Belief is comforting but is that worth what I really want?

Perhaps it would be better if we always lived our lives as if we only had a few days left. After all, you could be knocked down by a bus whilst crossing the road, have a completely unexpected heart attack, etc. Life is short when taken in the context of the universe - enjoy each moment now, there may not be another. :wink: :wink:


  • edited December 1969
    Here?s my question... It appears to me that myth is comforting. So, is ignorance bliss overall? For example, if you had just a few days, months, or years to live, would you prefer the doctor to keep you in ignorance with the illusion that you were going to be fine? Or would it be preferable, overall, to see things as they are, and adapt or adjust as best you could. MMmmm?
  • edited December 1969
    Well, would you live your life differently if you found that you had only 30 days to live? Would anything about your life change if that were the case? Would you tell people that you loved them? would you make a will? Would you take care of your body...or stop taking care of your body?

  • edited December 1969
    For me, I'd want to know if I had 30 days left, but not for practical reasons. I savor the moment the more I know the moment is fleeting. I waste it when I feel I have forever. So, I suppose my sense of love would be deepest in that situation.
  • edited December 1969
    the point, or perhaps i should say not the point, is that it wouldn't matter either way...reality IS and nothing more. The tao is harmony...In the last moment of life I am sure this would become evident. Little dragon is should live their life as if it is fleeting...because it is. In the grand scheme of time, which is nothing more than a measurement of light's travel, our lives are very short. The answer to the question of what should one do is simple, although difficult to understand. One should do nothing...what would make a difference? If you did everything that you had ever wanted; fulfilled every dream; would it matter in that last second as you took your dying breath?
  • edited December 1969
    I concur with both Kevin and L.Dragon in theory. But, it seems that both of you are discounting the fact that we are, first and foremost, animals. No matter how lofty our thoughts become, no one escapes the flesh and blood of life. The word "should" always comes up when we are conjuring up an escape from how things are. "Should" personifies a belief in free will ? that we are able to choose to do what we "should" do (or not do).

    It is not that we "should do nothing", or "should live life as if it is fleeting". Life is fleeting and we do nothing, despite how long we feel life is, or what we think we do. Even knowing this is so doesn't change experiencing the ebb and flow of our primate biology. If I've got an itch, I'll scratch it.

    Now, I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em, which often rubs folks the wrong way, so please don't take what I say personally. If I had free will, I'd change and become a bit more diplomatic... alas...
  • edited December 1969
    Carl, I have to say that I think you missed the point that I was trying to make. I was not saying that we should do anything special but that we should always focus on the moment, now matter how mundane (doing the washing up, forcing a table down the cats' throat etc.) and appreciate that moment for what it is - special, fleeting.

    Yes we are animals - we have physical needs that need to be met, but that is not all we are and whilst we must guard against our human tendency to over-intellectualise things, we must still be true to our nature. :wink:
  • edited December 1969
    Hmm . . . let me jump in here. I think we all agree about the part where we "should" always focus on the moment and so on. In fact, I would venture to guess that everyone would go along with that idea in theory. That is not to say that everyone would implement that philosophy (only a very few persons to varying degrees, if at all, methinks). This is of course true of most ideas that go against our instinctive nature, like a lot of the Tao Te Ching; [chref=70]"My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice, yet no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice."[/chref] Would you agree that a majority of people don't really consider this (or really consider, period) most of the time?

    What I found most intriging in this discussion so far was:
    [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]Yes we are animals - we have physical needs that need to be met, but that is not all we are and whilst we must guard against our human tendency to over-intellectualise things, we must still be true to our nature.
    This is interesting . . . "we must still be true to our nature." What IS our true nature? Personally I would say that part of our "true nature" is to always be thinking ahead -- where will I get my next meal, what will I do next, etc. -- which suited us very well in the "wild." But this doesn't include focusing on the moment. I'm guessing that isn't quite what you mean by "true nature" . . . or is it? Set me straight.
  • edited December 1969
    Well, I tried to think up a great reply but it seems that when you (meaning me or anyone) try to say something intelligent, it becomes just the opposite and it turns out to be a worthless uninetelligent pile of compost. If there is a urge or if it comes out naturally (or if you have prepared a list of intelligent quips and quotes 'n such), then it's a thought provoking work of art (if'n you know what I mean). Same when telling jokes too. :lol:

