How can I play into the hands of my Maker, when all of a sudden I have come to be, it seems.
My mind is focused on something and I can even see I have been moving towards it. It brings its path, like stepping stones falling into place one by one, willed by my own mind, perhaps.
As things happen, actually happen, small events like going out, carry a message which was meant for me, so I must look and listen very carefully. Larger things which make my life too, now seem to be to take me on my way. Even little things which may not seem so important are leading to the`path which takes us to God.
The purpose which I seek is already in my life, a path upon which I am going. Experiences unfold, guided by the Maker of this world and me. Therefore, what we do with our life plays an important role in where we end up. Though our Maker decides and unfolds a lot for us, as human beings, what we do affects us later on.
* * * * *
Do we accept there is beyond us something making things happen, different from our intent, where we thought we acted alone. There are times when one feels like what we do is only our decision, but there are those who are usually aware that there is another force, our Maker, who is guiding us.
How can we not. Every time we want to do things on our own, we need to check with reality, or else our actions do not result in anything meaningful at all. Meaningful is when after whatever we have done we look at it again and it stands together as a complete piece. So often it is different from what we intend it to be, sometimes a little better, sometimes a little less whole and we may try to alter it, bring it closer to our conception, but we also step back after each stroke and look at it and ask what it is saying about itself, it's wholeness and so often we leave it at that. Who made it then, did we? Oh yes, we made it happen.Ofcourse what we do is a piece of a larger picture, but sometimes thats not so. Every event is linked to another, but sometimes the result of what one does does not show up till much later.
Our knowledge of the world is its present reality. Like a sculptor, we chip away at its imperfections, but in our minds. Sometimes the imperfections fall away on their own, like a ill-fitting part and in that way the real picture takes shape which we live with, and it doesn't matter our eyes are open or closed in someway we remain constantly connected.
We do that with our thoughts all the time. Step back and examine them for some value and content, some intrinsic soundness.
Two things seem very worthwhile to consider, one is the nature of awareness, is it outside ourselves and we are witnessing the entire process and what we call perception is at the lowest level. The other is control. To be able to make things happen as we please, not to please ourselves but something whithin our own ability to make happen.
If awareness really happens outside us, what is our nature then. If thoughts are a continuation of the upward becoming subtle of whatever begins as perception, there is no outside and no inside. It leaves us yet with some ability we have to think in one way or another, a capricious identity which may turn whichever way. But deep within, inside this freewheeling we see our own inquiring mind, observing, looking for chinks in this play of ourselves and the world. If in that intelligence too we are not the intelligence, it leaves yet the bewildered personae, who seeks release.
This last paragraph confuses me a lot, i do not understand how it relates to the rest of the essay. There is no outside or inside, does that mean our thoughts are linked to what plays out in the rest of the world? I understand that concept, however I am not sure if that is what you are trying to say. What is the identity?
Whatever state we may be in, we are in some way connected to our outside world. We struggle to make our world, our thoughts, who we are, more perfect and maybe, more understandable. But often in this struggle we find ourself needing release from this cycle and connection, and that is what makes us want to be one with our Maker.
Rajiv, not believing in a "maker," I hesitate to comment on the content of the religious reflections of those who do. So, I will confine my comments to style.
This reads to me more like a meditation than an essay. An essay has an introduction and conclusion, in between which some points are argued. It has to be well structured in order to be effective. In a meditation, the writer is more free to follow his or her thoughts, wherever they may lead, even if they lead in unexpected directions that are not consistent with previous paragraphs.
Sometimes, religious writers polish meditations to publish. At other times, the meditation serves as raw material for a more structured piece.
Would it surprise you if I said, after all, I am not very different from you in my beliefs either. The difference seems to me, that I am wondering about these things I ask here, wondering how to make sense of them otherwise .. actually even wondering how to make sense of them, even believing in a maker!
You don't ask these questions anymore? Or you just wouldn't ask them here in this fashion ? Or there are some answers you know to them? In any case, thank you for your gentle response. The italics are a young reader's responses when I sent her this writing.
You don't ask these questions anymore? Or you just wouldn't ask them here in this fashion ? Or there are some answers you know to them?
These questions are so genuine, that I feel honor-bound to reply in kind. Many years ago, when I was just 17, I took a university course in philosophy in which I was introduced to existentialism. The more that I read of that philosophy, the more I realized that it reflected what I believed. In short: You are what you do.
You create your meaning through your choices. Because your choices help to create the social and material world in which others live, you are ethically obligated to choose mindfully, assuming full responsibility for the impact of your actions (or inactions).
What I've found in the years since is that, no matter how often I reflect, no matter from what direction, I come back to that same position. It truly is what I believe.
There are theistic existentialists and atheistic existentialists. Me, I don't believe in a maker who stands (or floats) outside of the world, but I do accept something like the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that the biosphere is something like an organism that is greater than the sum of its parts; similarly, I know that ecosystems are greater than the sum of their parts. Those are my version of a higher power, I guess. They doesn't stand outside of me; I participate in them, trying to do so as mindfully as I can.
