Further thoughts…

Further thoughts on … whatever…

I know nothing of x-Buddhism… I think I’ve had posters or followers that have mentioned it in the past. But since I was never a Buddhist, how could I be an ex-Buddhist? Tell the truth personally I’ve always tended toward the skeptical naturalist world view, and yet over time I’ve modulated between a non-dialectical inquiry and a dialectical materialist inquiry of life, things, and what some now term – the Real (Lacan). I am an Iconoclast, and hate labels, hate being pegged to any one specific modality or philosophical heritage. Being a singularity (Guattari) I do no like being trapped in other people’s systems (William Blake). I’ve always gone with the notion that language cannot describe everything, that there are aspects of reality that remain open and unknown. The sciences are problematic at best, working on a reality that is always changing never set in stone, and never will be. There can be no totalized system of description or knowledge. Reality is ongoing… a process without end. And even though we end as these specific vehicles I cannot conclude what comes next… that is to be decided. No one has come back from the dead to tell us. Even though we have testimony from many traditions, they are just that, testaments of the beyond… not being of a belief that we need transcendence, but rather an affirmer of an open ongoing universal system that has as one of its axiomatic principles: a system that is in movement, swerving toward the new and unbounded. We have no definitive statements on anything at all. Words are not the things they point too… they are merely signs in the darkness of the human mind struggling with the unknown within which it finds itself. All the great metaphysical systems of the past whether of religious or philosophical origins have yet to give us a definitive statement about reality. I doubt they ever will… humans are the restless animal, half-demigod, half-beast… we live in-between worlds where we remain dissatisfied with ourselves and our neighbors. I doubt humans will ever be at peace, I tend to agree with Heraclitus on that point: “Time is a game children play in innocence and beauty.” Poetry? Philosophy? A non-sense statement… a hyperbole onto the realm of the unknown or non-known? I think the key here is “children”, and even as Jesus once said: “The keys to the kingdom or in the hands of children.” We can observe in the curiosity and wonder of a child’s eyes the path we should all take in approaching the universe within which we live and have our being. There is none other…

As far as reducing anything to pop-cultural reference… I think most people live at that level. Why should I try to speak in arcane or even technical terms to the average reader of blogs? I hated post-structuralist bullshit linguistic elitism during the post-modern era, and still hate those who use such abstruse terms. Yet, sometimes it is difficult not too. I understand it, but for the most part I try to translate the arcane and abstruse into common parlance. Simplify, abstract out the difficulty… maybe it’s a part of my skeptical heritage? I can’t say… but why speak as if you were above people, better than them because you have some specialized vocabulary and technical jargon? That to me defeats the purpose of communication. If I lose something in the translation because of it… that’s the point. I, like many of the literary critics before me, seek to both entertain and instruct, not to bludgeon people with some truth.

If anything I still follow the Socratic dictum of the “unexamined life is not worth living”. More than anything words can never capture the excess of one’s life. I’ve for the most part been an iconoclast. I hate labels, or being reduced to some specific modality or perspective. Why should we be part of some school of thought, a follower? I think that was probably one of the great lessons I gathered in my romantic rebellion period as a youth reading Nietzsche was the notion that one does not need followers.

What does it truly mean to become individuated now? How to attain singularity? The age of autonomous norms is dead, we are now driven by technologies of self (Stiegler/Foucault) that broker our lives intrinsically and extrinsically. Transitional beings at best, we are caught in an age when one Symbolic Realm is exploding or imploding around us, and the next has yet to come into its own metastable power. We use terms like post-human, post-capital, post-socialist, post post post… this or that… all shifting, sliding terms that offer us no stable relation, but rather hint at this transitional process in-between, an apocalypse – or revelation or revealing of things about to be but not yet… etc. As we forget ourselves, our cultural references slip into disrepute day by day as scientists and philosophers plow under the ancient dead who have guided civilization up to this point. They no longer offer us living thought onto what we are going through, so we stumble into the future like children … But maybe that is the best, maybe we need to attain that innocence and wonder at the unknown and frightening worlds around us. Begin again from the beginning…. asking the questions of self and world without reducing it to the known…. maybe we need to open our eyes again, our minds, to the blank before us, to the unnamed and unnamable… to shape a new name for the impossible.

39 thoughts on “Further thoughts…

  1. Thank you for another great post. I read here all the time—and I really appreciate your writing here. I just wanted to say that X-Buddhism (as I have come to know it) is not “ex” as someone who quit Buddhism, but rather a term used by Glenn Wallis in his Speculative Non-Buddhism project (based on Laruelle’s non-philosophy) which stands for all things Buddhist, Buddhism in all its different iterations, classical and contemporary. He explains it much better here: https://speculativenonbuddhism.com/categories/
    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

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  2. You bring up again the idea/activity of a public intellectual as a translator of an academic thinker or school of thought or just the world’s heritage of letters. The result looks easy but it is hard and it is not a dumbing-down. It is really hard and truly shows a higher mastery that is comfortable with a variety of ideas that are not worshiped through fixed terms but loosen up so to speak such that they lend themselves to changing. It also it seems it presupposes an unknown address or readers who have different histories of reading. It is always irksome to listen to jargon filled expression full of references that one assumes are known to those one is writing with/to. This is just pretentious laziness. I fall into it of course and when I do I always try to sense if it is because I am trying to appear smart and cultured. When I use sophisticated language whose import I assume readers understand do I do it because I don’t want to look stupid when I use simple terms? Is it necessary sometimes to develop arcane terminology because ordinary language has its limits? How does one even go about understanding this distinction?

    I just poked my head into a book (does the reference matter?) that made me realize that, or brought to mind an ongoing thought process, if we are not just going to be talking across solipsistic silos of culture then public intelligence can be thought as separated from our own subjectivistic train of thoughts and is that which we can participate in and we can use this experience of being outside our own history of reading as a sort attentiveness where we are best able to respond to whatever flashes out from the screen. The public intellectual is something we then hold in common as separate from our own self-organizing intellectual life. The public intellectual is like language in its potential state and therefore our infantile situation, a pure fact of speaking before there is a “what” understood in what is being said. This state could be imagined as the self-referencing egocentricity of a child but the picture I turn to is that of a tennis player dancing on the ball of her feet ready to explode in a variety of directions depending on the serve. This is another way of thinking about the question raised in the Diamond Sutra Chapter 32 which leads to endless commentary as if it were something like Lacan’s objet a where we are always in the midst of following the folding and unfolding of the unattainable which appears to subsequently withdraw like morning dew, a flash of lighting or the wink of an eye in a face full of wonder.

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    • I don’t know about public intellectual per se, but for me it was the great literary critics from Samuel Johnson, Hazlitt, Wilde, and others who opened me to a world beyond my own nose… I think like a lot of people (especially working class like I was – retired now!) when delving beyond the occasional novel or short-story, etc. soon lose their way in a library. I know I did. As a young man I used to wonder: who wrote all these books? Each book seemed like a new world to me… an uncharted territory, and I was without map or compass in such a realm. I’d pick up a book here and there not knowing if it was good or bad (not in the moral sense, but in the sense of – good writing, ideas, history, fiction, science, philosophy, etc.). I just didn’t have a way of telling, of deciding what was worth reading or not. Even my teachers in grade school didn’t really go into it much. Oh we’d read a few books from time to time in class, but no one in grade school, Jr. High, or High School taught much more than the usual fare of safe and narrow books I think we’ve all come to know as the classics of one’s country or nation, etc. What lay outside of that was like a jungle full of unknown beasts.

      So one day I happened on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I was amazed at the power of his words to capture for me some of the feelings and thoughts I’d always held and believed to be true (at least for me). His verse was simple, clear, and imaginative; and, it held me, fascinated me, kept me wanting more; wanting to know how he could put words together like that, how the spell he cast over me suddenly awakened laughter or tears. So I asked a librarian about Blake, and if they had any books on his life, etc. I was directed to Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry. That was the first critical work I ever read. Suddenly I was thrown into a world that exposed me to critical thought for the first time. I was hooked. He made Blake’s poetry come alive, it made sense. I was now able with the help of Frye’s commentary on work and life of Blake to understand the message of the poetry as well as its music. Blake had many strains from lyric to epic to prophetic, etc. But it was this world of poetry that opened my eyes to language itself. From then own I wanted to know more, so I began reading all the poetry and critical lives and works on poets throughout the ages.

      After that came my need to know the actual history and thoughts of people that informed much of this poetry. In school we’d been taught mainly dates and dull facts about the past, and most text books were boring and neutered of excitement. So for me school was dead and deathly for a growing mind. I only remember a handful of teachers that seemed truly excited about teaching and the subjects they taught. My literature, mathematics, and science teachers in several cities we lived in all seemed to care about their subjects and made me interested. And, that above all is what keeps one going, curiosity and interest.

