Category Archives: Alternative Perspectives

Philosophical Quotes About Life, Death, & Everything In-Between

by Jordan Bates at HighExistence.com

Quotes, man. I freaking love quotes.

Proverbs, quips, riddles, excerpts, aphorisms, koans, snippets, lyrics, and limericks — I don’t discriminate. I adore them all.

Quotes often catch a bad rep on the Internet, due to the tendency of certain popular quotes to be shared ad infinitum.

But this is a shame. Because if you really scour the caverns of the Internet, you find a nearly infinite wellspring of mind-liberating, soul-vitalizing gems of language. 

Don’t get me wrong. Quotes are not a replacement for reading entire books, elaborate novels, and longform essays. No way.

But methinks they can nonetheless deliver potent, pithy shots of insight, clarity, and/or invigoration.

So, as a gift to you, awesome Internet-person, I assembled this list of 150 jewels of thought, on everything from love and suffering, to mystery and happiness, to death and morality.

Marinate, contemplate, salivate, and above all, savor these, as if they were intimate notes left to you by some of the greatest minds in history.

Because in fact, that’s precisely what they are. Continue reading Philosophical Quotes About Life, Death, & Everything In-Between

Mind-Altering, Crazy Facts About Life

by Aletheia Luna at Loner Wolf

Strangely enough, being humbled is an empowering experience.

When you truly come to see how small, insignificant, and not-the-center-of-the-universe you are, your mind cracks open and your ego retreats like a worm back into its hole. Suddenly, something breathtaking shifts and changes within you, and you go from perceiving life through the limited “me” perspective, to the expanded “we” perspective.

If you want to experience what it’s like to be humbled, read through the following mind-altering crazy facts about life. Continue reading Mind-Altering, Crazy Facts About Life

The Lotus Eaters: Remembrance and Coherence in a World of Addiction and Distraction

By Philip Shepherd at Wake Up World

In chapter nine of Homer’s epic The Odyssey, a strange event is described: Odysseus arrived with his crew in the country of the Lotus Eaters, and chose three scouts to reconnoitre. On encountering the local inhabitants, the scouts were offered not hostility but food: a type of honey-sweet lotus fruit, which they devoured readily. But the more they ate, the more forgetful they became – forgetful of returning to Odysseus, forgetful even of their desire to return home. So deep was their craving for more of the fruit that when Odysseus and his men found them, they had to be carried forcibly back to the ships where, still weeping, they were tied beneath the rowing benches.

The story of the Lotus Eaters has a special relevance for us, for we too are driven by cravings. What really strikes home for me, though, isn’t so much the addictive longing the fruit creates, as the forgetfulness it induces. And more specifically, the fact that those eating the fruit seemed unaware of its power to induce forgetfulness.

the lotus

I see that same story playing itself out in my own life, particularly when I find myself staring at a little screen. The longer I stare, the more forgetful I become of my breath and the unfelt, living world around me. As the spell of my private screen draws me deeper into forgetfulness, I suffer a further loss that I seem almost to be anaesthetized to: the coherence of my being – that clear, alert attunement to self and world – clouds over and deteriorates into white noise. In the absence of that coherence – an absence that endures long after I have stepped away from the screen – I have the sense of drifting through the hours that follow. That sense of drifting is a sure sign that I am under the spell of a mythic Lotus.

To wrest free of this oblivion, I think it’s crucial to identify the fruit that lures us. It’s not the screen itself – the screen is just the enabler. But what does it enable that is so deeply seductive? I think the answer is that it gives us access to a particular kind of information that is appealing in its promise of certainty and value, forgiving in that it’s easily digestible and asks very little of us, and as transitory as a ceaseless consumer could ask for. I call this kind of information digital information, because like digital music it breaks the whole into discrete bits that profess to add up to a whole, but which are always riddled with gaps.

lost in our programming

We are addicted to gathering such facts about the world the way a hoarder piles up stuff. We want to know about bargains, new products, the latest political scandal, miracle diets, cute kittens, the latest fads, celebrity romances and the economy. We crave expert advice on our health, the environment, career choices, fashion choices and relationship choices. We gather such ideas insatiably, because of a tacit promise our culture communicates: Knowledge Will Save Us. Armed with our broken facts – facts that stand independent of the world they purport to represent – we hope to wield the knowledge they empower us with and make things better. We hope to fix our own lives and we even hope to gain enough knowledge to fix the world.

