Sunday, June 13, 2010

do your work, then step back

The Tao doesn't take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.- Tao Te Ching

Thomas Bayrle, Maxwell Kaffee, Oil on canvas (1967).

Alfredo Triff

Let's talk about this void which calls forth the fullness, the coexistence of Tao in both subject and object, essence and appearance. Imagine a situation, which shows itself as something not complete, an event that demands our involvement, yet, the situation appears imperfect, out of joint. Chto delat?

I take Thomas Bayrle Maxwell Kaffee as a metaphor for the nausea that implacably pursues Roquentin in La Nausée, a weird paradox of one and the many that we find again in Kenyan artist Ingrid Mwuangi's If:

The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things. (vers. 42)1

Ingrid Mwuangi, If, digital c-prints mounted on aluminum (2001).

The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities. (vers. 4)

According to the Tao Te Ching, our will to fix things can paradoxically take us into unexpected detours. Let me explain: I don't see my will as being impeded by anything other than my desire to act. But in the big realm of overall causation, I'm not alone. My will is "differential," i.e., one amongst hundreds of millions of other intersecting wills. Seldom I stop to ponder my volition as a very small fraction of an overall sum of (unknown) wills, not only in the here and now, plus the already existing chain/reactions which precede my time/space.

How to see my will vis-a-vis this higher order of will/differentials? What's the relative limit between my doing and my doing too much? And viceversa, how much of our lives simply end up -unknowingly- "happening" to us?
Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder, edition of Collier's magazine (June 1952).

Just as in Bradbury's A Sounf of Thunder,2 imagine how much of our planet's future is -and is not- in our hands right now.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand. ( vers. 5)

On the positive side, think of serendipity in science, randomness in quantum mechanics and aleatorism in music! 3

Marco Fusinato, Mass Black Implosion, ink on archival facsimile of score (2007).

On the negative side, think of Black Swans, Popper's historicist fallacy, chaos theory and uneventful events. Which brings us back to the mismatch of essence/appearance. Of course, the question that we need to answer is how can we "tell" the difference? 

Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped. (vers. 14)

The answer to the problem is not that simple because there is no single unequivocal course of action. It's at this point that jazz can help. When musicians improvise, they are also part of a center of energy given by the whole ensemble. If one sees it synchronically (as if you could make a slice in the music sequence) the musicians seem to solo, if one sees it diachronically, it plays as a perfectly fit sequence. The success of the solo depends precisely of this give-and-take between part and whole and vice-versa. This is known as "groove," the sort of Tao of jazz.4 Miles Davis' So What illustrates the point eloquently:

As in jazz, Taoism is perspectival, i.e., there can be different solutions to a given problem.This doesn't mean that all solutions are the same. Just as there are good and bad improvisations, there are good and bad solutions to a given problem.

Tao can have multiple interpretations. Why? It's part of the our conceptual constructivism. Think of this question: Is the Big Dipper made by Nature? Philosopher Nelson Goodman thinks not. For Goodman, "a constellation" is a "version," i.e., a construction that picks these stars from others. The same with "star," a version that "picks" (configures) stars from other celestial bodies.5

Lecia Dole-Recio, Untitled, paper, vellum, tape and gouache (2003).

Goodman explains:
Truth of statements,rightness of descriptions, representations, exemplifications, expressions,... is primarily a matter of fit, fit to what is referred to in one way, or other renderings, or modes and manners of organization.6

In our quest/struggle with Reality, we keep building construction upon construction (human endeavor in science, politics and the arts, reflects this dynamic). What comes first in Ochoa's Collapsed? Hint: The concrete wall is the future event of the aggregate of rock, sand and water. You see the cause, then you see the effect, but never at once. Art does the trick! 

Ruben Ochoa, Collapsed, Concrete, steel, burlap, wood, dirt (2009).

