My last post, talking about Wittgenstein, (January 11th) was followed by a wonderful trip to the “big island” of Hawaii, enjoying the tropical climate with high temperatures above 20 ͦ F, large breaking waves, a mongoose with teeth bared, lava flowing into the sea, and thoughts of the Polynesians journeying across the trackless ocean. Then after a short flight to Oahu our group experienced the touristy ambience of Waikiki, so different from what it was when I was a child.
After returning I have been slow to settle in for one reason or another: visitors here in Bend, excellent cross country skiing, and most recently a trip to Seattle to stay with my son and his wife in Bellevue and attend an American Alpine Club homage to an old friend, Nick Clinch, who recently passed away. With all of these doings there has been little time for idle thought. Perhaps, too, “bone laziness” has been a factor. Not bone laziness as sloth, but a principled bone laziness conducive to emptiness of thought and experience. However, now as some time has opened up, thoughts have occurred that I should at least mention before getting back to philosophy, physics, and the mysteries of existence.
A concern is that readers might think that I am proselytizing; that in this blog, I am pushing the idea that one should become some kind of Zen Buddhist, whatever that is. In fact, a primary principle of the blog is that I am pushing nothing whatever. However, I am putting forward ideas which seem out of the mainstream of our times, but which seem cogent to me.
I am suggesting that, as a personal matter, if one has our present age view of rationality, and can’t pursue a traditional religion based on belief in a mystic vision which one doesn’t have, then one might consider a religious view which is totally opposed to that of the traditional great religions, holding no “beliefs” of any kind, but which can be experienced and understood outside of language and which becomes an underlying foundation for one’s life journey whatever that journey may entail in a concrete way. I am not suggesting that one necessarily take up the exercises and practices of such a religion, but am simply putting out there that such a possibility exists. One can delve into the deepest understandings without the least compromise of one’s integrity in pursuing “truth”.
I am furthermore suggesting, not simply as a personal matter, but as a matter for society as a whole, that there can be an underlying substrate that encompasses and deepens all of our pursuits, in every science, in every art, in every humanistic discipline, in every traditional religion, in politics or the law, in medicine, in every athletic endeavor, in every fight against ignorance or evil, in the making of any object, in building roads, in welding, in every climb of a mountain or wandering in a wilderness, a substrate that subsumes all antagonisms between these pursuits and that leads to a respect for everyone in society leading a sincere life of integrity.
This is the vision I have, the vision that underlies everything posted here.
Does this vision ignore the darker side of history and human nature? I don’t think so. It is a vision of awareness. Awareness of all the possible positive human pursuits with appreciation and understanding rather than hostility; but also a full awareness of the “fury and the mire of human veins” as Yeats puts it. An awareness of how an entire society can go off the tracks, with demagogues arousing insecurities that lead to hatred, to simplistic, evil policies and ultimately terrible wreckage. This awareness can help us avoid our own hatreds and our own counterproductive blind opposition as we intelligently become active, opposing where it will do some good and seeking areas of leverage where we can actually have a positive effect and perhaps help avoid the worst of the wreckage.
So much for this interlude. I feel that I’ve made somewhat more explicit what this blog is always about even when it seems to wander far afield.