Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Desert island list

‘If you ever meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,’ goes the expression. What do you make of it? My guess is that it’s about the danger of exposing yourself to the teachings of would-be well-wishers, do-good gurus and proselytizing pimps. Killing the Buddha is therefore a pre-emptive strike. There’s nothing more dangerous than ideas, so be alert for them popping up on your radar. Echoing Feynman’s father, the Buddha told his followers: “Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.” 

Using another analogy, it works like your taste in music and musicians. In that field an idea could be thought of as a riff or lyric. Now, there’s a set of artists each of us feels comfortable with and close to. For me it’s the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull. In my book they can do no wrong. Then, there’s a group that I admire but who I can’t listen to all day long: The Beatles, U2 and Oasis. And below that there are other artists that I simply cannot groove to such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, even though they are highly esteemed. For some reason, they grate in my ears. So, what’s my point, and what’s the answer?

What it means is that everyone has a potential audience (and ipso facto a potential following). Second, everyone has to judge for themselves what sounds right. To ask, ‘Who is right?’ expecting to get a definitive answer, is . . . well . . . wrong. It’s the sort of quandary that you get into when you ask the same question about religions. There isn’t one that stands unarguably higher. It’s best to assume that, at their level, and from their perspective, every one is on track. Whether any set of ideas resonates with you is just a matter of taste.

A person's background, beliefs, world view, philosophical framework, and the stories that they tell themselves all support one another. They form a self-referential whole. A person’s decisions and actions make sense only when we realize that fact. And so, everyone is absolutely correct with respect to the views that they hold and the manner in which they conduct themselves.

Of course, that isn't much help to you. You’ll want want a means of being more discerning when you rake through the embers of other philosophies on the lookout for material to incorporate into your own way of thinking.

It’s probably best, therefore, to examine, not the set of thoughts that people have, but the principles that they are built on—the truths that they hold to be self-evident. Based upon that knowledge—a familiarity with the foundation stones underpinning their philosophical structures—you have a much better rationale for weighing up what they have to say.

In the same way that you pick and choose your friends, you need to be wise when you shop for advice. Though everyone has something valuable to contribute, you gravitate naturally towards certain individuals, and that probably says something about the relationship—or potential relationship—between you both (although I’m not sure exactly what). 

This affinity that you or I feel—well, the ideal, I suppose, is that everything that you learn issues forth from within. It should not be spoon fed. People in the self-growth movement say that the answers are latent within us all, and that the most that they do is to help those answers bubble forth.

Take note, all you other gorillas. As you read these words, you’d better take that message to heart. As far as you’re concerned, I fall into that category also. My style of mental gymnastics suits me to a tee. But all you other primates had better use a filter. Get out your sun block and UV sunglasses.


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