Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

All kinds

April 26, 2013

Nice mix of conventional and quirky, in yesterday’s CoPhi reports. Jessica on Rawls, Andrew on Sandel, Jake on Buddhism, Regan on Meditation, and Logan on a crazy, humble “goofball” climber who “knows” he can’t fail or fall (though most of his mentors have).

Alex is an atheist, Logan told us, a YOLO guy who says live. 

That’s one of my mottos too, but in my case it keeps me literally off the wall.

One of my others: it takes all kinds.

“tiny lights along the path of happiness”

September 29, 2011

Stayed up too late making exams and watching baseball. Cards win! Rays too. Wild!! They’ve captured the zeitgeist. For the Braves and Bosox, history has moved on.

Priorities are important, especially those bearing “World-historical” Meaning. Maybe I was too quick the other day to dismiss the parochial self-importance of those old St. Louis Hegelians. Probably not.

In SOL our higher immediate priority is to close the book on Matthieu Ricard’s version of Happiness, the final words of which we’ll ponder today before our first exam. (Think of it as a mini-retreat, like an MRI… or as an exhibition warm-up before the playoffs get serious. Just don’t stress about it. Look for loopholes, use language strategically, smile and laugh, and memento mori.)

He says in his pre-Buddhist French secular youth it never occurred to him to think of himself as happy, or even of wanting to be. But now,

The sense of flourishing I now feel at every moment of my existence was constructed over time… one can become enduringly free and happy…

That’s inspiring, even if “every moment of my existence” sounds a little exaggerated. And though some of us have picked a bit at Ricard’s vague exercise advice (“make your mind as wide as the sky… remain in the interval of nowness…” etc.), I for one come again to the end of this book feeling like I’ve spent valuable time in the company of a genuinely, serenely happy and decent human being. I believe him when he proffers his humble “deepest wish”

that the ideas gathered in this book may serve as tiny lights along the path of temporary and ultimate happiness of all beings.

That’s what a Bodhisattva sounds like. To dispel the misery of the worldRicard, finis

Our other priorities today: 1. regroup (and rededicate ourselves to the group concept, in the spirit of Hegel). 2. Vote for our November read. Here are the nominees, based on our last class:

  • Exploring Happiness (Bok)
  • Generosity (Powers)
  • Geography of Bliss (Weiner)
  • Selected essays culled from the Internet (Aristotle, Montaigne, James…)
  • How to See Yourself as You Really Are OR For the Benefit of All Beings OR Art of Happiness (Dalai Lama)
  • The Monk and the Philosopher (Ricard & Revel)
  • Existentialism and Human Emotions (Sartre)
  • Flow (Csikszentihalyi)
  • The Alchemist (Coelho)
  • Surprised by Joy (Lewis)
With so many nominees, there may be no clear winner (with at least half the votes) on 1st ballot. If so, we’ll have a 2d-ballot runoff between the top two or three choices. If a tie-breaker is then still needed, I’ll cast it.
It’s good to be King.

In reality there is no “I, Me, or Mine”

September 22, 2011

We’re smack in the middle of our reading of Ricard’s Happiness, the chapters concerned with the “poisonous” emotions. (Co-Phi students of Stoicism, take note.) Desire, hatred, and envy stand out, and stand between us and our happiness. But fortunately they can be tamed, according to Ricard.

You can understand a lot about how Buddhists propose to tame the beast of emotional insecurity by attending closely to George Harrison’s wonderful song I, Me, Mine. It’s his life-story too.

“George was always quick to point out that in reality there is no I, Me, or Mine…”

All thru’ the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All thru’ the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Ev’ryone’s weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All thru’ the day I me mine.

I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine.

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Ev’ryone’s saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru’ Your life, I me mine.

I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine,
I-I-me-me mine.

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Ev’ryone’s saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru’ your life I me mine.

So what remains, if we let go our hold on ego and self and its possessions? What are we trading in for, if we sing along with the lads? Not other thing-substitutes, surely.

