The+Killers+Human

We begin our ruminations on the human side of ‘the ultimate destiny of humanity’.

Constipated buddhists, reactionary occultists, and neurotic taoists.

Podcast page here

Direct download: TME3.2-OH.mp3

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35 thoughts on “The Mosaic Effect: season three, episode two-Only Human

  1. Hi Zac –

    Enjoyed this latest one for the very important points it raises – but I have issues!

    First off, yes, the majority of us have developed beyond shitting our pants. But why do I not shit my pants like I did when I was a baby? Partly because of biological maturation (sphincter control), and partly because I now find the prospect disgusting and unclean. So the tendency to shit my pants has been superseded by another tendency – the tendency toward disgust, which is a form of aversion. I am now averse to shitting my pants.

    Development need not entail that any tendency has been eradicated. In fact, if development proceeded on the eradication of prior stages, then what would successive stages have to build upon? Development is the acquisition of stronger, or contrary, or more inclusive tendencies – not the destruction of existing tendencies. As you pointed out, I can still shit my pants if I like. And many people do still shit their pants for fun, whose aversion to shit is – shall we say – ‘differently structured’ from yours and mine.

    So the eradication of tendencies would be the *opposite* of development. Is the eradication of aversion – for instance – even desirable? If an enlightened person had eradicated aversion, they would start shitting their pants again. A person with eradicated fundamental tendencies is not an arahat; they probably just have Alzheimers.

    Does anything ever get ‘eradicated’? Or does it merely change form and get recycled as something else? If something could be eradicated that would imply it had some intrinsic existence in the first place that can now be said to be ‘gone’. (‘Dependent origination’, and all that.)

    What comes across in your podcast is your heartfelt commitment to excellence. So I had a look at my own ethical conduct, and I discovered this: Have I killed anyone or anything lately? No. Stolen anything? No. Am I addicted to drugs or harmful sexual practices? No. Am I liar? Sometimes, but not often and always for a good reason. Do I get urges to do or say stupid and nasty things. Yes. But I usually see them coming, and often stop myself acting on them.

    I think most of the people reading this could look inside and honestly say the same, and maybe do better than me on those last two. My point is: how bad are you and I? How ethically retarded are we? If – as you suggest – someone taking my so-called ‘laid-back’ view is simply avoiding their neurotic crap, what’s to stop them turning around and asking why anyone should suppose there’s something so horrendously fucked-up about me and you that only complete cessation of any tendency in us that deviates from perfection counts as a good-enough solution? And wouldn’t they have a point?

    As long as we’re embodied beings, desire will arise, suffering will arise, etc. But if we’re identified with the Absolute it can be seen for what it is: ‘in the neurotic crap is just the neurotic crap’. It’s its own punishment; we don’t need to go on doing its work for it. Beating ourselves up over the idea that we can and must stamp it out ‘entirely’ is flying in the face of reality. It’s aversion to aversion.

    The drive toward development and perfection is completely valid, but it is not synonymous with enlightenment, yet neither is it incompatible with enlightenment. I can only consider myself imperfect if I regard myself as separate from the universe, the One. This is not to say I am perfect, nor that there aren’t lots of relative things I can do to make my relative existence better for others and myself. And it’s good to do them. But it’s a mistake to exclude the drive toward perfection from rigorous inspection. We’d be down on any other impulse like a ton of bricks, so why let this one sneak past? In fact, let’s have a look at it now… Hmmm, would you believe it?! The drive towards perfection is empty, impermanent, and – aw, shit – it causes suffering.

  2. well, i suppose the mantra is ‘transcend and include” with an emphasis on ‘transcend’. We have to transcend and dis-identify from lower proclivities, to develop higher ones.

    but again, I said nothing about losing the ability to behave or think in whatever way. You will always be capable of evincing those things any time you CONSCIOUSLY choose to do so.

    and i think one needs to make a distinction between a behaviorist model of morality/conduct, and an insight model. if one is proceeding from an ideal of perfection, then yes, most of your arguments apply. but i would go back to my point about mind and body:

    if, for example, you keep smacking into a glass wall, because your level of insight prevents you from seeing it, you can deal with that in two ways: you can adopt and ideal of behavior that keeps you from going anywhere near the glass wall, because you notice that every time you go there you get a bloody nose, even though you *still* can’t see it. OR, you can develop sufficient insight that you can see the glass wall perfectly, and then there’s no need to perfect any ideal of behavior, because you see the glass wall, and unless you chose to do so, there’s no way you’d run into it face first anymore.

    I’m talking more about the second, and you seem to be talking more about the first. from the perspective of the absolute, you wouldn’t care if you were smashing your face all the time, because it’s all perfectly nondual, but from another level of insight yet, the situation never comes up because you’ve stopped seeing things that were never there, and you see things that were always there to begin with. all of our lustful and averse cognitive behaviors fall into that category. there’s no need for any ‘aversion to aversion’ or ‘lusting after the end of lust’ tail chasing. perfect insight leads to perfect understanding leads to perfect morality, unfolding in time.

  3. You say you’re not arguing from an ideal of perfection, but check out that last sentence! I don’t know what ‘perfect insight’ is and I hope you’re going to explore it in more detail. Is it something you’re practising now, or something you’re putting faith in being able to practise in due course?

    I like the metaphor of neurosis as a glass wall, but my view is that if the glass wall is transparent then it can’t be seen. If it can, it’s not transparent. We can come to the point where we *know* the wall is there, but I don’t understand what you mean when you talk about *seeing* the wall. If it can be seen, it’s not transparent, in which case it’s not insight preventing us from walking into it but simply a lack of action. You might say that insight enables the wall to be seen, but I can only apply insight to stuff that’s visible – i.e. I can only apply insight to my crap as it manifests, which means I must have *already* walked into the wall to even be in a position to look at it. So much for insight as a tool for avoiding crap! Otherwise, at best, I’m only working on thoughts *about* my crap.

    Insight as a practice is direct attention to the nature of reality. I can see how this enables us to tolerate the painful manifestations of our crap but not how it can affect it. If you’re saying it can, I’d like to know more. Insight helps us tolerate crap, but any changes we make subsequently are behavioural changes – which isn’t insight; it’s ethics. Insight shows us only that crap is empty. If the crap gets fixed, that’s a behavioural change. I don’t have a problem with being labelled a behaviourist in this context; buddhism and behaviourism share a deep skepticism toward the notion of self.

    More on neurosis: if I take, for example, my neurotic wariness of getting attached to people, I find there are positives that arise from it as well as negatives. The damage that a neurosis like this does to finding fulfilment in relationships is counterweighed (for instance) by the freedom of not being overly limited by the opinions of others. Likewise, my neurotic tendency to discuss my neuroses in public is narcissistic to some, but others find it entertaining or useful. I can’t think of a single piece of neurotic behaviour or personal crap that doesn’t have a positive aspect, otherwise I suspect I wouldn’t have developed it.

    Welcome to the world of the relative! I once heard someone describe neurosis as: ‘the least pathological way of being human’.

  4. I’m hardly the most qualified person to reply on this, I’ll admit–but I get the impression that Zac’s saying more that highly cultivated insight makes it a buttload easier to highly cultivate morality based on truth. And of course, once you’ve got perfect insight, you can cultivate morality based on fundamental non-attachment, rather than just swapping out one set of illusory presuppositions for another.

