Monday, May 10, 2010

wisdom and bullshit

Woke up thinking about the Diamond Sutra lines:

All composite things are like a dream,
A phantasm, a bubble;
Are like a shadow; a dewdrop and a flash of lightning.
They are thus to be regarded.

It seems to be impossible to wake up and not start thinking something -- chattering about one thing or another -- so I suppose the Diamond Sutra (a Buddhist text) is about as useful or useless as anything else. OK, so this morning it was the Diamond Sutra instead of about mowing the lawn or the Red Sox.

For the longest time, based on upbringing, perhaps, I have had a real burr under my saddle about those who know what other people or texts have said and then run around flag-waving the information as if some truth were honestly in hand.

Did you ever notice, for example, that college philosophy departments seem to be filled with "philosophers" rather than "philosophy teachers" and that few, if any, of those teachers have the good grace to correct the perception?

But I don't mean to pick on philosophy teachers. Isn't it pretty much the same for all of us? How about the old nudge to star-spangled Christians? -- "Just because you go to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."

And there are any number of realms in which there is a disconnect between walking the walk and talking the talk ... or, as they sometimes say in Texas, "He's all saddle and no horse."

Anyway, I awoke thinking about the giddyup lines from the Diamond Sutra and how I often find a sour taste in my mind's mouth when I or others quote third parties...bibles or Qur'ans or sources of impeccable information as if knowing that information meant the person spouting it actually had an experiential handle on it ... and was therefore wiser or smarter or more worthy than the next fellow.

Nobody likes a bullshitter, but what occurred to me this morning was that getting my tail in a twist was a bit of an overreaction ... a long-standing habit based on the harm I have experienced at the hands of an over-active intellect, i.e. an over-active imagination.

When each person is confronted with the bullshit in their lives -- the disconnect between talking the talk and walking the walk -- when, in fact, there is not much other than bullshit to work with, then working with bullshit is simply the name of the game. It is a way of encouragement and effort, a flash of lightning that may, in fact, help to put the saddle on the horse. The fault does not lie with the bullshit itself but with the unwillingness or inability to investigate and make whole what is for the moment disconnected...the distance between the "philosopher" and what for the moment s/he may acclaim as "philosophy."

Well, all of this is just my problem ... this irritation I can feel when quoting others comes along and is clung to with an iron grip. That irritation, it occurred to me today, is really not necessary. People grab whatever life preserver is at hand in the middle of their wild and confounding oceans.

And who knows, maybe those life preservers will actually save them.

Though I doubt if it will preserve them.

The Diamond Sutra is nice. Who knows -- maybe it'll make me a car.


  1. Interesting subject.

    I don't want to sound like a fanatic. But quotations of the Qurans and the Bibles quotations are not like other quotations. Not overestimating the holy books or giving them what they don't deserve. Becaues unlike regular qutation these books quotations have myriads of adherent. The problem here becomes; "how can you call all these pople wrong about their trust in the books they call divine?" The same question can be asked to anyone who doubts the Diamond sutra too.

    Though I am not a great beliver in Islam, it is flattering that you write Quran with a capital Q. I wish you could write God with capital G too. :)


  2. Mustafa -- Without disrespect, the fact that millions of people believe something may make it comforting or comfortable, but until any of us looks into it ... well, isn't this just comforting ourselves and solving very little?

    The Bible, the Qu'ran, the Diamond Sutra may all be very good encouragements or road maps, but don't we have to find out ... encouragements for what? road maps to where?

  3. Takes skill to cut through it to everyone's benefit.

  4. Mumon -- If you get a chance, please send me a copy of your "everyone." :)