Tag Archives: philosophy

what is science?

i was rooting around in my computer the other day trying to find something i had written about the german philosopher max scheler (see my comment about knowledge in my last post about ann mortifee’s new book).  in this sojourn i stumbled across a philosophy journal i was writing on and off and which contained a nice little assortment of quotes on the question of “what is science?”.   maybe you’ll enjoy it.

antony flew, a dictionary of philosophy:
(no entry under “science” – the following is taken from the entry of”philosophy of science”)
organized empirical science provides the most impressive result of human rationality and is one of the best accredited candidates for knowledge …science does not consist merely in making timid generalizations from wide collections of data, for the scientist’s selection of data is dictated by some theoretical interest, and his results are not simply inductive extrapolations, but rather explanations, models, and theories … another part [of science],emphasized by popper, is the creation of bold, predictive theory … the cumulative character of scientific theory … is characteristic of successful sciences …

georgi schischkoff (philosophical dictionary, in german – quick translation):

science (gr. episteme, lat. scientia) – a cultural endeavour which has not been and is not now practised by all cultures and at all times … science is the epitomy of human knowledge; the body of knowledge and insight, ordered by principles (kant); the ordered cohesion of true judgments, hypotheses and possible questions about the body of reality or certain parts of it … as opposed to unordered empirical knowledge, science not only deals with descriptions but also with reasons … scientific progress consists in evermore systematic penetration into the depth and breadth of reality, into the elements of existence and of events and the connections between them – into the intercoherence of that reality which we call “the world” … science at its loftiest is universal science [as opposed to ‘particular sciences’ such as physics, mathematics, etc.]

microsoft encarta

science (latin scientia, from scire, “to know”), term used in its broadest meaning to denote systematized knowledge in any field, but applied usually to the organization of objectively verifiable sense experience. the pursuit of knowledge in this context is known as pure science, to distinguish it from applied science, which is the search for practical uses of scientific knowledge, and from technology, through which applications are realized.

… and a few quotes:

science is organized knowledge. (herbert spencer)

science is the systematic classification of experience. (george henry lewes)

science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but trained and organized common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated. (george santayana)

science is the desire to know causes. (william hazlitt)

in essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in. (c. b. van neil)

i venture to define science as a series of interconnected concepts and conceptual schemes arising from experiment and observation and fruitful of further experiments and observations. the test of a scientific theory is, i suggest, its fruitfulness. (james bryant conant)

the aim of science is to seek the simplest explanation of complex facts. we are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. the guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be “seek simplicity and distrust it.” (alfred north whitehead)


god is not one, for someone with my buddhist and ecumenical leanings, was a bit of a provocative book title so i started reading it with some resistance. was this going to be some rabid right-wing pseudo intellectual trying to persuade me that all gods are bad except his?

really, the title of the book should be “if you think all religions are the same, you’re ill-informed and unrealistic when you hope that your attitude helps world peace.” (clearly, the people at harper-collins are better headline writers than i.)

far from a raging religious conservative, the author, stephen prothero from boston university, calls for empathy and a celebration of diversity while acknowledging the reality that the vast majority of people who practice a religion feel very strongly and protective about the details that make up their religion. while every religion “asks after the human condition. here we are in these human bodies. what now? what next? what are we to become?”, they tend to differ sharply among what philosopher of religion ninian smart calls the seven dimensions of religion: the ritual, narrative, experiential, institutional, ethical, doctrinal and material dimensions.

prothero makes a good case for his idea, although some of his arguments are a little circular. for example, he tells us that each religion articulates

a problem
a solution to the problem
a technique for reaching the solution
an exemplar (or exemplars) who chart the path from problem to solution

for example

in buddhism, the problem is suffering; in christianity, sin
in buddhism, the solution or goal is nirvana, in christianity, salvation
in buddhism, the technique is the noble eightfold path; in christianity, a combination of faith and good works
in buddhism, exemplars are, among others, bodhisattvas; in some forms of christianity, saints

this analysis is not a bad idea. prothero readily admits that this is a very crude lens, and i quickly came to like the book because he so freely admits to this and other shortcomings. however, what he doesn’t acknowledge is that it is easy to make the point about the divergence of religions if he is the very person who sets up the criteria by which this divergence is to be measured. this is all the more interesting because he points to that very problem with others: “there is a long tradition of christian thinkers assuming that salvation is the goal of all religions and then arguing that only christians can achieve this goal.”

