Posts Tagged ‘pragmatism’

Came across this quote recently, which struck me as perfectly speaking to the mindset of someone I know. Maybe it’ll have some things to say to you, too…

The thing about Zen is that it pushes contradictions to their ultimate limit where one has to choose between madness and innocence. And Zen suggests that we may be driving toward one or the other on a cosmic scale. Driving toward them because, one way or the other, as madmen or innocents, we are already there.

It might be good to open our eyes and see.

Thomas Merton

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We’ve all been very swamped. We’ve been getting a bit behind, and I know for me, that’s also gotten in the way of things I’ve wanted to get accomplished in other areas of my life. I had somewhat of a schedule for things I wanted to have done by the end of the year, and that schedule lost a whole month. It’s about enough to make a girl impatient.

So today’s thought is a Zen proverb I’ve held onto:

A superior vessel takes a long time to complete.

I like that, it’s a good reminder to keep my patience while I re-assess my plan and get a new schedule in place to still get done what I can accomplish.

After all, while a superior vessel may take a long time to complete, it must at some point reach completion if it is to hold water.

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Time enough for a quick thought about not getting caught up in trying to settle on the perfect answer…

The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.
Ruth Benedict

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Speed Bump 8/21/2009
Speed Bump 9/21/09

I saw today’s Speed Bump cartoon and had to use it for today’s thought. I think it’s kinda funny, but it also illustrates for me the dangers of studying any kind of religious or philosophical path. It can be so easy to get sidetracked with the over-arcing insights and generalities that it becomes hard to apply them to the everyday choices of living. They can be a great guide, but they’re not exactly cut out to act as specific instructions.

That’s why I’ve set out to keep up my agreement to do a ‘daily zen’ thought, and end up talking about very mundane things. The zen is the compass, but it’s the mundane that is the actual journey. The more we learn how to live each day with a pretty clear perspective, making pretty honest choices and feeling pretty much at peace with them, the more we’re living zen.

An active sense of humor helps, too. 😉

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Today’s thought is again from Cary Tennis, my favorite advice writer/prosepoet at Salon.com —

I would amend the oft-repeated belief that everything happens for a reason, in this way: Everything may indeed happen for a reason, but we do not have to know what that reason is before acting. As stated, it is a little too pat, too cause-and-effect for my taste. If you wait to know the reason, you may never act. You act. Then things become clear. That’s more often how it works. Rather than rational certainty, often what you need to act on is a trust in probability, and a trust in inevitability, and your own desire. Trust your own desire. It will often lead you the right way.

– Cary Tennis, Since You Asked September 8, 2009

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The thing about Zen and Taoism (with the capital letters) is that so many of the sayings and phrases can be really nonsensical — or worse, misunderstood entirely. That is, if you don’t have the background framework. Though I guess that’s true for much of life, as saying “Consider the lilies!” wouldn’t make much sense if you don’t have the context of Jesus in the New Testament of the bible talking about how they’re pretty darn gorgeous but don’t run around stressing all the time to make it happen.

The example in my mind today is the old saying about studying Zen, to paraphrase:

When you first come to study zen, you see there is a mountain.
As you get deeper into your zen studies, you see that there is no mountain at all.
Once you really get the hang of zen, though, you see the mountain is there, after all.

What it’s getting at is that before starting on a path of introspection and understanding, the visible (and obstructionist) reality weighs heavily, and it just feels so darn REAL that it can be blindingly overwhelming. As you get into your path of understanding, you recognize there’s so much more to reality than we immediately see, and that what we immediately see is deceiving in that it doesn’t show us the whole picture. What we work with are our perceptions of reality rather than reality itself.

Kind of like Michel Foucault’s “This is not a pipe” picture with those words written under a painting of a pipe, which really isn’t a pipe but a picture of one. The mountain we see isn’t a mountain, it’s the light reflection that our eyes take in and our brain assembles and thinks “mountain”. The feeling of the rocks on it is the same thing — apparently our atoms never actually TOUCH, but the interaction of the atoms getting closer is what gives the sensations we feel as touch. Stuff like that.

And yet, you still have to deal with the fact that there’s this huge mound of dirt and stone. However the heck it exists, it’s as real as your body (however the heck THAT exists), and understanding it won’t get you to the other side of it. It can help you plan your path to traverse it and free you up from getting all stressed about it, but to climb it, you have to use your actual hands and feet.

To do that, you have to see the mountain.

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I’ve got just a very brief thought about conflict. We’ve got so much of it just as a matter of being alive, that it’s odd how much more we engage in than we really need to. Things come up we don’t like, people say or do things that rub us the wrong way (or truly offend), we catch ourselves with opposing impulses… There’s just so many things that can trigger a pushing/pulling situation that I guess it’s no wonder that our defenses (or offenses!) can get set to “On” as a matter of habit.

I think I’ve mentioned before a general remedy of practicing saying “Yes” to everything, thought, and action that we reasonably can, just for a day or two. Maybe it can work like one of those “Reset” buttons on electrical outlets when they burn out, at least for a while.

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