingly, the world.  In effect, the love I felt ended up becoming a combination of many things:

  • A self-love (or, rather, a self-respect).
  • A love of another person (mentor).
  • A love of an active association with the world.
  • A love of the world.

All this is as if combined into one.  This turned this love into a very broad form of love ranging from me to the world.  In so doing, it as if united me and all the world into a single “entity” to love.  This gave the three mentors a unifying quality and an avenue for a love of the world and a way to love the world.

The particular avenue of love that appeared to me, and which they represented (which reflected me deep down), is what I call the “great inquiry”.   This form of love began with Isaac Newton, who initiated it.  He began a process of the “great inquiry” which included these qualites:

  • A “looking into”, of inquiry, of searching, of questing.
  • A finding of “wonder” in things.
  • A “making sense” of things.
  • A participation, a doing.

In this way, one could say that he initiated the seeking and questing that makes up the inquiry.

I should point out that the “great inquiry” is not really an “inquiry”, as you’d normally think, but much more.  In the “great inquiry” I am not inquiring to “learn” or to “find things out”, nor am I trying to find information or knowledge.  This isn’t some school research project.  In actuality, the “great inquiry” is more of an expression of love.  This gives it a whole new quality.  Over the years I’ve found that its this love that I am actualing “inquiring” about.  I seek and quest for it.  In that way, in the “great inquiry” I am actually inquiring for a means or avenue to associate and love the world.  In other words, I am seeking to continue the association with the world that the mentors started . . . I am continuing off where the mentors ended, and in my own “special way”.

Keep in mind that a significant part of the “great inquiry” is the means of associating with the world.  In actuality, this association with the world is the avenue for love . . . its how the love is manifested and displayed.  This is why the mentors were so important as they showed me this association and, through this association, I had a means to love the world.  This makes it so that the “great inquiry” is actually an inquiring or seeking for the ‘correct’ way to associate and love the world.

Not only that, anything that comes from the “great inquiry”, such as any “insight”, “discovery”, or “learning”, is just a confirmation of that love.  Its as if the world is saying, “yes, we love you too” by giving me something in return.  This makes this association:


In this way, confirmation as if “completes” the association, making it whole.  As a result, a big part of the “great inquiry” is that I need to gain “something” as a form of this confirmation.  This usually is a form of discovery of some form (be it “insight”, “knowledge”, or whatever).  Because of this, the “great inquiry” is a perpetual endless discovering of things.  In some sense, its this “discovering” that makes it like an “inquiry”. 

To me, the greatest form of this “discovering” is inspiration, the seeking of things that seem to “come from nowhere”.  Because of this, the “great inquiry” has become a seeking of inspiration for me (for aspects of inspiration see “Thoughts on Seeking Inspiration“, “On how I really don’t know what I’m talking about – the seeking of inspiration, ‘active knowing’, and character“, and “Thoughts on how I perceive the world – inspiration and the “I don’t know” – with remarks about Socrates, philosophy, Odin, and belief“.  In general, knowledge, facts, and information are not something I look at highly.  They are just ‘things’, inanimate and dead.  They do not entail “participation”, just “integration” of these things into ones mind (that is, you just “know it” or “learn it”).  Since the “great inquiry” is about association, as I said above, it needs more than that . . . an association needs “participation”.  Inspiration entails a “participation” . . . it comes from within and one must bring it out.  In that way, its like a creation of something and a pulling out of something that lies within.  One of the effects of this is that inspiration causes a transformation.  That is to say, it requires a process where it becomes “a part of you” and changes you (for example, see “Thoughts on the process of comprehension“).  Knowledge, facts, and information, on the other hand, are things that one only “knows” and they do not create transformation.  As a result of this, the “great inquiry” becomes an inquiry into the transformation of ones self.  So we see that the “great inquiry” is more than inquiring after facts and information but a change in ones self, to become a different person. 

Another thing thats unique about the “great inquiry”, I’ve found, is that it is actually a seeking of an awareness.  In other words, its like an inquiry to find a new awareness of life or, more properly, a specific state of mind.  I often speak of this specific state of mind as ‘poesy’ (see “Thoughts on what I call Poesy” and “Thoughts on how I am not an intellectual – the coming of ‘Poesy’ and the seeking of a state of mind“).  In this way, I am not inquiring for information or knowledge.  In the “great inquiry” I am actually inquiring for a specific state of mind.  This awareness and state of mind becomes a great avenue for associating and loving the world.

Its interestingly that the last mentor ends with St. Antony the Great, who devoted himself to the love of God.  This is not surprising as the world and God are really the same.  As a result, the love of the world is the love of God making the “great inquiry” a form of loving God.  In this way, it can be very profound and deep in nature.

All in all, the “great inquiry” places me in the world as part of an existing and living world.  It establishes me, as a person, in the greater context of the world and with an association and means to associate with the world.  In that sense, the “great inquiry” is an inquiry into myself, the world, and myself-in-the-world.  As a result of all this, we see that the “great inquiry” entails many different qualities such as:

  • A seeking of an assocation with world.
  • A seeking of inspiration.
  • A transformation of self.
  • A seeking of a specific state of mind.
  • A love of god.
  • A placing of me in the world as a living reality.

All these are under the “blanket”, so to speak, of a generalized love that began with the love of the mentors.

