Sunday, January 31, 2010

238 - Bodily Experience

We cannot afford to neglect our bodies, even if we recognize that we must not identify with them exclusively. Actually, in our search for our true selves, our physical existence is the best place to start. We can alter our lives by how we eat and exercise, and we can expedite our search by keeping ourselves healthy.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 238~
I'm often puzzled at how religions/philosophies from the west AND the east view the human body as stumbling block toward wisdom, salvation and/or wisdom. Why are the sins of the flesh viewed as worse than any other type of sin?

While there may be an aspect to us that goes beyond our bodily form, almost every creature on this planet has a body. It is what we utilize each and every day to live. Generally speaking, when the body dies, so do we.

Who would suggest that for a dolphin or an ant to realize its better self it should see beyond its body? That just sounds crazy, yet many people apply this notion to human beings.

While our forms aren't the end-all, be-all of our existence, they do play a major role. And so it would seem, as Deng Ming-Dao suggests, that we should care for our bodies just as much as we care for any other aspect of the self.

If the body is diseased or compromised, then the entirety of our life system is out of whack. Since one of the prime aims of philosophical Taoism is to achieve and maintain balance, it seems imperative that we care for the form that makes us who we are, lest we lose the sense of our own internal harmony.


Let's be frank. On a blog of this nature -- a philosophical one -- I discuss a lot of the same general concepts day in and day out: life, existence, connection, flow, the Way. In order to avoid staleness and habitual redundancy, I try to discuss these terms utilizing different metaphors, imagery, and examples from my own experiences. This is all well and good, but from time to time, some of these varying metaphors can appear to contradict each other and that may well lead to a bit of confusion amongst some readers.

For example, one of the recurrent themes in Taoism is the empty bowl which, in part, signifies that the empty mind is more open to be filled up with the energy and essence of the Way. Last night, in my ongoing series, Real Life Tao, I posted an entry entitled, Mindfulness. The word itself appears to contradict the concept of the empty bowl because a mind that is crammed full cannot be filled.

So, how can we reconcile these two concepts? For me, it becomes a question of what constitutes the nature of the fullness. Too often, our minds are filled with crap! While we engage with others or access a situation, our minds are racing a mile a minute with thoughts, desires, expectations, justifications, rationalizations and fantasies. So, the other person/people and the situation itself cannot permeate the already overstuffed wasteland we call our mind.

On the other hand, when we can approach others and situations with a mind like an empty bowl, we can then become mind-full -- filled up -- with what we are encountering at the moment we encounter it. It is in this context that mindfulness is not a contradiction at all.

In other words, the operative point is when the mind is filled. If we arrive at a given point with an already filled mind, that's when we often find ourselves in trouble. When we allow each moment to fill us up, that's when we find balance and harmony.

In addition, it's not only when the mind is filled, but how long it remains in this condition. If we allow the fullness to remain, we find ourselves back in the same predicament as before. So, the trick is to allow the moment to fill us with insight and then to flush the system in order that we can be filled up by the next moment.

To my way of thinking, this is what the Taoist sages mean by mindfulness.

14 - Quit Looking

People always ask how to follow Tao. It is as easy and natural as the heron standing in the water. The bird moves when it must; it does not move when stillness is appropriate.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 14~
I really like the elegant simplicity of the above quote. It points to the idea that there are no rituals, prayers, routines, or creeds that will put you in touch with the Way.

So, how do we find it? Funny as it may seem, I think the best way to find it is to not look for it.

When we go look for something that we can't really know, we imbue the vision with our own unique slate of characteristics and traits. We quit looking for what it is and start looking for what we want it to be. It is by looking for what it is not that it becomes ever elusive and just beyond reach.

Real Life Tao - It's All Relative!

Two more mornings of waking up with my own teeth in my mouth. In just three days, I will know what it's like to awaken toothless. Initially, it will seem very strange. It almost will be like experiencing life from another person's mouth!

During our life together -- spanning over 25 years -- Della and I have moved many times. We've lived in Missouri, Kansas, out of a VW Bus while exploring the great American West, Arkansas, Oregon and Washington. Each time we've moved into a new home it seems strange and a bit discombobulating to wake up in a "strange" room. While wiping the cobwebs of sleep out of your head, waking up in an unfamiliar place can be disorienting. Where am I? Is this a dream?

And so it goes in each life. Few things remain static for long. Change is the one constant of the universe and, as players, our lives are about change as well. When a change first becomes manifest, it can throw us for a supreme loop. Everything seems out of kilter and, whether it's a good or bad change, many of us long for the good old days when we knew up was up and down was down.

But a funny thing happens to us along the road of change; in time, what was once so different and surreal becomes normal. It loses its novelty and turns into the mundane. What once caused us to ooh and aah or tremble in fear, now causes little more than a yawn.

So, while on Wednesday morning I will feel strange with a toothless mouth, I realize that in no time at all I won't give it a second thought. It will become part of my routine experience.

We each need to remind ourselves continually that all things are relative. Every change -- including death -- takes us away from familiar territory into the unknown. While it is true that most people fear the unknown, it will only be unknown for a brief period of time.

In the end, whatever is new becomes old. Whatever is life becomes death. It is in the understanding that each is a side of the same coin that fear ultimately becomes fearlessness.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 143, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Forty-Three
Those who practice policies that make for survival will surely survive even if they are small; those that practice policies that make for destruction will surely perish even if they are large. Therefore skillful defense has nothing to do with resistance, and skillful warfare has nothing to do with battle. If you take advantage of the momentum of the times and accord with the wishes of the people, the world will follow.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
For me, the above passage is about recognizing the flow of any given situation. When we are able to recognize the direction and speed of the current, we don't have to force things and people to move in unnatural ways.

Nations build up armies because they desire to force their will on others. Each of us builds up armies of connivance, manipulation and subterfuge because we want to force others to do what we desire. In this instance, the common root between nations and individuals is desire.

When we remove desire from the equation, then force has no purpose. When we aren't trying to manufacture a result based on our expectations, force becomes meaningless.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Real Life Tao - Mindfulness

Both my wife and I love to watch real life murder mysteries. You can find such programs on several different networks under a variety of names (e.g., 48 Hours, American Justice, etc.). Of the various programs of this type, I think we would both agree that cold cases are the most interesting. A cold case involves a crime that was not solved around the time it occurred. Years -- or decades -- later, it is reopened and, because of better detective work or advances in science, it finally is solved.

I'm certain that one of the reasons I am so intrigued by these types of television programs is that I used to be an investigator! During much of the 1980s, I was a Child Abuse Investigator for state social service agencies in Arkansas and Missouri. In the early 1990s, I worked with my dad's law firm as a Mitigation Investigator on death penalty cases.

