Naming

I posted this on the forum on Zenguide.com.

Copied from here…http://www.edge.org/q2010/q10_1.html#brockman Hall […] told a story about a group of prehistoric cavemen having a conversation.

“Guess what?” the first man said. “We’re talking.” Silence. The others looked at him with suspicion.

“What’s ‘talking’?” a second man asked.

“It’s what we’re all doing, right now. We’re talking!”

“You’re crazy,” the third man said. “I never heard of such a thing!”

“I’m not crazy,” the first man said. “You’re crazy. We’re talking.”

Talking, undoubtedly, was considered innate and natural until the first man rendered it visible by exclaiming, “We’re talking.”

Mr. Chon Tri is the mediator of the forum. He asked this question:

if mr. sirwolf’s parents did not gave him a name.
would he exist or would he not exist?

This was my response.

It’s a fair question. Of course, my parents did not name sirwolf.

The “me” I am here is not the same “me” that people in “real life” know (by the name my parents gave me). It is also true that the me people know at work is not the same me that people know at home.

So the real question here is “If Sirwolf had not named SirWolf, would he exist?” The answer, of course, is no.

We seem easily distracted here, but I didn’t post this so much to discuss personal names as I did to discuss nouns.

I posted this because of the “Aha” moment it gave me. When we name something, we define it, give it rules and structure. We give it nature.

If I call something a mirror, I use it to see reflections. If I called it drug paraphernalia, I would put lines of cocaine on it. I could break it, and call it a knife.

If I have a copier and remove a gear I now have a gear and a copier. If I remove more parts I have gears, solenoids, rollers and, at some point, a not-working copier. At what point do I just have a box of parts?

I’ve gone down this little thought path because of a couple of things. Zenner’s post on the tea cup was part of it. But in trying to understand the nature of things I realize that naming things limits, or at least hides their nature.

This is not always bad, we have to name things in order to communicate. Could we tell someone about meditating without naming breathing? Or counting?

On the other hand, instead of calling it a mirror, I could describe it. A relatively smooth, relatively hard usually thin reflective object. I could even break out Mohs scale and tell you how hard it is. (5.5, if it is made of glass, according to Wikipedia.)

But once I’ve done that, haven’t I still defined it? And I still haven’t really defined it. There are chemical properties, whatever substrate is used to provide the reflection, etc… We haven’t even talked about using metal as a mirror. It’s easier just to call it a mirror. And in my research I learned that if an object’s used to reflect sound it’s also called a mirror!

This all may or may not be Zen. We would have to define Zen first. Right now, it is how I am breaking down my thought process, understanding what I have gotten right and wrong, and improving it. I choose to share it with you. Maybe someday I’ll be good enough to understand Zen.

Something to think about…

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The Two Selves

Here is Daniel Kahneman, discussing two selves; the experiencing self and the remembering self.

 

The Riddle of Experience Vs. Memory

 

The video is long, twenty minutes, and if you can’t sit through the whole thing, you’ll get the basic idea by eight minutes.

 

The reason I point it out here is because Zen wants us to stay in one self all the time, the experiencing self. I still haven’t decided if this is best or not, but Dr. Kahneman gives us something to think about, anyway.

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Because We Can all Cry

If you have never heard of Cat Powers here is a taste of her music. I believe the older man that kisses her at the piano is her father, a blues man and pianist himself.

I hope that this inspires you to watch more on YouTube. If it did, check out “The Greatest”.

Cat Power Wikipedia.

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Motivation

My boss used to say that people were motivated by three things; fear, greed and recognition. From a business stand point that was workable.

I believe we are motivated at our core by fear and love. And really, recognition is just one of the baser aspects of love. I removed money because if you get down to it, we want money to either protect ourselves (fear) or call attention to ourselves (recognition).

I used to think I was motivated by recognition.I loved the pats on the back, the respect, the awards. But the more I think about it, I am motivated by fear. That fear is the fear if being inconsequential. I want to prove that I am a good as anybody. There is insecurity that fuels that. I know what they are, and I won’t share them right now.