At some point we discussed the apparent riddle of the Tao Te Ching, which brings forth the idea "speaking/not speaking" in Zen, which we'll go into detail next week. The Chuang Tzu helps: "If Tao is made clear (by words), it is not Tao. If words are argumentative, they do not reach the point."
In classical Chinese, the character bian (dispute) is the synonym of another bian (discriminate), because the former contains the meaning of the latter. The character bian (discriminate) also has a synonym, which, structurally consisting of "half" and "knife," meaning both to decide (to judge) and to divide (to cut into half). Dispute, as such, implies using language to discriminate, to divide. Whenever there is a dispute, something is left unseen. Wherever there is division, something is left undivided. Every right (shi) and wrong (fei), a fixed binary division, conceals something. Something else is being covered up by every seeing of something. This covering up, has no secure ground, not only because one thing and its other are mutually dependent -or mutually conditioned-, but also because it is always possible to shift the angles from which one looks at them.7
Then, we discussed an important and often glossed over element in Taoism: humor. Let's come back to it. Chuang Tzu counsels:

"The general idea is to show the happy excursion, the enjoyment in the way of inaction and self-enjoyment." (Chuang Tzu, A Happy Excursion)

No one fits this metaphor better than a child. We must try to bring back our lost innocence and sense of wonderment. There is something to be said for a child's natural ability to take in the world without prejudice.

Brian Chippendale, Ninja and Maggot Series, (2006).

Unfortunately, growing up means repressing this ability so that the adult becomes an entrenchment of hardened stereotypes. Meanwhile, our ability for enjoyment gets regimented and instrumentalized.

"Having fun" -as we usually use the word nowadays- carries this sense of being entertained, which in our post-Capitalist society is exactly the opposite of true fun, the equivalent of forfeiting our curiosity by domesticating ourselves into vacuous, purposeless compliance.

Against this disposition we must present Tao's flexible, contrarian (even comical) side:

 Teruhiko Yumura This is Ja, for Flamingo Studio

Tao's flexibility avoids the pitfalls of intellectual constipation:
Proud beyond measure,
you come to your knees:
Do enough without vieing,
Be living, not dying.

 "A man who knows he is a fool is not a great fool," advises Chuang Tzu. Later, this "fool" becomes an important character in Zen. I'd like to warn, however, of unproblematically going for enjoyment, not only because to begin with, the Capitalist imperative "enjoy yourself" can castrate the feeling, but because, as Sarah Kay points out, enjoyment can be a double-edge sword: "enjoy-meant," and the meaning displaces being.8 Said differently, the desire ends up killing the feeling. I think this is what philosopher Simon Critchley has in mind when he cites a telling passage from Beckett's Watt:
The bitter the hollow and -haw, haw!- the mirthless. The bitter laugh laughs at that which is not good, it is the ethics laugh. The hollow laugh laughs at that which is not true, it is the intellectual laugh. Not good! Not true! Well, well. But the mirthless laugh is the dianoetic laugh, down the snout - haw!- so. It is the laugh of laughs, the risus purus, the laugh laughing at the laugh, the beholding, the saluting of the highest joke, in a word the laugh that laughs -silence please- at that which is unhappy. 9
Critchely suggests that risus purus may function as a therapy to demystify some of the most (resilient and) negative attitudes of our political sphere: anal retentiveness, social hostility, violence and self-importance.
1 Taken from Tao Te Ching, translated by S. Mitchell2 In his short story A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury imagines the impact of the so-called butterfly effect:
Maybe Time can't be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn't see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don’t know. We’re guessing. But until we do know for certain whether our messing around in Time can make a big roar or a little rustle in history, we’re being careful.
3 Serendipity is the finding of something valuable without its being specifically sought. In general, activities and skills that can function in parallel may interact in unplanned and unforeseen ways. Professor Jeffrey McKee argues that some of the most important forces of human evolution (the roles of which have been largely neglected) are chance, coincidence, and chaos. According to McKee one cannot understand how humans evolved without taking these three factors into account. See, The riddled chain: Chance, coincidence, and chaos in human evolution (Rutgers University Press, 2000). 4"When jazz is really grooving -whether it's a solo pianist, a quartet, or a big band -there is indeed an unmistakable feeling of buoyancy and lift (...) relaxed intensity is the key." Johnny King, What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz (Walker: 1997) p. 24. 5 Hilary Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, (Cambridge, 1992), p. 115. 6Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, (Hackett Publishing, 1978).  7 See, Youru Wang, Linguistic Strategies in Daoist Chuang-Tzu and Zen Buddhism: The Other Way of Speaking (Routledge, 2003), p. 98.  8Sarah Kay, Zizek: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge, 2003), p. 162. Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding, (Verso, 2007), p. 82.