When I first started out as a Child Abuse Investigator, I took reams of notes. I might fill up a steno notebook or two for a long interview with an alleged victim, perpetrator or third party. I would try to write down almost everything they said. Yet, for all the copious notes I took, my investigative documentation was mediocre, at best. The reports didn't flow and I constantly omitted or mangled key bits of information.

I soon realized that the problem had to do with mindfulness. I poured so much attention into what I was writing that I was only half-listening. As soon as the interviewee said something, my attention switched away from them to what and how I would record it. Whatever they stated next was usually lost until I finished formulating what I was getting down on paper.

I gradually began to alter the way I conducted interviews and took notes. I started writing much less and trained more attention on what each person had to say. In fact, within a year, I had gone from filling up one or two steno notebooks for a long interview to as little as two pages or so.

Now, instead of trying to capture on paper every word uttered, I used my notes more for facts and figures: names, addresses, birth dates, time, place, etc. I also tried to write down key quotes that captured the essence of the information shared.

Once I finished an interview, I would return to my vehicle or office and, using a hand-held dictophone, I would record the basic gist of the information gleaned. Between my written and verbal notes, I could often recollect the vast majority of the interview weeks later when it came time to write my determination reports.

The thing that had changed as I moved from a novice to a more seasoned investigator was that I was more mindful. By giving the interviewee my undivided attention, their words made a deeper impression on me. Therefore, when I would return later to the interview in my mind, my brief notes helped me to reconstruct it AND to remember what was said.

This has been a lesson I have tried to carry forth in all aspects of my life. When we pay keen attention to what is going on in the here and now, it makes it so much easier to remember later on. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to be distracted during the present moment, we realize only later on that we don't really remember all the specifics of what transpired.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 143, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Forty-Three
A vast territory and a large population are not enough to constitute power; strong armor and sharp weapons cannot be relied upon to ensure victory; high ramparts and deep moats are not enough to give security; strict punishments and stern laws are not enough to constitute authority.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Whether we reference a nation or an individual person, if we're always steeling ourselves for war and conflict, we are creating our own negative energy. If our mindset always is to be prepared to attack or defend, we unwittingly set up the very atmosphere that engenders animosity, resentment, jealousy and hatred.

One of the key problems with the concept of power is that we must always work fervently to maintain it. If we drop our guard, even for the briefest of moments, someone else might swoop in to catch us off guard. So, to defend against this happenstance, we must stand at attention 24/7.

Of course, no matter how powerful we think we are, there is likely to be someone else even more powerful. So, we must commit to an arms race -- building our capabilities against known and phantom menaces. There is no ceiling. We must continue to amass more and more weapons, knowledge and know-how because we never can be certain what the other side is amassing too.

Can you see how we are generating our own stress and tension? Constant movement never allows one the chance for repose. Being ever full never allows the opportunity to be empty. We're all yang with no yin.

The unbalanced load eventually will topple.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 142

from Verse One Hundred Forty-Two
To imitate the four seasons means to grow in spring, develop in summer, harvest in autumn, and store in winter, giving and taking in moderation, dispensing and collecting with measure.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
One of the hallmarks of modern society is that most of us always seem to be in a rush. We rush to get somewhere and we rush to return. We rush through meals, work, vacations and even sleep. Because our body is always in a rush, so too is our mind. Millions of facts, thoughts, opinion and who knows what else percolates through our minds at dizzying speeds.

Because we seem to scurry around, people are always looking for shortcuts, ways to circumvent the schedule, order, itinerary, or chronology. If I only can shave off a few minutes or skip a few steps, we tell ourselves, I can more quickly move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, when we get to that next thing, we again look for a shortcut because there are so many more next things.

Is it any wonder that so many of us feel physically and/or mentally exhausted all the time?

What I believe the above passage underscores is that everything in this life has its own season. When we rush about and try to devise shortcuts, we lose the mindfulness to recognize that the processes of life are cyclical and, by attempting to circumvent the cycle, we find ourselves continually swimming upstream against the current.

The person who is content to allow things to unfold as they will is more likely to be able to discern the channel of the stream and the direction of the current. Such a person can easily flow with the cycles of life.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Remember the Hua Hu Ching?

Ever since I wrote the series on the Hua Hu Ching, many people have accessed one or more of the associated posts. Well, I've decided to try out an experiment. I've taken all the posts from that series and turned them into one singular Google document. If you'd like to access it, click on this link. (You can read it online, download it in several different formats or print it out -- whatever winds your watch.)

If this works for people, I may work to do the same thing for other series, including the Wen Tzu. Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Real Life Tao - Frame of Mind

For all the many hours I spend reading and writing about philosophical Taoism, it wouldn't mean jack if it didn't impact my life. While there is nothing wrong with sharing one's philosophic perspective, it really doesn't mean a lot if one's life does not change for the better. If I pontificated in this space, but my life spun out of control, it would cause most people to ask: What's the point? Why concentrate on a philosophy that obviously isn't helping?

I write this as a preamble to how my time leading up to oral surgery on February 2 (getting ALL my remaining teeth removed) is so different from when it was scheduled originally on January 5.

In this first instance, I allowed my innate anxiety to get the best of me! I counted down the days and, as the time grew closer, my anxiety went into overdrive. I had trouble sleeping, my stomach was tied in knots, and I allowed myself constantly to consider the what ifs. What if something goes wrong? What if I wake up during surgery? What if the post-operative pain is more than I expect? What if? What if?

I worked myself up into such a tizzy that I literally got sick. I caught my first cold in more than a decade and this necessitated a postponement.

What did I learn from this experience? I had scared myself silly for something that didn't occur. I wasted untold amounts of mental energy preparing for something that didn't come to pass. In the process, I made myself sick with anxiety.

After we had set a new date, I sat myself down to have a conversation. It wasn't an explicitly Taoist conversation, but the Way was at work, unbeknownst to me. I told myself that I just needed to accept the fact that I would be anxious. I have an anxiety disorder and it seems to be part of my nature. Instead of trying to fight my anxiety, I needed to allow it some space. If I didn't try to confine it, it wouldn't react defensively by trying to take over everything.

The second thing I told myself was that we were not going to go down the "What if?" road again. Whatever happens, happens. We will deal with it as best we can WHEN it happens, not before. To this end, anytime the what ifs have started to creep into my mind, I've dismissed them immediately. By not trying to envision what may or may not happen, my anxiety level is far more manageable.

As the surgery is now only 4 days away, I find that I have a better sense of calm -- at least right now -- that I did not have one month ago. In a way, I wish the surgery was tomorrow because it's something I need to get done and I'm raring to go. I hope I'm in this same frame of mind on Tuesday morning!!