  5. DHARMA KOMBAT!!!!

    don’t get too hooked on the semantics of transparency and such: just saying that there’s a difference between adopting precepts that help you avoid crap without really seeing it, and seeing the crap and ceasing to generate it.

    the last sentence is in the platonic spirit, sort of. and note the ‘unfolding in time’. it’s an ideal one never reaches, at least in the realm of behavior, as the manifest world is infintely mutable. If more practioners could come to grips with the moral implications of ‘mind and body’ that would be a huge step forward. the rest of the insight stages will have to wait.

    and surely the arahat can speak to perfect insight? I’m just taking your realisation at face value, after all…

    when you talk about ‘crap’ you seem to be treating it as an static quantity, or a self generating entity, which even elementary insight would show it is not. one generates and re-generates the crap, based on ignorance. that’s what karma is, after all. crap is a process, not a thing. yes, you need to have already smacked into *a* wall to develop insight, but after that, the karma is seen through, ceases to be crap. no more wall smacking, because that would require you to be ignorant again.

    and yes, all crap has a positive aspect. that’s why you’re attached to it. it’s called ‘dualism’. as in the dualism that is seen as illusory through enlightenment.

    I’m a little uncomfortable with the way the word ’empty’ gets thrown around. empty means something. it means, at the very least, a clear apprehension of the three characteristics moment to moment. that means that all phenomena are seen as transient, lacking a self generating nature, and unable to satisfy. are you suggesting that seeing one’s own thoughts and behaviors in this way will not change them? I mean, sure if you’d like to get specific, insight is not the same as morality, but at the level of realising emptiness, even for short periods, there are profound moral implications, to the point that I think you’d have to be making a real effort to not see them.

  6. ONE MORE UNTO THE DHARMA BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS!

    @C: Hi C! I see your point, yet morality isn’t based on truth but upon what’s good. Say you had a friend who was miserable because he’s fat. Confronting him with the truth probably isn’t going to be what’s best. So it appears that knowing what’s true (i.e. he’s fat) doesn’t automatically equip us to know how to act for the best. (In which case I’m damn sure the converse isn’t true either.)

    @Zac: Of course realising emptiness has moral implications! The first time I glimpsed it, I decided to throw away my job and investigate as much as I could. The years of effort that followed are a testament to how the experience of emptiness affects conduct massively. But your side of the argument, as I understand, is the other way around – that altering conduct is necessary for apprehending emptiness ‘properly’. Or are we arguing over nothing?

    Yes, duality is seen through upon enlightenment. But moral conduct depends upon striving for good and avoiding evil. If you did neither, that wouldn’t be for the good. So how can morality be attained by side-stepping duality? I’m attached to my neuroses, but my point was that they do not in all respects lead to ‘evil’ consequences, but sometimes to ‘good’ ones. You can’t have morality without thinking and acting dualistically – i.e. attempting to distinguish between good and evil. Insight leads to the non-dual; it can’t tell you how to act for the best.

    And yes, emptiness means something. I agree with your definition. In the early paths, however, it appears in glimpses, which can create an impression we have to ‘do’ something in order to perceive it or to ‘get there’. This is indeed true for us in the beginning. From this there might easily arise the idea that there is a ‘perfect insight’, which might be supposed to arise when we ‘do’ insight ‘properly’. But at third path emptiness becomes apparent whenever you sit to meditate, constantly, and even outside of formal practice. At this point it begins to be understood differently: i.e. you don’t have to do or practice anything to access it, you don’t even have to concentrate particularly, or even stop your mind from wandering when you meditate. WTF?! Emptiness is given out by the universe for free! The damn thing is just there and won’t go away, no matter what a big jerk or a useless meditator I’m being! This freaked me out when it happened, but that’s just how it is. I even stopped meditating for a time because there seemed no point. Everything I ever set out to gain from meditation was simply available to me constantly, so why fucking bother? (Plenty of reasons, actually, but that doesn’t concern us here.) A person simply can’t know this until they hit third path, and I can’t imagine anything that can prepare them for it. I certainly don’t remember any warnings that it would be this way. But it is.

    Emptiness is *not* an object or a thing, but it starts to look strangely like one at third path. (Getting past this impression is largely what fourth path is about.) As such, it doesn’t matter how you act or don’t act; it’s constantly there as a ‘not-thing’ in your awareness, regardless of what you think, say or do. So I’d say that enlightenment is not ‘perfect insight’, but more an insight into that which is perfect. On this particular point one ceases to be ignorant, but on every other point (sadly) ignorance remains – viz. the Zen koan: ‘An enlightened person falls down the well. How can this be?’ Enlightenment is not being able to perceive or understand anything perfectly, but to see perfection in something beyond the self. This is why people who say they’ve got there speak of it as ‘surrender’ or ‘love’, rather than a process of getting really good at dealing with personal crap.

    Is ‘perfect insight’ something that you’re practising now, or something that you put faith in being able to practise in due course? If the former, what does the practice entail, and can you share any examples from your experience. And what are the moral implications of mind and body that you referred to in your last reply? (I don’t remember this in the podcast. Apologies if I’ve misunderstood.)

  7. well, I’m not sure i agree that there is an ultimate distinction between what is true ( insight) and what is good ( morality) any such difference is based on delusion or misapprehension. in that sense, I am a platonist. there is no evil, only a deficiency of good/truth.

    and no, I’m not saying that you have to alter your behavior to apprehend emptiness properly, but the reverse: that if you apprehend emptiness properly, you will alter your behavior. if emptiness means, for example that you understand all your emotional attachments to be dukkha, to subject to constant change, and to lack a self generating nature, then the only way you could possibly maintain those attachments in their current form would be if you did not apprehend this properly. indeed, nothing can or will make you feel anything. feelings arise and intertwine with thoughts of their own accord. treating the external world as the source of this is just flat out wrong. that’s basically what I’m getting at with the mind and body thing. truth leads to good.

    this is perhaps a doctrinal emphasis, but these intense nondualists tend to overlook that the purpose of enlightenment is to overcome fundamental suffering. and that this suffering is rooted in delusional clinging and craving. insight gives you the wisdom to overcome ignorance and the delusional clinging and craving.

    this is where we part, I think: you seem to be saying that full enlightenment/arahatship is just a nondual apprehension of emptiness and being able to sit with your crap as being empty, and I’m saying that’s only a third of the whole equation, and that every increase in insight has concomitant increases in concentration and morality that are tied to it, and my issue is that many people seem to want to de-emphasize or even avoid it altogether. to my mind, even the admittedly minimal insights I have now imply huge moral transformations that I have a hard time believing anyone else who shares those insights would not see. if you think that truth and good are separate than that would make sense. I don’t think that they are, though.

    if you’re saying it’s perfectly alright and logical to see that a huge chunk of your ongoing cognition is based on false premises and yet, that to continue operating on these false premises is ‘enlightened’ because it’s all ’empty’…this seems evasive.

  8. Forgive the slight diversion, but:

    @Duncan: I think I’d really agree with Zac here. But I’m not sure the example you give is that simple.

    With the example of the fat bloke–I’d disagree, to a certain extent–he won’t feel genuine happiness in himself if he’s deluded, as it fundamentally seems to take more effort to maintain a complex illusion than it does to see the truth. But the question is how you get there, I think.

    If you unskillfully confront someone with a truth that they’re maintaining a neurotic illusion about, such that they fail to penetrate their misapprehension, then that will only serve to harden and congeal their illusions in order so that they can defend their self-image. If you can do so, and re-pattern that belief so that it reflects something more True, then that can represent great compassion; even if the mechanism involves Trauma (eg: Evey in V for Vendetta).

