Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chinese Philosophy - PART V

In Zhuangzi Speaks, Zhuangzi spoke, “Nature is constantly changing, and people have to acknowledge and adapt to these changes. This way, reactions of delight and fear will dissipate, and the distinction between life and death will lose its significance”(Chung 45). There is so much change in this world. The only thing that does not ever change is the fact that everything we perceive is constantly changing. It is written in the Analects that Confucius said, “Only the most intelligent and the most stupid do not change”(Chan 46). With this, he speaks of the changing mindsets that ordinary people have. It would follow then, that the most intelligent and the most stupid of human beings must have no need for plan making. This is so, because in being the most intelligent, there will be no end result to plan for. Great Wisdom will have already been obtained and change is, thus, not necessary. As for the most stupid of human beings, well, they are plainly too ignorant to desire any progress within their present state of mind, so planning ahead will not be necessary, nor conceivable to them. Ignorance truly is bliss.
I am neither the smartest, nor the stupidest of man. I travel through the world with many different, changing mindsets. As Confucius said, “Know what you know and know what you do not know—this then is wisdom”(Ames & Rosemont 79). Within this essay, I planned to argue that making plans for the future is counterproductive. How contradictory! Although this must be seemingly contradictory, take into mind that in writing this essay I planned to not-plan what to write, and in not-planning, my plan was changed. The changes are still being made as I write. The timeframe that each word is released seems to be instantaneous and spontaneous and original. Even if it is spontaneous, when I say what I had not previously planned to say, the instant of my short-lived deliberation between Now and Now will always be planned slightly ahead of the time it is all actually written. Human beings seem to be lost within the desire of constantly fulfilling end results. Since the future is now, it seems to be quite impossible to plan for what is already happening. So why do we make plans? We all intrinsically plan for uncertain ends in order to distract our minds from the one thing that dually exists with life. Death. I will close with yet another quote of Zhuangzi’s that resonates deeply within my mind. He said, “Everyone is afraid of dying, but maybe death will be so great that we’ll end up regretting having ever lived”(Chung 23). Right Now, I plan on enjoying every instant of life that “Nature”, “God”, “Dao”, “Dharma”, “?”, allow me to live, including the infinitely timeless moment of Death.

Chinese Philosophy - PART IV

In being unaffected, one will be tranquil. Tranquility brings clarity. Clarity provides direction towards Truth and Truth is the answer that we are all ceaselessly seeking. In Lao-zi’s book of the Natural Way he argues that, “He who takes an action fails. He who grasps things loses them… He learns to be unlearned, and returns to what the multitude has missed (Dao)”(Chan 170). For many, the idea of living in accordance with the “Dao” or “Nature” seems strange. In modern day, this concept would be considered an “Ancient” viewpoint. Nature, however, is eternal and knows no Time. Time is a human construct that disables us from noticing that past, present and future are not separated, but instead, that they are in flux with the eternal Now. By noticing this, Now one will recognize that what was once modern is Now Ancient and what is Now Ancient was once Modern, and in the future today’s ideas will seem Ancient. Ideas, however, are eternal. How?
Well, in the words of the Buddhist school of Hua-Yen, “Because all these periods are originally formed from an instant. Since they establish each other, both lack substance or nature. Because an instant has no substance, it penetrates the infinitely long periods, and because these periods have no substance, they are fully contained in a single instance. Since both the instant and the long periods have no substance, the characters of length and shortness are naturally harmonized”(Chan 423). From the instant of birth we begin moving forward chronologically until the instant we die. Each instant that is lived is lasting a lifetime, even within the moment that is instantaneous death. By living for the future and relating to the past we lose hold of what exists within this present moment. Right now, you are reading. You are still reading. Keep reading and try not to stray away into thinking about life and death. For, life and death are things of Nature and Nature is in a constant, impenetrable flux.

