Work and play have been keeping me from this blog. That will change, the sooner the better. Until then, here’s what I’ve been thinking about:
What is the role of humanistic knowledge and information if they are not to be unknowing (many ironies here) partners in commodity production and marketing, so much so that what humanists do may in the end turn out to be a quasi-religious concealment of this peculiarly unhumanistic process? A true secular politics of interpretation sidesteps this question at its peril.
— Edward Said, “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community”
Though I am not interested in a politics of interpretation, I am interested in a secular politics. Perhaps I believe the two are incompatible.
Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.
— Heart Sutra
True words are not ‘beautiful.’
‘Beautiful’ words are not true.
Those who know are not ‘widely learned.’
The ‘widely learned’ do not know.
The good do not have much.
Those who have much are not good.
The Sage accumulates nothing.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Way of Heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Way of the Sage is to serve without competing.
Dao De Jing Verse 81
Contrary to most amateur readings of Buddhist and Daoist tenets I’ve seen (I don’t read the professionals), my sense is that they don’t at all consider ‘harmony’ to be easy or automatic. Of course, I can only refer to my own tiny inroad into (the very different) Buddhism and Taoism, but it seems evident that much as ‘Being’ might be the central problem for Greek philosophy and its offspring (whether through the logic of sympathetic resemblance or identity and difference), Harmony is rather what these texts are about; it is their organizing problem. The reactionary conservativism and historical fatalism that seem to be their general political tenor is a consequence. But another consequence is the rejection of ‘the Being of Being’ or ‘Being’s being-for-itself’ as a false problem however much it is also a inevitable one, whose solution is its negation. The real question for positive knowledge is the relentlessly practical one of appropriate relations. The effect of meditation on Being is the foreclosure of any logic of Being, and the ‘utility’ of philosophy is its own self-abnegation. I believe this point is what continues to sustain my interest in these practices, and how I might one day justify my frivolous, Orientalizing indulgences.