    Conversely, you can have the nicey-nicey approach of what Trungpa called “Idiot Compassion”, which seems nice, but does absolutely nothing but maintain or aggravate the status quo.

    Bringing this back to what you were staying, I guess what we’re saying is that the absolute in and of itself doesn’t tell you about the relative, nor vica versa. I suppose it’s a synergistic relationship, of sorts.

    So, I suppose the question is one of Can a delusional process exist in the presence of emptiness? I don’t see why it could not exist–I suppose the thing is it still takes an act of will to effect change.

    Cheers all.

  9. Kind of missing the point there, C.

    Insight impacts morality, clear as day. Morality doesn’t impact insight (apart from attitudes, willpower,…) as anything can be observed, it is the sensations, not their quality. Enlightenment does not create perfect morality, or so it is claimed. But perfect insight gives more power and clarity in order to improve morality.

    Now the question is whether it is desirable, or indeed possible to perfect morality (before or after finishing with insight), which is where a lot of people diverge. I like to think that the swamp can not be drained, sure, I am likely to be wrong. However seeing the swamp for what it is – moment to moment (which requires a lot of skill and courage) kind of resolves the issue for most people and allows for some skillful manipulation.

    Now the next question is whether an obsessive struggle at perfecting morality takes away from insight and whether the two can be combined. Does a hardcore push for change allow for clear perception of what is or is that what’s preventing the investigation?

    (By the way, believing that you can perfect morality through an act of will is laughable as you would have to be using your will from a point of perfection in order to hit the mark – you would have to be there already in order to know what to ask for in order to get there).

  10. @Pavel: I like that last point! The idea of ‘perfectible morality’, then, is what Daniel Dennett refers to as a ‘sky hook’!

    @Zac: I wouldn’t say that the good and the true are separate, but I’m puzzled how we could say they’re the same thing. In my example the truth is that our friend *is* a fatty; what’s best is probably that he *shouldn’t* be. What’s good and what’s true in this instance are *opposite*. Or can we say this example is invalid?

    You say the insights you have attained entail major ethical transformation, so let us suppose that the transformation you have visualised for yourself fails to materialise – which, after all, might simply be due to external circumstances. Are you suggesting that in this case you no longer have insight, or that you never had it in the first place? Or maybe that the transformation cannot fail to materialise?

    If our definition of enlightenment is of something contingent upon external circumstances, or upon behaviours enacted at some future point in time, or upon actions successfully executed, we can’t say for certain that anyone has or hasn’t attained it. Their ethically pure actions might not be based on insight; or their insight might not lead to ethically pure actions through no fault of their own. It ceases to be a definable goal, and also it becomes the supposed end-point of moral development rather than what it seems to me it is: a starting-point.

    Can you name any living teachers that you suspect might be enlightened? I notice that again you didn’t answer my question whether the type of practice you describe is something you’re doing now or hope to practise in the future. I’m wondering, then, if the views you’re expressing are the outcome of faith in something that will appear rather than personal experience – but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I completely agree that insight has ethical repercussions, and that these are positive. I can’t agree that we should incorporate these repercussions into our definition of enlightenment. If we do that they cease to be ‘repercussions’ and become a component of enlightenment – so I don’t see how you can maintain your apparently self-contradictory assertion that changing our behaviour is *not* necessary for insight, when you’re also asserting that ethical behaviour is the gold standard by which we ascertain it has been attained.

    You wrote: ‘You seem to be saying that full enlightenment / arahatship is just a nondual apprehension of emptiness and being able to sit with your crap as being empty.’

    Yes and no. There’s no ‘just’ about the non-dual apprehension of emptiness, as I’m sure you know. It’s the most amazing and most humbling thing. And crap *is* empty – would you disagree? All I’m saying is that whatever we decide to do about our crap ought not to be counted as part of insight practice or considered essential to it. If we do that, this is a failure of insight, because we’re letting the content of the crap interfere with our investigation of reality. If I see crap arise and then I identify with thoughts of ‘well, I need to deal with this’ then I’m allowing a part of me to set itself up in opposition to another part. Alternatively, I can see the crap arise, and then I can see thoughts of dealing with it arise. Is there crap and a heroic someone who has to deal with crap? Or are there just thoughts arising? The former is #insightFail (as they’d say on Twitter). Sure, let’s deal with our crap, and deal with it well, but let’s not kid ourselves we’re practising insight as we do so. And so let’s not base our definition of enlightenment on a dualistic standard.

    Looking forward to the next podcast to see where you’re taking this!

  11. @Pavel — many thanks for that. Indeed–I was kinda missing the point. I’ve found myself that relative factors have indeed affected the relative factors surrounding the cultivation of insight, but not directly the insight itself, it seems. An important distinction.

  12. As a bit of an aside, in regards to the fatty, I think what you’re looking at is a question of skillful means. Yes, it’s true your friend is fat. And it seems that he refuses to see the truth of his fatness (otherwise it wouldn’t bother him when you tell him he’s fat).

    But are you actually communicating the truth to him by telling him he is fat? That is, when you tell your friend he’s fat, what is the purpose and intent behind that statement? And is that purpose and intent being communicated directly to your friend, in a way that he can understand and appreciate?

    If so, then congratulations, you’ve skillfully communicated the truth of the matter. If not, then are you really communicating “truth” at all? It’s the old “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it” argument…

  13. well, I’m not sure we’re disagreeing, at least in technical terms. you might be reading more into my statements than is there.

    -I am not saying you need to *do* anything specific to maintain insights, or manifest them. there is clearly a practice regime to gain insight, and a practice to stabilize them, which I think conduct training does help. acing in accordance with apprehension of reality makes it easier to keep apprehending it. to do otherwise is ignorance. but once you have a full realization beyond a certain point, it doesn’t matter how you behave after that, but certain things do suggest themselves, and indeed, are so obvious it’s hard to believe one wouldn’t adopt them.

    -the primary difference between how morality and insight unfold is that once you’ve got a permanent insight, you’ve got it and it stays there, but things that happen in the world are the fruits of karma, and even if you’ve broken the cycle of generation, you still have to deal with what’s already in motion. ie; the perfectly enlightened person would still have patterns of behavior, thought, and interaction that have to exhaust themselves in time. being ‘fully enlightened’ makes this happen much faster, as would whatever level of insight one has. this is where I get my conclusions about practice. the insights come quickly, and sometimes are permanent, sometimes not. the changes they suggest come a lot more slowly, and how slowly they happen is related to how durable the related insights are. it complicates the issue when insight is not complete, so one lapses back into generating new karmas.

