Saturday, June 4, 2016

Conclusion to This Here Blog

     Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo.  

     Well, my friends, this is the final post on this here blog. The very, very last one, in all probability (although I will continue to moderate any comments and may continue to mess around a bit with stuff on the sidebar). But at the same time, considering that it will be the first post that people clicking on will see, the one at the top of the queue, it may also serve as an introduction. Which just goes to show that everything and every moment is both a beginning and an end, as well as its own simple self. We are, all of us, the result of what we were yesterday, and the cause of what we will be tomorrow. But enough of moralizing, because this is the end.
     Although it may be best to let the blog speak for itself, I will offer one key to better understanding the mass of information contained herein. All my life I have loved playing devil’s advocate. Even as a little kid I delighted in saying nursery rhymes wrong on purpose, for the sake of gratuitous absurdity and pushing the proverbial envelope. Or, to be more precise, perhaps, I have somehow adopted a moral orientation in life which could be called lawful neutral.
     Those of you who remember the old pre-video Dungeons and Dragons game may recall that each character had not only a species (human, elf, half-orc, etc.) and a vocation (warrior, wizard, thief, etc.), but also an ethical orientation. So it turns out that, in the parlance of Dungeons and Dragons, I have become, philosophically at least, a lawful neutral cleric. If I remember correctly, pretty much only clerics adopt the rare and strange lawful neutral orientation. Lawful neutral means that a character must always fight for the side that is getting the worst of it, for the sake of maintaining cosmic balance; and if, because of the character’s skill in fighting or whatever other reason, the losing side actually starts to gain the upper hand, then he or she must switch sides. So in other words, if everyone is leaning to the left, especially if in an ideological way, then I endorse the right, and vice versa. It helps to keep the world in balance, sort of.
     This orientation is counterintuitive for me, as if I were really to play Dungeons and Dragons or deliberately to choose an ethical orientation, then I would probably choose something like chaotic good. In some ways I suppose I am chaotic good. It was a significant gleam of insight for me when I realized that I am driven to fight for deviant causes and losing sides, out of a liking for nonconformity, self-governance, and freedom of thought and expression. Especially when I consider that side to be more on the side of wisdom and truth, naturally.
     So one of the primary purposes of this blog is to challenge established points of view. In Burma the established view was Theravadin scriptural dogmatism, so I challenged that. After coming to America I found that the established views among Western Buddhists were more along the lines of scientific materialism and liberal political correctness, so I was quickly drawn toward bashing these. One advantage for me is that all these attitudes are so easily bashable for someone who can step outside the ideological matrix in which most of humankind are entrenched.
     Please consider the blog which lies before you as a kind of autobiographical philosophical book consisting of 210 chapters (if I counted correctly). Most “chapters” are just as relevant now as they were when they were written, a few possibly even more so. The list of themes at the bottom of the page may be used as a kind of index. The whole thing fairly accurately represents my view of Dharma, human existence, and the world, mainly from the point of view of an unorthodox Theravada Buddhist philosopher and lawful neutral human cleric who has a degree in Biology and has lived in a cave for half his adult life.
     If I appear to contradict myself at times, please bear in mind that I hold fast to no one particular perspective. “Objective truth” is itself somewhat of a myth, being only a relative term, with absolute objectivity being, methinks, an unreachable absolute. There are levels of truth, and various ways of looking at it. Also, we all view the world through the filters of our own biases, and that apparently includes the highest saints and sages also, to the extent that their thoughts are the result of conditioning causes.
     As venerable Ajahn Chah used to say, “If I see someone veering too far to the left, I say, ‘Go right’; and if I see someone veering too far to the right, I say, ‘Go left.’ But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m contradicting myself.” It helps to keep a person’s perspective in mind—his or her assumed axioms—especially if that perspective is not necessarily shared. I suppose that’s another key to understanding this blog book: My assumed axioms are not necessarily those of the average guy, or even of the average Western Buddhist monk. And sometimes my axioms change for the sake of expedience and effective communication. Metaphysically I am a monster, a non-Euclidean geometer, or at least a throwback to ancient north India.
     I very much do not wish to end this four-year-long experiment with hard feelings toward anyone. Everyone who has interacted with me, including those with whom the interaction was unpleasant, have helped me in some way (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”), and I am thankful for the wealth of experience I have received. Writing this blog has been fun, it has helped me to stay out of trouble, sort of, and I have made some new friends by it, many of whom I have never seen. I hope that all this will be of genuine help to someone else also. If it helps anyone to be more awake, less entrenched in unexamined views, more comfortable about not following the majority, more uncertain of feelings and ideas yet more poised and at ease in the present moment, then my time and effort in writing have been well spent. And may all of you be as well and as happy as Samsara and the first Noble Truth will allow. My sincere blessings are upon all of you. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.