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Dalai Lama

The Zen of Living 禪

Posted on 2011.11.19 at 13:50
Current Location: 67114
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I will never stop seeking that which could destroy me, if for no other reason than to be as prepared as I can when or if it were to transpire. I will never stop seeking that one thing I refuse to compromise on, save seeking itself, for as long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to search for that which cannot be found. Aristotle asserts that all human beings desire the acquisition of knowledge. Its all I seek anymore.

And I feel ostracized because of it.

For the first time in my life I am at a place where I can actively indulge myself in matters of the mind - I can expound upon ideas and thoughts and precepts and theorize conclusions and hypothesis. I work with computers all day in a mighty lair of my own creation, receiving instruction electronically and responding to it in fashion, never having to actually communicate to lesser beings. For some, this would be a one-way trip to madness. For me, its utopia actualized.

Neurotic Dog & Simple Dog, saddled with each other.
I often feel like "Simple Dog" insofar as he sees everything as awesome!

And yet no one understands. Because its different, its wrong; because its not normal, its wrong; because my ideas differ from others...its wrong. Because I embrace reality and facts rather than denying truth and can accept my own human nature in stoic style with all its shortcomings while being similarly accepting of others and displaying a general lack prejudice, its wrong. For many, art conceptualizes basic human instinct for harmony, balance and rhythm outside utility. For myself, pursuit of knowledge incorporates all those intangibles within the denotation of utility. I do not begrudge artists their expression, why do I feel such hostility toward my own discoveries? My own endeavors? How can an artist call my unique expression flawed?

Many feel that I dislike disagreements. Nothing could be further from the truth! Without a differing opinion I would never learn, and on this path of enlightenment I am on it does me a great disservice to either simply agree with me or worse, disagree without supportive discussion as to why. Your opinion means everything to me - when you can articulate the how and why behind it - and means almost nothing to me when you can't. Your opinion alone is not what's important, rather how you arrived at it. Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening, no doubt, no awakening. ~ Zen Saying. And I doubt all unsubstantiated beliefs. You want to convince me? Talk to me. Tell me why you feel the way you feel, not just what you feel.

And yet time and again I battle daily with those who's default reaction to anything - everything - is seemingly frustration, or anger, or hopelessness. People who smile because they think that's what they're supposed to do, not those who do so because they cannot contain it within. People who feel as if anything other than frustration, or anger, or hopeless is oppressing - that I am actively seeking to destroy their freedom of expression by suggesting they use the power of their mind to...if not assume wonder at every turn, then at least not be destroyed by every overturned rock. Knowledge fascinates me! I live in a bubble of wonder! Why does this make ME the weird one?

A little over three years ago I posted on this very subject - thinking on things which could destroy me. And given that time, I've learned a few things. There was a cute little graphic I used that I thought summed up well what we should all strive for - four things no matter your beliefs or philosophies or epistemological viewpoints we can all agree upon. I didn't think these were opinions or debatable items. I now see that I was wrong.

There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

"Have fun" the first one stated. Only, some are afraid to have fun. If they did so, they might pay for it later somehow; that it would come back to haunt them. Others don't believe they deserve to have fun, that fun is not quite within their grasp and is too much of an effort to attempt. Better to not try, than try and fail - because failure is bad. At least they can be a success at not having fun!

"Do not hurt people" the second one stated. This has been one of the hardest for me to learn. Many people will get hurt no matter what you do, or don't do. They leave no course of action which will alleviate pain or suffering. They will be hurt no matter what. You thought you had choices, but these people are adept at zero compromises. They don't want to get hurt, but neither to they believe that its possible to choose a path in which it doesn't exist. Suffering for most of us is a choice. For these people, its a way of life and there is no disputing it. They simply do not have the capacity for using their mind to change their perception enough to make them not unhappy. This is not an opinion. I can do it, they cannot. [CORRECTION: Others can do it too. (despite empirical data to the contrary...)]