Chinese Philosophy - PART III

If the question of whether or not making plans for the future is counterproductive is concrete, subsequently, the infinite answers to the question must be vague and moldable. The plans that human beings seem to create in their minds are full of deliberation. Within the text of Zhuangzi Speaks, the Master says, “When pursuing an ambition, it is easy to set our sights forward, forgetting the danger lurking behind”(Chung 84). In seeking a goal for the future, people lose track of what is going on around them, and in turn, are troubled with adapting to the circumstances at hand. How can we adapt? In a world of constant change, it seems hard to keep up with the random transformations going on in society. When worried about driving to school in a blizzard, the anxiety is void of any purposeful relevance. One worries about the negative affect that not going to school will have on ones grade, and is, thus, ultimately concerned about not being able to impress ones grades upon a future employer. Zhuangzi noticed that, “The laws of man are temporal, or at least transitional. If Universal peace is to be achieved, we must follow the Laws of Nature, or Dao”(Chung 47). By going through life without understanding the Laws of Nature, ones car will be blown into an ice-cold snow bank. The class will go on in the schoolhouse just as life will go on for those trapped in the ice-cold snow bank. The best thing is to find security within ones own given circumstances and base every waking decision on what is provided by Nature.
If school is in session but there is fear of a pandemic, do not go to school when having fear of the disease. Many philosophers understand that the “disease” of knowledge can be frightening. If something frightens us, it also discourages us. When discouraged about the future, humans tend to make goals and set plans to ensure a beneficial future. How can we know that the future is ensured? In a conversation between an enlightened master named Quangchengzi and the Yellow Emperor, the Master asked, “Don’t you understand that to use our intellect to change things only makes matter worse?”(Chung 53). In response to this Zhuangzi commented, “…don’t think with your mind, embrace the primal One, no knowledge, no self, go with nature, participate in nature, be one with nature, and a long life will come Naturally”(Chung 53). To live life with nature and as nature means to transcend all things previously learned. If one is told that studying economics is more intelligent than studying art or philosophy, one must laugh and continue walking through the world unaffected by erroneous thought.

Chinese Philosophy - PART II

How does any of this relate to Chinese Philosophy? The most pervading concepts of Chinese Philosophy seem to be derived from the desire to describe the indescribable and to define the indefinable. Many Chinese Philosophers, such as Confucius, Lao-zi, Zhuang-zi, the Legalists, and Hua-Yen were able to question the ways of humankind and provide brilliant results. To each philosopher, there was a permeating idea that remained out of their grasp. This idea was seen as universal. Being universal, it is beyond words, however, this idea is said, with words, to be the “Nature of things.” All things possess this Nature and Nature possesses all things. Chinese Philosophers believed that this force is eternal. Even the totalitarian ideals of the Legalists came to acknowledge this concept by stating, “What is eternal has neither change nor any definite particular principle itself”(Chan 261). The legalist doctrine of Han Fei Tzu attempts to act immediately in response to the “…profound vacuity and utilize its operation everywhere”(Chan 261).
What is the It that is so commonly spoken of in Chinese Philosophy? It is what Confucius called Tian, Lao-zi called Dao, and Hua-Yen, called Dharma. These terms are all related and similar in that they are all attempts toward the definition of the “Mandate of Heaven and Earth”(Ames & Rosemont 27), “the all-embracing quality of the great virtue”(Chan 150), and it is said that It is “obscured by petty biases”(Chan 182), and “free from attachment”(Chan 412). These descriptions ranged from early Confucian views and strung through modern Zen Buddhist schools of thought. What seems to be permeating throughout all schools is the Natural Way. This Natural Way does not itself change, but instead changes everything of Nature. This is Truth. This is Truth because it is Universal. What is Truth is Universal and what is Universal is Truth.