I think my more productive approach is a byproduct of my series on the Wen Tzu. As I contemplate each days' posts, I'm letting the essence of the underlying message permeate my being more than I was before and that underlying message is to be ever present in the here and now.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Mixed Messages

There is a very popular blog called Zen Habits. According to a widget at the head of the right column, this blog has 157,500 subscribers via feed. The author, Leo Babauta, likes to recount how he started his blog with zero readers and has built it to be one of the most popular.

On the surface, he seems to dispense great advice on a number of topics. However, something about his blog and attitude really rubs me the wrong way! I began to realize that the vast majority of his "Zen-like" notions had one thing in common: all seem to be focused on how to became filthy rich. I'll admit that I don't know a lot about Zen Buddhism, but I'm almost certain that is not the key underlying message. (Of course, it should be noted that the decision to go with the title Zen Habits was a marketing ploy. Leo himself admits it's not necessarily Zen philosophy.)

Leo talks a lot about simplifying one's life and the most recent post, How Not to Hurry, begins with a quote from Lao Tzu. Unfortunately, it looks like his calls to slow down and simplify are marketing ploys too because his first blog has morphed into several and he conducts numerous web retreats for a pretty penny.

One of these new ventures is called A-List Blogging Bootcamps. I signed up to be on the email alert list. I didn't sign up because I want to learn the so-called tricks to turn this blog into an "A-List" one; I did it because I wanted to see what this fellow is selling.

In the most recent alert, I learned there are 7 useful tips for turning my blog into a cash cow (as if I care.) Of these seven "tips", I found the info in #2 to be rather disgusting. First, we're told that our blog should be about a topic we're passionate about. He reasons that if one plans to keep the blog around for a good period of time, you need to pick a topic that you enjoy and have a lot to say about.

So far, this seems to be commonsense. But the second half of Tip #2 seems to fly in the face of Zen (and Taoist) philosophy -- you need to be sure that you're passionate about popular things! If you aren't passionate about the right things, then say bye-bye to a large readership and, of course, easy money.

I would think that the real practitioners of Zen would not be pleased. He's giving their belief system a black eye.

Like I said, his whole shtick rubs me the wrong way.

354 - Dung

When you water your plants, you sometimes have to feed them. Manure is an excellent way to feed plants. Isn't that funny? Something that is so repellent when stuck to your shoe is so important to sustaining life.
~from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 354~
It's not always easy to figure out which knowledge will enrich our lives and which is...well...dung.

Some people collect knowledge as long as it is of a certain bent. The way it basically works is that, once a worldview is settled on, you collect all the information that fits your decided upon perspective. Anything that doesn't fit whatever it is that you already believe is thrown away, ignored and, even worse, ridiculed.

Some people collect knowledge as if it is candy. Every tidbit and morsel is stowed away. Hey, you never know when your sweet tooth needs to be satisfied? Besides, it's great to dangle it in front of others!!

The great Taoist sages -- Chuang Tzu & Lao Tzu -- caution people about knowledge. It almost sounds as if both see it as an impediment to embrace the Way. Me thinks each over dramatizes the point as a way to suggest that too much worldly knowledge -- facts and figures -- clogs the mind. A full bowl cannot be filled.

Too often, what so many look at as useless knowledge (mental dung) is avoided. But one person's dung is another person's caviar. The mystery of life is figuring out what is needed and what is not.

Wen Tzu - Verse 141

from Verse One Hundred Forty-One
When debts are small, it's easy to repay them; when tasks are few, it is easy to take care of them; when responsibilities are light, it is easy to handle them.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
As we've traveled through the Wen Tzu, one theme is mentioned again and again: simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. This passage highlights a few of the reasons why simplicity is so valued.

When your life is represented by a huge boulder, it's hard to move and it wears you out. The most mundane tasks become fraught with complexity and difficulty.

When your life is represented by a small pebble, it's easy to move and it doesn't wear you out. When you need to act, you are light on your feet and you finish the job with time and energy to spare.

We begin life with the smallest of pebbles. As we grow and mature, we collect layer upon layer of debris. By adulthood, our little pebble looks like Mount Rushmore. As we continue with our harried lives, soon the weight of our ever growing mountain weighs us down.

Lao Tzu suggests we dig ourselves out of our self-imposed rubble and return to the way of the small pebble.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 140

from Verse One Hundred Forty
When a boat is broken by rough waters, or an axle is snapped when struck by a piece of wood, you blame the incompetence of the craftsman, you don't resent the elements, because this is not done by cunning.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
There's a popular poster/T-Shirt called Shit Happens. While it's very tongue-in-cheek, it does underscore that fact that...well...shit HAPPENS!

No matter how well we plan our lives and no matter the care we take in each moment, things that we never planned for nor considered may well happen. There is no avoiding it.

With so much energy and consciousness moving around us, there are forces at work that we simply don't understand. When some of these forces -- the yin and yang of life -- collide or come together at just the right moment, shit happens!

It doesn't happen because fate is against us or the forces of nature have it in for us. There is no intention involved and, in all honesty, we only consider it shit because we are self-conscious. I don't think a tree that is battered by fierce storm after fierce storm thinks to itself, "Why does this shit always happen to me?"

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 139

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Nine
When vitality is in the eyes, they see clearly. When it is in the ears, they hear keenly. When it is gathered in the mind, then the thoughts are penetrating. Therefore when you shut the gate of the senses, you have no troubles all your life.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
My wife says to me, "Oh darn, I left my glass of juice on the kitchen counter. Would you grab it for me?" "Where on the counter?" I ask. "It's right next to the dish drainer." I look near the dish drainer, but don't see it. I look at the surrounding counter space and I don't see it there either. "I don't see it on the counter," I report.

My wife comes into the kitchen and, in a very exasperated voice, points and says "It's right over there!" Sure enough, her glass of juice is on the counter, but it was several inches away from the drainer.

After it is pointed out, I realize that I did see it there, but it didn't register in my brain as the specific item I was looking for. In other words, my eyes saw the glass; my brain didn't. This type of scenario happens over and over again in my life. I'm certain it has to do with my autistic brain -- I take instructions too literally and, if what I'm looking for is just a tad removed from the given parameters, it simply doesn't register.

This is not to suggest that each time a situation like the one above occurs I can always pin the blame on neurology. Sometimes, my mind is too crammed full of other information and I only half hear the request. With only fuzzy information in hand, it makes the task that much more difficult.