      I have to admit that philosophy came late in life. Most of these old books just didn’t make much sense at all. Like many undergraduates I probably got my inkling of philosophy from reading the philosophy of histories by Coplestone (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Copleston). Having been raised a Christian it took a while to overcome many of my doubts and feelings about what I read, but I persisted and much of what I read opened my mind to contrary thoughts and doubts concerning the validity of my upbringing and the Church. Needless to say it took years to work through these doubts and tribulations. Having been raised in Southern Baptist and Methodist ideology since childhood I was bound with the old notion of sin and death, hell and eternal punishment of the wicked, etc. Mentally it took me years to overcome my fear of eternal dammnation, and the idea that that God and Devil alike were priestly lies; a way to control the mass mind of their tribes and nations.

      Sorry to be so long winded… but for me literature, philosophy, sciences, history, the culture of the West gave me a new perspective and ballast against the ignorance and fear of my childhood world. I remember James Joyce once saying

      “When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

      Maybe in the end that is something we all must do or remain in the prison house of fear and trepidation…

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  3. Thank you for a long and considered reply. Here is my equally long response, which , hopefully will not bore the pants of you

    “But since I was never a Buddhist, how could I be an ex-Buddhist?”

    X-Buddhism has nothing to do with being an ex-Buddhist. The term describes Buddhist philosophical decision and its presence as a structure of all of the various iterations of Buddhism. Decision could be thought of as a structure of discourse in which the Budddhist philosopher/Guru/Linage holder explicates on the Buddha-Dharma from a position of transcendent philosophical/meditative insight while being simultaneously a relative manifestation (in historical/cultural terms ) of that Dharma, occupying a position of power , prestige and discursive authority.

    By virtue of the Dharma he succeeds in being in two places at once, so to speak, and in performing two functions. He (its always a man) is both transcendent subject explicating an absolute truth of emptiness and an ordinary human being who is the empty manifestation of that truth. In that sense he can expound on absolute truth while dissolving both his social/political role and indeed his very personhood into emptiness. He thus occupies an invulnerable position in which, as the Heart Sutra explains, he is both form and emptiness, relatively conditioned and absolutely above all conditioning , powerless and powerful, absolute and relative all at once. His word is law, whether by power of law, by prestige, or by exuding a special spiritual charism, a thaumaturgical field of force of which he is the centre and the community his periphery; by such thaumaturgical power he welds together, presides over, and explicates the absolute truth of the Sangha, which, taking into account the cosmology of wandering among the six realms of birth and death, will, at some stage include all living sentient beings, animal, god or human.

    If one tried to invent a more secure ground of discursive power, social privilege and cultural prestige one would have quite a task. Transferred from the feudal conditions in which such an institution flourished, (subject to the checks and balances operating in such a society) contemporary Buddhism as it is practised under the conditions of late capitalism has become a spiritual discourse/practice of the professional classes ; an almost perfect fit for negotiating the perils of neo-liberal economy ; a mode of acclimatisation to a future in which social disintegration, wars of resources and acceptable economic instability and crisis become the norm. Such a resilient subject has already appeared in philosophical and ideological discourse and will soon be re–arranging social relations on a corporate/fascist basis.

    “I’ve always gone with the notion that language cannot describe everything, that there are aspects of reality that remain open and unknown. The sciences are problematic at best, working on a reality that is always changing never set in stone, and never will be. There can be no totalized system of description or knowledge. Reality is ongoing… a process without end.”

    Yes. Everything there I can accept. And yet we live in a world ultimately presided over by philosophy as the maker of concepts communicated primarily via language.; concepts which, by a complex process, become actualised as social practices, producing feedback loops of suffering which , over time, become structured into our social relations . For that reason it is important that we choose , as best we can, to structure into our social practices those concepts which enable a world in which human beings and animals can live and not one presided over by transcendent authorities, be they market, guru/leader, party or absolutist philosophical/ideological system. We can choose to reject neo-liberal and dogmatic Marxist discourses and work for a non-hierarchical, peaceful, ecologically sound and communitarian model of social life that doesn’t destroy the very ground of life itself.

    “All the great metaphysical systems of the past whether of religious or philosophical origins have yet to give us a definitive statement about reality. I doubt they ever will… humans are the restless animal, half-demigod, half-beast… we live in-between worlds where we remain dissatisfied with ourselves and our neighbors.”

    I can say yes to all that too but must again offer a qualification. I think all of the worlds , no matter what their discursive constitution , must negotiate certain fundamental constants— I mean the requirement of any social system to provide for basic human need- that communities be allowed by their own collective effort and ingenuity to transform the given material of nature into sustenance. For modern human beings this of course means more than the simple necessities. Part of this transformation involves the creation of geographically and historically unique forms of culture in the broadest sense of the word.

    As things stand we cannot provide even basic needs for the vast majority of human beings. Nothing can justify this lack under conditions in which vast sums are spent on arms and the wasteful replication of commodities; the result is in plain sight: resources are needlessly depleted and the bio-sphere needlessly destroyed.

    By any standard the present system has failed. Those discourses which try to naturalise capitalist acceleration and resource depletion as something transcendent to human decision-a sort of teleology of innate forces standing over and against human wishes- are a lie and a crime against our common interests.

    “Poetry? Philosophy? A non-sense statement… a hyperbole onto the realm of the unknown or non-known? I think the key here is “children”, and even as Jesus once said: “The keys to the kingdom or in the hands of children.” We can observe in the curiosity and wonder of a child’s eyes the path we should all take in approaching the universe within which we live and have our being. There is none other…”

    Well , the vast majority of children are either living skeletons or, if capitalism continues on its course, on the way to that state of living death. The only kingdom that matters is food on the table , a good education and decent health care as a matter of right . All else proceeds from that, including the luxury of indulging in obscure speculations. This is achievable for all human beings and requires only a determined political struggle against vested interests, power blocks, hierarchical institutions and state connivance with big business and corporations.

    There is no refuge in the void—whether it is described as a discursive lack in the symbolic order or a ground of transcendent emptiness. In terms of what matters most we are quite capable of understanding and changing the world we ourselves have created; our social structures and our political institutions are not transcendent entities or simple givens of nature; they are collectively made. We can change them in fundamental ways to enable human well-being.

    “we need to attain that innocence and wonder at the unknown and frightening worlds around us. Begin again from the beginning…. asking the questions of self and world without reducing it to the known…. maybe we need to open our eyes again, our minds, to the blank before us, to the unanmed and unnameble… to shape a new name for the impossible.”

    All of this is too vague, too defeatist, to much of a retreat before forces bent on the destruction of the planet; except, perhaps, for old men who have given up the fight; although even old men could find themselves asked for an account of why they handed the world over to fascist thugs and their corporate bosses without a fight.

    There is no refuge in the void or a mythologised state of childhood innocence. What is innocence? Certainly not an ineffable essence we can reach back into; while we practice such inanities the real child is murdered; while we search for some imagined innocence true innocence is destroyed. The real child of flesh and blood is right before our eyes ; no esoteric insight need be cultivated to understand her need. There is no mystery. Her need is simple: food, shelter and a stable future in which to realise her potentialities.

    All of this is , of course, the stuff of religion. Refuge, redemption, liberation, compassion, justice, nirvana. Suffering and the causes of suffering , release and the causes of release. What is religion?

    “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
    Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself. … (Marx: A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right)”

    In such a spirit one could ask: What is a bodisattva? And one could answer. A bodhisattva is one who tirelessly works for the liberation of all sentient beings .One could turn the tables on the guru by taking him, literally, at his word. In so doing shantidevas prayer might, at the very least, not stick in ones throat so much; at best become a manifesto for liberation:

    May all beings everywhere
    Plagued by sufferings of body and mind
    Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
    By virtue of my merits.
    May no living creature suffer,
    Commit evil, or ever fall ill.
    May no one be afraid or belittled,
    With a mind weighed down by depression.
    May the blind see forms
    And the deaf hear sounds,
    May those whose bodies are worn with toil
    Be restored on finding repose.
    May the naked find clothing,
    The hungry find food;
    May the thirsty find water
    And delicious drinks.
    May the poor find wealth,
    Those weak with sorrow find joy;
    May the forlorn find hope,
    Constant happiness, and prosperity.
    May there be timely rains
    And bountiful harvests;
    May all medicines be effective
    And wholesome prayers bear fruit.
    May all who are sick and ill
    Quickly be freed from their ailments.
    Whatever diseases there are in the world,
    May they never occur again.
    May the frightened cease to be afraid
    And those bound be freed;
    May the powerless find power,
    And may people think of benefiting each other.
    For as long as space remains,
    For as long as sentient beings remain,
    Until then may I too remain
    To dispel the miseries of the world.

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    • One can imagine the smug look on your face now, all the brownie buttons you’ve pegged to your desktop. One more epithet of calculated moral bookkeeping on the notch of your brow. A pat answer for every occasion, no risk involved. Just the security system you’ve built up over the years against any messiness. The moral high-ground assured, you can even wallop all detractors with the great Marx or Bodhisattva for good measure. Self-assured, completed, you sit back self-satisfied that the world will fold into your mind and thought like an accordion of truth: each note played out on the spindle of surety and conaissance. Done! You can now lift your finger in the correct attribute and “dispel the miseries of the world”.