    -if I’m going to plant my flag here, I’m not convinced that anyone I know of has manifested a permanent insight strong enough to make the moral changes that seem completely obvious to me. in that sense, I find these ‘stage’ models of insight unsatisfying, because it seems to me that there are always new areas to gain insight in, and new levels of working out the insights you already have. I don’t doubt that ingram et all have the insights they say they do, but I don’t think they’re really coming to grips with every possible application of those insights, or applying those insights in every possible situation. I find it perplexing that so many insight workers ( for instance) can perfectly understand moment to moment the emptiness of something trivial, like body sensations, or your nose hairs, but as soon as you suggest that they need to treat their relationships, thier behaviors, thier identities in the same way and act accordingly, the hand waving starts, and non dualistic evasiveness.

    what it comes down to is, if you do see ALL PHENOMENA as being impermanent, not self-generating and unsatisfying, and you see this on every level of your experience, then it is extremely peculiar that one would continue to talk/think/act in the same way, or to defend talking/thinking/acting in the same way. which makes me wonder if these people are really seeing what they think they are, or claim they are. All I could venture is that their insights are extremely circumscribed, or extremely unstable, or they are still working out the karmas accumulated in the past.

    for that reason, I don’t like using the word ’empty’ in relation to these matters, because it’s easy to hide behind it and obfuscate the issue. if we talked about it in terms of ” I perceive xyz moment to moment as being perfectly nonself/impermanent/dukkha”, then it’s much easier to sort out what they’re talking about, and much easier to then discern if they’re talking shit or not. because if they do see this in relation to xyz, then that automatically makes any assertions of identification, clinging, or craving, with xyz either unsustainable as an argument ( at best), or flat out contradictory. “do you see what it really is, or don’t you? and if you do, then act like it, or show that you are moving towards acting like it, and discharging the accumulated karma.” that seems pretty simple to me. it’s not a requirement for enlightenment, but it is a step towards a valid and falsifiable truth claim. but to suggest that all these people are seeing these things and yet conveniently dismissing any reasons to act accordingly strikes me as disingenuous.

  14. and just let me clarify: when I say ‘act like it’ I am not suggesting that there is one right way of behaving or that the absolute is constrained by relative bahviors, but if something exists then show that you see that it exists, and if it doesn’t exist, show that you see it doesn’t exist. saying that you can percieve reality as empty and still be ignorant of it’s true nature is an example of an incomplete insight. presumably in cases like this, the witness sees the ignorant mind as being empty, but the ignorant mind continues to be ignorant. when the ‘little’ mind itself ceases to be ignorant, this situation dissolves. that’s what i want to see more of.

  15. You’ve been extremely courteous, Zac, allowing me to fill up your blog with long-winded arguments. I’m going to watch with interest where you’re taking this one…

    I know what you mean about the ‘non-dualistic handwaving’, and it used to bug the tits off me, but it doesn’t bother me so much now. Seeing the emptiness in nostril hairs eventually gives way to the realisation that emptiness has nothing to do with me, you, our nostril hairs, anyone else’s nostril hairs, or any method or technique we use to examine our nostril hairs, so this whole idea that someone’s insight or realisation applies only to certain areas of their experience, or all of them, doesn’t really come into it in my view, because ultimate realisation doesn’t apply to *anything* in experience.

    Aw, shit… Yet more fucking non-dualistic handwaving! 😉

    I’d be interested to see you work through some specific, real-world examples of how you envisage we can *act* on emptiness (instead of the endemic talking and handwaving).

  16. I think I’ve got the contour of the thing now. I wasn’t really planning to spend much more time on it right now, but it’s worth doing another podcast on, anyway. I don’t really think it’s that complex. emptiness and form: emptiness does not, cannot, change, but form does. form has to. form changes in response to awareness of emptiness, but emptiness itself does not change. we all know you have to do certain things to become enlightened, so form changes to realize emptiness, so what’s the big deal in suggesting that form changes after you realize emptiness? it’s only 2500 year old theravada doctrine after all.

    I’m starting to wonder if alan is giving people the spiritual equivalent of shaken-baby syndrome….

  17. Seems you’re making a tabula rasa argument for the infinite malleability of the human organism, which in the past has led to disastrous totalitarian experiments to create the “Aryan Superman” or “New Socialist Man” or even the “Last Man” of Francis Fukuyama’s liberal-democratic “End of History” (which is currently consuming the planet). This is a product of the Faustian character of the Western mind: a mind oriented toward the infinite, which has no room for concepts of limit or reversal at the extremes (which for the Greeks manifested as hubris/nemesis and enantiodromia). Human beings are amazingly flexible creatures, but we are not titans, masters of our individual universes. You, zac, seem to reject any sense of personal limit, dismissing it as just another crippling illusion. But even Buddhism acknowledges that phenomena arise dependently, i.e., that they are conditioned by preexisting phenomena, which are conditioned by preexisting phenomena, etc., as part of an infinitely regressive web of contingent relationships. Indra’s net has neither center nor edges; therefore, there is no one entity that can encompass and control every facet of the cosmos. I take that to signify that, no matter how enlightened the individual, he will always be subject to — and therefore constrained by — forces beyond his control. But increasingly you seem to shower hostility on any person or group that suggests that perfection is an infinitely receding goal, like the horizon or the rainbow’s end, something that can be approached but never achieved. Any human being who takes it upon himself to seek perfection will eventually exhaust his energies and stall. You seem to imply this is a failure born of a defective character, but I contend it is merely the logical endpoint of an admirable but ultimately doomed journey.

  18. lol.

    well I wasn’t aware of any particular hostility, but I have to account for delicate sensibilities, I guess. If anyone’s feelings are hurt I promise to buy you a cookie if you come visit me someday.

    as for the rest, I’m honestly kind of amazed, both that you would trot out literally every cliche argument against the journey to realize human potential, and that you actually think I hadn’t heard all this before, and that you actually think this has something to do with what I’m talking about. It makes me wonder if you really listened to what I said, or just superimposed your own preconceptions on it. dropping in dependent arising was kind of interesting, but that’s just window dressing.

    I mean, I’m the one who says we need to perceive reality clearly and act accordingly, and *this* is hubris? I’m suggesting we need to embrace an infinite path of moral progression, and you make some spurious allusions to fascism and totalitarianism? that’s just lazy.

    I’m well aware that you never actually reach perfection. I prefer it that way, actually. Infinite room for creativity suits me fine. No one ever actually suggested to me that perfection was an infinitely receding goal, and I certainly never criticized someone for it.

    I guess the best way to deal with this is an analogy:

    lets imagine a couple paleolithic humans, sitting on a rotten log, foraging for grubs and shivering in a cave at night, under a pile of moldy half scraped hides:

    the one guys says: ” hey, you know, I had a few ideas… we could get something going with this fire situation, and warm things up a bit, and cook our food. I have a few ideas for tools that could get these fucking cats off our backs, and make it so we didn’t have to chase gazelle and beat em to death with clubs. I think we need to quit murdering everyone we don’t recognize, too. it’s kind of uncool. I’m not sure I’m into killing babies we aren’t prepared to feed either. it’s depressing. maybe we should organize our food thing a bit better so we don’t have to do that? we could really improve things here, y’know? and I think a lot of the stuff the old dudes say isn’t true. they aren’t lying, they just don’t know. we gotta ask more questions. we don’t have to live this way. we can be better people.”

    and his friend goes: ” Dude! that’s crazy talk! people who think like that crash and burn all the time. why rock the boat, man? we’re just chilling most of the time, anyway. why get all worked up over that shit? how do we get everyone to do all these things you’re talking about? are you gonna kill anyone who disagrees with you? I killed a baby the other day! if you don’t want to do yours, I’ll do it. it’s cool. not everyone can hack that, but it’s just part of life. besides, it’s a small world man, where would all that stuff you’re talking about lead? it couldn’t go on forever. all that fire shit you’re talking…are we gonna burn the whole planet, just to keep warm? this world is so big…we can’t control all this stuff around us man. It’s a nice thought, but it’s doomed.”

    I think we know how this argument ends.

