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We are all spiritual beings, living in a physical world. This dychotomy of existence is highlighted in every single spiritual philosophy, though how to deal with it is unclear.
What is superior? To live a material existence, roaming the endless circle of Eating, Sleeping, Mating and Defending? Or constantly striving upwards towards the eternally distant goal of Enlightenment and Nirvana which can never fully be actualized?
All is futile when looked at from the outside... but all can be made fulfilling when experienced from the inside.
What are the forces struggling within you? How should you lay out your spirit's life plan and journey? Let me help you find out: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/
The world-famous brain teasing puzzle is now here! Yes, that's right, it's THE ELEPHANT PUZZLE!
A little historical background:
This puzzle was first invented in India in the 3rd century AD. It is unknown who the originator was exactly, it is only known that he was a sadistic bastard who delighted in laughing at the inferior minds of others. It is also known that the inventor was a warlock of great power and he cast a great curse on this puzzle, to prevent anyone from revealing its secrets
The puzzle became popular amonst the lower class first, until a noble youth from the upper castes saw a couple paupers trying it. After spending hours with the pauper and still not getting it, he offered a hundred rupies in exchange for the answer. The pauper knew that the puzzle was cursed, but needed the money, so he told him the secret. That youth was found three days later huddled under a bridge and babbling nonsense with a wild look in his eyes... he was completely bonkers.
The noble boy shared the puzzle with his family, delighting in the attention it gave him and in fooling others. After his father got the puzzle it was shared with Raj Pumabuttoks himself, who was known for his love of puzzles. Raj Pumabuttoks soon discovered the answer and found the puzzle absolutely delightful!
The puzzle was remembered for generations in the royal line. In the sixth century, Raj Kanyugidit used the puzzle as a test for potential suitors of his only daughter. In the 8th century, Raj Nyanyanyanyanya found a way to militarize the puzzle (though the exact way it was used is still a mystery).
Also in the 8th century the puzzle spread to a small Buddhist sect which eventually expanded to Japan and mingled with the Zen Buddhists who were already living there. The Zen Buddhists used this puzzle in their meditations as an example of 'seeing beyond what is obvious' and 'openning your perceptions to all that is'.
Meanwhile, in the west, traders from Arabia began coming to India more and more frequently. One such trader discovered the puzzle and brought it to the west. For a little while it began to spread until it was told to Pope Roger IV. Pope Roger didn't get the puzzle and, after three days of trying, he got furious and declared that the puzzle was the work of Satan.
The pope's declaration caused the puzzle to move into the underground, where it was spread in secret. When the enlightenment began, the secret scientific community adopted the puzzle as an unofficial password of sorts; those who knew the answer of the puzzle were assumed to be part of the scientific community and those who didn't were assumed to be a part of the 'ignorant masses'.
Eventually it was brought to the Americas as well - not by Columbus, but by one of the later Spanish settlers. The puzzle then spread north from South America all the way up to the US and then Canada. For a while the Canadians decided to change the puzzle from 'The Elephant Puzzle' to 'The Polar Bear Puzzle eh?' but it didn't stick.
There is an unconfirmed account that Neil Armstrong showed the puzzle to Buzz Aldren on their trip to the moon, saying that if Buzz could get it by the time they arrived then he could take the first steps... but Buzz didn't figure it out until they were already halfway back to earth.
The puzzle remained popular until the 1980's when, for some reason, it went 'out of style' and wasn't shared any more. Only a few people were still familiar with it and its popularity declined rapidly. Modern Historians blame the decline of this puzzle on the rise in Video Game popularity, stating that simple puzzles like this one are being replaced by high tech innovations.
And that brings us up to today. As a huge fan of history and the preservation of our culture heritage, I feel it is my duty to preserve this puzzle and bring it to a medium where it will be able to spread once more. I hope that this puzzle survives for many more years and that its contribution to the world is not yet over.
Physical description: Hysten is short and hunched over with a long snout and a bony ridge between his eyes. His scales are a grey-blue and slightly translucent, with white, almost clear scales decorating the top of his head and his shoulders. From his back spring two bat-like wings of a very pale blue colour, the leathery hide draped over them translucent, giving them the appearance of being very fragile.
Hysten wears a black tunic over his black died leather armour, specially crafted so that there is room for his wings.
Personality: Hysten is a calm and quiet kobold, reclusive and secretive in nature. He turns in upon himself often and keeps himself company. He has a rage burning within him though, a dark rage that always tries to emerge and reacts at the slightest pressure. Those who know him fear his wrath, knowing that it is fueled by something more than his own strength.
