Category Archives: Philosophy

Zen is a Meaningless Language Game: Every Word in this Document is the Same (and isn’t)

Zen Enlightenment is an Experience

First and foremost, Zen Buddhism seems to be striving for an experience. I think that this experience may be the fabled “peak experience” that is fundamental to all other religions. This experience could predate the evolution of our prefrontal cortex and be pre-cognitive. It may even be the way animals “see” the world. Human experience is mediated through language at an unconscious level. Zen Buddhism seems to be trying to momentarily rid people of that lens. From that, it follows that “enlightenment” doesn’t change perception itself, but how perception is experienced. A red apple will still look like a red apple, but it might look like a more beautiful red apple.

Language only Symbolizes Reality
Any word, sentence, or symbol used does not mirror reality but only represents it. If I say “biting an apple” your hunger is not satiated, nor is an apple automatically put in your mouth. A mental image or representation, not the actual thing. This leads us to the main problem with language. Language suggests that “_=0” when, in reality, only “_=_”. Again, even this symbolism is inaccurate because it is not the actual experience.
If symbols can only so much represent reality, then there will be points in which the symbols fail to accurately represent reality. This is where many paradoxes are born. “All is one and one is all” is a way Zen Buddhists describe experience because language doesn’t fully describe “_”. Contradictions are the only way to describe experience because language doesn’t suffice to recreate reality.

Zen Masters play a Language Game

It seems like Zen masters use a “coded” language. Oddly enough, this coded language has no meaning. To rephrase: meaninglessness is the code. When a Zen master says, “This is Zen” he might as well say “Zen Zen Zen,” “____,” “.” or “ “. This is in order to test the students progress towards enlightenment. For Example:

Q: “What is the sound of one hand clapping” The student may answer in a way that suggests they are attached to the words: either through words “like a clap” or through a behavior like closing one hand. This student would still be looking at the world through language and would be said to only understand “Two” (i.e. duality).

Another student may answer in a way that suggests that they are unattached to the words. Answers like “A swan perches on the roof of a mindless thermostat” or putting one’s shoes on their head would show this understanding. They would be said only to understand “One” (i.e. unity).

However, this student may only be miming the correct phrases or behaviors. To combat “false enlightenment,” the teacher would ask further questions switching between the two types of questions until the student was enlightened.

Not One, Not Two
The primary phrase to understand enlightenment seems to be “All is one and one is all.” We need to slowly digest this contradiction.
“One is all” is easy to understand. It’s duality:

                                People are people          
                              objects are objects     
                              symbols are symbols     
                                 words are words     
                                   one is one       
              “.” Is the demarcation of the end of a sentence. 
This suggest that maybe P=Q & P=Y but not Q=Y

“All is One” is easy to understand partially. The part people get is that “P=P” and “Q=P”, but don’t also understand “= = P” “PPP” and “””“. In other words, the spaces in words aren’t separate from the symbols that separate and make up words nor are the experiences of reading the words separate from the words themselves.

                                  People are One    
                                 Objects are One  
                                Symbols are One   
                                 Words are One   
                                    OneOneOne   
                                       “.”        
                                       “ “            
   "                                                                  "




Indexicals and Reference Confusion are Key

To understand the “One” concept, students must first focus on indexicals. Indexicals are words like “I, you, it, me, we, here, now, this” that can have multiple referents and meanings. “This is Zen” could be talking about a flower near the speaker, the presence of the speaker, or something else entirely, or all the above. “We” could refer to the speaker and listener, the speaker’s community, humankind, or all kind. “You” could refer to the listener or “Tao” (similar concept to God) or both.

Zen masters seem to use this confusion to test and help their students. “I love you” at one level of understanding could mean that the speaker cares for the listener; at another understanding, that a god is speaking through the speaker saying it cares for the listener; at what seems like the “highest” level, it could mean both nothing and everything concurrently.

Zen is In-between All is One and One is All

In order to reach enlightenment, one must first forget that One is all. That is, one must strip meaning from all language. This sentence means nothing, same of the spaces between. This helps get one to the experience of that which cannot be talked about (read that again). Understanding All is One gives one the Truth.

However, one must also keep in mind that “One is All.” This means remembering that words do have meaning. Other people use language and it’s how we mainly communicate so don’t abandon it. Understanding One is All keeps one sane.