  19. See, that’s exactly what I mean. Your reply drips with thinly veiled hostility. (A cookie? Really? That’s not condescending at all.) You glibly dismissed my arguments with an air of superiority that I can only call arrogant, which is unfathomable from someone who is supposed to be striving to shed such vices as pride. (And don’t presume that I am wounded by your display. I am astounded more than anything. Have you gone so long without a strongly critical voice on this blog, that my sudden challenge has startled you into some kind of reflexive defensive posture?) You know very well that I was not commenting upon the need for clarity of thought and economy of action (which I agree is a requisite for self-improvement), but on the peculiar Western notion of linear progress — which, like so many others, you seem to have grafted onto Oriental thought, which is overwhelmingly cyclical — and its complement, the idea that any failure to advance is indicative of a defective character. (The sinners deserve their misery! How convenient for the elect.) Yes, evolution happens; and yes, it has generally followed a trajectory toward ever-increasing levels of complexity. But that complexity comes at a cost, which not everyone is prepared or even equipped to bear, and which evangelists of Progress (with a capital P) routinely brush under the carpet, to hide the resulting ugliness. That’s where my reference to totalitarianism comes in. It was not just a lazy invocation of Godwin’s law. Every totalitarian movement of the past 200 years has been inspired by the Enlightenment conviction that man is a blank slate that can be molded by indoctrination and regimentation into a paragon of virtue, as defined by the prevailing ideology. (There is an even deeper assumption hidden therein, which is that man is inherently debased and therefore requires perfecting. This leads to tremendous violence — much of it self-inflicted — against the human organism.) Buddhism, with its 2,000+ years of accreted lists and injunctions and exegeses (to which practitioners ironically become so attached on the path to non-attachment), is not immune to this impulse. I call your attitude toward the project of human perfection hubristic because it appears to treat human beings as atomic individuals with the potential to exercise [i]perfect[/i] control over themselves and their environments. But the very existence of an Other diminishes the potency of the individual and subjects him to limit, and thus places certain variables beyond his control. Failure to recognize or acknowledge this limit is the very definition of hubris, and to blame failure exclusively on the finite individual is stupid and possibly cruel.

    As an aside, I failed mind-reading in high school. If I so radically misinterpreted your podcast, you may want to ask yourself why that is. After all, you had “perfect” control over the manner in which you expressed your message. If it lent itself to such an “amazing” (read: perverse) interpretation as mine, might that not signify a failure on your part to clearly communicate your thoughts? I may have launched my critique from an unexpected angle, but I do not believe it is a non sequitur, given the cast’s overall focus on progress and perfection.

  20. I don’t think Zac was saying that you should necessarily somehow attain the ability to become das Ubermench in and of itself and somehow attain powers outside the realm of causality; only that you should well, give it a go. You might, for example, use your insight into how concepts arise and “stick” to help someone who is suffering from depression, for example. Or not react to someone who is insulting “you”.

    FWIW, I think his latest podcast (at http://tinyurl.com/kvrz6k) does help to clear things up somewhat. Although admittedly, he doesn’t go quite so far as to make it painfully obvious exactly how one goes about this. Some experimentation is required (of all things).

  21. sigh. okay. A *BIG* cookie. but that’s as far as I’m willing to go. Inflation is putting a strain on my paycheck.

    You say you failed mind reading, but you seem to be doing a pretty good job of projecting onto me all kinds of assumptions. I blame it on the pervasiveness of half baked psychiatry in the population. I never said anything about me being perfect. indeed, there is a subtle critique of people who claim to have achieved a kind of perfection. I was, among other things, addressing people who claim to be fully-realized arahats. I was pointing out, although you seem to have missed it, how truly, vastly, high, the bar is, and ought to be, and how hard we have to work to even keep up.

    I certainly never said anything about wanting to exert totalitarian control over people. I can barely control myself, let alone anyone else. self discipline doesn’t lead to genocide. I’ll thank you for not flogging the dead horse any further.

    I’m not about to defend your incredibly sweeping generalization of my place in the western tradition either. OH! all white people are obsessed with moving in straight lines, and non white people like to move in circles… that explains everything.

    you trot this cliche stuff out, and when I plead with you for originality, you expand your trafficking in cliches, and accuse me of being the one who’s condescending? I know you know I’ve heard all this before, but you insist I answer it, *again*…that’s condescending.

    I’m also not going to take responsibility for your misreading of me. that’s not going to lead anywhere, and that you even suggest it is a sign of desperation.

    see, you launched into similar, but less vigorous tirade when I suggested people are responsible for their own depression, in a previous podcast, and now you’re going off because you perceive my arguments as some kind of assault on your dearly held attachments to…what? but of course, that makes me the one who’s being ‘defensive’. gotcha. It’s a trite pseudo-psychological gambit for lazy debaters. if I fail to fall on my knees and plead for consensus, I must be an insecure, defensive, wretch who’s position is riddled with flaws.

    sorry, I don’t think so. that would be like me saying that your critique, and the wildly tangential counter arguments you make in it, is loaded with self justification for your own failings. it may well be, but it’s a tedious argument in discussion.

    I cannot fail to acknowledge limits. life is full of them. but I can choose not to wallow in them or make excuses for them. we are not responsible for everything, but to dabble in tautology, we are responsible for what we are responsible for, and it’s a lot. Pointing that out makes me hostile, condescending, hubristic, stupid, and possibly cruel? So be it. you are free to do as you wish.

  22. yo C.

    I’m afraid there is no magic bullet on how to do ‘it’. all the teachings and techniques are there. I think among other things we need to take it seriously that they do what they say they can do, and to apply them in circumstances other than sitting on a cushion.

    even something as simple as the four foundations of mindfullness, if you take it to it’s logical conclusion, is sufficient to cut off most delusion aversion and attachment at the root.

    and on that note, I thought I’d refute this piffle that I’m ‘grafting’ western notions of linear progress onto eastern thought:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html#found

    — O monks, let alone half a month. Should any person practice these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for a week, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

    Because of this it was said: “This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely the four foundations of mindfulness.”—

    from the man himself. buddhism is all about linear progression, and breaking of pointless cycles.

  23. I I may be so bold as to interect a slight comment, in my opinion the reason for such a disagreement is a category error-namely, confusing the categoriies of, within ones mental organisation, things as they appear and the foundations of things as they appear. Things as they appear are of course filled with limits, but limits themeselves, and the very concept of limits, are a part of things as they apear in themeselves-in fact, if one is to take the common thread of all ‘mystical’ experiences as a guide in one of those ever so fashionable attempts to find a ‘perennial philosophy’ one of the primary differences between things as they appear and the foundations of things as they appear is that the foundations do not neccasarily have anything we coulld relate to any limits or anything we know at all, including the notion of self which is in a sense a form of liimitation, ‘I am this and not that'(of course, to not have a self is just as limiting-I am noit this nor that), So,to speak from the level purely of things as they appear interacting with things as they appear, it would seem hubristic to deny any limitation; to speak from the level of the foundations of things as they appear and how awareness, insight into to use the favoured phrase, of such will interact with things as they appear and if one would have any limits from that level in such an interaction one has to ask why this would be so^ One could also ask why this wouldn<t be so, but so, but as it seems it is rather arbitrary it could be considered to come down to a whim in either case and zac has I believe made several good points as to why one wuld side on asking on the 'why?' side of that particular matter, namely that as a general tendency one will wish to live life in as error-free a manner as is possible, unless you have some particular reason for wishing to indulge in errors and interact on the level of things-as-they-appear interacting with things-as-they-appear. I realise i've not brought up anything new but perhaps a slightly different angle might serve as a refocus of sorts.