So, you see, the love toward the three mentors was instrumental and crucial . . . without it, what use would they of been?  Through the love of them, and what they represented to me, I was able to discover a specific way to associate with the world which became, for me, an expression of love and an active association with the world.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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Thoughts on the symbol I use for contemplation – describing the act and traits of contemplation

Over the years an image kept appearing in my head.  It revolved around contemplation and the awareness of the world.  It developed over a long period of time (about 20 years).  Why it began to appear in my mind I cannot say.  But, it has stuck and has developed quite a lot of meaning to me.  Its not uncommon for me to use it as a ‘guide’ to help me as it became a representation of the ‘act’ of contemplation and the general stance of contemplation.

Interestingly, I have always had difficulty defining contemplation.  It seems to continually change and never remains constant.  Not only that, I’m always saying new things about it.  This has made it so that I, oddly enough, am always having to redefine and rethink what contemplation is.  As a result, contemplation is a varied and changing quality.  I would say that, in general, contemplation has qualities such as these:

  • It is an ordered state of mind, a ‘controlled consciousness’, so to speak.  It is something ‘practiced’ and performed by someone.  In many ways, it is an exercising of certain qualities of the mind to create a different perception of the world and self awareness.  As such, contemplation can be compared to an exercise.
  • Contemplation has become a particular stance in life, a way of looking at the world.   This tendency, I think, is natural if one practices contemplation.
  • I tend to feel that certain people are inclined to practice a contemplative attitude and way.  In other words, contemplation is often a reflection of a specific type of character.  This makes it very person-specific.  People who are not inclined to it do not do it and generally can’t understand it.   

“Contemplation” is actually a form of prayer in Christianity.  I learned it when I wanted to become a monk.  I wanted to join the Camaldolese Benedictine or Carthusian Order (both are hermit orders). I was particularly fond of contemplation as taught by Pseud0-Dionysius, “The Cloud of Unknowing”, St. John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, and Miguel Molinos, among others.  These generally taught a mysticism, of an ‘unknowingness’ of god, a dominant theme of being aware of god as the base of everything, as well as a wordless expression of love.  This is something that I seemed to take to quite easily, almost instinctively.

After I decided not to join a monastery I still continued to practice it, but in an altered form.  This shows, I think, that contemplation somehow ‘spoke’ to me as a person . . . it was something I was compelled to do, not because of religion or belief but because “I” needed it for some reason.  Over the years it continually changed and has now gone in a whole other direction than the original Christian contemplation becoming, in some way, something totally different.  Despite this, I still continue to call it “contemplation”, which it, in actuality, really is one the whole . . . its just changed abit.

Contemplation led me onto things such as shamanism (where the symbol first appeared – see below) which even made it go further from Christian mystical prayer and is something totally different.  I’ve written about shamanism in other articles in this blog (for example, see “A time when shamanistic ‘journeying’ scared me . . . I thought I was going mad: questioning shamanism – the ‘belief show’” and “Thoughts on defining shamanism: an ‘active belief system’“).


The act of contemplation can be described by Pseudo-Dionysius in his book ‘Mystical Theology’:

“. . . dear Timothy, in the diligent exercise of mystical contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and nonbeing, that you may arise by unknowing towards the union, as far as is attainable, with it that transcends all being and all knowledge. For by the unceasing and absolute renunciation of yourself and of all things you may be borne on high, through pure and entire self-abnegation, into the super-essential Radiance of the Divine Darkness.”

I found myself doing this, almost as if by nature, by an event that took place in about 1990 (I’ve written about this event in various other articles in this blog).  I took a walk, by myself, into the woods.  While there I felt what I called the ‘presence’.  It was a sense of a ‘something’ about me that seemed ‘alive’.  I found myself yearning for this ‘presence’.  Almost, as if by nature, I would do what Pseudo-Dionysius describes.  I would focus my mind on the ‘presence’ and as if ‘forget’ about everything and myself.  The ‘presence’ became the focal point of my attention and being.  I found myself “lost” in this ‘presence’.  This act is basically contemplation.


The symbol which has developed, is this:

Contemplation symbol

The slow development of this symbol is quite revealing in what contemplation means and why specific things represent what they do.  I think it also shows the natural tendency, when dealing with mystery, of assigning ’emblems’ or ‘symbols’ for things of a mysterious nature.  This tendency seems innate as people have been doing it since the beginning of time all over the world.

The first image that appeared to me was, I believe, in the mid-90’s or thereabouts.  It appeared during my “very” shamanistic days, where I’d sit for long periods of time in the woods and ‘shamanize’ (or, at least, try to).  During these times, it often seemed that I bordered on madness.  Because of this ‘shamanizing’ something like a mythology appeared about the world and how it worked, as often seems to happen with shamans.  Since this mythology is personal in origin I speak of this as ‘personal mythology’.  In many ways, this symbol is an offshoot of that personal mythology.

It was during one period of ‘shamanizing’ that this image flashed through my mind:

Contemplation symbol_tree

I knew almost automatically what it meant.  It is based on the mythology that had appeared during that time.  The two half circles represents the image of the ‘great tree’, as I called it (the top being the leaves, the bottom the roots, the center is the trunk).  To me, the ‘great tree’ held the world together.  It holds two opposites together (represented by leaves and roots) and kept them in their place.  I first saw it in a shaministic journey dream and was surprised that this same image was common in shamanism.  The two circles represented who I call the ‘great parentage’, namely the mother and father in nature.   It also has representation of opposites as well, as the tree reflects opposites as do the mother and father.  As I reflect on it now, it almost has a yin-yan quality though I didn’t see it that way then.  I often was struck how this image resembled a face (two eyes and a nose) and felt that was part of its symbology (the “face of existence”, of god).