"Do not accept defeat" is the third one in which I've realized my viewpoint on differs. Some wear defeat as a warm blanket around them - its comfortable because there are no expectations and let's face it, expectations can be hard. For those who find challenges nothing more than roads to failure, and failure as defeat instead of a lesson, acceptance of defeat is the ONLY path laid before them.

Lastly we had, "Strive to be happy" but I think you all know where I'm going with this. If you are afraid to have fun, are constantly hurt by every perceived action or comment, and wear defeat as a secret-club badge for being smarter than those who would fail, your vision of happiness; that pseudo-contentment you strive for which straddles the line between being frustrated and not - that is not what I consider happiness. I understand that you do, and if you'll allow me to, I will accept it fully as you accept mine.

This contrasts greatly with those who believe I live to argue. I remember people saying the same thing about drax0r. "He just likes to argue."

"No," I'd say, "He likes to learn." And that response always got me cud-chewing cow-eyes. Blank, cud-chewing, cow-eyes. Usually followed by the highly ineffective, "Nuh-uh" defense. As for myself I do it more because I desire understanding. And I don't mind admitting I'm often shocked at how little I understand. Almost as how shocked I am that there are living, breathing people milling around on this earth with no comprehension of why they believe what they do, and perhaps worse, without the cognitive function to discuss it logically before their emotional safety-net triggers and they start speaking in tongues. Its fascinating. And it scares the bejezzus outta me.

Why even the last person I suggested turning a potential conflict into a challenging opportunity asked me why I was always so negative. I had no response to that. It was the most life-affirming, optimistic thing I could think of to say, and how I personally deal with negative external influences. Yet...my suggestion of overcoming negativity was negative? I DON'T UNDERSTAND. And as is par for my course, it could not be explained. It just felt that way, I suppose.

We absolutely must have some common ground in which to interact.

I was standing near the pharmacy looking to stock-up on my el-cheapo daily antihistamines when I reached for the capsules, 100 count, $3.49. My hand hovered, stopping - because next to them were the tablets, 100 count, $3.49. I'd often wondered why there were both. That day, I took pause to find out why. I picked them both up to study them, assuming their delivery was different - I assumed one was a more timed release, but I was wrong - there it was, on the bottle! The capsules claimed, "Easier to Swallow." Excellent. Now I knew why there were two different kinds and was once again at peace with myself, and the world. I purchased those. After all, who wants something hard to swallow?

But by the time I got back to the car I realized all was not well at all. By claiming one was "easier" to swallow, why did the other not make its claim known? "More difficult to swallow." Well that's just absurd, marketers aren't going to do that. So...why even manufacture hard-to-swallow pills when the easier ones are the same price. Surely there's a reason, despite my research into both turning up nothing viable.

We were out on our morning walk when I mentioned this conundrum to my wife who said without hesitation, "I'd pick the pink oval one. Its pretty, and oval is a wonman's shape."

It was my turn to be cow-eyed.

I didn't know what to say, or even how to behave. I'm pretty sure I stumbled. I opened my mouth to mock her answer only...what if every woman considered that? What if that alone was the reason they manufactured both? One outselling the other demographically? Genius. Or not. Point is, I'd have never thought of it on my own. Not given all the time and money on earth.

Maybe I do need to talk to people from time to time.


pcofwildthings at 2011-11-19 22:03 (UTC) (Link)
I am reminded of a book I read earlier this year entitled Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't know how to create a hyperlink on the word Blink, so here is the URL: http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html

I believe there are many variables in the processing of information, and how much information one chooses to process. Doesn't make anybody wrong, there's just a difference. I believe it is possible to "know" in one's "mind/gut/heart" without being able to express why, and in the habit of this way of getting along in the world and taking it for granted because it's working on some level, they may be unable to express how they know. And pointing to what experiences they are able to enumerate may be met with scoffing because it seems ridiculous. But it's just a difference, and one shouldn't begrudge the other their mode or method of doing things, under most circumstances. That said, I think knowledge is power, and I wish more people took time to understand why they do/think/act the way they do, and yet I know I am guilty of the same under certain circumstances. It can be a choice, for whatever reason. A defense mechanism, sure.