Angela said...

Here is my subtle whisper of will expressed - perhaps it will cause something... but I cant even worry about that. All I know is that out of our myriad of conversations, I'm now having an open dinner at my house on Tuesdays. A pilot project, if you will. Slow food for no reason - the lost art. 8 are coming tomorrow night, and its pretty much a vegetarian meal, quite by accident. I also asked my landlord if I could use the planter on our property for a tomato plant. No pesticides, organic, available to all in my 12 unit building. You get the picture. He's cool with it, and apparently theres a girl in #8 that is a whiz at growing fruits and vegetables. So... this could go 2 ways. Either its a dead plant in 6 wks, or we get a little community garden going, heheh! Either way, I feel good about trying. But not too good, of course :) So... you guys should know you did this to me, by the way. Theres no way I would be trying to share food or grow food except for the things we spoke of. So thanks. I'm gonna miss our class.

Feminista said...

Triff, I like this message. It seems more practical and less metaphysical.

anonymous said...

Thoughtful, revealing connexions of ideas through cultures and eras.

Isabelle Martinez said...

I cannot help to think of the relative limit between ‘my doing and my doing too much.’ This question makes its way present in every facet of my life: my studies and academic life, my activities, my social life. There are moments where I feel I should just stand back and let nature take its course because perhaps much of my life will just ‘happen.” There are almost moments where I feel I should I just think in the way of the Tao: “the more [I] use it, the more it produces;” in this case, it shall produce results, my dreams.

I believe in the serendipity in science and its randomness. I read a book in high school called “When Good Things Happen to Bad People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. One of main premises of this book is that nature is at times simply random, as in science and in music’s aleatoricism. We must be “livng, not dying” and life will be filled with its infinite possibilities.

How much is the planet’s future in our hands at this moment? Well, all of it. Global warming, pollution, and oil spills are a direct result of human actions and decisions that lead to detrimental consequences. Like in Bradbury’s tale, the quality of life in this planet for our future generations rests in our conscious decisions.

Nicolas said...

We do need to become more like children when it comes to providing ourselves with self enjoyment. Its the innocent peaceful joy of life that children have which make them so special, makes them so valuable, and treasured. I remember as a child I used to collect scrap wood that my father would lay around and I would build my own toys out of them. I enjoyed my creation but I also enjoyed what I was able to create, I enjoyed myself. I didn't actually want any store bought toys until I was much older, after everyone told me that I needed this or that. As I got older the toys I needed I never actually needed and I learned that fun is something you can only make not buy. An iPhone can not bring you enjoyment, no matter how many Youtube videos and text messages you can send. If you believe it does its because you have allowed yourself to be fooled. Enjoyment exists inside us and nothing external, if an iPhone or any other external thing gives you enjoyment it is because you have given it the power to give you enjoyment. Your imagination has made it fun. Your imagination has the awesome power to turn a block of wood into a race car, a submarine, or a dog. Flexing your imagination is where true self enjoyment is. Because once we know the power of our imagination and that enjoyment doesn't exist any where else but inside ourselves than we can begin to enjoy ourselves.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The choice between action and inaction is quite a difficult one to make. Personally, I find myself having to rely on what seems to be termed “instinct”. However, it seems impossible to gauge the effectiveness of one’s decisions without having recourse to the perspective offered by hindsight. Even thus, what is to say that the action one took could not have been done so in a more fruitful way? It is such questions that can preoccupy the majority of one’s time, and, unfortunately, to say that any kind of concrete answer can be offered seems to be a farfetched claim. All I can trust is that I respond to situations adequately, according to the measure of grace I have at a given time.

One thing that continually sticks out to me is the fact that Tao can never be expressed accurately in words. Such reminds me that, at best, language is only an approximation of an idea, or collection of ideas, in any situation. Though language is a construct of man, and it would seem that as such we would be experts in regards to its usage, I have experienced instances where words simply could not convey the meaning I was trying to present. I do not believe there is any fault in this. Once again, as language is an approximation, that it exists in an imperfect state is to be expected. There are moments when language fails. What is suggested is that Tao falls somewhere in this category, as a number of verses in the Tao Te Ching affirm. We can achieve some idea of the entirety of Tao, perhaps, but true understanding must elude us.

