The John Muir Project
By: Dr. W. Kaya Erbil
“A city is a place that can offer maximum freedom. Otherwise it’s incomplete.”
“Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.”
“One of the reasons religions are widely accepted is spiritual laziness and its resulting fear.” (6:10 a.m. December 24, 2010)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
I am polling 100 people as to the single word that strikes them the most relevant and interesting with regard to the topic of the book, environmental influences to mental disorders. I give each participant an approximately 5 minute description of the overall topic spontaneously and then recite and show them the five statements. Then I ask for their answer.
Poll results so far (6/20/2013, 9:21 p.m.): Freedom, freedom, your, cities, cities, freedom, cities, nightmare, spiritual laziness, freedom, freedom, maximum, polluted, apologize, and polluted…
The most important aspect of shaping your mind into a new state is adapting to new environmental stimuli. This is the basis of what is called learning. Making transitions between states of learning can be thought of as what is commonly called thinking. I believe one can think themselves into sanity or madness, happiness or sadness, euphoria or depression. The mind is extremely plastic and supple. It is like a lump of clay, through out life we can learn and think. However, over time we can loose this plasticity. It really is a matter of use it or loose it. Regular physical and mental exercise is absolutely essential, particularly in our overly sedentary technological society to maintain proper health of body and mind.
For the average city dweller who travels along a fixed path to and fro, usually in a car or other sedentary mode of transport, simply changing the routes one travels can stimulate neural connections. If a person is depressed, perhaps the change may foster a better state of mind. This is the essence of psychogeography as applied to treating mental illness. New routes for new moods. New situations, new psychology. Thus, I hypothesize that the skills and tools of the Situationist International can be employed to treat mental illness and heal spiritual ailments. Future blog posts will explain this point in more detail through writing and psychogeographic experimentation. The subhypothesis is that taking an individual that follows a rigid, strictly-defined monotonous routine in a state of depression (as I have been for the better part of four years) and placing them into a new compassionate environmental that continually stimulates them in new ways is necessary and sufficient to heal symptoms of depression. Subhypothesis 2 states, regular sustained 10 miles walks with a 30 pound pack of classic books and Holy scriptures (employed forlectio divina meditation) can greatly enhance mental and physical health. Indeed, with a miracle of God it may completely supplant medication, even if the mental illness is bipolar disorder I or schizophrenia. I am not encouraging people to go off their medication, I am hypothesizing that the mind, with the help of God, can be healed to such an extent as to render medication unnecessary.
I wrote the following during one of my first periods of psychosis from what I now know is stemming from bipolar disorder.
“”What, then, is this “matter more dark and awful,” as Chesterton put it, that neither Orthodoxy nor Eckhart is able to confront? Let us turn to Chesterton himself, to his religious thriller “The Man Who Was Thursday.” It tells the story of Gabriel Syme, a young Englishman who makes the archetypal Chestertonian discovery of how order is the greatest miracle and orthodoxy the greatest of all rebellions. The focal point of the novel is not Syme himself, but a mysterious chief of a super-secret Scotland Yard department who is convinced that “a purely intellectual conspiracy would soon threaten the very existence of civilization”:
He is certain that the scientific and artistic worlds are silently bound in a crusade against the family and the state. He has, therefore, formed a special corps of policemen, policemen who are also philosophers. It is their business to watch the beginnings of this conspiracy, not merely in a criminal but in a controversial sense …. The work of the philosopher policeman … is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime.”
As cultural conservatives, would put it today, deconstructionist philosophers are much more dangerous than actual terrorists: while the latter want to undermine our politico-ethical order to impose their own religious-ethical order, deconstructionists want to undermine order as such:
We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential idea of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely want the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a great fullness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people’s … The common criminal is a bad man, but at least he is, as it were, as conditional good man. He says that if only a certain obstacle be removed – say a wealthy uncle – he is then prepared to accept the universe and to praise God. He is a reformer, but not an anarchist. He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it. But the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them.”
This proactive analysis demonstrates the limitation of Chesterton, he is not Hegelian enough: what he doesn’t get is that universal(ized) crime is no longer a crime – it sublates (negates / overcomes) itself as a crime and turns from transgression into a new order.”