Zen wants us to be motivated by love. Love of others, and love of ourselves. Zen tells us to accept ourselves and the world around us.

This doesn’t mean not to improve, none of us are perfect. It means that it’s ok. Sure, get better, and make the world a better place. But start with acceptance, then you can get to love.

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Dissatisfaction

Right now, I struggle with Zen.

For a philosophy or religion to work it must be universally acceptable. In other words, if everyone, in all the universes were to become masters of the philosophy, what would existence look like?

I was listening to a radio show the other day. The comment was made that not only is it human nature to be dissatisfied with our current condition, it is essential to our survival and our growth.

Enlightenment means peace, the lack of desires, an end to dissatisfaction, as far as I can tell.
If every sentient being in the universe were enlightened what would our existence look like? What would happen to medicine, science, art? Who would grow the food we need to eat, drive the trucks to bring us the food? How would the simple logistics of life be carried out?

I suppose it could be argued that we would simply find joy in doing all those things that need doing. No one would over indulge, everyone would have enough because no one would over consume. But this seems too pat,  too easy.

But even more than this, how would we handle constant joy? It’s the same question I have with Heaven. I like striving, constantly trying to grow and improve. (Perhaps this is part of my attraction to poker.)

I don’t know if Heaven or enlightenment precludes growth or striving. I don’t know if these concerns are groundless, if they will go away or if growth and striving are built in.

I had a friend that felt that this life was hell. That we were being punished for something.
To me, living in America in the 80’s, we were in Heaven all ready.
I’m sure I will revisit these questions in the future. There are a lot of things I like about Zen. For now, I will explore those things, and look at other philosophies as well.

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Leaving No Trace

It is important, when doing, to live in the now. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind calls it “leaving no trace”.

When you do a thing, you should just do it. Don’t think about what you are going to do after this task is completed, or the idiot in the coffee shop. When cooking, just cook, when eating, eat.

Some things are easier than others. I drive a semi-tractor over the road. It is very hard to concentrate just on driving for ten hours. The mind wanders. One of my instructors commented that a trained monkey could drive a tractor from point A to point B on the highway. He was right. The actual driving part is easy. I do my best thinking when driving, it keeps me from getting tired and groggy.

On the other hand, my main form of transportation when I am home is my motorcycle. That is a very Zen activity. I concentrate on the curve and structure of the road ahead, the cars around me, I scan for debris. There is very little time to think about anything else when riding, at least for me.

But beyond not thinking, we should not feel. This is what is meant by leaving no trace. If you take pride in what you do, if you enjoy it, then you become attached to it. More to the point, you should find joy in everything you do, not just one thing. You should not look back and say “I did that thing”. Nor should you look forward and say “I will do this thing”.

I tried this today with mundane tasks. I showered, made coffee, and dressed without thinking about anything else. Several times I caught myself picking up as I walked by something out of place, or thinking about writing, or the game I was going to play soon.

It is harder than it looks, but I see the value in it. For one thing, I often get sidetracked with some fairly useless bit of entertainment or “checking something out” when writing. I have resisted the urge during this piece. Not letting my mind stray makes a more cohesive piece.

This isn’t something I will be able to suddenly do all the time. But I will continually practice it throughout my day.

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A Tribute

I knew a man with no ego. He was the closest thing to an enlightened man I ever knew.

This man was my mentor for four years. I was a sales manager and he was my boss.

Whenever he came to my depot it was never about him. It was always about first my salespeople and then about me.

He may hide the truth from you, but he would never lie. And if he hid the truth from you, it was never for his benefit, usually for yours. If you discovered the truth, he would tell you, if he could. But if he could not tell you, he would not contradict you, he would simply smile.

I only saw him angry once, and he was faking it. Many of my co workers were suitably impressed.

He never said anything hurtful about anyone, even to teach.  He found other ways. He never spoke behind another’s back.

He accepted things as they were. He would fight to change what he did not agree with. If he could not change it he would accept it. He once told me that if he could not change something and could not live with it, he would quit.

I don’t want to be just like him. There are things about him I did not like. But he thought in a way that I tried to, and still try to emulate.

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