Archive for June, 2011

the presence of transcendence

June 26, 2011

I’ve been working on this blog about transcendence for about a month now. It is a slow process because I am in the process of practicing transcendence to get over myself, and I’ve got a lot of history being myself. The question is: can I be all of who I am and still find joy in my being even when I am limited, even when my circumstances are less than perfect? Can I maintain my presence within my boundaries no matter who or what is tugging me away from my true presence? Can I transcend the fact that I don’t have a clear handle on transcendence and write about it anyway?

It is a moment by moment decision with countless opportunities. I find that if I wait to write about transcendence until I have transcended my life completely, most of us will be a little bit dead.

The word transcendence is tossed around all over enlightenment literature. We are told to transcend this or that. We read about transcendent experiences. Transcendence generally means to go beyond something — beyond an experience, beyond our own states of being. Some definitions are particular in their nuances. One definition describes transcendence as surpassing others, being preeminent or supreme (think “God”). Another says that transcendence lies beyond the ordinary range of perception. Yet another describes transcendence as being above and independent of the material universe. Transcendence is also the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond the usual limits.

I listen to these definitions carefully as I encounter moments of transcendent opportunity. The general meaning of transcendence – to go beyond something – fits best with how my life is unfolding right now. I define transcendence in terms of choosing how I want to interpret and experience the moments of my life.

I cannot abandon my history. All that I have experienced has brought me to this moment and will follow me into the next moments. I cannot change my experiences, but I can change my perception of those experiences. Much of my life is cued by what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. If I want to have a different experience than the one I am having right now, it is up to me to transcend my preconceived ideas and ways of being. It may not necessarily change the situation, but it brings more of who I truly am into action.

Stay tuned.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass


The presence of entropy

June 9, 2011

Life is an all-consuming project. If left unattended, it follows a random path of inertia and ends up in an entropic state of disarray.

Entropy is the measure of disorder in any system. An influx of energy is required to either decrease the entropy or keep it at a constant level. A very simple example is to ignore housework for a week. Clean nothing. Put nothing away. At the end of that week, take a look at the disorder of your home. That’s entropy.

Another example of entropy is the demise of a living creature. Because that creature is no longer able to take in energy, its physical system falls to disarray and decay. This disarray and decay, however, feed another living system (the earth and all its microbial beings and insects that feast upon corpses).

But a messy living room and a corpse are not the only form of entropy our world. There is also this odd little notion of informational entropy – that the messages received in language have a fair amount of predictability and, therefore, unpredictability. Other entropies include conditional entropy, differential entropy, the arrow-of-time entropy, joint entropy, and negentropy (the entropy that a living system exports to keep its own entropy low – I kind of think of this as our tendency to bury our trash and waste in landfills or fire it into outer space – think about that one coming back to haunt us in about 20 years . . . as the interstellar trash can revolves in space, it attracts all sorts of debris and becomes a fiery asteroid the size of Texas. Too heavy to sustain its orbit, it falls through our atmosphere and lands in . . . okay, now I have to write a book about that).

I’ve perused the scientific literature (i.e., Wikipedia) on entropy and have yet to discover any definition for the process where people increase their energy in an aspect of their lives yet end up in an entropic mess anyway. In other words, they put a lot of energy into screwing up. Teenagers are famous for this. Then, there are others who put their energy into EVERTHING they come across in life. This author is guilty of that one. Here’s the scenario: Ideas like that lame book I describe above capture my attention so I spend oodles of energy working on it, but then notice that my job, sleep, tennis, other writing (re: blog), school, relationships are starting to lose their cohesiveness and entropy begins nibbling at their borders threatening to send those life activities into shambles. So I abandon my book and scoot over to taking care of them. I find out, of course, that there is not enough time in one day to pay sufficient attention to all of them so sacrifices have to be made. Housework was the first one to bite the dust.

The point of this blog is that I have to choose where and when I spend my energy and decide what might have to fall prey to entropy so that I take the best care of my life. I default to what feels good. It feels good to have a stable job and a roof over my head. It feels good to have a financial life that might actually see me into retirement. It feels good to whack tennis balls and exercise (I want to hit retirement vertically not horizontally). It feels good to pursue my studies at Loyola. It feels good to be writing this blog. It feels good to have nurturing relationships.

I hope it feels good for you, too.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of confidence

June 4, 2011

I surreptitiously spy upon other people while they are living their lives. Unknown to them, I survey their actions, listen to their attitudes, and gaze upon their accomplishments. Watching them encounter challenges, I am often humbled by their bravery and confidence.

Some people take on life’s challenges because they have a certain kind of confidence that ensures their success. Success is not necessarily that they accomplish the specific task. Success is instantly measured because that person chose to meet the challenge, regardless of the outcome.

My outcome-based criteria often stops me before I have even begun. For all my life, my confidence has been fed by successful outcomes. I did not take on what I knew I could not complete. Living such a limited existence has kept me from exploring what Joseph Campbell called “your bliss.”

I was called to many things that brought me bliss while I was growing up, but never pursued them because I lacked confidence that I could. I let others encourage me down the path of least resistance.

I blame them not – this is one of the lessons I came here to learn. Other people are living instruments who help instill this lesson. There is a next iteration of my existence and this quality of confidence will be required.

Growing up late in life, I wonder at the luxury of exploring my bliss now. I know what calls to me and exploring what captures my interest is bliss in itself. Exploration often has no outcome except discovery. That discovery can be anything from an ancient artifact to new self-revealing truths, methods, talents, and ways of being in the world.

I am not so confident that I can attach an outcome to my explorations except that confidence itself is now allowed to be the outcome.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass