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Writing, Medium, A.I., Dhamma, Art, and not Living on Fresh Air Alone

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 5 Oct 2023, 21:56


Have been writing a lot on Medium. I like it that they have decided to set the default flag to 'no' for allowing A.I. to train on the site's content. 

I don't know if putting writing behind a paywall also helps to protect one's writing from being fed into a large language model, but I have decided to do that now. I put my best polished work on there.

Medium encourages one to work hard on their articles, which is good, and the financial incentive does work as a carrot on a stick to work harder at carefully crafting my articles, especially when submitting to a publication (magazine) on there. The editors of publications I have got feedback from have been really helpful in me improving my writing.

I don't think it is fair that A.I. companies are just hoovering everyone's content off the Internet to train their machines without asking permission or compensating authors for it. Especially as these companies are for-profit. Using people's hard work to make money, without acknowledging them or sharing any of the profits with the artists whose work they've used is wrong.

Another thing that concerns me, is if enough of your content is fed into the machines, they can start to mimic your style. And that could be used by people wanting to market and promote stuff, (stuff you might not agree with), and to create propaganda, and deep fakes. That gives me the creeps. We are entering a world were noone will know what is true anymore. People will be smeared by deep fakes that look real, and those who are not victims of deep fakes will claim to be, when something true is reported about them that they don't want people to know. It is a very disturbing and troubling world we are heading towards. One were critical thinking will be invaluable. 

The sad thing is we are all conditioned to believe what we see on a screen. So one is going to have to be very careful about what they trust in the future. Now in fact, the future is already here.

I am about to study A.I. for the next module on this degree. I am not sure I am well enough to work in an office again, or do long hours, or if I want to work for companies that steal people's data to make money. I am hoping to make a livelihood with writing, as that's where I feel passion when it comes to making a living. But it won't hurt to learn about how A.I. and machine learning works, and I also may be able to make a living writing articles about it in the future. So studying this will not be a waste of my time.

I like writing about dhamma mostly (dhamma means truth), even though it isn't that popular, I feel that others may benefit from it, even if my writing just helps one person it's worth it.

Also a few Buddhist friends and a Buddhist monk encouraged me to write, so I will do it for them as well.

And because of the love of it. Because I find putting things into words cathartic. Attempting to articulate things helps me understand them better.

I also want to write more poetry, and more about the environmental catastrophe facing the world, the sixth mass extinction event we are currently living in, and the disturbing social issues of today; but in a way that doesn’t come across as a rant or judgemental. I don’t want to put readers off, I want to connect with them.
I want to find a way to write that helps this world in some way.

Money is helpful though, don't get me wrong, I can’t live on fresh air; but if I use money as the motivation it can kill my ability to write and make art, I don't know why, so I have to pretend I am not bothered about money, even though earning feels very nice. But I have to be careful as it gives Mara, the dark side of the force, a foot in the door to wind me up and upset the balance of my mind.

I shouldn't worry too much about it though. For all I know, my time here might be short. It would be a shame to die without having at least tried to share some of what I know. It might help someone else out there.

Peace and love to all beings.

May we all be serene and boundless.



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Asoka

Bad beat

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 13 Sept 2023, 19:53


Life can be unpleasant
Dark times happen
whether I like it or not

Exams are cruel.

I woke up sick
Struggled.

I am not sure I will pass.

Not just the academic exam.
But the exam of life.
I failed in every aspect today.

Got angry this morning.
Couldn’t let go of it.
The horrible mood was sticky like glue.
And the body felt like shit.
A fatigued mind.
With all lucidity gone.

The thirst for non-existence was strong.

I burst into tears at one point.
This world can be harsh.
I hate money
Hate economics
Hate poverty.

I can’t get my head around it at all.
I long to escape.


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Asoka

Water

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 23 Aug 2023, 21:14

A photo of a barrel jellyfish


Rain drops fall like a tranquil melody. 
As I walk to take a break 
from a mountain of studying.
So much revision to do
for an upcoming exam.
And my heart is just not in it.

The green of plant life
is luminous in the rain.
Green shades of every kind.

I stop to watch a
huge jellyfish in the water
Pulsating rhythmically
as it swims back and forth.
A barrel jellyfish I think.
Beautiful being. 
Blind as a bat though
As it bumps into the sea wall.

I get back home.
Shake off my umbrella
Sit at the computer.
Log in.

Then the tears start...

It comes in waves.

...

A photo of a barrel jellyfish




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Asoka

New blog post

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 10 Aug 2023, 20:02


That's enough blogging for a bit. Went a bit mental there with all my posting. I read somewhere that the ideal amount of times to post to a blog is about 2 - 4 times a week. Otherwise readers get over saturated.

I'll try to keep that in mind in future. I get a bit carried away sometimes.

Anyway back to the studying, got an exam to revise for.

Right livelihood is part of the noble eightfold path too. I need to find some way to make a living.

Peace and love to all beings.

May we all be safe, well, peaceful, and happy.

...

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Asoka

Studying, fatigue and livelihood

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Fatigue is challenging today. I think I may be recovering from COVID. A neighbour last week told me they had it. And I was sick on Thursday last week and through the weekend. the symptoms were mild this time, just a general malaise, but the fatigue really knocked the wind out of my sails.

I am behind with my studying again. It is hard going. I read a paragraph, reflect on it and realise I have not absorbed the information at all. So I read it again, and still can't get my head round it. I see the words on the screen, but can't seem to extract their meaning. It is frustrating. 

It is tiring reading from a screen. I could print out the course materials, but printer ink isn't cheap and the cartridges don't seem to last long, and there's a lot of course materials to print out. Just too expensive to do that.

I get on much better with the practical activities. I like those best. It's the reading from a screen and note-taking that's really tiring. It is hard to motivate myself to do it at times.

 I don't enjoy studying anymore, it feels like I am doing a degree in suffering.

Cyber security is not an easy subject to learn, it is complicated, and not the most intuitive thing in the world. There's no wonder there's a skill shortage. Still, if I can finish this degree which is getting harder, (like wading through sludge). I should be able to secure a livelihood in the future I think.

 I have decided to remain in the household life a bit longer. People need me around still, and going off into homelessness would not be responsible or kind to those around me at this time. 

I will try to limit the hours I work though. I honestly cannot work long hours, I get so fatigued sometimes. Nor do I want all my life energy to be spent working at a livelihood. I want to practise meditation too, and it is hard to practise if one is tired after working, with a stressed mind full of worldly stuff and the delusion of self. 

 When I am sick or dieing it isn't cyber security or my knowledge of A.I. and machine learning I will be reaching out for. My career path will feel meaningless then. It will be my knowledge and experience of dhamma, my spiritual development, my friendships, my skill in meditation that will matter then.

Livelihood is just something to pay the bills, feed and clothe the body. But I don't want it to become my life.

Need to find a middle way. 


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Asoka

The perception of stagnation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Mar 2023, 21:29


Working with the hindrance of stagnation today. Its other name is 'sloth and torpor' or dullness and drowsiness.

I seem to be getting very little sleep at the moment. And it is hard getting through a day when I feel so tired, my skin feels weird and everything has this surreal achey haze to it, every conversation, every step, every thought and deed. I tried to get some sleep during the day, but just couldn't.

Still, there was a point where I suddenly became enthused to do some studying and managed to get a fair bit done, almost caught up, and hopefully will be back in sync with the timetable after tomorrow. 

With fatigue perception matters. If I keep reminding myself of how tired I feel and how unbearable it all is, it definitely makes it worse. Perception seems to be the bridge between physical pain and mental pain.

Thinking can be so tiring. If I can, it is nice to flow with life without the constant internal dialogue about it all. 

My main practise edge at the moment is learning ways to stop thinking. How to switch off the thought processes when I want to and have a rest from them. There are times when thinking isn't helpful at all and it just makes things worse. If I can get into a flow where thinking stops, and there's no story, just awareness centred with the body, watching the sensations and feelings as they arise and cease in the moment without getting involved with them, it can bring a bit of peace and space from it all which can ease the suffering a bit.

The hard part is forgetting and getting caught up in the internal dialogue again, then one remembers the original intention not to get caught up in the story, and it can feel quite tiring making this constant effort of bringing awareness back to the body. But this is how new habits are made, how new sankharas are formed. Eventually in time the new sankhara will develop a momentum of its own and become effortless, and grow stronger deeper; maybe then I will find a refuge from thinking when I need it (-:


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Asoka

What knowledge matters in the end?

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 26 Mar 2023, 17:59


Back to studying today. Currently learning about cryptography and how it is used in cyber security. Very tiring to learn actually. Involves a lot of reading, making notes, and trying to understand at times difficult concepts. Feels like wading through treacle.

I have fallen behind by about a week now. And the amount of studying that still needs to be done feels daunting. I talked myself into soldiering on with it though, despite the great reluctance I felt to continue.

Cyber security will be a useful skill to know. So much of our world is run by computers now. And it could be of service to others, to good people, such as Buddhists and other noble organisations that have websites. They are just as vulnerable to cyber attack as anywhere else online. So learning this is not a waste of my time.

I just keep thinking, when death comes cyber security will be the last thing on my mind, it won't mean anything then. My career is not what I will turn to when the body begins to shutdown, when consciousness has to leave this body. It will be all the time I spent learning dhamma that matters then.

It is one of the sufferings of the world I guess, this need to have a livelihood and make an income.

'It's a bitter-sweet symphony this life.
Try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money - then you die.'

The worldly winds..... blowing one this way and that.... that way and this.... pain and pleasure, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame... these winds blow one across the treacherous seas of Samsara.



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Asoka

Loose plan for right livelihood

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 31 Jan 2023, 20:04

Been slowly getting back into the swing of studying again after a lengthy break, which I needed. This time I will be studying Cyber Security. So far I am finding it interesting and after the painful slog that was 'Algorithms' it makes a refreshing change. It got me thinking that perhaps this would tick the box for right livelihood in the noble eightfold path. Noting how much of our infrastructure is online now and vulnerable to cyber attack. So learning how to defend it would be of benefit to others So feel this would be a livelihood that would not cause harm to other beings. It is peaceful and comes from a wish for others to be safe, well, happy, and peaceful. 

 I must also look after my health though, right livelihood is about not causing harm to oneself as much as others. So I must remember that it is in service to the noble eightfold path. It will pay the bills and ensure I can eat, stay warm and survive. But meditation practise is important to me, it is like food for the heart and mind, and I need to ensure I am in good health so I can practise that. So planning to work part time from home when I graduate; one of the plusses about the Covid pandemic was this ability now to be able to work from home. This has opened up opportunities for me that weren't there before.

I remembered a friend telling me I could perhaps make some money from writing, but wasn't sure how I could go about it. And then the thought occurred to me, cyber security is quite a confusing topic because there is a lot of conflicting information about it, and that if I get the hang of it, I could perhaps write about this topic and writing is something I can do from home, so perhaps I can combine writing and what I learn from my studies into a livelihood, and I thought aye that would be of benefit to others and myself, it would not cause harm, and I liked the idea (-:

This is just a loose plan, and like everything in life, it could change, but the looseness of it gives it some flexibility. And writing it down was a useful exercise, it will help me not forget, and I now have a general direction for right livelihood, which has been something that I have been stuck with for some time. 




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Asoka

Inner wealth

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 22 Feb 2022, 13:00

Focusing on getting this assignment done for the module I am studying. Fatigue is quite challenging at the moment, I find myself reaching a point where I just have to stop and rest, because the body says: 'Nope'. 

I have been granted a four day extension for the assignment after emailing my tutor, although he didn't reply to let me know I have an extension. I only just found out by checking my assessment tab. He is probably really busy and that's why he didn't reply, either that or doesn't like me very much. I imagine I am just being paranoid with the latter conclusion. 

It is a problem I have where I often feel like others dislike me.I am trying to learn how to have the courage to be disliked, so it doesn't affect me anymore. The thoughts are challenging though, whirring away on loops reminding me I am crap and everyone hates me, I should top myself... blah blah blah, so tiring, and the more I try to stop them the worse they get, like some part of my brain is determined to make me feel miserable. It no doubt comes from past conditioning. 