This is what I think Lao Tzu is referring to in this passage; our basic inattention to life, in general. We're so busy going to and fro that we often don't pay attention to what we're doing RIGHT NOW.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 138, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Eight
When people put on a show of knowledge to startle the ignorant, and contrive ruses to attack those above them, then there are those who can hold the land but none who can govern it.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
One of the points Lao Tzu returns to again and again is this idea that, when the masses are content, there is no talk of rebellion.

Take a look at what's going on in the US today. On one side, we have the teabaggers and the fundamentalist movement. On the other side, there are the leftists and libertarians. In between these two poles are a slew of other movements. While the chances of a mass armed uprising in this country is virtually nonexistent, the amount of discontent is palpable.

All this dissension is causing suspicion, distrust, anxiety and a loss of productivity -- not only between the public and the government but amongst the masses themselves. People shout obscenities on Talk Radio and write vitriolic letters to the editor. In essence, we're losing our sense of community.

What has brought us to this point? Regardless of one's political perspective -- whether you consider yourself right, left, middle or independent -- I think a lot of people can agree that our government no longer governs. They merely hold and protect the land that we call the US of A.

Of course, different factions have different ideas of how the governing process should work. It's the level of discontent, however, that illustrates that more and more people from many political perspectives are viewing government NOT as our representatives looking out for our needs and interests, but as the enemy.

This does not bode well for the future.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Find the Exist Ramp

No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.
~ Turkish proverb ~
One facet of life that everyone shares is that, from time to time, we start down the wrong path. At the outset, it looks like the right way to go. We're filled with anticipation and giddiness. We may skip or run as we set off on a new adventure.

Unfortunately, before we know it, we get bogged down along the way. What initially looked like clear sailing, now is strewn with boulders, brambles, quicksand and potholes. Still convinced that this is the path for us, we shoulder on.

If we're paying close attention, the time may come when we begin to realize we're getting lost. The objective is no longer in focus and we look around wildly for a landmark to help us regain our bearings. But nothing looks familiar. We feel like a fish out of water.

Eventually, we're faced with one of two options: a) Continue moving in the wrong direction or b) Go back to start over.

Because many of us are stubborn and we don't want to admit to failure, we keep moving forward -- farther and farther away from our center.

The wise person turns back. It is when we own up to our mistakes that we succeed.

After Morning

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.
~ Swedish Proverb ~
Chuang Tzu would love this one!! It reminds me of a snippet from Chapter One.
The morning mushroom does not know of the waxing and waning of the moon.
In both cases, the message is about frame of reference. It informs us that finite entities are limited in their view of creation. The fixed cannot understand the infinite. That with boundaries cannot understand that without. The formed cannot understand the formless.

Humanity can see the manifestations of the Way, but we can't touch it nor grasp it.

Mister Bojangles

Under a ragged coat lies wisdom.
~ Romanian Proverb ~
I'm not really sure how to interpret this proverb. For one, it sounds a lot like Lao Tzu's depiction of a sage who leads a simple life. For another -- and this could tie in with the first -- the proverb could be suggesting that the person more likely to wear a ragged coat is someone who has had it for a long time; an older person who has gained wisdom over the years.

What say you? What do you think it means?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting Downright Thorny

He who wants a rose must respect the thorn.
~ Persian Proverb ~
I don't really have much to add to this one. I think it speaks for itself.


Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare.
~ Japanese Proverb ~
When talking about society's many problems and issues, I've run into a lot of people who will tell you everything that is wrong with the status quo and how they have the perfect solution. If given enough time, they'll bend your ear off. However, if the suggestion is made that they get involved with the process to affect change, all of a sudden their interest wanes. They can provide a million and one reasons why they choose to twiddle their thumbs from the sidelines.

In essence, all they really want to do is bitch and moan. It's a lot more fun to castigate those who are doing the actual work. And then they wonder why things keep moving in the direction they say they don't like?

Shade Trees

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
~ Greek Proverb ~
All the proverbs I'm featuring today speak to me in one way or another. Of the lot, this one is definitely my favorite. It reminds me of a famous quote by Lakota Sioux Chief Red Cloud:
We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation. The prophecy given to us, tells us that what we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always.
Both quotes deal with the same message. We alive today have an inherent responsibility to insure we leave this orb in as good, if not better shape, than when we came on the scene. If not, the ramifications of our destructive forces may not be evident for awhile, but by the 7th generation our legacy will be clear.

Do we want to be remembered as the caring or the selfish generation? Do we wish to be viewed as the stewards of Planet Earth or the plunderers?

The choice is ours and today's actions ultimately will deliver our answer to future generations.

The Child Within

It’s not that age brings childhood back again. Age merely shows what children we remain.
~ German Proverb ~
Lao Tzu frequently refers to our infancy and childhood. This is the period of life when we are the most authentic because the external society has yet to permeate our essential nature and thought processes. Our egos are not yet formed and we more readily experience life as it presents itself.

I really like this proverb because it underscores that we never lose that innocence. It's there every step of the way, but we have trouble seeing it because of the layers of hubris piled on top of it. It's sad that so many of us only begin to scrape away the layers as we near the very end of this chapter called life.

Tool Time

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.
~ Danish Proverb ~
Before getting our nice 2008 Chevy Aveo, we had a series of lemons! These vehicles were always breaking down, so I spent far too much time at auto repair shops. It was easy to tell the good ones from the bad ones; re the latter, they could never easily locate the specific tool that was needed to fix the problem!

Our bodies and minds are the tools we use to live. If the tools are too long neglected, rust can creep in, the handles can fall off (which is okay ONLY if we're talking about love handles) or things can get lost.

Since we never know when our time will be up, if we want the chance to lead a long and fruitful life, it's just commonsense that we should keep our tools in precision shape. The well-oiled wheel moves effortlessly; the rusted wheel struggles to move and squeaks.

Caring Matters

I need not fear my enemies because the most they can do is attack me. I need not fear my friends because the most they can do is betray me. But I have much to fear from people who are indifferent.
~ Assyrian Proverb ~
For me, indifference is one of the most galling human traits. It's one thing if a person doesn't have a strong opinion on trivial matters; it's quite another if we're talking about important stuff. The indifferent person will often standby when great harm is being caused and just look away in a ho-hum manner.

Like almost anyone else, I like it when folks agree with me. However, I would much rather deal with someone who vehemently disagrees with me than with someone who is so self-absorbed that they don't give a flip. I'd rather you care about aspects that I don't agree with than not care at all.

In my opinion, indifferent individuals are the most dangerous of all. It reminds of the short poem attributed to the Pastor Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out.

A Friend Indeed

A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart chaff and grain together knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it keeping what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
~ Arab Proverb ~
What would life be like without friends? Some people have a gaggle of them and others, like me, have a precious few.