Katherine Irene said...

What's the relative limit between my doing and my doing too much?

To this question, Taoism gives us a couple of interesting answers

In the Tao Te Ching…

“Doing” is another name for wu-wei (“inaction”). These are actions that accommodate or simply respond to the natural course of events (the Tao of nature) and in which the actor does not attach to the outcome. [If we think about it, it makes sense to call these actions “inactions” because they simply follow the natural tendencies of the events around us: they do not seek to confront the world, they merely respond gracefully]. Their parallel in the Baghavad Gita are the actions that Krishna once recommended to Arjuna: those performed without concern for rewards, prospects of success and--most importantly--without the attachment to results and control that generates anxiety.

“Doing too much” on the other hand, is acting outside the Tao. That is, acting against the dynamic ebb of the world and with attachment-to-results as the driving motivation.

To illustrate the difference, between the two I came up with is this scenario:

Scenario: You place an order at a restaurant but get a different one.
Simple “doing”: You ask for a change calmly but if you do not get it, you’ll smile gracefully and move on. You may try this new order for a change (change is good!) or simply re-order without getting worked up.
“Doing too much”: You demand a change at all costs and if you do not receive it, you get angry, vow never to return to that restaurant and even carry that anger with you for the rest of the day.

In the Zhuangzi…

“Doing” is simply another name for actions that have taken the insight of Anti-realism—the denial that there is any one valid perspective to describe reality--to heart. Since nothing in the world is actually real, all the concepts (think dialectical binaries like rightness/wrongness, etc), labels (think prestige, power, beauty, popularity, etc) and events (think death, marriage, etc) that people take seriously, lose their power to create inner tension. As a result, these are actions that at their most basic do not take human conventions seriously—and so are playful and accommodating—and at their best are creative and innovative—and so denote personal touch precisely because forms do not compel obedience. They take into account that the world is in flux and as a result add in their “magic to the mix” rather than follow what the conventions would dictate.

“Doing too much” on the other hand, refers to actions that presuppose the false metaphysics of Realism and that are, as a result, characterized by rigidity and seriousness. They are, in short, driven by the attachment-to-control that generates anxiety.

Here is a scenario that I thought captures the difference between the two

Scenario: Cutting fruit for an “important” contest
Simple “doing”: You cut the fruit in irregular shapes and set them up in a bouquet arrangement to add personal touch to the presentation. You have fun doing this and completely forget that you are in a contest.
“Doing too much”: You cuts fruit as neatly as possible and arrange them by type on the plate just to err on the side of caution because you’ve heard the judges are strict and you are set on pleasing them (a lackluster presentation that follows protocol).

Katherine Irene said...

Second question: Sure, voluntarism is a well-respected part of our strategy of success. But think about it, how many of the things (we think) we do turn out to be the opposite of what we anticipated?

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu makes a priceless observation that we could call the operating Law of the Taoist world: Pushing often leads to the opposite of what one pushes for.

Why is this law generally true?

In the sphere of wills--Human contrariety is the likely culprit. We react against categories which put us in the bad and desire more strongly what is denied to us. (Nagging is a good example. If we nag for something, the other person will likely get annoyed and deny us what we wanted just to not feel manipulated)

In the sphere of actions, “pushing” denotes attachment to control and belief in the ‘false’ metaphysics of Realism that Taoism denies. In this sphere the likely culprit is the negative effects that “pushing” has on our outward behavior--for example, losing spontaneity/creativity/playfulness and generating anxiety. Because “pushing” then affects our resulting behavior negatively, our behavior—I think!--has the unfortunate effect of skewing the odds of failure towards us. (Anxiety increases the chances that we will make mistakes. And losing spontaneity/playfulness/innovativeness means that we lose precisely that quality that would produce an excellent performance).

Just some thoughts I thought may help shed some light on the mystery of the Law of the Taoist world…

Melissa Castillo said...