    By the way, Luke Abbott! I couldn't help but notice that you are the Site Admin. Woo! That must be an honor. Hey everyone! Luke's the Site Admin! nightcaps and hat's off to Luke Abbott! *clapclapclapclapclapclap!* :D
  • edited December 1969
    OK, I've got three things I want to say, roughly in ascending order of importance:
    1. And I quote:
      [cite] Tao Nut:[/cite]By the way, Luke Abbott! I couldn't help but notice that you are the Site Admin. Woo! That must be an honor. Hey everyone! Luke's the Site Admin! nightcaps and hat's off to Luke Abbott! clapclapclapclapclapclap!
      OK, very funny. The web site gave me the title of Site Admin, not me. But that's what I am, after all. 8) Now cut out the applause, or I'll have you banned! :twisted:
    2. And I quote again:
      [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]. . . now matter how mundane (doing the washing up, forcing a table down the cats' throat etc. . . .
      Well, I'm not from the UK, so I may just be out of the loop, but what the heck does "forcing a table down the cats' throat mean? :?:
    3. I still what to know what our true nature is! You say that we have physical needs that need to be met, but that is not all we are. Please elaborate...
  • edited December 1969
    Well, I'll add my two cents worth (1.5 cents after taxes): to answer Carl's original question, I'd definately like to know if I only had a set time left to live. Just for the convenience of getting my affairs in order. But one should of course always life every moment as it's your last. I'd hate to think I'd hug my kid more if i knew i was dying, because that'd mean i'm not hugging him enuf now.
    As for what our true nature is, I believe our true nature just IS.
    Is that deep or just a cop out?
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Buddy1:[/cite]As for what our true nature is, I believe our true nature just IS.
    Well, I would say something along those lines, but I think Little Dragon was referring to something more:
    [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]Yes we are animals - we have physical needs that need to be met, but that is not all we are and whilst we must guard against our human tendency to over-intellectualise things, we must still be true to our nature.
    "But that is not all we are," to me that means our "true nature" extends beyond our "animal nature." Personally, I would tend to disagree, but I want to understand exactly what this "true nature" is, and how it's different from other animals . . .
  • edited December 1969
    I would want to know if I only had a small amount of time left, but I would not tell anyone else.
    I'd make sure that my kids' last memories of me are all happy ones, and thats it.
  • edited December 1969
    Talk of our 'true nature', 'animal nature' and so on just brings home the first chapter...[chref=1]The way that can be spoken of, Is not the constant way;[/chref].

    I toss out 'true nature', 'animal nature' as concepts to ponder. Question is mystery. Answer spoils the deepest sense of mystery. I focus on us as 'animals' first and foremost to simplify the issue. 'Animal' is as deep a mystery as any other concept. I think we tend to get ahead of ourselves... thanks to our big brain. [chref=40]Turning back[/chref] to a simpler view is helpful.
  • edited December 1969
    People tend to view animal as a putdown, as a lesser state. Yet animals are as graceful, feeling, and worthy of respect as humans, and in many cases more so. I feel no denigration when referred to as having 'animal spirit'. indeed that's a copmpliment-think comic books: quite often when a person gains 'super powers', beyond that of their ordinary human state, they are those of an animal...
  • edited December 1969
    even with myth, belief, and shades & blinders on to help you when staring into the sun of reality, lifes a damn scary, lonely place. Giving all this up is even scarier.
    Nothing worthwhile is easy, but it's hard, man! I find myself avoiding these 'deeper' sections of this forum, hanging out in the Tao louge, cracking wise and chit chatting, when i know i need to be reading the articles here-and i am-but my efforts just never seem to be enough-I want ansers and revelations NOW, but by wanting answers, i'm avoiding answers, missing the real questions, which have never been asked anyway...
    -my own worst critic, though many are in line for that job...
  • edited December 1969
    I've found it's best to keep it simple. Our monkey minds create the notion that reality is a scarey place; I think that comes from our natural survival sense. Watch Out! Something may be coming to get you! And so we are on guard....for what?

    So when I feel that way, I remember KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid!) and just breathe in and out and put one foot in front of another. In the present moment I have yet to experience fear.