As to questions about awareness, perception, consciousness, etc., I do enjoy thinking about those things, especially as new findings emerge. There's an interesting new(ish) book called Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought
by Lakoff and Johnson that you might enjoy.
This discussion reminds me of Sylvia Plath's "Black Rook in Rainy Weather." She voices the desire to have proof of the existence of a "maker" rather well. She's not expecting a miracle, but she would like "some backtalk from the mute sky." I think that the questioning of the existence of a higher power-and what form that higher power takes-is an intrinsic human trait.
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
Thank you very much Simone, and Notoman. Hope you enjoy this piece too.. As before, the reader responded in italics and I've indented my answers.
What if we turn to ourself and say, I am the only one in this entire universe. That would be a hard picture to hold on to. Yet there seems to be some truth in it. Actually, maybe its not a hard picture to hold onto, that I am the only person in the universe. Because what if all the people around me aren't people but merely puppets? I mean as far as I know, since I never feel what they feel or taste what they put into their own mouths, I could be the only human being. What I mean to say is that since I've never been inside another persons body, I've never seen things from their point of view or lived their life, honestly I could accept the fact that I'm the only actual person who really does feel things and taste things and say things that I want to say and everyone else is just trained to say things, like a puppet. I don't know, maybe I'm going too far on this theory, but I'm just trying to explain my point.
- I like what you are saying that there is some kind of a barrier in knowing yourself, and who the other person really is. Have you gone so far as to think - everyone being as they are - is connected to your larger life, not just the one you know about and seems to you, you live. Maybe you do agree to that.
The question is, what of the world? Lets deal with first the inanimate things around us. What is their nature other than how we know them?
Things are distributed by distance from where I am. When a thing is farther, that's the same as saying it seperated by a distance, though distance itself has no substance, but if I could say the more of distance is pored in between, the smaller it makes the object appear, could I hold on to the idea that in someway the thing never got further or closer. Speed is a property of distance, like distance is getting removed or added again. And distance depends on our visual perception, not of itself directly, but like sound depends on silence. It is a background. This actually-in a form-is science, right? Speed causing distance to be removed or added, objects appearing smaller when more of the distance is pored in between. I think you're leading up to a point which I haven't read yet so I can't really comment on anything yet, or give my viewpoint since everything in this paragraph is true, scientifically and theoretically.
- no this isnt the science you will be taught in school, but I thought you already had studied distance, speed, time - Newton's laws etc..
the idea I am reaching for here is, when we say a thing is moving away, could we think of it as distance like some substance being pored in between. Like things can appear sometimes smaller in a glassful of liquid, distance has the same property of making things appear small. And instead of a thing moving quickly away, something in between us and it, could be changing.
we can tell sounds because of the silence in between. Wouldn't the entire world just become one solid mass if things were'nt seperated by, distance. The effect of this mingling up has been to make us think of ourself as similarly small, and as one of the things in the world.
Meaning of sounds occur in our minds and sometimes they don't, depending on our knowledge of that sound. Which is the association of sound to its meaning. Meaning empowers us. We accept the concept of meaning because it makes it easier to deal with similarity. So its like a similar thing multiplied on different occasions, or just presented to us so many times. I understand this paragraph up til here. So the more times we hear the repetition of the sound (the more it is presented to us), the more we accept it has a meaning. We sort of get a handle to most of its substance, and leave some specifics of that instance. We know almost certainly it cannot be the same thing.How would we know it is not the same thing? It is, if it is repeated again and again. Wait...I think I understand. Because we see it as similar since it is the same sound, we see it as unsimilar because of the different times it was said. So its separated through the specifics of that instance, as in different points in time the sound was used, not through the actual sound itself since that is the same.
For example, the tram I catch in the mornings. It is similar in many ways , but I cannot do it with my eyes closed. I think I get it now. You couldn't do it with your eyes closed because though yes, it is similar because you catch the tram everyday, maybe even at the exact same time everyday and the exact same tram, but you can't do it with your eyes closed because of other factors that make each time you do it different. So even if something is the same, there is also a way it's different. In this case, the traffic could be different. If you did it with your eyes closed you would bump into people, or a car might crash into you because of the differences around you, different people going different places every day. Every day is different, even if you yourself do the same thing everyday.
but what is the point about the similarity and meaning of things. Can we say similarity and unsimilarity is when it is about sameness in appearance, something we see or hear or even touch, taste or smell. And meaning is somewhere deeper, is real, very real, and the appearance and its meaning make up the actual thing we experience.
so getting on the tram automatically is no big deal, like a robot, and actually when the tram changes tracks down the line that's whats happening. The engineers have seen enough similarity that they can automate the whole process. I am only drawing attention to this dual nature of everything. The meaning part and the specific part. And though the specific part has differences the meaning part seems to exist elsewhere - and we can say it is the same, for all the times we see it differently.
Isnt this like ever increasing knowledge. Like swallowing up the diversity in the world around, into somewhere inside of us, and we just keep eating and eating the world. So is that the end of it, when its all eaten up. Can there be a state when there is nothing more to know. Definitely not. I don't understand how you came to that point.
why not? when everything becomes integrated together. Like everything fits as one whole piece. And there are no specific pieces.
this is like sometimes, specially 'wise old people', sit and say, oh that's what happened, I knew it would turn out so! Well they're saying something like, been there, done that - even if they're just thinking so about their experiences.
