Questioning Blimix

"You sound like a Taoist or Zen Buddhist. Are you?"

No. [The following is an excerpt from an old version of Yvelheim, with only the last paragraph added:]

In matters of Quality, there are large assumptions yet to be overcome even by most of those with a deep understanding of it. By "Quality" I mean that one universal Thing that gives meaning to what would otherwise be nothing more than a sea of matter, energy, space and time: Don Alfonzo's tweezers. Seriously, that of which I speak is called the Tao, it is called Buddha Nature... I choose to use Robert Pirsig's label (though no label can define it), and call it Quality.

There is a certain class of wisdom one can come to through an understanding of Quality: Satori, Nirvana, whatever you want to call it. Enlightenment will suffice for now. For me, it opened bridges in perspective, allowing me to solve quandaries with which I had entertained myself for years. Perhaps these logical dilemmas helped the process; perhaps not. As you will gather from reading about my original notice of it, I was not aware of what had happened until five months afterward.

Various bits of reading have shown me that, although a completely rational person can deduce tremendous amounts of knowledge from this awareness, the amount of thought necessary to make low-level inferences from such a high-level understanding introduces great room for variation (a nice term for "error") due to the influence of hidden assumptions.

This is the other side of the puzzle: To track down the source of an apparent conflict to an assumption you do not even realize you are making. And do it again. And again. It is demanded, if you are to remain thoroughly honest with yourself.

It is the variation caused by these assumptions in different people and/or memes that makes me avoid identifying my philosophy with theirs. Let them keep their mistakes. My errors are my own.

At this point, allow me to resort to an example. Taoism includes a concept of "non-interference" in the natural order of things. I have no problem with this. Traditional Taoism goes on to assert that, because pregnancy, as well as occasional complications and stillbirth, are part of the natural order of things, we should allow them to progress as they should: Don't use birth control, let women carry their children to term in their home environment, without the prodding of doctors. If the child dies, this is what was to happen, and we should simply accept it and get on with our lives. Many of you will feel that there is something wrong with this reasoning, and possibly have already rejected the whole "natural order" premise. Some of you, however, will see that the Taoists in this example are making assumptions regarding the definition of the word "natural" that clash with the probable intent behind the creation of the doctrine. They are creating a false dichotomy between "natural" and "artificial". The way I see it, we, an intelligent species of animal, have developed tools and technologies to increase the quality of our lives. Our using them to do so is perfectly natural. It is in accordance with the Tao that a loving couple without the means to raise a child should use protection, to avoid the misery of plunging themselves and the child into poverty, while still enabling them to express their love as they choose to.

So it is that I can agree with philosophies based around Quality on a high level, but make no guarantees regarding agreement on a low level. Zen Buddhism stands out, getting a round of one-handed applause from me, because it specifically aims at the recognizing and discarding of assumptions as a means of forging one's own path toward enlightenment. It recognizes that assumptions are individual and private (one large reason, in my opinion, for no two paths being identical), and incorporates this fact into its style of teaching. (And "Mu" is such a wonderful tool!)

On the other hand, Buddhism fails to recognize the difference between being complex and being complicated.1 It advocates simplicity without distinguising between the simplicity of knowing and doing the right thing, and the simplicity of naivetè.


1. See the Manual for Communication with Blimix for the distinction I draw between "complex" and "complicated".

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