another (small?) weakness of the book is that prothero does not do much to bolster his arguments – that religions are more different than alike, and that negating this difference detracts from harmonious co-existence – with evidence or reference in the relevant literature. he doesn’t point out who makes counter arguments (and how they might be refuted) or who else makes arguments similar to his. i put the word “small” in parentheses because the book is clearly meant as an introductory text for a wide audience. a person interested in the subject would do well to do some further reading.

these weaknesses aside, i am enjoying reading this book. prothero underlines that religions must be looked at warts and all, and from the point of view of its ordinary practitioners, not from the point of view of mysticism. i haven’t come to a conclusion yet whether i agree with that (i suspect that i might come to think that both perspectives are useful) but i welcome the chance to think about religions from that angle.

prothero’s concept of “godthink” is also interesting – a “naive theological groupthink” that lumps all religions into one, and which is practiced by theists and atheists alike.

i read the beginning and the end of the book and have a feeling that i have a good sense of prothero’s main arguments. and while i believe, perhaps mistakenly so, that i have a good grasp of the general outline of most of the religions he discusses in the middle of the book – christianity, islam, judaism, confucianism, daoism, buddhism, hinduism, yoruba and atheism – prothero has piqued my interest enough for me to look forward to what he has to say about these religions. so stay tuned; i think i’ll mention this book again.

understanding meaning

recently, i have had numerous little conversation bits on twitter about meaning and meaning making. rather than expound on my ideas here, i’d like to invite you to reflect on the questions below and/or the words of others who have thought about the topic. maybe you’ll come up with your own questions. maybe we can begin a conversation.

  • have you ever wondered, “what is the meaning of life?” if so, what specifically are you talking/thinking about or perhaps hoping for when you ask that question?
  • what does it signify when someone says, “his death was meaningless”?
  • “meaningful” is another word. i just saw that i used it in at least 20 entries. do you use that word? what are you trying to express with it?
  • does a tree have meaning?
  • how does the concept of “meaning” fit into your approach to spirituality? to creativity?
  • when you look at the thoughts on meaning and meaning making below, could we have used other words/ideas/concepts instead of “meaning”?

here are some things other people have said:

meaning-making is a bridge from the negative emotion caused by negative life events to positive emotion through cognitive restructuring. (by mary-frances o’connor in a paper making meaning of life events: theory, evidence, and research directions for an alternative model.)

stephen downes, a fellow canadian, has an interesting article on the topic. an excerpt:

in the roughest sense, ‘meaning making’ is the placing of perceptions or information within the context of a perspective, point of view, or world view. in other words, the ‘making meaning’ of something is to show or to understand how that something assists or contributes to one’s understanding of the world.

beyond that rough outline, the topic of ‘making meaning’ is fraught with dispute and conflicting accounts of ‘meaning’.

the term ‘meaning’ is of semantic origin. the word ‘meaning’ traditionally applied to words. the idea of ‘meaning’ is that one thing – the word, or the ‘sign’ – stands for, or represents, something else – the ‘signification’ …

but the meaning of a word (or sentence) may extend beyond what the words directly refer to. frege captures this idea by distinguishing between ‘sense’ and ‘reference’. other writers speak of the distinction between ‘denotation’ (ie., what a word ‘denotes’, or refers to) and ‘connotation’ (ie., what a word makes you think about, or what a word is associated with). such a distinction is necessary to understand metaphor. ‘the early bird captures the worm’ is either meaningless or [possibly] false when understood strictly by reference, but understood as a metaphor, may well be true.

in either case, there is presumed to be a strong correlation between what a word means and the state of affairs in the world. the idea is that, without a corresponding state of affairs, a word is, literally, meaningless. this opens the way, substantially, to a way of understanding the world, by understanding how we describe the world.

