On Deep Connections: Yuan

I watched a video and a movie this weekend that feel deeply interconnected to me. I apologize ahead of time however, because this post goes against many of my principles of blogging: It is too long, has no illustrations, offers way too many links and crams far too many concepts into a rambling, chatty, self-indulgent, poorly edited post.  But damn it, sometimes you just got to throw discipline to the wind.


On noticing the almost magical deep connectedness between the movie and video described below, I could have been tempted to think, “Nothing happens by accident: the Universe/God is trying to teach me something.” But I agree with Piper in NetFlix’s new show, “Orange is the New Black“, when she says,

“I don’t believe we get Cancer to learn a life lesson.”

There is no Universal karma machine or god who controls or intervenes in human affairs — or that of squirrels, amoebas or even yours.

For more on those points, see my posts on: Road Kill Theology, and Everything Happens for a Reason.

So, if the intervening supernatural can’t be used to explain the amazing connection I saw in my viewing choices this weekend, maybe it is simply that I see lots of stuff over the week and remember vividly only the things that are similar to me — things I like.  And then I create a notion of “connectedness” while I ignore all sorts of other things and label them as ‘unconnected’. In other words, it is my convenient selection bias at work. Yeah that sounds right. But that view seems to destroy the magic, doesn’t it?

Well, in my web of beliefs, I have a connected belief in Yuan which, in this case, goes something like this: My mind is a mix of selves who can barely talk to each other but if honored properly, they can share in fruitful ways. Small voices, apparent connections and vibrant connections can be explored and nurtured in ways so that they may be roads to fruitfulness and happiness which may be otherwise missed. Life is short, nurture Yuan.

Yuan is still natural, not supernatural, but it honors relationships in such a way to nurture the vibrancy — to me, it is similar to the drone of a sitar. So, with no further ado, here are the two connected viewings:

1. Cloud Atlas

My son and I watched the amazing independent film “Cloud Atlas“.  We both loved it. Wait, you may say, Cloud Atlas is New Age hogwash. I agree. But it was hogwash done well and huge parts of me connect with it because part of their model generates outcomes similar to my model of reality.

Messages of the film were that kindness ripples in ways we can’t imagine and we and others are connected in a way that makes the notion of a singular self rather silly. The connectedness illustrated in the film was not one that entailed a purpose, it just is.

Reviewers responses were unfortunately predictable: Reason.com calls it “madly ambitious and ultimately banal.” Christianity Today panned it, of course, calling it “tiresome”. But I will be watching this long, tiresome banality over again being the uncritical sap I can often be.

The silly (all too common) New Age notion in the movie involves people being reincarnating in future lives where they keep intermingling with those with whom they had connections in the past — good or bad.

But heck, who am I to make fun of such a notion, I once had a dream that implied exactly that. See “My German Past Life“. So I guess it is a concept my many-selves both believe and don’t believe at the same time (see “Traffic Light Epistemology” for more). But I also don’t disbelieve it. Here is a quote from the movie I enjoyed: “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

As I ‘predicted’, I ramble. I haven’t even told you the amazing connected thing in this movie which connects it to the next item. It was the music: in particular, “The Cloud Atlas Sextet”. See this scene. But the whole sound track is amazing (I’ll be buying it). Slate magazine discusses the music here.  It is the atonality component of this piece woven with multiple themes in a coherence is what I loved.

2. Vihart’s “Twelve Tones

I’d never seen this video before. She is brilliant! I subscribed. Vihart’s stuff is amazing and full of many deeply interconnected thoughts. And to make her heavy philosophical/psychological points, she explored atonality using 12-tones through Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Ah, the connection — Cloud Atlas Sextet toyed with an atonal component. And like Cloud Atlas, Vihart’s piece is long, and though connected, it seems rambling — heck, sort of like this post. 🙂

My daughter watched part of Twelve Tones with me today and in disgust said, “Arghhh, don’t make everything so complicated”. But you see, that is what I share deeply with Vihart and with Cloud Atlas. Mind you, I deeply love my daughter, even if this stuff doesn’t resonate with her.