But, there could be those who have actually been through such intense experiences in life, that they really can relate with and understand the things happening ordinarily to others. And, I think we can extend this idea to think about some persons just actually knowing it all.
Perception may not be between a perciever and another object. That differentiation depends upon our seeing ourselves within, and behind our eyes, or to some central point within our heads where the sounds reach. That central point rests on visual perception again. Maybe, a person without sight has no need for a central point for sounds to come to. Loudness, like size of objects though giving an idea of distance feels like seeing with one eye. We cannot be exact about the distance its coming from.
Interestingly when there is no distance, there is contact, another sense perception coming into play, which by its absence enforces the distance idea.
Are we talking then about a immanantly existing something, conjured up for our minds, and how we deal with it is because of these sense interactions. When you write these essays what brings you to discuss the different topics? How did you come to write about this topic?
As with many of the essays and reflections you post here, you are dealing with very abstract concepts. You might want to go through and expand on your points, explaining them with detailed, concrete examples that will help your readers to fully understand your meaning. I like the idea of essay as conversation, btw, where you have one of your readers responding in italics.
I like what you are doing here, exploring ideas in dialogue. As with your meditation, this is writing as process rather than writing as product. I'm glad to see you "thinking on paper." Putting your thoughts into words forces one to clarify them. Putting them into words for a real reader forces your to be even more precise and clear. When your writer writes back, s/he challenges you even further.
Simone, responding to your post before the last one. You do me great honor in sharing your beliefs with me. I will probably never know you personally any closer than this, but at the distance I am now, you appear to me representative of many many women here in the US and most of the Western world. I think many of them would find your description as portraying their own inner 'connection' with the universe, and your 'role' in it, as very accurate for themselves as well. This is very valuable to know about, for me somehow -- and I am quite overwhelmed how you have so graciously and spontaneously shared it.
For whatever interest my writings have for you, eastern thought, mysticism or simply curiosity even, I would so appreciate your reflections on them. ...
Rajiv, your writing was so sincere that it was only natural to respond in kind. I look forward to reading more of your work. And I do want to encourage you to see writing in terms of process as well as product. As we see sometimes when the journals or letters of famous scientists or writers are published, some of the best ideas arise from writing that is not aimed at a finished product.
I am in conflict where I have developed my own understanding and beliefs, and asked to accept the principle that society itself is the object of all improvement, served best through focusing on one's advancement as a component of that society.
This goes against the good of the poor; because it is allright then, to exploit them and their situation. Living conditions are like another apparel on our existence, and we tug and pull to make it better for us, and around us, and try to ignore the uncomfortable feeling identifying with those who suffer due to our actions.
Pursuit of knowledge is a path free from this, and somehow fulfilling, but does not seem to have the same content of purpose. What knowledge could compare to objectives people commonly work for? Only this, that even as we try to do the work we are doing, it is really happening not as a consequence of our wishes and desires, but by a design determined other than by these, and yet of ourselves.
This is a search which will take us closer to the meaning of existence, even more than knowing the physical nature of things.
What do I know about the part of me which determines the events of my life? A subtle feeling when we look deep, and the recognition is a small one. We say, I look deep within and I find... . Yet we acknowledge its significance, it seems true, and likely to pass.
Are these feelings deep within, the ones coming true for us? One could say they exist simultaneously, and not that we act to make them happen. We attempt to quicken the goal, but often when things do not happen as we are wanting, is it correct to enquire if they were instead responding to something deeper within ourselves? So that we are satisfied as things turned out.
Does this point to a path within for ourselves? Identifying our deepest feelings, associating them with happenings around us? The greatest changes may come to our lives then, not by intervening in the playing out of events, but these feelings within.
Chapter 2, Sutra 19 of the Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali explains the Samkhaya perspective of the order of natural things, and ourselves; a quite distinct way from the physical view we otherwise adopt of nature. We know the physical view falls short of explaining reality: our consciousness, our emotions and more physically even -- the edge of the universe? Or why, in quantum dimensions, do things lose their individualness?
It isn't a stretch to think of our senses as instruments with some limitations, and of ourselves, with finer abilities, the readers of these instruments.
Western philosophy says too, that apart from the limit due to minuteness, underlying what we percieve, has to be in essence something else. Samkhaya goes on to say that our perceptions of the natural elements - earth, sky, water, or from other senses, air and fire, are properties of even more real substances.
We feel a distinctiveness about ourselves, a completeness and independence from the rest of the world, and with it goes our ability to control our motion and direct our senses and attention. We see our bodies composed of the same materials as other things, posses life as trees do, but we also see this life-force and our senses apart from our bodies. And of these distinctive aspects of ourselves, we do not deny their existence though they are without any physical dimensions.
Space is what we make of what our eyes see. Objects appear to be at a distance, and have extent, so Space should be somehow beyond dimensions, since it manifests our singularity for us, and we acknowledge that we are not our bodies or senses alone.