    PS I only know how to do this by practicing meditation, which is merely staying present. I highly recommend it.
  • edited December 1969
    Top of my list for '05: more meditation time...always making the kids at work slow down, stop and take a few minutes to be quiet and relax...need to practice it more myself...
  • edited December 1969
    What works for me is making meditation part of my everyday brushing my teeth. When I went to work everyday, I got up 30 minutes earlier so I had time. This worked better before I retired. I tell myself that there is nothing I can do that's more important than meditating and I truly believe that.
  • edited December 1969
    True, I believe meditation adds years to your life, and certainly adds quality to it.
    One thing that struck me about the messages concerning the 'trading spouses' show was the amount of jealousy directed towards Carl for 'not working' for having time to do yoga, meditate spend time with his kids. "He's home all day, doesnt work 9-5, he cant be a good father, he must have a hidden agenda", etc...
    These people who reacted so negatively towards his ability to both have and use free time well really showed their hand. It was very revealing. People dont use their time wisely, they're rushing towards the grave, and they want to drag others with them.

    I work graveyards, and when i'm bumming around during the day doing my business, I often get looks or comments that seem envious and even angry, like I'm not pulling my share of the world's weight. And when i suggest to friends that they stop and meditate, or try barefooting or other stress relieving techniques, they look at me as if I'm insane. "I dont have time", "thats not acceptable in my position" etc...really a shame. Fighting against the way, if you will...

    There is no 'free' time, it's all bought and paid for, might as well use it to our advantage.
  • edited December 1969
    Others have the power to 'drag you with them' only if you allow that. I've noticed some people feeling angry because I'm meditating but that's not really my business. I've learned to separate my stuff from the stuff of others. And I've learned that beneath anger is always fear, so perhaps those people are fearful about something they don't understand or fearful that, if they sat with nothing to do, they would find something awful about themselves.

    I have a lazy mind, so I just do it and trust everything will fall into place.
  • edited December 1969
    Sorry I've been absent for a while! New job - lecturer, I'm sure I need say no more!

    I apologise for my typographical error - I meant a tablet not a table! Please do not fear for my cat's life; she will turn 13 soon and is a very contented being (and also healthy!). :lol:
  • edited December 1969
    Luke, I am still puzzling out precisely how to put this down in words. I will try to clarify what I meant (although how successful I shall be is debatable!)

    "we are all animals but that is not all we are". Through a fluke of evolution, human beings developed in a different way to most other primates. There are, of course, the obvious physical differences, but as well as these there are the mental differences (I hasten to add that this does not mean that humans are better than other animals, merely different).

    Yes, we have a biological nature that constrains us to a certain extent - take as an example the choice to become a vegetarian: human beings have evolved to be omnivorous (i.e. we eat everything and yes, even each other) and yet some people choose not to eat meat - we overcome our biological nature through the exercise of our free will.

    But our biological nature is not all we are, as my example above shows. I talked earlier of being true to our nature and living life as it comes, and some people replied well what about curiousity, isn't that true to our nature? Yes it is, but (and it's a big but) we should not indulge one part of our nature to the exclusion of all the others, which is what we do when we forever look ahead to the future and ignore the here and now. Being true to our nature is to be true to all of it not just parts.

    So what is our true nature, I hear you cry, that was the explanation I asked for in the first place woman! So here goes, my poor contribution to the discussion.

    Human beings are part of the animal kingdom, we would be fools to ignore this fact, but through our evolutionary process we developed an ability to wonder and question, worry and plan and this is also true to our nature. The trick is, in my lowly and tentative opinion, to keep these in balance because only then can we know our true nature. It is neither one nor the other rather a combination of both, balanced and in harmony. Unfortunately, in my (almost) forty years of life, I have come to the regrettful conclusion that very few people know what balance is, let alone want to achieve it! Perhaps this is the fault of our western consumer driven society, I don't know.

    I look forward to any posts on this reply.
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]... very few people know what balance is, let alone want to achieve it! Perhaps this is the fault of our western consumer driven society, I don't know.
    That certainly appears to be the case. However, we have no 'choice' in the matter. You know, free will... bah hum bug.

    Civilization is an destabilizing influence for humanity in particular and nature in general. It is a double edged sword, we get an inordinate amount of security and comfort, compared to wild animals. We pay for that with an inordinate sense of disconnection with nature which results in imbalance. Nature is pay as you go. You could even say we are 'addicted' to comfort and security and so are simply suffering the consequences of our addiction.