I started to read a book which may qualify itself as "new age." I can't remember the name but basically the author attempts to kill himself and the second before he begins to have revelations which resemble what Buddha and Jesus preached. Its what most people don't realize until they're about to die, which is "nirvana" and "heaven" and all these beautiful sounding states of mind. In the intro of the book, he uses a story about a zen master in which he just lets things happen to him, such as somebody accusing him of getting a girl pregnant, which he did not, and simply took the baby that was given to him to take care of. This because he took things as they came, rather than wasting energy changing it, forcing it. This whole not doing too much idea and that many times the world happens to us, actions shouldn't be forced. And it also makes me think of a kid, brought up later in the post, how a truly carefree child completely engrossed in the pattern and freedom of his or her life can fall, cry for 2 seconds, and realize that the playground can still be fun. Its the simplicity, the realizing that so much should just be let go. Its all extraness that really, does not make a difference. We just let it make a difference due to the conditioning of structured society.

Melissa Castillo said...

I started to read a book which may qualify itself as "new age." I can't remember the name but basically the author attempts to kill himself and the second before he begins to have revelations which resemble what Buddha and Jesus preached. Its what most people don't realize until they're about to die, which is "nirvana" and "heaven" and all these beautiful sounding states of mind. In the intro of the book, he uses a story about a zen master in which he just lets things happen to him, such as somebody accusing him of getting a girl pregnant, which he did not, and simply took the baby that was given to him to take care of. This because he took things as they came, rather than wasting energy changing it, forcing it. This whole not doing too much idea and that many times the world happens to us, actions shouldn't be forced. And it also makes me think of a kid, brought up later in the post, how a truly carefree child completely engrossed in the pattern and freedom of his or her life can fall, cry for 2 seconds, and realize that the playground can still be fun. Its the simplicity, the realizing that so much should just be let go. Its all extraness that really, does not make a difference. We just let it make a difference due to the conditioning of structured society.

Alia Almeida said...

I loveeeed this post! It makes you really think.

I think not only do we have to step back and look at what we do, but we also have to clarify our perspective. We need to start researching our choices that we make. Maybe for the expense of time, but at the same time we save so much by doing thus. Sure, it might take an hour for you to go shopping but not only do you save money by researching, but you save long-term as well as materials. Just as you said…your actions affect consequences. But we also need to be as aware as possible. The keyword here is aware. We may not know everything, but a little knowledge could go a long way.

A.T. said...

Thanks Angela. We'll miss you.

Isabelle: "All of it", I take it as a groovy mantra.

Nicolas, I like "flexing your imagination."

Hans, indeed. Language fails.

KI, I've enjoyed your -interesting- distinctions between doing and doing too much!

Melissa: ... "cry for 2 seconds." Nice would-be koan!

Yes, Alia. It's all about awareness.

Francis said...

I believe that the answer lies in what we tell ourselves as we grow up year after year. We repeat “I want to be older, I want to be more mature, and I want to be more independent” like a mantra over and over again until we grow into adults. What we don’t realize is that sometimes we spend so much time trying to mold ourselves into our image of what an adult is that we lose sight of how to have fun or the simple little things that made us happy. I think we all as a child had a toy or an item that we would carry around everywhere and it accompanied us in all our adventures. Our imaginations became our greatest assets, and the ability to transport ourselves into our imaginary world at will, allowing time to slip by almost carelessly. Furthermore we became what we imagined, we saw ourselves as the characters we invented within the scenarios our minds designed, allowing us to see the world as truly an endless horizon of possibilities. Yet as we grow up, we have to force our minds to envision and train it to focus on what we want it to do. We train ourselves to deal with every day pressures and overload on stress hoping that it will grant us the strength we need for the next “promotion” in our lives. Spending so much time within this world that allows up very little time to do any sort of recreational activity we lose sight of the child within ourselves, and the person inside of us the is endlessly optimistic. I truly think that we need to go back and remember how it felt to be a child and find that the simple things in life will bring us true joy.

Ingrid said...