That is the promise, anyway, but it is an empty one. Exposing its frailty is as simple as asking, “But if knowledge could save us, wouldn’t we and our planet be much better off now than we were, say, three hundred years ago?” Coral reefs dying, antibiotics rendered ineffective, pollinators perishing, WMDs stockpiled, income gaps expanding – we have inherited a world of unintended consequences, and it bears witness to the ways in which objective knowledge becomes lethal when it is not counterbalanced by an equal measure of self-knowledge. Like the Lotus Eaters, though, we have fallen so deeply under the spell of the promise that we barely remember what it means to come home to ourselves, and are confused about how to go about it. There is no Odysseus in the wings, ready to drag us away from the source of our forgetfulness, kicking and screaming, until we come to our senses. And so we find ourselves drifting, distracted and anxious.

I believe that we will awaken from this spell only if we learn to heed and cherish another kind of information, one that courses through the present and actually makes it what it is. I call this analog information. We might say that analog information is the communion that joins all things to all things. In a very real sense, it is the present – for we feel What Is only through exchanges of information, and everything that is can be understood as information that is in continuous exchange with all other information, streaming through the fields that make up reality. Like analog music, such information moves primarily in waves that simultaneously arise from the whole and constitute it.

From the human standpoint, though, what differentiates analog information is that it speaks to our being; digital information speaks to our ideas. We feel analog information, we experience the world passing through us, and as it does, we are informed by it – often in ways that don’t readily lend themselves to verbalization; and often in ways that can more deeply inform us about the world and ourselves than any screed of facts could ever do. ‘Who we are’ is illuminated by our felt relationships with the present. They are what bring us home to ourselves. We learn from the life and mystery of the world through analog information; we learn about the world through digital information.

Ancient hunter/gatherer cultures rely on analog information for their survival. They recognize its subtlety, richness and fathomless depth as a commonplace. Our culture barely acknowledges it. And that’s a pity, because to learn only about the world and never from it is to consign ourselves to a disconnected, isolated and impoverished existence. It is to banish the very possibility of activating the humming, clear coherence of our being – for such coherence does not stand inside us independent of the present. It belongs exclusively to the present; we are gifted with a coherence of being only as we surrender to the present and attune to it. And that surrender, that attunement, is something that happens through the sensitivity of the body. Much of the self-help industry neglects this, and encourages us to believe that coherence of being can be achieved by applying the correct ideas to ourselves. It just doesn’t work that way, however much we might wish it to. You cannot rearrange yourself into a state of harmony by following the right rules.

We will remain Lotus Eaters as long as our ideas about the world seem to better inform us than the voluble, living reality to which we belong. And our ideas will continue to seem superior until we discover what it is to allow our consciousness to descend into the body, and make peace with the present, and come to rest in that peace.

The antidote to the Lotus fruit is always remembrance – a remembrance of the body, a remembrance of What Is, a remembrance of a kind of information that is not broken into bits. Such remembrance carries you into wholeness and coherence. And such coherence, once found, can even stand firm against the debilitating distractions of the little screen.

lost and forgotten

The Last Individual In Europe ~a short story~

by Jon Rappoport

(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Power Outside The Matrix, click here.)

“The indoctrination effect, regarding the individual, is to make him think he no longer has an independent existence. Those who still have functioning minds are taught that ‘the individual’ was a concept that had a use at an earlier stage of evolution, when modern systems and structures were still developing—but ‘individual’ became an accurate synonym for ‘criminal’ when benign super-government took over…” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)

October 2, 2071, the Center of Centers, United Europe. Citizen G1435-X was brought into a secret conference room in the Department of Re-Education, Special Branch.

His interviewer held the title of Mental Health Representative of the People Level 14, or MHR. This is an excerpt from their conversation:

MHR: Are you aware of the size of the United Europe Government?

Citizen: I know that almost everyone I meet works for the Government in some capacity.

MHR: If you include corporations, which of course are in partnership with Government on many levels, the figure approaches eighty percent of the population.

Citizen: And there are the computers and robots, too.

MHR: The correct name is Machines for the Illumination of Everyone.

Citizen: What do you want from me?

MHR: That’s the whole point. There is no you.

Citizen: How can that be true? I’m sitting here.