Often, when I went in the woods to sit down I often got a stick and made this symbol in the ground.  In that way, it was almost like a ‘symbol of what I was there for’.  Often, I’d sit and look at it reflecting on its meaning.  As a result, I began to see more meaning and representation in it.  No doubt, it led on to the greater elaboration of it and the ongoing symbols that would develop, as described below.

Over time, the representation of the ‘tree’ also became a representation of the self, as my growing mythology compared the self to a ‘tree’.  Just like the ‘great tree’, the self had to keep opposites together and maintain an integrity.  In this way, we are “kin” to the ‘great tree’, performing a similar function.  This made the symbol a representation of something about the self.  In other words, instead of seeing the world in it I also saw my self.  The more I saw the self in it the more it began to represent my self’s association with the world and, with this, the symbols began to grow and the symbol grew more complex.  In this way, the symbol began to represent contemplation.  This reveals some meaning in the nature of contemplation, that contemplation is, in actuality, a form of relationship between ones ‘personal self’ with the  ‘self of the world’ (meaning ‘existence’ or god).  This, in fact, may be the best definition of contemplation.  With this we can see three phases in the symbols development:

  1. The symbol as the world (the ‘great tree’ and ‘great parentage’).
  2. The symbol as self.
  3. The symbol as self’s association with world . . . contemplation.

With this, we can see that the symbol has developed a great depth and meaning through time.

At first, I thought the initial image just ‘appeared’ but, one day, I happened to look at one of my hats.  On it was a patch of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME).  I bought this hat from SNAME in the mid-1980’s when I wanted to be a Naval Architect.  I always had a great fondness for this patch (and still do).  Here is the emblem of SNAME:

Very prominently, in the middle, is the ‘midships’ symbol:

This symbol is used on ship plans to represent the center of the ship.  I knew that this symbol had a bearing on the symbol I developed as the similarity is more than obvious . . . the similarity is too striking.

Not only that, I have always felt my interest in ships has a relation to contemplation.  This is because contemplation, in some respects, is like being in a ship passing through existence and the mystery of life in ways such as this:

  • A ship on the sea can be compared to the self in existence.
  • Both the self and a ship travel in a far greater element (the sea and existence).  That is to say, they are as if specks in the element that they travel.
  • In both, a person is ‘enclosed’ and separated from the element that it is in.
  • In a ship one is aware of ones ship very prominently and in contemplation one is aware of ones self in existence.

In this way, even the origin of the symbol shows a ‘hidden meaning’ behind it that is quite revealing.

Interestingly, this symbol would reappear again when I became interested in Heraldry.  I, for fun, created my own coat of arms.  This is what I came up with (click to see):

Coat of Arms – Mike Michelsen

In this symbol I have shown a stylized symbol of a tree of which half is in the earth (below) and the other half in the air (above).  The tree, of course, represents the great parentage and the self.  This shows that this symbol had great meaning to me.  I also like to compare it to a keyhole, as if it is opening into a ‘new world’.  The motto (“Character first”) refers to the idea of maintaining ones self as a person in the world (character = self-in-the-world).


Each part of the symbol has a meaning and represents something.  These are shown below:Contemplation symbol_notation

Each part describes a specific function that is important in contemplation.  These are:

  1. The ‘Firmament’/Mystery.
  2. The “Presence”. 
  3. The “Passion”. 
  4. The “Emptiness”.
  5. The “Duality”. 
  6. The “Self”. 
  7. The “Ember”/Beingness.

All these elements, together, make up contemplation.


 Contemplation symbol_firmament

The “firmament” represents the unknown, that which we cannot nor will ever know.  It is, in effect, mystery and represents the unknowingness of life.  It, therefore, represents that which is ‘beyond us’, and ‘beyond human’.

Because the “firmament” is ‘beyond us’ we tend to disregard it.  There’s often a tendency  to completely neglect it.  But a big part of contemplation is being aware of it.  In other words, “I must know that I cannot know”.   This entails an ‘acknowledgement’ and ‘awareness’, which much be done regularly, that there is the unknown and that one will never know.


Contemplation symbol_presence

This is a ‘sense’ of ‘something’ about us.  It is, really, the presence of god.  But, more importantly, it is a presence of something ‘living’ about us (which I call ‘living existence’), not that something is ‘just there’ (which I call ‘dead existence’).  This may sound trivial but it is very significant and critical.  Because of this, the ‘presence’ is often perceived as a person or a being.  Often, it has a quality of a parent, of something watching over us and protecting us.

In some respects, the ‘presence’ is a sense of the ‘firmament’ as ‘living’.  The ‘firmament’, by itself, is just a sense of mystery.  The ‘presence’ is much more than that but there are times when they blend together and become the same.

Interestingly, it is the feeling of the “presence”, in about 1990, that actually changed my life and turned me into a contemplative.  This little “sense” made one of the greatest impacts on my life.  This shows the power of the ‘presence’ and its importance.  In actuality, the ‘presence’ is the beginning and end of contemplation.  One could say that there are three stages in contemplation:

  1. One begins contemplation by becoming aware of the presence. 
  2. In becoming aware of the presence one goes through the ‘battle of contemplation’ which consists of the transformation and growth of the self (which are reflected in the symbols below) and the establishing of a relationship between ones ‘personal self’ and the ‘self of the world’ (meaning ‘existence’ or god).
  3. As a result of the ‘battle of contemplation’, and the growing relationship, one begins to become closer to the ‘presence’. 

In this way, one as if makes a great circle going ending where one began.  Of course, this circle never ends and continues on.


