Sunday, May 13, 2012

Survival of The Fitest - Existing of the Existant

I don't believe in any agency in creation. I don't know exactly where things 'came from', but the rough sketch currently available (the big bang) resonates as true even though it is quite un-reasonable (I cannot get my head around it's far too big). I think the theory of evolution is a very good road as I contemplate existence and mind and self. It is proving particularly clarifying for me these days regarding mind and self. All theories of mind and psychology should have an evolutionary background explanation to be trusted. For example, Freud, to my characterization, assumed some sort of uber agency at play allowing this and repressing that, but he never got to explaining why from an evolutionary point of view. Some modern researchers appear to be riff off of evolution with great success.

But, I think it is very important to wrestle the grand cliche' of evolution, "survival of the fittest" in a manner that excludes agency. To perhaps translate this to Buddhism, the argument must be constructed without picking and choosing (p&c). One can see p&c at play in the catch phrase in 'the fittest.' This, of course, carries implications of decision. Of two things compared and the fittest one gets to move on to the next square. In my understanding of cause/effect there is no room for this. One set of factors collapses into the next set of factors. There is no 'deciding' in the collapse. It happens that way because that is the only way for it to happen (even that reeks too much of p&c).

It is freaking astounding to me that the universe if full of stuff that aggregates. Under the right conditions it aggregates into creatures that make and watch flat-screen, LED backlit, high definition, 3D, wifi connected, internet surfing televisions. Under other conditions it aggregates into blue giant suns, black holes and quasars. But in either case it is one long tumble of cause/effect. There are no decisions of 'fittest' driving this thing. Rather less poetically it is simply that the things that exist, do, and those that don't, don't. There is no right and wrong in this. Things do exist because the conditions and past flow (karma) have lead to them.

This helps me frame my concept of "why" I exist, and what is my "purpose", and I do experience some sorrow in that agency is removed from my view. There is, in fact, no "why" to my existence other than the seemingly sterile fact of cause/effect. And, there is no "purpose" I can look up in some agents book of purposes in heaven. But this does not leave me nihilistic and absent joy, wonder, and compassion.

I still experience joy, wonder and compassion, because I must do. They exist as concrete, real feelings, with underpinnings in specific, physically definable, brain activities, that are one outcome of a great avalanche of cause/effect that probably involved the super-nova of a blue-giant star several million years ago. And on the other hand, there is only breathing in and breathing out.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Envy Chaos Peace and a Rat's Ass.

Brad Warner's latest post on goalless practice is really good. I really dislike his blog comments area. It's too scary, mean. Not welcoming. The regulars seem to pretty much shred newbies.
What do I want? To reach out and ping, and say hey, and exchange ideas, and see if anyone gives a rat's ass. That's really it.
Brad's video comes from When I was looking at that I stumbled on the Dogen group in Belgium. I've traveled to Brussels a lot in the past on business and so felt a kinship for the near-Brussels location. The leader is an older woman. The pic's show her so calm and cool and collected and together, it just sent me into a tizzy. If I were to drop in, or email, or say, 'Hey, you look really cool', well first, how lame, and second, would she give a rats ass?
I think every Buddhist blogger I follow has 'it' together. None ramble or complain irrationally. At first I'd say you can't, but maybe you're very open to your humanness and can imagine how hard it is to blog what's really bouncing around in my head.
One of my blogger friends - I guess, I don't know for sure, could all be naivete on my part - often says "persevere brightly." I really like that. I try, but I don't always achieve it. I think he would probably dislike me if he ever met me. In truth I am not always bright. Though I think ultimately, even after every push and shove I have an innate optimism that still embraces the concept.
I want to know what it would be in Japanese. Though it is close to 'gambaremasu' it also makes me think of a scene in the Seven Samurai when one pore sod was near dead and the Mifune character encouraged him to 'brace up!' (or at least that was the English subtitle). We used that for years in an Aikido school I helped run to get people off complaining streaks. 'Persevere Brightly.' 'Brace Up!' These are good ideas.
I just want someone with Buddhist authority to tell me I'm doing okay. I am really a pretty piss poor Buddhist by the common yard sticks. I don't do zazen every day. Sometimes not for weeks. When I do, its never for 30 minutes. I don't have a teacher. There's one about 30 minutes away, but I can't get visiting that zen center into my routine.
I got into Zen because of Warner's first book. But he doesn't want 'remote' students. Which feels like he doesn't give a rats ass.
So why do I stay on this Buddhist bent and give such a half a rats ass towards my practice? I guess its that iron ball thing. I can't swallow it, and I can't spit it out. I completely accept the thesis of delusion, and that all I perceive is mind, and mind is wrong, and if I could drop mind, suffering would drop with it, and that there is no true individuation of anything, just a varying density in fabric of the universe that I choose (was taught) to understand as 'me' and 'not me.'
So maybe you are a bit like me. Your mind occasionally gets hyper tangled in intellectual discernment. Your mammalian herd instincts long for some alpha Buddhist creature to throw you a bone and give a rat's ass so you can have a few moments of peace. You have moments of complete at-easeness  interspersed with feelings of fear, loneliness, isolation and confusion.
If so, then I hope it gets better for you. I hope you learn to just accept what you feel in any moment and take comfort in knowing it is 'just' your brain doing what brains do. Your thoughts are not you. You are a part of the great mystery. All the buddhist sages were no different from you. Any ideas of good and bad, better and worse, famous and insignificant, are empy constructs. Breath in, breath out. That is the whole universe. That is Buddha. Sit and stare at a wall for as long as you can. Enjoy the infinite no-time that might pop up in the experience. Do one thing and then do the next thing. Pay some acceptance forward. Remember all people are ignorant of 'it' in some way, even you (and me). When it seems like it might help, find the compassion to give a rat's ass to your self and to someone else.