MHR: No, that is an illusion. For convenience sake, an assumption is being made: ‘I am I and you are you.’ It facilitates this conversation. But in truth, we are one. We are in accord. We know the same knowing.

Citizen: Gibberish.

MHR: It would sound like gibberish to a disaffected part of the whole. A disaffected part, which is ‘you,’ simply needs to surrender. Then you will cease to be a diseased illusory series of thoughts.

Citizen: And this is official Government policy?

MHR: Of course. The culmination of all Government is the shared cosmic body. Another term for it is Universe.

Citizen: At one time, limited government was instituted to protect the freedom of the individual.

MHR: You mean at one time, an illusion was instituted to protect another illusion.

Citizen: I’m still me.

MHR: Against the entirety of Government? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

Citizen: Where are you from? Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

MHR: These are all irrelevant questions. Even asking them is a violation of the law. They lead to making elitist distinctions favoring some over others.

Citizen: I’m not asking others. I’m asking you.

MHR: You’re assuming there was a time when I thought of myself as an individual.

Citizen: Didn’t you?

MHR: There are errors. People commit errors before necessary corrections are made.

Citizen: You’re evading my question.

MHR: Why do you hate everyone?

Citizen: I don’t.

MHR: You must.

Citizen: Why?

MHR: Because you refuse to merge with them.

Citizen: Merge? What does that mean? It’s a word that’s been twisted in the new language all of you speak. The phony language. Merge?

MHR: Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Language Aversion Disorder. Illusion Disorder. Individualist Disorder. You’re suffering from a host of mental illnesses.

Citizen: France, Germany, England, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain. Do you remember those terms?

MHR: Of course I do. It’s part of my job. They’re on the Forbidden Words List. Only deranged persons insist on using them.

Citizen: What about the word ‘money’?

MHR: Also forbidden. The correct term is ‘credit’ or ‘allocation’.

Citizen: What about ‘freedom’?

MHR: That is a technical term. It specifically refers to alternatives methods of problem-solving a machine can opt for. It has no other meaning.

Citizen: You’re joking.

MHR: I assure you, I’m not. You undoubtedly believe the sentence, ‘An individual has freedom’ actually means something. But it was never more than a piece of propaganda.

Citizen: You have everything backwards.

MHR: You’re going to be entered in a program of re-education.

Citizen: It won’t work.

MHR: You’re not the first person to tell me that. You’ll discover, in the coming months, what ‘greater good’ means. You’ll also experience the joy of Oneness for All.

Citizen: How are going to manage that?

MHR: We’re going to connect your brain with the Kurzweil computer. You’ll download trillions of data that reveal the truth.

Citizen: Which is?

MHR: You and every other person in Europe are identical. You are, so to speak, copies of each other.

Citizen: And if I refuse to accept that?

MHR: You won’t have any data to the contrary.

Citizen: What?

MHR: The information we insert will crowd out whatever else is present in your mind. Think of what you now ‘know’ and believe as a lake. We will empty that lake into a huge ocean. Soon the lake will be invisible. For all intents and purposes, it will have disappeared.

the black sheep

Citizen: Suppose the opposite happens? Suppose the lake swallows the ocean.

MHR: Impossible. We will search out every word you use and provide new meanings. Proper meanings. Then you will think and speak according to the law.

Citizen: Do you believe I’m the only individualist in Europe? There is a rebellion underway.

MHR: Under what name? What is your organization?

Citizen: There is no organization.

MHR: That’s absurd. You would have to have an organization.

Citizen: Not true. That’s why you have a problem. If there were an organization, you could co-opt it. You could infiltrate it. You could offer it special favors. You could set it against other organizations.

MHR: The word ‘rebellion’ means an organized opposition…

Citizen: In your language it does. You think all human activity takes place in groups. But you’re wrong.

MHR: How could we be wrong? We control language.

Citizen: You control your language. But many individuals don’t accept your definitions.

MHR: There is only one language.

Citizen: Your language pertains to groups. But this rebellion, as I just said, has nothing to do with groups.

MHR: I don’t like where you’re going with this.

Citizen: Remember the French language? There are people who still speak it.

MHR: ‘French’ is a forbidden word.

Citizen: Keep telling yourself that. Remember a city called Vienna? Or Stockholm?

MHR: You’re not supposed to know those words.