A Zen story exists of a girl who reached the truth “All is One” and started destroying sacred texts and statues while proudly exclaiming “I am Buddha! I am Buddha!” The father, concerned, asked a Zen Master “what’s wrong with my daughter, can you help her?” After which, the Zen Master told the little girl “grass is grass and mountains are mountains.” She then fixed the statues. Basically, the girl had understood the principle “All is One” but neglected the principle “One is All.”

Why Zen?

Zen seems to be the true answer to existential dread. The world doesn’t inherently have meaning and we are meaning-making creatures. This is what causes our angst. The world is “_” and we say it must be “0”. The only way to be on par with existence is to also be “_” ourselves. We must answer life’s “_” with a “_” of our own.
I’m sorry this whole post was me just repeating the same word over and over. This is the true meaning of Zen:
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The Untimely Infinite Universe (Pt. 4)

On Time

Throughout I have been attacking the boundaries of space, now I plan to go after the other portion of the fourth dimension: time. There are two divisions of time I will discuss: Radial/Rotational and Linear. Radial Time is the way we measure time by years or even minutes. Radial time is usually subjective. This is usually measured by rotation such as the earth rotating around the sun. The second is Linear Time. This is a more absolute type of time measured abstractly by past, present, and future. We usually suggest Linear time begins at the Big Bang.

There is a problem with Radial time: it is rotational and subjective. We cannot find a universal way to measure time. For example, if we were on an electron we would measure time by rotations around the nucleus. However, different atoms wouldn’t have the same time and even different electrons may have different times. We measure rotational time by Earth’s rotation around the sun. But if we were to move outside the solar system, we would not be able to use this as the basis. So we may consider measuring the sun’s rotation around the center of the Milky Way. But it keeps on going outward and two problems arise. One, when we get to a certain level, we cannot be sure that they orbit anything, so there is no way to measure time. The second problem is due to the infinite nature of space. As stated in the last section, there is no center. The center will always have to be moved proportionally and subjectively.  You cannot measure time by the rotation around a ‘not center’.

Linear time is not so assured either. There are two possible problems.  Even if we assume that the big bang (which also assumes a center) is the absolute beginning, we still suffer a problem. The problem is that the big bang is an expansion event, it has the opposite effect of gravity- it pushes things away. So if something were to be there, it would not orbit it. If nothing were to orbit it, how would time happen? I may concede that time happens, the passing of one moment to another does happen. We definitely would not be able to measure it, but it may still happen. Time is solely a change within the dimension in space. Time would be measured because Object A would move from Point 1 (the place where the big bang took place) to Point 2 (the place where expansion moved Object A) and has a memory of Point 1. We would still be able to measure time in abstract terms such as ‘past’, ‘present’, and future, just not using concrete terms such as 1 year. However, as was stated earlier, there has always been something and never solely nothing. With that we should accept that the instance of the big bang wasn’t something being transformed from nothing, but probably the change of something into another form of something or just an expansion of the original something.

If you have bought my previous premises though, you should concede that there is no ‘beginning’. If you accepted my premise towards the start of this article that only something exists, then there has always been a something and never a nothing. If you have also accepted the fact that there is no center, then it should be clear that Linear time does not exist. There is no center point to measure movement from. There is no beginning to measure a starting point from. Therefore, there is no time.

The Untimely Infinite Universe (Pt. 3)

Fractals

The mimicking of the macro with the micro and vice versa causes an image to come to mind. The large Universe gets smaller and we see galaxies, then planets, and so on until we are at quarks and the Higgs-Boson particle. When I think of this I then am reminded of fractals. Fractals are these shapes that repeat endlessly the further you zoom in. True fractals don’t exist in nature; however you have fractal-esque shapes in those that contain the Fibonacci spiral. You can zoom in on the spiral and keep on zooming in and you will keep on seeing a spiral.

Imagine a Cartesian plane. As it zooms in, you just end up with more lines and repetition. You can do the same in reverse. When you zoom out, you will continuously end up with the same figure regardless of scale. Notice how the figure will require you to zoom several levels before the figure repeats. For example: Level 1, L2, L3, L4…. The figure will appear the same at levels 1, 4, 8, 12…. In between those intervals, however, it may appear vastly different. Notice that, although L1 and L4 may appear the same they are mathematically different. L1 may be -1 and L4 may be -1.0001.
As discussed earlier, things at the macro level seem to be replicated at the micro level. What if this is just the scale getting to the point where things look similar? What if the planets are L1 and atomic space is L4?