Despite this, there is a certain allure about him which draws others close and those who come to befriend him find that he is loyal and truthful, albeit a little strange.
Hysten has come to terms with his mysterious powers and tries to control them. Through them he has come to understand the power that words have and speaks them concisely when it is needed.
History: Hysten was born in a small tribe of two dozen families living in the foothills of a great mountain range. He was born in the tribe's communal clutching nest along with six other clutchmates. When he emerged he was sickly and weak and his scales were perfectly clear in colour. The fosterers were distraught, thinking that he would be lost, and so they brought him to their all-watcher. The all-watcher took a look at the wyrmling and nodded knowingly. He saw that though he was born weak, powerful energies gathered within him just waiting to emerge. After giving him a blessing, he was sent back to the nest to be raised with his clutchmates.
Hysten grew quickly. His sickly state at birth was quickly forgotten as he grew in size and strength. His scales lost most of their translucent quality but remained pale in colour, like no other kobold in the tribe. The others would often tease him about it, calling him names and poking him with sticks.
A few weeks before his third birthday, Hysten's powers began to manifest. At recess from studies the other kobolds began laughing at him as usual. This time, Hysten had enough. He looked at the lead bully and his eyes filled with rage. He pointed his pale finger at the boy and wisps of darkness began to rise off of his body like steam rising from hot meat. Hysten's brow furrowed and his upper lip curled. "May the curse of the ages be upon you!" he called out and instantly the youngling was struck with a feeling of dread as he felt darkness closing in around him. The others backed off and Hysten pounced on the boy, beating him to a pulp.
When he turned three, Hysten was called to the Master Sorcerer to be tested for aptitude. The Master Sorcerer was puzzled by Hysten's situation, because he did have power coming through him but it was of a darker nature than he was used to. Nonetheless, he agreed to help the boy through his awakening.
Hysten's time as an apprentice was troubling and stressful. He went through the daily meditations and concentrated on drawing out his potential, but he found no success. All he could muster was the strange curse he once manifested and even that would not come without first being provoked. Hysten was constantly being teased by everyone. By his fellow sorcerers for being inept and by the other children just for being strange.
Hysten began to be lax in his studies and meditations, feeling restless and discouraged. When his 5th birthday came and he made his transition into young adulthood he felt like he had accomplished less than any other in the tribe; he wasn't a successful sorcerer and he had learned nothing else. So Hysten decided to do something that was never done in his tribe: he publically renounced his vows to the practice of sorcery.
The tribe was outraged - members of the order were supposed to devote their lives to the craft. The master sorcerer was upset - he was always working to bring out the potential that he knew lay in Hysten. The all-watcher was fierce in judgement. He reminded the lad that he made the lifelong vow and that he was bound by his honour to remain in the order, devoted to a life of meditation. Hysten retorted that he did not have what it took and that all his work was in vain. The master sorcerer stipulated that it was the effort, not the reward, that was truly important. In the end it came down to an ultimatum. Hysten was to remain in the order for the rest of his life. That life could be a long one, or it could be short.
Hysten decided to take a third option, one that was also not common within his tribe. He left.
Hysten waited until it was day so that he could sneak out without anyone seeing him and he left the tribe's settlement, not looking back. He didn't have any respect, friends, support, love or admiration in his tribe and so leaving really was the best thing for him to do.
Hysten grew on the road. He travelled from city to city, digging through trash and begging for money. He didn't have any skills to speak of, having spent his whole life as an aesthetic, and so he didn't have much that he could do for a living.
Two years passed and Hysten was living the desperate life of a street urchin. He made his way to a big city and crawled through the streets begging for scraps. His skin had darkned slightly with age, going from a white to a greyish blue, though he was so covered in filth most of the time that it might as well have been bright purple. He had almost completely left his former life behind, having very little connecting him to who he was. Then his wings began to grow.
They came out as short stubs at first and Hysten was worried that he was ill or something. Then they began to grow and take shape. After two months they became recognizable as wings, though they were still too small to be functional. When he saw this, Hysten's life started to make sense: He was a dragonwrought!
The dragonwrought were usually identified from a discolouration of the eggs, but in his case he must be manifesting an ancestry of Crystal dragons by his colouration, meaning that the spots on his egg would have been very subtle indeed. Had it been known that he would have been a dragonwrought, his egg would have been taken to one of the sacred kobold mines where all the blessed eggs were taken. Certainly this error in judgement was the cause of his poor upbringing and miserable existence. It wasn't that he was an inferior kobold - it was that his gifts were not properly encouraged.
Hysten found a new vigor in life and a renewed sense of purpose. He began to perform his daily 'Search for the Dragon' meditation once more and he set off on a journey back to his tribal mine.
It was several more months before he reached the place of his birth and he was both excited and apprehensive at the thought of returning - but he had to set things straight with them and find the holy mine where surely he would find all the answers he sought. By the time he arrived his wings had blossomed and were strong enough that he could glide with them short distances.
Hysten came to the mine but when he arrived his expression of joy and excitement turned to despair; they were gone, all of them. The tents and tools were still there, but no kobold could be seen anywhere. Hysten came closer and noticed that everything had been smashed and trampled... his former village had, apparently, been destroyed by marauders... and by the looks of it, some time ago.
Hysten felt a new mix of emotions. Rage. Sorrow. Regret. Longing. He never imagined that his whole tribe, as hateful as they were towards him, would be killed... he always thought in the back of his mind that some day he would return and that there would be a place for him. It wasn't until they were gone that Hysten discovered how much they meant to him.
Once more without purpose, Hysten began to wander once more, but this time not as an urchin. He did not wander with fear and humility... now he went with rage and purpose. He took up the blade and scoured the land, searching for any signs of his tribe's killers, whoever and whatever they may be. His power grew from within him as he stood against foes and threw the rage he felt at any who would stand in his way. He hunted orcs and goblins, beast and monsters and made quite a name for himself in the region - the shining streak that flew through the night, killer of vandals and barbarians.
Hysten flourished in his new identity, his new life as a warrior. It came so suddenly and so naturally to him that he never again second guessed his skills. He grew to understand and appreciate what he once reviled within him and found that his gift, though limited, served him very well.
After several more years passed he was recruited by some adventurers passing through and Hysten found comraderie with his new warrior peers. His skill was honed by the instructions of the others and his gifts appreciated by them. Hysten was in his prime.
And so he stayed... the frightful avenger, pale of skin but dark of soul, quiet of voice but strong of heart, the shining streak that flies through the night.
The evolution of gaming parallels the evolution of media in general. Everything is naturally moving from low-tech to high-tech. As a result, low-tech solutions are being replaced by high-tech ones. The unfortunate result of this shift is that media is now becoming based on high-tech solutions to the exclusion of everything else. In fact, many games and movies are simply part of a 'tech race' to see who can put out the most impressive new high-tech production. All the other stuff that used to be important falls to the wayside as sensory stimulus, the main thing that technology offers, takes the limelight, meaning all the intuitive functions of media (ie. story, gameplay) fall to the wayside.
From a marketting perspective this makes sense, because the majority of people are Sensory types (73% according to MBTI testing), meaning a lowly 27% of the world population is Intuitive. Meaning, 73% of the world cares more about graphics than plot. That explains why a movie like Avatar, which is visually impressive but has such a cliche story line that it made me want to cry, was a box office smash. With the pace of society increasing and sensory stimuli getting more and more prolific, I'd expect that more and more people would develop into sensory types at a young age, even if they were born with a natural inclination towards being an Intuitive, meaning that this trend will only accelerate.
Us intuitives have to understand that we are a minority. The longing that we feel for the 'good old days' of gaming where the intuitives dominated the market place are gone and to find truly inspired games we have to either look to the past or look to the fringes. Or we could give up on this now sensory dominated field and go to a purely intuitive one, such as literature.
As a programmer I'm choosing to step up to the challenge of straddling both modes of perception, catering to the sensory and the intuitive by developing fun, engaging and creative games with meaning and depth while working with top artists to add visual greatness. So far I haven't succeeded, but I haven't given up hope!
My friend and I just completed what shall henceforth be known as 'the best game ever'. This is not a joke... we have actually succeeded in make the world's most awesome game. It is in fact so full of awesomeness that penguins and duckbilled platipi (the two most awesome creatures in the world) have become jealous of it. It's true... it was on the news even. There was a reporter who interviewed these two kinda-birds and they told the reporter of their jealousy. They had lots of it.
Anyways, you should play this awesome game! And you should also give it a rating of 5. And you should also write a review stating how incredibly awesome the game is. And then you should go to the bathroom... because by the time you finish playing your bladder will certainly be full. Then you should come back and keep playing. And then you should go get a friend to play with you (because of the multiplayer mode).
So... go do it!
Oh, and here's the link: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/
The astrological signs are split up into the four elements and the three modalities. The three modalities determine a sign's quality and the mode in which the sign is expressed.
These modes are: Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable.
These can be likened to a Straight Line, a Circle and a Pendulum. The Cardinal modality is a straight line - going from beginning to end, pushing forwards and through, working straight and directly. The Fixed modality is a circle - remaining within the same pattern or situation indefinitely. The Mutable modality is a pendulum, constantly swinging back and forth from one situation to another, never remaining long, ever changing and ever moving.
Every person has all three tendancies within, but one usually stands out as the primary life pattern. Think about your life... do you have good follow through? Or do you repeat the same things indefinitely? Or do you constantly jump from one thing to another?
Which of these three is the best? The answer: None. There is a place for all modalities in this world Cardinals are excellent at getting things done from start to finish. Fixeds are excellent at perfecting things and putting the final touches on designs. Mutables are excellent at inspiring and exploring, sifting through massive amounts of data, etc.
Know what you are, know what you can do... and know how to use your existance to the greatest degree.
The current learning model in place across the world is flawed for several reasons. Primarily, it does not recognize the individual needs of each person, but instead attempts to fit every person into the same flawed 'learning model' in order to feed them all kinds of subject matter in the same set of flawed formats.
To elaborate: the learning model in place in the majority of situations is as follows: An expert presents a set of information to a group of people. The most common formats in place are (1) expert lecturing to students, (2) expert writing a document for students to read, (3) expert offers a series of sample exercises for the student to perform. Any or all of these formats can be used in conjunction with one another.
This learning model is found almost exclusively in the education system, replacing every other system out there. The reason this model was chosen over others is that it is the one capable of maximizing the number of students for every expert, meaning that fewer experts are needed to teach a larger number of students. This ability was valued highly in the industrial era where standardization, specialization, synchronization, concentration, maximization and centralization were the core values held.
Now that we have firmly moved into the post-industrial and post-modern era, new values are emerging, including personalization, generalization, individualization, minimization and decentralization. In short, we are breaking out of the 'mold mentality' and once more becoming individuals.
Before the industrial era there were plenty of different learning processes, most taking place on smaller scales. The three models I will present here are the following: The apprenticeship model, the guru model and the discussion model.
The apprenticeship model is regarded as the most efficient learning model from the perspective of the student. Through this model, the student learns the fastest. It consists of a single expert and a single student working side by side in close proximity. The student gets to Observe the expert at work, Listen to his instructions and Perform the necessary tasks with expert guidance. Having only one student allows the expert to adjust the rate at which he teaches to best suit the student, emphasize areas of weakness and gloss over areas of strength. Specific problems can be addressed immediately before bad habits have a chance to form and practical, relevant guidance is given at all times. The biggest drawback with this method is that it limits the expert to a single student at a time, or at the most 2-4.
The second learning method is the guru model. This model continues with the same expert to student flow of information but involves limited interaction between the expert and the students. In this model, the student has a brief, personal interaction with an expert, either once in a lifetime or once in a period of time. During this brief interaction specific and general issues are raised and guidance is offered according to the student's level of understanding and current needs. The guru model is rarely used in isolation but is usually used as a supplement for other methods, the most common one being Independent Learning. Going to a guru can be viewed as a 'tune up' and is usually preceded by the student preparing a list of questions/issues that he feels need to be addressed and is succeeded by the student attempting to integrate the guru's teachings into his own thought process and practices. This model is still more individualized than the Lecturer model, but takes up far less of the expert's time and resources. It also forces the student to do a lot more work in the form of preparations and integrations.
The final learning method I wish to present is the 'discussion model'. In this model there is no expert and there is no student; it exists between two or more people of similar levels of expertise (or perhaps an expert pretending to have less expertise). This model consists of all parties involved discussing, arguing or collaborating in order to develop new ideas, or to achieve old ideas independently. On the surface this seems to be a highly inefficient model, since there is no expert guidance as with most other models, but in effect it has its benefits as well. Because this model involves a great deal more effort and concentration on the part of all parties involved, and because it engages more faculties of the mind in the process, all information learned/invented in a discussion model is known more thoroughly by each party involved. This is also a necessary model to be used in areas where no expert can be found or exists, as in new fields of knowledge.
Now that we have moved into an age which places less and less emphasis on uniformity and more and more emphasis on individuality, every aspect of society must adapt to this shift in paradigm, especially such a fundamental aspect of society as 'mode of learning'. We can see more and more children being frustrated with 'traditional' (industrial era) learning methods. Attention spans are dwindling as desires for personal expression are increasing. Parents who are most aware of this paradigm shift are looking for more era-appropriate environments for their children, such as private schools which offer more personal attention, home schooling or even simply supplementing the education of their children with personal tutors.