One of the hallmarks of a strong friendship -- this includes spouses or partners who are great friends -- is the ability to offer and receive constructive criticism. Too often in life, we each see criticism as a slam, put-down or a mechanism used to try to wound us. A close friend, however, can more easily point out when we've stuck our foot in our mouths or committed a social blunder and we're more willing to listen and change.

Out of Africa

Late last night I shared some proverbs from across the globe in the post, Wisdom from All Corners. Today, I'm going to take each one to use as a springboard of discussion. The first of these hails from Africa.
Indecision is like a stepchild. If he does not wash his hands, he is called dirty. If he does, he is wasting water.
If you asked my wife, she might tell you that, aside from referring to me as Trey or her Sweetie, there's another name that fits me to a tee: King Wishy-Washy! I rarely meet a situation in which I can't vacillate from one side to the other. In fact, I'm known frequently to make the most absolute right decision at the most absolute wrong time.

I'm a very thorough person. I always try to look at the situations we face in life from every conceivable angle. Part of the reason for this, owing to several of my neurological and/or psychological issues, is that I have excessively slow reactions and so, if something happens that I didn't anticipate, I often resemble a deer caught in the headlights!

Of course, looking at life from so many different directions can be a recipe for gridlock. Every time I think I've made a final decision, I think to myself, "But what if..." and then I must reaccess the whole thing again. As I think you can easily see, this sets up a perpetual cycle!

Consequently, in far too many cases, my original "draft" decision was the right one for the given situation, but because of the aforementioned cycle, I don't act when I should. By the time I finally implement the action, the time has passed and what was once a great decision turns into a mediocre or terrible one.

I'm working diligently to modify this aspect of my personality and studying the ancient texts of Taoism has certainly helped. It's a work in progress though.

Five to Six

Today represents the final day of the 5th year of this blog. The first post on Thursday will mark the beginning of year 6. It's been a weird and wild ride thus far. I expect it will continue to be so as long as I have the ability to peck out posts from my computer keyboard.

In the beginning, I was like most novice bloggers. I didn't know if my little experiment in virtual self-publishing would last more than a few weeks or months. I also faced the nagging question: What in the hell will I write about?

As I think anyone can easily see, the answer to that question has turned out not to be a stumbling block at all! I write whatever pops into my head on a given day at a given hour. Sometimes I go off on tangents. Some nebulous idea gets stuck in me noggin and you'll see three, four, five or more consecutive posts on the same generalized topic.

At other times, the subject matter is wide and diverse. It is sometimes quite funny; at other times quite sad. I don't hold much back. What you read pretty much is who I am -- for better OR worse.

During my first few months of blogging, I would be deliriously happy if more than 5 or 10 folks dropped by this blog in a day. The first time that total exceeded the amount I could count on my fingers and toes I was almost dumbfounded!

Of course, as my writing frequency has increased, so has my traffic. Over the past 7 months or so, I average around 100 - 120 visitors per day plus another 300 or so via feeds. That's not a significant number, but it's not insignificant either. It merely represents my virtual bloggging community.

In all this time, I have noted one interesting trend. Like society, in general, people seem to like fire. Ever notice how a crowd quickly gathers around a burning building to watch the fireman work to put it out?

When a controversy has erupted on this blog -- a flame war -- my traffic shoots up appreciably. Sometimes I'm in the center of it, but there have been just as many times when I'm an innocent bystander. Two or more readers leaving comments get in a major spat and, like the rest of you, I decide to take a hands-off approach.

It just strikes me as odd that, when this blog is more calm and centered, readership drops down a notch or two, but when tempers are exposed, more people want to watch the carnage. I don't know. I guess we humans are weird that way.

Not much more to say here except thanks to each and every one of you -- that even includes The Crow :>) -- for enriching my life, broadening my horizons and challenging me to view life and existence in new and deeper ways.

Wen Tzu - Verse 138, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Eight
What is most great cannot be enclosed even by heaven and earth, what is most minute cannot even be seen by spirits. When it comes to the point where you set up calendrical divisions, distinguish colors, differentiate clear and cloudy sounds, and taste sweet and bitter flavors, then simple wholeness is divided up to become specific instrumentality.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In the sports memorabilia business, collectors are always trying to separate the authentic from the fake. In regards to various food products, the concerned consumer tries to determine what is natural versus what is artificial. When it comes to the totality of life, we broach many of the same questions.

There is no singular answer.

How we answer the questions about life and existence are dependent on a number of variables -- knowledge, experience, belief system, society.

In one way, it could be said that culture itself is artificial. We have invented language to serve as symbolic representations of the ten thousand things in the realm we occupy. For example, the word tree is not a tree itself. It is merely an image or symbol of something else. So, it could be argued that the only authentic thing that you, I and everything else shares in common is an essence that defies our meager attempts to define it.

But that's merely one explanation and, like any other explanation, it is not THE answer. It is just one person's weak attempt to offer a symbolic representation of that which can never be represented by a symbol.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wisdom from All Corners

As this is a blog about philosophical Taoism, it should surprise no one that most of the verses, passages and quotes used as discussion starters come from ancient texts and other books about...Taoism. But true wisdom cannot be bound up in any one culture, country, society, region or belief system.

To this end, I found a neat website that, among other things, features proverbs from around the world. I thought I would share some as food for thought.
Africa: Indecision is like a stepchild. If he does not wash his hands, he is called dirty. If he does, he is wasting water.

Arab: A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart chaff and grain together knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it keeping what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Assyrian: I need not fear my enemies because the most they can do is attack me. I need not fear my friends because the most they can do is betray me. But I have much to fear from people who are indifferent.

Danish: A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.

German: It’s not that age brings childhood back again. Age merely shows what children we remain.

Greek: A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Japanese: Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare.

Persian: He who wants a rose must respect the thorn.

Romanian: Under a ragged coat lies wisdom.

Swedish: The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.

Turkish: No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.
Does one of these speak to you more than the others? Do you have a proverb to share?

Real Life Tao - Squawk, Squawk

As you've probably noticed, I have a real issue with self-anointed leaders, gurus and sages. I'm sure some people might suggest that my antipathy is born of envy; I wish I was in their shoes. If that's what you think, nothing I write likely will change your mind, so you might want to quit reading this post right now.

For the rest of you, allow me to explain my high level of animosity toward these self-identified soothsayers and beacons of Tao/God/whatever. The thing that gets me the most worked up is that, within the overall malarkey they present, there often is a kernel of truth, though this kernel is something they typically don't realize.