Contemplation symbol_passion

I often describe this as the ‘force’ or ‘energy’ that moves things.  It is what I call the ‘livingness’ in life.  This sense is very important as contemplation is not just an awareness but an ‘absorbing of passion’ as well.  In many ways, this ‘absorbing of passion’ is what causes a transformation of self.

Notice how the passion flows from outside the presence to outside again.  This shows that it is a “mysterious force” which seems to have no beginning or end.  It is just there.

There are really two forms of ‘passion':

  1. The ‘passion of existence’.  This is the ‘passion’ that moves the world and is perceived as removed from us and separate.   
  2. The ‘passion of the self’.  This is the ‘passion’ within us, that has origin in us, and moves through us.
  3. The ‘passion of unity’.  This is the ‘passion’ of ‘existence’ and ‘self’ unified and as if one.  This shows, in effect, that the two former ‘passions’ are related and there’s a point where they are the same.

All these must be sought and ‘absorbed’.  That is to say, they must become a part of ones self and who one is.

‘Passion’ becomes more apparent as one becomes more aware of the ‘presence’.  Basically, the ‘presence’ begins to grow ‘dead’ and inanimate.  This can become one of the great struggles of contemplation.  In actuality, one is finding that the ‘presence’ is only a ‘doorway’, a signpost, to something else . . . it leads to ‘passion’.  This requires one to seek, and find, ‘passion’.

‘Passion’ can be experienced as a feeling or emotion at first.  Its often described as ‘love’ in Christian contemplation.  There is truth in this and one can often begin by feelings of love.  But to restrict ones self to a specific emotion or feeling restricts ones contemplation.  One must look beyond emotion or feeling.  This is because ‘passion’ is not a feeling or emotion, though it can cause these.  ‘Passion’, to me, is deeper, coming from the depths of the self.

Interestingly, ‘passion’ describes a ‘hunger’ or ‘need’ or ‘want’ or ‘poverty’.  As living things we are always in want of something, be it air, food, experience, meaning or what not.  In other words, ‘passion’ reflects want.  We are always in some form of need or want AND we always need to have it satisfied.  In other words, we always feel ‘lacking’ in some way.  This sense of ‘lacking’ causes a “want” to end the ‘lacking’.  This “want” is essentially ‘passion’.  Because of this ‘passion’ can be described as having these qualities:

  1. A lacking.  This is a feeling that we are need of something.  This feeling is so strong that we feel it at least part of the time.
  2. A want.  This is the desire to satisfy what is lacking or, in other words, the desire to not be lacking any more.
  3. An object.  This is the “something” that will satisfy the want and, as a result, end the lacking.

So we see that ‘passion’ is a desire to get rid of a feeling we always have (the ‘want’) which originates in a feeling that something is missing in us (the ‘lacking’).  To put it another way, ‘passion’ is the continual seeking or questing to try to become “whole”.  Since we never do become “whole” it is an ongoing never-ending questing.  No “one thing” can satisfy this quest.  As a result, we are always bouncing around between these two extremes:

  1. Feeling lacking.
  2. Feeling satisfied.

This shows that we do feel satisfied or “whole” at times.  But its only temporary.  ‘Passion’ is much like being hungry.  When we need food we feel hunger.  When we eat it is satisfied and hunger disappears.  But soon hunger reappears.  It is no different with ‘passion’ (in fact, hunger for food is a form of ‘passion’ but more specific).  This same thing happens with contemplation . . . we bounce around between lacking and satisfied.

In fact, in contemplation one feels these three qualities:

  1. The sense of lacking. 
  2. The seeking.
  3. The satisfaction. 

In many ways, these three qualities create something like a circle which goes around and around . . . lacking, seeking, satisfaction, lacking, seeking, satisfaction, etc.  In this way, one could compare contemplation to the hunger for food, something that never ends and continually alternates between feeling hungry and being satisfied.

There are many forms of want which makes something like a spectrum:

  • Need.  This is want-as-innate-need.  It is primarily interior and tends to lack ulterior and personal influence.  In this way, it reflects deep inner needs of the self.
  • Hunger.  This is want-as-a-necessity.  In other words, it refers to the want of things to keep us alive, such as food, water, warmth, meaning and such.
  • Desire.  This is want-as-luxury. This primarily consists of wants that are personal, that satisfy personal desire and whims.

In dealing with ‘passion’ one must learn to ‘refine’ and ‘delineate’ ones want and learn to want for the right reasons.  This can easily become a major hurdle in contemplation and take years, in fact, a lifetime.  It would not be far off to say that a significant part of contemplation is nothing but the continual quest to “want correctly”, which is a process that never ends.

Only by “wanting correctly” can ‘passion’ be fully embraced.  This is because want has great impact on ones self, such as:

  • “Correct want” hits to the depths of the self.  “Incorrect want” misleads one from the depths of the self.
  • “Correct want” makes one’s self directed and focused.  “Incorrect want” tends to cause confusion.

In other words, “correct want” leads to the self.

Why is this so important?

Because contemplation is an act of the self.  Through contemplation the ‘personal self’ and ‘self of the world’ is known and experienced.  This shows the importance of the self in contemplation and that, in many ways, contemplation rests upon the self.  As a result of this, the self must be sought and developed.