If we were to accept this proposition, two possibilities can be realized. Either the universe is completely fractal and will cyclically repeat, or the universe infinitely regresses in both macro and micro directions.

If the universe is completely fractal, then that would mean when you look in at tree branches you will notice the bark. Go in further, you will see plant cells. Some more you will see atoms. But these atoms would actually be planets and galaxies. Essentially, the universe would reflect in on itself.

I cannot accept this theory. I would argue that the universe is fractal like, but not fractal. The planets and galaxies may hold certain observable similarities but do not hold similarities in properties. If you were to collide multiple Saturns together, you will not get the same end product if you put multiple carbons together. It is also hard to imagine a world where Saturn is made of multiple mini Saturns inside of it. The last counter I have to this idea is that things on the macro are not affected by those in the micro. Every time an atom collides in the Hadron Collider we don’t see a large explosion in our night sky. It is improbable that the universe reflects inward on itself.

The other possibility, that the universe is fractal like and will regress infinitely, seems more probable. This is to say that when you go from L1 to L2…L4 and so on, that L1 and L4 will look alike, but will not have the same properties. This is similar to looking at a Cartesian plane and zooming. The squares may look the same, but will have completely different measurements (2, -1 vs. 2.050037, -1.020045).

Finding a Center

Something to be noticed about this infinite regression is that it will not have a center. If we go off continuously macro-ly or micro-ly, we will never find an end. For things to have a center they must have an edge, boarder, or end. As suggested in the first section, there is no boarder to the universe. When looking at the universe, it goes off in all directions without end like a Cartesian plane. Therefore, there is no center.

An objection to this would be the fact that we use the populated (where there is stuff) part of the universe as the center. This won’t work for several reasons. If we were to do this, it would be completely relative to our portion of the universe. We assume that our portion of the universe (all the galaxies inside the known universe) is the only one. Why not assume there are other populated portions of the universe past the edge of what we know as the universe? My other counterexample is that we don’t use a chocolate chip to measure the radius of the cookie. We need to know where the edge of the cookie is in order to measure the radius. And since there is no edge to the cookie, the cookie goes on indefinitely in all directions.

F3 Fractal Universe

The Untimely Infinite Universe (Pt 2)

Patterns in Nature

We can notice, if we look hard enough, that things on the Macro scale mimic those on the micro scale. Figure 1 helps illustrate this.

For example: free floating bodies. At the macro level, you have planets that orbit stars. You also have things like meteors that have no orbit and just float around without a specific orbit (although keeping the inertia from the orbit that gave them momentum originally). Meteors and other free floating bodies can get caught in each other’s gravitational pull and collide to create planets. At the micro level, you have electrons that orbit nuclei. There are also smaller particles called quarks that create the components of atoms.

The Fibonacci sequence is another repeat throughout the system of nature. The Fibonacci is a specific sequence. The rule is Fn= Fn-1 + Fn-2. For example: 1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. This composes two ‘golden’ measurements: the golden spiral and the golden square, collectively known as the golden ratio. Both can be created with these integers. Both are repeated in nature. The spiral of a seashell mimics the two spirals that compose a galaxy. Many plants exhibit this spiral as well, including pinecones and roses. There are a few non-spiral shapes that can be shown to be of the Fibonacci sequence. The branching of such figures as dendrites, lightning, and tree branches are an example. They branch from 1, to 2, to 3, to 5, and so on.

There is a potential criticism of my hypothesis that the macro mirrors the micro and vice versa: humans have tendency to archetype or symbolize things. This may take down the examples I have comparing a human arm to earth and cities to the circulatory system. However it will not compensate for the Fibonacci sequence examples (which can be mathematically proven). Note that it is not one thing; it is a series of things. Even if that is the only argument that withstands its critics, it contains not one example, but many.

F1 Patterns

The Untimely Infinite Universe (Pt 1)

The Infamy of Infinity

In the current scheme of things, we are taught to think of time and space as finite. We get stuck into the view due to the fact that the things around us our finite. The water is separate from the ground; Venus is separate from the sun, and so on. Things begin and then they end. Where the water ends, earth begins; where the earth ends, the air begins. One might think that this happens just because we can imagine the finite more clearly than the infinite.