Citizen: But I do. Vouloir, c’est pouvoir.

MHR: That language is outlawed.

Citizen: It loosely means, if you want something, you can get it.

MHR: I know what it means.

Citizen: So you speak French.

MHR: I have to, in order to know what is illegal.

Citizen: Do you remember the French writer, Albert Camus? And his essay, The Rebel?

MHR: The word ‘rebel’ is absolutely forbidden. It has no meaning.

Citizen: I beg to differ.

MHR: Rebellion equals mental disorder. The disorder is real. The rebellion is merely a form of compensatory behavior, a pretense.

Citizen: You think you’ve established a United Europe composed of androids, but you haven’t. That’s your pretense.

MHR: There is only one genuine human impulse: to do good for others. And the State owns that impulse.

Citizen: Do you know what you’re saying? How absurd it is?

MHR: The State must own it, in order to make sure the future is directed as it should be.

Citizen: So the State is defined as that entity which maintains all that is good.

MHR: Of course. How could it be any other way?

Citizen: Let me make an inference here. If the day dawns when all citizens adopt the new language, you will be able to forget the history you know: the old languages, the old cultures, the old cities. You’ll be able to forget the past.

MHR: Theoretically, yes.

Citizen: Will it make you happy to forget it, to let go of it?

MHR: Of course.

Citizen: I don’t think so. I think you want to be one of a small number of elite people who remember everything. I think you cherish the past. You want to possess it.

MHR: How dare you say that.

Citizen: You’ll be the rare person who can read Shakespeare, Goethe, Homer, Dante, Yeats. You’ll be a scholar in an invisible university.

MHR: I serve the cosmic body of the State.

Citizen: You serve only yourself and a few others. You want individuality, but you want to deny it to the rest of us.

—end of interview excerpt—

Apparently, at this point, MHR experienced an episode of some kind. Acutely elevated blood pressure, a burst vessel, a heart attack. The record is unclear…

Sources report that his interview with Citizen G1435-X was preserved in a secret archive, to be read by government leaders and understood as a cautionary tale…

Jon Rappoport

Don’t Forget How Strange This All Is

by David Cain at Raptitude

Jerry Seinfeld joked that if aliens came to earth and saw people walking dogs, they would assume the dogs are the leaders. The dog walks out front, and a gangly creature trailing behind him picks up his feces and carries it for him.

Throughout my life I’ve had moments where I felt like one of these visiting aliens, where something I knew to be normal suddenly seemed bizarre. I remember walking home from somewhere, struck by how strange streets are: flat strips of artificial rock embedded in the earth so that our traveling machines don’t get stuck in the mud.

Everything else seemed strange too. Metal poles bending over the road, tipped by glowing orbs. Rectangular dwellings made of lumber and artificial rocks. The background noise is always the hum of distant traveling machines, and all of this stuff was built and operated by a single species of ape.

Even stranger was the fact that these strange things usually don’t seem strange. I know I’m not the only one who has felt this. A few people have shared similar experiences with me, and according to The School of Life, it was a central theme in Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea.

Sartre apparently believed that the world is far stranger and more absurd than it normally seems. Most of the time, however, we ascribe a kind of logic and order to the world that it doesn’t really have, so that we’re not constantly bewildered by it. Sometimes we momentarily lose track of that logic, and the true strangeness of life is revealed. In these moments, we see the world as it is when it’s been “stripped of any of the prejudices and stabilizing assumptions lent to us by our day-to-day routines.” In other words, we occasionally see the world as if for the first time, which could only be a very strange experience indeed.

Although I know this experience isn’t unique to me, I had no idea whether most people could relate. So when I discovered the surprisingly popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale, I felt that a small but significant part of my experience had been understood. Night Vale is a fictional desert town, and each episode of the podcast is about 20 minutes of broadcasts from its public radio station. The host reads public service announcements, advertisements, community news and weather, and messages from the City Council.

That would be extremely boring, except that almost everything that happens in the Night Vale is incredibly strange, even impossible.

The first announcement in the first episode is a reminder from City Council that dogs are not allowed in the dog park, and neither are citizens, and if you see hooded figures in the park you are not to approach them. In an unrelated matter, there is a cat hovering four feet off the ground next to the sink in the men’s washroom at the radio station. It cannot move from its spot in mid-air, but it seems happy, and staff have left food and water for it.