Next my daughter said, “She scares me.” I agree, Vihart has a certain unstable feel to her. But then I would know, I certainly have an unstable side to myself — I love that side, and I can see how it can be scary. We are all different animals — unfamiliar animals can be scary. But I wager if you like my insanity, you will also enjoy Vihart’s.


This was a long, self-involved post with obscure philosophy and way too many links. I wrote it mainly for myself, but if you made it this far and you understood any of the deeper, interwoven points I was trying to make, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you understood the allusions and thoughts here, you probably understand this phenomena called ‘Sabio’ pretty well.

Why write such a long, rambling piece that probably won’t be anything but skimmed at best? — for my many selves!

Challenge to Readers: If anyone cares to watch both pieces, read a few links and write about any connectedness they feel, I’d be terribly excited. Put it on your blog or put it here in these comments.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

10 responses to “On Deep Connections: Yuan

  1. Ian

    I didn’t find it long rambly or self-indulgent at all. It is good stuff. What happens when you don’t chase the page-counter, perhaps? 🙂

    I haven’t seen cloud atlas yet, but a couple of folks have said I should. I do love Vi Hart, however, but yes. I’d never brought it to mind in a clear way, but have felt there’s something unsafe there in a cool way. Dan loves the Mr Ug and Wind story from her channel. He insisted we make our own version to try out the challenge at the end.

  2. TWF

    But I am often a bit of an uncritical sap.
    What, are you kidding me? You’re incredibly critical. 🙂 Just count how many times you criticized yourself for going against your rules of posting. It’s just that you are selectively critical. 😉

    I enjoyed the post, rambling style and all. Hell, if The Catcher and the Rye can be considered a classic, I don’t think anyone should fear rambling on from time to time. It’s organic. It’s good to let the selves out to have a discussion with each other.

    Vihart is awesome. Brilliant work…. like that scary kind of brilliant that makes me feel like I’m still banging square pegs into round holes.

    Funny how the different tonal shapes go from awkward and harsh to fitting and appreciated as you continue to delve into them. I sometimes whistle little ditties of quasi-random notes myself, only to string them together into something song-like. So I can definitely identify with Vihart.

    And, of course, that sparks the question of whether or not the patterns and nodes of inter-connectivity truly exist, or rather if we’ve just perceived similar sets of dissonant coincidences often enough that they become music to our pattern-loving minds.

  3. I love Orange is the New Black!! I will have to watch Cloud Atlas, it’s on my list. I will check out Vihart’s tonight as well! Thanks for the link.

    “I don’t believe we get Cancer to learn a life lesson.”
    -When it comes to suffering, God offers us presence, not protection. -Carolyne Call. However, if someone finds meaning in ““Nothing happens by accident: the Universe/God is trying to teach me something.” then I’m not messing with it. Same with the opposite: “this just is, there is no reason, or god or spooks.” Multiple ways to go forward in the face of suffering.

    “My mind is a mix of selves who can barely talk to each other but if honored properly can share in fruitful ways.”
    -Nicely put!

    “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
    -Sounds pretty biblical… like Paul. We live in community, both as multiple selves as well as a singular community of multi-selfs among other mutli-selfs. Or to put it simply: We are a community living in community with others.

    “But I wager if you like my insanity, you will also enjoy Vihart’s.”

    Great post, really enjoyed it. I think it is this sort of yuan thinking that keeps us talking. You say yuan, I say God, and there’s a lot of overlap. And a lot not.. but this was an excellent and personal post. Thank you.

  4. @ Ian,
    Just to be clear: I never “chase a page-counter”.
    I will have to look up Mr. Ug and Wind.
    Who is “Dan” (your son?).

    @ TWF,
    OK, selectively critical — when it comes to entertainment, I often suspend judgement.
    Well, that and pretty women. 😉
    Great comment and thoughts.

    @ Luke,

    (1) No matter what Carolyne Call says, Hebrew and Christian scriptures portraits a god who offers protection.

    (2) I have heard Christians and Hindus alike explain rape as “God/Karma is trying to teach her something.” When this horrible use of this expression displays its ugly face (or many like it), I will say something. Sometimes stupid ideas boldly declare their incoherence. Other times, as you imply, they are benign enough — but for how long?