then, interestingly, there is something on a mental health site in new zealand that talks about creativity (interesting because i’m interested in both topics)

meaning-making is the construction of ‘comprehension’ from an individual’s experience. this may be the discovery of completely new core constructs or the reframing of current ideas. it requires an engagement with people, places, ideas or things, to create an ‘internal’ space in which an energetic information exchange can occur. this is what enables the individual to grasp an understanding of the unity between their ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds. in the ‘space’ that creative process provides, one recognises themselves as this is reflected back by the image/word/sound they have made, and so comprehension expands.

futuredirected looks at it this way:

perhaps what we are really looking for is completion ” the recognition that the universe is exactly as it should be. there’s nothing wrong with it. we created this way, and if it should have been created some other way, we would have created it that way. but we didn’t. we created it this way.

when you are complete with life, and always already complete, then you are free from the burden of surviving. you have the freedom to create intentionally. your life as you now know it will end, but in its ending there would be no sorrow or tragedy. you would have had a life well lived and it will have been lived completely. new life would appear in your wake. the world you created would go on, always in the context of you. only by giving up the need to survive, in favor of being complete can one attain true survival.

life has no innate meaning, but it does have purpose, and the purpose of life is completion. this isn’t the answer. it’s not even the truth. it is simply a place to stand.

and here something that i think is quite representative of the place of “meaning” in buddhism – in this case, the meaning of sitting meditation (zazen)

our normal western minds would say, “ok, let me just try to figure this thing out, let me try to figure out what the meaning of this “looking at a wall” has for my life, let me just figure out the significance of this and then i will know its meaning. so let me just think about this for awhile.”


sit down! shut up! look at the wall!

finally, here are all the different interpretations of “meaning” on wikipedia.

ok, now over to you!

speaking the truth

you are reading an article about truth right now.

at this moment, your eyes are working sufficiently to be able to read this article, which is written in lower case, and involves a quote by nietzsche. in the alternative, you are listening to an audio program that is translating these words into voice, or someone is reading this to you.

you have taken a breath in the last five minutes.

you are riding a live dolphin right now.

four statements. i am 99.999% certain that the first two are correct and that the second one is not. three, we could say, are true, and one is a lie.

certain. correct. true. lie. words that seem so easy to use until you start thinking about them. “honesty” is another one. i remember years ago i went to a series of training sessions for therapists who were conducting therapy groups, and one of the guidelines was that we should tell the truth. very soon it became obvious to me that that was easier than done. here are some of the challenges:

  • in order for to tell the truth, we need to know it
  • “knowledge is but a small drop in the vast ocean of truth” – quoted by one of my revered philosophy professors, norman swartz, in reference to newton’s famous saying
  • is truth fixed or variable?

there are many more questions, but let’s start with these three.

how about the last one – is truth fixed or variable? notice how the statements at the beginning of this post all have reference to a certain moment. if something is not tied to coordinates either in space or time, can we know anything for certain about it? (and let’s leave aside the question whether truth is about “knowing for certain” – something that philosophers love to argue about).

now of course i am interested in how the concept of truth relates to human interaction. so here’s a somewhat scary thought: when we say “i love you”, we really want this to be the truth, and when we hear it, we want that even more to be the case. now try “i love you now”. not quite the same, is it? often we skimp on “truth” in favour of hope, beauty, comfort and other noble sentiments. is that a good thing? should we stick with truth no matter what? would it be a good idea to practice being more precise? because the truth in a romantic relationship is closer to “if i don’t get bored with you, and don’t fall in love with someone else, and we don’t have too many fights, and raising children and paying mortgages doesn’t wear us down, i hope i’ll love you for a long time.” i don’t know if truth is conditional, but it certainly seems that the things we say to be the truth are. kabbalah scholar michael laitman, appears to be thinking along these lines when he says that what we call truth is directly related to desires.
nietzsche’s words that “all things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth” are interesting in this connection as well.

let’s move on to another idea, the one about the ocean of knowledge. the first three statements above imply that a bit. the moment you read the first word of the first statement of this entry, you and the world around you are faced with an immense amount of truth. which one will you focus on? which one do you want to or can you pay attention to? which one will you be completely oblivious to or will insist to exclude?

this is something that gets in our way a lot when it comes to interpersonal communication. the myers briggs instructions for making pumpkin soup are an amusing example of that. the “intuitive” personality approaches making pumpkin soup as an interesting creative project; for the “sensory” personality it is a technical challenge (“chop mushroom and onions. caliper will be helpful here. 3/16th inch thickness recommended.”) making pumpkin soup, even though it may result in the same product, is experienced from two totally different points of view: the intuitive type lives in a world of possibilities, so that in thinking and talking about truth, she will select from the “ocean of truth” those aspects that she sees as belonging to that world; the sensory type lives in the realm of measurement and tangibles, so in describing the truth, her language will spring from that realm.