    Oh, by the way, welcome back :!:
  • edited December 1969
    Ah yes, Carl, Free Will. I have a feeling that you and I are unlikely ever to agree entirely on this topic. My feeling, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, is that you don't accept that we have free will. I have to say that I believe that all human beings have free will - unfortunately we are, for the most part, far too lazy to exercise it. It's not that we don't have it merely that, through our addiction to comfort and all the other dubious pleasures of modern civilized (?!) society, we choose to ignore it or pretend that we don't have it.

    It is so much easier to bemoan our fate and say that we have no choice! You could perhaps extend this argument further and say that even through refusing to choose we have in fact chosen and therefore exercised our free will.

    Thanks for the welcome back :P
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]...My feeling, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, is that you don't accept that we have free will.

    OK Little Dragon, you asked for it... :wink:

    It is not that I don't accept it. In fact, I believed whole heartedly that I had free will up until about 20 years ago when, while pondering the issue, doubt entered my mind. Try as I might, I could find no real evidence for it. Every so called example of free will that I could think of could be explained by the simple process of 'balancing desires'. This, the strongest need wins principle, appears to be at work, not only for us, but all life on earth.

    Furthermore, I've asked many folks who believe in free will to give me an example of it at work. All examples so far can be easily explained by the simple observation that we end up doing, or refraining from doing, whatever we most need to do, or most need not to do.

    Just to be clear about what I understand need to be... it is that driving emotional force, a thirst, we feel awaken within us. For example, we don't spontaneously say to ourselves, "I think I'll light a fire of need for eating food, watching TV, reading a book,..." (ad infinitum). What actually happens is that we feel the need/s ignite within. The type of need we feel at any moment is determined by our deep personal physical and emotional nature, our paradigm, and our surroundings. This foundational need operates in concert with, and is part and parcel of, our innate interests and talents. We don't choose them either, by the way; they arise from the same roots as need. Our 'free will' struggle comes into play when a need/s arises which is in conflict with another need/s (which we don't 'choose' to feel either). This sets up a state of emotional anxiety as the conflicting needs struggle to 'win'.

    Let's say, for example: I'm fat; I love good food; I want to be thin to attract a mate; I'm a great cook. Each of these is either a need, or a conflicting need I feel. What role does free will play here? If I eat less, loose weight and become thin you'll say I exercised my free will, right? But that invokes a 'force' which can be explained by a much simpler observation. Not only simpler, but an observation that can be applied to all animals.

    Here goes: I started eating less because the need to attract a mate was stronger than my need to eat good food. That I could eat less despite the fact that I'm a great cook is further proof of just how strongly I needed to attract a mate. This reasoning can be applied to any and all examples of human behavior, as well as animal behavior. This may explain why we believe in free will. Even an implied sense of free will allows us to feel superior to those other 'lower' animals. Interestingly, I run across people who at this point don't want to discuss it any further. They get uncomfortable because, I assume, they treasure their belief in free will, but can not 'prove it'. Either that or it's my garlic breath. :lol:

    I invite you to give me a real world example of free will. Like I said, I'm still waiting. If I see some evidence for it, I'll be the first to climb back on board. Until then I grow increasingly skeptical for although many claim it exists no one offers proof.

    Now why am I harping on this issue of free will? It has to do with Buddha's view that we need to understand what is actually going on before we have any hope of mediating it. If free will is just wishful thinking, then our whole culture is founded on wishful thinking. That has to result in some intractable problems. One age old problem that arise from the belief in free will is that it fuels self certainty. The sense of a superior self allows us to rationalize the judgements we make about other people which allows us to get away with murder (literally and figuratively) and still maintain our sense of innocence. Free will provides the foundation for morality and all its attendant hypocrisy. When I think about it, the belief in free will is like a belief in God. In the West, both beliefs go hand in hand, i.e., free will is our way to avoid the 'devil' and live a righteous life. In the East free will is more of an implied belief, i.e., you can fiddle with your karma, or you can choose to be mindful. In truth, you are mindful only when you feel the need. How you come to feel the need to be mindful is part of life's mysterious way.

    Whew, them's a lot a words... sorry. If I had free will, I probably would not have written quite so much. :) Thankfully I can insert a smiley face here and there :!:
  • edited December 1969
    Sorry not to have got back to you recently, Carl, my life has been a little like the studying of history - just one damn thing after another! :roll:

    Having read your reply to mine there are just a couple of things to say. Firstly, I'm sure that I will never convince you that free will exists - but please don't tell me it's because I don't look at things clearly - I do, although my clear vision differs from yours. Secondly, there are a number of examples that I could have used, but reading what you have written, I doubt whether they'd convince you either! :wink: Thirdly, I really think that you would find a reading of Kantian Moral theory interesting; also GEM Anscombe's work (1958) - the title of which eludes me for the moment - but which refers to virtue theory (which has brought the work of Aristotle more up to date).