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  4. Well, for one who has little faith in the power of language you certainly take words pretty seriously judging from the anger that seems to be percolating beneath your response to the points I made. Don’t be put off though by a rise in the temperature between us, its usually an indication we might be touching on some interesting points. Theres nothing much to be afraid of in a little bit of polemics and a lot to be gained. Or maybe you prefer your readers to just click the “like” button. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, so I hope you might respond to some of my comments, which were an honest response to the points you made. I see nothing “complete” here in what either of us wrote. The quotes?… just ignore them.

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    • Most of your response seemed a mixture of Marxist rhetoric mixed with Buddhist quietism… to what should I respond? The point you seemed to make is that you’ve got things figured out for yourself… that’s great, me I prefer the anomalous and the open and more relative path of insecurity and undogmatic singularity, an anarchist of the spirit, I don’t regulate myself by either Marxists, Buddhist, x-Buddhist… or any other form, even if I may comment on these at various times… if you’ve read my site long enough… I have no need to defend a system of ethics, philosophy, etc. For you this may be a need? Another thing… I don’t have expectations one way or the other from readers of my blog… I actually started my blog as an experiment to just put my ideas and notes on life, art, philosophy, the sciences, etc. down somewhere for a daily journal… the web provided what I needed, so here I am… I don’t have expectations in readers, because very few ever respond. My response to you comes from what you’ve said, which seems to disagree with some of my own pronouncements… that’s fine, we all have our views on life and thought. I can’t expect you to be me, or to even agree with me. You’re writing mainly to get your own thoughts out, not specifically to speak to me, as much as to bounce your ideas off me, hoping for a response… reasonable. I gave a response, and of course you see it as you will see it. Would there be a point to continue? Would that change the outcome of our views? I doubt it, so what is the point for me to offer a disputation or rebuttal? I think that would be a waste of time for both of us since I can already see what you think, and you can see what I think. And, too tell the truth I just don’t want to go into further detail … call it lazy, call it that today is a new day, and my mind is off onto other things… what I was thinking yesterday is gone… today I have other thoughts to attend too. You probably do too… let us agree to disagree and be on our way… 🙂

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  5. It Says: “I’ve always gone with the notion that language cannot describe everything, that there are aspects of reality that remain open and unknown. The sciences are problematic at best, working on a reality that is always changing never set in stone, and never will be. There can be no totalized system of description or knowledge. Reality is ongoing… a process without end.”

    Patrick Says: Yes. Everything there I can accept. And yet we live in a world ultimately presided over by philosophy as the maker of concepts communicated primarily via language.; concepts which, by a complex process, become actualised as social practices, producing feedback loops of suffering which , over time, become structured into our social relations . For that reason it is important that we choose , as best we can, to structure into our social practices those concepts which enable a world in which human beings and animals can live and not one presided over by transcendent authorities, be they market, guru/leader, party or absolutist philosophical/ideological system. We can choose to reject neo-liberal and dogmatic Marxist discourses and work for a non-hierarchical, peaceful, ecologically sound and communitarian model of social life that doesn’t destroy the very ground of life itself.

    Hi Patrick, you mentioned lots of things to think about. I started reading the Speculative Non-Buddhist blog that you mentioned. I am not a professional expert of anything or a follower of any religion. I do however think of myself as a contemplative learning from the world’s traditional heritage and some modern chatter while trying to be conscious of doing this as a Westerner colored by our Jewish Christian Egyptian Platonic roots. I supposed you could say I am always hacking together a generic spiritual philosophy that ultimately I am the only one responsible for. I wonder if it is concepts or practices that come first? I am interjecting because I feel that the slippery entity (almost like a floating signifier) on this blog was talking to me. In this post S.C. begins by addressing our discussion of the concept of a “public intellectual”. For my part I don’t see it as a finished concept so it is an example of that which is under a process of construction communicated through language and the way we are understanding words and how in turn meaning is constructed with them or fails to occur. He gives it content by referring to the likes of Samuel Johnson, Hazlitt, and Wilde which is a comfortable direction for him to take as it is getting him closer to the bosom of his mother culture even if he is American. This is where he went after you challenged his choice of quotations regarding all things Zen. Back he went to the likes of Hazlitt who was influenced by the ‘nouveux Pyrrhoniens’ whose favorite quotation inducing a sense of struggle was from Paul Corinthians chapter 1 where the crucified Jesus says “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and and frustrate the intelligence of the prudent”. The European breast can be so comforting sometimes operating almost like an objet a or transitional object in the in-between while significant change happens and anxiety causes us to see intellectual beasts everywhere. He could have acknowledge say Nagarjuna’s saying that “nirvana is samsara” and other oxymorons I mentioned as interesting remarks not unlike those of our own skeptical tradition but no he slithered back to momma.

    The past few years or so I have spent a little time absorbing an understanding of emptiness with the help of Juan Arnau who I admire because he defends the use of metaphor in conversation to challenge the assumptions of the literal and that somehow it is always a non-fictional process. He helps us understand some social spaces in the internet which are clearly messing with the distinction between appearance and reality. He is starting to write books that are a hybrid between literature and philosophy taking western intellectual heroes like Berkerley and Spinoza as his subjects. The breakdown of a sharp distinction between fiction and non-fiction is already there in the early books which appear to be non-fictional studies. At least it is there as his desire. One of then is called the “Arte de Probar” on the culture of irony and logic as practiced by the Vitandins in ancient India whom he says are unappreciated and even feared in the dominant forms of indian philosophy. He considers Nagarjuna and Sriharsa as representatives. For the Vitandins doubt was never a danger but certainty was. In debates certainty was fought with irony and metaphor so that words could come to open their silence. The effect was the staging of transformative space into theater that blurred the line between audience and spectator which is why conversation can challlenge the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, appearance and reality. Who is the spectator, audience or keen listener? Arnau does not exactly put it this way but the irony is that the Vitandin was ultimately the audience or observing public because he was really good at emptying out his position as a dogmatic pontiff
    of anything.

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    • Hi Ari,
      I am not familiar with Juan Arnaus work . I just googled him and he certainly looks interesting. Perhaps there is a link between his work and Laruelles non-philosophy, which , as you might know from your reading at Speculative NonBuddhism, is crucial to the non-Buddhist critique of Buddhism. For one thing Laruelle describes his project as a form of Philo-fiction (philosophical-fiction) which seems to have something in common with Arnaus and what you call his breakdown of the distinction between fiction and non-fiction.

      I’m afraid I know nothing about the Vitandins either, although if they are somehow crucial to Nargarjunas formulation of emptiness I suppose I should, since the concept emptiness could be recalibrated to provide an understanding of the interdependent nature of individual, social formation and bio-sphere. Such a thought is in direct opposition to the ideology of neo-liberalism and its trope of the monadic individual.

      “I am not a professional expert of anything or a follower of any religion. I do however think of myself as a contemplative learning from the world’s traditional heritage and some modern chatter while trying to be conscious of doing this as a Westerner colored by our Jewish Christian Egyptian Platonic roots. I supposed you could say I am always hacking together a generic spiritual philosophy that ultimately I am the only one responsible for.”

      Well, I am not an expert either and have no training in either Buddhist studies or philosophy. I think your point about being aware of the way ones cultural/philosophical heritage colors ones view of the world is really a key point. Foucault has a lot to say on that point.

      “I am always hacking together a generic spiritual philosophy that ultimately I am the only one responsible for”. Me too.

      Good luck with the reading at SNB.

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  6. “The point you seemed to make is that you’ve got things figured out for yourself… that’s great, me I prefer the anomalous and the open and more relative path of insecurity and undogmatic singularity, an anarchist of the spirit, I don’t regulate myself by either Marxists, Buddhist, x-Buddhist… or any other form”

    Good. I don’t either, although you seem to think it from what I wrote. I tried to make it clear that I reject any dogmatic “ism” Marxist or Buddhist. That said there is a useful truth expressed in the quote from Marx. The quote from Shantideva, I suppose, is meaningful to me and probably not to you so it was probably a mistake to include it.

    “the anomalous and the open and more relative path of insecurity and undogmatic singularity”
    Yes. There is much to value in openness but you do see the point I was making? That there is no special insight, effort or speculative thinking needed in the case of the glaring chasm between what we could do with the resources available to us as a species and the dreadful actuality?

    Speculative thought yes. A retreat from the actuality of the real conditions faced by human beings and a struggle in thought and action to rectify that injustice? No.