Similarly, we come to a sense of hardness within ourselves. We could not sense hardness without touch, so we are a part the hardness we can feel. We take this further to ask .. what feels as hardness? It is external, and exists. We can even think of it without extent, and beyond visibility, caused by an independent entity in creation. This is an instance of Tanmatra in Samkhaya.
Other natural elements like water, air and fire are similarly Tanmatra manifestations; we struggle with their existence in our mind because existence is naturally associated with perception, and occuping space and extent. But even their every instance appears different, only due to the action of the space Tanmatra upon it.
Dear reader: I struggled with this idea once earlier on this same forum. I will really appreciate your thoughts ...
Why does math have such a revered place in society, more so the Western one? Actually, an even subtler facet of this question is - why is anything expressed mathematically accepted without question ? Mathematical facts are facts in reality - why? eg., equations of relativity were always held as true, lacking only sufficient rigor in the conditions of the physical experiments in proving them right .
Knowing that all mathematical operations are possible on computers, we can make this simplifying statement that mathematical operations are in their lowest form only addition and subtractions. These operations can be applied to anything, even hypothetical quantities, which is what variables are. So, length into breadth always will give us the correct measure of area, even as a real fact.
The magic seems to be in the operation we call multiplication... the operands involved we've learnt are a quantity, which itself has a reality only in our minds, though it is constant. That is the number two has a certain behaviour, and so do the other nine digits.
The interesting point is it is their behaviour which is real, not them, that is they are real but are not objects. A conclusion here is that mathematical reality exists in a parallel domain of reality where properties of functions are expressed in a given way. Where we have discovered that only properties exist.
In this domain, Newton and Leibniz, discovered the mathematical property of calculus, which allowed a different way of relating properties within it. Einstein and Lorenz expressed extensions to the way fundamental variables like length, mass and time can be associated, based on this fact that the speed of light is a constant quantity.
Speed or velocity, is not in the real world, but it does exist. One could say it exists as a mathematical quantity. We can take the measure of an object's speed, that is we take a number quantity and applying the multiplication operation , to another specific number associated with a universal property called time, also in a mathematical domain, we simply take the resulting number and know that this can be associated to a physical point expressing the length from the earlier point. We know our object will be here then.
Our sense of reality of motion is as much due to this tangebility of the mathematical expression. Its truth and reality in our minds.
Speed, time, length, mass .. all these are considered fundamental but only length can really be seen, that is it's there in our world. The absolute quantity time, nevertheless exists but is a measure of a completly intangible, but unversally agreed to quantity. Something to relate change with, a sort of a common denominator of change.
Mass is something of a feeling of a downward force on any object; and we know it is related to the body pulling this object towards it, in this case the earth.
It is great to see the sort of questions you are exploring. Here are my first thoughts upon reading your latest post:
Why does math have such a revered place in society, more so the Western one?
Because it underlies all of our modern technology. Also because the truths it describes are undeniable and objective, lying beyond the subjective issues of other languages.
In this domain, Newton and Leibniz, discovered the mathematical property of calculus
Calculus isn't a property, it is a system or discipline, one that explains certain properties of physical existence that can't be explained otherwise. For instance, calculus resolves many of Zeno's paradoxes.
Our sense of reality of motion is as much due to this tangebility of the mathematical expression
You are on shaky ground, here. People experienced the reality of motion long before Newton discovered the mathematical formulas that describe it.
The absolute quantity time, nevertheless exists but is a measure of a completely intangible, but universally agreed to quantity.
That's interesting. One could say that time is merely a measure of motion. After all, when we thing of time stopping, what we really think of is motion stopping.
Your latest meditation touches on a subject I have researched and thought about deeply: Multicultural maths. While we tend to think of maths as universal or culturally neutral, different cultures in fact have used very different strategies for thinking about and solving the kinds of problems we solve with maths. There are also, of course, different number systems and different ways of thinking about concepts such as zero and infinity. What I have been thinking about for some years is the question of whether different mathematical systems shape perceptions in the same ways that languages seem to do.
ifferent cultures in fact have used very different strategies for thinking about and solving the kinds of problems we solve with maths.
They have used different methods of representing the same concepts, yes. But the concepts themselves are the same. Newton physics holds true regardless of what country you live in, or how you express the formulas.
They have used different methods of representing the same concepts, yes. But the concepts themselves are the same.
That's a common misconception, because it is so dreadfully difficult for us to even conceive a different way of seeing the world, mathematically speaking.
I am in the midst of moving, so all of my files on this subject are boxed up, but I will be happy to offer some citations to scholarly articles as soon as I am moved and unpacked.
I'm not convinced that it is a misconception. I'm pretty sure mathematical concepts are discovered, rather than created. It doesn't surprise me to learn that there is a school of thought that challenges this, though, and I would be curious indeed to hear your examples purporting to show otherwise. I would especially appreciate it if you could point to a country in which Newtonian physics breaks down.
Let me begin to answer this somewhat dramatically and say -- we are all blind. And like some earthy worms, if we were looked at from a distance, we would appear as this.. nodding our heards, shaking them side to side, stopping and sniffing the air .. or feeling with our antennas, then pushing on. Wiggly little creatures, such an urge to squish them; can't even say why this urge. Maybe it is their pathetic helplessness, and their fat bodies and knowing, they are almost completely harmless and unable to hurt back in any way.