“in order to speak the truth, we need to know it.” and in order to know it, we need to be able to recognize it. this recognition is very difficult when we have the blind spots that we just discussed, blind spots that are caused by numerous conditions. personality type is one of them but it gets even simpler: a car mechanic, for example, has a totally different take on the truth about my car than i do; i would not be able to tell the difference between truth and fiction when it comes to carburetors. and going back to the group i mentioned earlier, there are some things that i knew i didn’t know about myself, some of which i know now. the “honest truth” was elusive. the consequence of that is a judiciary use of “i don’t know” (without using it as an excuse or escape) or “this is what i know right now.” this, of course, reopens the can of worms i touched on before: truth is one thing, knowing about the truth another, and then talking about it yet another. saying “i don’t know” isn’t always popular (it definitely often isn’t perceived as popular), and saying “this is what i know now” can often be taken as weasely.

okay – so now what? the truth is, it’s late at night, i’m tired, and i’d like to know what you think so far …

understanding acceptance

last month we had a conversation about acceptance, and i’d like to continue it.

evan said, “i think changing the world can be valuable, too.”

maybe there is no either/or between acceptance and making changes.

to accept comes from the latin, meaning to receive (as in “UPS delivered a parcel for you, and i accepted it”.) if we agree with that meaning, acceptance is about the past. changing the world (or ourselves, or our marriage, etc.) is about the future.

there is absolutely nothing we can do about the past (assuming, as i will for now, that we use the concepts of past, present and future in the ordinary, linear sense). the sun did shine five minutes ago, and i my father did die on august 21.

acceptance does not equate liking or condoning. i don’t have to like the fact that there was a time when i smoked two packs a day. and there is also no point in berating myself for having harmed myself that way, or in lying about it. yes, i used to smoke, sometimes a lot. yes, it made my hand shaky and my friends rolled their eyes when i absolutely had to go out to buy a pack at 11:30 at night. it’s not pretty but i accept it – that’s what the reality of it was. so there’s a strong connection between honesty and acceptance.

acceptance is not the same as fatalism. that relates to the idea that acceptance is about the past not the future. for example: “it used to be okay for teachers to beat students. that was a fact, and we can’t change it. it’s NOT ok for them to keep doing it.”

a common trap that we fall into in our thinking is when we jump without reflection between what is and what should (ought) be. in philosophy, that has been referred to as the “is/ought” problem (for those of you interested in the more intricate points of why this is referred to as a problem rather than a logical fallacy, see the meatyard). just because i say that yes, teachers used to beat students, and yes, i used to smoke (the “is”) does not mean that teachers ought to beat students and people ought to smoke.

from a logical point of view, that makes sense but emotionally it’s not that easy. in teaching, childraising, training, psychotherapy and other such tasks we rely heavily on modelling. we want people to look at what is and infer from it what they ought to do. we don’t swear in front of our 2-year-olds, and we encourage university students to read biographies – that’s modelling.

i believe the trick lies in the reflection. we can go from is to ought. but let’s not jump.

let’s accept what is, the reality we see right in front of us, as unfiltered as possible.

then stop. breathe. ask yourself the question: “inasmuch as i can, should i support and nurture a repetition of this reality, or should and can i do something to change it?”

if you can and want to do something about it, do something.

if not, don’t fret.

that’s acceptance, too.

digging for a voice

what follows are excerpts from an essay i wrote in 1995 on women in philosophy, and how women’s voices often speak more to the particular (i.e. real life examples and experiences) rather than the general. it is interesting to look back on it, to see what’s still the case, and what has changed. in the next post, i will discuss that a little. here’s the excerpt:

“i” write these words. it is i, sitting here in my body, using my hands to transfer unto a black screen what i think. what i do and think is really all i can know. or is it? when i look into the mirror, i see myself, when i speak, i can hear myself, and there are other beings around me who look and sound quite similar. do they think, feel, move like i do? can i assume that they are more like me than unlike? can i speak for them? and if i do, should i extrapolate from me to them or from them to me?

