Are You Sure?

edited January 2007 in Tools of Taoist Thought
I put 'progress report' in quotes because I'm not sure that anything that take over 30 years to make modest 'progress' can be called progress. Considering how long it takes, perhaps I should call it a 'Maturity Report'.

Anyway, I may have finally slowed down enough, vis-a-vis the shakuhachi, to [chref=64]deal with a thing while it is still nothing[/chref]. The 'thing' this time is [chref=8]timeliness[/chref] in Honkyoku (i.e., 'blowing Zen'). I wouldn't have thought this would be a concern considering the s-l-o-w nature of the HonKyoku 'tempo'. But, perhaps that actually makes it worse... who knows. Worse in the sense that the issue can be easily overlooked. Specifically, in regards to the shakuhachi, [chref=64]being as careful at the end as at the beginning[/chref] is my big, albeit daily, breakthrough.

Could a teacher have clued me in to this decades ago. Perhaps, but so what? In my view, the only 'learning' that really matters is that which we discover within ourselves, i.e., 'listening' to [chref=43]the teaching that uses no words[/chref]. We can learn techniques and become most skilled, yet still remain completely ignorant 'parrots'. The point is, 'true progress' is not the way that seems to [chref=41]lead forward[/chref]. Indeed, [chref=40]turning back is how the way moves[/chref]. When I can 'move' with the way, I realize what I need to know [chref=17]naturally[/chref] when the time is ripe. Truly this [chref=53]way is easy[/chref]! Expecting more is simply [chref=53]taking the lead in robbery[/chref]!


  • edited December 1969
    Taoist thought boils down to this simple question. And because a Taoist is never sure about anything -- at least anything [chref=1]that can be spoken of[/chref] -- he would likely say "not really".

    In a way, this is neither normal or natural. Indeed, biology drives us to certainty, from the on-off switching of neurons on up. 'Maybe' doesn't usually get survival's job done decisively enough, unless of course, we are [chref=15]fording a river in winter[/chref]. Life must act. Thus, knowing either 'yes' or 'no' is usually much easier on us emotionally than 'maybe'. We hate uncertainty, the unknown, the unanswered. Politicians (religious or governmental) know this innately and succeed by telling us the 'verities' we want to hear. As we know, [chref=65]of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them.[/chref] If the need for certainty is so normal and natural, what is the problem then?

    While certainty is emotionally satisfying, it is also blinds us cognitively. Emotional certainty is a problem for us in how it drives our thoughts and expectations. We end up [chref=71]thinking that we know, which leads to difficulty[/chref]. Thus, this is a uniquely human problem - - what with our big brain and all. To be sure, it took a heavy dose of correlations, along with some life experience to become as unsure as I am today. How unsure am I? Well, I take a vitamin supplement now a days. But, I'm only 51% sure it is doing me good; I'm 49% sure it is feeding some cancer hidden within me. While that 1% edge is enough to tip the scales, I wouldn't bet my life on it (or perhaps I am). I'm also 51% sure I'm male, alive, a 'Taoist', and that we [chref=16]wilfully[/chref] invaded Iraq. But then I'm 49% sure this is not the case, in each case. Is this any better than being sure? Uhhh....sure?

    There is an upside to uncertainty. Being [chref=15]tentative, hesitant, vacant and murky[/chref] can open our mind's eye in [chref=36]subtle discernment[/chref], to a world of [chref=1]mystery upon mystery[/chref]. Now, is that really an upside? And even if it is (to paraphrase chapter two), [chref=2]the upside and the downside produce each other[/chref]. Granted, emotionally speaking this perspective both excites and calms, which is [chref=73]difficult[/chref] if you desire more of one than the other. On the other hand, it is easy if you can feel [chref=46]content[/chref] with either or both. To me, embracing this [chref=14]indistinct and shadowy[/chref] approach feels a lot like living in the wilderness engulfed in Nature. Panacea it's not, for Nature cuts both ways.

    On balance, certainty feels safe, but can be dangerous. Tentativeness feels dangerous but is often safer. In the end, I imagine we all experience an increased sense of uncertainty as we age. Perhaps it is just biological. After all, the longer we live, the more synapses the brain's neurons make, which necessarily manifest itself as a 'fuzzier' perception of life. Why then do older folks seem so certain and set in their ways, [chref=56]moving only along old ruts[/chref], as it were? Ah ha! Remember, the exterior counter-balances the interior. What we see when we look out at the world are actually the symptoms (effects) of counter leaning forces. Note: To deepen your sense of this natural balancing act, see how [chref=5]it works[/chref] in an example from your own experience.