The Monstrosity of Christ
In the twentieth century, the German spirit-Mind was sent through the needle of World War I and World War II into a new world order, the process of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Germany was tragically united under the Prussian order in the nineteenth century. How different it would have been had it been Bavaria? … or even Baden-Württemberg?
In 1927, within the eye of the needle, Heidegger defined Equipment (German: das Zeug) in his polemic book “Being and Time.” A nearly un-translatable term, Heidegger’s equipment can be thought of as a collective noun, so that it is never appropriate to call something ‘an equipment’. Instead, its use often reflects it to mean a tool, or as an “in-order-to” for Dasein (to a first approximation, the human being). Tools, in this collective sense, and in being ready-to-hand, always exist in a network of other tools and organizations, e.g., the paper is on a desk in a room at a university. It is inappropriate usually to see such equipment on its own or as something present-at-hand. Very few Americans approach German history with understanding. They live sheltered lives, protected from the extreme cruelty of the human being. They are not taught about it in school and fail to seek to learn about it later in life. The cost of this state of Mind is that it views the world “merely” as “Equipment” ready-to-hand. For example, the American remembers the death of 6,000,000 Jews but has forgotten the Essence of the Holocaust.
Today, from a metaphorical perspective, the Earth and all that is Primal is the “New Jew.” For example, the Native American, “small-town” America, and the Snowy Owl.
We are destroying the environment that brings poetry to Dasein. The human being is dual: God – “World is always spiritual world” and animal – “The animal has no world , nor any environment .” Today, the God-Human is a being-in-technology. The Animal-Human is a being-in-nature.
Together, the Animal-Human-God brings-forth:
a black bear has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
like a red fire
touching the grass
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
of the trees.
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her perfect love.”
– Mary Oliver
I love Bears.”
The writing reflects my deep interest in justice and memory of tragedy, memory of the holocaust. The reason why engendering memory in the American consciousness is that meditation on this vast tragedy can engender great compassion for other countries that are currently experiencing similar scale genocidal events. I state in the passage a subconscious desire to save all beings from suffering. This is the central driving force behind most of what I do since writing this passage. The central reason I entered seminary is to save all beings from suffering, the reason I struggle with depression is I see a world that does not seek to save all beings from suffering, bipolar mania steps in some way from seeing and feeling the cold calculating American rationality that does not reach a hand to the suffering individuals who are poor and helpless. Compassion meditation on the holocaust for me is a greatly healing experience in the long run, even though in the short term it may cause intense bouts of psychotic mania. These manic episodes often include me screaming in terror at the top of my lungs in places like church, Quaker meeting, and my own academic father’s office David G. Lynn. The intense memories and thoughts that come from these periods of mania all stem in some way from my interaction with my environment. I may be genetically susceptible to bipolar disorder I, but it is the environment of my American surroundings that injects stimuli into my mind and brain that leads to the expression of bipolar mania. American visual culture is one of the most violent cultures on earth. It is for this reason that I no longer seek to participate in the reception of any image or sound that has to do with violence and death. Rather, I seek to be fed the opposite, life giving images and sounds of peace, tranquility, and universal love. However, it goes further I believe that by having walked trough a dark tunnel in the past few years seeing images of suffering that I have a deep compassion for helping all beings heal from suffering. Without the knowledge of how the environment that we live in contributes to suffering, I would not be able to effectively and completely help others heal from suffering. It is for this reason that I believe God sent me through the darker experiences of my life. To learn what it is like to suffer so I could have a sixth spiritual sense of how to help others who are suffering. To this end I now believe that God cultivated a flower of understanding in my heart, the lotus grows from mud.
Hard evidence for environmental contributions to mental illnesses paragraph or two.
