Qián Guānchāng

I have a great deal of empathy for the character of Kwai Chang Caine, it started when I used to watch the TV series Kung Fu. I was very heavily drawn to it as teenager and my family used to talk a lot over the programme, which pissed me off. The whole life of Caine changed when he killed a relative of the emperor, he had offended the authorities and was then to be hunted down. He carried the crouching tiger and hidden dragon of a Shaolin priest. Thereafter he wandered, encountering prejudice, adventure and lending a hand wherever he could. He was searching and itinerant. Often he came up against the corrupt and the bullies. But always there was that sense of moving on, a kind of restlessness, he knew when he was done with a particular scenario and the Dao then called him on. The idea of a trained priest and martial artist touched something in me, a core of sorts. It was Bodhidharma who is credited with founding “Shaolin”. He is also the patriarch of Zen.

There was a kind of loose thematic prescience to my fascination. But it also spoke in feeling and nuance terms of something I had buried in my pasts. There was always that impermanence, and its very now-ness about him. But the tendrils of the past and those he had offended were always somehow on his tail.

He knew when he was finished with a circumstance and much like one squeezes toothpaste out of a tube, the Dao squeezed him out and on his way. I feel this now, I am ready to leave this place, as stunning as the scenery maybe. It is not to become a home.

And like Caine I must soon be on my way.

Differing Beliefs

Is it right to tolerate and accommodate different beliefs?

Buddhism is often seen as soft and cuddly, even blissed out but at its core are some pretty radical “truths” especially when seen from a normal socio-political context. The above statement is simplicity itself, but its implications are vast. Many say this kind of thing, fewer embody it.

If you think about it the whole framework of society is of conditioned-things, there are also conditions attached. It has a basis in interpersonal negotiation and bartering. Inherent in negotiating are conditions. This notion of impermanence although logically accurate is somehow put on the back-burner as we grasp after things and seek to hold on to them. And when things dissolve, fade or are lost, this is upsetting. This natural state of impermanence is resented somehow. There is a disconnect between a truth and our wish it was not so. People are attached to many things and each other.

I have an inkling that if you truly pertain to this statement from the Dhammapada you will be at odds with the “worlds” of so many. This is because acquisition of conditioned things is an ambition underpinning society. And ambition of one kind or another is a driver, a motive force. If you don’t have ambition you do not succeed in the world of conditioned things. To many a lack of ambition is non-sensical but is follows from this quotation. Why would you have ambition for attachment to conditioned things?

Attainment of this tenet of Buddhism, sets you apart. It means that others do not have leverage and thereby “control”, which many find unnerving. Which raises the question as to how one might cooperate and otherwise work with people holding this tenet and embodying it. I suspect that it may be inconceivable to others that such a tenet can indeed be held. Concepts are fine so long as they remain concepts, when they are actual, things are different, there are implications. In the teachings of Christ there are some pretty hard to embody ideas and these are not widely embodied. Few turn the other cheek, many seek to get even.

The nature of society is to try to bend others to the consensual “normality” and because of this it is difficult for society to accommodate differing beliefs. Whilst we might make provision for the practicalities of prayer for a Muslim, unless we ourselves are Muslim, their belief system is alien to us and therefore suspect. Provided that we have no need to cooperate closely, we need not learn more. But to work closely we will need to understand where another being is coming from. A renunciation of conditioned things strikes at the heart of normal societal acquisitional values and is just as “odd” as a hijab, though somewhat less obvious to the eye.

Buddhism is actually quite radical, though this is not at first obvious.

Having cued this up:

Is it right to tolerate and accommodate different beliefs?

Or should everybody fit in to the prevailing societal norms?

Changing Narratives

History shows us that narratives change, they are man-made and are impermanent. We have the terrorist who becomes the freedom fighter and later president, we have the imperial power which becomes the brutal enforcer from whom massive reparations are sought, we have the sporting hero who becomes the vilified drugs cheat, we have the powerful CEO who becomes the bung taking corrupt one feathering the nests of his pals now fearfully avoiding the press. Whatever the story of today is, it will not remain. Those in power have control of power and temporary control of narrative. In our times those narratives are way more volatile than previously, the tide can switch sharply. Yet those in control or imagined control of the narrative fail to see things through the lens of history, time and again this kind of thing plays out. For some the narrative is way more “important” than others. For with narrative comes reputation, good or bad.

Humans are fickle beings.

Yet people will stick with their narratives even when they know them untenable. There is that last gasp effort to cling to that narrative at whatever cost. That narrative frames the “world” for them and it is through the narrative that socio-political ordering is maintained and sometimes enforced. There is often a belief in the permanence and “justice” of a narrative which is unwarranted. History looks unfavourably on these narrative clingers. They are the resisters of change, the impediments to societal evolution. Their status, their rank, within the dying narrative must be clung onto. And only when the tide has started to change do the rats abandon the sinking ship of narrative. Quickly they re-write their own narratives to avoid going down with the stricken vessel. “Everyone else was doing it” and “I was only following orders” are the oft cited echoes of a dying narrative.