“… woman was not fit for the governing of society or the workings of the state. in fact, she was seen as a threat because her thoughts and desires were tied to the realm of the particular … any attempt by her to enter into the public realm would only pervert the aims of the state from the universal to the particular.” (tuana 166).

why does the particular pervert the universal? couldn’t it be the other way round – that the universal at least sometimes blurs and inhibits the particular and with it reality? this is exactly what happened for philosopher claudia card. while tenured at a large university, she developed a writing block. at this time she was teaching a course on “crime and punishment” from a purely theoretical point of view: “i had never been inside a prison … never witnessed an execution … [or] attended a criminal trial. i was not aware of people who had done such things.”

gradually, through exposure to students who, in the 60s and 70s were doing “such things” (i.e. they were exposed to the criminal justice system through war resistance or marijuana), card began to wake up to the reality of the particular. she saw that real people were “liable to being accused of crimes or victimized by them”. these people were particularly

“the very young, the homeless, the poor, … people of color, women attempting to protect themselves or children against battery and sexual abuse, women (rebels) who refused the ‘protection’ of men.”

this insight helped her realize that she, too, a closeted lesbian living in an abusive relationship, really did know about crime or at least the possibility of it: “i knew firsthand the fear of murder.” with time, the more she fleshed out philosophy with tangible reality, the more her writing block disappeared and she regained her voice:

“i presented my … ‘feminist ethical theory: a lesbian perspective’ … at the university of minnesota … to my surprise, i began speaking from deep inside, without effort, in a large voice that i had not known was there. people later said they heard me in the hallways … there was anger fuelling that voice. there was also confidence …”

claudia card has turned from the universal to the particular:

“i no longer linger over ‘eternal’ or universal truths. i seek wisdom … in relation to lives fleshed out as gendered as well as members of species, as having ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds, even sexual orientations – things not universal … i still teach from books … but i also teach from my life, and my writing flows from that life …”

in the second part of the essay, i added my own voice, my own lived experience:
what i am digging for is my voice. to some degree, i mean this quite literally, which is why i felt such affinity with claudia card. i often feel weak, powerless and confused when i speak, especially in small groups. my voice is not my accomplice but my betrayer; so often it has let me down by scrambling my words and stammering, by being sarcastic when it should have yelled, by taking on a childlike whisper when it should be loud and articulate, and by being mute when it should spit out the truth. and it is as if my speaking voice, when not articulated, just like unexpressed anger “backs up” and constipates my thinking. i believe this voice is not only undeveloped for private reasons but also because i feel my reality, like that of so many other women, has been negated in the context of a society that does not wish to give weight to women’s experiences.

so this is my motivation for writing these words: i am trying to unconstipate, to untangle my thinking, and to reconnect it with my both my speaking and my metaphorical voice. as well, i would like to connect further out, with other people who are also trying to find their voice. while i earnestly do not want to minimize the voicelessness of many men, i do identify better with women who want to speak up and be heard. this is why i was so intrigued when i saw the announcement of petra von morstein’s lecture, especially because she was described as a poet, philosophical counsellor and researcher into feminist philosophy. what would her voice be like, i wondered, how does she sing the song of philosophy?

after many attempts, i finally managed to speak to her on the telephone. von morstein threw an interesting and much-needed light on my quest for understanding women’s experience and women’s connection with philosophy. she criticized my (and others’) dichotomous approach to this question, saying that when reading the works of such male philosophers as augustine, descartes, hume, kant, hegel, heidegger or husserl, one does find a coming-together of the universal and the particular.

granted, these men did not inform their thinking with the particulars of female reality (it is unlikely kant came up with his categorial imperative while doing the dishes); nevertheless, they also did not insist on separating the personal from the universal. augustine’s confessions, an autobiography and arguably one of the most important philosophical writings, are a case in point, as are descartes meditations. it is debatable whether, as solanas says, these men are really “unable to relate to anybody or anything”.