No. We’re going for a feeling here, a feeling not unlike Emerson’s in Nature. William James called it, paradoxically, the sentiment of rationality. Andre Comte-Sponville offers an apt analogy (which will betray the reason for my attraction to his book):
You are taking a walk… You feel great. It started out as an activity for recreation or exercise… and then it gradually turned into something else– a subtler, deeper, nobler pleasure. Something like an adventure, but an interior one. Or like an experience, but a spiritual one. You wish for nothing other than the step you are taking at the very moment you take it, nothing other than the landscape as it is, at this very instant, with a bird emitting its cry, another bird taking wing, the strength you feel in your calves, the lightness in your heart and the peace in your soul… This is plenitude.
This plenitude: Is it rationality? Is it sentiment? Is it real? Is it sufficient?
It might be happiness, yours or mine, but that’s for each of us to experience at first hand for ourselves. “Experience as a whole is self-containing and leans on nothing…” This is a humanist’s happiness, naturalized and personalized. Maybe it is, as James avers, the essence of humanism.
But, without a solid ego at the core? I need to hear George’s next verse.
NOTE TO Co-Phi STUDENTS: A small fly in our Clicker ointment… the online tutorials indicate that we’re going to need to reformat our powerpoint slides, in order to get them to work with the clickers. So, I’m offering extra credit to anyone who’ll work on that for us.  JPO

Sidd Finch lives

April 1, 2011

Have you heard about the Mets’ pitching sensation Sidd Finch?

An ascetic and aspiring Buddhist monk, Finch lived years in the Tibetan mountains, mastering Tantric secrets, the French horn and, improbably, the ability to hurl a baseball.

He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga … Sports Illustrated

What an amazing story. What a phenom. Unbelievable.

“We are not a part of nature, we are all of nature”

March 12, 2011

My head’s back, sorta.

Thinking this morning about my impending presentation at the 16th annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture, about the great Sidd Finch, and about the Buddha on nature.

“He specifically said it was a sin against right living for anyone to claim to have supernatural powers,” Jennifer Hecht reminds us. But,

Once Buddhism was out of the Buddha’s hands, the ideas of prayer and worship, a universal mind, magic, gods, and, of course, karma began to creep into many of the Buddhist sects that arose across the centuries…

Including Finch’s, evidently. Even “The Natural” couldn’t hurl a ball faster than a speeding bullet. What Sidd did in 1985 (in George Plimpton‘s fervid imagination) literally defied nature, not to mention credulity.

But there’s a larger point here:

The Buddha invited us to use our human consciousness to realize that we are not a part of nature, we are all of nature. It was a transcendent secularism, an empirical guide out of the limitations of the human mind… Buddhism is a nontheistic graceful-life philosophy and a nontheistic transcendent program. JMH

“We are all of nature” means we already possess the tools (as big league scouts like to say) to free ourselves from self-centered worries and fears.

This situation of ours is bliss… you are a collection of thoughts amid the universe, with nothing to do but be delighted with that surprising truth, and with the whole range of experience, without preference, without hurry, without dread. Every moment is a marvel of being.

“Nothing to do” is a stretch. Nothing but grade those papers, prep those classes, finish that conference talk (last year‘s & the year before)… Being “all of nature” is a full-time job. But Spring Training was awesome. Wish I was there.

whale & owl

February 23, 2011

Presentations continue in NW. Harrison, Willie, and Jason are up next.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: The first exam is on Monday, with 20 questions to  be drawn from the quizzes. There should be time for two presentations beforehand. Essays are due from non-presenters a week from today.

In Nature’s Way today we read that whales (and dolphins) have intuitive powers of communication that leave our paltry human linguistic capacity in the dust. They’re telepathic, they know the minds and the arsenals of their two-legged predators, and they’re in touch with all of Nature.

We, on the other hand,  have only modest powers of  intuition– and what little we do have we fear and mistrust. Eagle Man is in touch with his own inner Doolittle, though, and drew vigorous nodding assent from his friend the “big very holy fish” about our mutual responsibility to Mother Earth.

I hope that didn’t sound “superioristic or belittling.” I’m okay with “skeptical,” though, and there’s plenty here to test the credulity of even the most modest skeptic.

Vision Quest, Sun Dance, and Sweat Lodge are said to stimulate intuition and displace the “pettiness of daily living.” I’m bemused to note, btw, that “a vision quest may include long walks in uninhabited, monotonous areas.” By that definition I’ve been questing all along myself, without knowing it. “It is an individual experience and often subject to the emotional, spiritual, and physical make-up of the person.” Precisely.

