Wednesday, April 1, 2009

koan du jour

In some confused way, I prefer specificity to philosophy. If someone says to me, "I was walking down the street when I stepped in dog shit," I can understand and I imagine others can too. But when they segue into some philosophy or religion (which may be very good indeed) that points out the overarching meanings and interconnectedness and wonder of stepping in dog shit, my mental eyes glaze over.

I guess I like specificity in tale-telling because, as they say, 'the devil is in the details." The specificity of tales is user-friendly. Both of us, after all, have stepped in dog shit at one time or another.

But philosophy and religion speak of the conclusions drawn from specificities. They are, when they are not being used for self-important purposes, a kind of overarching shorthand. They offer the listener a mold within which to fit his or her particular dog-shit experience. But the danger lies in relying on the mold at the expense of the dog shit, of forgetting the particulars that made the generalizations or conclusions possible, of camouflaging experience.

I prefer the particulars of experience and yet, as time goes by, I have less and less energy for them. However compelling, particulars are endless, whether in my own or anyone else's life. Getting up a head of steam -- writing or thinking about them -- is tiring and I find myself, as here, looking for the shorthand.

And when I find it ... my eyes glaze over. :)

It's a pretty good koan, I guess.