If this is true, then it may be possible to reverse the environmental effects that cultivate suffering and fear in the average American, including my own, heart by both active and passive practices of compassion prayer and meditation. Active meditation and prayer involves such practices as lectio divina (the repetitive reading of spiritually healing passages and scripture), walking meditation, yoga, [526 words for 06202013] …
GPS trace of a psychogeographic drift through Princeton University and photographs of art along the path. I felt very random this morning. I needed to do laundry today, so I went to the CVS to get some detergent. I left my room early, so I had time to photograph some of the interesting features of the Princeton campus. One of the striking aspects of the walk was that I resigned myself to loose some control of where I was going. I relaxed and did not rush directly to CVS, after all what’s the point if the store is closed any way until a certain time. The central feeling I got from my random walk through the campus this morning was that of feeling the sun’s gracious warmth on my face and body. One of the more important aspects of being human is embracing nature for all she is worth, even if one is in an urban or semi-urban space. I hypothesize that careful exploration of spaces in random manners can be used to ground the spirit and bring one closer to God. “The labyrinth is a walking meditation. It is a tool that enables us, in the midst of the busyness of life, to be still, and to focus our thoughts and feelings. Labyrinths can be found in cathedrals all over Europe and have been used by Christians for hundreds of years as a means of experiencing God’s presence and as a metaphor for walking on the journey with God. The labyrinth is not a maze. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It is a single circuitous path winding its way into the center. One uses the same path to return from the center. That path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally. As you enter the labyrinth, pause to center yourself on God’s love and grace. Clear your mind. Become aware of your breath. Along the way, you may pass people or let others step around you. The path is two ways; those going in will meet those coming out. Learn to share the space with others. Open your heart, be still, be silent, and enjoy the pilgrim’s walk. The labyrinth walk has three stages: 1) A Purgation or letting go of your worries as you begin the walk 2) Illumination or experiencing God’s presence at the center 3) Union or giving thanks for all the blessing of life as you walk out. Some people come to the labyrinth with questions, others come to slow down from a busy life. Some come to find strength to take the next step. And some walk during times of grief and loss. The labyrinth may be described as a path of prayer, a walking meditation, a crucible of change, a watering hole for the spirit and a mirror of the soul. Final Thoughts: Maintain silence throughout your walk for your own reflection and that of others. Move at your own pace. Feel free to pause any place where a delay feels right. Do what feels natural. Remember, everything teaches.” Labyrinth instruction from Hephzibah Prayer Trail flyer. [525 words for 062213]
Click here for a further outline of the aesthetic experience of a sample walking labyrinth meditation-prayer on the Princeton University campus.
Furthermore, it may be possible for humanity to self-assemble into symbolic groups of peace by directed compassion meditation. Such a dream is captured by these two poems taken in together:
No Matter, Never Mind
The Father is the Void
The Wife Waves
Their child is Matter.
Matter makes it with his mother
And their child is Life,
The Daughter is the Great Mother
Who, with her father/brother Matter
as her lover,
Gives birth to the Mind.
A Theater Project for Cooperative Universal Mind Reality (Love is Universal)
One point . another point ..
a line from one to the other,
extending on into space and back to itself.
bits of information, of words and images projected onto a screen;
word sounds, song sounds in wires and space.
Who would have thought in the days of pounding on rocks,
before imprinting on papyrus,
before pounding on drums for earth-sounds, sky sounds
before blowing cedar flutes for sparrows and wind sounds
That from the mind,
one man could form a phonograph and light contained in glass;
while others inspired love, devotion, no-mind, non-violence.
Who is to say in the future the mind could not project
a fragrant ginger orchid,
and by mere thinking together the sound of peace ..?
Adapted from “Mind Reality” by Chae Sungsook
Can my Facebook page and smartphones like my iPhone 5 used to take the photograph below of a self-assembled set of humans in the greater image of a peace dove be used by Out of Hand Theater’s Group Intelligence to self-assemble images of peace and religious symbols? I will propose just this in my meeting with Out of Hand Theater and Professor David G. Lynn with in August.
I believe this idea could evolve into a new tool for evangelization by self assembly of religious symbols:
This may help mental health and treat my bipolar disorder through releasing the inner tension that I have about the Christian image of the cross.
 Ai Weiwei-isms, p. 51.
 Ai Weiwei-isms, p. 51.
 Ai Weiwei-isms, p. 58.
 James 1:27.
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