Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why I Am Not a Buddhist

Think of the history the West Coast, and ask yourself this question: When did the West Coast begin its slide toward radical leftism? The answer is, of course, the 1950s. The catalyst was Buddhism.  

I am a poet, and while I do like some of Allan Ginsburg’s poetry, especially “Howl”—I also realize that the Beatnik Movement, which preceded the Hippy Movement was the decisive moment at which the West Coast began its descent into hell.

Ginsburg was a profoundly devoted Jewish convert to Buddhism. I’ve even heard that at one point he bowed down and worshipped a man in Central Park because he recognized this man as a Bodhisattva. Ginsburg was so devoted that he co-founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. You don’t get much more liberal than that.

But what did the Buddha actually teach? When asked whether a human is a self he said this question must be set aside.  He also taught that all phenomena are impermanent. Thus, he said there is merely suffering, but no one to experience suffering. There are deeds but no doer of deeds. There is only movement, but no one in the movement. However, we know that no matter how much we change we can only become ourselves.  No matter how many times I step into the Tennessee River it is always the Tennessee River because of its specific geographical location. Each life has a social context, which lends, or should lend, a kind of permanence to my life. My life consists of sensations and component impressions, but the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its impressions, because, as Aristotle noted, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  No wonder we are taught to believe that a grasshopper is simply a machine, because a machine has no individual awareness and is simply the sum of its parts. And how would someone recognize any part of life as unsatisfactory unless he had some point of satisfaction to compare it with, some ideal that stood apart from the parts?

The Buddha taught that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning, but he also taught that one should not accept something as truthful unless he sees that it is truthful, never mind that this kind of apprehension can be tricked and that philosophy is more than a matter of “seeing.” He taught that the stream of consciousness is without beginning, never mind that it is impossible to “see” an infinite regress and that, if there is consciousness outside the brain that still hasn’t been conclusively proven. And every stream has a source.

The Buddha says (to paraphrase)—truth is a raft one uses to get to the other side of a river. Once one gets to the other side, he leaves his raft behind. He overextends this metaphor. Truth is, indeed, a raft one uses to get across a river. But this is where the metaphor ends. The central obsession of Buddhism is letting go of attachments. So we are told to let go of truth. But in reality we retain truths in our minds. Letting go is not always the proper response.

The Buddha taught that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning, but that which never began to exist cannot cease to exist because it can never reach a point of not existing.

So why is there such a rush on the West Coast to embrace Buddhism. It is because Western white Buddhists believe that because “all component things are impermanent” that morals are also wishy washy. This is strange given that most Buddhists in Japan are usually cultural conservatives. Could it be that Westerners are just jaded? Whatever the case, Aristotle is a much more solid ground for ethics than the Buddha. But so is Confucius, who said, “The archer is a mature person in that when he misses the mark he finds the fault in himself.” China is, first and foremost, a Confucian culture, but so is all of the far east. In Japan, Buddhism is separated from the indigenous religion of Shinto. This is how they have dealt with the influx of Buddhism. The Buddha taught that since a person is simply the sum of his parts, “There is pain but no one to perceive the pain.” But Confucius will not allow the person to escape his personal responsibility by denying the offending self.

Joel Fry

Source: What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.  All the facts pertaining to Buddhism can be verified in this text.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Establishing Reality

Truth is found not merely in the cohesion of two thoughts or in the resolution of a single thought with an external object, but in the cohesion of two thoughts and their joint resolution with an external object or reality. Example: It's a rainy day in February. Rainy days in February are always cold. Then: I walk outside and behold the cold, rainy day. This way of thinking and acting establishes reality. By walking outside I have a kind of epiphany, and when I am struck by the simultaneous collision and resolution of my thoughts and the external reality, I witness truth.

If I am only verifying the correctness of the single thought that it is raining by stepping outside there is no epiphany, only a bland concurrence of reality with my single thought.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Responding to Daniel Dennett

"A brain filled with apps is a human mind." Horse shit. A human being is aware, first, then self-aware. Self-awareness both affirms and denies the existence of different things. All this talk about the human brain and no mention that the brain responds out of a state of awareness, and no mention whatsoever that awareness comes and goes. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A human isn't just a brain. As my doctor told me, if you were just a brain in a vat it would be easier to treat you, but you have a body also. If there is no free will why can't I predict what you are thinking? On a good day I might be able to predict what you will DO, though usually not, but I am at a complete loss as to what you are thinking. Shouldn't I be able to predict what you are thinking as well as I can predict what you do? If human responses are inevitable there is no such thing as right and wrong, because nothing that is inevitable is immoral. Rain isn't immoral, neither is the explosion of a volcano no matter how many people it kills. And yet the very fact that we have morality means that we acknowledge right and wrong. If some process does not take the path of least resistance then some other variable must have interfered with the process. And yet in theory I can quit smoking even though my brain still wants to smoke! I had considered reading Dennett's book on consciousness, but it would obviously be a waste of time. (And how is it that my brain can distinguish between something that is obvious and something that isn't? Is that a function of intelligence or a function of awareness?) Dumbasses.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Virtue of Acting in The Extreme

Martin Luther King Jr. was successful by the means he chose to be successful. Gandhi was successful by the means he chose. The jest is to be extremely good. I may collect license plates on the side, and that would be considered soft-headed, but if I collect them carefully and obsessively enough, devoting all my free time to expanding my collection, I will be considered wise and admirable--because I am acting in the extreme.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Regress in the Trump

There's an regress in the trump: Donald Trump's doctor as magician; his magician as handyman; his handyman as plumber; his plumber as diagnostician; his diagnostician as bringer-of-bad-news; his bringer-of-bad-news as bringer-of-good-news; his bringer-of-good-news as public informant; his public informant as ontologist; his ontologist as proctologist; his proctologist as confidant; his confidant as doctor, etc.

Friday, February 3, 2017

After Trump's Speech

I haven't read what Trump actually said. For me there's a lot of conflict. We have Trump in office on the right with their goons and masses on the left who are ready and willing to riot and go to great collective lengths to stomp out freedom of speech. Clearly there is sanity, but those of us who are sane--in the middle--aren't caustic enough to get any air time. And the pendulum swings longer and wider.

Dr. King said, "The arc of history is long but it bends toward Justice." --And since the Christianization of Rome that has been the case, with some terrifying hitches. The church stopped the mass crucifixions and the gladiator games. Then, unfortunately, slavery became widespread in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Then it was outlawed in Europe first, then here then in the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Then there were women's rights and the rights of minorities. Then we defeated the Nazis. Then came the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Then gay rights. And since WWII wartime deaths have been on the decline. So the Great Movement of history has been Justice. But you can notice the huge backlashes in history--slavery and the activity of the Axis Powers, each of which were convinced they were superior races.

When a nation is built on a constant struggle for Justice and Justice is actually achieved people become restless. Enter the "Social Justice" movement, which is nothing if not an outright effort to silent dissent. These people are Miniver Chevys. So we get what we have today--a decadent nation that cannot see beyond its borders, a nation that hasn't got the fortitude to tolerate any of the founding principles. The blind elect their kind as President. The choice was between postured and unpostured blindness. There is nothing more to protest but our own downfall.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Ontological Problem

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  A cow is not just a collection of atoms, but a whole, conscious being.  How much more is this true of a human?  And yet a computer is not conscious and is therefore simply the sum of its parts.

Another aspect of this ontological problem lies in the fact that something cannot be dead unless it was once alive.  A machine isn't even dead.