Seeing the matrix

I started to see the matrix today.  More specifically, the semiotic web as described in Patrick Dunn’s text on Postmodern Magic.  The semiotic web/matrix is the totality of interrelated symbols and meaning that chart our experiences.

The term matrix or lattice has connotations of being crystalline and rigid – an oppressive sentiment that may be apt for the film the Matrix – which is why the web description is more appealing to me.  It occurred to me however that the description of the semiotic web is still lacking something, or at least, it was for me.

The symbols are ALIVE.  Do not view the semiotic web as a collection of things/points/nodes.  The Net of Indra is a beautiful metaphor worth thinking about, and although the gems are like things, their identity is partly eroded and partly composed by the fact they reflect all the others. i.e. the identity of a thing is contextual (its place in the semiotic web).  A change in one affects the others.  But even more than this, the symbols are the landscape of our desires, ideals and motivations – which makes them decidedly ACTIVE.  Imagine the landscape topology, with rivers flowing between peaks. Then consider the topology of the semiotic web:

In a crude sense, the symbol of a wall or obstacle serves to channel most ambulatory beings towards symbols of access and passage.  Otherwise we would walk into walls more often!  The very nature of the semiotic web serves to channel energy and direct us.  More significant symbols, like ideals (and arguably gods) similarly distort the web, so that energies flow in different directions.  As a ball rolls downhill into a depression, as the gravity well draws in objects, so too does the semiotic web guide and influence.

This is why I love Aikido so much: It works within the semiotic web so well.  Rather than cruder approaches which might strike blows to deal with threats, Aikido literally takes advantage of the individual’s situation and interrelations within the web.  Aikido is a form of magic made manifest – and as you get better at it you start to see the channels of people’s intentions.  A bit like the scene in Donnie Darko when he starts to see the space-time worms emerging from the solar plexus, you start to see these energy flow more clearly, and how to direct them in different ways.  I think a true master never has to fight, simply by virtue of avoiding conflicts before they even erupt.

Double Take

I have highlighted some sections in bold if you want a quick read. The rest just provides some background for anyone looking a little deeper… This is a quick reflection on the importance of perception, touching on a few issues with a hint of magic for good measure.

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It’s the little things…

Apologies – I have not posted for a while and this is more of an observation, but my website, my rules :-p

The other day I bought a DVD from a charity shop. If you must know, it was the film for Joss Whedon’s Firefly series: Serenity. It has been sat on my desk for months now, but not forgotten. It’s status is somewhat peculiar – it’s a promise. In my mind I mean to watch it, or rewatch it as I have seen it all before(!), but I’m not sure if I’m ever going to do so. It persists on the edge of my awareness as a motivational reward, something to look forward to, but I honestly can’t say if it’s ever going to happen.

I think it is important to remain sensitive to these little tricks of the mind, and hopefully make sure they work for you rather than against. The reason I mention this is because I was recently introduced to an anime series called xxxHolic which is based around a Japanese student plagued by visions of the spirit world who finds his way drawn to a magical shop where wishes are granted. The owner, Yuuko, takes him on as a part-time ?slave? in exchange for helping him. Frankly, she spends most of her time drinking, so she might just be a crazy alcoholic, but there are a lot of discussions based around superstition, myths and psychology. Some things are a little dubious, but there are a lot of interesting observations in there. One episode that springs to mind is about a lady who seems to keep sabotaging her life with bad choices, but it emphasises that one needs to accept good things in to your life just as much as bad things. For instance, this lady in the story did not destroy her life, but would not actually accept good ‘luck’ – she rejected it through suspicion, guilt, and the inability to see herself as ‘worthy’ of good things.

This episode was quite clearly not about the supernatural, and yet most or all of the others can be read similarly, teaching about quirks and traits of the human mind and experience although the story couches them in the language of magic and spirits. Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (ref: see wiki). I would also remind the reader that we often forget just how ‘magical’ technology and science – and the mind – can be.

I recommend paying attention to the little things in life that matter, whether they be gifts, handshakes, smiles or whatever, and try to cultivate a sensitivity for them. If it helps, try couching them in a language you understand, which is why I often resort to using the language of magic and the supernatural myself to explain and remember things. In my Aikido practice there is much discussion about ‘Qi’, a pretty abstract concept initially which has very magical effects given the power of Aikido when applied to the human body. However, as you progress in the martial art you start to appreciate just why such abstract and ‘magical’ language is used: Because it fits.

Feng Shui Assassin

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics beleived to use laws of astronomy and geography to improve life by receiving positive qi. In other words, it is the holistic arrangement of living spaces to be fit for purpose. The Feng Shui assassin has mastered the art and its darker side by association – redirection of qi is not restricted to positive outcomes! By placing innocuous items around a house, or by the subtle rearrangement of furniture, the assassin can create death traps invisible to most. Its victims fall down stairs, trip and break their necks, get crushed by toppling wardrobes and fridges, electrocute themselves or gradually poison themselves. It is almost always diagnosed as accidental death by misadventure, and the deaths can be sudden or subtle, depending on the requirements of the assassin.