von morstein also pointed out that, by making such harsh judgments as solanas, many women cut themselves off from the history of thought, thereby impoverishing themselves. “i want to have it all!” ms. von morstein exclaimed a few times, meaning that she thinks that women can and should draw on all perspectives, the feminist one and that of the “dead white males”.

searching for my voice, investigating other women’s voices, has been, in part, a very private enterprise. in other ways, however, i also hope that my words can be companions to those of other women, such as claudia card’s. taking yet another angle, i want to come back to what i said at the beginning of this essay: “what i do and think is really all i can know.” even though it seems that there are similarities between me and other people – other women -, i cannot presume to speak for them. i can only speak for myself, speak to them and sometimes maybe even with them. i can only say: this is my experience; and if yours is similar, let’s have them stand side by side and reinforce each other.

will and willpower

while my blog was in hiatus, i was not entirely silent. conversations happened on twitter, for example this one regarding the concepts of “will” and “will power”, mostly with gassho.

i was going to comment on some of these, also give you the tweets of what other people were saying. but perhaps it would be interesting to read this as is? what do you make of it? does it inspire you to think of the ideas of “will” and “will power”?

(just three hints for those of you not familiar with twitter: 1) read from bottom to top; 2) the “@” followed by a word is to draw the attention of the person you’re tweeting with – in twitter, instead of saying “hey, gassho!”, you write @gassho; and 3) RT means “retweet” – it’s a repeat of what the person with the @ sign has just recently tweeted)

.@gassho what you’re saying about will makes me think that you see will mostly as some sort of creative force. would that be correct?

.@gassho @dtclarinet will as “oppositional” insofar as there is a connotation of overcoming obstacles

.@womanmonk yes but what IS that “will”power? “power=ability to act” – totally agree

.@gassho i wouldn’t associate the spontaneity of jumping with joy with will power. also can’t see how flower turning to light = willpower

.@gassho can you give an example of “will” in flora?

.@gassho @johnfw @moneycoach eg “i will myself to get out of bed”? interesting – hard to think of will other than as an oppositional force

1 of th reasons why im concerned about “will” is bec “lack of willpower” is often cited as reason for addiction. sad. #mentalhealthmonday

.@gassho @johnfw @moneycoach we could ask ourselves, “is will different from intention, commitment and drive, and if yes, how?”

.@gassho @johnfw @moneycoach wikipedia’s entry on “will” is not bad http://tinyurl.com/nb8jfd

.@gassho @johnfw @hrheingold says some interesting things re how “will” is so easily distracted by the monkey mind http://tinyurl.com/mfgonl

.@gassho @johnfw love the idea of co-willing with higher power/god/buddha nature. q still: what is the will?

.@gassho what is the personal will? what are its mechanisms? what drives the will?

.@gassho how would you define spirit-full will power then?

RT @gassho Just like anything else, will can be & needs to be spiritualized.

RT @gassho .@moritherapy Just b/c at all levels of society will manifests in macho form doesnt make will macho. Its simply a power.

.@gassho i guess someone who has studied nietzsche in detail would be helpful to discuss “will”. @akarra?

.@gassho in german, there’s will as in willpower but the aux verb to denote future is “werden” = becoming

.@gassho what is “will” then? interesting btw that in english, “will” has two strong meanings (“willpower” and “i will do this”)

i will now use my willpower to clean up before the carpet cleaners come

.@gassho … or will power can be a hatchet that attacks more than it creates. not saying it’s “bad” but often misunderstood

.@gassho “macho” isn’t gender specific either, it’s an attitude. IMO will power can be a fickle tool that gets dull if used too often, or –

hm – too macho for my taste: RT @mentalhealth1 RT @gassho RT @ScreamingEagle1: “Great souls have wills; feeble souls have wishes” #quote

buddhist carnival, may 2009 – the mixed-bag-it’s-all-connected edition

may 15 – time for another buddhist carnival. if you want to see previous buddhist carnivals, go here.

today there is no topic, really, just a criss-cross romp through the buddhasphere.

another enlightenment machine
… like the one you see depicted to the right. here are some explanations

i have made an exciting new “thought to textâ„¢” technological breakthrough that has enabled me to record my actual thoughts and non-thoughts. Today I unveil to the world for the first time a transcript of one of my deep meditation sessions.

