Thursday, 3 June 2010

If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him

"[I]t is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone."

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

There's a story attributed to Chung Tzu which goes something – and I emphasis the something - like this:

One morning a group of Chung Tzu's friends come across his sleeping body. Upon his awakening, Chang Tzu tells the small gathering of his dream: I dreamed that I was a butterfly, but now that I'm awake, I'm wondering whether, perhaps, it is not the case that a butterfly is dreaming that he is man?

Most likely apocryphal.

And seemingly absurd.

If, indeed, butterflies can be said to dream, they apparently do not have the conceptual acumen to rationalise such speculative fantasies and render them in linguistic form.

No disrespect to lepidoptera intended.

Some may take away from this story Descartes', “I think therefore I am”. Irrespective of who? (as in name) or what? (as in thing), we should focus on what is constant and unchanging, viz. the “I” for, verily, could not the Chang Tzu-butterfly complex be encompassed – an episode “within” – a further dream yet unwoken from (a "dream within a dream"), like waking up, getting out of bed and putting on your work clothes only to discover - when the alarm actually sounds - that you have done none of these things and are still in bed?

When you take everything away, "I" remains.

The common denominator.

True, in a way.

But this gets the cart before the horse.

By asserting "I am" are you not already?

Could you not be yourself?


Don't you think?

The very fact that you think presupposes that you exist: you don't have to preface every thought by asserting that “I think that ...” (Kant's point) nor do you have to bookend it with the observation “I thought that” to fix your thoughts as your own.

Although large quantities of psychoactive drugs may persuade you otherwise (though there's no talking with you when you get into such a state).

The more mundane truth is you assume your own existence and, perhaps, the less mundane truth is you frequently forget what is assumed because it is assumed.

You are your own realisation.

Realising that adds nothing, which is something, I grant.

Lao Tzu says, "[S]omething and nothing give birth to one another".

And if you meet yourself on the road, try looking where you're going.

Wittgenstein called this: "Immunity to error through misidentification".

No comments:

Post a Comment