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    • Not… speculative, either… I’m no speculative realist. Rather a dialectical materialist as regards our Symbolic and Cultural worlds, and non-dialectical materialist as regards the natural… So, no, I do not sponsor a withdrawal into Idealism or mentation… of phantasms or fantasy. The condition of pain, suffering, human or otherwise is ever apparent. There is no glaring chasm in what we could do as a species…. it has nothing to do with a species level approach at all… what it has to do with is the very real ideologies and power of the few (oligarchies, bankers, 0.01%, and their national, and transnational enforcement squads). The great majority are so tied up with survival and powerless to change things in any meaningful form that they suffer it in day to day tribulation. So, no what you term the “actual” is ever apparent to me, and has been for some time. Unlike you I do not believe as you suggest that “we live in a world ultimately presided over by philosophy as the maker of concepts communicated primarily via language.; concepts which, by a complex process, become actualized as social practices, producing feedback loops of suffering which , over time, become structured into our social relations.” Rather we live in a world presided over by power and the sciences that command and control through the force of what a friend once termed the Cathedral of Secularism: the vast local, national, and transnational institutions, NGO’s, Banking systems, Academic treadmills, Think Tanks, Policy bins, UN and Legal regimes which sponsor the actions of both dictators, democratic, and socialist regimes; as well as the interconnected infra/super structures of the world known under the capitalist Fordist and post-Fordist forms of Third-World slave factories to the Financialised systems of high-speed algorithms… if anything Capital is itself the Inverted Totalitarian System that rules our planet like a cannibalistic consumer…. consuming everything, every resource, every human, every element of earth, water, air, and bio-chemical region of the planet, always seeking energy for its unending parade of accumulation …

      So, no, I’m very aware of what is actually happening on this planet of ours, as well as the Climatic Changes and atrocities that have even now already overtaken us in a Sixth Extinction Event that for the most part goes unnoticed and unregistered in the mass-media entertainment complex of the world.

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      • I don’t mean to imply that philosophers control the world, only that they are the source of the concepts which structure discourse , and that these in turn become the material for the various ideological world views which structure social relations and practices. Philosophers are the transcendent arbitrators of the nature of the real and especially the human real , often by way of blends of philosophy and the so called human sciences — Psychology, anthropology, economics, and more and more these days cognitive science.

        There is a reciprocal process going on, from the ground up as it were, in which social practices, provide new material for the philosopher to work with.
        What we call economy-the concepts, relations and social practices around the transformation of nature into sustenance—are fundamental to the mode of organisation of any society. That being the case it is no surprise that banks, corporations, and the capitalist class in general -the owners of the means of production and exchange– have considerable input into the nature of social relations and practices. But it is philosophy which articulates in its purest form the self-consciousness of any particular epoch and it is the state which assures conformity to its ethos, standards, laws, moral and ethical norms.

        There is , most certainly, not one but many social worlds, all of which a permeable, interdependent, and embedded , along with all other creatures, in a fragile bio-sphere.

        “Capital is itself the Inverted Totalitarian System that rules our planet like a cannibalistic consumer…. consuming everything, every resource, every human, every element of earth, water, air, and bio-chemical region of the planet, always seeking energy for its unending parade of accumulation …”

        I agree one hundred percent on the effects of capitalism but not on its nature— can a piece of technology or infrastructure have any causal impact without being networked into a mode of social relations — I don’t think so, unless you truly believe in capital as the site of some sort of transcendent power. It certainly appears as if capital has such power but that is an illusion. It is human beings, organised in definite forms and modes of social relation who agents and not a “capital” transcendent to them. That being the case we are free, within certain conditions, to transform those modes and relations. To ensure the well being of all human beings.

        Which brings me back to my original intervention on the matter of Zen. Contemporary western Zen offers a retreat from our situation into an ineffable state that has more to do with the history of a European philosophical and “spiritual” reaction to the crisis of religion and the opportunity to indulge in the newly discovered religious exotica of the East than with any particular form of of Asian Zen. Each indigenous Linage/tradition/practice is indeed unique and guards its uniqueness. Western Buddhism is, in contrast, largely a generalisation constructed of an eviscerated indigenous tradition and cobbled together to suit western inclinations.

        In the case of Sri Lanken Buddhism for example (form which the current widespread mindfulness fad originates (in a distorted form) the indigenous practice, which was already in decline, was revived and transformed along western lines by the like of Alcott and Blavatsky and their protégé and successor Anagarika Dharmapala, who founded the Maha Bodi Society in1891 in order to promote the Theravada revival in India as well as in Sri Lanka– so that for the most part, the version of Buddhism practised there and exported to the west is already a work of western appropriation and transformation. Much the same can be said of Zen.

        As Marx says in the piece I quoted, the beginning of all critique is the critique of religion since religion is not simply a matter of a cognitive or empirical mistake about the nature of reality, but also a site of the unfulfilled aspirations, intuitions and collective longing for an end to injustice and alienation which Marx so poetically describes.

        That being said a critique of the way the west has appropriated Buddhism for its own uses—as part of a late capitalist ideology of retreat into some quasi-religious state of oneness with internal energies, inner psyche, soul, heart, true nature, universal being, or some such spiritualistic bladder, is not only legitimate but timely. Especially when we witness corporations such as Google co-opting quasi-Buddhist meditative methodologies to replicate a more docile and fulfilled workforce. As I said previously , such a development is surly an element in the emergence of a resilient late capitalist subject prepared to negotiate the instability of a “precarious”future.

        From that perspective your original post on Zen was , precisely because of its brevity and its use of Shunyru quotations, an example of the uncritical use of contemporary Zen tropes of ineffability, which seem now days to circulate in the very air we breathe.

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      • I’ll put it simply: one need not spend 24 hours a day being critical, and in fact many now assert it is this very “critical spirit” that you harp on that has in itself become the problem rather than the solution. And, I disagree that the appropriation of Buddhism through translation and transliteration into Western conceptuality is wrong or a misappropriation of one culture by another, etc.. This whole trend of cultural appropriation and translation has gone on for thousands of years. It’s a natural part of the process of cultural transmission. In fact if we were all to lock ourselves off in our cultural buckets like solipsists nothing would happen. If we misconceive or (mis)translate the cultural reference into our own idiom that’s because of what we are, not an affront to the other culture. Cultures are different, and for the most part have always had certain meanings that could not be translated into each others idioms. Just like language itself which anyone who has ever tried to translate statements from one language to another will tell you, its always a give and take rather than something that is a one-to-one ratio.

        Just like my Korean master who taught us the various forms of his art told me once – “Don’t try to mimic me, your not me. Take what I give you, teach you, show you and adapt it to your own spirit. You are not Korean, so don’t try to be one, be who you are.” So to me this whole conversation your arguing for is just that, trying to say Western appropriation of Buddhism is incorrect. I agree. Western appropriation is just that “Western”… it’s what we’ve made of it. Even the various forms that moved out of India to China and Japan and other countries were appropriated, adapted, and translated into those cultures, too. Chinese Buddhism that the Bodhisattva brought to them became something else, because they appropriated and transformed the traditions into their own cultural world. Same for all other cultures that Buddhism… or, for that matter any religious world that has migrated into other cultures, does. Their not wrong, but different… It’s the same with Literature or any other cultural form, it is impossible to convey the cultural spirit of a work or path into the idioms of another culture: that culture would need to be the same, and it is different. We are not the Same, and the repetitions of one cultural parlance will always be mistranslated into another cultural reference system. So that you have various schools of Buddhism – as in the Kyoto School, etc. So your whole argument to me is just saying things change because we are different, that’s just the way life is. We can’t be India, China, Japan… to be that we’d have to have lived as they live, be as they are, etc. But we’re not… we are our own culture – are as Zizek would have it we are “circumscribed within our own Symbolic world”.

        This whole trend of late that attacks cultural appropriation to me is a farce, a fad within our current critical apparatus. I disagree with it completely. Plus your attack on the two Suziki’s both Japanese, both having done the same – translated their notions from the idioms of their cultures into something we in the West could appropriate. If we have made it our own, taken the concepts into new forms and paths, that’s both logical and appropriate. Our Symbolic Worlds are different and always will be even if they change over time.

        When you say in the other post below: “I think this is exactly what Laruelle means by world — a discursive structure presided over by , in the last analysis, philosophy.” I disagree with Laruelle, too. That notion of the world as a “discursive structure” is pure Idealism. Even Badiou and Zizek would laugh as such notions. That’s one reason they spent years discovering other paths out of Lacanian thought, because as dialectical materialists they realized that the Lacanian notion of the Unconscious being structured like a language is Idealism in its pure form. The point of the gap, crack, void – etc. within both Badiou’s Set Theoretic of the subtraction from One, and in Zizek’s less than nothing of the Void as Void are based on this notion of the Real never being reduced to signs or linguistic structures. The Real is not structured, but is the formless world of the appearance as appearance – with no essence (eidos) behind the appearances, only the Idea in the appearance as appearance, as arising in the appearance: the concrete universal of Hegel rather than the real Idea of Plato.

