Monday, March 20, 2017

I distrust people who take one passage from the Christian Bible and then try and make an argument that the whole rest of the book should be understood through their interpretation of that one passage, so I won't do it.  But I do want to single out the opening lines of the Gospel of John for more discussion, not to try to reinterpret Christian thought but, like the devil himself, to use it for my own purposes.
John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
I understand that the term "Word" was a translation of the Greek logos (Λόγος).  Whatever logos meant to John, to the Greek Stoics before him, logos was the active reason pervading and animating the entirety of the universe. It was usually identified with the divine and Nature, but to the Stoics, logos was the force behind all animate and inanimate matter, and every human possessed a portion of the divine logos.  Whatever might become of a person, nothing or no one could take away that divine spark, that logos, than animated one's existence. 

If we assume that John was familiar with Greek philosophy, particularly Stoic philosophy, then his opening passage takes on new light.  Logos was with God in the beginning and God himself was logos, and as logos now pervades the whole of space, nothing in the universe is separate from anything else in the universe, and both God and man are logos, and the sacred and the profane are both part of one continuum.

John wrote his text some 300 years after Zeno started the Stoic school of philosophy, and sometime between Zeno and John, Buddhism began to embrace the notion that all things were of one nature, which they respectfully referred to as "buddha-nature".  All things not only had buddha-nature, they taught, but all things in the universe, both divine and mortal, were nothing but buddha-nature manifesting itself in the myriad forms found through the cosmos.

There are certainly differences in aspects of Stoicism and Buddhism, and clearly Christianity, even Gnostic Christianity, is different than these two, but all seem to be pointing at an enlightened understanding that all things are cut from the same cloth.  I sometimes think of it as cookie dough - like animal crackers, things can take on several different shapes and forms, but deep down, they're all cookie dough.  Taking a modern, scientific view, we can say that deep down all things are nothing but atoms and looking deeper, atoms are made up of neutrons and protons and electrons, and those are made of, I don't know, quarks or something, and quarks or whatever are composed of strings or string-like matter.  It's turtles all the way down, but through whichever lens we choose, we see that when examined closely enough, the difference between things, the separation between this and that, between self and other, object and observer, begins to break down.  

To avoid confusion with Buddhism or Stoicism or Christian mysticism or quantum physics, I refer to the base material of all matter, the substrate of existence, as potential, italicized to distinguish it from more mundane interpretations of the term.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can Meditation Change Your Appearance?


Nothing in the whole entire universe has any real substance.  Everything consists of potential.

Potential is what I believe the Buddhists meant as buddha-nature, and what the Stoics called logos.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Video footage of spontaneous, anti-Trump demonstration at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Can Meditation Change Your Appearance?

On a related note, for the past few weeks, they've been demoing a building near me at the corner of Peachtree and Collier Road.

As I write tonight, about a third of the building is still standing, and in the open, exposed scar where the building's been torn down one can see pipes and wires hanging out.  Jumbled-up slabs of concrete, flooring and ceiling materials.   The guts of the building spilling out for all to see.

Some may consider the demolition an eye-sore but I find it beautiful.  It shows us the building as it really is, not a polished monument to architecture, but just a big pile of steel and wires and pipes and conduits and tiles, once barely organized and holding it together, but easily reduced to rubble and chaos.  It shows us the building as it really is, but in a way we're not used to seeing it.  The unfamiliar view.

Zen teaches us to see things as they actually are - the thing itself - not perceiving things by the role they play or by the values we imbue them with.  It teaches us to look at the self the same way.  

As I'm coming to understand it, Stoicism encourages the same, unromantic view of things. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Night Video

This is the song that was playing when the gas pump, the heart of the engine, went out in my car. This is the song that broke my car's heart.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

I got to visit my car today.  Last night, after it appeared to die from a broken heart while I was driving home listening to that sad, sad Julien Baker CD, it got towed over to Lexus.  Today, I took an Uber over to the dealer to discuss the repairs and pick up a loaner car while they repair mine.

It turns out the gas pump went out.  Considering the pump is the virtual heart of the engine, pumping gasoline to the cylinders just like the heart pumps blood through the body, it's not much of a stretch to say the car died of a broken heart.

So the adversity was not really as bad as my imagination feared.  Yes, the cost to install a new fuel pump in a Lexus is staggeringly expensive, but not as much as the transmission overhaul that I feared.  I was able to work today comfortably from my own home, a friend offered me a ride but I chose not to be a burden and took Uber to the dealer, and they lent me (free) a brand new Lexus with less than 200 miles on it to drive around in while the parts arrive and they fix mine.  So other than the cost, it's really no big deal. 

I've lived through worse.

Zen teaches that things are only as bad or as good as your mind imagines them to be.  Stoicism holds that you choose whether to suffer or to revel in the circumstances that arise.  The same thing, basically.

But really, I'm fine.  I'll drive the loaner to work tomorrow and show off my "new"car to what I imagine will be my envious co-workers.    

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


I love adversity.

No, that's not really true.  That's bullshit.  No one loves adversity.  Adversity, by its very definition, is exactly what one doesn't want.

However, I can say that I respect adversity and admire it and can appreciate the lessons it teaches us about ourselves.

Case in point: driving home from work today, my car broke down.  Literally just stopped running about a mile from my home and would not go into drive.  Or reverse.  Or anything. Couldn't be driven.  I coasted to the side of the road, then rolled backwards until I wasn't blocking anyone's driveway.

Of course, right at that moment, after a month of drought, a thunderstorm hits as I walked the rest of the way home.   I was soaked to the bone by the time I got home.

I called a wrecker and waited at the car (after another walk back in the rain) for 90 minutes for it to finally show.  He took it away and where once I had a car, I now have a yellow receipt.

I'm safe at home now, but with no car and facing the prospect of an expensive repair, or worse.  I thought I had a busy day planned for tomorrow, and none of my obligations have gone away - I'm just going to have to figure out how to accomplish everything remotely from home (frankly, the least challenging of the hurdles in front of me).  I also have to figure out how to get some groceries and how to get to an ATM (of course, all this happens when I'm low on cash and low on groceries).  But even as I write this, I can think of half a dozen ways to do both - I'm healthy enough to walk several miles and I live in the city where nothing's ever too far away.  I do have to figure out how to get to travel the 10 or 15 miles or so to the dealer that (hopefully) now has my car.  

Now, adversity is teaching me that complaining - like I sorta, kinda was doing above - won't accomplish anything, but I just need to face and solve each problem as it arises. We can't control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it and what we do about it.    

I know I haven't posted much recently, and haven't posted anything meaningful in quite a while, but see what adversity does for us?  It got me blogging again.  But my point is that since the tragic election of last year, I've been taking comfort in the words and writings of the Stoic philosophers, and have been finding more and more that Stoicism is a more practical aid in real day-to-day life then Zen Buddhism ever was.  But the real gift I've discovered is Stoicism as seen from the perspective of Zen, or a Zen-Stoicism cocktail, if you will.  Zen Stoicism, perhaps, or Stoic Buddhism.

If you'll indulge me, I hope to post more about this in the future, but tonight, still drying out from my walks to and from my broke-ass car, I'm going to settle down for a bit with an Old Pal.  

I deserve it.