These narratives, they are on all sides. And there is expedient buy-in to them, so long as that narrative suits and is workable, it holds, even if there is a cost associated. As the narrative starts to fail it takes ever greater work and effort to keep it alive, nobody wants to sign the do not resuscitate order. And so, the number of plasters, the number of sutures to the narrative, rises. Soon it is fit to explode, the fingers are crossed, and yet more time is devoted to narrative maintenance. Eventually it fails the MOT and there is a stark choice, do we put more effort and money into this vehicle or buy a new one? We must pay for the vehicle to be disposed of but when it no longer works, with sadness we eventually say goodbye to it.

Why do we cling to these narratives when they are well past their sell by date?

Beats me…

Hmnn…

Irrevocability

I have come to a working conclusion this afternoon and it is that there are some things which are so simple, so very straightforward, that it is impossible for people to believe them. People can have assumptions about the way “it” is supposed to be and when the simple reality stares them in the face, they just can’t see it. It is just too damn simple to be true. This is especially the case if that simple thing, whatever it may be, has implications. The human mind simply will not accept it. Never mind Occam’s razor let’s make it complicated as all hell and then we might believe it, but not before.

Anyway I digress a little, and talking about beliefs:

Do you believe in irrevocability or are many things revocable and open to discussion / negotiation?

Has something irrevocable happened to you and you have had a hard time accepting it?

The notion of irrevocability is allied to that of impermanence. And until you attain impermanence there is a tendency to think you have all the time in the world in which to fanny about. When the “permanent” ceases to be permanent people get upset. When people die it can cause grief. We all know that people die every day, yet when someone close to us dies we get upset, are shocked and surprised. That physical plane death is an irrevocable thing, we can’t plug people back into the mains and they are good to go. Thus, we approach life with at least some notion of revocability, we can take back what we said and what we did, somehow. We imagine a second chance, so we take stuff and people for granted. But there are some times when things and people do not come back, they are gone. Chapters end, the book finishes and that is it. Most of us do not factor in irrevocability, in the way we live our lives. One could call that complacent.

I mentioned previously that I tend not to bluff. It makes me shit at poker. If I say I am going to do something it is not an attention seeking drama or threat, nor is it a negotiation ploy. This has come as a surprise to some. Introverts tend not to gob off all that much and when they do speak, it is often considered. I know when I am doing something of significance and I rarely undertake these things on a whim. By the time I am talking about it I am often >90% towards a decision and subsequent action. I have done quite a number of things which I knew were irrevocable, some with fairly wide implications.

It adds a little edge when you know that things are irrevocable.

Having cued this up:

Do I believe in this notion of irrevocability?

Is it perhaps more common that I would like to countenance?  

Or is there plenty of reversibility?

Fixation of the Common Dream (Nightmare)

A Toltec might say that the Tonal of Man, is fixed and getting ever more fixated. It simply will not budge. All one might hope for is that a few individuals might see this for themselves and then start to loosen that Tonal {in a personal sense} so that they might experience a wider reality. Make no mistake that concrete Tonal is reinforced with steel bars, carbon fibre rods and graphene nanotube composites. It will take a hell of a lot to even get it to flex a little. We may collide beams of hadrons together at TeV energies, build sophisticated laser interferometers to “listen” to neutron starts colliding, and send billion-dollar telescopes into space, but there is one simple frontier which we fail to address. That frontier is inner space, it is perhaps less glamorous and won’t win you any prizes. But surely this frontier needs looked at before humanity descends further into its fatuous obsession with self-image and all the attendant miseries associated?

We have a world in which someone may go on a meditation or yoga retreat and then simply cannot wait to upload images to their social media, a world in which plastic tits and knifed up lips or noses are seen as desirable. A world in which a fucking selfie with a “star” is an epitome, a highlight. We have people eating themselves to death, whilst others starve. We have a world where stuff is more important than substance. That image obsession, how it rules. Of all the impermanent things, all the conditioned things in the universe, this is our new pantheon of deity; image, brand, made up shit. How we worship all these imaginings! There is no need for a gilded calf, there is just fantasy worshipped by megapixel count.

My guess is that humanity has to fall all the way around the u-bend of this image fixation until such time as big pharma can no longer supply enough happy pills to keep the world away from the noose or the razor blade. This illusion, this glamour, this “celebrity” is all more than a little sad. We have become paper tigers prowling in a fantasy-forest, and we fail to realise just how fragile we are.

Whilst our eyes are turned outward, to space or to image, we get sicker and more unhappy. All the shiny technology in the world cannot sate an inner hunger, an inner thirst or an inner melancholy. It might displace the misery for a while, but it comes back like a spring tide. All that being busy and rushing around, it never addresses anything.

“Look at me I am such a success! Look at me!”

“Pray tell, why then are you so tense and miserable?”

Until such time as humanity understands its corporeal observational instrument a whole lot better, there will be suffering and angst. But no, we can’t look there, it is too scary, too real, too risky. I know let’s upload some inane photos onto the internet, that’ll do it!

The inner space is the new frontier, it is here, and the monetary cost of its exploration is small. It is so obvious, so simple and so easy to miss. People generally prefer the grandiose to the simple. Which in itself, speaks volumes.

The Fixation of the Common Dream (Nightmare) gets ever stronger. Maybe one day, humanity will seek to wake up from this self-created nightmare and smell the coffee?