Meditation talk at Berkeley City College, June 24, 2014. Title of talk comes from a line in T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton" within the Four Quartets.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Thursday, February 27, 2020
From time to time, I feel that I'm really a "philosopher-at-large". It's one of my jobs in this life. I reflect on things. I am not a writer, but more a speaker. That's why I use audio so much. That which appears real to me is often unspeakable and un-writable. The best I can do is sing or write a spontaneous poem. So here I am - reflecting on myself, in public, about this occupation of philosopher-at-large. Thankful for so many people who keep visiting this philosopher-at-large blog over all these years. You keep me going.
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Young people in competitive universities often find "not knowing" to be utterly frightening. For them, it feels like life depends on "getting it right". That lesson learned in school often extends into the rest of life. This is unfortunate. Embracing not knowing is "divine ignorance" - it opens us to the possibilities of all that can be. Learning to live with the unknown and knowing that we don't know - may well be the beginning of true wisdom. It is absolutely humbling how little we do know about anything - including our deepest selves. Coming to knowing that we don't know is the cutting edge of wisdom.
Monday, February 17, 2020
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
There are dark nights of the soul, when all looks doomed.
Don't believe it.
Such views are born of fatigue.
There are moments when it seems all can be done with brilliance and ease.
Don't believe it.
Such views are born of excess energy.
Friday, February 07, 2020
Wake up to who
you really are.
else comes at
too high a cost.
"Who you really
are" is love.
forgot that you
are love; if
you did forget, go
visit or see
someone with a
new infant child.
The teaching will
Thursday, February 06, 2020
Years ago there was a bohemian group that held parties at the ramshackle home of an old painter in Canyon, far back in the Oakland Hills. His son and I used to hold long discussions on all sorts of subjects, including physics, math, philosophy, music, literature… One night, both of us having consumed a fair amount of wine, the subject of Zen came up. We wondered if we could make our own contribution to Zen enlightenment. The result was the following.
“In a Zen monastery, a monk was given the opportunity to ask the Master one and only question, with the promise that the Master would answer it. When the appointed day arrived, the monk was presented to the Master. ‘You may state your question,’ said the Master. The monk replied, ‘My question is this: What is the most important question I can ask you, and what is the answer?’ To which the Master replied, ‘That is the most important question you can ask, and this is the answer.’”
Contributed by John Franklin
(In mid-2008, I had a compelling dialogue on The WELL with people I never met in person on the topic of "What's It All About?" Here are my own posts. All the other responses are deleted, following the rule that "you own your own words" applies to posts on The WELL. It's the unquoted writers who took me to deeper levels of understanding - they drove these notes into being!)
Life has taken me into many phases and experiences. I'm sixty years old now. Long enough to know what little I know; long enough to feel that I have lived. I am thankful for that.
What's it all about? Each day the answer to this question could be different. Death and limitation have been the most powerful teachers. As we age, people around us get sick and die. I was thinking about some of those people this morning. One was 20 years older and like a father to me. He came to memory. I realized that in a way - this was how he "lives on" - in the memory of friends and relatives. His motto was, "Life is good!" I try to remember that one.
Last year, two people that I work with lost their children (one was eight and the other thirty years old). It was unspeakable. I was deeply affected. Death pushes us out of abstraction. (Wow! and this statement is an abstraction). A big problem with philosophy is that philosophy "wants" to abstract. But, reality is not abstract - reality is real. :) Death must be painful because we love.
I think "it's all about love". I remember an opera with a song that goes, "Love is the heartbeat of the Universe." I think so. Without love, we have nothing, nothing at all. Even all the jewels and gold hardly make it worth it. Is not the meaning of life Love? And, yes, I have been hurt in love; and have grieved because of love - through death and separation. Love comes in all forms: with job, God, children, mate, etc....etc.