.. sometimes I see this picture. A castle, like we read about in fairy tales, floating in the sky, clouds obscuring everything around it. Actually more than a castle, an entire city, shining, golden... where is this? Somewhere deep within, and it is a vision that persists. Is it imaginary? I more and more think not.
I imagine watching them for a while and can feel a slow surge of frustration building up inside. It isn't just their clumsy crawl, but some assurance in their walk, as though they knew exactly what they were doing, where they were going. Stupid slugs, I hold myself back from screaming.. I see you walking up that stem and like some nincompoop you're going to reach it's end, then only turn back.
..back to other picture again. I do not know why its walls seem made of glass, at least they appear to be to my eye. The streets are cobbled, I think this part is from pictures I seem to remember from Pied Piper and others of those sorts. Ah, I think I know why the walls were of glass, because I am myself formless, no one sees me, and like in some 3D-picture where I can move around at will, I seem to be able to swish in and out of, wherever I wish.
It isn't just that I can will myself anywhere I wish, but I seem able to do even more. I seem able to make things appear, things to happen. Well, not exactly, but somewhat like this .. I seem to make myself come towards a central part of this city - it's like a city square and see there some kind of a show taking place. A man is climbing up a rope, he is turbaned, the kind we see snake charmers illustrated as; and his rope reaches up to somewhere high, higher than the rooftops around. I too am wonderstruck with this phenomena and alight from my journey, joining the few people standing underneath him. There's something riveting about this performance, more enthralling even than my so recently discovered abilityto fly, and I stand there amongst everybody else and wait and watch for what will follow.
.. ah now I notice, you're not a worm, but a caterpillar. Quite suddenly my disgust for you is gone, and I watch instead your bright colours and the subtle patterns along your frame. Your slithering has given way to grace, your dumbness to meaning. I can even smell the green leaves now and see hues in the flowers.. you yourself appear so fitting in the tree. In my mind, you are a colourful butterfly -- there is a lightness in the air.
Let me begin to answer this somewhat dramatically and say -- we are all blind.
Ah, but is this how things are, or merely how you would like them to be? There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss. A similar sentiment was expressed by T.S. Eliot when he wrote that "Human kind cannot bear too much reality." The weight of scientific knowledge is a ponderous burden, carrying with it as it is does such a mass of awareness and responsibility. Perhaps it would be better to create castles in our minds, and there retreat from the harsh light of the real. We could even, with a bit of effort, convince ourselves that our wonderful castles were the truth, and that the world around us was the illusion. Of course, reality would persist in being, in spite of our best efforts, but we could try to find ways to cover it up and hide it. Why, we might even try calling the objective basis of math into question, as if the Pythagorean theorum had been invented, rather than discovered, as if the existence of nuclear power didn't prove the validity of the maths underlying it. And while one might think that no one would accept something so self-evidently false, maybe a lot of people would, because no single person can ever learn enough of what we as a species have already discovered to know more than a fraction of it. And wouldn't it be reassuring,then, to think that that knowledge was really only a matter of subjective perspective after all, that the important truths lie within and can be encompassed by letting the mind go blank, rather than existing outside of us, stretching out to the point where we can only ever know a sliver of them, and then only through a constant process of study and grueling intellectual effort? Ah, I would love to believe in your castles!
Rajiv, I like the idea of "earthy worms."
Sean, I'll come back to the multiplicity of maths once I'm moved and have unpacked my maths/physics box. I don't like to write about it without my references at hand.
And wouldn't it be reassuring,then, to think that that knowledge was really only a matter of subjective perspective after all, that the important truths lie within and can be encompassed by letting the mind go blank,rather than existing outside of us, stretching out to the point where we can only ever know a sliver of them, and then only through a constant process of study and grueling intellectual effort? Ah, I would love to believe in your castles!
Correct me if I am wrong. You see the difference in our perspectives as this. According to you, there are objective truths out there
following their own laws, and totally independent of what we may wish
them to be. The Pythagoras theorem and the math of nuclear energy( e = mc2) ... are instances of that, you say.
And I, you are saying, imply that everything out there
is really without any objectivity of it's own, and conjured up by some process of our minds. I hope you are not saying, that I simply imply, we fool ourselves into believing things out there are the way we wish them to be .. like castles in the air. And instead that, I say we ourselves create the objectivity
in the Pythagoras theorem, and e = mc2.
You have summarized my position accurately, as well as my understanding of yours.
I do hope, though, that you are not trying to say this:
I say we ourselves create the objectivity in the Pythagoras theorem, and e = mc2.
If this is what you are trying to say, then you have misunderstood the meaning of the term "objectivity." If these truths exist objectively, then by definition they exist independently of us, because that is what objectivity means, in this context. This isn't a matter of philosophical debate -- it's a linguistic tautology.
This is a complement-like approach to yours. That first, there is as much of ourselves we do not know, as of the things out there.
Our reality and working-ground is this "substance like" ignorance, really responsible for all our lack of clarity and understanding. Our life is about dealing with this substance.