[CAUTION: this thought to textâ„¢ transcript is uncensored. if you are squeamish about the human condition, please click away now.]

START : thought to textâ„¢ TRANSMISSION:

ok, here i am meditating. i’m so pumped up for this session!!!1! i just know i’m gonna break on through to the other side this time. i got a feeling enlightenment is going to be cool, enlightened dudes get all the hot babes. i know somehow, someway this meditation is going to lead to more money for me. everybody in abundance-land doesn’t care about money because i know they have a hidden stash somewhere. there is probably a secret enlightened ATM cash machine with lots of clouds around it and a rainbow over the top of it. i can’t wait until a wise old voice sends me my PIN number in the mail.

excited?  me, too.  see what monkmojo is up to.

usually we start with a poem; this time i had to get monkmojo out of the way first. but here’s the poem – an excerpt from one of my twitter friend dirk johnson’s poetry notebook

i offer you a cool and gentle breeze
on a sultry day.

i offer you the toxic spill
in a stream by an apartment building.

i offer you refineries burning
off waste gas in a miasma of stench.

i offer you the hiss of wind in grass,
thunder, and heavy rain.

whet your appetite? here it is in all its glory.

kant and buddha
if philosophy is your bag, you’ll enjoy this:

ironically, this treatment of kant is much like the western reception of buddhism, in which it has been branded as nihilistic, romantic, mystical, atheistic, and so on. as with kant, the enormous corpus of buddhist writings makes it easy to cherry-pick those that agree with our temperaments or prejudices (either favorably or unfavorably). i cannot claim a comprehensive knowledge of either, but i can say that my experience of both has taught me to be extremely suspicious of “extreme” interpretations of either.

the rest is here.

fear and the economy
dharmabrother takes the difficulties with the economy with serenity:

i refuse to be afraid of losing my job, even in this economy, because that fear is poisonous and inhibits the practice. good workers get laid off for a variety of reasons, even outright fired because they suddenly do not match the goals of the organization.

don’t know
“don’t know”, says the good blogger at ox herding, “forms the core of buddhism”

one time, zen master seung sahn said:

i don’t teach korean or mahayana or zen. i don’t even teach buddhism. i only teach don’t know. fifty years here and there teaching only don’t know. so only don’t know, okay?

nothing happens
“don’t know” and “nothing happens” are cousins. i was interested to come across this blog, aging as a spiritual practice:

nothing happens when you die: two contemporary buddhist masters ” suzuki roshi and the 16th karmapa ” both said this. when the karmapa was dying ” according to people who were there ” he opened his eyes and said, “nothing happens.”

and in suzuki roshi’s book not always so he says, “don’t worry about dying. nothing is going to happen.”

well. this is the kind of out-there statement that skeptics of buddhism point to as a way of discrediting it.

this brings me back again to the post earlier about kant and buddhism. everything is connected.


what am i to do in the face of another person’s suffering? how can i best live my vow? the thing i’m called to practice is “deep listening.” to put aside my own concerns about “what to do” and instead give my full attention to what’s in front of me. and to listen within, to notice how my own suffering gets aroused by hearing the other’s story. that is what’s meant by mindfulness: to witness what arises inside and outside of ourselves from moment to moment, in thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

more here. again, i see connections; to the deep “nothing” that is so important in buddhism – and to my post a few days ago about peaceful communication where ian peatey pointed so wisely to listening (and silence) as a good communication tool (which again reminds me of my post on improving on silence – it just goes round and round, doesn’t it?)

and finally, before we close this with a nod to my friend william, here’s a fellow canadian therapist i discovered the other day, who posted on research about zen meditation and pain relief

grant and rainville noticed a marked difference in how their two test groups reacted to pain testing – zen meditators had much lower pain sensitivity (even without meditating) compared to non-meditators. during the meditation-like conditions it appeared meditators further reduced their pain partly through slower breathing: 12 breaths per minute versus an average of 15 breaths for non-meditators.

four noble truths, street version
and here comes william

1. the nature of shit is that it stinks
2. we stink because we have smeared ourselves with shit
3. we can be free of the stink and the shit
4. a dude laid out 8 steps to free ourselves from shit

next buddhist carnival is june 15th. send me your ssss…tuff.