It's like this: Love to be love that is real love is love that sees the self in the other. Thus, the Golden Rule follows. But, love that is conditional to "me being more important than you" as fundamental - that is love perverted. Even bankers can be loved, once we see them as they really are - as, perhaps, misguided. In ancient days, it was something to have dinner with tax collectors. Yet, they, too, could be loved. Anyway, I believe there is a high path of love that holds the universe and the human world together. A love that is even stronger in the long run than hate. Mundane matters, yes! Love is totally mundane - it is what holds the world together. Our mundane work is tangible love. Deep nature is a dynamic balance of attractive and repulsive forces; so, suggest the laws of physics. This balance of forces sustains our everyday macro world - that we mostly take for granted. I come to this conference because I love philosophy; and, I love to run into other people (YOU) who struggle with difficult, hard to pin down ideas. Is it not love that brings us together?
Perhaps, this question "What's it all about?" cannot be answered. But, it is in the "answering" that love is. Love is like the background, like the air that we take for granted. Most mundane, most divine it is. I have seen many wish to be transported and transcending. This is not much better than taking drugs or alcohol. The real thing, I believe, is to be-here-now. It takes real love to really be-here-now with what-there-is."Attentiveness" is as close as possible to being honest with the experience of being human in our world in all its dimensions as possible. That's why I am not comfortable with the idea that we "are just evolved mechanisms that are useful to the replication of our genes". I have no problem with the genes being part of what we are attentive to, but genes are only part of the show on one of the many levels of reality which we live in. I don't have a conflict with the genetic explanation as long as it is not a reductionist program that makes the experience of being-human "nothing but" the play of genes. The genetic is deeper level below the subconscious mind of the human; and, of course, the quantum level is deeper than genetic. That does not mean, however, that these levels are more real than human. But, I am not sure that the human experience is fundamentally real. It is, however, our experience - the experience that we start with as we grope for what is beyond human.
You know, to live without a narrative might just be total freedom, total enlightenment. Narratives are either internal monologues or "polylogues" among people. For example, we could have a narrative that explains everything (yes, "what's it all about?") in terms of genes. And, why not? We can "reduce" everything (i.e. map it) to any level of another or reality. The main advantage of not reducing everything to genes is to keep the narratives simple for humans to understand human life in human-terms not genetic terms.
Poetry reduced to genetic relationships would require a lot of decoding to be meaning to one living an ordinary life. Daily life requires a narrative. Without narratives we would slip either into the absurd & schizoid or cosmic consciousness. You know it's interesting that recent cosmology talks about the "sound of creation" - that ripples in the early Universe produced a sound, a kind of music. This accords with mystical Hindu concepts of the universe beginning with a sound; like God in the Bible speaking the Word. Vibration, sound, light. Even before there are genes.
What's it all about? What do we know, anyway? :) Even if it is just chaos or actually intelligent design - it might just come down to interaction. There's no "final answer" - it's a journey that takes us beyond questions and answers. I believe that everything by change or by law is totally interrelated, so everything must be interacting.
I love interaction. That's one of the reason I love The WELL. I've the greatest respect for "logo therapy" as developed by Viktor Frankl in his book *Man's Search for Meaning*. It taught me that I am my own meaning maker; and, also to respect other people's ways of finding/making meaning. If memory is right, he discovered in a German concentration camp during WWII that those who found a specific meaning had a greater chance of making it out alive. I figure that may be true for all of us: with meaning we have a greater chance of getting out alive!
When I started this topic, I had no idea where this question would lead. to me it is a matter of mystery and wonder. human beings appear to have evolved out of the soup of matter and life. it's a wonder we are gifted with reflective consciousness. it's worth asking such questions just for the pleasure of expanding reflective consciousness and solving problems and much more.....
I mix God and consciousness into the strew here. Suppose God as some kind of pure Source Energy did utter a Sound, a vibration that caused the Big Bang. If so, the whole of creation is infused with consciousness seeking to organize itself itself here and there. That self-organizing here and there leads to all kinds of practical results - until consciousness seems to have holographic capacities for resonating with the whole universe back to the time of the Big Bang.
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Walking this early morning. Birds singing. I imagined great men turning very old in rest homes - with their minds slow and often confused. Their worldly powers gone. Many just lost. A few shining with the light of love in their eyes. Oh! What a surrender, a giving up - being weak meek and older and dropping away worldly powers and fame. Nothing remaining except treasures stored in the soul. Most will be so poor - with lives spent in achievements. A few learned harmony and wisdom along the way: going into the light with the greatest letting go, in love. May I become so fortunate. True humble greatness.