Thursday, January 20, 2005

and someone to talk to...

(colleague of mine responded to my post)

Thanks for the thoughts. I had forgotten about Bacon’s quote; yes that was mentioned in the text I read. I can understand his orientation to Nature and his analogy as brutal as it sounds. I think that this was “current thinking” among the natural philosophers of the day. I also don’t deny what scientific thinking has done for the world and for humanity; if nothing else, furthering our thinking about what is going on around here.

I don’t know that I have said this on the list, but I have learned much from Buddhist thinking. I think the Buddha was one of the first “scientists” in that he used both reason and observation to gain deeper insights into himself and the world. As the main area he was interested in was change “within,” he could provide no empirical evidence for what he found there. He encouraged others to seek it out, though. IMO, he lived his life in a way that demonstrated he had discovered something quite significant; empirical “evidence” enough for me to consider seriously what he said and did. Note that I do not think he was alone in living like this, I do think that there were others…how many, I don’t know, but certainly the “big” ones that have had an impact on history.

I say this to preface the following quote from Sogyal Rinpoche, a current Buddhist teacher. IMO, he hits the nail on the head when it comes to categories, labels, and the vitality and wonder of life. I have attempted to demonstrate the following insight in some of the classes I teach by slowly destroying a crayon (with a hammer – its fun!), each time asking students what is left, where did the “crayon” go, and was there ever a crayon in the first place? To me, this is what symbolic interactionism is all about – naming objects; it is also what reification is about – relating to those named objects as if they have some kind of independent reality.

Anyway, the quote:

“Nothing has any inherent existence of its own when you really look at it, and this absence of independent existence is what we call “emptiness.” Think of a tree. When you think of a tree, you tend to think of a distinctly defined object; and on a certain level it is. But when you look more closely at the tree, you will see that ultimately it has no independent existence.

When you contemplate it, you will find that it dissolves into an extremely subtle net of relationships that stretches across the universe. The rain that falls on its leaves, the wind that sways it, the soil that nourishes and sustains it, all the seasons and the weather, moonlight and starlight and sunlight—all form part of this tree.

As you begin to think more and more about the tree, you will discover that everything in the universe helps to make the tree what it is; that it cannot at any moment be isolated from anything else; and that at every moment its nature is subtly changing. This is what we mean when we say things are empty, that they have no independent existence.”

Fascinating, IMO. Wonderful, too.

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