Sun Dance seeks “a continuity between life and death – a regeneration. It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic and true deaths and rebirths. All of nature is intertwined” and mutually inter-dependent. It’s the circle of life, again, but with more piercing self-inflicted pain. Suffering is thought to be redemptive and natural. I think the amelioration of suffering is even moreso.

And “the lodge often ends on the statement mitakuye oyasin,”* being

a place of spiritual refuge and mental and physical healing, a place to get answers and guidance by asking spiritual entities, totem helpers, the Creator and Mother Earth for the needed wisdom and power.

Can’t hurt to ask.

*All is related to all. Is that mysterious intuition, or just good old-fashioned insight?

Wotai, a special stone allegedly containing picturesque images within, is another tough nut to crack. But Eagle Man is appropriately humble about it. “I am but a mere human. What do I know on this matter?” He’s definitely saying more than he knows.

“Will Creator intervene someday and save our world?” Eagle Man seems to urge a “beseeching” attitude, but I follow the Sagan line on this:

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. Reflections on a Mote of Dust

It disturbs me whenever I hear my fellow humans beseeching the gods or the stars or the aliens to come and bail us out. Bailouts clearly don’t work.

“Modern materialists” don’t care about generations unborn, but is that because they’re consumerists or atomists? Is it even true, in either sense of the term? Plenty of consumers are naively addicted to the horn of plenty, and blinded by its bounty; but materialists of my stripe are as caring as anyone. But maybe he didn’t mean my tribe.

I don’t honor Great Spirit, if that means acknowledging a designing, animated, pre-evolutionary intelligence at work in the Universe. I’m far from alone in that. Does Eagle Man really mean to say that all of us are, therefore, selfish and manipulative?

“What you never see does not exist, according to the Sioux.” But, being “owl-like” enables us to “connect with what ordinary senses cannot perceive.” Okay, owl really sees through the darkness. His night vision is impressive, but I’m still leery of the idea that we can be owlish in our metaphorical ability to see what’s permanently hidden from daylight. How do we detect and expose false sightings? How do we maintain integrity of vision?

The Yuwipi ceremony can “bring ancestors of the past into phenomenal, physical form.” Resurrection? Really? Or if not, what?

Maybe I need a few drags on that pipe Eagle Man says he put down. Sorry, I’m skeptical of that claim too.

This all sounds a lot like the Dhammapada insistence (on my notepad this morning) that “we are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” I just can’t bring myself to believe it. Our thoughts themselves are risen, emergent, evolved, evolving, both making our world and made by it. Native wisdom seems to me to be tapping into a fundamental part of our story, but only a part of it.

But, not to lose sight of the bigger picture here, Eagle Man and I share plenty of common ground. His Cuckoo’s Nest “go to hell” confrontation in the Bible Belt is priceless. “A ho! It is so!”

And after all, as a pragmatic pluralist I’m still bound to agree, too, with Eagle Man’s favorite Jesuit Father Stoltzman: “By their fruits you shall know them.” The fruits of sustainable living on a harmonious, holistically-integrated planet will stifle my skepticism more quickly than any merely verbal riposte.  Let’s all agree not to proselytize. Pass that peace pipe.

sacred matter

February 3, 2011

First, following up on our discussion of Asian philosophy last time, Jennifer Hecht has interesting thoughts on Buddha:

The real excitement was in this actual, natural, real world. The Buddha said that we are tiny creatures, convinced of a sense of me-against-the-world, and possessed of a comically small vantage point from which to see the social world of human beings and the universe as a whole.

[But] …once you do manage to get rid of your sense of self, the truth of the universe is yours. You are no longer living from a single vantage point… not being you entails being everything else… everything in the world we know is constantly coming into being or disappearing, and it is all basically made of the same stuff.

The Buddha insisted that the way to enlightenment was not at all supernatural, or even spiritual… you are a collection of thoughts amid the universe, with nothing to do but be delighted… every moment is a marvel of being… Pay alert attention

Was there a God? Were there gods? The Buddha said these are questions “which do not edify.”