The “correct want”, that one seeks in contemplation, is need.  In other words, one seeks “innate want”, that inner deep hunger and longing.  In some respects, contemplation can be described as a “quest for innate want”.  This need is something that affect us and influences us.  In general, it does not control us.  We must seek it.  That is to say, we seek need.  In this way, we find that the seeking, itself, is the need.  But, we must remember, that the seeking implies a continual sense of ‘loss’ or ‘hunger’ or ‘want’.  In other words, seeking implies that something is ‘lacking’ in us . . . we are as if incomplete.  As a result of this, as part of the seeking we often feel what can be described as a ‘loss’, or unfulfilled, or unsatisfied, or incompetent.  This sense of ‘loss’ is often one of the first signs of ‘passion’.  But we must beware.  From the sense of ‘loss’ we can take several directions:

  • We can feel only the ‘loss’ – this is ‘passion-not-experienced’.  In this case, nothing ‘moves us’ and we grow stagnant.
  • We can feel the ‘loss’ as a desire to find what’s lost – this is ‘passion-experienced’.  In other words, we feel something that ‘moves us’ . . . ‘passion’.

We can see, then, that ‘passion’ is often experienced in the experience of ‘loss’.  The sense of ‘loss’ is only a sign that ‘passion’ is there.  I say this because there is something like a war that is often required to have ‘passion-experienced’.  In many cases, it is something that one must fight for.  It can often take great courage and inner penetration into ones self and soul.

It seems, to me, that ‘passion-experienced’ is not an emotion or feeling (though it can create those).  It seems like an ‘inner stirring’ of the soul that seems so deep that its wordless.  Perhaps one could even describe I as ‘beyond the self’?

The type of want called hunger is a want that needs to be respected.  Respecting hunger is one of the means, I believe, of respecting life and ones condition in life.  Knowing that we hunger in order to survive can, at times, be humbling as it reveals our weak dependent nature.  It also ‘implants’ us in the world, as worlds children who as if look to the world as a parent for its sustenance.  As a result, respecting hunger is very important for being aware of who “we” are in the world.

The type of want called desire is something that needs to be controlled.  This is to say, one should not completely shun it.  Desire is something that we do, in fact, need but only at certain times and in certain proportions.  In other words, desire is something that we don’t want to dominate us.  Fulfilling desire can cause great happiness and contentment in life, but not when its all the time and out-of-control.  Its power is such that it can easily overpower us.  Once it overpowers it we become its slave.  Because of this, one must be on guard against desire.

The object of want is a significant aspect of ‘passion’. Wanting the wrong object can bring ‘passion’ to a halt.  In this way, in contemplation we are always chasing the correct object.   One could very well say that this chasing of the correct object defines contemplation.

  1. An actual object.  This refers to something tangible and physical.
  2. A thought or conception.  This primarily refers to knowing something.
  3. A state of mind/awareness.  This refers to a particular condition of the mind and self.  Usually, this is without thought.

In contemplation we are primarily chasing the state of mind/awareness form of object.  In other words, we are chasing the state of mind/awareness that satisfies the want and ends the lacking.  Because it is a state of mind/awareness contemplation is very spiritual in nature.


Contemplation symbol_emptiness

‘Emptiness’ is a very important trait of contemplation.  Without ’emptiness’ contemplation cannot happen.  This shows the fact that things easily muddle our minds.  In other words, contemplation entails a very ‘touchy’ part of the mind that is easily distracted.  Because of this ‘touchiness’ contemplation often has a quality of extreme delicacy or sensitivity.  Any disruption brings it to a halt.

There are many forms of ’emptiness’ such as:

  • Worldly emptiness.  This means being devoid of worldly affairs and actions.
  • Sensation emptiness.  This refers to being in an area that does not cause great sensation, such as a noisy area or being in an area where there is much worldly things happening.
  • Thought emptiness.  This means being without thought.
  • Emotional emptiness.  This means being without emotions and feelings and not letting them influence us.
  • Self emptiness.  This means being devoid of ones sense of ‘outer’ self.

In some respects, in the act of contemplation ’emptiness’ can be described as entailing things such as:

  • Being in “empty” location and condition.  That is to say, being in an area away from the noise of the world.
  • The emptying and clearing of ones mind and self.  This is critical for contemplation as one cannot contemplate with a muddled mind.  This does not mean that the mind is ‘blank’.  What it means is that the mind must be ‘free from interference’.
  • The loss of ones ‘outer’ self.   In this way, ’emptiness’ tends to lead to ones inner self.

The purpose of ’emptiness’, really, is to loose ones ‘outer self’.  Since the ‘outer self’ is worldly everything associated with the world must be “emptied” (sensations, thoughts, emotions, etc.).  Only when the ‘outer self’ is lost do we find our ‘inner self’.  This shows that the purpose of contemplation is to put oneself in a condition to find ones ‘inner self’.

  1. The act of emptying.
  2. The finding of emptying.
  3. The finding of ones ‘inner self’.

Each phase creates its own challenges and difficulties.  The act of emptying is difficult in itself.  But its even harder to “find” the emptying.  One may be so busy doing the act of emptying that one may never realize that one is emptied.  It takes skill, I think, to find when one is empty.  It even takes greater skill to find ones ‘inner self’ in the emptied state.  In many ways, these describe the basic challenges of contemplation as everyone, I believe, will have problem on all three levels.


Contemplation symbol_duality

‘Duality’ refers to how things tend to be in opposite’s describing a natural duality in life.  This is reflected in the horizontal line showing that there is a top and a bottom or an up and a down . . . duality.  The theme of duality is continually seen in contemplation and, I feel, plays a major role.  As a result, one must learn to be aware of it and play along with it.  That is to say, to use it.

‘Duality’ seems to appear in two ways:

  1. Extremes – its either “one or the other”
  2. Spectrum – its the same as extremes but there are gradations

In contemplation one see’s both forms.