With such a massive shift in paradigm occuring as we speak it is a wonder that people are adapting so slowly. Yes, individualized learning programs are becoming available, including plenty of internet resources such as topical forums, wikis, chatrooms or rent-an-expert sites. University professors are getting more and more demand from students for longer 'office hours' where they can sit with their professors one-on-one, so much so that Teaching Assistants are also required to aid with this aspect of the university experience.
In conclusion, the outdated system of running every person through the same set of instructions and the same pace of learning should be relegated to the past, and only hung onto sparingly. Every student should be looked at individually, whose progress and needs should be measured independently of others. Should the time not be available to investigate the needs and means of an individual, then deference to the individual's ideas of what is necessary should be the first instinct, not deference to the 'standard learning model'.
(Originally written Apr. 16 2003)
There are two parts to writing. Finding a topic, and having the time and inclination to expand the topic and put it on paper. These two rarely coincide. When you set asside some time to write, you haven't a clue what to write about. When you go and busy yourself away from a recording device, your mind stumbles upon sheer genius. It's happened to everyone who writes anything I'd expect, and it's a problem that isn't easily solved. How do you get a good idea to coincide with an opertunity to write?
Well, here are a few possible solutions:
1) Orient your day in a fashion that you're always near a pen and paper, and so that you may halt at any time to record your thoughts. This would be ideal. If you can manage this then I'd like to know how you've done it so I can copy you.
2) Keep a pen and notepad with you at all times so that you may record any thoughts briefly for later expansion. This is my method of preference, and it's recommended for anyone. Although it's sometimes difficult to remember a notepad.
3) Keep yourself extraordinarily busy whenever you're away from your writing area. In this way you are blocking all ideas until you are ready to accept them. I can't do this. It's just impossible for me.
4) Attempt to force a topic when you are sitting in front of paper. I think this is what most pop artists do. Force ideas out of your skull, and end up unwittingly with the same garbage every time.
5) Busy yourself when you're sitting in front of paper, in hopes that an idea will come from your toil. This includes writing exercises, juggling, doodling, or whatever. I like this method too. It seems to work most of the time.
6) Stare at your paper and try to make an idea form directly ON the paper. This doesn't work. I've tried.
7) Alter your state of mind with a beverage or substance. This usually works, but I think it falls under #5. It's arguable whether the substance is the cause of your ideas, or the mere act of taking the substance is the cause. You can get comparable effects by cooking pancakes - as is the case with the article I'm currently writing.
8) Take someone else's idea. This can either be pure plagarism, theft of a topic, or criticism of another work. This is an effective way to write, as one of the key elements is taken care of by external energies.
9) Give up after 5 minutes and try again later. This is sometimes a necessary option. You're not always in the right mindset for writing.
10) Give up for a month and then try again. Thos is sometimes an option that is chosen accidentally or subconsciously. It happens that you put down the pen and just don't think about picking it back up again for a while. It's always nice when this happens, because when going back to it you DO have a refreshed view!
Firsts are wonderful. More wonderful than anything else. I mean sure, once you get good at something it may turn out better, but nothing excites like doing something for the first time. Lasts are also good... when you know it's your last anyways. Then all the memories of all the times come flooding back to enhance the experience of finality.
And yet, the first time is still superior. Exciting and wonderful beyond any other time.
I have just created and submitted my first ever flash game. Oh, the first! Oh how crappy and yet, how wonderful!
This is, I believe, the basis of spiritual investigation. Spiritual investigation is looking beyond the physical and into the spiritual, which can be defined as the underlying reality behind the apparent reality. Of course, there is an argument regarding the definition of what the spiritual foundation for apparent reality is, and there is also an argument regarding what the reality we perceive is, but in order for there to be spiritual investigation one must first understand this basic principle, that all is not as it seems.
I think this can be taken one step further as well. The spiritual reality underlying apparent reality is itself based on a deeper foundation. Thus, just as things on the first level are not as they seem, so too are things on the second level not as they seem. One can (and should) go on and on down the line until they find actual reality, which will most likely shock and amaze the investigator. At every level, thus, a person should attempt to avoid the trap of thinking 'this is it, I have found IT' and remember that just as they were once blinded by a veil, so too are they probably now still blinded by just another veil.
Various paths define this principle in different terms. Some say 'reality is an illusion', some say 'reality is a veil', others liken it to the skin of the body - the outermost layer of a deeper system. Some say angels and demons are the background, some say they are impersonal forces, others say it is microscopic molecules and yet others say it is simply varying degrees of unity and separation. All these people have gone through their own methods of investigation and have come to very different conclusions. How to tell who is right and who is wrong? The task seems daunting and possibly even futile. All these varying opinions, however, all have this one rule in common, that 'all is not as it seems'.