When they present to the public their revelations, epiphanies, secrets, intuitive knowledge or their knowledge borne from insight into their "vast" experiences, few will tell you that they came to know what they now know as a student of somebody else or from a book. This vital information was discovered by them and them alone.

Of course, now that they've unlocked the secret decoder ring of life, they want to pass on this glorious knowledge and information to you...often for a hefty price. Such selfless souls they are -- NOT!

Here's where the small kernel of truth comes in. The fact that they discovered/uncovered "whatever it is" in their own time at their own pace in their own way is the method that each of us can and does use as we wend our way through life. Revelations and epiphanies can't be transmitted from one individual to another. Yes, a person can certainly share the information, but the vital understanding of such must come from each of us as we experience life for ourselves.

Consequently, if the self-anointed one was as enlightened as they pretend to be, they would know this!! They would know that the best ANY of us can do is gently to nudge someone in a general direction; leading them by the hand from point A will not get them to point B. The life force doesn't work that way.

So, for me, this means one of two things. On the one hand, it means the self-anointed have less of a clue than most of the rest of us. They have delusions of grandeur and, while many will tell you that have moved far beyond ego, it's an utter crock! Their egos define everything about them. Far from leaving their ego behind, they've mounted it on a pedestal and fawn over it night and day.

On the other hand, it means they know the truth and they don't give a shit. They are out to get what they can get -- money, fame, power, popularity, influence, etc. It's all a big rigged game to them and, behind closed doors, they laugh at all the suckers they have duped with their glitzy light show. Such people put the huck in huckster.

There is nothing wrong with listening to the opinions of others. There is nothing wrong with seeking some guidance from time to time. And there is nothing wrong with being the student of a teacher. What is wrong, however, is when you completely turn yourself over to another person, when you adopt their path because they've convinced you that you will become lost without them.

Nobody knows the "secrets" of life. Nobody has the one recipe or prescription to make your life successful or meaningful. The ONLY person who has a chance of creating your path is YOU.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Real Life Tao - Quack, Quack

I think most everyone is familiar with the stereotypical image of a street hustler or huckster. Made famous by various cartoons and comedies, the huckster often is depicted as a shady character in an over-sized trench coat. Speaking in a low voice, the hustler motions you to step inside an alley. He opens up his coat to display various wares. "These are expensive Rolex watches," he confides in over dramatic hushed tones. "I got a special deal. I can't offer this to everybody..."

Of course, in the vast majority of cases, the product is a knockoff or a poor facsimile. It's cheaply made and whatever the "sweet deal" is, the unfortunate dupe has paid far more than what the item is worth.

When most people hear or see depictions of these sorts of hucksters, they laugh. "How could anyone fall for that?" they snort. "I wouldn't. I wasn't born yesterday, you know!"

The unfortunate part of such declarations is that many of the people who are convinced they could never be tricked in that way are tricked just the same when it comes to religious, spiritual or psychological matters.

Our world is awash today in hustlers, hucksters, quacks and snake oil salesmen. Instead of peddling consumer wares, they are in the business of selling salvation, success and wisdom. These new hucksters don't hide out on street corners anymore; you're more apt to find them on the internet, in infomercials, at seminars and retreats, and on The New York Times Bestsellers List!

Not making enough money and finding success in life? Read my book about the secrets needed to become filthy rich! Feeling insecure and down on yourself? Come to our retreat and we'll put you in direct touch with God! Unsure what to make of your life or looking for true meaning? Read and listen to my words and you will become almost as enlightened as I am!

Just like the quacks and snake oil salesman who peddled their patent medicines from town to town in the Old West, the modern huckster makes a lot of promises that are rarely delivered on. Back then, these so-called medicines and elixirs were filled with numerous ingredients of questionable value and mixed with with large amounts of alcohol or opium.

People would buy this crap as a remedy for almost any disease or malady. Because of the key ingredient -- the alcohol or opium -- the consumer initially would feel MUCH better, but after they came down from the high, they soon discovered that the ailment remained unchanged. They weren't being healed after all; they were getting stoned!

So why is this age old practice as prevalent today as yesterday? It basically boils down to two reasons. This first and foremost is money. Unfortunately, it can be a very easy method of earning a quick buck or millions and millions of them!

Too many people think that anyone who projects confidence and bravado knows something grander than they do. And let's face it -- people like shortcuts. If you think you can receive a secret formula or recipe that will allow you to outpace your friends and neighbors, too many people are ready to jump at the promise.

While creating wealth for oneself is a big motivator for today's hustlers, there is another attractive perk - status. In fact, many of the quacks aren't in it for money at all. No, they want you to worship their sage wisdom and knowledge as a way to boost up and swell up their deflated egos. Their self-image is so tied to the idea of being popular and looked up to that they dispense sagely words and advice wherever they go.

So, how does one tell a quack from a true sage? As I alluded to in Wen Tzu, Verse 137, Part I, we should heed the words of Lao Tzu:
Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
So, a good rule of thumb is that, if somebody tells you that they are "in the know" or they've got things "all figured out", they don't! Anyone who is willing to provide you with the key answers to life hasn't figured them out anymore than you have. All they are doing is trying to peddle you something.

The true sage doesn't waste his or her breath marketing and self-promoting their sagacity; they live it!! Their life and the way they relate to all things exhibits their wisdom. They don't draw attention to themselves. They lead a simple life and it's through this utter simplicity that you and I can come to understand their wisdom -- a wisdom they would NEVER claim unto themselves.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 137, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Seven
This is what is meant by saying that when beasts are cornered they lunge, when birds are cornered they pack, and when people are cornered they deceive.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Anyone who has ever lived or worked on a farm or who has tried to corral a scared domestic animal knows what this passage refers to. When animals see no way out, they are apt to try anything they can to get away.

Humans behave this way as well and this is why the use of torture isn't all it's cracked up to be. Besides the fact it's inhumane, it's not very effective either. Just like a cornered animal, the person suffering from torture is looking for any avenue to stop the brutalization. So, such a person will tell their captors anything -- whether it be true or not.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 137, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Seven
People who have foreknowledge and far-reaching vision are full of ability, but in an orderly society they do not use this to press others. People who are broadly learned, have strong memories, and are eloquent and expressive are full of knowledge, but enlightened leaders do not seek this in subordinates.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
The above passage brought to mind two famous lines from Verse 56 of the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know."

Our society seems to be overrun with people who are happy to tell us that they have "seen the light," they have figured out the "truth" and/or they "know" what the rest of us have yet to figure out. However, as Lao Tzu points out, anyone who spends their time promoting their sagacity only proves that their sagacity is lacking.

