Ranging much of the Indo-European and Proto-Indo-European world of approximately 4,000-25,000 years ago, one senses echoes of an image now almost entirely evaporated into the time before humanity’s earliest memories or histories. Though not at all clear today, with some trepidation and humility, one may venture to describe this widespread image as maternal. Were one to preserve only two works from the era in question, they might be the “Venus” of Willendorf of Paleolithic Europe and the Upanishads of ancient India. Both the Venus and the Upanishads may not only stand as crystallizations of humanity’s deep past, in the form of sculpture and literature, but as indications of the mental landscape common to all human beings.
The intersection of life and subjectivity is a tricky one to navigate. Axiomatic to any discussion of perception is that one experiences nothing but that which is mediated through their own nervous system and brain; rather than seeing the “thing-in-itself,” one instead experiences the best its brain can reproduce of the external object in question. One does not see anything so much as experience whatever their visual cortex may produce.
Thanks to some recommended reading from one of my sisters, I’ve come to read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in an entirely different light. In “Creating the Innocent Killer:Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality,” John Kessel offers a fascinating reading of the moral ambivalence, and even potential immortality, of Card’s novel.
In Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, Kessel sees the construction of an ostensibly “innocent killer” merely; in other words, that Ender, though guilty of tremendous atrocities by the novel’s end, is written off as simply a product of his circumstances and thus justified rather than morally culpable. … After his own damning character analysis of Ender, Kessel concludes, “If I felt that Card’s fiction truly understood this, then I would not have written this essay.” …
That said, and I’m tempted to say that Radford and Kessel may likely agree, I am not yet prepared to toss all copies of Ender’s Game — and Card with them — onto the pyre, cultural or otherwise. Instead, rather than a zero-sum condemnation of Ender’s Game, I believe Radford and Kessel’s critiques offer readers an additional layer to Card’s novel — though not at all necessarily one Card himself may have noticed or even intended.
With the recent release of Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix, as well as the anticipated conclusion of the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy in 2020, it seems fitting to dive back into the franchise as a whole and explore what it may have to offer viewers. Despite belonging to medium which has largely been overlooked or denigrated in the West, as far as anime is concerned, Neon Genesis Evangelion nonetheless contains a subtle yet substantial message about human psychological development, one as relevant now as when the series was originally aired in 1995.
Mind is the most fundamental yet enigmatic layer of a being. Arthur Schopenhauer, describing Kantian philosophy’s relation to Christianity, may have described the human being’s relation to his or her own mind: “a man who at a ball has been flirting the whole evening with a masked beauty, in hopes of making a conquest; till at last, throwing off her disguise, she reveals herself—as his wife” (Basis 105). Intimate yet occulted by proximity, mind and consciousness have seemed largely beyond understanding; some have altogether “ignored the phenomena … [as] inappropriate for empirical investigation” (Salamone n.p.). Far from inappropriate, however, Thomas Nagel suggests that mind and consciousness may be simply incompatible with materialist and new-Darwinian paradigms. Ultimately, “existence presents us with the fact that somehow the world generates conscious beings … We don’t know how this happens, but it is hard not to believe that there is some explanation” (Nagel Mind 31).
The eighth-century Buddhist master Vimalamitra described the progress of a meditator: one first becomes acquainted with his or her thoughts, as with familiar friends; they then learn to allow trains of thought to unravel themselves, like a snake effortlessly unknotting itself; finally, one’s mind becomes like an empty house, within which thieves find nothing (Urgyen et al. 53). Not at all an exclusively Buddhist practice, for millennia numerous cultures around the world have utilized meditation in various forms. However, despite the diversity of theories and practices underlying meditation, Vimalamitra’s definition pinpoints what they hold in common: a desire and capacity to quiet an otherwise hyperactive mind. Only relatively recently, however, have researchers been able to analyze these claims. The results of scientific inquiries suggest that meditation provides numerous benefits, including greater presence, an increased ability to manage negative emotion, more productive sociability, as well as potential neurological benefits.
I recently came across a useful bit of advice: in essence, to highlight often when reading an ebook, and then to revisit those highlights in order to gain not only the gist of a text, but perhaps to see what attracted your attention the most.
Nowadays I mostly read ebooks—PDF, epub, Kindle, etc.—partly because of visual impairments (I can read print books just fine, but I can enlarge ebooks to my heart’s content). But a happy byproduct of my preference for ebooks is that, as mentioned in the advice above, they make it easier to extract and compile notes taken and highlights made. I’ve been thinking about this bit of advice for some time, and, as an experiment, I ended up reaching back for one of my favorite novels, Hermann Hesse’s Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth.