A World of Patterns and The Limit of Language

In computer science, divide-and-conquer is a common technique applied in both practical programming and abstract algorithm to solve complex problems efficiently. In other words, a complex problem is continuously and/or recursively broken down to simple workable chunk to be managed, manipulated, and calculated individually, and finally re-combined to get a solution for the original problem. What a wonderful tactic!

Well well, does that sound kind of familiar? Maybe. Maybe not. I find it quite similar to the way we do things in life.

As humans, to make sense of life, to navigate through human community/society, and also for convenience, we break down reality into small chunks.

In nutshell, with our scientific mind, our logical mind, we analyze reality, break it down into “things” and give “things” names through words/language. As society and civilization become more and more complex, so more “things” and words are developed, and we begin to put many “things” and words together to develop patterns.

So in the beginning, there is reality but no thing.
Then we created things with language.
Then we create patterns of life with things and language.

And as days go by, we create more and more things, more and more words, and more and more patterns. And we are still going at creating more!

Patterns are like boxes.

So now, we are all given birth, and as we grow up, our parents and society would put us in boxes… and we grow up to put ours in boxes (perhaps some newly created ones)

Oh, you must be an upstanding citizen. Patriot who protects the countries. Muslim who worships Allah. Christian who preaches in the name of Jesus. You must be successful. You must make others happy. You are to love your parents. You should never lie. You must not have sex before marriage. You must obey the filial piety according to Confucius. You will become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, hedge fund manager or whatever. Work hard and you will succeed. Eat non-fat and you will be healthy. You need to get married, have a family, and have kids. Max out 401k and IRAs and you can retire. Oh my oh my! Boxes!

So you may be thinking now, “Are you saying we need to destroy and abolish “things”, words, and all patterns of life?” My answer is, “No”.

So what am I trying to get at?

My point is we are missing the point of living the whole way along. It is almost like we used divide-and-conquer without ever re-combining the simple workable chunks, but instead, keep on dividing the chunks into smaller chunks… On top of that, we completely forget the original problem we wanted to solve.

Surely, we all choose to live however we want. Here, I am entertaining the idea that there could be a more favorable experience of living. More specifically, to get better in touch with reality, and hence lead to the result of being able to find harmony with ourselves and our environment.

We have forgotten that we had created things, words, and patterns from the very beginning to navigate reality but they are not the reality. Yes, they are now part of our human reality but still, not THE reality.

Think of it this way, when you see a banana, you can call or think of it as banana. But if you don’t know the word, “banana”, is the banana still reality, or is it not?

You know it.

Reality is more than just words and patterns. When we lack the words and patterns to label and define parts of reality, it does not mean it is not reality!

And so we miss the point.

Us modern people since industrialization, let our logical minds completely dominate, to the point where, words and patterns ARE reality. When reality is something outside of the realm of our words and patterns, we get completely insecure and to make us feel alright again, we invent new patterns to try to force things the way we like, and if unsuccessful, we twist and bend words to conceal and cover the reality. That is, in a most simple example, we would deny a banana is there if we lack the word to call it.

As such, we are often either in denials, or in complete ignorance of reality to do what we need to do as real solution.

We take our patterns too literally. We take ourselves too seriously. Seriously!

Therefore, instead of tips, techniques, or methods, I write what I do here — mostly for my own enjoyment but also — it will be much more substantial for each of us to shift our fundamental attitude of life, of reality to bring about real change.

If I shall put it more strongly, beyond the limit of our rules and language, lies truth and enlightenment.

The one crucial step, to mature as a human being, to become wise, and probably even to enlightenment (if you are so inspired) is to learn the patterns but be able to set them asides, knowing that they are artificial.

Do no abandon words and patterns. Do not fight them. To make use of the patterns (as our original intent of creating them), we just need to re-understand them as patterns. As invention for our own convenience, words and patterns — developed through thoughts and conveyed by words — make good servants but poor masters.