The reason this dichotomy exists is due to the fallibility of human perspective. When a leaf dies we say that it ‘ceases to exist’. This is the natural process of decay and death. We assume this must be the opposite of existence. In reality, this is not the case. The particles that compose of it never actually die, meaning they don’t disappear. No, these particles merely change form. As the law of conservation states: energy is neither created nor destroyed, merely transformed.  Therefore the particles always exist. Decay is merely the moving of matter from one state to another. Humans have only had the second perspective within the last 100 years. Because of the first perspective being prevalent for so long, we are stuck with this idea of finite, that things have an end.

Imagine a red circle. Now look out towards its boundary. What do you see on the other side? White or black maybe. Others say nothing. However you cannot think of ‘nothing’. That white or black space you think of is ‘something’. You can apply this same thing to the concept of the Universe, a supposedly bounded entity. But when you get to the edge, what happens? Do you hit a bubble that you cannot past; an ‘invisible wall’. I will argue that you will be able to go on forever past this so-called ‘boundary’.

Throughout this paper I will term things ‘infinite’ and ‘finite’. Respectively I am referring to something ‘without end’ and something ‘with end’.

On Suicide

Im reading a philosophical paper on suicide for a class and i came across some terribly interesting lines:

“[committing suicide] amounts to a confession…. A confession that life is too much or you dont understand it…. it is merely confessing that life ‘isnt worth the trouble.'”

Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”

Later he describes that the realization of life’s absurdity causes one to give up (suicide) or create hope, which Camus describes negatively because, to him, hope amounts to a delusion. He suggests that what we should do is bask in life’s absurdness (the fact that it has no meaning) and just examine it.

Truth

 

This was an assignment for a philosophy paper I had to turn in. I was only allowed to turn in one page even though I had so many opinions on it. This is what I had written completely in response to James’ work “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth”.

The first point he makes is on how most pragmatists believe truth is inherent and how they are wrong. He believes that truth is not inherent; that truth happens to an idea. James says that truth happens when an idea is validated or verified; the measuring of the event is what makes it true. Not the fact that apples fall from trees, but the fact that Newton was there to connect the dots. He is saying that the moment Newton makes the claim that “if an apple is separated from a tree, then it will fall downward. An apple separated from a tree. Therefore, it falls downward.” and his assertion is proven enough times (yes, in all observable cases p does cause q), it will become agreed upon. This is the event of verification or the moment an idea becomes true, claims James.

However, I argue that truth is innate. There are governing laws of the universe, which are objective to our existence. He seems to be arguing “If truth falls in the forest and nobody observes it happen, it is not truth”. Although truth is a description that we invented, the idea still holds even if we aren’t there to call it truth. Imagine a world without humans to observe it. Gravity still happens, apples still fall. We may not be there to measure it and it may not be OUR truth, However, the universe will still follow that law and our idea of what truth is will still pertain to the universe. Humans understand the world with our concepts and symbols. Our methods of understanding the universe are mathematics and numbers. Although the universe may not be driven by math and numbers, the ideas are still the same: The idea “1” is followed by “2” happens in every case whether we call them “1 & 2”, “one & two” or “Aay and Que”. The idea of order still maintains its truth.

James also claims that a truth’s value lies in its usefulness. I agree with this statement; we look for truth so we can do things with it. I do disagree with his statement “It is true because it is useful.”  “If it is true (p), then it is useful (q). It is true (p). Therefore, it is useful (q)” In a situation in where I know it is the truth, such as knowing the sky is blue, (p) it would never have any use (q) this claim would be false and his argument unsound.  If the statement was reversed (if useful, then true), it could still be proven wrong. An objects usefulness lies within the subject. A pencil’s use is to write. The truth being: “If it is a pencil, then it can write”. To humans this is proves James claim correct. But if there were no humans, just animals, this would cease to work. An animal might cannot use it as a writing tool but may use it as a weapon or shelter. This does not make the statement “If it is a pencil, then it can write” false, because the ability to write still exists in the pencil. There are probably uses of the pencil that we don’t know of but that doesn’t make the claim “If it is a pencil, it can do x” incorrect. We just don’t have the knowledge to use it as such yet.

 

Life.

The world is full of so much chatter and so much fog, the ideas of life can easily go under the radar. But it’s those single moments of clarity, the peace within the silence, and those experiences that are too good to be real- that’s what it’s all about.
People get stuck in the fog and chatter of life. We get worried about their job, relationship, money, or whatever. We get stuck in dull conversations that don’t actually bring about the human being of the other person. We use the internet for chatting with our friends that we never see in person or have any real experiences for. We use it to escape reality but rarely use it to learn about new ideas even though we have more information at our finger tips than anyone in history. But that’s not completely bad. Life is for enjoying- it’s just a ride. We don’t need to come up with universal truths or change the world. However, when we do, it makes life so much enjoyable.