I’ve found that contemplation is not a ‘one-state act’ but one that entails many states AND the ability to alternate between them and even from one extreme to another.  As a result, contemplation requires that one be variable and able to change.

Some common duality themes found in contemplation are:

  • Life/death
  • Superficial/deep
  • Worldly/other-worldly
  • Thought/thoughtless

These themes are a reference to the many states of mind that are required in contemplation.  To be frank, one cannot contemplate if one cannot change their ‘state of mind’ in contemplation.  It shows that there must be a willingness to be a different person and to reflect a different self.  If one cannot do this then one cannot contemplate.

An importance of duality is also seen in the fact that both make a whole.  That is to say, duality does not just mean two opposites but it also refers to making opposites relate to each other.  In other words, it refers to the ability to make what appear as contrary things relate to one another.  This may sound easy but it is not as easy as it seems.  As a result, duality leads to ‘wholeness’.  Reconciling different and opposing things is one of the great challenges of contemplation and life in general.  In some respects, life is nothing but a reconciling of opposing qualities, in some way or another.  Just as duality requires a person to be variable it also requires a person to be constant.  This dilemma, itself, is reflective of duality.


Contemplation symbol_self

The self refers to the maintaining of oneself as a ‘unit’ or a ‘whole’.  Indeed, the self is a sense of self-as-opposed-to-the-world, as removed from the world.  It requires a sense of being a person in relation to everything else.  As a result, it is associated with an ‘inner sense of integrity’.  This sense, felt more deeply, turns into the ’ember’ (see below).  Because of this the self, and its development, is associated with a relationship and conflict with the world.  As a result, the “self” actually is made up of three elements:

  1. The self.
  2. The world
  3. The self-in-the-world.

So we see that “self” means more than the self but an awareness of the world and a relationship with the world.  As a result, world perception, and world association, is very influential in regard to the self.

Contemplation requires the self to change or grow.  As a result, contemplation can often ‘force’ the self to grow.  Often, great stress is laid upon the self as well as great demands.  This causes a great deal of conflict in contemplation.  One could even say that this ‘forcing the self to grow’ is one of the great benefits, and values, of contemplation.

Notice how, in the symbol, the passion passes through the self.  This is because it is the ‘passion’ that “moves” the self.  Because of this, it requires that the self be developed and grown.  The self, after all, is what guides ‘passion’ and directs it.  This shows that there is a great, and strong, association between ‘passion’ and the ‘self’, that they are intimately bound together.  There are even times when they cannot be distinguished apart, where they become one a ‘passion-self’.

There are also levels to the self.  The self is not just one ‘entity’.  Much of the self is hidden from us, and inaccessible.  In actuality, contemplation can be described as trying to regain or contact these other hidden aspects of our self.  In this way, contemplation has the quality of ‘making for a greater holistic self’.  It does this by more uniting varying aspects of the self, seen and unseen.  Keep in mind that the self is so deep that one can never know it all nor fully make it completely whole.  As a result, this continual quest for a ‘holistic self’ is an ongoing never-ending affair.

There are also “cycles of the self”.  That is to say, self’s are born, live, and die.  Because of this, one must “assist” in the “cycle of the self” and in the different phases of our self:

  1. The consummation of the self. 
  2. The birth of the self.
  3. The growth and development of the self.
  4. The dying of the self.
  5. The death of the self.
  6. The burying of the self.

Because we have many levels of the self we have, in actuality, many self’s, all in different phases of the “cycle of the self”.  This requires us to be very observant and watching of our “different self’s” and to “assist” as required.  In some respects, a great deal of contemplation is nothing but observing our “self’s” and reacting to its condition.

One of the great difficulties we have is that we tend to keep our older self’s (that is, we don’t let them die).  This keeping of our older self’s hinders us and our development.  As a result, contemplation generally causes a continual dying.  This means a continual abandoning of old ways and perceptions.  This is not an easy thing to do.  I often think it is one of the hardest things to do.

Closely associated with the death of an old self is the birth of a new self.  It seems, to me, that the death of an old self often spurns the birth of a new self, making them closely related.  Though it may “assist” in the birth of a new self by keeping the old self’s we hinder the growth and development of the new self.  In some respects, the keeping of old self’s created a very “crowded mind” that “suffocates” any new self.  In this way, part of the ’emptiness’ (as described above) is the emptying of our mind of old self’s.  Often, the birth of a new self is “assisted” by forgetting what one is or thinks they are.  In other words, by becoming “self-dumb”.    I, myself, will go around thinking to myself, “I don’t know who I am”.  This, in a way, creates an environment for a new self to appear (that is to say, it is not “suffocated” by other self’s).


Contemplation symbol_ember

The ’ember’ is a reference to what can be described as beingness, a sense of self-as-living.  In other words, its not just a sense of ones self as “there” but as “living there”.  This distinction may sound minor but is very critical.  When one is “living there” it is as if one is an ember glowing.

As mentioned above, it seems to derive from a deeper sense of the self, of that ‘inner integrity’, which turns into the ‘passion-self’.  In some respects, its the next step, showing three stages:

  1. The self.
  2. The ‘passion.  The self united with ‘passion’ . . . the ‘passion-self’.
  3. Existence.  The “ember”/beingness.  The ‘passion-self’ united with the existence.

In other words, the self unites with passion which unites with existence.  This creates beingness or the “ember”.  Everything as if becomes “one”, united.  In this way, one becomes ‘existence’ and ‘ones self’, bonded by ‘passion’ or a “livingness”, all at the same time.  This often creates a great sense of “God” or sacredness as well as a profoundness.