What we know, we are connected to already. It's objectivity and ours is the same. It isn't that we acquire something in coming to know something, instead we relinquish some misunderstanding, or vacous-like knowledge of it.
This seems counter to our experience of gaining knowledge. Let's say, for instance, that I enter a room with a strange object on the table. I have no misunderstandings about the object, because I have no idea what it is, no preconceptions or beliefs about it to begin with. As I engage with it, though, I begin to gain information about it. From this information, I might deduce other things about it. Some of these deductions might be correct from the outset; others might be incorrect, and so become the misunderstandings you mention. Still, it seems clear that the knowledge I gain that is correct from the outset did not come to me through the relinquishing of misunderstanding.
Although I disagree with the concept, though, I do think it is sort of interesting, and I agree that in many cases understanding does in fact come through the relinquishing of misconceptions. I just don't believe that all knowledge is gained this way, or that it is foolish to talk of acquiring knowledge. So, our positions here are not as far apart as they have been on other issues.
Thank you for picking your way so cleanly. You've described the situation well, balancing the two aspects - relinquishing misconceptions and acquiring fresh knowledge. And naturally, the larger interest is in the latter process - how do we learn?
Using your scenario, let me assume someone approaches this object in the room. Let us think it is a Laptop. If he approaches it without any question in his mind, he would be like the bushman who came upon the coca-cola bottle; only wishing in the end that he hadn't found it. So I assume the person is aware of technology, knows some programming even, yet cannot figure why the computer does what it does. For instance interpret keystrokes, or perform math and make logical decisions. He knows there's a microchip-processor in there with many million transistors on it -- but somehow this doesn't add up in his mind to the almost intelligent action which the machine performs.
The question he is scratching his head about is, how is all this made to happen in this postage-stamp sized chip? Are there new laws for the physical behaviour of things in there -- contradicting those we're accustomed to in nature? How are electric currrents so precisely manipulated ? What mechanism lies within it and how was it put there at all ? And one big personal question, how much smarter are those people who do this - will he himself have the intelligence to grasp it all ?
With this last question, he is burdened with something tremendously heavy, and as though slung around his neck. And this is despite the fact, as we can see, that the question is totally irrelevant.
We will assume the electronic-engineer wannabe overcomes his phobia, and wonders where he must begin to fathom the mystery. What comes to his mind are recollections of figures and of stuff similar to that he is looking for, from previous times when he was browsing books in some book-store or library. He sits down and makes a determination of where his search is likely to be most fruitful. Where will he find the right material, with the right amount of complexity, neither too difficult, nor lacking in content. Basically, he also has a good sense of what will be fulfilling in his quest.
Interestingly, he is getting to know the object in the room by going elsewhere, and hopefully even spending much time pondering what he reads. Being a good student we expect that as he studies, his mind keeps coming back to the object in the room, enforcing his original questions and clarifying the answers as he finds them.
We can now examine the process as this student reads, or does whatever else we can consider as contributing to his study. Point is, he now has a mindset, and what and how it is, determines how well he learns. If we compare this with our original situation, we find this mindset as the distinctive factor in the two scenarios.
I'll continue .. feel free to say anything here if you wish to.
Ah, now you have touched on something interesting indeed. He goes away and reads about the object. You are absolutely right -- that is exactly what any contemporary human being would do. Writing is the one thing, the only thing, that humans do that other species do not. Ants wage war, lions commit infanticide, dolphins and bonobos have sex for fun, chimps use tools, and multiple species have primitive forms of vocal communication that can be considered languages. Only humans, though, have developed writing and it is arguably the key to our success as a species. Indeed, when European settlers encountered the aborigines in Australia, they viewed the aborigines as just one more form of fauna. And, despite the political incorrectness of the view, I am not convinced that they were wrong to do so, because the aboriginal culture at that time had not yet invented a written system of communication, the one thing that distinguishes human beings from the beasts. Have you ever thought about how central, how important, writing is for us as a species?
... but really I would hesitate to think of myself superior to another human by virtue of my personal circumstances -- of where I was born, the race or nation I belong to and the opportunities I had simply owing to those factors.
Somehow I would think I was disrespecting something within myself if I thought myself intrinsically superior to another human. So I appreciate your frankness about your opinion regarding the aborigines.. if I were to meet them, I'd really be interested in sharing their simple outlook to life, which we can be sure it is.
Ofcourse communication would be difficult or negligible, but I believe they would be peaceful people and maybe I would sit around a fire on the open plains on some late evening with them. Maybe there'd be atleast one older person, a man most likely I would somehow relate to. I can imagine he'd communicate himself by gestures and verbal expressions which would appear just as we would, in situations that we are comfortable in. I expect he would be treated with respect by others in that group. I can even imagine him looking sometimes towards me and smiling through yellowed teeth. But his eyes would speak from depths I would fain find in cities of US and Canada.
