Thursday, 4 March 2010

I Ought to Tell You Something

I sure wish I knew what it was. This refrainment from doing so is seriously messing me up.

It actually probably won't be you specifically who's the answer to all my troubles, but, as you're here as the elected representative of the Society of People Who Are Not Me, I shall practice communing incoherently with the universe through you. Consider it a sacrifice in the name of science.

Metaphysics. It's definitely got something to do with metaphysics. More specifically with the connotations that the word "metaphysics" has for me, surprisingly jaded considering I spent all my life as a devout Jew and only stopped once I became a devout Taoist. I feel like I ought to explain myself if I say something unscientific. I can kind of see where it came from but not really where it got so intense. I am more than willing to hear this kind of talk but I am terrified of creating it.

I very rarely talk with anybody about anything. Ever since 13 or so, I've moved from being pointedly quiet through being inconspicuously quiet through reciting sentences calculated to get me through conversations with the impression of being friendly all the way to this strange place I'm at now of talking with people truly unfettered, but with a draconian self-censorship so extreme it renders all conversations virtually meaningless.

I am excited about Taoism. The previous sentence is simply not something I can picture myself saying in any context outside this blog and my family. This is an impossible situation. You cannot be timid in your religion, and it is a religion - I'm not even close to kidding.

I've tried to build my confidence in it through a "scientific" examination of its core text that is being delayed for annoying, prosaic reasons, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but my adoption of Taoism shouldn't be contingent on my completion of a scientific project - or, more precisely, as the fact is it isn't, regardless of whether this is "wise" or not, I shouldn't pretend that it is, I shouldn't be afraid of saying out loud "I am excited about Taoism". Even "I think you too should become a Taoist". It's not a political statement; nobody's going to get harmed if I'm wrong - the only problem with it is the risk some people will respond in a way I do not consider respectful.

Now, when people show disrespect towards something that is backed up scientifically, it is easy to show to yourself and often to them and anybody else who's watching, what idiots they are. Because stupidity, presumably, invalidates a judgement. We live in a (appropriately, I think) science-worshipping time and culture, so this is comprehensively accepted and so if I prove a person's irrationality I win.

But what's the big deal about winning? I would maintain that maliciousness and narrow-mindedness and arrogance do far more to invalidate an opinion than deviations from scientific standards, even if this view is far less widely held. We all reject what is disrespectful of the scientific method, but what I'm talking about here is disrespect for people. If mocked, I may not be able to conclusively demonstrate that this mockery is the result of misinformation and faulty reasoning and general incompetence, but I can tell the person, or even just myself, that he's being a sack of shit and hasn't got a leg to stand on, because mockery by definition hasn't got a leg to stand on. It's a technique resorted to by infants of all ages when they want to criticise something for whatever reasons and have no actual arguments with which to back themselves up. It's actually a battle you can't lose at, no matter how feeble your metaphysical speculation or remark. It will never be wrong for you to say it, so long as you don't attribute any non-existent scientific value to it.

My eyes are drooping so I'll finish up. I ought to tell you how much and in what ways I am excited about Taoism. I haven't really gotten into it yet, but Taoism is really far less about itself than about people and the world and essentially respect for what exists. I ought to not be held back by scientific assessments of what I want to say. I ought to share with you specific examples and general riffs on life and the universe, instead of examining and explaining why I don't, or at least in addition. I ought to do this all the time and with all people I see of my own volition. Specific examples maybe not, but riffs? We talk about what interests us. If something interests me then it is at least possible it will interest someone else.

I've just gone through a few of my previous posts and it seems I keep revisiting this concept of science-reliance, under different guises. I don't want to be boring, incoherent, pretentious, ridiculous, smug, offensive, unfamiliar, impractical, or generally "wrong". The solution to all of these things is a strict reasonableness, but none of these things is actually a problem. "Smug" and "offensive" come closest, but if I'm expressing excitement about something then these characterisations are simply imagined, mostly by me and possibly also by other owners of overactive imaginations. We'll all have to get over it.

Sorry about this post, but writing these really is good for me.


  1. Hey man,

    Firstly, thanks for all the interesting thoughts, songs and clips you've been putting up here. It's been great to check these posts out and lose myself in questions of communication, self-identity, the way our preconceived notions of other people's opinions of us can shape the way we'll act when they're in front of us, the way we deem ideal to behave when no-one's in front of us, point in case - Taoism. I know nothing about it, but I just recently started reading about hinduism and how they use yoga to connect to the universe rather than to the personal unattained desires, ignorance and immortality that otherwise encompasses our life. And then I saw a documentary on SBS that tested the affects of Meditation (of the compassionate, lovingkindness kind) and showed it resulted in a measurable increase in happiness after only 8 weeks on the test group (and not the control group who didn't do it). Now I also once saw a documentary about 'spontaneous human combustion' and am not so sure of how much these actually conform science, but they sure as hell have got me wanting to try it out. Something i was wondering when reading your blog, is whether you are excited about taoism in the way that i'm excited about the idea of meditation (i.e. it seems that it can add real value to your life) or is it more like being vegan (i.e. it's something that will make the world a better place if everyone followed) or if it's something that seems to just be true and is a worthy candidate for 'the meaning of life on earth' as the ideal religious person would deem their religion to be?

    P.S. Been working our way down 'the list'. The squid and the whale was an interesting one. In an unrealistic sort of way, looking at kids becoming their parents, philosopher's being stuck-up, how life-long impressions you have of people can completely change with one realisation, and how strange kids can act. Weird, but i liked it.

  2. Thanks for the reply. My interest in Taoism stems pretty much from the same things that attract you in Hindu meditation, which, in fact, interests me as well and we should probably both get started on it in some way or another.

    Taoism also lays a claim to improving the world vegan-style, but personally I think it's fairly limited in that respect. Taoism is very much (though not as much as the Indian religions) about breaking from rationality, which is the basis of morality, or at least the scientific, democratic, human-rights Western kind.

    So I think that you need to balance between adding quality to your life with Taoism and pursuing moral goals with, basically, science. Taoism would, however, have you loving the world and its inhabitants, which is probably halfway towards a moral existence already.

    Taoism isn't the same as meditation, though, and neither is Hinduism, for that matter. I know I'm stating the obvious, but I'm trying to say that these things see themselves as religions - i.e. as comprehensive systems to do with going about your day and life, as opposed to meditation which is a single exercise. If you find yourself relating to Hinduism you should probably read Bhagavad Gita for me and tell me if it's any good. I tell myself I'd do it if I weren't taken aback by some of Hinduism, but the truth is I just don't get my act together.

    The Squid and the Whale is certainly stuffed with themes. I wrote in a few posts already about being pretentious, but that film probably more than any other seems to me to be about the essence of pretentiousness. I like how it actually treats the subject seriously - with a sense of humour but also with compassion - I know what's called "pretentiousness" has, sort of is and to a great extent probably will be a major part of my life. You can't help feeling self-important when you're dealing with and getting excited about things other people don't get interested in. I think the main thing is just to not actually buy into it. There's no problem with being hoity-toity so long as you don't actually fall in love with yourself. For more on this theme, check out Rushmore. I don't know if that movie was on the list I sent you.