Friday, May 06, 2011

"Who are you?" and Buddhist ethics and morality

hThere is, somewhere on this site, an assumed fictional dialogue which illustrates how squishy the concept of "I" and "you" are.  Somewhere else on this site was a post called "Everyday Zen" which would make a good feature.  Still somewhere else on this site was the time I added Danny Fisher's first blog to my blogroll - I might have been doing this as long as anyone.

I was getting into a discussion with the Rightwinger at Work the other day, and, thanks to that dialogue being published in the now somewhat dubious publication Tricycle, and thanks to my being aware of it, I   noted that the fact that because the concept of "I" and "you" are so squishy pretty much means that the moment you try to objectify someone and/or a class of people by declaring These Beings Favored Persons and Those Beings Are the Others  that  you are then not talking about actual "people" or "persons" but imaginary "beings."

This idea then informs much of how Buddhists should view morality; it informs Barbara's well taken viewpoint on Buddhist responses to bin Laden (here), which finds agreement with Brad Warner (here) , which finds at least some agreement with "moi" (here).  And of course Kyle's I already mentioned.  To repeat about that subject, it was business.  Leave the gun, take the cannoli.  I'm not glad bin Laden's dead, I'm not sad that bin Laden's dead, but it was just business. I suppose the "r" that I feel in response to bin Laden's death is "red herring."

Philosophy is not worth an hour's trouble, according to the French Mathematician Who Provided Gambling Consulting Services to French Nobility. This is not some mystical mumbo-jumbo or nihilism, by the way, because of course you know who you are! That is, a) if you're aware of who you are, and b) you express that awareness in your behaviors mindfully carried out; who you are is no more mystical than executing a good serve, a proper chord change, or a well chosen turn of phrase.

And that's still too much philosophy.

It's paradoxically seeming not easy to practice living one's life well; it takes skill, but at the same time, of course you're living your life anyway. Nonattachment is a key thing here; I had something really well written in response to Barbara's post on "Buddhist" reactions to bin Laden, but I forgot what it was, and somehow the comment machine digested my comment. Or I hit a wrong button somewhere.  I used to play the piano better too and have pretty much no time to practice these days.  

Things are exactly the way they are. Buddhists remonstrating against those nasty violent people and Buddhists remonstrating against those who remonstrate etc. and so forth are all exactly the way they are.  There is also a direction this post could go where I bring notions of 侘寂 (wabisabi) up again. But I don't have the time to go further into depth in that way, though it might have led to an interesting (to me at any rate) discussion on how the brain being limited and all that makes it relatively straightforward to write a computer program  that beats humans at rock paper scissors unless they are using some external artifice (such as dice rolling with a simple algorithm). Oh well, so it goes.

Now it's time to prepare for the business trip.  Maybe I'll get a chance to update from a nicer place, not too far from Cannes, though in a more Catalonian paradigm.  After the internet ate my comment to Barbara the other day I realized I  get too attached to travel preparation, sometimes. Well, hopefully this will not be the trip to and from hell. And I wish the same to all today.


NellaLou said...

What's with the compulsion to have a reaction (hugely positive/hugely negative) to everything? There's always an option to have no reaction. Consciously, not through willful ignorance. I'm finding this third alternative more and more appealing. Just business...that's closer to describing the situation than any hand wringing on either side. I like it. Or not. Or neither.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Pascal was a champion of anti-rationalism (and mysticism) a few centuries before the postmodernists arrived. He often sounds....nearly mad.

While I don't worship Descartes, his philosophy (including metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, science writing, etc) deserves at least a few hours of reflection before tossing in the hearth (--even german philosophasters such as Kant thought does Chomsky), and/or returning to Samsara-land, or corporate navel gazing, etc . But doing so would demand a bit of the... L-word (logic), something which the blessed one was not overly fond of (assuming he existed, and knew of it).