Maybe, for some reason I might have been carrying a gun or something of that sort with me and if our attention somehow went towards that, or to my own clean shirt, or immaculately tailored coat, he would not appear uncomfortable and so make me feel that. He would probably just see that as the way people from where I came, did it. Carry arms, or dress in that fashion. Maybe as the evening passed someone else within that group would become the common source for light hearted amusement of all. And most wonderously, sometimes animal voices would ring in the clear darkness behind and around us, and these people would say something -- identifying the creature no doubt, but even what the cause for its cry may have been. A call to its mate, a lament of the beast's condition, maybe it hadn't found anything to feed that day, or maybe, just that someone like myself with a gun had killed its baby. I think, the aborgines would surely know that much of the wild language.
And then when I parted from them, that same evening or the next day, they'd stand and regard me without any awkwardness at all. Maybe watch me mount my horse and I'd look at them and feel humbled that I had so little to give them in return for their easy and genuine hospitality. I'd ride away, sorry of this distance between civilizations, that there are those who will never experience this quiet and serene company of these people.
but really I would hesitate to think of myself superior to another human by virtue of my personal circumstances -- of where I was born, the race or nation I belong to and the opportunities I had simply owing to those factors.
Are you quite sure? I seem to remember you arguing in one of these threads that people in developing countries, from cultures who subscribed to a form of mysticism (like the one you yourself believe in, by odd coincidence) were more enlightened and closer to a deeper truth than those who subscribed to Western materialism (in the philosophical sense of the term). That sounds to me like you were saying that the former culture is superior to the latter. In fact, that is
what you were saying -- it's just that its politically correct to praise developing cultures and to trash first world ones, whereas praising British settlers and trashing indigenous cultures is most definitely not. The principle is exactly the same though.
It's okay, though. Most people believe that some people are superior to others, and very few really believe that the same isn't true of cultures, too. There is a reason we prefer smart, virtuous, educated, experienced leaders to dumb, corrupted, uneducated, inexperienced ones. In some sense, being smarter than someone else makes you superior to them. That is, the state of being smarter is in and of itself a superior state to being stupider. The same can be said of being more virtuous, being more educated, etc. It is of course possible for a person to be superior to a person in one area, yet inferior in another. So, a very smart man may be utterly unscrupulous, whereas a very stupid man may be quite virtuous, so that one is intellectually superior to the other, yet morally inferior.
However, it seems likely that various positive traits tend to reinforce one another. Intelligence, for instance, emerges from a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors. No one is yet sure of the exact balance, but most researchers agree that early education plays a key role. So, a child who starts on an early path to being well-educated is likely to manifest more signs of intelligence than a child who does not. Likewise, an intelligent student is more likely to achieve higher levels of education than a duller one. So, intelligence and education tend to reinforce each other. It seems likely too, that a very intelligent person who has developed good critical thinking skills will be better able to resolve moral issues coherently than one who has not. This is not to say that intelligent, well-educated people cannot also be scoundrels, but I suspect that they are statistically less likely to become villains than poorly educated people.
I'm sure what you say of the contemporary
aborigines is true -- I meant no disrespect to aboriginal culture today
. My comment was only that aboriginal culture in Australia as it existed at the time the aborigines were discovered by European settlers was lacking development in many areas that might have made those settlers' evaluation of it reasonable. Certainly, if you had been there at that time, and had wandered off to sit around the campfire with those "peaceful" people, you would have most likely got a spear in your chest for your troubles. Pre-contact aborigine society in Australia was highly tribal, and characterized by a high level of on-going tribal warfare, as you would expect in any situation in which you have hundreds of thousands of humans living in small groups where each group believes that it is the best.
If one were to look for what concerns the people in US, I would say it is their own progress as a society. They totally believe that their model of society can carry the entire humankind forward. A healthy and vigourous community of people is their ultimate end. The big answers are in outer space, and till quite recently, robotic intelligence.
Europeans, in some contrast, are less concerned with the health of their society. Maybe because their societies already are healthy and matured. They look for their big answer in the atomic particle regions. In studying conditions when the big-bang occured at the start of the universe. They believe that is where they should apply themselves for ultimate answers. Religion for both peoples, is only a component of the society's health. Either way -- believing in, and not believing at all in some higher power, or better still, having some of both, is the most stable state for society.
There are some questions though, independent of the health of the society. A healthy society will in no way bring anyone closer to the answers of the ultimate kind. One could say, nor does it take them away. It is just a fact of human existence, that these are independent issues of equal importance.
Too often, people in Western countries, seeing those from other lands clamoring to get into their societies, start to confuse both of the above. They start believing their own pursuit of knowledge as the correct one. But it is mostly the young people from other countries concerned with stability in their lives and often starved for the basics of material existence, who turn to the west.
Following generations in western countries on the other hand, may well recognize the twist caused in the minds here only as consequence of this clamor -- and look eastwards, towards those who directed their efforts solely to answers of the other kind.
If one were to look for what concerns the people in US, I would say it is their own progress as a society. They totally believe that their model of society can carry the entire humankind forward. A healthy and vigourous community of people is their ultimate end.
You are right and wrong. People in the United States do tend to believe that their model of society ought to be the model for everybody else. However, most people in the United States are concerned with personal gain rather than healthy communities. If only people were
concerned with that goal, we might make some progress on our more vexing problems, such as inequality and violence.
People in the United States do tend to believe that their model of society ought to be the model for everybody else.