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  7. I don’t see how you can say, ” Capital is itself the Inverted Totalitarian System that rules our planet like a cannibalistic consumer…. consuming everything, every resource, every human, every element of earth, water, air, and bio-chemical region of the planet, always seeking energy for its unending parade of accumulation …” and reconcile this with ” I do not sponsor a withdrawal into Idealism or mentation… of phantasms or fantasy.” Sure your cannibalistic consumer… is not idealistic fantasy but it is a fantasy just dystopian bringing about some sort of mentation that describes for you how thinking corresponds to what is occuring in the world. It reminds me of Zizek talking up the traversal of the fantasy in order to protect if I can put it this way “the hard kernel of Jouissance” (The Plague of Fantasies, pg. 50). When Patrick goes gooey for Shantiveda it is no different than your interest in Hazlitt on Nick Land for that matter. This interest is mediated by phantasms and the frame of meaning that makes us understand and so think about something. A word like “Fordist” sets off a train of thought that doesn’t make sense outside some Cathedral or phantasmatic framework of meaning.

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    • I think you misunderstood what I was saying, not that we can’t use fantasy to critique current tendencies in capitalist globalism, etc., but as I said I do not sponsor a withdrawal into fantasy… there’s the rub: to withdraw into solipsistic or narcissistic enclosure is to turn away from the problems, rather I sponsor as in Zizek a use of fantasy to explore actively the underbelly of capitalist worlds. There are two ways of dealing with fantasy: the one is the Idealist, who dreams of Utopian transcendence, and the realist who – as you say, seeks to live within the dystopian present and critique it through parody, satire, invective, lambast, bombast, etc. So maybe I should have been more clear on that point. 🙂

      In fact there are a great many literary masterpieces of our era that do just that: Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum; Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow; many Science Fiction works: J.G. Ballard, Stanislaw Lem, Philip K. Dick, Dhalgran by Samuel R. Delaney, Dune by Frank Herbert…; China Mieville’s works use socialist fantasy for critique, etc…. I could go on and on… 🙂

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    • “This interest is mediated by phantasms and the frame of meaning that makes us understand and so think about something. A word like “Fordist” sets off a train of thought that doesn’t make sense outside some Cathedral or phantasmatic framework of meaning.”

      I agree. I think this is exactly what Laruelle means by world — a discursive structure presided over by , in the last analysis, philosophy. What interests me is the way the philosophical ideas/stances which structure these worlds percolate down into everyday interactions and enable certain forms of social practice. And a reciprocal percolating upward… Marx has this idea of the concept as something more that an idea as such; rather as that which results when ideas become “materialised” or “actualised” in social practices. An obvious example would be the way a concept of the monadic individual came to represent in social practice the interests and concerns of an expanding Merchant class or the way it now serves to interpellate individuals into a practice of consumerist isolation and self concern/obsession.

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      • And the Stranger’s non-philosophy would produce a concept of emancipation whose practice would constitute an opting out from the enclosure constituted by philosophical concepts? If yes It seems the Stranger as the person in Real, in flesh and blood, is simply there… which is not to say “I am Canadian” or “I am French” but points to a fact of speaking in an “I am Here”? Why is this not mindfulness? Or would you agree that it is?

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  8. “And the Stranger’s non-philosophy would produce a concept of emancipation whose practice would constitute an opting out from the enclosure constituted by philosophical concepts?
    Yes, although I would rather say an axiomatic of emancipation, a weak transcendental which might be called a non-philosophical manoeuvre against incorporation into an absolutist discourse or practice.”

    This is indeed mindfulness, before it is embedded into a philosophical system, including the various iterations of Buddhist philosophy.

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    • Thanks for staying with us. For my part, I am self-taught also and 52 now which is why Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, the philosophical novel of Ibn Tufail, is close to me as the story of an autodidact never mind that the debate alluded in it between al-GHazali (mystic/gnostic) and Avicenna (philosophical mysticism) is relevant to our great debate today between thinkers that are like non-philosophers in Laruelle’s sense and try take a stance outside philosophical consciousness and all the positions a consciousness can take and thinkers who pontificate through taking a position in consciousness. This being there…of non-philosphers for him as he says “presupposes” the Real or Man-in-person who neither can be said to exist or be nothing. In “Intellectuals and Power” he says he refuses to define these Stranger-subjects who are “unilateral in relation to the World.” Didn’t we absorb this old conversation in the West and call it the debate between faith and reason?

      I am really starting to appreciate and look forward to your responses in the comment field. I am learning from you like I do from S.C. and getting feedback on juxtapositions that are the background of my defamiliarizing reading of Laruelle (who is still new to me really) is a bonus if it is okay to monetize a conversation through a metaphor. It is difficult for me to find feedback from relatively lucid people on the internet who are so good at explaining things in a simple manner to a general reader like me without much expertise in anything and only a little knowledge of just a coupe of shelves of books never mastered like they are in academic circles. I spent a long time in university when I was a young adult and was inspired by a mentor or two and have a degree in philosophy but I never mastered anything.

      I was wondering why you prefer the word “axiomatic” to refer to the practice of the Stranger-subject. I am getting it a little from reading “Intellectuals and Power”. If the Real isn’t and essence and yet not nothing then what the hell is it being not a what or its opposite? It is interesting to note that emptiness (sunyata) as approached by Nugarjana is drifitng in the same unidentifiable vehicle. Regarding the Man-in-person or the Real Laruelle writes, “I define them only in an axiomatic way, meaning implicitly. So I say that Man is that X which determines-in-the-last-humaneity (and not “humanity”) the subject, and does so on the basis of conflicts or philosophical contradictions…” (Intellectuals and Power, pg. 37). He adds that “humaneity” gets at the human Real rather than an abstraction (like the word “humanity” does). Still I am not sure I get the practice alluded to by the word “axiomatic”. If it is a question of mindfulness I get this in my own practice describing it with words as the suspension of the processing of the understanding (memory, imagination, desire) and so an event of spacing occurs in the comment field over which conversations are occurring that make room for the heritage seeds that I mentioned after S.C.’s lament over the solipsistic silos where it seems people hunker down in exclusive enclaves where a group or person uses his or their own privileged set of references and history of reading to constitute their philosophical consciousness and so those who are comfortable to talk to can be discerned can be discrerned from the beast with foreign references. I mean not our seeds necessarily but the seeds of the Alien or Stranger-subject who may as well be a symbol of the unconscious. And so an unknown possibility can come to be make the comment field richer than it already is just because of our sense of hospitality.

      I could go on to discuss a little how Laruelle contrasts and differentiates his Real from Lacan and then discuss Zizek’s knowing and masterful understanding of Buddhism lol… but I have to rest now.

      I leave the last word to Nagarjuna in terms of a question. If the Real in Laruelle is another way of discussing emptiness is he in danger of reification and so open to Nagarjuna’s criticism in MK 13.8: “The victorious ones have said that emptiness is the relinquishing of views. For whomever emptiness is a view, that one will accomplsih nothing.”?

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      • Hello again Ari,

        Well, I would like to be able to do justice to all of the references, questions, quotations and knowledge you pack into your comment but I will , of course, fall short of expectation, and out of space and time. That said….

        I have a vague memory of reading something of Tufail’s Hayy ibn Yaqdhan way back I don’t know when and being really impressed but I never followed up on early Arabic philosophical thought, much to my regret.

        “In “Intellectuals and Power” he says he refuses to define these Stranger-subjects who are “unilateral in relation to the World.” Didn’t we absorb this old conversation in the West and call it the debate between faith and reason?”

        Yes we did…everything that goes around comes around, eh? But often with something added that puts our situation in a new light. By a circuitous route, for example, Laruelles Non-philosophy inspired Glenn Wallis to formulate his Speculative Non-Buddhism as an interrogation Buddhist discourse and practice . (http://jsri.ro/ojs/index.php/jsri/article/viewFile/710/593)

        This resembles an attempt to reconfigure Christianity along Marxist lines –- Boffs “Liberation theology” for example. And yet there are great differences between that critique of Christianity and Wallis Non –- Buddhism. And of course Laruelle has ventured his own critique of Christianity with Christo – fiction, a tortuously abstract and needlessly obscure text if ever there was one… but there are treasures waiting for anyone with the perseverance to go on with it despite its impenetrable density.

        “It is difficult for me to find feedback from relatively lucid people on the internet who are so good at explaining things in a simple manner to a general reader like me without much expertise in anything and only a little knowledge of just a couple of shelves of books never mastered like they are in academic circles. I spent a long time in university when I was a young adult and was inspired by a mentor or two and have a degree in philosophy but I never mastered anything.”

        Well, as far as that goes I come from the same sort of background, (exchange the degree in philosophy for a degree in fine art acquired very late in life) and I too have a (very) small shelf of books I have never mastered. One of my preoccupations concerns the way, through specialisation enabled by division of labor, the academy has been able to appropriate to itself the means of production of knowledge, operating an economy of knowledge with its own professional hierarchy, distribution network, market and army of intellectual workers. Its a complex problem which might be solved if we reconfigure our unjust economy. (will that ever happens? I have my doubts)

        “I was wondering why you prefer the word “axiomatic” to refer to the practice of the Stranger-subject. I am getting it a little from reading “Intellectuals and Power”. If the Real isn’t and essence and yet not nothing then what the hell is it being not a what or its opposite?”