A true sage doesn't call attention to him or herself. They have no need to pump up their egos for their egos are small. Conversely, people who call attention to themselves have very big egos and they need to feed them constantly. So, they run around the world -- or the blogosphere -- promoting their "wisdom" every chance they get.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 136

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Six
A clear and calm social order is characterized by harmony and tranquility, plainness and simplicity, serenity and freedom from agitation. Inwardly united with the Way, outwardly conforming to justice, speech is brief and logical, action is joyful and sensible.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
For me, the above passage could be easily summed up in the popular bumper sticker: Live simply so others may simply live.

The beauty of simplicity is that there is nothing to protect, nothing to covet. There is no need to build walls around it or armies to fight for it. You don't need to pass laws or policies to implement it. You don't need to pray or meditate to put it into action.

Simplicity is too easy for all that rigmarole. You live simply simply. That's all there is to it.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 135, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Five
When modesty and conscience decline, eventually society degenerates. Then there are many demands and few goods; people work hard without being able to make a sufficient living. The populace is poor and miserable, so anger and contention arise; this is why humaneness is valued. People are debased and unequal, cliques and factions each push for their own interests, hearts full of machinations and cunning deceptions; this is why justice is valued.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
If we look at the world today, there is an ever-widening chasm between the opulence of the well-to-do and the rest of the people on this planet. Here, in the US, real wages have fallen or have been stagnant for more than a decade and many pundits bemoan the fact that the American middle class may soon be extinct.

But while we Americans lament the ills of our economic situation, our pains pale in comparison with our fellow human beings in many parts of the world. There are people today in Central America, Africa, China and Pakistan (to name a scant few) who toil their lives away making consumer goods for the west while earning pennies per day! They live in squalor and scratch about for food. They live a life with little hope for a better day.

If we in the west truly believe in the ideals of humaneness and justice, then it is incumbent on us to alter OUR lifestyles so that we don't engender the alienation and subjugation of others. If we are unwilling to change, then the blood of those who make our modern lifestyle possible will continue to stain our hands.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 135, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Five
Yin and yang mold myriad beings; all of them are born of one energy. When the hearts of those above and those below are estranged, then energy evaporates. When rulers and ministers are not in harmony, the five grains do not ripen. Coldness in spring, blossoming in autumn, thunder in winter, and frost in summer are all products of destructive energy.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In reading that last sentence, the thing that came to mind immediately is our problem with global warming. Across the globe, weather extremes are increasing in frequency and wreaking havoc everywhere. It seems that not a month goes by when some natural catastrophe punctuates the news -- forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, you name it.

All of these things are natural climatic events. More and more, however, they are occurring out of season and in unlikely places. And the intensity of such natural events seems to be increasing.

A few people believe that global warming is some liberal-based myth and that all these bizarre occurrences simply are part and parcel of the natural rhythms of our planet. The majority of the world's leading scientists, however, point to human activity as the prime culprit. As Lao Tzu makes clear above, when society itself is out of balance, destructive energy is created and, in the present case, it appears that this destructive energy is the engine for climate change.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 134

from Verse One Hundred Thirty-Four
When you get to the root of human nature by means of the Way, there is no perversity or pollution; but when you are steeped in things for a long time, you forget that root and conform to a seeming nature.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
All of us are weighted down with baggage. We each view life through a subjective lens and, often, our lenses get out of focus. We each follow patterns in our lives and, people like me, follow them excessively. And I've never met a person that hasn't gotten stuck in a rut from time to time.

While I agree with the general tenor of the passage above, I don't agree completely. I think we all share a general nature, but not a specific one. I believe that biology plays a big role in dictating a person's internal nature.

From what we can discern, some people are born to be sociopaths. Some basic elements of remorse and compassion simply seem to be missing in their brains. Sad to say, this wanton disregard for the rights of others appears to be part of their essential nature.

Now this is not to suggest that there may be environmental triggers at work too. But it's hard to argue this point when a very young child is given this diagnosis. To me, this provides a far stronger indication that the problem is organic, not from the ego.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Weeeeeeee - OCD!

We can certainly chock up the last 2 days or so to an OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) binge! This blog, whose main focus is a discussion of the world from a standpoint of philosophical Taoism, became a bit overrun with one of my compulsions. I'm not here to apologize because...well...this is the genuine me; I go off on tangents from time to time and I often find it difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

Hopefully, this will be the last post on this overall theme for some time. I certainly don't wish to drive you folks as stark raving mad as I can get. :>)

However, I did want to point out that as The Crow has offered from time to time, it takes two to tango. It appears to me that I'm not the only one who struggles with OCD -- I believe The Crow himself suffers from this condition as well.

Now, if I wanted to be like The Crow, I would end my post right here and not offer any rationale for my supposition. However, he and I engage in the art of conversation far differently, so I'm going to offer my reasons for making such a statement.

Beginning at 10:00 am yesterday morning, The Crow spent 10 hours on my blog (that's 10 out of the last 14 hours of the day)!! Ten hours! He accessed 73 pages and left 31 comments. Have you ever spent more than 2 or 3 hours on someone's blog in a day? I know I haven't.

That seems more than a tad bit excessive to me. It sounds like someone with an uncontrollable obsession. I know about these kinds of obsessions; I have many.

So, in my estimation, the carnage that many of you experienced yesterday was the result of two people with OCD who were obsessed and compelled with the same thing at the same time. Having to deal with one person with OCD can be difficult, but having to deal with two of them at the same time is a nightmare!

Since The Crow has indicated that he has flown away for a time, I am more than hopeful we are done with this silliness for awhile...but you never know (he's already returned once after announcing he was leaving). That said, my next post will be on the Wen Tzu.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Art of Argument

I would guess that 95% of the folks who regularly read and comment on this blog know how to express their opinions and make arguments. It doesn't matter whether they agree or disagree with what I post here. The vast majority state their position and then provide some rationale for why they've drawn their conclusions.

Unfortunately, I have two or three readers who don't understand the art of argument nor conversation. These folks generally offer conclusions, but provide no information on how these conclusions were reached. Not only that, but if you ask them the basis for their conclusions, they refuse to answer OR they answer with yet another unsubstantiated conclusion.

So, as a public service to these two or three people, I'm going to feature some information below about how valid arguments are constructed. The information comes from Wikipedia.
In logic, an argument is a set of one or more meaningful declarative sentences (or "propositions") known as the premises along with another meaningful declarative sentence (or "proposition") known as the conclusion. A deductive argument asserts that the truth of the conclusion is a logical consequence of the premises; an inductive argument asserts that the truth of the conclusion is supported by the premises. Deductive arguments are valid or invalid, and sound or not sound. An argument is valid if and only if the truth of the conclusion is a logical consequence of the premises and (consequently) its corresponding conditional is a necessary truth. A sound argument is a valid argument with true premises.

