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But actually, no.

Sometimes something comes to you in a "wisdom" package, and you're conditioned to nod humbly and say yes, yes, I see, but sometimes, if you (or in this case, I) stop and think for a moment, the wisdom seems completely bogus.

Case in point, this, which is apparently from Swami Satchidananda (but I don't know who that is ... yes, I know I can Google it. I probably will, at some point)

“What is it that dies? A log of wood dies to become a few planks. The planks die to become a chair. The chair dies to become a piece of firewood, and the firewood dies to become ash. You give different names to the different shapes the wood takes, but the basic substance is there always. If we could always remember this, we would never worry about the loss of anything. We never lose anything; we never gain anything. By such discrimination we put an end to unhappiness.

No. I have way different relationships with planks of wood, a chair, firewood, and ash. WAY DIFFERENT! You might as well say that all of us are made up of electrons and protons and neutrons, so we're interchangeable. Maybe so, at the subatomic level. But that's not the level at which we experience the world. If a chair gets turned into firewood, you bet I'm going to mourn the chair! And when the firewood is gone and all I have is ash, I'm going to be sad, too--and I'm going to need more firewood, because you can't burn ash. So no, Swami Satchidananda, I disagree with your logic here entirely, and this thought experiment does *not* put an end to unhappiness.

So there.



( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
This is why I adore you, and why I wished you lived next door so we could spend a few minutes every morning or every evening talking about the many lenses through which we can choose to see the world.
Jul. 25th, 2016 07:49 pm (UTC)

Thanks for indulging me in my irritable rant!
Jul. 25th, 2016 09:48 pm (UTC)
and I'm going to need more firewood, because you can't burn ash.

Jul. 26th, 2016 12:19 am (UTC)
I think if the takeaway had been "things change form; nothing stays the same," that would have been one thing, but the notion that somehow we should be happy because conservation of matter and energy ... no. It's basically just restating reality and asking us to like it.

ETA: I mean, much of reality is plenty likable. But much of it isn't.

Edited at 2016-07-26 12:19 am (UTC)
Jul. 25th, 2016 10:26 pm (UTC)
There are so many messages...I guess we accept the ones that we are the most comfortable with and which "take". I too find so many philosophical messages completely meaningless as far as I am concerned. In the existential supermarket, we choose the aisle and the brand we like the most....

(LJ friends feed "opened up" just now!)
Jul. 26th, 2016 12:21 am (UTC)
It's nice to have the confidence now to just dismiss the ones I don't want to engage with. There is no requirement that I accept any philosophy I don't want to! So freeing. (... I admit it probably does me good to at least think about things that people offer up. But it's okay to say no after giving it some thought.)
Jul. 25th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
There were soooooooo many "wise" conversations that I tiptoed away from during the seventies. This sounds like one of them.
Jul. 25th, 2016 10:50 pm (UTC)
Worse, some writers go and put such wisdom in the mouths of their sages to show off their sagacity. . . .

Sages are really hard to write right. I still remember the book I put down because the main character wrote the same sort of sophomoric drivel that I did when I was a teen, and while the character had the same excuse I did, the author was trying to use it to show off her wisdom.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 12:28 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 12:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mnfaure - Jul. 28th, 2016 11:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 28th, 2016 10:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 12:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nipernaadiagain - Jul. 26th, 2016 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachelmanija - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachelmanija - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 25th, 2016 11:28 pm (UTC)
I think that particular Profound Wisdom (gong sound) is interesting and useful in two respects:
(1) as a reminder of the opportunity cost involved in creation-- original materials are destroyed in being transformed,
(2) as a woo-woo and not entirely successful parable of non-grasping. (I love non-grasping.)

You are so right that a plank is not a chair, and so on.

I think the smug Wisdoms I loathe most are the ones about how you determine your own mood, your own possibility, and so on. So far I have refrained from saying "So would you have told that to someone in a Nazi concentration camp? Would you say it to an enslaved person? Someone imprisoned at Guantanamo? A cjild in a Westboro Church family? So many more?"

Jul. 26th, 2016 12:31 am (UTC)
I can understand that it was attempting to say something about nongrasping, but yes: not entirely (or, for me, even a little) successful. ... The essay tutor in me feels that the conclusions don't fit with the examples. The examples are about change and opportunity cost, as you say (the grain of wheat must die to become the plant, etc.), but the conclusions are that therefore nothing is lost and that we should be happy. But something IS lost.

(no subject) - rachelmanija - Jul. 26th, 2016 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachelmanija - Jul. 26th, 2016 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 26th, 2016 03:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 1st, 2016 11:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachelmanija - Aug. 2nd, 2016 02:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 3rd, 2016 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaebi - Jul. 26th, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 25th, 2016 11:35 pm (UTC)
Sometimes, what is wise in one context is foolish in another. That's the problem with words of wisdom, especially in our soundbite- and tweet-driven world, these days. So much is simply spouted without context and repeated ad infinitum. Without context, all wisdom becomes drivel.

And, there you go. What I just wrote above seems to me to be just about the same drivel. Perhaps I should stick them on a graphic and share them to be passed around the internet with the hashtag nocontextforyou. (Carefully avoided actually using said hashtag.)
Jul. 26th, 2016 12:33 am (UTC)
You're very right: things are often taken out of context--"wise quotes" especially--and often things make much more sense if you do have the context. For one thing, often the claims to profundity are smaller.

And what you wrote wasn't drivel in the least!
(no subject) - pdlloyd - Jul. 26th, 2016 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2016 01:02 am (UTC)
A lot of philosophies/religions make these kinds of gross oversimplifications, which is why my skeptic flag stays flying high.
Jul. 26th, 2016 03:03 am (UTC)
Yep, definitely.
Jul. 26th, 2016 08:50 am (UTC)
I so commiserate... Loathe oversimplification repackaged and marketed as "wisdom". So here's another take on it:

The worm has no wish to be eaten, even if it turns into a bird. The bird has no wish to die and be turned into soil fertilizer. The tree, if it could speak, would tell you to bug off and stop cutting it into firewood. The fire isn't alive and so couldn't care less. /end wisdom
Jul. 26th, 2016 02:35 pm (UTC)
Your wisdom expresses the reality I feel much more truly ;-)
Jul. 26th, 2016 12:12 pm (UTC)
Jul. 26th, 2016 02:36 pm (UTC)

Thanks for reading!
Jul. 26th, 2016 12:59 pm (UTC)
:D You tell him, asakiyume!

also "by such discrimination..." - doesn't he mean "by abjuring such discrimination"?
Jul. 26th, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
Haha, thank you :-)

Perhaps he just means discrimination in the sense of separating truth from untruth? So, by recognizing the truth (as he sees it), we gain happiness.
Jul. 28th, 2016 10:58 am (UTC)

What is it that dies? A tree falls over in an autumn storm and dies. The first winter, chickadees use the small holes as beds where they can sleep during the long dark. In spring, woodpeckers drill in the bark, hoping to impress their lady friends. Bark beetles crawl under slits and lay eggs. Their larvae hatch in the warm summer. They chew and chew and chew. Dust and tiny debris falls to the ground underneath the tree.

Ants find the tree. They munch as the seasons turn. Mushrooms push up from the ground and latch onto the protruding roots. More decay ensues.

Fifteen years later a huge snowstorm weighs heavily on the tree trunk. It cracks in several places. When spring comes a human walks off the path to pick fiddleheads. Her foot squishes down on a section of the old tree. It disintegrates.

It becomes soil. The human had a cottonwood seed left over from last summer wedged in a her running shoe. When she stepped on the decaying wood, the seed fell off her shoe on top of the new soil. Rain and sun fed the seed.

It grew. In time it became tree in its own right.

(Not a board or a chair or firewood or ash)

Nature replenishes itself. Nature replenishes us.

Jul. 28th, 2016 09:49 pm (UTC)
Your wisdom sounds much more wise to me ♥
( 43 comments — Leave a comment )

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