Archive for October, 2006

Soldiering on

12 October 2006

“Things are getting worse in terms of climate change and it’s clear that we’ll have to act before it’s to late and there is no hope left.”

This is an intellectual cul-de-sac. No matter how bad things get I cannot imagine that we’d ever decide that it was “too late” and that “there was nothing to be done”.

I guess I’m arguing that we’re misunderstanding something about ourselves when we bring arguments like that forward. There may come a time when it’s too late to do anything to save the world as we know it (and need it to be if we’re to survive). But at the same time, I just can’t see that it’s ever going to be intellectually possible for us to go “That’s it. It’s now too late to do anything.”

We’ll have to keep going until we drop.

Morality; basis of,

12 October 2006

Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.
— Frank Herbert

New Frontiers in Child Management

12 October 2006

From the highly estimable fussy who is quoting Amy Sutherland’s article in the New York Times:

“The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging.”

Reward what you like. Ignore what you don’t. And the advantage of ignoring what you don’t like rather than punishing it is that you avoid the risk of reinforcing what you don’t like by giving it the reward of your attention.

Smart.

Useful “truths”

12 October 2006

There ought to be a name (and probably is) for concepts which it is wise to believe in regardless of their truth. I have two examples immediately to hand.

1.Karma is the notion that life fits what you need to learn. So in the face of any challenge, ask yourself, what am I supposed to learn here?
2.Good always triumphs in the end.

I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as karma. That is, an active principle that so orders the events of one’s life such that it presents the soul (problematic concept in itself) with a lesson by means of which it improves itself. But I do believe that I will be a better and a happier person if I act as if that were true.

I really don’t  believe that Good will always triumph over evil in the end. But I do believe that I will be a better person and a happier, even a saner person if I act as if it were true.

Nirvana is just around the corner

4 October 2006

Brad Warner often gets asked about shortcuts to higher states of consciousness and enlightenment – particular systems, drugs, technologies. His take? They’re all crap. I agree. Here’s his (particularly lucid) explanation.

“The basic idea behind this kind of thinking goes like this. First, we assume that there is a better state than the one we have now. Then we assume that someone else has experienced this state and knows how to get us to it. It therefore follows that, if such a person devised a process or a machine or a drug that could induce this state, we could then use that process, machine or drug to experience the state ourselves quickly and easily. Thus we do not have to waste loads of effort on dreary, time-consuming practices like meditation and will have more time to sit around watching Three’s Company reruns or whatever. Moreover, since the process has been devised for us by an expert and tested on others who offer glowing testimonials to its effectiveness, there is no danger that we might spend a lot of energy on something which will fail us in the end.

Here’s why this is not Buddhism, and, more importantly, why it is not true. Let’s start with the idea of higher states of consciousness. How, exactly, is a higher state of consciousness defined? First of all, we assume that there is something called “consciousness.” We have consciousness. Or we are conscious. In any case there is “me” and there is “consciousness” which is experienced by “me.” But consciousness is really just an idea. Just like the idea of self. How do we separate “me” from “consciousness?” Even if you say “I am a being of pure consciousness” you’re still conceiving it as 2 distinct things. This is what the brain does. It must carve things into pieces. It can never envision wholeness. Buddha tried to find the line where one can separate “consciousness” from the things one was conscious of. He found there was no line between them at all. Consciousness may be a faulty idea at best.”