The Wisdom of the West Meets the Wisdom of the East

1267 Relax and Succeed - Decartes said I think thereforeThis blog is always about the quotes, sayings and parables and their actual meanings. Because each posts features quotes that essentially point to the same truth, we know we are developing our understanding if we can recognize the common underlying truth in these two quotes.

Taisen Deshimaru was a Zen student and teacher and philosopher. He often remarked that a select few Western philosophers had stumbled into Zen without realising it. It’s unknown whether he meant they understood it intellectually but could not practice it, or if he meant that they were actually practicing Zen but under different names. Either way, his point above still holds.

Descartes was a mathematician and the most famous thing he ever wrote was that the only thing we knew for sure was that because we could ponder existence, we existed, which was pretty smart and his ideas still form the basis of much of Western philosophy. But Descartes was from the world of math and science, where Aristotle’s subject and object reign supreme.

What Deshimaru is saying is that Descartes was referring to the post-present moment’s ego’s existence, not the soul’s. The soul is what Deshimaru is referring to by creating a second existence. (Similar to James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.) But note that Descartes’ version of being requires Deshimaru’s to exist, but Deshimaru’s does not require Descartes. Descartes is smart, and he points out something very significant, but whereas he is saying, I have discovered the spinning lostness of ego, Deshimaru is saying but the real me is still underneath it, actively creating that lostness, meaning even lostness is truly within oneness as well.

1267 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriThe second quote points to the verb indicated by the first quote. Egos think while they do, souls become the doing. So Descartes knows he exists because he can ponder all of his symbolic words for everything he perceives as separate from him, but Deshimaru forgoes that layer of illusory thought and moves directly to action. Rather than think about the world we want to move and be alive as an aspect of it.

Despite these two being famous and capable thinkers, what makes them famous is that their point lives in each of our lives every day. Your suffering lays in your ego’s choice to talk to itself all the time. All of the emotions you feel hours or days after events come from your Descarte-esque thinking about the event, not the event itself. Deshimaru would forgo that suffering by taking original action in his life in the new moments presently unfolding.

Today, live Deshimaru, not Descartes. Don’t think about your day, your week or your life. Just be. Do things. Answer questions then have your mind go quiet and engage back into action. You have so many calories to burn each day. How many will you spend churning thoughts and how many will create more for you or another in this world? Because the former is the path to an egocentric life of suffering, and the latter is a path to peace of mind. Either is yours to take, and you can change direction at any moment.

Surrender your words for actions. Surrender. Words for actions. Words. For. Actions. Make that your habit and you will be free.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Crazy People

I know two guys. They don’t like each other. The guy we’ll call Joseph is a lawyer—a prosecutor—and the guy we’ll call Pete is a street person who makes his living collecting bottles in residential neighbourhoods. Both of them think each other’s lives are crazy and both wonder how I can be friends with someone as strange as the other guy. I find them fascinating. And you might too. Because they really help delineate the remarkable differences people can have in their sense of reality.

505 Relax and Succeed - Doing what you like is freedomJoseph can’t imagine why a guy would want to live under a bridge, or why he would collect bottles when there’s high-paying labour jobs in Fort McMurray. Especially in Edmonton where it gets cold and snowy in the winter. He assumes the only reason anyone would do this is either mental illness or alcoholism or drug addictions, so let’s look closely at those reasons.

As governments cut services to keep taxes down for guys like Joseph, the politicians naturally attack the things that won’t hurt them in the voting booth, making mental illness and addiction-motivated crime rehabilitation easy targets for cuts. So in many jurisdictions around the world there are people outside that belong inside, getting care and support in a professionally staffed facility. But in addition to the addicts and the mentally ill, there’s a group Joseph can’t comprehend. They’re like Pete. They’re on the street by choice. Some of them even have sizable bank accounts. They’re like the pre-depression hobos. They’re more philosophical. They just don’t want to live the way we do. They think we live with too many rules and obligations and judgments.

To Pete, Joseph’s life looks like a straight jacket. His boss might be less intelligent and capable than him, but that won’t matter–Joseph will have to take those instructions. In court he has a Judge and a set of rules to follow like’s he’s five years old. He has to speak in a highly formalized way before he’ll even be recognized, and because we’re in Canada he’s even wearing robes. If you take away the spectre of “the law,” it looks like a silly alien play. But it’s not just Joseph’s work that seems crazy to Pete. Pete notices that Joseph also waits in a lot of line-ups to spend all of his money. At the 505 Relax and Succeed - A man is a successgas station, in convenience stores, at the bank, at retailers that never seem to have staff, in tents overnight for iPhones…. Spending money has never been less pleasant. Joseph has the needs of other people guiding his actions for 95% of his waking day, whereas Pete has total control for 95% of his. To Pete, he’s the rich one, not Joseph. And if you really stop to think about it, Pete’s got a pretty good point. I know me and most of the people I know would love more peace, volition and freedom.

In the end neither of them is right or wrong. They just each have to pick their own poisons. Will it be a strange dance of formal English and appointments and obligations, or will it be waking up when you feel like it but sleeping in the cold? Either one can lead to an enjoyable life, it’s just a matter of who you are and what feels natural for you. So don’t let other people tell you how you should feel about anything. Pete and Joseph might be a long ways apart, but even people who seem close can differ in some surprisingly big ways. So what would be right for them may not be right for you so don’t bother with their judgments of you, and while you’re at it, don’t bother judging their paths either. You’re better to fully focus on your own.

Now go make the sort of choices that will lead to a truly wonderful day.

peace. s