Sunday, September 4, 2011


At the suggestion of a fellow poster on an internet Buddhist bulletin board, I gave a lecture by Richard Dawkins a whirl. The title of the talk was "The Purpose of Purpose" and the title tickled my fancy.

If I hadn't known it before, it was clear from the get-go that this was an intelligent man ... and not just because he had an English accent. His points and occasional wry barbs were pleasing. But after a while, I just ran out of steam. I was curious about what delineation he might come up with for "the purpose of purpose," but since he was taking so long about it (as why not: It was, I imagine, a paid lecture), I just lost interest. I'm a stand-up-speak-up-and-shut-up kind of mind ... even if I can do my own, far-less-intelligent blathering. I also tend to agree with the premise that if someone isn't capable of covering the subject in less than five minutes, s/he hasn't mastered the subject.

For all that, I felt a little bit guilty for not listening to the whole of the lecture. The topic really did seem interesting. I can forgive the fact that audiences demand a miasma of supporting and enhancing data -- something to sink their teeth into -- but, well, just give me the thesis and then blab if you have to.

The idea of conclusions is interesting. The idea that I might reach your conclusion fits with the warmth of social need. The idea that you might convince me or I might convince you and that thereafter there would be a bond between is soooo popular.

But reaching someone else's conclusion is not possible. There is only reaching your conclusion.

Baseball fan.
Pick your poison.

Reaching someone else's conclusion or basing your conclusion on the adoring throngs that fill the square -- this is a social convention, but it does not insure the peace that that convention suggests. And pretending or imagining that the intellect or emotion can insure a shared conclusion ... well, piffle... more self-serving and lazy piffle.

I guess the two-edged sword of conclusions is this: On the one hand, the social structure is warmed and informed. On the other hand, an unwillingness to acknowledge that any conclusion is a personal conclusion for which each is responsible vitiates any possibility of the peace that conclusive agreement might propose as a subtext.

Zen teachers like Rinzai and Huang Po, were far more stand-up-speak-up-and-shut-up: Don't rely on others. Don't rely on yourself. Just find out.

Just reaching for another stupid conclusion.

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