    May we all find what we seek,
    Sincerely LunarAntistructuralist-ICTX

  24. It’s perfectly possible that I’m misinterpreting these 4 Noble Truths somewhere, but I can’t help but read it as an “anti-life” position. If “life is suffering,” and the goal of the path is the “end of suffering,” then doesn’t it follow that the goal of the path is also the end of life? Anti-life, right?

  25. @Hamble, I know exactly what you mean. But that’s very much a black/white position, rather than a continuum of suckiness.

    I tend to take the position that it’s a crude translation, creating an equivalence where a relation would be more appropriate. Maybe even a translation in E-prime would be better. “Life appears to be constantly attended by suffering.”, although that somewhat lacks punch.

    Conversely, you might compare it to the phrase from Liber Al, “Existence is pure joy”. In that, the nature of being in and of itself is pure, but once you start to neglect the three characteristics (no-self, impermanent, and this shit sucks), things kinda tend go down hill.

  26. @Zac

    Cheers for that. For me, I think that /a/ revelation about morality came when I recently started to notice impermanence on my commute to work; for example, I tend to relate this through to the fragility of human existence, and (when I remember) use that to cultivate relative Bodhichitta. Still, it’s a beginning.

    Thanks for kicking ass Zac.

  27. that translation of the first noble truth is pretty poor, but that misapprehension has been going on forever. it’s better translated as ‘existence’ is prone to ‘dis-ease’, where ‘existence’ refers to the cyclic rebirth of human consciousness. the problem is all those sanskrit/pali words have many many meanings, and I think whoever translated it first mapped some kind of notion of original sin onto it. it’s saying that human beings have a fundamental condition that prevents them from being satisfied with their experience of life, not that life itself is fundamentally miserable or hopeless.

  28. sigh. okay. A *BIG* cookie. but that’s as far as I’m willing to go. Inflation is putting a strain on

    my paycheck.

    If at first you don’t succeed, repeat the jibe with greater intensity, eh?

    You say you failed mind reading, but you seem to be doing a pretty good job of projecting onto me all

    kinds of assumptions.

    I see. So I am guilty of all manner of pseudo-intellectual doubletalk, but your pop-psychology attribution of

    “projection” is fair play? (Ever notice, by the way, how any unpleasant observation can be ascribed to projection,

    which sets up a double-bind for the accused, since his every objection to the charge can thereafter be interpreted

    as further proof of projection? In that light, projection looks rather less like a legitimate psychological

    diagnosis and rather more like a rhetorical frame for squelching dissent. Or maybe I’m just projecting.) Well, it’s

    your blog, so you get to make the rules, but let me ask you this: why have a blog with open comments when you don’t

    seem to want critical feedback? Why not just filter for the egoboo posts and avoid discussions like this altogether?

    I blame it on the pervasiveness of half baked psychiatry in the population. I never said anything about

    me being perfect.

    Nor did I say you said you were perfect. I sense a strawman a-stuffing.

    indeed, there is a subtle critique of people who claim to have achieved a kind of perfection.

    So subtle you had to invent it post facto, it seems.

    I was, among other things, addressing people who claim to be fully-realized arahats. I was pointing out,

    although you seem to have missed it, how truly, vastly, high, the bar is, and ought to be, and how hard we have to

    work to even keep up.

    I’ve missed how high the bar is by arguing that perfection is an impossible goal for any merely finite creature? I

    don’t see how I can set the bar much higher than that.

    But let me state one thing right now: I don’t believe *anyone* can become a “fully-realized arahat”. Or a

    boddhisatva, or whatever. I’m not a practicing Buddhist (just someone who finds certain Buddhist concepts useful for

    their explanatory value), so I don’t have a strong emotional investment in those terms. To me, they’re mythological

    placeholders, akin to angels and saints in the Christian tradition. As such, they’re inventions of man, and they

    come replete — as so much in Buddhism does — with lists of stages and criteria for their attainment. (Very often

    when I delve into Buddhist literature, I get mental images of glowing beings with clipboards placing checkmarks next

    to neat lines of text and handing out Certificates of Enlightenment to those who complete all the items in a single

    lifetime. Except with Zen. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of that in Zen.) This kind of terminological accretion

    happens to all religions over time, depositing layers of dogma like sediment in a river, and it only serves to

    obscure the core teachings. When I read your posts and listen to your casts lately, I get the impression, zac, that

    you’re a bit too hung up on the terminology.

    I certainly never said anything about wanting to exert totalitarian control over people.

    Never said that, either. The totalitarian impulse comes from a desire for control. Full stop. It needn’t have a

    specific object. Total mastery of the self or total mastery of the other, it makes no difference. It is the idea

    that one can exercise total control over *anything* that is problematic.

    I can barely control myself, let alone anyone else. self discipline doesn’t lead to genocide. I’ll

    thank you for not flogging the dead horse any further.

    Never mentioned genocide, either. Who’s projecting now? Totalitarianism is the impulse to total control. In the

    realm of politics, it can (and frequently does) lead to mass murder; in economics, to inhuman abuse and

    exploitation; but in the private sphere, it leads to psychic (self-)flagellation over the slightest perceived

    weakness. The quest for perfection necessarily leads to a totalitarian mindset, because perfection is an end-state

    from which there can be no deviation, and that requires total control to maintain.

    I’m not about to defend your incredibly sweeping generalization of my place in the western tradition

    either. OH! all white people are obsessed with moving in straight lines, and non white people like to move in

    circles… that explains everything.

    Wow. When did race enter into it? The West is a civilization — a complex of ideas and practices — not a biological category. There are white, black, red, yellow, and brown Westerners, many of whom do not reside in countries that are traditionally considered part of the European diaspora. You’re being incredibly flip here, as well as evasive.

    you trot this cliche stuff out

    Do you think if you call a thing cliche enough times that makes it so?

    and when I plead with you for originality, you expand your trafficking in cliches, and accuse me of

    being the one who’s condescending? I know you know I’ve heard all this before, but you insist I answer it,

    *again*…that’s condescending.

    You *are* being condescending. And lazy. You’re refusing to address my criticisms by calling them cliche, which is

    an evasion, or by claiming you’ve done so elsewhere and don’t feel like duplicating the effort, which is a

    half-truth at best. (You’re just not that systematic.) I listened to your podcast, zac, and I’ve been following your blog for a few years now. And while you present many interesting ideas, your technique is often sloppy. You make a lot of bald assertions, which you increasingly present as incontrovertible truths. Well, I’m here to controvert some of them. If I have to, I will transcribe your latest cast and dissect it line by line, and point out all the presuppositions and superficial statements it contains. I will even comment on the non-verbal cues, like intonation and cadence, that mark your particular biases. I will do this, if I absolutely must, because I think it would be instructive for you to realize how you sound.

    I’m also not going to take responsibility for your misreading of me. that’s not going to lead

    anywhere, and that you even suggest it is a sign of desperation.

    It’s a sign of annoyance. I don’t actually think I’ve radically misintepreted you. I think I’ve pointed out some gaffes in your thinking and am consequently taking flack for it. I tossed in that final bit because I was irked and felt the need to inject some pure snark. Oh, well. I’m “only human”. *grin*

    see, you launched into similar, but less vigorous tirade when I suggested people are responsible for

    their own depression, in a previous podcast, and now you’re going off because you perceive my arguments as some

    kind of assault on your dearly held attachments to…what?