Meditation has been somewhat helpful in giving me some ability to disengage from the thought processes and just let them happen in the background like any of the other senses without being particularly concerned by them. Maybe it is true that people don't like me much. But I give up trying to please others, it is a miserable existence trying to live like that. I try my best with this difficult mind I have, I'm not perfect, and doubt I ever will be, but I am trying. 

Pain and pleasure; wealth and misfortune; success and failure; praise and blame. These are the eight worldly winds.

Ultimately we are all alone, we are all islands, locked into our minds. I am trying to practise self-compassion and how to be a friend to myself, even when my brain seems determined to be my enemy. I will keep trudging forward and persevere.  

 Anyway quarantine certainly gives me plenty of time to hopefully finish this assignment, it is not easy and the materials are challenging. Still if I can get the hang of it, my career prospects may improve, although energy is a big factor causing me problems just now. Often need to liedown and sleep when the fatigue gets overwhelming. I honestly do not think I will ever be able to work full time again, many of the jobs in Computing and IT are fulltime, but I just can't work the long hours expected, so not sure where all this studying will lead in the end. 

There's not much I can do about it, other than try my best. It is a bloody difficult world at the moment for many of us. Economics is messed up and cost of living is getting ridiculous, perhaps we are heading towards a 'hunger games' society. It is not an easy world to survive in and make a living. But I don't feel like my life has been for nothing, I may not be a success careerwise, but I have discovered the dhamma and the Buddha's teachings in my lifetime, which is more than the majority of people do. And when I die those teachings will be with me, so I won't feel confused or regret for having wasted my life. I might be a loser by worldly material standards, but I very much feel like a winner when it comes to the spiritual life, when it comes to unworldly standards. So despite my financial struggles, my health problems, this life has not been wasted. It has been a turning point, a time of spiritual growth, which in the end is the most important thing of all.


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Asoka

Wisdom of the sangha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021, 18:28

This is a tough module I am studying (M269). Spent hours trying to understand and answer a question on the TMA. I tried so hard, but had to quit in the end and submit the assignment, leaving the last parts of the question unanswered, I will lose a lot of marks, but I did try my best. I am honestly wondering if I am going to pass this module, it may be that I'll have to resit it again next year if I don't. 

After submitting the assignment, I sat in Zazen over Zoom. I was feeling stressed about a lot of things during the meditation. And felt quite dark in mood while sat there. I was worrying about the assignment; but also anxious about the state of the world and all the crazy stuff happening just now. Sad and mad about seeing species go extinct, something I am witnessing with my own eyes. 

 Then there's the homelessness crisis, in part due to banks kicking people out of their homes due to missing their mortgage payments, not their fault either, these familes lost their income because of the lockdowns. The government is so keen to save lives by treble-vaxxing everyone, yet I can't help but feel if they really were trying to save lives, why don't they help these poor folks trying to survive on the streets in the middle of winter? Why don't they help the old and vulnerable dying in care homes due to staff shortages or dying in NHS hospitals because relatives can no longer afford to pay for their care. I feel afraid of the huge poverty that is coming from the fallout of this pandemic. Why are they doing nothing to help these people who are at risk of death from extreme poverty?

 I also feel so sorry for the refugees. it was horrifying to hear on the news about that large fishing boat that purposely put itself in the way of drowning refugees and the lifeboats trying to save them. How could they be so heartless and cruel. I cannot understand why people can become like that. 

And I am sick to death of all the happy clappy fake plastic smiley corporate advertisements. Sick of all the celebrity bullshit, blah blah blah so what. All this being broadcast while the Earth is in a major crisis right now. I wish the governments of the world would show more enthusiasm, effort and coordination over reversing the sixth mass extinction event than this mass-vaccination campaign. If they can put so many resources, logistics, academics and energy into vaccinating everyone, surely they could do the same for turning this terrifying mass extinction event around, and also help all those suffering from poverty and homelessness. The governments are so fake, them and the media.

I spoke of all my concerns with the Zen group today (one can stay and have a discussion with the group after meditation). They were all very kind and said a lot of helpful things to cheer me up and help me feel better. Reminding me there are lots of good people out there. And although it all seems futile at times, whatever small way we can help others means something to those we help. That one needs to fight back with compassion. They advised me to read about someone called Joanna Macy, saying she was someone who may be a kindred spirit for me in these dark times, and might help me feel some hope and rekindle love and compassion in my heart.