    I think that, fundamentally, our disagreement about free will is an extension in our (glorious and welcome) personal differences. What springs to mind for me is the allegory of the 3 vinegar tasters - Buddha had a sour look on his face, Lao Tzu was smiling. :lol:
  • edited December 1969
    Good to hear from you. I sure empathize with your "one thing after another". Now, I'm going to be brief for once! :shock:

    Simply said, would you agree that it all boils down to the fact that what we see is the mirror reflection of what we 'don't want' to see?

    Specifically, maybe you 'don't want' to see that free will is an illusion... or maybe... I don't want to see that free will is real. So, we see the world that we each want to see.

    There is no proof, either way, so instead, let's look at the impact our respective views have on our life. As I used to believe in free will and now no longer do, I have some experience in both paradigms. Thus, I have noticed that...

    1) Absent free will, judging others become almost impossible, as does casting stones at other's 'bad choices'. Self forgiveness comes easily, and with self forgiveness naturally flows the forgiveness of others, as does settling, like water, into the 'lower position'.

    2) Present free will, judging my own or another's 'poor choices' in life becomes unavoidable, as does the contention which inevitably ensues.

    For the rest of it, nothing changes. In either case, (1) or (2), we continue doing what we need to do (or not do) and ignore what whatever we don't need to do (or not do).

    Well, so much for being brief... :) Actually, that's not too bad... 8)
  • edited December 1969
    So, Carl, did you decide to reject the concept of Free Will freely, or did it just happen? Sounds to me like you really gave the subject a lot of thought, then decided to reject the concept of Free Will. But hey, I'm comfortable with paradoxes, as I'm sure you are as well.

    And for those who embrace Free Will--do you have a choice in it? Can one truly choose to reject the concept of Free Will? And I'm also open to the idea that Free Will exists temporarily, in our most lucid moments, then vanishes like the proverbial Yeti.
  • edited December 1969
    First, welcome! welcome! welcome! Thank you for stirring the 'pot'. :)
    [cite] zenjew:[/cite]...Can one truly choose to reject the concept of Free Will?...

    Now, this is an easy one!

    I don't see any evidence that we choose either to believe or not to believe. I suppose in the final analysis, all belief is based on faith, not proof as such. I faithfully believed in choice for 40 some years until I actually looked for some small shred of evidence that it was real and not just a projection of what I wanted to have. I ain't found any evidence yet, nor has anyone offered me any. :shock:

    I suspect that we all need to believe in free will to make civilization work. One criteria of being civilized is not being like the other animals, i.e., instinct driven without free will. Having free will is the cornerstone myth of the human paradigm. It allows us to 'lay trips' on one another and ourselves which is the engine that keeps us interacting together in the massive cultures which have evolved, especially since the agricultural revolution (10,000BCE).

    What say you?
  • edited December 1969
    Carl, thanks for the response. I really agree with you, but just love to play Devil's Advocate. I remember reading in a pop science book a while back (I think it was called "The User Illusion") about an experimental model that posits "readiness potential" states in the mind--basically a list of all your available options in any particular situation that narrows down to one "choice" just about .3 through .5 seconds before you're about to make any kind of conscious decision. So this means, and has been verified experimentally, that our so-called freely made decisions actually happen on an unconscious level a whole whopping half a second before we consciously "choose" that decision. This has puzzled psychologists ever since the 1970s when these experiments were first conducted, and various "solutions" have been proposed, none that I think are satisfactory.
    Belief, in general, tends to be an insidious concept, leading quite often to a sort of "hardening of the mental arteries," and I tend to have suspicions and hunches rather than any kind of firm beliefs. My hunch is that Free Will can sometimes be a useful concept, yet mostly it's a sneaky way of guilting people into doing the "right" thing, where really, from a Taoistic point of view, people would do the right thing naturally if only the moralists and Free Willers (ha!) would leave them alone.
    There's an interesting take on Free Will in a story by Raymond Smullyan, my favorite logician/mathematician/musician/magician/Taoist philosopher, which you can find here:
    It's a bit long, but I think you will enjoy it.
    Ah, nothing like a bit of philosophy to start the day!
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