While on the way to work or the last few minutes before we doze off, we may come up with extraordinary ideas only to forget about them when we arrive at work or wake up in the morning. You may KNOW a lot of things, but not actually ‘know’ them. An example “love is wanting to make someone else happy”. You may know this as a fact, but when it comes to your own life you may not be able to actually grasp the concept. You may be infatuated with someone and start doing nice things for them ‘to make them happy’ but once you feel what it truly means to be compelled to make someone happy regardless of the outcome. It’s like a lot of those “you’ll only know when you experience it things”. Remember when you were a kid and thought your crush was love, then became a teenager to find out that there is something stronger, and then even as an adult there is even a stronger form? That’s what these moments of clarity are like. You believe you know something, until an experience gives you an even greater understanding.

These moments of clarity are great, filled with the great buzz of intellectual activity. But, what’s even better? The moments inbetween these moments: the silence in between. That moment we stop to look at a painting or are sharing a moment with our significant other, we are free. Free from the prisons of our mind. The worries and doubts of our past and future that plague us every day are gone. We get to experience something that is rare in this world: internal peace. We aren’t thinking about what is going on, we are just letting it happen. You’ve experienced it before, but probably didn’t even notice. Doing your favorite hobby and getting lost in it had that effect on you. That’s called “flow”, being so immersed in something you are doing that you stop thinking and just let your body take over. Appreciate these moments of peace and flow; they are rare.

One of the greatest things about life is the experiences that compose it. Look at your room right now and the objects in it. See how many of them are alive. Maybe some pets? But other than that, nothing. A majority of things we see in life are inanimate. Life is rare; it’s a wonderful moment to know that you are something rather than nothing. You could have ‘existed’ as a lamp, or maybe a dog, with some life but no awareness other than that. However, you are you! So to have an experience at all, is just wonderful. But we get to share those experiences with other humans. We aren’t alone: we have that person we want to make happy, that person that keeps us entertained, and that person that guides us through life. You can share those experiences of clarity or peace or silence with another human being. That is the best reason to appreciate life.

Happiness 101 Pt 4

“Be Aware Of Your Thoughts”

We are our thoughts; our thoughts make us who we were, are, and will be.  Think about this: your best friend has made plans to hang out with you tonight. An hour before you are supposed to hang, they cancel and give you an explanation. Think about how you would feel and what would go through your mind in this scenario. You would feel let down, which is completely reasonable. However, where your thoughts go may not be. In fact, there are three ways you could respond to an incident.

  1. You friend was telling the truth. You believe them, and just carry on as usual. Maybe you make plans for another time. You let the situation be what it is and then you let go.
  2. You friend is a liar. They just gave you an excuse because they hate you. You play the victim in which your friend actually wronged you intentionally
  3. You’re to blame. You said something that made them feel uncomfortable about being around you. Everything is your fault.

Each of these three internal responses is a result of parenting. I don’t feel like I need to really go into why they come in to play. The point is that you realize these responses in your head- know when and why you think them. The only healthy one is the first one, even if the other two are true (if 2 is true, then you need a healthier relationship; conversely, if 1 is true, you need to be a better person).

Once you realize which one you internalize, fix it. Every time you hear “it’s my fault”, address it, then come up with rationalizations on why it’s not. Change “I suck as a human being” to “im actually a pretty decent person because I help that one person with that one thing”. The more often you correctly internalize these, the less depressing life will seem. It will help your self-worth and make you believe that there is good in the world.

Have a good day!

Happiness 101 Pt 3

“Live in the Moment”

People fight, dream, and some third thing. All of these things are normal; however, they can sometimes affect us adversely. Being in the past hurts us sometimes. We think about break ups, arguments, or recent tragedies. However, those things aren’t actually happening now- they already happened. If you can learn to quiet your monkey brain from thinking about them, you will begin to be happier. If you must think about the past, think about the good things (you passed that class, that cute girl said hi, you were able to drive to the gas station from your house on E).

The future can hinder our happiness as well. We can expect things to happen, and then get disappointed when they don’t. We can compare what we want the future to be like, and feel depressed when we look at our current situation. We can also feel like the future will be even darker than the present. Even though preparing for these outcomes are good (like making a choice that prevents a bad future), don’t dwell on these thoughts.

Just focus on the now and the good.