The most successful country in the world is the United States, by virtually any objective measure you care to name. That's why wave after wave of immigrants from all over the world keep going there. Is it not natural for the less successful to model themselves after the more successful? Why then should this attitude on the part of the U.S. come as a surprise?
However, most people in the United States are concerned with personal gain rather than healthy communities.
Interesting. You believe then that personal gain and social well being are mutually exclusive? That is, you believe that one cannot choose both to pursue personal gain and to build a healthy community? Or that a person could not view investing in the creation of a healthy community as a method of securing increased personal well being for himself? Or that a person could not view pursuing personal gain as a method of building a healthy community? What gives rise to these beliefs, and how would you justify them? I would have said that the best community is one that allows all its members to pursue their own happiness freely, so long as they infringe on no one else's rights. I assume you have a different definition of "healthy community" than I do. Possibly you have a different definition of "personal gain," too. I would be curious to hear what those definitions are.
such as inequality and violence.
In what sense are inequality and violence to be defined as problems? Inequalities in ability and temperament must needs produce inequalities in wealth in any just society. You might object that inequalities in wealth are not always tied to inequalities of either ability or temperament in contemporary America, which is true, but it doesn't negate the fact that inequality, in and of itself, need not be inherently problematic. Likewise, violence is not in and of itself a problem. Certainly inappropriate violence can be, but force itself is the basis of all law and social discipline, both of which are presumably necessary for the existence of a healthy community. So, I agree that under some circumstances inequality and violence can be problems, but to merely label both of them "problems" without regard to circumstance seems like an inadequate way to discuss them.
At this point I should say something definitive about Eastern practices and their methods in the quest for answers. Not only that, but also the results which can be expected when someone follows this practice.
There are eight stages of the practice that I can talk a little about here, and in the first two stages itself there is enough for anyone to work with and verify the consequences. He or she is likely to resist accepting these consequence as truly following from the practice. Which is fine, but dwell at the same time on this, that the currently accepted explanation we might give ourselves is also a conditioned one. We carry over the mechanical behaviour we see in objects to our own interactions with them. But human interaction with objects, according to Eastern thought, is of a completly different kind.
One may develop some appreciation of this by recollecting that in quantum dimensions -- the observer's presence itself affects the outcome of the experiment. Similarly, relativity shows that classical mechanics is an approximation, valid in the limited spectrum our lives are confined to..
Point is, we are functioning under some conditioning in our minds which we expressly carry over from mechanical behaviour in objects to human interaction. But in reality, the outcomes of our actions might follow a very different chain of events than we now think them to be -- thinking of ourselves as objects too, and we touch and push to make things happen.
There are eight stages of the practice that I can talk a little about here, and in the first two stages itself there is enough for anyone to work with and verify the consequences.
So, what are the first two stages?
Sorry Sean. You were probably waiting for Simone's response to your questions above.
That's okay. I can carry on multiple conversations here at the same time (sort of have to, in fact) and what you are saying is interesting.
We were talking above about societies and their health. A community can be governed and its state of health measured - but this is an external sort of governance. Though it is more and more the way the world has moved to governing and measuring development.
In contrast is, when people decide to individually take up some principles and follow those. The laws then are from within. We focus only on an individual taking up a discipline voluntarily. No one polices or measures how much we slip. The consequences too are finally, ours to judge. Our connection is with our own circumstances, and practicing and watching the changes in them.
The perspective we wish to establish is that everything happening with us is in fact a consequence. Even though there is much of our circumstances we are not able to rationalize in this way. But that should not mean that it isn't the case.
There are two phases into the practice. First a struggle to fit our behaviour into the norms. Following that, one starts to become that changed person. And our understanding of the principles, is reflected in our behaviour.
My endeavour is not to impose any idea to be taken as is, rather, to carry us to a point from where we can conceptualize that everything out there has only this intimate relationship with us. If we can look at it this way, we can appreciate the significance of our power to change it -- and recognize these changes as they happen.
Sorry Sean. You were probably waiting for Simone's response to your questions above.
I'm probably not going to answer. I don't really enjoy online debating as others seem to do.
I don't really enjoy online debating as others seem to do.
That's okay. A lot of people find it difficult to see their most cherished beliefs challenged. It can be almost physically painful to see the world as others do, to risk the possibility of uncertainty. It's especially hard for people who are deeply emotionally invested in their beliefs. I have an advantage here, in that my beliefs have always been unconventional. I don't just mean from the point of view of mainstream society, but from the point of view of the particular subcultures I found myself in. You sort of have to be open-minded, when that happens. When your essential self is formed in a community of like-minded people, though, I imagine it's easier to stay disengaged from those who see the world through different eyes. And if you are also a person whose logic is primarily emotional, instead of rational, then the problem must be compounded beyond all measure. Still, I really am curious what your answers to my questions would be, and I will try to be as gentle as possible in my responses to them.
A lot of people find it difficult to see their most cherished beliefs challenged.
Sigh. In the real world, I frequently dialogue
with people who disagree with me vehemently. I simply do not enjoy online debates and, frankly, would rather throw myself down a flight of stairs than engage in the kind of point-by-point parsing of sequential monologues
that online debates entail.