So what about karma, the great nontheistic religious belief of the East? The Buddha suggested we imagine a line of candles, and using the first to light the second, and the second to light the third, we progress down the line… He then asked if the flame on the last candle is the same flame as the first… It is to this degree that we are reborn… nirvana means to extinguish or to blow out– to extinguish the boundaries of the separate self.

Hippocrates was defending intellectual humility and medical science, not attacking pantheism, when he said incomprehension is no proof of divinity. Thales, savvy olive king reductionist and hydro-enthusiast, swore his own oath to science, nature, and “techne.”

Greek philosophy has a different take on yin and yang: instead of harmony, opposition and constructive strife… Dynamism, not stasis… Change, not Being.

I have trouble keeping Anaximander and Anaximenes, the other Milesians, straight. [Forget Anaxagoras!] They both had trouble resisting material reductionism.

Pythagoras differed from the Milesian materialists, saying the universe is composed not of stuff but of quantifiable relations. He believed in reincarnation, philosophized with women, inspired Plato, and is thought to have been the first to call himself a humble lover of wisdom. “Music of the spheres” was his copyright.

The perception of change, like Heraclitus’ river, just keeps flowing along. Parmenides and Zeno were among the first to repudiate it. For my money, they did not succeed.

Democritus– we’ve already heard Carl Sagan wax nostalgic for the Abderan (“no dummy”), as only one Brooklynite can wax for another–  was a pluralist about atoms and everything else, though he denied the existence of dedicated soul-stuff or wonder-tissue embedded in our tiniest bits.  Soul is breath, pneuma. There’s the large kernel of truth in Anaximenes’ airy reduction, the real stuff of all our aspiration, inspiration, and respiration. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

But, does a real pluralist also deny meanings and purposes, in the plural? The more atoms, it would seem, the more potential meanings. So far from being opposed to the life of spirit, material plurality guarantees perpetual reconfigurations of possibility for enactment and enjoyment in the world as we experience it.

As William James, pluralist par excellence, said when contemplating the sadness occasioned by the deaths of parents and children: the fact that our atomic building blocks can and do assume the precious forms of our nearest and dearest loved ones should put a final end to all thoughtless, denigrating talk about the base vulgarity of material existence.

The mere fact that matter could have taken for a time that precious form ought to make matter sacred for ever after.



February 1, 2011

The largest question posed by the juxtaposition of east and early west, seems to me, is whether the world is more a field of strife or of harmony, one or many.

Another interesting  question: what did the Zen master mean by telling his pupil to kill the Buddha? It doesn’t sound very harmonious or compassionate, on its face. But maybe “killing the Buddha,” figuratively, is what we do in philosophy.

Buddhism, like Hinduism and Jainism, courts the mystic quest for enlightenment beyond words (and beyond its own developed logic). Philosophy for them all culminates in direct and immediate sight and understanding. All resist the over-intellectualizing tendency so delightfully skewered by Benjamin Hoff‘s rendering of the familiar figure of Pooh’s friend Owl, the very archetype of a dusty dessicated western bookworm. All advise holding the seductions of material consumption at arms’ length. All mistrust stubborn and incurious “common sense.”

But Buddhism distinguishes itself by rejecting an ultimate redeeming reality subsisting beneath all appearances, and it rejects the notion of a substantial and enduring self.

We were talking about the problem of suffering the other day. Suffering is indeed life’s pervasive problem, and its acknowledgment is Buddhism’s first “noble truth.” Fortunately, diagnosis and treatment follow in quick succession.

Unfortunately, from this outsider’s point of view, the medicine is bitter: it requires us to renounce all craving and desire. As I indicated, I’d prefer a more targeted approach. Lose the inappropriate desires, keep the nourishing ones – like the desire for philosophical enlightenment, and for deserved peer recognition, and maybe for something as impertinent to some as a sunny day in the centerfield bleachers.

It’s hard to knock any steps on the Eightfold Path, especially since they are all stipulated to be “right” – seeing, thinking, speaking, acting etc.

Nirvana would be nice, I suppose, but again… I’m not sure I want to lose my particular form of egoism. I’ve spent a lifetime constructing it, after all. This is the one insight I’m prepared to share with the Randians: self-regard need not be selfish.
My dogma would never eat your karma. That would be selfish. Brutish, really. The opposite of a Bodhisattva. Or of a compassion-counseling “superior priest.”