        From my reading of him, at least, Laruelle does not ontologise the real. He puts the human-in-person as transcendently prior to being or becoming, not as a transcendent ground but as an axiomatic that is philosophically unjustifiable but necessary to end the reification of the human in accordance with this or that philosophical formation.

        From a philosophers perspective this is, of course, pure arrogance or a sort of madness and they respond much as the Pharisee did when Jesus made his audacious proclamation that “ The Law exists for Man and not Man for the Law”

        Here he is doing just that in one of my favourite passages:

        “Ordinary Man is thus stripped of qualities or attributes by a wholly positive sufficiency. He lacks nothing, not even philosophy. But that he is stripped of predicates does not mean that he is stripped of essence; on the contrary this is man in so far as he takes his essence from himself or more exactly from man, immediately, without it having been before an attribute. He does not owe it to History, to Biology, to the State, to Philosophy..” (Laruelle: From decision to Heresy, pg 48)

        We can, as individual singularities, place ourselves within this sufficiency and in that way evade capture by Authorities which try to reduce us to the status of mere predicate , as if Philosophy or the State or the Law could bring us somehow into being—which is exactly what philosophy tries to do; but the human-in-person is not reducible to the “being”of philosophy or its attributes; the human-in-person is a foreclosed unilateral to Authority in all its forms and need not bow her head in compliance.

        “If the Real in Laruelle is another way of discussing emptiness is he in danger of reification and so open to Nagarjuna’s criticism in MK 13.8: “The victorious ones have said that emptiness is the relinquishing of views. For whomever emptiness is a view, that one will accomplish nothing.”?

        I think there is always a danger of that, which is why we need to practive auto-critique at all times.

        Non- Buddhist practice is a sort of collider in which we can use contemporary thought to break open Nargarjuna s thinking, or the thinking of other Buddhist philosophers, in a new way.

        Feel free, by the way, to comment on the Non-Buddhist or just “lurk” and see how it strikes you.

        Keep your bullshit detector primed and in working order though

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  9. “And, I disagree that the appropriation of Buddhism through translation and transliteration into Western conceptuality is wrong or a misappropriation of one culture by another, etc.. ”

    You misunderstand my point…not that the appropriation is wrong, although I think , as far as western appropriation goes, it was not merely a case of cultural transmission but a wholesale attempt at domination and exploitation. Comparing it to the gradual interaction between neighbouring cultures over many centuries is stretching a point. But lets leave that aside for the moment.

    Contemporary Buddhism either denies this appropriation or misconstrues it. I think you need to make a closer study of the texts, institutions and and practices of contemporary Buddhism before you make general statements about the nature of transmission. Contemporary Zen is, for example, notoriously resistant to relinquishing its trope of direct mind to mind transmission from the Buddha to Bodidharma to some self professed Roshi residing in Boulder Colorado.

    My main point was that contemporary forms of western Buddhism are co-opted and commodified and function to produce a subject of late capitalism that is said be able, via meditative methodologies , to retreat from her precarious existence into some sort of ineffable mind state or ground of being. This possibility seems to me to be perfectly expressed by the last paragraph of your post on Zen.

    “Think of this: “If you leave a trace of your thinking on your activity, you will be attached to the trace.” The point is to leave nothing behind, to walk empty in the world. One is neither mirror nor lamp, but both at once: the traceless way of vanishing.”

    There are so many imponderables here: how can thinking and activity be separated in practice . Certainly not by accepting at face value the fact that Shunyru says one can. Why is attachment so bad and can we even exist in a state of non-attachment? How on earth is it possible to leave nothing behind. How can one walk empty? What are the cognitive or empirical referents of a statement like: “the traceless way of vanishing”

    “I’ll put it simply: one need not spend 24 hours a day being critical, and in fact many now assert it is this very “critical spirit” that you harp on that has in itself become the problem rather than the solution.”

    Ah perhaps that why you quoted so much from Shunyru…you were wearing your uncritical hat, as I suspected?

    Inserted into the decisional structure of Shunyrus iteration of Buddhism these statements do make “sense” to the Buddhist subject caught by the charism of either the Guru or his words. They are the cognitive material which along with the social practices of meditation, spiritual texts, ritual, music, dance, architecture, visual art, monastic institutions and follower/Guru relations, constitute a particular Buddhist world. On a more general level such unexamined ideas circulate in the culture to be used in all sorts of ways, which is another way of saying that this Buddhist world is permeable and exists in dependence on wider socio/economic structures and in a state of interdependence with other social worlds.

    “That notion of the world as a “discursive structure” is pure Idealism. Even Badiou and Zizek would laugh as such notions. That’s one reason they spent years discovering other paths out of Lacanian thought, because as dialectical materialists they realized that the Lacanian notion of the Unconscious being structured like a language is Idealism in its pure form. That’s one reason they spent years discovering other paths out of Lacanian thought, because as dialectical materialists they realized that is Idealism in its pure form.”

    Well I never mentioned Lacan, Badiou or Zizek or the “Lacanian notion of the Unconscious being
    structured like a language.

    “this notion of the Real never being reduced to signs or linguistic structures”

    Laruelle, I think, agrees with this formulation but has shown that both Badious reduction of ontology to mathematics and Lacans “unconscious structured like a language” are attempts to ontologise the real and bring it once more into the orbit of philosophy as the central arbitrator of the nature of the real. In place of this appropriation of the real by philosophy he proposes an axiomatic last instance or foreclosure of the real to philosophical thought. Taken out of the orbit of philosophy this axiomatic human -in-person is the condition for philosophy and not the other way around; it being the case that the human just is always subsumed to become one more predicate of the philosophical .

    Your last paragraph perfectly expresses philosophy’s manoeuvre to have the last word by making discursive statements about the impossibility of discursively capturing the real:

    “The Real is not structured, but is the formless world of the appearance as appearance – with no essence (eidos) behind the appearances, only the Idea in the appearance as appearance, as arising in the appearance: the concrete universal of Hegel rather than the real Idea of Plato.”

    It is this sufficient philosophy, which can even make the formless void a predicate of it philosophical knowing, which Laruelle seeks to disarm by insisting on a human-in-person who axiomatically escapes philosophical capture. In your statements about the ”formless void” you replicate not only the arrogance of philosophy but also of the Buddhist Pandita or Guru. The only difference is that you refrain from naming yourself as the actual manifestation of the void by power of inscribing yourself into your own version of non-discursive discursivity.

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    • Another thing the bugs the crap out of me is that 40 years ago there was no internet, and very little in the way of works translated into English; or, for that matter very many Buddhist teachers in every major city in the West to correctly teach. As a self-taught auto-didact with very little formal training in philosophy or anything scholarly I learned piecemeal what I know. So a lack of formal education probably is both a gift and a detriment. But that’s something I have to accept.

      I studied Northern Praying Mantis styles known as tángláng gōu, which descended from the various schools of the original Shaolin into the system of Wang Lang. After that the various offshoots through history down to my own master. In China it was known as Chan temples rather than what it became in Japan as Zen. But the same traditions prevailed. My teacher (Sifu) taught by rote of forms rather than some elaboration of philosophy or other modes of discursive practice. He offered books for us to read gleaned from what was available in English for us.

      So we had what we had, if it was D.T. Suzuki, and others like Shunryu, it’s what we were able to find through libraries and public sources. If it was inadequate so be it, but it was something that began the dialogue. I’m not sure how old you are, but at 64 I’ve tried to read as much as I can on a great many things. Yet, probably no more than 8000 or so volumes in my library… and, when I think of the tens of millions in the Library of Congress alone, not to mention that they publish almost 2 million more each year counting journals, periodicals, etc. I quit assuming I could ever master the world of discourse a long while ago. The notion of the Renaissance man who could know the learned and scholarly worlds of culture in our time is gone. We live in fragments and pieces of culture, or even various sub-cultures. So to denigrate someone for not being critical enough, or not knowing the literature of one’s contemporaries is a little bit much to expect. I know Continental and Analytical philosophy to a certain extent, and have taught myself many other things being autodidactic and polymathic to a point. But Buddhism is not my forte, and even my Master taught by example and the forms rather than some elaboration of textuallity. We practices the forms and patterns of the arts, rather than the philosophy. He believed one would attain the philosophy by way of practicing the ancient forms that had been passed down for thousands of years. He was the one that offered some of these works from Suzuki to me, but with the admonition that nothing is perfect knowledge in this world.

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  10. I can sign my name to everything in that comment. I’m 62, self-taught (except for a degree in fine art, which was a process of self-guided exploration with some imput from a mentor) I have no education in anything else, except for what I could get from books and short stints in leftist workshops in the seventies.

    “So to denigrate someone for not being critical enough, or not knowing the literature of one’s contemporaries is a little bit much to expect. ”

    “Well, I hope I didn’t do that. If I did apologies.

    Your experience in the martial arts and your relationship with your master is something I would be very interested in. I wonder why you refrain from speaking of it and why you never pursued Buddhist studies or meditation?