In many ways, beingness is an ‘existential integrity’, of feeling a part of existence.  Often, this sense gives contemplation a very profound, mystical, and sacred quality.  This makes it something like a ‘centering’, which is why I portrayed it as a small circle in the center.


Basically, the symbol as if says:

“In the presence and mystery of existence, a passion flows giving things life.  This passion flows through the self, which must use it and guide it.  This passion forces the self to change and develop, by being born and dying, continually becoming something new.  In so doing, the self becomes more united and a part of existence and, accordingly, becomes more a part of life and living.”

It describes a general stance.  This stance is made up of many parts and qualities.  In other words, it shows that contemplation is a conglomeration of:

  • Acts.  This is what one does.  It can be described as being active.
  • Awareness.  This is what one opens oneself to and allows to happen.  It can be described as being passive.
  • Conditions.  This is the reality that one is in.  This reality is ones physical state and mental state which set the stage for the two former qualities.  It can be described as being encompassing as this reality surrounds a person.

It shows that contemplation, as I use it, is not a single “act” but something made of small things that lead up to a whole.  In many ways, this is a main goal, to get the whole of it all (see below).


The importance of what I call ‘livingness’ cannot be underestimated.  Livingness is a sense created, and needed, by the contemplative attitude.  It seems to me that, sometimes, the lack of this sense brings contemplation to a halt.  Without this sense, contemplation goes nowhere.  Not only that, there are times when contemplation is nothing but the “fight” to gain a sense of ‘livingness’.  In fact, I’d be tempted to say that contemplation is nothing but the quest for, and embracing, of a sense of ‘livingness’.  Because of this, the sense of ‘livingness’ becomes critical and paramount in contemplation and nothing to look at lightly.

‘Livingness’ could appear in many ways such as:

  • A sense of being alive.
  • A feeling or sense of ‘livingness’ in things
  • A profoundness of god or a ‘livingness beyond’.
  • A sanctity or sacredness.
  • A sense of god.
  • A profoundness.

This ‘livingness’ is experienced on many levels no doubt as a result of the many levels of self’s we have (see above).  That is to say, there are different depths of ‘livingness’, from what can be described, on one extreme, as a superficial ‘sense of living’ to a deep inner ‘mysterious sense of livingness in the world’ on the other extreme (often perceived as a sense of god).  Really, one finds that the forms of ‘livingness’ is endless.   Not only that, one finds that ‘livingness’ has such a range that it can appear from a ‘life’ perspective to a ‘death’ perspective.  In other words, there is a ‘livingness’ even in the “dark” aspects of life . . . conflict, pain, despair, suffering, death, etc.  Its because of this that the “dark” aspects of life must be embraced and accepted as much as is possible.  To put it another way, contemplation requires the “dark” aspects of life to be whole and true.  To avoid this is to only ‘half contemplate’.  This makes it so that contemplation is often filled with conflict, pain, despair, suffering, death, etc. . . . one must learn to live with them.

What one finds is that there is ‘livingness’ in everything.  Because of this, its a continual quest trying to find it.  Each new situation, each new quality, has its unique form of ‘livingness’ that must be found.  This makes contemplation like a continual endless questing or seeking.  This means that ‘livingness’ is not just “one sense” that one discovers and then says, “that’s it . . . I’m done”.  In actuality, its only the beginning.


Each symbol described above has a ‘practice’ associated with it.  That is to say, a person does a ‘something’ pertaining to each quality and which manifests its quality:

  1. The practice of the ‘Firmament’/Mystery.
  2. The practice of the “Presence”. 
  3. The practice of the “Passion”. 
  4. The practice of “Emptiness”.
  5. The practice of “Duality”. 
  6. The practice of the “Self”. 
  7. The practice of the “Ember”/Beingness.

In many respects, the practice of all these different practices constitutes contemplation.  Contemplation isn’t just “one thing” but is made up of many things. many qualities, and many things that must be done.  Each of these things or qualities must be ‘practiced’ and developed.  This makes contemplation a very involved and complicated affair, far more than what it may seem initially.  In fact, I’d say that contemplation has gone in so many directions, and depths, that it has been mind-boggling to me.  It has gone from “just an act I did” (like a hobby) to a life-involving affair.  In other words, contemplation is ‘life-encompassing’.  In some respects, contemplation brought all the different aspects of life into one place.

As I said above, contemplation is a continual practicing of each quality.  But one practices each individual parts for something more:  the entirety of it all.  As it is said in this saying:

“Doing the parts, practicing the whole”

In other words, as one does the different qualities, or parts, one begins to establish a sense of the whole, of the entirety of it all.  Once one becomes proficient in the individual qualities, or different parts, and develops a more holistic way, one can be said to develop a ‘contemplative attitude’.  When this attitude is developed one can say that they are truly practicing contemplation in my opinion.  If a person only does this or that quality then they are doing ‘aspects of contemplation’.  My feelings is that it takes a special person to develop the ‘contemplative attitude’.  I feel that many monks don’t even develop it.