Ingrid Castillo

"We must try to bring back our lost innocence and sense of wonderment"

I've always pondered on whether or not this is true. As we get older we tend to acquire more and more responsiblities and we start to see all things dealing with creativity and imagination as a waste of time. A time that we think we must dedicate to "serious" things. It seems silly to mention this story, but "The little prince" resonates so loudly with the above sentence. In the story, the pilot tells of how when he was small he use to draw however the "adults" never understood his drawings and so he decided to give up on them. When he meets the little prince, which is a young child, the prince quickly understands his drawing.

THe reason why I mention this, is that when we let ourselves become child-like the world reveals its wonder to us. The same way the prince child was able to "see" the pilots' drawing.

Being child-like does not mean letting go of our responsibilities because that would be to negate ones dharma. However, I do believe that perhaps if we took into consideration that child-like quality that helped shape our world early on, we would approach our dharma differently.

Carolina Diaz said...

In my opinion I truly believe that we do not live our lives with complete awareness hence, alot of our actions in life are acted unconsciously. Throughout most of our lives we do not take full responsibility of our actions and words. We must act with intelligence and understand that you alone are responsible for what you say or do. Being aware can break you away from the “dark” things in your life or previous years of life, things like habit unconscious actions, hatred, revenge etc. We need to have spiritual awareness, where I believe is the principle foundation of how we live our lives, asking ourselves why are we here? How should you live your life? To be spiritual is to be conscious of ourselves. This kind of awareness however, takes focus and some practice. Don’t believe in the misconception that you have to be religious to be spiritual.
We also have to be aware of the environment we live in, how can we live in a world where we can refrain from overconsumption? Sometimes people don’t realize that we cannot maintain ourselves fully with overconsumption and being materialistic. We need to know how to take care of the environment we live in, cherish the resources around and learn to live in a balance.
We have to remember that when someone or something suffers because of a decision we made, we are obviously responsible. The responsibility is not to feel guilty or ashamed, just think of it as a little reminder that our actions do affect others. This in itself can help us to make better choices which can affect us and others in a positive way.

Anonymous said...

Triff, I have to agree with Alia on this one. I really enjoyed this post and I feel that of all the posts, this is the one that I can relate to the most.

I feel that these are issues and events that each and everyone of us experiences on a daily basis. The question of: how do we know whether or not whether we really are putting in too much and how to tell one from the other is something I don't believe is truly possible or something that we as humans are capable of putting into effect consistently. We might never figure out how to handle such situations, or even if we would, how would we constantly remind ourselves to act or handle something in a certain fashion? Like Triff said in the blog, "we should ponder more", take the possible consequences of our actions more seriously, and search for a set direction that we can not only feel comfortable embarking on, but one that will also give us the ability to feel confident enough in our anilities and actions to handle the situations life throws our way.

As an individual, I believe my knowledge with respect to these events is growing and strenthening with each one that comes.

valeska said...

I've notice that all the books Triff introduced us point to the same thing, which is self-realization. Some books seem very complex and others very simple and easy to understand, but they all have one thing in common, which is to encourage you to dare to know yourself. If you don't, they say, you will be condemned to live in a perpetual state of stagnation and ignorance (the path of evil). I think the message here is that we should really rethink what's important in life, and I can't think of anything more important that to truly get know ourselves, I think that's our purpose.
I loved the class, thanks Triff for showing us all this cool books.
Valeska Brieva

Alia Almeida said...

I’m really digging what Francis said.

It reminds me of the Hindu idea within the Bhagavad Gita that we must stop obsessing over ‘the ends’ and rather focus on ‘the means.’ As little kids, we are so absorbed with the appearance of being older and more mature. For kids (at least for me when I was a kid), to be the oldest was a sign of superiority. So because they are so maturity-centric so many kids lose that spark early that gives us a true view of optimism and pure imagination. Suddenly these kids become stressed with the smallest thing and can think of nothing else but solving said small thing. I think it is as Triff says in his blog post, as we become adults we turn into these hardened ‘stereotypes’ that are entrenched in their lives. There’s a reason every religion mentions being more “child-like” and it’s not to understand kids better but rather, to open your perspective up to the truth and understand it more.

gnarley nai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gnarley nai said...