Originally posted 2009-11-18 00:07:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Before and After that BP Oil Spill Reveals

First of all, I don’t think we should still use the word “leak” for this BP… event. Nor the word “spill” would be appropriate nor sufficient, seeing that oil is GUSHING out at an incredible rate undersea. I thought about “oil stampede” but a friend suggested “oil rush” which sound quite a bit more catchy.

I had said before that when I read current events that I do not focus so much on the specifics of THE event where instead, my desire is to observe the underlying trend of the present time. Here I share the observed trends in the before and aftermath that are common in our culture and society now revealed in the BP “oil rush”.

Trend in the Before — Rushing to “the End”

Beyond all the investigation and quips and quibbles coming out of people’s mouth, the bottom line is so clear that these executives and businessmen have their eyes only on the money at the end. Thus, I shall say with almost 100% certaintay that — they had rushed the construction and drilling of at the oil rig, where processes and workers efforts are rushed and skipped to finish NOW to get the rig drilling.

A rushing mentality can only mean that things are never done right. If I am to build an oil rig like that with such potential disaster, I’d be damn sure to have 5, 10 safety locks and backups to prevent disasters, if not 50. These BP guys put ONE safety mechanism in, and it does not even work. That speaks a lot by itself. Yeah yeah?

And they rush for what? Profit of course. And indeed, they are not alone. This rushing mentality to get things done NOW (for the sake of profits) is pervasive even in all other fields, software, financial, manufacturing, etc. No, and indeed no, no one strives for quality, and so no one seems to do things right (without unintended consequence because intention is off from the very beginning!).

And Of course, we are on a quest to destroy the distance and continuance of time and space in order to instantly satisfy ourselves of all desires… but most the time, for sake of money :)

Trend in the After — Inability to Take Responsibility

Nope, I do not mean this in the sense that someone needs to come out and accept the consequence for this “oil rush”, though it would be nice.

I mean taking responsibility in that we humans all involved have yet collectively come together to do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to stop further damage to natural habitats from day one. BP what with all their effort labeled with dumb names — top hat, hot tap, top kill, junk shot, etc. — and even dumber results, and also the government is taking their good time. Further, these people seem to spend more time shedding blame and pointing fingers and calculating economic damage than REALLY getting this whole thing fixed.

And so this is the age we have come to. An age where monetary growth trumps all. An age where humans bathe in the glamor and glory of technology. As if gold plated, but only to be slowly rotting from the inside out. I would like to coin the term the Golden Dark Age.

After all, there is one more trend, and that comes from the echo that claims we need to have more regulations for deep sea drilling, and all other things including regulations on the financial industry.

Such naivete for us to have such trust in laws and having more of them. I shall elaborate next time.

Originally posted 2010-06-14 22:39:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Why No Way is the Way

A way can be said to be a predefined set of pattern or behavior.

It has been a long time that our various social structures and cultural patterns base on our mutually exclusive definition of good and evil, right and wrong have done us well. That is great. However, it is about time for us to move beyond.

Impermanence IS the only absolute of nature, as base on the fundamental teaching of Buddhism and also base on the fundamental understanding in physics.

Time is changing. As we relentlessly continue to develop technology that accelerates the speed for which we and our society change, the more so that any pre-defined set of pattern and behaviors are to become obsolete. That is to say, it is very likely that pre-existing ways will have less and less benefits and more more harms the longer we hold on to it.

In a state of chaos, no predefined patterns, no premeditated thoughts can help us.

That is why having “no way” is the only way to behave suitably as time proceeds from here on. It has never been more true.

Having no way does not mean to fight and to abolish any existing way. Quite oppositely, having no way means MORE so that we need to study and fully understand all, or at least as many as possible, existing ways that we know of. But without being attached, as in clinging to any particular one of them…. only then, we can spontaneously apply a suitable way that maybe one or more of the pre-existing ways in combination, or create a new one, in any particular situation.

And this is only possible if you don’t cling on to a specific way.

Understand both what are defined as “right” and “wrong”… and know that at any time, “right” could become “wrong” and “wrong” could become “right”. Seeing sides without taking side.

This may seem very dangerous and foreign to our mind conditioned to follow patterns of behavior in the last few thousands of years. It is in-arguable that we have the brains to move beyond that.