Is everything constituted by its relations, without remainder? That’s the “middle way” view of Nagarjuna.

Confucius and Aristotle, both exponents of moderation, also both emphasized the importance of personal virtue. Confucius certainly seemed to be trying to have it both ways when he said we’re born with the quality of “humanness” but must still achieve our respective degrees of humanity. I don’t know about that, but I do like the rejection of mind-body dualism and the notion of spiritual mastery as more than a cerebral event. Mens sana in corpore sano is common ground, even if ch’i remains controversial.

Is the world an illusion? Not all Buddhists say so. Transitory, yes. Nugatory, no. Nyaya sounds like a taunt, but its just logic.
The discussion in our text of Confucian love is timely, in view of the recent Tiger Mother controversy. Is western familial love not tough enough?

Lao Tzu’s spontaneity and simplicity “in accordance with one’s own nature” has a much more western ring to it, to a parent’s ear. But non-action, wu-wei, is un-pragmatic (and thus un-American, philosophically at least) in the extreme.

Yin &  yang have become so cliche, but sure make a pretty symbol on a medallion. And can you really write the “Book of Changes” (I Ching) in advance? Or must each of us live it?

Finally, today, the metaphor I’ve already invoked more than once: in contrast to the Christian concept of soul as an individuated, distributed bit of eternity, Taoists think of it as more like a drop in a stream. We emerged from Mother Sea, and we’ll go back again. Or maybe you prefer Walt Whitman’s famous image in Leaves of Grass: “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” Or the leafy image of Freddie, falling to earth and regenerating the ground for Spring.

PW2… Asian Spirit… Becoming Buddha (Thurman, TED)… The Way (Tao of Pooh, Freddie the Leaf)


December 11, 2010

Smack in the middle of grading, with final exam week about to crank up… it’s an odd time to be thinking about the 1st of April and the national pastime. But that’s never stopped me before.

My friends & colleagues who run the annual Baseball in Literature and Culture conference, slotted this year for All Fool’s Day [CFP], have designated this very Wednesday as the (optimally inconvenient) submission deadline,* so I’d better take a moment.

Actually it will take less than a moment. I knew the instant I realized this year’s conference fell on that Friday that it had given me the pretext I’ve been waiting for: to write about the greatest April Fool’s hoax of all time.

“I never dreamed a baseball could be thrown that fast. The wrist must have a lot to do with it, and all that leverage. You can hardly see the blur of it as it goes by. As for hitting the thing, frankly, I just don’t think it’s humanly possible. You could send a blind man up there, and maybe he’d do better hitting at the soundof the thing.”

That was Mets’ outfielder John Christensen, talking about pitching phenom and erstwhile teammate Sidd (diminitive of Siddhartha, of course) Finch in SI on April 1, 1985.

I met his amazing agent/amanuensis George Plimpton in Cooperstown in 2001, not long before his death. He signed his book, we talked about the illusory and insubstantial dimensions of the game, and he filled me in on Finch.

Where is the prodigy now? What does his literally incredible career on the mound tell us about the zen of baseball? What can a mindful approach to the game do for a player, or for a fan? What do real baseball Buddhists (like Sadaharu Oh, the “Japanese Babe Ruth”) think of all this? Are there any real Buddhists in American baseball today?

That’s what I hope to be talking about on April 1, 2011.

There, that didn’t take long. Back to the grade pile.


*Post-script. Ha! I now discover that I was mistaken, the deadline’s not ’til January. It’s a philosophy conference in Boston whose deadline is Wednesday. That’s funny, and it’s no April fool.

Asian spirit

February 11, 2010

It’s misleading to say that there’s a strong tradition of doubting God in Asian philosophy, since that would imply a strong antecedent tradition of not doubting God. It may be difficult for westerners to wrap themselves around the idea of these ancient traditions, exempt from the gaze and regulation of God or Gods… or the idea of godless traditions whose greatest aspiration is to leave the world behind, on a road to nowhere. “Release,” renunciation, and no regrets? How does that work, training oneself out of humanness while at the same time dissolving into the wide unhuman universe? How does a drop rejoin the ocean without remorse or fear?