    Tirade. Are you sure that’s a good choice? Why not rant or screed or some other loaded pejorative? I mean, since

    we’re slapping disparaging labels onto ideas so we don’t actually have to refute them…

    but of course, that makes me the one who’s being ‘defensive’. gotcha. It’s a trite

    pseudo-psychological gambit for lazy debaters.

    Right. Like projection.

    if I fail to fall on my knees and plead for consensus, I must be an insecure, defensive, wretch who’s

    position is riddled with flaws.

    Again, wow. What has got you so barking irate? You’d think I just pissed in your cornflakes or something. I don’t

    want you to bow down to me. That’s absurd. But you’re not even attempting to engage me in rational discussion.

    You’re just tossing out strawmen and browbeating me with your conviction that my arguments are so far beneath you

    that they don’t deserve your attention. Which, incidentally, you have wasted an awful lot of verbiage communicating.

    sorry, I don’t think so. that would be like me saying that your critique, and the wildly tangential

    counter arguments you make in it, is loaded with self justification for your own failings. it may well be, but it’s

    a tedious argument in discussion.

    Shazam! Well you’ve certainly put this flawed, pathetic creature in his place. Of course, this presupposes that human nature is inherently flawed, a moral valuation I don’t share. I believe that people do the best they can with the knowledge they have, but being finite, they can’t know everything, and therefore make mistakes. Failure is not evil; it’s just a consequence of incomplete information. I don’t stigmatize failure, as you seem to be doing here, I just observe that it’s inevitable for any merely finite creature, accept that it’s going to happen, and try (and yes, often fail) to empathize rather than criticize, knowing that I’m not perfect.

    I cannot fail to acknowledge limits. life is full of them. but I can choose not to wallow in them or

    make excuses for them.

    Wallowing? Excuses? WTF? Observing that we are not perfect, and can’t ever be perfect, is simply that: an observation. If you perceive it as an excuse to avoid some uninvited moral imperative, then that’s your baggage, and maybe you need to reflect on what it is you’re selling.

    we are not responsible for everything, but to dabble in tautology, we are responsible for what we are

    responsible for, and it’s a lot.

    Fair enough. For what are we specifically responsible, then? I seriously want to know what you believe falls within

    the realm of individual human responsibility.

    Pointing that out makes me hostile, condescending, hubristic, stupid, and possibly cruel? So be it. you

    are free to do as you wish.

    No, making blanket statements about progress and perfection, and how anyone who questions the possibility or even

    unmitigated desirability of these things is backward or cowardly or whatever, is hostile, condescending, hubristic,

    etc., because it presumes that your singular vision of the ultimate end toward which every human being should ideally be striving is absolutely correct. You do not have a corner on enlightenment, zac. You are not uniquely privy to the Truth. Flipping shit when someone questions your unique spiritual project should raise red lights about where it is exactly that you stand. But that’s not happening. You’re just displaying like an agitated monkey. How is that in any way enlightened?

  29. Oh for god sakes…

    –If I have to, I will transcribe your latest cast and dissect it line by line, and point out all the presuppositions and superficial statements it contains. I will even comment on the non-verbal cues, like intonation and cadence, that mark your particular biases. I will do this, if I absolutely must, because I think it would be instructive for you to realize how you sound.–

    if you ‘have to”? why would you “have to”? I am supposed to take you seriously as a detached critical observer when you say psychotic things like that? and you’re willing to do it because you think it will be instructive. Why do all you guys claim to be helping me, but of course you never stop to figure out if you really understand what I’m saying you just presume that you do.

    I have 80 some podcasts and over a hundred blog posts. I have a whole gamut of personality flaws on display. if you’re hoping to expose me as somewhat lazy and slapdash, or help me achieve some sort of healing cathartic connection with my audience, you kinda missed the boat, friend.

    I can’t argue your factual points because you haven’t made any. I can’t argue your philosophical or metaphysical points because for the most part you are attacking things I haven’t actually said. the nearest I can find to your actual position is:

    –Of course, this presupposes that human nature is inherently flawed, a moral valuation I don’t share. I believe that people do the best they can with the knowledge they have, but being finite, they can’t know everything, and therefore make mistakes. Failure is not evil; it’s just a consequence of incomplete information. I don’t stigmatize failure, as you seem to be doing here, I just observe that it’s inevitable for any merely finite creature, accept that it’s going to happen, and try (and yes, often fail) to empathize rather than criticize, knowing that I’m not perfect.–

    1. I don’t support the idea of any so-called ‘human nature”… that’s my point.
    2. I never said human beings weren’t finite, or bound by finite existence
    3.I never blamed anyone for not doing something they weren’t capable of doing. or not taking responsibility for something they had no power over. every situation is different. I have no dogmatic platform that applies to everyone. I think we are obliged to expand our positive influence over things we can effect, and learn to effect those things that are curently beyond us. that’s my moral principle.

    You take my general rhetorical points, inflate them to absurd levels and then try and tar me with absurdity. You keep bringing up this totalitarian thing. I’m sorry but self discipline does not exist on the same moral continuum as any kind of totalitarianism. if you quit with this ridiculous overstatement I might be able to take you more seriously.

    and I notice you’re now trying to insinuate that I’m presenting myself as some kind of messianic spiritual figure, with a stranglehold on truth. I treat this as science. SCIENCE.
    not mythology. metaphysics, or sensitivity training. If you disagree with what I say, ‘you’re being mean’, or ‘you’re a totalitarian’ or ‘you’re living in finite universe’ doesn’t mean anything to me. it doesn’t prove or disprove anything. prove me wrong. don’t tell me how I hurt your feelings. I don’t care.

    I never said I systematically dealt with all your boring objections. but I think we could both point out six or seven instances online where someone has, to the point of exhaustion.

    You seem to think that I am accountable to you, or that I owe you a fair hearing( as defined by you , of course), or that I’m bound to not hurt your feelings or offend your postmodern sensitivities, or god forbid ‘blame the victim”. I am none of these things. I save my time and energy for people who engage with me on a practical level, or demonstrate they understand what I say, or actually want to. You just start off denouncing me for ‘showering hostility’ on people and putting forth your metaphysics from the dancing wu-li masters( indra’s net? seriously?), Michael Foucault, and the front page of LATOC. No questions, no requests for clarification. just your ‘humble’ opinions, and lots of whining. and of course when I don’t fold like a house of cards the claws come out.

    who’s more arrogant? the guy who talks in generalities, or the guy who comes out of nowhere and starts trying to correct people who he’s never met? But isn’t that always the way… the sensitivity police are always lurking.

    I think you’re probably willing to invest more energy in this than I am. I doubt it’s going anywhere you’re going to like, though. If you keep acting like a lunatic, behaving obsessively towards me ‘for my own good’, or demanding that I acknowledge my failings as a human being, I may have to cut this off.

  30. if you ‘have to”? why would you “have to”? I am supposed to take you seriously as a detached critical observer when you say psychotic things like that? and you’re willing to do it because you think it will be instructive. Why do all you guys claim to be helping me, but of course you never stop to figure out if you really understand what I’m saying you just presume that you do.