In addition, I tend to feel that nobody can develop a continuous ongoing ‘contemplative attitude’.  In other words, the ‘contemplative attitude’ comes and goes in a persons life.  To put it another way, it has its ups and downs.  There are times when its strong and there are times when its weak.  A person may even develop it for a short period of time only to lose it, perhaps for the rest of their life (I think this happens for many monks).  The reason for the continual up and down of the ‘contemplative attitude’ is because it is not a ‘real-world attitude’.  That is to say, though it is life-based, it is something akin to a spirituality which is removed from the ‘real-world’.  But, because we are human, we need to be in the ‘real-world’.  As a result, the contemplative, in actuality, must alternate between the ‘contemplative attitude’ and the ‘real-world attitude’.  This causes a continual ‘up and down’ of the ‘contemplative attitude’ in a persons life.  Sometimes, the change from one attitude to another can be quite dramatic, even to the point of being traumatic.  The ‘real-world attitude’, for example, can literally feel like having the carpet pulled from underneath ones feet.  From this condition, one may have to struggle and fight to regain the ‘contemplative attitude’.  It may even get to the point that one just “finally gives up”.  This conflict, I feel, is one of the reasons why people who become contemplatives have the ‘character trait’.  Its exactly this ‘character trait’ that allows them to weather these conflicts and persist.  In some respects, this shows the depth of conflict that can happen in contemplation.


The practice of contemplation tends to lead to many places.  In other words, it doesn’t just lead to “one state” (such as ‘enlightment’).  Typically, contemplation is viewed as purely having a religious sense and purpose.  Because of this any other way is shunned.  One could call this the ‘focused contemplation point of view’.  Its a result of viewing contemplation intending to direct the mind in a specific direction and to be in a specific state (such as, in creating a union with god).  As a result, in this orientation, this is where one focuses ones effort and concentration.

I tend to feel otherwise.  My experience is that contemplation leads to many wonderful, fruitful, and life-based phenomena and events, such as:

  • The “quiet”.  This refers to a complete calming of ones self.  It often leads to a strong sense of the ‘presence’ or the ‘self’.
  • A sense of being a part of existence or God.
  • A profoundness.
  • A strong sense of sacredness.
  • A different awareness.
  • A strong sense of self.
  • A different sense of self.
  • A separation of self.  This can even lead to things like shamanism, as it did with me (see my article “Thoughts on defining shamanism: an ‘active belief system’“)
  • Living images.  These are seeing ‘images in the world’, something like a ‘vision’.  See my article “Thoughts on observing the “nature-as-living” images – the ‘cross-self experience’ – the ‘pre-imagination’“. 
  • A humility.
  • A tendency to cry.
  • A ‘worshipfulness’.  That is to say, a desire to ‘worship’, honor, or respect nature, life, sacredness, etc.
  • Hummin’.  This is a term I use for a tendency to hum, sing, do poetry, and such.
  • A desire for expression.
  • Thinking about things.
  • Reflection.
  • Insight.
  • A seeking of inspiration.
  • Daydreaming. 
  • A desire to do some form of work.
  • Distractions.
  • An inability to control thoughts or feelings.
  • Conflict, pain, and suffering. 

These are examples of the many different ‘directions of contemplation’.  They show that contemplation leads to many different qualities.  Some are good.  Some are even bad.  It also shows that contemplation does not necessarily lead to contemplative-like things.  This shows that contemplation can be a ‘platform’ for things that are not contemplative and have nothing to do with it.  In other words, what begins as contemplation may not end there.  This means that there are many directions of contemplation with a range like:

  • Contemplative
  • Partly contemplative
  • Not contemplative

Because there is a movement away from contemplation it can create quite a dilemma. Basically, one must determine if one should persist in contemplation or ‘follow along’ in another direction.  The ability to do this requires great inner inquiry, self-knowledge, and experience.  It also requires many failures and ‘wrong directions’.  In many cases, there are no ‘wrong directions’.  Only ones good judgment can determine that.

Because there are so many directions it as if ‘infuses’ these other things with the contemplative quality.  In other words, they become ‘contemplative’.  Because of this, one finds that one literally ‘bounces around’ between the many different ‘directions of contemplation’ in the actual “act” of contemplation.  That is to say, one does not maintain one constant direction.  This, I believe, is what normally happens, regardless of how focused one is or thinks they are. 


The ‘contemplative attitude’, over time, tends to create a certain state of mind.  This “certain state of mind” is almost impossible to define or, rather, put into words.  Many years ago I called this state of mind ‘poesy’ (of which I’ve written articles of in this blog).

One finds that this “certain state of mind” as if colors and influences life and everyday things.  Like a mist it permeates into all aspects of life.  In this way, the ‘livingness’ of contemplation becomes a part of everyday life and is seen in all things.  Since ‘livingness’ is associated with sacredness and god, it as if makes one see the ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ in everything.  In fact, one becomes surrounded by  a ‘sacredness’ and ‘holiness’ to the point that one becomes ‘sacred-like’ and ‘holy-like’.   Life, then, is changed and altered as a result.  This is another example of the ‘life-encompassing’ quality of contemplation.

Because of the coming and going of the ‘contemplative attitude, as described above, one finds that one is either seeking or maintaining the “certain state of mind”.  This is because it tends to have a precious quality and grows to be something very dear to ones heart.  The loss of it can be like a death.

One also finds that life, really, is nothing but a state of mind and it is through this state of mind that life is lived, experienced, and embraced.  In some respects, the state of mind is the most precious thing there is in life.  In it is life.  In it is the means to live.  In it is the means to be.  Without the correct state of mind what use are things like money, objects, social status, and the like?  The state of mind makes everything.  It is the base of all experience and being.   As a result, the maintenance of a correct state of mind is critical.

In seeking and maintaining the “certain state of mind” one finds that many things are not as important as we thought.  We have to adjust our priorities and look at life in a different way.  Life becomes, I think, more simpler and less complex.  In effect, the whole world changes.  The world changes because we have changed showing that, in reality, the world we see is actually a reflection of us and who we are.  As my saying goes:

“When I look out at the world I see my self looking back at me.”


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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