Mar 10, 2011

Definition of 99.9999999999% of humans: "Someone for whom Truth means Money"

How little resuscitation there is in life, after all, for one almost never gets a clear perception of the idea in an endeavor, but always mixed together with the illusions of finitude.

Let us take Hegel. How does he happen to become the great philosopher-author of seventeen volumes. Well, he probably had a pretty good head on his shoulders, was very industrious, and then he became B.A., M.A., and later professor — and now he begins to work. Now what call to life is there in this — always this triviality in the background: this is the way he makes a living. And then he probably makes money on his books — there we have it again.

To be sure, there is lofty talk that no one thinks about such things — well, maybe so, but it is the world's hypocrisy that at bottom it privately wants to have a shabby explanation of everything — and then talks in lofty tones. Make a test: place an endeavor right in front of people's noses (here in Copenhagen or wherever you want to), but a task which does not have a single illusion in it (neither money, office, honor, nor reputation), a task which, besides this, is so laborious and strenuous that one cannot speak of it as a kind of pleasure: and you will see, if people are encouraged in some way to express themselves completely openly, they will regard this man as crazy or so peculiar that he teeters on the border of insanity.

There is constant talk in the world about wanting only the truth, etc., but something else is always implied. A journal which seeks only the truth: well, this is regarded as all right if the journal has many subscribers, to seek only the truth in this way is understandable. And why? Because the great number of subscribers shows that it is earning a lot of money and that the journal must have a great influence. Think of a journalist who wants only teh truth, and consequently, if he originally had many subscribers, they steadily become fewer and fewer; at last he has so few that it is clear that he subsidizes the publication, and still he works just as diligently and industriously as anyone — and you will see that he is ridiculed or at least is regarded as odd.

Woe, woe, woe to these preachers who either are hulks who do not know how it all hangs together or are servile enough not to reveal it, fearing for their wages.

Opportunities come my way to discover this, even where I did not expect it. I can remember saying to Peter a year and a half ago: I believe I will give up being an author for good and start riding horses or something like that — and he answered (and with real earnestness): that would be the best thing to do. So purposeless, then, do my efforts seem to him. Had I become famous as an author, had I earned much money, then he would have said: You are not crazy after all.

— Kierkegaard, 1848

Mar 7, 2011

The bourgeois mentality

"One should love his neighbor as himself," say the bourgeois, and by this they mean the well-brought-up children and now useful members of the state — those who have great susceptibility to every transient emotional flu — for one thing they mean that when someone is asked for a pair of scissors, even though he is some distance away, he will say "Righto!" and get up "with great pleasure" in order to fetch them, and for another that one will remember to pay the proper visits of condolence. But they have never felt what it means to have the whole world give them the cold shoulder, for the whole pack of social herring in which they live naturally does not permit such a relationship to occur; and then when serious help is needed, good common sense tells them that anyone who is in great need of them and in all probability will never be in a position to help them in return — he is not their neighbor.

— Kierkegaard, 1837

Mar 2, 2011

The Electric Dog Goes Buddhist

This time, the Electric Dog was really down. None of his usual tricks and defenses worked. He tried to write a sensational bestseller, but could not get past a two-page outline. He wrote a revolutionary paper on drugs and the human mind, but no one wanted to publish it.

His worldly possessions dwindled to a futon, a laptop computer and a copy of the Dhammapada. He had no job and no home, and he managed to alienate most of his friends with his incessant complaints.

On top of it, his health was deteriorating; neither exercise, nor generous doses of multivitamins seemed to help. While the present was perfectly abhorrent, the future looked even bleaker.

What was he to do? Commit suicide? Get a straight job and go back to his girlfriend?

No, there was one last gambit he was going to try before limiting himself to such hard choices.

He was going to become a Buddhist.