    There is a more positive side to the non-buddhist project— a determination to get to what might be some liberatory potential in Buddhism, a potential which Buddhism, as it has evolved in the west, has failed miserably to explore. In fact, as I tried to make clear, I think the exact opposite is true—Buddhism is complicit with capitalism in its determined quietism and has opted for the most demeaning and exploitative models of business entrepreneurship , both in its provision of meditation training and its publishing and online enterprises.

    I have no doubt that there is much in Shunyru that is useful. From my perspective, though, it needs to be radically recalibrated by being brought into contact with contemporary critical thought and the sciences. As for your experience with your master I can imagine there was much to be thankful for. It seems to me that, taking into account your writing here, he or you or both of you in collaboration did something right, if only because you are almost the diametrical opposite to the usual Buddhist , meditation or martial arts practitioner.

    It was in that spirit that I made my initial criticism. Perhaps I failed to make that clear enough.

    As for philosophy and critical thought I, like you, struggle with it as best I can. I find Laruelles work in particular ridiculously obscure but persist because I find something very useful in his idea of the axiomatic human- in- person;in a round-about-way it has some connection to the Buddhist tropes of original nature, non-conceptuality and the natural state, again with serious reservations about the predominance of a transcendent rather than immanent or materialist orientation.

    Having said that I have reservations about his sense of his own exclusivity, which ironically goes against the whole spirit of his non-philosophical project. His insistence on foreclosure of the real is, for me so important, that I tend to overlook some aspects of his thought. As for Badiou, lacan, Zizek and a host of other thinkers, modern and post-modern, I struggle with them all and, as Ari said, try to hack my own philosophical or non-philosophical stance, often in a state of great confusion.

    I am particularly taken by Badious notion of truth procedures and the way they might supplement a meditative practice or indeed a martial arts practice.

    Finally, can I end as I began , by complimenting on a wondrous collection of essays and post s I find entertaining and inspiring and a great resource for the likes of me.

    But, for Gods sake, next time you write on Zen give us the bad news as well as the good….please?

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    • Yep, I understand. I’ve read a couple of Laurelle’s works… but he just doesn’t speak to me. Of late I’ve been trying Bernard Stiegler’s works again… now I’ve finally been able to get through his The Decadence of Industrial Societies, but like many thinkers who have been influenced by Derrida he is so full of jargon from multiple linguistic roots, that his writing is both thick and opaque to the point you have to read him carefully and slow. That’s my problem… I began with Nietzsche who had such a command of language that he was able to say things simply and elegantly without all the excess use of jargon (which he would add to voluminous notes, rather than bore readers with). Maybe that’s what has always impressed me most is the ability to articulate a thought with the minimal of effort, aphoristically and with aplomb. One reason I like Descartes writing over his contemporary rationalists Leibniz or Spinoza was his sheer ability to clarify and render in simple yet elegant fashion a thought that almost anyone could with a minimum of linguistic understanding follow.

      Why do so many of our contemporary thinkers believe they must impress us with obtuse and overly intellectual jargon? To me it just enters an arcane and hermetic isolation from which no one is locked out rather than brought to some illuminated understanding. But that’s just me, of course.

      As for Buddhism… I guess that’s something I now will need to put to task on myself and add to a growing bucket list of philosophical endeavors to continue my adventure. In the end we are all hodge-podges of differing social, intellectual, personal, etc. influences. Nothing good or bad about this, just part of a life attending to the curiosity and activity of brain and hand. In fact I don’t think we’ll ever as human discover some universal path for all involved. At best we will always, hopefully, remain pluralistic and diverse. For me the skeptic Sexutus Empiricus said it best: “Life is an adventure and an inquiry, there are no solutions because there are only problems to be investigated. Solutions imply certitude, and we have none.” Some think this implies an infinite regression of uncertainty and doubt, when actually it just implies that there is always something in excess of our small minds to know and learn. None of us knows everything, if we did we’d be gods. And we know where that would lead…

      So, yes, if I ever post on Zen again… I just want do it. 🙂

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  11. Well, I tend to just grind on or chew away, like a dog with a bone. I wasn’t always like that which makes me think I should review where Ißm going with this blogging/writing business. Does polemic fit with dialogue? Whats the difference between holding something as true and dogmatism; when is the Buddhist trope of right speech just plain old compromise about what you actually feel and think.

    Believe it or not I care nothing for the cult of the text, even less for the cult of the word. Human beings are in excess of both.

    Anyway

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    • To me the word is just the place where sense and non-sense reveal themselves, not as concept but as life lived. I was rereading some of Basho’s poems (Haiku) today:

      Don’t imitate me;
      it’s as boring
      as the two halves of a melon.

      So simple, elegant; and, at the same time, mundane and ordinary. But isn’t that it? Isn’t the point of creativity to lead us back to our lives, our ordinary lives in the mundane, day to day activities, where for the most part we act unconsciously, automaton like; and, in this awakening of the power of poetic or conceptual revelation to once again make us realize that, yes – that’s it exactly: to wake up and be blessed by the truth of our ordinary lives, our lived moment, the traveling of this road that is our singularity?

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      • Thats a hard one for sure, mostly because I rarely finish a book or read one straight through…rather I dip into whatever I find useful in the context of my present moment preoccupation. In this way my reading and writing combine as one practice of thought… Its risky but ,for me at least, a good practice . I do it in public(a very small one for sure) as a way to risk more. Noting I I think or write is set in stone but is part of an evolution, often confused and incoherent ..it would be easy to “catch me out”.

        Shortly after reading “Nascent Speculative Non Buddhism” I exchanged my meditative practice for a practice of thinking and study. So I struggle against the hindrances that plague any “spiritual” practice–laziness, egotistical delusions of grandeur, boredom, confusion, wishful thinking etc. But I plough on much in the spirit of Zazen and its injunction ” when sitting, just sit”. When thinking I just think, when writing I just write. What for? As one Zen Master said: If there is an answer you may chop off my head. Anyway I will give your question some thought.

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  12. Patrick “If the Real in Laruelle is another way of discussing emptiness is he in danger of reification and so open to Nagarjuna’s criticism in MK 13.8: “The victorious ones have said that emptiness is the relinquishing of views. For whomever emptiness is a view, that one will accomplish nothing.”?

    I think there is always a danger of that, which is why we need to practive auto-critique at all times.

    Non- Buddhist practice is a sort of collider in which we can use contemporary thought to break open Nargarjuna s thinking, or the thinking of other Buddhist philosophers, in a new way.

    Feel free, by the way, to comment on the Non-Buddhist or just “lurk” and see how it strikes you.

    Keep your bullshit detector primed and in working order though

    Yes, I have been on the internet long enough to be even maybe at times overly suspicious of what I read. For a time I indulged the thought that you could be a sophisticated avatar created by S.C. I have read this blog long enough and know how imaginative he can be to know that this is not beyond the scope of the possible. Anyway, yes I will lurk for sure over at SNB. I have a similar question to S.C., good blogs to read are not the easiest to find do you have say a list of three great blogs to read whatever the content? I have for you a blog that might interest you here ( http://john-steppling.com/ ) if you appreciate thoughts on movies, theater and other subjects from a leftist perspective with a element of a presupposed Real. He does write at times on Buddhism and something like the Real is there in his theory/practice in theater. I could read it more often myself. When I do I always learn and pick up a train of thought to gestate and feed.

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  13. Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about myself. You might be interested in a few thoughts I had about my discussion with you which I posted here on our companion blog to the Non-Buddhist. You will need to scroll down a little to find my comment, which touches not on the content of our discussion but the feelings I was left with and a few thoughts about what they might indicate.

    https://scatternoteblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/how-modern-zen-turned-william-james-upside-down/

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    • I have a couple things to say. One is about expectations. You kept talking about contemporary Buddhism. For my part you have judged Suzuki and Nishida or the Kyoto School – for there were many others during those years for having tried to open a dialogue with Western philosophers and conceptuality. Why? Obviously this was the same as you and others are even doing now? If they miprisioned certain ideas, turned them to forms that altered the original message of traditional Buddhism is this bad? You speak of politics, war, all the terrible aspects of our present moment. Fine. You speak of these men and those like them as if they lived with their heads in the clouds (an Idealist derogation if there ever was one). Of course if we look back one remembers several Zen monks burned themselves alive in protest of the Viet Nam War here in the U.S. (San Francisco, NYC, etc.). Why all this animosity? Is this the way of your Buddhism? Or Non-Buddhism? As if the whole non-interventionist past of Buddhism were to be expunged as not political enough? Or, is there something else going on in your mind? Obviously I’m not current with Buddhist or as you suggest – x-Buddhism, a derogatory term from what you state on your blog. I’ll assume you attribute to me such epithets? I’ll assume there are those abroad that disagree with non-Buddhism as well, yes? So that there must be some strained relations and animosity hidden within your mind on that score? Either way we’ve learned something about each other…

      To me, no. Obviously 40 years ago when I studied and read these men, I did not have the critical apparatus that you and your current crop of – what do you call yourself, non-Buddhist? Such a stance didn’t exist, at least that I knew of. Judging those men seems a little erroneous for me, as if your stance is one of some moral high-ground; as if you had climbed back into a correct stance. Is there such a thing? Do things exist in a vacuum? Must ideas remain in some historical continuum, be traditions handmaid that we receive without questioning. Obviously not. You spout your critical disapproval of their stance. I have no clue of what you think of even earlier thinkers.