The Night Vale
The Night Vale

Wednesday has been canceled, due to a scheduling error. There is a glowing cloud raining small animals on a farm at the edge of town. A large pyramid has appeared in a prominent public space, apparently when nobody was looking. 

I imagine that when most people hear about WTNV, they listen to five minutes of it and turn it off. It feels like a joke at first, or at best, bad art. I kept listening, thinking the weird happenings are some kind of allegory, or a code to be deciphered. But they’re not. The story stays absurd, kind of like an over-the-top Twin Peaks, where none of the weirdness ever gets explained.

Everything is weird until it’s familiar

I was listening to the podcast on headphones, walking down our local riverside path, and I passed an older couple sun-tanning. I’ve seen people tanning a thousand times, but only then did the activity strike me as completely hilarious. In our world, people sometimes take off all their clothes—or at least as much as society will allow—so that they can get radiation burns from a glowing ball in the sky. Even though everyone knows this practice increases your chances of developing a fatal disease, people still do it because they like the color of the burned flesh. Skin burned to a certain tone confers social benefits for a few weeks.

The fact that we live on a planet at all would be unbelievable if we weren’t already used to it. Nobody could have dreamed up this setting: life is set on one of many ball-shaped rocks moving in circles around a bigger, glowing ball. And we have great affection for these other balls. When officials demoted Pluto to a minor ball, people were outraged, even though none of them had ever actually seen it. When the spaceship sent to take pictures of Pluto finally arrived, we discovered it had a giant white heart on its side. It had been loving us back the whole time!

Listening to Night Vale reminds us that our world is no less strange, just more familiar. If in our world, as in Night Vale, taco shops sometimes became encased in amber, we would accept that as a fact of life after seeing it a few times. But that’s no weirder than the fact that in order to live, we must breathe a gas that combusts so easily and so violently that every city has to have specialized departments dedicated to shooting water onto anything at a moment’s notice. (Bill Bryson captures this strangeness beautifully in A Short History of Nearly Everything.)

You can see the weirdness in almost any normal phenomenon by imagining how you’d describe it to someone not from Earth or any place like it. Water falls uncontrollably from the sky? Pop culture is obsessed with people who pretend to be other people in moving pictures? We eat fresh food grown on the opposite side of the planet? What?

Inception and creation; weird or normal?
Inception and creation; weird or normal?

The three options

So our world is really weird and chaotic, which is a helpful thing to realize, because we suffer so much insisting that it should be sensible and orderly. We have to live in a very strange place, and when we forget that it’s strange due to familiarity blindness, it can seem like something’s always gone temporarily wrong. We become preoccupied with returning society to a kind of balance or sanity that it never had, often berating or abusing certain people or certain groups in the process. It’s quite a relief to remember that life was always nuts.

Albert Camus (who is an obvious influence in Night Vale) argued that the universe is always absurd and chaotic, yet we’re always trying to find meaning and order in it. When you listen to Night Vale, making sense is the first thing your mind tries to do with what it hears, and it can’t. When you relax that need for the events to make sense, something softens. You stop straining. You listen more for the moment and less for how each moment serves everything else. You gain a sense of humor about the whole thing, however dark it gets.

Because it requires listeners to voluntarily open up to extreme strangeness, Night Vale has made me a less uptight about our own society’s political and cultural nonsense. I am seeing society less like a troubled person who was once sane, and more like a funny-looking animal, adorably knocking things over by accident.

Camus thought our unreasonable demand for meaning and sense was fundamental to human beings, and that it creates a ton of pain for us. He saw only three ways to respond to life’s absurdity: we can deny it (usually by claiming that a God has designed it this way), we can commit suicide, or we can embrace the weirdness and live in it wholeheartedly.

The last option, he figured, was the only good one. When you stop expecting the world to be sensible, suddenly it all makes sense.

Embracing the weirdness takes the edge off of everything, even death. Whenever you’re worried about “big picture” ideas, such as war, climate change, crime, corporate greed, you can remember that this whole weird thing called life just happened, and it’s always fresh and interesting, even though nobody really asked for it. And in that light, the thought of it ending one day doesn’t seem distressing at all—when your time comes, all you can do is say, “Wow, that was odd.”

How bizarre it all looks from here.
How bizarre it all looks from here.