 I also stated to my friends in the sangha that I had made a vow to never take my life no matter how hard things get. After confessing to them that I had felt like doing so. Mainly because I couldn't bare the thought of seeing any more species go extinct, or witness any more refugees drowning at sea, any more war, poverty or suffering, I didn't want to live in the Orwellian, dystopian world we seem to be heading towards. They were happy to hear that I have made a vow to never commit suicide. I feel publicly making this vow and the painting I made to seal it is a kind of protection for me. Because the thoughts do constantly whirl around my head at times, but seeing my painting and remembering my words can help me stay alive I think.  

One bit of advice that stuck out for me was to try and see my negative mood cycles as like being in a womb, a state of becoming. A time to retreat, nurture and take care, not get too overwhelmed with the sorrow of the world, but care for it with a tenderness like one would a growing baby, and all that sorrow can give birth to something beautiful if one is patient and gentle with it. It can become love and compassion instead of anger and hate. The bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshivra has many many hands and eyes, and those who have taken the bodhissatva vow are her many eyes and hands in this world.

I was so glad that I sat with them today and that I stayed to chat at the end. I nearly didn't, my mood was so negative I didn't want to bring it into the online zendo, but at the last minute I decided I would sit with them. And it did help, not just me, but the other people there were grateful for the discussion we had at the end, as the words of wisdom shared by the different members of the group seemed to help everyone. 


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Asoka

Emotions

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Having another crack at this assignment, only two days left to complete it in, and I feel like I am getting nowhere, my head is just going round and round in an unhappy loop of constant misery. I just cannot seem to get anything done at the moment. I will persevere though. Once this assignment is done I will then concentrate on tidying this place up a bit as I have been neglecting it of late and the mess is getting me down. 

My mind is in so much pain just now, sometimes I wish there was some way to switch my emotions off, but then if I did, I would just be like a robot or a zombie and what is the point in living if you don't feel anything, you might as well be dead, it is the emotions that create art, that appreciate the beautiful, that feel compassion and empathy, that colour our existence. There are times when I do feel nothing, where I become a cold apathetic spineless sludge of unfeeling, but it is not a satisfactory experience living like that, it is empty and doesn't feel like relief. So being emotionless isn't a solution; we need our emotions, I just wish mine would shut up sometimes and stop torturing me.


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Asoka

Pearls of wisdom

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 11 Dec 2021, 16:13

Still cannot do this assignment, I just can't get my brain to engage with it. My short term memory feels all shot to Hell. I sat there staring at the questions and I just couldn't get my head round them. I used to be good at maths, but now I just can't seem to understand it anymore which is really frustrating.

I am however finding a tiny bit of solace writing on this blog. I am sorry if my posts of late have been a bit depressing. I am someone who believes in not covering up how I feel. The idea that we should all be heroically juggling balls and feeling happy all the time is nonsense. I know that despite all the smiley faces, happy families, success stories, congrats, and holiday snapshots on social media, that everyone else also has their dysfunctional tearful crazy moments. It is just they don't post those, because it is frowned down on in society, stigmatised, people don't like to remember that life isn't always sweet-smelling roses out there, that sometimes it's thorny as f#ck.

But those thorny moments should not be rejected. Those painful memories if reflected on and learnt from, and understood are like an oyster making a pearl of wisdom. Painful but perhaps become one's greatest treasure of all. As it is both the ups and downs that make us whole, that create the depth of our being, that make us wiser, make us shine brighter and cause us to grow.



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Asoka

Monday morning

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, 21:40

Got my window open, strong winds from earlier have died down now to a gentle breeze. In sky, seagulls glide by sailiing the air currents. A jackdaw I call 'Blue', because he has a blue sheen to his feathers, comes into my room and helps himself to some food I left out for him. It is cool, I don't mind, I've known him for years. It is like the garden is extended to my room (when the window is open). Helps my mind feel at ease, peaceful inside. Although it gets bloody cold sometimes, think I will go make a coffee to warm up my hands and then get back to the studying and thinking.

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