That is the kind of mentality, living attitude that more and more mankind needs if we are to live harmonically among ourselves and with our environment.

That is the kind of world leader we need, even just as people with influence.

Bruce Lee’s JKD is actually of no particular style. It has its basic routines, training patterns. Many of those may have been drived from Wing Chun or any other style that Bruce Lee studied, and they are good starting point. But you should not be restricted by any of them. He did not even want to call JKD as JKD if he can get by without words.

We have to be able to move beyond all the ways that we have.

As the “no-mind” teaching in Zen, it means for us to go beyond our mind. Reality lives beyond our thinking, our logical intelligence. This is also why the only thing a Zen master really ever does is either destroy all your existing concepts and ideas — including what you think of Zen, or if he thinks you are close, directly points you to the “no-mind” state of being and perception.

To deal with reality optimally, we need no-mindedness and make no-way the way.

Then of course, this choice cannot be made up in the mind as a decision like we usually do, but instead it is a choice that is to known by our heart.

Originally posted 2010-08-23 23:33:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Be a Student for Life

Can any human being know everything there is to know? No, I doubt it. If there’s someone like that, he or she has been hunted and captured by one of the most powerful nations on earth by now. Since we know there is no such person, then it means we can learn something new everyday. In fact…

To keep on learning should be a top priority in life.

More so is the fact that our society is structured in a way that people who don’t learn much will suffer consequences. If you don’t know how things operate, you are likely to get scammed. How’s that for a motivation to learn? (this is half truth, half joking…)

Despite all that, what often happens is that we simply stop learning. Perhaps we finished school. “Oh, I got my master/PhD, I’m all set…” Or maybe because of a much inflated ego. Or we become lazy and comfortable because we can “get by” without learning.

But that’s not who we are. We are all capable being a student for life.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
– Douglas Adams

Having the Desire to Learn

To learn you must first have the desire to learn. There is no other way around it. You need a desire to understand how things work in this world. You need the curiosity to find out why. It also means humbleness, humility, open-mindedness, and awareness.

People who are arrogant rarely learn. People who get defensive easily rarely learn. People who focus only on themselves rarely learn.

You must throw away those habits and acknowledge that you don’t know everything. It’s the truth. It’s not that hard to accept, right?

The Idea of True Learning

You may ask, “Why do I need to learn?”

Learning builds on top of the desire for improvement. True learning happens when you actually practice what you learn, you take action to change for the better for yourself, for others, or even for the world. Seriously, knowledge is power. You only get this power, if and only if you learn, and if and only if you practice the knowledge you learn.

Studying vs. Learning

We have an education curriculum that involves an endless amount of homeworks, tests, and quizzes for students. Students study and study. They memorize facts after facts. Meanwhile they have no clue why they are studying their butts off besides the vauge idea that it’s “good” for them and also the security of future jobs.

This is totally lame because few ever learn. They may study, but they don’t learn. Worse yet, as soon as school is over, not only there’s no learning, the studying stops too. Even worse than that, this has become a prolific behavior such as…

…personal finance junkies, personal development junkies. They read books after books, blogs after blogs. And then they talk about all the ideas and concepts in saving, investing, 20-days self-improvement, etc. which simulates students reciting the monologue of Hamlet. Meanwhile, they never practice a single word coming out of their mouths. Which begs the question “Why?” because at least the students may sound artistic reciting “To be, or not to be: That is the question…”

…”religious” people. They recite old scriptures and tell others about all the rules in their particular religion. Meanwhile, their action demonstrate no understanding of the philosophy of the religion, such as proclaimed Buddhists who burn incense, sacrifice food, and kneel down to pray and who also reveal little understanding of Buddhist philosophy in their speech, way of life, and (lack of) compassion. Same goes for the people who act differently inside and outside of church/monastery. I am not attacking religion. Rather, I am simply stating an observation of behaviors of self-proclaimed religious people.

That is why it’s important to keep in mind the idea of true learning – learn and then practice what you learn.

