zenpundit.com » Buddhism

Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

Face toward the wall

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Hezekiah’s Bodhidharma Zen? ]
.

Bodhidharma sat in meditation nine years facing the cave wall, so we have heard.

HipBone implications of the second shoe dropping for intel analysis

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also, the role of the True Name in intel analysis & Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea ]
.

You may know that I value the documentary film Manhunt for its lucid presentation of the process by which the finest intelligence analysts “leap” to their quarry — in which Cindy Storer notes, “not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic”.

In my post The process of associative memory I decribe this process, which I consider the root process of true creativity:

There’s the present moment .. And there’s the memory it elicits.

Compare Michael Hayden in Manhunt, at 1.19.18:

The way it works is, information come in, you catalog it, your organize it – that little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that’s suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time. That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for Osama bin Laden by trying to track his courier.

By way of confirmation, here is Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

And here’s Jeff Jones on piecing together puzzles —

Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

**

My point here is that the board in my “game” of DoubleQuotes provides a matrix for eliciting and annotating such leaps between fact and memory — that’s its purpose, and that’s why I believe the practice and “playing” of DoubleQuotes is, in itself, an ideal training for the analytic mind in that otherwise elusive aptitude which Ms Storer says seenms like magic to those who do not possess it..

I believe my DoubleQuotes would be an invaluable tool for analysts in training.

**

Note, however, that Jose Rodriguez, speaking immediately after Michael Hayden at 1.19.55, adds a reference to the “True Name” — accompanying screencaps included — something to which as a theologian I am naturally drawn:

It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That’s why we were in the business the of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won’t give you the information that you really need. A true name.

And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever. Arabic name, you know. But the true name – we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.

That too elicits memories, though in this case providing cultural context rather than actionable intelligence. It’s interesting to compare Rodriguez’ quote with the passages in which Ursula Le Guin describes the nature of magic in her book, Wizard of Earthsea:

He who would be Seamaster must know the true name of every drop of water in the sea.

and:

He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

**

See also:

  • Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B
  • Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles
  • FWIW, there’s an appendix on the central spiritual significance of remembrance of the True Name in Judaism (HaShem), Christianity (Jesus Prayer), Islam (dhikr), Hinduism (nama-rupa), Buddhism (nembutsu) etc at the back of Frithjof Schuon‘s little book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions.

    On which frankly mystical note, here’s a third para from Le Guin to carry you towards Lao Tzu‘s observation that “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name” —

    It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    A real-life situation not unlike the trolley problem

    Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a koan for our western world ]
    .

    This description of a patient with an aneurysm is from British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh‘s book, Do No Evil, excerpted here:

    If we did nothing the patient might eventually suffer a haemorrhage which would probably cause a catastrophic stroke or kill her. But then she might die years away from something else without the aneurysm ever having burst. She was perfectly well at the moment, the headaches for which she had had the scan were irrelevant and had got better. The aneurysm had been discovered by chance. If I operated I could cause a stroke and wreck her – the risk of that would probably be about four or ?ve per cent. So the acute risk of operating was roughly similar to the life­time risk of doing nothing. Yet if we did nothing she would have to live with the knowledge that the aneurysm was sitting there in her brain and might kill her any moment.

    **


    The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the side track?

    **

    What would Jesus do?

  • neurosurgery?
  • trolley?
  • What would Bodhidharma do?
    What would Solomon do?
    Can we really transport ourselves that far back in time and that far across in culture?
    What would the outcome be if Somerset Maugham were telling this tale?
    What would you do?

    I am so thankful I am not a neurosurgeon.

    Zen (ie dhyana, ch’an, not Mark!) is supposed, somehow — via koan practice — to prepare you for situations like the neurosurgical one described above.

    That brings salvation vividly into the here and now.

    Political influence on the movies

    Friday, July 21st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Canada, Hollywood cave? ]
    .

    Sources:

  • Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Did the CBC get spooked?
  • Hollywood Reporter, Vladimir Putin Cut From Two Upcoming Hollywood Movies
  • **

    The Chinese don’t want the Dalai Lama to speak with heads of state; they throw their weight around, and some heads of state capitulate.

    Here’s the equivalent in terms of the arts. I suppose it’s inevitable, considering the state of the world, but I don’t like it one little bit.

    Matryoshka Trump

    Thursday, July 20th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — NYorker invokes the nested dolls archetype — not kind to Trump ]
    .

    You already know that I sit up and take special notice when certain forms (symmetries, helices, ouroboroi, etc) show up — because forms are a particularly powerful way in which the mind orders its world, or because the world teaches the mind that it is ordered in formal ways, take your pick — well, one of those forms is the nested form called Matryoshka, which I’ve discussed before:

  • Nesting Buddhas and insubstantiality
  • ISIS goes Matryoshka
  • **

    Imagine, then, my interest to read today’s New Yorker post, Valley of the Russian Dolls: A Hollow, Repetitive Form Proves Perfect for Trump.

    **

    I invite you to read the article yourself to learn about Halina Danchenko. who sells Matryoshka dolls. Shoppers are asked not to open the dolls on display in her stone themselves — however “If you want to see what’s inside the leader of the free world, Danchenko will open him for you.”

    The article is witty, if you share her perspective:

    Trump, who is as matronly as a big bullying man can be, already has the de-facto physique of a nesting doll (and something very like the shellac)

    The dolls are witty too, or should I say catty? Read about the two Trump sets that the article describes in detail..

    **

    If you think Trump is father to a host of lies, as the NYT does, why then this article will amuse you, and conversely, if you see him as a straight-shooting man of truth, not so much.

    The writer, Kathryn Schulz, is clearly in the first category:

    Never has a President seemed so entirely hollow as Trump, so intellectually and morally vacant. Nor has any Administration, so early in its tenure, concealed such a lengthy series of deceptions, or grown so bizarrely, fatally fractal: its lawyers have lawyers, its scandals have sub-scandals, its lies have little lie-lets. It’s easy to imagine, given this prevailing opacity and the incompetence of those nominally in charge, that there is another Trump Russian doll out there, this one filled up with actual Russians.

    And her conclusion:

    That might or might not prove to be the truth about what’s going on inside Donald Trump politically. What’s going on psychologically is a different story. All of us are largely hidden from one another, our most important attributes by definition invisible: minds, hearts, psyches, consciences, souls. Even for ourselves, we can access these aspects only through sustained introspection, a habit anathema to Trump; other people, meanwhile, reveal their innermost selves to us chiefly through their actions. On that evidence, the most accurate Trump doll is the one made of Donalds all the way down: utterly full of himself, in all other ways utterly empty.


    Switch to our mobile site