Chinese Philosophy - PART I

In this essay I will argue that making plans for the future is counterproductive. How is this so? This is so because I say it is so. If, on the contrary, one says that it is not so, then it is not so. Now that it can be so and can also be not so simultaneously, the argument is neither true, nor is it false. The argument simply is. Since it is, it is open to an infinite amount of judgment. Each individual judgment will then, in turn, be open to an infinite amount of opposing arguments. The one question leads to innumerable amounts of separate answers, and the many answers all lead back to the one question. My answer, whether it convinces you or not, can be nothing other than truth to me. What is truth? Truth is discernable to the individual but indescribable to the masses. Truth is a product of knowledge that generates an answer. Knowledge is a product of truth that generates many answers. My knowledge of the Truth is little, but what is true to me is the value I put into what I am learning and practicing. Within this practice of writing about my grasp of ancient Chinese philosophy and the impact it has had on me, I plan to generate a strong, true and universal answer to the question of, whether or not, planning is counterproductive.
To make a plan is to organize for an end result. A result is something impenetrable, and being impenetrable, it must be unchangeable and definite. When the result is obtained, a new plan will be made and a new result will be aimed at. This is the way of human beings. Human life is flustered with a cyclical pattern that consists of the birth and death of plans. I plan to write this. Now I plan to write this. The words I chose to write don’t seem to come from the wind, or from the stars, but from the thought of what I think should be said next. The words I am choosing for this present sentence took extra planning, some were erased and some added, and in the end, the simple sentence I planned to write became rigid and confusing for you to read. It is the immediate, spontaneous decisions we make that enable us to move swiftly through life, or essay writing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Here's a scenario. . .

A man named Boy is on his way to class on a sunny day. It isn't just any class. It is a mandatory science class. Nor is it any ordinary day. The clouds are non-existent. The wind, a mere breeze. The temperature is at the perfect medium so that Boy cannot differentiate if it is hotter or colder. It simply just is.

Boy oh boy, our man Boy has a dilemma here. He fears that if he goes to class he will then waste his opportunity to enjoy this beautiful day. On the other hand, he is fearful of the consequences of missing this class. Mind you, Boy did not willingly sign up for this class, it was mandatory for him to take it. And so, Boy was ever so upset on his way to class when he bumped into Miss Mama.

"What's up kid? You look pensive!" cried Mama. Mama always had a way with knowing how Boy was feeling, even without having to speak.
"I don't want to go to class." cried Boy.
"So don't." Mama murmured.
"I don't want to get in trouble, or bad grades, or any of that extra shit either!" Boy barked.
"So go to class then, Bo--"
"Well I know what I Have to do. I see what the Want me to do, but I am having trouble making time for things that I think I Need to do and its getting to me, Mama. Does that make me crazy?"

There was a pause of uncertainty between the two as they both pondered their present day existence. . . Questions like "Am I happy?" and " What's really important to me?" were no floating in the back of each of their minds when Mama said, "It's all relative, Boy."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Purchase Utopia

Ahh, the sun is shining. People are breathing. Hearts are calmly beating. Circles are forming and dried herbs are rolling. You can hear music in the distance and you follow your way towards the sound. A Frisbee drift into sight, you catch it and throw it back to someone you haven't spoken to yet, but soon will. You find the epicenter of sound is a group of singing people vibrant with color. They invite you to sit on the laid out Ethiopian style blanket to smoke a giant tubed water pipe that they call a Hookah. You do so, why not? After all, it's Purchase College.

Conversation leads you to discuss the weather, the colors of spring, the topless males and the curiosity of whether the females will soon too, be topless. The mood is mellow and the feeling is good. Everyone seems so damn down to Earth here. . .

It makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, here at Purchase College people are walled in. The campus is a box of bricks built right in the middle of nowhere. Conveniently enough, the nowhere that Purchase is located in, is in the in the middle of a busy business world. The matters of the business world that surround SUNY Purchase are of no concern really, because they don't touch us. Again, we are walled in.

Within these walls of Purchase is beauty. People here are attracted to the one thing in this world that seems to keep them sane. This thing is art. To us, art is life and making it will hopefully last a lifetime. Within these walls, on a sunny day, you will be able to observe the sort of Utopia that is the community of Purchase.