Lower Your Defense to Learn

Pay attention to the voice in your head when you listen to others and even when you are reading. Is that voice constantly disagreeing? Trying to defend your stance? Do you feel attacked? And therefore the mind shuts down reception?

Try to be open-minded when you read.
Try to be compassionate when others speak.

Learning from Failure

A great opportunity to learn is when we make mistakes and when we fail. Do you simply fold and hide? Do you decide to never to try again? Do you forget your goal? Indeed, giving up is much easier than learning from failure because it means to acknowledge you have failed. Naturally, it’s not a pleasnt thing to do. However, it is most important for you to do otherwise – accepting your failure. Only with such acceptance, you can fully be calm and aware to observe what went wrong and appreciate the lesson of the mistake. As a result, you will certainly improve next time, even if just slightly.

Learning for Your Own Sake

There are so many specialized fields in our society that a 60GB Ipod cannot hold a rap song with all the names. That’s the nature of our society. And it is a big reason to motivate us to learn. It has become a responsibility to learn about things you deal with everyday.

Think about your own finance. Certainly you can hire an accountant and a financial adviser to handle your money, but let me ask you, “Who cares most about your money?” It’s none other than yourself. That’s why you should spend time and effort to learn how to handle your own money, learn to open high yeidl saving accounts, learn to invest and grow your money, learn about taxes, learn about the financial tools out there. And don’t say you are too busy because if you are, someone will take your money.

Besides personal finance, the idea to learn for your own sake also applies to your health. Sure, you can hire a trainer, but who cares most about your own body? Right, it’s none other than yourself again. Your trainer could be a sincere, helpful trainer or he/she could be a jerk whose eyes only on your money. I’ve literally seen a trainer on a track field teaching inappropriate exercise to beginners, and another one telling people to do this and that while his sorry ass is on the bench the whole time. I sure hope they have found new trainers by now.

For your money, health, and your own sake, spend some time and effort to learn.

Peace is what you get when you know how things work

Learning how things work in this world will help you see thing as it is. How do I mean?

Let’s say you somehow got ripped off by store selling an item. You could get ragingly mad. Yell and scream and curse the ocean of anger out. But will it accomplish anything besides putting stress on your own body?

Instead, you can understand the ecnomics behind it. The store’s goal is to benefit itself financially. With this understand, you can negotiate with the store in such a way that will benefit both of your and reach a resolution.

This is a simple hypothetical scenario, but it demonstrate the difference between learning vs. not learning, knowing the why vs. not knowing the why, and peace vs. no peace. As Dalai Lama said, “Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.”

Non-stop Learning is Awareness

I always talk about awareness. It’s the single basis of Zen, Buddhism, and Enlightenment. To always be able to learn is to always be aware. Awareness is the observer of life, above our thoughts and emotions. Awareness is a pure presense that’s always in us, but mostly forgotten and neglected when we get conditioned as if thoughts and emotions are what we are. When thoughts and emotions get in the way, we stop being aware and we stop learning.

I like what Charlie Crews in Life (NBC) once said:

I investigate things to complete my knowledge.
My complete knowledge makes my thoughts sincere.
My thoughts being sincere, my heart is pure.

For which the original text came from Confucius, if you care:

The men of old, when they wished their virtues to shine throughout the land, first had to govern their states well. To govern their states well, they first had to establish harmony in their families. To establish harmony in their families, they first had to discipline themselves. To discipline themselves, they first had to set their minds in order. To set their minds in order, they first had to make their purpose sincere. To make their purpose sincere, they first had to extend their knowledge to the utmost. Such knowledge is acquired through a careful investigation of things. For with things investigated knowledge becomes complete. With knowledge complete the purpose becomes sincere. With the purpose sincere the mind is set in order. With the mind set in order there is real self discipline. With real self discipline the family achieves harmony. With harmony in the family the state becomes well governed. With the state well governed there is peace throughout the land.

In the end, the gist of it is, if you truly want to learn, you will learn. There is a Buddhist Proverb, “When the student is ready, the master appears.” Everything I have said is aimed to trigger the “want” in you to learn. You have to do the real work of learning yourself.

Originally posted 2008-03-11 22:58:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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