    (3) Different from Paul, our lives belong to no one, not to a god, for sure. But I live your improvement on Paul. But the canon is closed — and “The Gospel According to Luke” is already taken. Damn! 🙂

    (4) I think there is overlap over your God and my Yuan — and our overlap is large & all non-spiritual. That is, I feel your god is largely non-spiritual with a spiritual coating. But then maybe you feel my Yuan is a god robbed of her holy garments — ah, divine nudity! 😉

  5. (1) Often, but like everything related to the bible, there’s exceptions. The Wisdom Lit and Matt 10:29. Not much protection there.

    (2) All systems crash against the rocks of suffering and evil sooner or later. Nothing is safe.

    (3) We are not our own, for we have been made new. New in Christ or new in the realization of multiple selves, it’s all a matter of perspective.

    (4) Ha! Well, further reminder that I can’t express my spirituality in this medium, try as I might. Way to practical sounding, but it’s there…

  6. @ Luke,
    Of course there are exception (as you say in #1), but your Ms. Call generalized. And you quoted her as if it was suppose to counter the objection that “I don’t believe we get Cancer to learn a life lesson.” Instead of saying something like:

    Yes, though the Bible and many Christianities (and other religions) are full of the silly idea that “we get Cancer to learn a life lesson.” I pick and chose what I like from the Bible so my Christianity doesn’t have that. So my god only offers me comforting presence and not protection — counter to many of the promises of the Christian and Jewish god recorded sometimes in their scriptures.

    Because that is all you really said. (or so it seems to me). You just posted a quick quote as if it meant something deep. Two issues I have with that sort of approach:

    (A) Defending Christianity, Religion or the Bible — as words:
    Dropping in to tell us “No, no — that ain’t my Christianity”, is all fine and good, but it may help to acknowledge the others. I keep feeling a “I’ve got to protect the word Christianity or Bible because I use them.” reflex that blocks dialogue. Just an impression.

    (B) Quote Dropping:
    Quote Dropping is a real religious trait — it even persists in some academic circles where I dislike it too. Christians, Muslims and Jews do it a lot. They quote drop their scripture as if that has authority in itself. I, and many other skeptics, like different levels of epistemology and quote dropping with out explanation can lead into this mirky difference. Just a suggestion.

  7. (A) Not defending, making sure you’re on it. With a huge mistake like saying “Jesus was only for the Jews” I want to make sure you have correct information about the bible. No defense, just information for a broader view, much like you provide on my blog.

    Same with: “Everything happens for a reason/God protects us.”

    While some things DO happen for “a reason” (known or unknown, revealed now or later, or never) in scripture, that’s not the same thing as saying “everything” happens for a reason. That’s interpretation stuff mostly.

    No – biblically speaking, everything does NOT happen for a reason. Towers of Siloam fall, and the people killed are no better or no worse than others. Rain falls on the crops of wicked people, while drought comes to the righteous. And – read the story of the man born blind – Jesus went out of his way to break the association between someone’s suffering, and sins. Kinda sounds like you there a little. Yet the difference is that Jesus states that God can bring good out of tragic and terrible situations, but that is NOT the same thing as saying that God causes every tragic or terrible situation to happen in the first place. And those examples are off the top of my head, if I spent more time, I could come up with many many more.

    So your claim that this “counter to many of the promises of the Christian and Jewish god recorded sometimes in their scriptures.” is true, but the instances of scripture saying what’s up with this?!” gets much higher and it actually lowers once you take into account interpretation. For instance, when we hear Joseph state to his family, “God sent me to Egypt ahead of you to prepare this place for us.” we know this is hindsight stuff. It lends itself to either interpretation.

    (B) Plato said in The Republic: ““I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” So to act like I know something, I quote others. I learned this in all the time spent in academia getting my masters. How’s that for a prickish name dropping pseudo-authoritative statement? 😉

  8. There is no such thing as “biblically speaking”, just a bunch of people doing retro-prophecy with different views and agendas. But I would not be surprised if some others weren’t writing about a protective god, though clearly others were. And much of Christianity is banking on a protective spirit magic.

  9. That’s your interpretation.

  10. yep — mine and that of many others. I don’t approach the Bible books, the Mahabharata, Greek Myths or any other of these as a believer.

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