We are born to die. Even before reincarnation, comes demise. And though we might not think of that every day, our lives are absolutely consumed and driven by death. We are constantly on the move. Why are we a society that coddles instant gratification? We want and need things NOW. We operate under this pretense that the sooner things get done, the better. We've stopped savoring life and instead shove it down our throats to get to our next meeting. We do these things because of death. We try to do as much as humanly possible before we are no longer able to. Why do you think it's called a deadline? In this rush (which by the way, is doing way too much), we grow up. Adults frown upon immaturity, we stop using our imaginations, we consciously give up things that used to be "fun" when we were younger (which I think is the only time you really do have fun -- fun as an adult can be contrived perversions of your younger fun) because it displays moving past the past. Somehow, in our mangled minds, constantly moving forward and leaving things behind is a sign of maturity and progressiveness that equates doing, and ultimately, gets us to that do-everything-you-can-before-you-die goal.

Instead of taking time to enjoy life, we rush through it with puppet strings of urgency on our backs, (mistakenly) thinking that we are the ones who are controlling our own lives. We do too much and leave no place for the pure and right eros, and only leave room for the dominant side of it.

We have unknowingly shunned wu-wei and live it's antithesis.

Gabe Biason the Pirate said...

Im tired of arguing with these posts. So what if I think the idea of Tao is being misconstrued as to be self serving? Surely I could, as authors before me, reject the ideas and show why (as they exist in the text) they are contradictory or the premises do not follow. But to what purpose? These arguments against these thoughts have been made for centuries and I feel are becoming stale.

Therefore I will move away from a very destructive and Deconstructive (in the Derrida sense) view of this text and try and build on the constructive side of this post. In essence, I want to discuss how these ideas could be used today as you do in a positive sense. Simply, what Angela said moved me.

I think if we discuss doing and not doing, or doing and over-doing we need to understand the main mechanism that allows us to begin to comprehend these ideas. You discuss causality, especially in the sense of "possibility" (as in the possible billion mice). You say that your "will" to do is just one of a billion "wills" to do. Just a tiny slice of the pie. And moreover your will only exists in the space/time as you percieve it right now, that there have been an uncountable amount of "wills" that have led you to your very limited choices (in the span of infinite choices).

This though seems to me to be a misunderstanding of Time itself. We take the words "Time is relative" with a grain of salt now a days. But verily, no truer words have ever been spoken. As I sit typing this post I feel as if time is passing, but it is not. It is only existing. There is no time without matter, it is relative. If I was not moving, if the particles that make me are not moving (if there is no randomness), than there is no time fore there would be no one to percieve it as such.

Time only exists, as it existed 5 minutes ago, as it existed millenia ago, it still exists. There is no current, no past, no future as far as time is concerned. What I mean is we should not view these things as linear, with a beginning and an ending.

As I walk around on a day to day basis I make decisions. I empower myself. But what I fail to understand is that all these decisions were bound to happen as I percieve anything as "happening".

Gabe Biason the Pirate said...

I love what Andy Warhol said about time (himself having no narrative skills at all, as he could not percieve stories happening in order) "Whenever I think about Time, all I can think is Time is and Time was".

Think of Time as Space Mountain (the roller coaster in the dark). You ride Space Mountain and things are happening. You are going up and down and left and right, and you can percieve this. Yet you do not know what is going to happen in a few seconds as you can not see the tracks. Once you are off Space Mountain you think of what you just experience as "what happened" to you or "what you did". But the tracks are still there. The moments, as singularly as you want to make them, still exist as a whole, as a part of the track. As they will exist for eternity (Disney is pretty good at maintaining things lol).

So how can I differentiate between doing and over-doing? It seems to me that niether exist. Instead you *will do* and if you dont believe me, if you think you have ultimate will over everything, guess what you *will die*. What you do and what you have done have always existed, you just havent percieved the things you will do in the future yet but they are bound to happen.

The idea is "lets not confuse what we see time as (a measuring unit) as to what time really is".

How can we use this thought in a positive way? Well if I know that what I do is bound in existence for eternity than I must act in the best possible way I know. The most humanastic, utilitarian way I know how.

Everything I do I will either be forever proud of (in the moment of the action, in the future, and in the infinite existence of the action itself as the nature of time deems) or forever ashamed of as I exist in each singular moment after the action forever in its own moment.

Ana Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ana Maria said...