      As for the internet. You speak of talking to a ‘position’, rather than a person. I had no position. And, admittedly probably fell into a trap I didn’t even know existed, not knowing anything about you or you current crop of non-Buddhism. Suddenly those I learned from have become for you anathema and – as you put it, x-Buddhists. A term I doubt they would have relished, and probably would have argued against in their own way. You reduce them to William James. Nishida and others were more heavily influenced by existential thought in some ways that the pragmatism of James – or, his notions of experience.

      I also notice you attacked this empiricism. I’ll assume this is because you believe in ‘innate ideas’ and value intellect above experience? Since most of my own involvement in martial arts was by way of sense-data and experiential rather than intellectual learning and knowledge, not even close to Plato’s anamnesis, but rather through bodily repetition and conveyance of the patterns and forms of these ancient practices. And, along with it a slow and gradual conveyance of Zazen not through verbal, but praxis. It seems our conversation has been based on a partial unknowing on both our parts. You probably denigrate me for not knowing current critical thinking and thought in non-Buddhism and other current Buddhist knowledge and practices. Yes, you’d be right on that. But in my defense I can only say that the intricacies of the philosophy of the various schools of Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana, Najaruna, etc. were not something that I felt a need to pursue in my life. So yes you can criticize me for my lack of knowledge on that score, and for my lack of knowledge in current non-Buddhistic circles. But to blame me for being uncritical 40 years ago up to the time I was injured and retired from martial arts is another thing. What I learned was done in good faith, even if naïve – being a Westerner. I doubt my Master, who was taught in a Northern Shaolin Temple was taught under Japanese forms of Western Buddhism. Much different. You asked me why I didn’t open up about my personal experiences with him. Simple. They were personal so don’t feel that it is yours of anyone’s business. Why should I open parts of my personal life to ridicule, needlessly?

      Now that I’ve met you, read such as Tomac… I feel almost chagrined that so much was demanded and expected of me. For the judgment of not knowing what I did not know. So be it. Not much I can change in that regard. I can’t go back and relive my life. Unread the two Suzuki’s… their part of me now, for better or worse. If they made mistakes, so do we all.

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  14. Oh dear.. I think you are misunderstanding me again ..as for the content of our discussion I think we have said all there is to say. My point and the only reason I directed you to our site was share my FEELING that I had made a MISTAKE about my approach.

    “As for the internet. You speak of talking to a ‘position’, rather than a person.”

    What I meant by that was that , ON MY PART, I was acting as IF I was speaking to a position rather than a FELLOW HUMAN BEING and pointed out the DANGER of that. As for the post on Zen I did NOT direct your attention to that but asked you to scroll down,. You are, of course, welcome to take your “objections” up with the writer of the post. Im finished.

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  15. Please tell me you guys are leaving me the last word. I love the internet sometimes. It makes you want to cry and it makes you want to laugh. It can be such a tragic farce where you don’t know if you should cry or laugh. I am surprised this conversation has boiled down to feelings and arguing for a position seems too funny to take seriously just like the plague of trolls that hunts every corner of the internet some of which are very sophisticated. I am a veteran of countless flamewars. This is how I first socialized on the internet as a young adult and saw all kinds of trolls come and go. I cringe when I see people take a Stranger-subject’s inner and external life seriously when in the end we don’t know her better than a hole in the ground. Patrick, if you or Hickman tell me personal stuff about your real life do I take it seriously having just met you or not knowing you in real life? Of course not, I note it somehow, and if a fragment appears that seems that it can be applied in a generic science of uplifting subtraction then it is not going to be because it is a beautiful piece of the biography of a person’s life but because of its future as kerygmatic reason. This is the cold hard truth of distant secret communications isn’t? You were always right from the beginning of your comments on this thread. If it is a question of winning or losing a debate. It was obvious you won before it begin. Have you talked to him much? Sometimes of course he will know more about a subject than you do but when not he will just play the devil’s advocate, leading you on, and getting you to develop your thoughts better. It is win-win in this case. You develop your practice and experimental science and he learns. I learnt this in the last long exchange in the comment field that me and him had that ended with him laughing at the torture complexity with which I was expressing my thinking. His comments on Zen were obviously shit or too popular to a sophisticated reader of Asian philosophy. One of your friends said it was “kistchy”. That is it but I wonder if Sloterdjik is kistchy in the same way because of his great life changing encounter with Osho? You should have felt at ease responding sensing his lack of critical thinking on the subject. So I am surprised when you said that ” Although I was, at certain points, as angry as he seemed to be, I remained calm and met S,C Hickman’s anger with a sort of grinding down process of relentlessly presenting the “facts” as I saw them. In the end the dialogue was in danger of being broken off by either of us.” Huh? Any anger should have been that of contempt! and this kind of anger never requires any calming down because it can flow from a practice and its kerygmatic reason and is not based on any position to defend in consciousness because it is an inexorable wavelike fact firm like any axiom. Besides remember he was to some extent talking to me or trying to get me to talk right? Then you entered the conversation and he was talking to both at the same time. When he mentioned the Praying Mantis crap and his guru or master for me it had nothing of interest regarding a master-disciple relationship on the contrary it evokes headless organizations that Bataille and his friends called acephalic. In my first discussion with him where I mentioned Nagarjuna (In Arnau’s book that I mentioned above) to him the Praying Mantis came up as an example of one of the insects that Arnau mentioned that changes according to its environment that for Arnau illustrates Naganjuna’s understanding of emptiness. Here is what I wrote ” To get across how it works as a descriptive pointer of impermanence or the flux of things he uses the metaphor of an insect that changes itself according to its environment. Mostly this is for defensive purposes but it can be an offensive strategy depending on the angle you look like in an anamorphic image. He has read French philosophy so I took him to be referring to Callois’ article on the praying mantis that he would have discussed with people like Bataille and Blanchot. Callois understood mimicry as a kind of luxury that could be spent without getting anything from it. So it can be said to be a sort of refrain between the human and non-human that dispossesses or expropriates the human understood as a narcissistic consumerist subject to be trusted with credit. A refrain is like a lullaby or the repetition of a phrase that allows us to avoid, re-frain from a possible danger or anxiety. ” The full comment is here https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/gateway-to-the-real-lovecraft-ligotti-and-the-inhuman/

    You know that one of the people Hickman does not have a shallow knowledge of is Bataille. And is isn’t Bataille one of the great fathers of gnostic Marxism where struggle becomes a form of non-knowledge outside that taking of subjective positions on this and that? There is more to the praying mantis reference than that shit he is talking about between him and his master. He doesn’t give a fuck about masters.

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    • “He doesn’t give a fuck about the masters.” How true she speaks… and, yes, Ari you can have the last word. This is a mere acknowledgement of your adept reading:

      I agree, and, yes – “proto-Gnostic” fairly well sums up most of postmodern anti-realism to a tee, with Baudrillard as its Manichean outrider and Bataille as the primo mobile of the Archontes invasion from the base materialist installation or platform. And, I agree, why fall into the trap of the sluggishness of a mind that settles down wherever it happens to find itself, or the indolence that doesn’t want to learn things afresh, or the belligerence with those of a good-humored submission to the power and the delight in serving, or those who slide into the warm, damp brooding over thoughts, wishes… more a provocateur as you suggest who teases out of the other the thoughts they seek to make visible in their own vision. In the end I’m guilty on all accounts, not a guilt of shame, but one of that Joycean indifference of the author-god who remains distant and above pairing his fingernails, neither oblivious to the reckonings and goings on around him, but neither enmeshed or bound by their enframing. Yet, as always willing to enter the game for the other, allow them to play out their part, as I play – as you suggest, the Devil’s advocate.

      Anger? How can one be angry on the web… troll? this is a long ways from that ironic distempered insidiousness… in most I agree in the end with Patrick, who sees in these early renditions of Western Buddhism a failure… and, of course my bodily training in the martial arts was not specific to the philosophy underpinning it. I’ve said as much. So no moralism from an immoralist here… I bow to Patrick’s assured scholarship, since in that area as Ari suggests, I’m quite ignorant of current theory.

      Like anyone else I am left with my own ignorance… all my words are but the measure of what? Never having labeled myself philosopher my ideas concerning them is personal as it should be… those who come here will not find an academic scholar, even if I’m scholarly and well-read in certain specific areas as Ari points out. Poet, maybe… essayist… probably… but I’ll not bolster my ego beyond. I have too much respect for those who do abide in those worlds for that… a Socratic ironist… assuredly. Seeking to know and understand my ignorance I question everything. And, like those old Skeptics, even my own certitudes… Am I full of shit, sometimes? Probably…

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