    Certainty is simply feeling sure about the differences we see, i.e., 'this is definitely different than that', or so we think. As we learn the 'this' and 'that' share more in common than we first thought, we begin to experience a sense of [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref], and willingly [chref=4]let our wheels move only along old ruts[/chref]. Perhaps the unique thing about Taoism is that it 'documents' this human journey toward [chref=51]maturity[/chref] so beautifully.
  • edited December 1969
    I can't help but notice that the principles you have written about Taoism, aren't too far off from Realism. It may not be, as I know much less about Taoism than I do about realism. But just based on your comments, it seems like one's perceptions of reality is and should be his reality. Why than, should we abide by this concept of religion or under the dispositions of alturism (sp?, sorry, it's over 1am where I am)?
  • edited December 1969
    Welcome Aboard Browny,

    I don't know specifically what "Realism" refers to, though 'real' gives me a hint. I see Taoist principles as pointing toward how Nature 'really' works, as opposed to how we [chref=71]think[/chref] it works,... or how we [chref=46]desire[/chref] it worked (to our advantage of course!).
    [cite] browny:[/cite]Why then, should we abide by this concept of religion...?
    Just because,...:wink:

    More seriously, "should" is something I've long wondered about. It is a 'loaded' word if ever there was one. Take a look at this short discussion on "Should", and we'll go from there if you like.
  • edited December 1969
    Realism, briefly means what you believe to be, is.

    I understand your conflict with the word 'should' as I am conflicted with many more of the limitations of verbal communication. I was using should, as the fact you have chosen it as your religion. Unless you are equating should with believe, then should should just mean what webster dictionary says it means.
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] browny:[/cite](1)Realism, briefly means what you believe to be, is.

    (2)... should just means what Webster dictionary says it means.

    (1) Do you mean "believe" in the [chref=23]word[/chref] based intellectual sense, like "I believe that I am alive"; or in an emotional sense like a fish "believes" that the bait on the end of my hook is just another tasty morsel. Perhaps Realism and Taoist thought would part company in the matters of definition. In our private moment Taoist thought returns all definitions to [chref=1]being the same[/chref]. That helps us to [chref=52]use the light, but give up the discernment[/chref].

    (2) I am referring to definition #1 of "should" in my Oxford dictionary (below). I trust Webster and Oxford agree?

    should >modal v. 1 used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness. ->used to give or ask advice or suggestions.

    Notice how obligation, duty, or correctness points to used to give or ask advice or suggestions. Used this way, "should" is symptomatic of the comparisons we make between how things are and our desire of how things should be -- a [chref=3]contention[/chref] between what [chref=4]only seems as if it were there[/chref], i.e., the 'reality', and the mind's version of reality i.e., the 'ideal'.

    Simply put, I suppose we could say a Taoist 'reality' questions the reality of perceptual certainty, and all the distinctions that ensue. Most other paths, be they philosophical, spiritual, scientific, political, etc. tend to go the other way, espousing one 'ideal' or another as reality. Notice how the Tao Te Ching begins with a sweeping disclaimer:

    [chref=1]The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way; The name that can be named, is not the constant name.[/chref]

    Then, ironically, it proceeds to speak over eighty one brief chapters on this principle. However, it sprinkles other similar disclaimers throughout, just in case we didn't get it the first time – nag, nag, nag. One of the most succinct being. [chref=56]One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know[/chref].

    Just in case, I'll clarify definitions (hooray for cutting and pasting):

    ideal >n. 1 a conception of something in its absolute perfection. 2 one that is regarded as a standard or model of perfection or excellence. 3 an ultimate object of endeavor; a goal.

    reality >n. 1 the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. 2 a thing that is actually experienced or seen. 3 the state or quality of having existence or substance.

    But of course, in the end, to paraphrase chapter two: [chref=2]ideal and reality follow each other[/chref], not to mention [chref=2]complement, produce, off-set, and harmonize with each other[/chref]. And saying that [chref=5]leads inevitably to silence.[/chref] At least for a while... :oops:
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