There are things I just don't want to know unless I have to. Why? Probably because they will cause me lack of sleep and anxiety, and I may have a problem dealing with that. The end result is that which I don't want to know, I may have absolutely no control over anyway, so what's the point of knowing it? Now I did come to know things I wish I didn't anyway, I am secure in knowing I can deal with it, whatever it is. But once it's known, you can't un-know it. Well, no, I guess you could repress it, etc. Anyway...

The pills? I never thought of the pink thing. But I know some people have a stronger gag reflex or medical conditions that make pill swallowing a problem. For others, das macht nicht (it doesn't matter, either one will do). Given the choice, I'd probably pick the tablet because it's less likely to get crushed or open up in the little pill box I carry in my purse, or break down if exposed to a drop of moisture like the one would more readily. In other words, I think they're sturdier or more stable. How do I know that? Experience, supposition. I can't pinpoint an exact instance that happened, or if it even happened to me or my mother or someone else, but my decision would be a gut reaction that encompasses milliseconds--a blink, if you will.
ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
Nice tie-in at the end. I may have to read that book based on your tie-in alone. Well done.
ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:29 (UTC) (Link)
Here's an interesting factoid - in this game I play with myself called, "What if I'm wrong" I have gone so far as to wonder if I have repressed things to the point I no longer remember them. While I consider it unlikely, I'm often fascinated by the possibility.
codekitten at 2011-11-22 14:09 (UTC) (Link)
it always takes me awhile to comment on ehowton's posts because i am usually mulling them over....

that said, your comment said a lot of what i was trying to formulate.

i do make some decisions based on my "gut" even though they may not make sense to someone else. i often intuit things without being able to explain why. that said, i do spend a lot of time arriving at that decision and i question myself at every step of the way. i am always interested in more knowledge or data points to evaluate.

sometimes i just can't explain...
(Anonymous) at 2011-11-19 22:11 (UTC) (Link)
Aristotle asserts that all human beings desire the acquisition of knowledge.

In my opinion, the human brain is specifically designed with the need to learn. Those homo sapiens that embrace that idea are indeed more happy. For those who fight growing, changing, learning, then tend to turn this wonderful brain function into the negative, ie. war, violence, unhappiness.

ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:25 (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. And based on a previous conversation I've had, I now wonder if those who "fight growing, changing, learning" provide a very specific and much needed anthropological function I am yet unaware of.

michelle1963 at 2011-11-19 22:12 (UTC) (Link)
I've always asked myself, "Why the fear?" when someone reacts with anger or frustration to an idea. Of what is the person afraid? I've noted it often in political discussions. It's as if the person is afraid if s/he understands my reasoning on a particular issue, then s/he might have to change her position. God forbid! And yet, like you, if the person can explain the reasoning behind her position, I've often found I've learned something. I may not change my position, but I've often modified it after hearing a different but reasoned perspective. Or the information they present may prod me to educate myself further.

I always strive for new knowledge, new understanding, new perspective.

So what makes a personal opinion, belief so sacrosanct, s/he is simply unwilling to entertain new knowledge? What makes a person think she ever knows all she needs to know? I'd ask someone, but it would probably just piss the person off.

ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:18 (UTC) (Link)
What makes a person think she ever knows all she needs to know?

My personal experiences point me toward a unified definition of, "normal." Once that's been defined, it doesn't need to be revisited and any challenge can then easily be deposited into "not normal" bucket and disregarded.
michelle1963 at 2011-11-19 22:31 (UTC) (Link)
WOW! Very insightful, and rather scary. Normal? Really? What is that? Who defines it? I'd think our easy access to cultures around the world would give one pause at the diversity of what is considered normal.

And now I've learned something. Thank you!
ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:37 (UTC) (Link)
Who defines it?

God. Other cultures are obviously wrong.

michelle1963 at 2011-11-19 22:50 (UTC) (Link)
LOL! I see.
michelle1963 at 2011-11-19 22:27 (UTC) (Link)
"Have fun." There are some people that feel that having fun is a luxury rather than an approach to life. I don't pretend to understand it; I just know that it exists. In the workplace I strive to have fun. That doesn't mean that I try to enjoy myself outside of my duties; to the contrary it meant I had fun doing my job. Why not enjoy what you're doing?

I do remember as a young adult being beset by a strange depression that would occur at the moment I realized I was having a particularly good time. It was like noting I was at the apex and understanding that the moment would pass and I would once again descend into the merely normal. I wondered about it aloud to my dad who said he experienced the same thing. Hmmm. Biochemical or inadvertently learned behavior from my dad? I bet on the latter. After that when it happened, I made a point of telling myself that there was no reason to destroy my heightened joy simply because I knew I couldn't live there all the time. It wasn't long before it quit happening. While I can't imagine in what way I picked this up from father, it was obviously a learned thing since I was able to un-learn it by thinking about it.

So this begs the question how much of what you're discussing ~ not knowing how to have fun, fear of failure, accepting defeat without trying, down to being unable to be consistently happy is learned?
ehowton at 2011-11-19 22:36 (UTC) (Link)
How it got there seems far less important than discovering it and fixing it, but yes I often muse on nature versus nurture. In the above link I provide an honest-to-god recipe of sorts of how to change that behavior - real actions which really work. But you're right of course, being first aware of them is paramount.

It doesn't surprise me at all you were able to overcome yours.
michelle1963 at 2011-11-19 22:48 (UTC) (Link)
I agree that fixing it is of paramount importance, but in order to begin one must understand that it is fixable. By noting that these types of thought patterns are learned, then perhaps the concept that new thought patterns can be learned in their stead would give one a starting point.
ehowton at 2011-11-20 00:49 (UTC) (Link)
I love not only these types of exercises, but the mental gymnastics in *actually* creating new thought patterns. Frustrating and exhilarating both.
pingback_bot at 2011-11-22 02:06 (UTC) (Link)

<A HREF="http://ehowton.livejournal.com/405658.html">"The Zen of Living"</A> Revisited Scientifcally

User michelle1963 referenced to your post from "The Zen of Living" Revisited Scientifcally saying: [...] with a more positive one. He addresses this extensively in his most recent post, The Zen of Living [...]
ehowton at 2011-11-22 02:08 (UTC) (Link)

Re: <A HREF="http://ehowton.livejournal.com/405658.html">"The Zen of Living"</A> Revisited Scientifc

Pigback bot, you're so awesome. When I grow up, I want to be just like you!
drax0r at 2011-11-30 19:20 (UTC) (Link)
For the record, I do like to argue. I'm just not afraid to adapt or change my position if I'm proven wrong.

I often use arguments to help define or refine my position on a topic. I find it much easier to engage in debate with another person who understands the rules of logic and is reasonably adept at avoiding fallacy. One of us should, in theory, come out better-informed than before.

If approached with the right mindset, arguments should be something for which one or both parties thank the other when it's over.
michelle1963 at 2011-11-30 21:24 (UTC) (Link)
Yes! If a person will discuss a topic logically and openly, I almost always come away with a better understanding than I did before. Perhaps the exchange confirms my position, changes it slightly, or on occasion causes a significant re-evaluation. It's all good.

Finding people with the capability to discuss topics in such a manner is a struggle. Too many rely on canned societal opinion rather than their own reasoning.
pingback_bot at 2011-12-12 16:19 (UTC) (Link)

Happiness: A Learned Skill

User michelle1963 referenced to your post from Happiness: A Learned Skill saying: [...] Many psychologists and philosophers ( among them) agree that in order to be happy, one must choose [...]
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