The Carvaka, the first doubters we know about, seemed too eager to leave and too quick to judge the uncivilized ignorant fools who imagine that spirit is something different from body. I happen to share their view that spirit cannot hang from nowhere, and I see the point of  the Stoics’ imperative to cultivate an attitude of tranquil acceptance. But I’m not thrilled about it. Honestly, I’d rather stay a little longer. Or have somewhere to go. Then again, I’ve long resonated to Emerson‘s very similar statement: “Other worldthere is no other world. God is one and omnipresent ; here or nowhere is the whole fact.”

Our challenge: if the whole fact excludes God from our world, can we still be as sanguine about it as the Carvaka? Or as “spiritual” as the Buddha? We should in any case reject the nihilism of proclaiming that no morality could have any meaning because the whole system [has] no purpose. Pleasure is a fine goal, but it’s not the only good one. Bertrand Russell was right to repudiate this kind of thinking when he pooh-poohed the whole notion that an ultimately-pointless universe condemns us to meaningless lives. And he was right, in Conquest of Happiness, to advise lives full of outward interest. We should turn our attention away from the end and from self-absorption, to the intrinsically meaningful persons, places, and things whose potential meanings are inexhaustible. (BTW: if you’re at war with the self, aren’t you still self-absorbed?)

A materialist (or Philip Pullman fan) has to love the Jains‘ materialistic version of karma, a fine dust of atoms that gets on your jiva, your spirit, and keeps your cycle of birth and re-birth spinning. It’s a reminder that spirit can lodge in and on matter, and in fact it does. Recall William James, on this: “To any one who has ever looked on the face of a dead child or parent the mere fact that matter could have taken for a time that precious form, ought to make matter sacred ever after… That beloved incarnation was among matter’s possibilities.” Enough said, from my perspective.

The Buddha (the original one, Siddhartha) sought freedom and enlightenment in the forest (where we hung our “Home Sweet Home” sign), and found “blissful clarity” there under the Bodhi tree, waking at once to the ubiquity of  suffering and the possibility of rightly seeing (the first step on the 8-fold path). He saw beyond the rupture between our feelings and desires and the  vast, unresponsive universe. What did the Buddha see? Not much. No God, no karma (or any other universal justice), no dependence on community for meaning… He invited us to use our human consciousness to realize that we are not a part of nature, we are all of nature. But this is not pantheism, the whole show is too ephemeral. The point is that there are no definite boundaries between our particular fields of experience and the totality of them all. Looking to belong to something larger than yourself? Here you go. It’s another secular version of the trans-end-dance.

Buddha claimed to see nothing, literally nothing in the place where others imagined they saw a substantial ego. Our self-referential feelings exist, as sensations– but not as coherent, enduring, loci of meaningful existence. Can this be true? Granted, there’s no little homunculus-doppelganger of you at your control-switch. But does it follow that, where selfhood is concerned, there really is no there there? Can’t we accept an alternative definition of “self” that dispenses with such naive literalism about consciousness, but still acknowledges an organizing subjectivity whose memories and plans and dreams converge on a stable singular identity and “a name I call myself”? A self that’s as real as the time and space it chooses to attend to, no more and no less? Well, I hope so. I’ve certainly invested a lot of words in the project of defending the self— and not just mine.

Robert Thurman says Buddha had a humanizing and naturalizing influence on Hinduism, and on us: we can all be the Buddha.* (Or,  at least more compassionate TEDsters.) Worldly, war-mongering energies were diverted to paradoxically-personal pursuits:  when people are responsible for their own salvation, a great deal of their time and effort is required. That’s time not spent making public mischief, but it’s also “me”-time, isn’t it?

Finally, Confucius left God out of it, and heaven. We don’t know yet how to serve men… We don’t know yet about life… Originally, Taoism was as atheistic as Buddhism and Confucianism before the rise of Asian superstition and “social magic,” the real effect that human beings can feel from their community and its emblematic leaders.

My favorite Asian naturalist is the autodidact Wang Ch’ung, who educated himself while standing in bookstores. Me too.

“If the heavens had produced creatures on purpose, they ought to have taught them to love each other, and not to prey upon and destroy one another.” Looks like we’re going to have to teach ourselves. See you at Borders. (My birthday card just arrived.)

*Robert Thurman, like me, likes the Beatles. Like a good Buddhist, he also likes the Stones.

[Rami on “offense“… Hecht on suicide]