Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Regarding the Direct Experience of Reality: "Now" or "Suchness" (My take)

Having affixed such a grandiose title to this post, I have no clue how I'm going to address the subject.

Everybody has their own philosophy. But I guess a "philosopher" is just someone who tells others about the philosophy that they've adopted for themselves, and a "theologian" is just another kind of philosopher, albeit with God(s) in his considerations.

Or so it seems to me. I could be wrong.

Anyway, so to this matter of direct experience: I owe a friend a deep debt of gratitude for introducing me to the philosophies of Alan Watts.

Watts was ahead of his time. But though he passed away in the 70's, there is a wealth of texts, recordings, etc. where he tries to explain his particular brand of "regarding suchness", aka "zen".

Here are some of his take on things -- including "figure" v. "ground": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82OpDZ9tAho

9.5 minutes of philosophy -- just what you always wanted, right? But it's illustrated, so hopefully you enjoyed it & weren't too bored.

As you might have seen, Watts is very much into finding pairs of things that rely on each other to exist: figure v. ground, apple v. apple tree, and so forth.

Consider, then, the space-time continuum...that is to say, "Everything". What is the thing this is paired with? Does all of existence rely on a non-existence to exist?

Well, consider where "we" fit in: We live in an "eternal Now", which is the very thing we are experiencing right now.

And that the thing: direct experience of "Right Now" seems to be taken for granted. And once you start becoming more aware of "What's Happening Right Now", you can't help but wonder: how am I here to experience all this?

So "your 'I'" can also be the opposite of "Everything". When you look out through your eyes, there's "you", and then there's "Everything Else...the Stuff Out There".

Some folks stop there, using that "Watts pairing" to conclude that consciousness is non-existence. That's interesting, and might tickle the funny bone (oh look, a zen moment ;P ) but clearly that is absurd, because I'm certain that I exist, and I hope you have that certainty too -- because sometimes, that's all you've got.

Maybe we have it backwards. If "I" exist, could "I" be everything, and the other side of the "Watts pair" be, in effect, "non-existence"? Well, we could talk about that, but I do know that we aren't going to get far in our philosophies if we aren't pragmatic about it...and that's where some Kantian thinking comes in.

Because, in essence: if you are holding a rock, you are actually processing a set of senses that "gives you the feeling of holding a rock" -- we see it, touch it, feel it's weight, and so forth. But if this "approximation" of the direct experience of holding a rock is close enough to the _Ideal Concept_ of holding a rock...what do we gain by arguing that we "might not be holding a rock at all?"

Because as our successive approximations of direct experience of those phenomena approach that "Ideal", there's got to be a point where we "give in" to the evidence, and say, "Fine, I'm 'really' holding a rock." Because we are close enough to "certain" to make that determination...and when bringing this to the practical level of concepts and communication, we just say "I'm holding a rock", instead of "my epistemology has convinced me that I am, in fact, holding a rock".

(BTW, I sometimes call these different ways of arriving at knowledge "our epistemologies"...because what might be enough "direct experience" of "evidence" for one person, won't be enough for (say) a "Doubting Thomas". Just like "everybody has a philosophy", we could add to that "everybody has an epistemology", which is the sensations of Reality that they trust.)

Anyway, so one take on zen is this: It is about figuring out *who* is partaking in this "direct experience" that you are eternally in...if anything.

I've rambled on quite a bit. If you made it this far, I thank you for taking the time to read my screeds, and I hope i was able to get my point across.

Take care,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My comment in response to the fine work of the Right Reverend JC Christian

Actually, I must raise my sword in defense of the lay Mormons, or anyone who has been indoctrinated (and even "endocrinated") into a religion that tells lies (i.e., pretty much all of them)...

In almost all religions, there are a full spectrum of adherents, ranging from almost complete apostasy to rigid fundies...and it is the latter that cause all the trouble.

Interestingly, the more non-ignorant the adherent is, the less fundamentalist they tend to be.

I have a good friend/ex-boss who happens to be Mormon, but I don't think he's much into the alternate history espoused by said religion. (Or any religion.) In other words, he's not a literalist.

[ Though, I guess I should mention he is a Glenn Beck fan, it has seemed to me that he disagrees with Beck when the latter acts like a screaming weenie.

And even if we doubt Beck's sincerity when he does so, he does "say the right thing" from time to time, such as advocating non-violent protest in the manner of Gandhi and MLK.

But I digress. ]

Then there was my old almost girlfriend, who was raised Mormon...a few years ago, she told my pastor that she was a "recovering Mormon", and he said, "that's okay, I'm a recovering Catholic." Funny to hear that come from a Catholic priest...

So hearing his courageous words helped this one realize that there _is_ that
wide spectrum of religious belief in any religion... AND at all levels of their hierarchies.

There was another time, when the gentleman said -- in a _sermon_ -- "the stars do not always shine on the Vatican." (If Bill Donahue had been in the audience when he said that, I fear we'd have had to put him in 5-point restraints.)

But, this was probably the best way for the man to carry out his pastoral mission. Men and women of conscience know the guy is genuine...as is my Mormon friend...and as are plenty of Mormons.

In summary: religion is a funny thing...and some religious detractors are more "literalist" than the religious adherents.

Indeed, if you were to bring up one of hundreds of Bible contradictions to a mainstream theologian, she would most likely roll her eyes, pat you on the head, and offer to buy you an ice cream cone.

Take care,

(In response to Men with huge forearms holding long, hard, rigid shafts of steel

Friday, July 3, 2009

Catholic News Agency: Birth Control Apologetics

Observe the lack of logic or reason of any sort in the following expression of dogma:



But of course.

Participants also discussed state legislation that would have rolled back the statutes of limitation on civil lawsuits that could be brought for alleged sexual abuse of minors, regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. The “Child Victims Act,” sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), had the support of the Rabbinical Council of America, but was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church in New York for targeting private institutions.

But of course.

Here's the full dope:


Another reason for the RC's to fade away

Story of a young man's struggle with a Jesuit high school:


In a nutshell: the guy saddled with thousands of bullshit debt...but was left to be homeless.

And if the angry, angry man known as "Bill Donahue" were to hear of this story, what do you think he would say?

The RC's have had their chance to correct the huge systemic injustices and abuses in its structure: Now it is time to call for their dissolution.