    A couple of things:
    1. Stating openly that you wouldn’t benefit from the above relieves me of actually having to do it, so thanks. It would have been a tedious and time-consuming exercise.
    2. You get more strident with every reply, which is simultaneously amusing and unsettling. Nothing I’ve said so far has warranted the response I’ve received from you. If you find my posts so out of line, it’s a simple matter to say “Okay, believe what you like. It’s no skin off my nose. Let me know how that works out for you.” Instead, you’ve spent the last two or three exchanges impugning my intelligence and now my sanity. That charge of psychosis I find particularly hilarious, since I’m not the one ranting at some stranger for having the temerity to question me on my own blog.

    I have 80 some podcasts and over a hundred blog posts. I have a whole gamut of personality flaws on display. if you’re hoping to expose me as somewhat lazy and slapdash, or help me achieve some sort of healing cathartic connection with my audience, you kinda missed the boat, friend.

    Fair enough.

    I can’t argue your factual points because you haven’t made any.

    Here are two points that I made, both of which you actually acknowledged: 1) perfection is an unattainable goal, 2) there are forces over which we have no control. But whatever. This is more about you venting spleen than anything I’ve actually said.

    3.I never blamed anyone for not doing something they weren’t capable of doing. or not taking responsibility for something they had no power over. every situation is different. I have no dogmatic platform that applies to everyone. I think we are obliged to expand our positive influence over things we can effect, and learn to effect those things that are curently beyond us. that’s my moral principle.

    And that bears stating explicitly. And not just in these comments.

    You take my general rhetorical points, inflate them to absurd levels and then try and tar me with absurdity.

    If it makes you feel righteous to believe that, go for it.

    You keep bringing up this totalitarian thing. I’m sorry but self discipline does not exist on the same moral continuum as any kind of totalitarianism.

    I’m not talking about mere self-discipline. I’m talking about your frequent use of terms like “total” and “complete” and “ultimate” and “perfect” to describe human endeavors. Human beings can’t be totally, completely, ultimately, or perfectly anything.

    if you quit with this ridiculous overstatement I might be able to take you more seriously.

    I doubt it. Even if I agreed with your assessment, your pattern of behavior so far gives me no reason to suspect you’d react differently if I changed tack. Unless I started unreservedly agreeing with you, but then we wouldn’t be having this argument.

    and I notice you’re now trying to insinuate that I’m presenting myself as some kind of messianic spiritual figure, with a stranglehold on truth.

    Hah, that’s funny. But I will say that, if you’re not strongly invested in appearing to be right, you sure have a curious way of showing it.

    I treat this as science. SCIENCE.

    So what? A lot of strange ideas have masqueraded as science over the centuries.

    not mythology. metaphysics, or sensitivity training. If you disagree with what I say, ‘you’re being mean’, or ‘you’re a totalitarian’ or ‘you’re living in finite universe’ doesn’t mean anything to me. it doesn’t prove or disprove anything. prove me wrong. don’t tell me how I hurt your feelings. I don’t care.

    *chuckle* You haven’t hurt my feelings, zac. You don’t have that kind of influence.

    I never said I systematically dealt with all your boring objections. but I think we could both point out six or seven instances online where someone has, to the point of exhaustion.

    So what? I’m not talking to some third party. I’m talking to you, right now.

    You seem to think that I am accountable to you, or that I owe you a fair hearing( as defined by you , of course), or that I’m bound to not hurt your feelings or offend your postmodern sensitivities, or god forbid ‘blame the victim”. I am none of these things.

    You seem to think I must give you the benefit of the doubt, that I must conclude there’s something to your words that isn’t immediately obvious, or presume that your apparent failure to communicate effectively is actually a consequence of my dull wit. You also seem to think that people should just grin and bear it when you bludgeon them with your contempt, and that if they conclude that you’re acting like an ass, they’re really just being whiny and oversensitive.

    I save my time and energy for people who engage with me on a practical level,

    You save your time and energy for people who agree with you. What a drain on your resources that must be.

    or demonstrate they understand what I say, or actually want to.

    Indeed. Because your response has done nothing to discourage constructive dialogue.

    You just start off denouncing me for ’showering hostility’ on people and putting forth your metaphysics from the dancing wu-li masters( indra’s net? seriously?), Michael Foucault, and the front page of LATOC. No questions, no requests for clarification. just your ‘humble’ opinions, and lots of whining. and of course when I don’t fold like a house of cards the claws come out.

    Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.

    who’s more arrogant? the guy who talks in generalities, or the guy who comes out of nowhere and starts trying to correct people who he’s never met? But isn’t that always the way… the sensitivity police are always lurking.

    ROFLMAO. You’re a hoot, zac. There are far more civil ways to rebuff unsolicited input from a newcomer than what you’ve demonstrated here. Or do you consider civility to be an affectation?

    I think you’re probably willing to invest more energy in this than I am. I doubt it’s going anywhere you’re going to like, though.

    Has it occurred to you that I may have learned more from the tone of your response than from the content?

    If you keep acting like a lunatic, behaving obsessively towards me ‘for my own good’, or demanding that I acknowledge my failings as a human being, I may have to cut this off.

    It’s all about you, huh? Quite an ego you have there. Aren’t you supposed to be endeavoring to shed that? Frankly, zac, I didn’t anticipate the conversation degenerating into such a pissing contest. I figured that, if you strongly objected to what I had to say, you’d have the wherewithal to respond with “Okay, believe what you like. It’s no skin off my nose…” Instead, you started pounding your chest and flinging feces, then acted scandalized when I retaliated. I agree with you, though. This conversation is probably unsalvageable. I’ll leave you to your fan club.

  31. yeah, it’s quite the fan club I’ve got… especially considering all the abuse I shower on them to feed my ego. thankfully I get to have a pissing contest now and again with someone who is, of course, always faultless in the exchange. Oh well.

    When you lead with accusations, make no factual points, ask me cookie cutter questions so I can jump through hoops for you, and accuse me of being evasive if I can’t be bothered, and make a whole series of assertions about me as a person that you couldn’t possibly know anything about, what do you suppose is going to happen? I already answered explicitly and implicitly anything you’ve put forward, at least a couple times now. I didn’t even touch the implied insult to my ‘fan club’. By all means ask the baptists or the laboritarian, or C or Hamble how they feel about being cast as my fawning groupies. fucking spare me. If it’s all about me, you’ve made it so, and if it’s degenerated into the gutter, well, you carried half the freight on that one. I don’t think I made any comments about apes flinging shit, myself.

    I’ll hang onto that cookie for you.

    Goodbye.

  32. BTW sorry LunarAntistructuralist-ICTX i didn’t see your comment in the spam trap until just now. it does that to new people now and again.

  33. Hello Zac!

    Been out of the loop for a bit with all the travelling and Open Enlightenment stuff.

    ‘I’m starting to wonder if alan is giving people the spiritual equivalent of shaken-baby syndrome….’

    I wrote this just after my enlightenment:

    http://openenlightenment.org/?p=52

    I don’t believe in ‘perfect behaviour’, but I do believe in behaviour rooted in the Truth (and oh yes, I too see the Truth and the Good (and even the Beautiful) as exactly the same thing). I’ve never quite understood why so many ‘pure insight’ practitioners don’t have the same gold standard for their morality as they do for their wisdom i.e. a morality based on the nature of reality. Before I became enlightened, I simply had no answer to the problem of morality, but I knew rules and dogma were not it. Hence I was not able to exhibit a position on ethics, because I simply did not have one. And yes, I gave that dude on the DhO some shit because he pissed me off. But I have no intention of shaking anyone’s spiritual baby!

    Word,

    Alan.

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