Each premise and the conclusion are only either true or false, i.e. are truth bearers. The sentences composing an argument are referred to as being either true or false, not as being valid or invalid; deductive arguments are referred to as being valid or invalid, not as being true or false. Some authors refer to the premises and conclusion using the terms declarative sentence, statement, proposition, sentence, or even indicative utterance. The reason for the variety is concern about the ontological significance of the terms, proposition in particular. Whichever term is used, each premise and the conclusion must be capable of being true or false and nothing else: they are truthbearers.
In other words, if you are interested in engaging in a meaningful conversation with me or other readers, declarative statements need to have some premises that they are built upon.

If you choose to continue to offer conclusions without substantive reasons offered, then it may mean that you are offering a logical fallacy or an elliptical argument. (Of course, it may simply mean that you like to be argumentative and an irritant.)
A fallacy is an invalid argument that appears valid, or a valid argument with disguised assumptions. First the premises and the conclusion must be statements, capable of being true and false. Secondly it must be asserted that the conclusion follows from the premises. In English the words therefore, so, because and hence typically separate the premises from the conclusion of an argument, but this is not necessarily so. Thus: Socrates is a man, all men are mortal therefore Socrates is mortal is clearly an argument (a valid one at that), because it is clear it is asserted that that Socrates is mortal follows from the preceding statements. However I was thirsty and therefore I drank is NOT an argument, despite its appearance. It is not being claimed that I drank is logically entailed by I was thirsty. The therefore in this sentence indicates for that reason not it follows that.

Elliptical Arguments
Often an argument is invalid because there is a missing premise the supply of which would make it valid. Speakers and writers will often leave out a strictly necessary premise in their reasonings if it is widely accepted and the writer does not wish to state the blindingly obvious. Example: All metals expand when heated, therefore iron will expand when heated. (Missing premise: iron is a metal). On the other hand a seemingly valid argument may be found to lack a premise – a ‘hidden assumption’ – which if highlighted can show a fault in reasoning. Example: A witness reasoned: Nobody came out the front door except the milkman therefore the murderer must have left by the back door. (Hidden assumption- the milkman was not the murderer).

No Neat Little Boxes for Moi

In the comments to a previous post, Relentless, there's been quite a lot of talk about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MCTI) for assessing personality type. As I've written before, I'm not enthralled with this tool, not because I don't think it doesn't has some merit or value for some people, but because I don't seem to fit well in ANY of the neat little boxes or categories. I seem to draw equally from both sides of the two-sided sets in most instances.

For this post, I'll be quoting from one of the many websites that help to explain these personality preferences. Listed items will be followed by their tag within the set.
1. Where is your energy naturally directed?
Extraverts' energy is directed primarily outward, towards people and things outside of themselves. Introverts' energy is primarily directed inward, towards their own thoughts, perceptions, and reactions. Therefore, Extraverts tend to be more naturally active, expressive, social, and interested in many things, whereas Introverts tend to be more reserved, private, cautious, and interested in fewer interactions, but with greater depth and focus.

My analysis of me.
  • Have high energy (Extravert)
  • Talk more than listen (Extravert)
  • Think out loud (Extravert)
  • Think, then act (Introvert)
  • Feel comfortable being alone (Introvert)
  • Prefer to work "behind-the-scenes" (Introvert)
  • Can sometimes be easily distracted & Have good powers of concentration (both)
  • Prefer to focus on one thing at a time (Introvert)
  • Are outgoing & enthusiastic (Extravert)
Scorecard: 4 - Extravert, 4 - Introvert, 1 - Both

2. What kind of information do you naturally notice and remember?
Sensors notice the facts, details, and realities of the world around them whereas Intuitives are more interested in connections and relationships between facts as well as the meaning, or possibilities of the information. Sensors tend to be practical and literal people, who trust past experience and often have good common sense. Intuitives tend to be imaginative, theoretical people who trust their hunches and pride themselves on their creativity.

My analysis of me.
  • Focus on details & specifics & Focus on the big picture & possibilities (both)
  • Admire practical solutions & Admire creative ideas (both)
  • Notice details & remember facts & Notice anything new or different (both)
  • Are pragmatic - see what is & Are inventive - see what could be (both)
  • Think about future implications (Intuitive)
  • Trust actual experience (Sensor)
  • Like to use established skills (Sensor)
  • Like to figure things out for themselves (Intuitive)
  • Work at a steady pace & Work in bursts of energy (both)
Scorecard: 2 - Sensor, 2 - Intuitive, 5 - Both

3. How do you decide or come to conclusions?
Thinkers make decisions based primarily on objective and impersonal criteria--what makes the most sense and what is logical. Feelers make decisions based primarily on their personal values and how they feel about the choices. So, Thinkers tend to be cool, analytical, and are convinced by logical reasoning. Feelers tend to be sensitive, empathetic, and are compelled by extenuating circumstances and a constant search for harmony.

My analysis of me.
  • Make decisions objectively (Thinker)
  • Appear warm and friendly (Feeler)
  • Are most convinced by rational arguments (Thinker)
  • Are honest and direct (Thinker)
  • Value honesty and fairness & Value harmony and compassion (both)
  • Take few things personally (Thinker)
  • Tend to see flaws (Thinker)
  • Are motivated by achievement (Thinker)
  • Argue or debate issues for fun (Thinker)
Scorecard: 7 - Thinker, 1 - Feeler, 1 - Both

4. What kind of environment makes you the most comfortable?
Judgers prefer a structured, ordered, and fairly predictable environment, where they can make decisions and have things settled. Perceivers prefer to experience as much of the world as possible, so they like to keep their options open and are most comfortable adapting. So, Judgers tend to be organized and productive while Perceivers tend to be flexible, curious, and nonconforming.

My analysis of me.
  • May have difficulty making decisions (Perceiver)
  • Are serious & conventional & Are playful & unconventional (both)
  • Pay attention to time & are prompt (Judger)
  • Prefer to start projects (Perceiver)
  • Work first, play later (Judger)
  • Want things decided & Want to keep their options open (both)
  • Question the need for many rules (Perceiver)
  • Like to make & stick with plans (Judger)
  • Find comfort in schedules (Judger)
Scorecard: 4 - Judger, 3 - Perceiver, 2 - Both
Of course, my analysis is based on my own subjective view of myself. Each of you might come to different conclusions. Since I tend to be a moody person, the answers are often influenced by my current mood.

With the exception of the Thinker designation, I don't appear to fit into any of the other categories. So, I've come up with my own code. I'm a WSTP (Wacky, Strange, Thinking, Person). :>)