He went to a monastery on top of a mountain where they taught mindfulness as a way out of life's misery. All one had to do was to watch one’s stomach rise and fall as one sat on a cushion for twelve hours a day. The delusions and desires of worldly life were supposed to slough off one's mind like so much loose debris. That sounded simple enough.

The Dog was so miserable and so determined to get rid of his misery that he actually engaged in this new method of finding happiness, quite conscientiously, for almost two weeks.

His buttocks hurt like hell. Instead of resting at night he had nightmares. Even the food, so eagerly awaited during sittings, somehow failed to satisfy him.

He was trying to get his mind to follow his breath--and whatever else was happening in his body — but the mind refused to be a trained circus pony and was bucking like a wild mare. It would only fall quiet in order to lull the Dog's suspicion and then throw him off its back all the more triumphantly.

Nonetheless, the Dog saw very clearly what a fraud he had been during his previous life. He saw the effects of his self-destructive and delusional thinking. He even learned how to, if ever so briefly, stop the restless meandering of his mind by watching his stomach rise and fall.

But to get beyond suffering or even beyond conflict about suffering or not suffering – that he could not do. He guessed that Buddhists, just like everyone else, were overselling their case.

One morning, he woke up with such a sense of desperation and hopelessness that the original choice of either getting a straight job and settling down, or committing suicide, reared its ugly head again.

That morning, he broke his usual routine, climbed up to the top of the mountain and sat there under a blue gum tree.

He resolved not to move until he could come up with the answer to his life's dilemma.

He sat there for what seemed like eternity.

Finally, strange energy began to pulsate through his body. He saw a brilliant white cloud descend upon him, illuminating the farthest recesses of his mind.

Just at that moment a bull ant bit him on his already sore buttocks. As the searing pain tore through his body, he experienced a blinding flash and a surging sense of enlightenment.

As his mind became more composed he perceived the meaning of his revelation: there were not four, but five Noble Truths of Buddhism. They went like this:

1. Life is a pain in the ass.
2. No matter how much you squirm, you are still going to get screwed.
3. The only way to deal with pain is to face it in life through action.
4. You are going to do everything possible to avoid facing truth No. 3, including learning all the tricks of meditation and the Buddhist jargon about the Four Noble Truths.
5. You can no more control your mind than you can control the movement of stars in the sky. But you can control people by teaching them how they can supposedly control their minds.

Who needs sex or possessions, he reflected, when you can have so much power?

The beautiful female acolytes will even put food into your bowl, so that you can become like a child (or a drone) before you enter Nirvana. You can watch junior monks go through mind-numbing rounds of meditation and walking which would even impress a drill sergeant. What's more, your charges would be doing it completely voluntarily. They would even try to outdo each other in their feats of submission and mortification.

The Dog found that among the aspiring followers of the Gentle One competition for merit, recognition, and power was even fiercer than in the society at large. Instead of greed, anger and ambition, steel buttocks, mental endurance and rote memory were the prerequisites for success. The Buddhist scene around him seemed to have as much to do with the original experience of Buddha as the sittings of the Vatican Council had to do with the wanderings of the unruly band of rogues who gathered around the rabble-rouser from Galilee.

The Dog got up from under the gum tree, gently rubbed the spot where the bull ant had bitten him, and started his descent from the mountain.

At first he thought that he would start teaching people the Five Noble Truths that had been revealed to him. But then he realized that people would not listen. They were so eager to give away their power for even a temporary relief from suffering via some second-hand guru or technique that they would ignore him and might even stone him.

The Dog stowed his futon in the van and started on the road leading back to town. He donated his copy of Dhammapada to the monastery's library. His buttocks still hurt but a vague sense of joy at having found his own truth was rising in his soul.

A butterfly skimmed over the road and landed on a gum tree. The Dog smiled. Why burn the house down just because it is going to fall over some day?

The butterfly seemed to be telling him, "Life may be short and full of strife and disappointment, but it is still worth living—with acceptance and grace."

At that point he became a Buddhist

— Pyotr Patrushev