Triff: A compelling post, borrowing from different sources which makes it quite entertaining. I agree that we want to dominate way too much what's not in our power.

Sometimes I feel ambivalent. What if I do less thinking that I'm doing too much? True, I sometimes overreach.

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. See you Saturday!

Ted said...

I often get criticized about my "childish" behavior. But why grow up? Why ruin the innocence of mind? Why be surrounded by the "troubles" of being a grown-up?

The essence of the child-like behavior keeps you sane, in a mad world full of ugliness. When your mind is like that of a child, you see the world in a different light. You can actually be continuously amazed in its glory.

When you are like a child, you observe more, and forget the prejudices of the earth. Grant it, you cannot be a simple child all the time (well, there's work and reality to postpone that behavior). But why the double personality? Simply put, DON'T!! Let it rest inside of you, just as you rested under the trees for shade in the summer. Let that part of you "rest" and regain the strength needed to live on!

Take a moment, breath and close your eyes. Imagine yourself as you were younger. Wipe the cobweb from those memories. remember the joy (not saying you can't enjoy them as an adult), LIVE them as the child within you beckons to emerge!!

I can almost guarantee (I won't fully guarantee, only because it depends on your commitment) that you will see the "light" inside of you.

I don't know about the rest of the class, but I experienced the readings in class, as a melting pot. I analyzed the words, to FEEL them live in my mind an soul! I allowed a sculpture (of building blocks if you would) to be formed, only to sit back and admire the grandeur of of it all. What a beauty it turns out to be! To live by the words, that is the challenge...almost as hard as it was finding the puddles of water to jump into as a child (By the way, I still do that from time to time. Just for S#!ts and giggles!).

Ted said...

See you all on Saturday!!

Laura Loret said...

Innocence is bliss. The modern world we live in has caused not only adults, but children, to lose themselves in advancing technology and morphed capitalistic ideals. Simplicity is key. With an inanimate object, such as a baseball bat or a wooden block, children can delve into their imaginations and realize that something so simple brings them happiness.

By indulging in simplicity, we learn to dissociate from negative forces in society, such as prejudice and greed. We focus on our spiritual growing and well-being in relation to nature, a positive, challenging environment.

Growing up is easy. The ability to channel one's inner-child into one's daily actions, however, proves to be a struggle.

Laura Loret de Mola

Karen said...

i so upset that i have to re-do this post again thank goodness i doubled checked. But yeah what i was saying was simple that i really like the idea with the fixing of problems. we try always and as a reaction to trying to fix it because of are desires it impacts the next cycle in our i learned a vaqluable lesson, sometimes even if you have the power to fix something, sometimes you just dont. this idea came to me when i lent a friend some money today but i realized me lending her the oney is not really gonna teach her how to save. i thought i was fixing a problem... if my friend doesnt have money and is going to go through great hell to get it, just help her so she wont have too. but with me helping her i realized i justed aided her cycle of non saving. the best way for me now is to look at a problem and to determine if its better to fix or not to fix

Julie McConnell said...

This is an interesting post for a few reasons – I often struggle with all these concepts you’ve mentioned. But I think the one factor that’s binding for all of them is the concept of cause and effect. It’s a very difficult, discomforting thought when anyone tries to think about what they can and can’t possibly do; it’s even be considered a mark of maturity (understanding one’s limits). Particularly, the Tao Te Ching strongly seems to support, “whatever is going to happen is going to happen anyway, the world often times create more problems than it solves.” I can only partially agree with this – I do not necessarily see this as an impetus to stop. There are good and bad solutions to everything, but I don’t see this as a motive not to pick an answer altogether. The world learns by its mistakes. On the other hand, I attest myself to this quote: “Your visions and ideals are as good as others’ understanding of them.”

Anonymous said...

For all your "myriads of metaphysical expositions of random" pretentions; you guys should work out how to use grammar.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous, you criticized the use of grammar in this thread yet you misused a semicolon. Let me give you a lesson. Semicolons are used to separate interdependent clauses. Your first clause is actually not a clause at all. In fact, your statement is crudely constructed and even if you replace the semicolon with a comma it is still a nonsensical way to structure what you are trying to say.

You are not only a douchebag for going around criticizing three year old threads; expectedly, you are a moron.