What made me

December 24, 2008

Specifically: why do I think the way that I do? I feel that I can identify most of the concepts that are responsible for the way I process information and how I constructing my thoughts. The meat of what I believe. And the only thing that has changed since I was young kid is realizing that there were others that came before me and identified all of these concepts.

I was told twice this past weekend, in as many days, that I had helped to color the way that someone sees the world. In one instance, that I “… really helped to shape my view of the world and I think turn me into a much sharper toothed, jaded version of myself.” I take joy in knowing that as I was fumbling through my own making that I was able to impart some of what I was learning and it seems to have been put to good use.

My best friend in middle school was Nick. We had a running conversation that lasted throughout high school attempting to figure out why we seemed to find people that ‘got It’ but neither of us could put a finger on what It. We just knew that a lot of people seemed to not. Granted, a lot of our discussions were inside jokes about our network of friends and acquaintances that stretched over several counties in South West PA and into Ohio and the West Virginia panhandle.

People were tested with double entendres, quips and repartee. If you were clueless, than you got dissed or possibly pissed on for awhile. If there was some hope or you possessed something that we might want you might get a pass, but you would no doubt end up the butt of jokes because comedy has a price.

Someone who didn’t ‘get It’ thought that this was mean. We were just a bunch of dicks best avoided. But if you got it, you’d see it all at once and each individual piece simultaneously. Nick and I both recognized this as well. Several years would pass before I read Zen koans and realize that the method we were describing was actually more or less utilized in a long dead school of Zen and that quite often we were speaking in koans and those moments where it felt as though I was seeing something in total was satori.

That’s partially what it meant to ‘get it.’

AROUND the same period, I began studying Existentialism as part of my philosophy major. There I was introduced to a lot of language that helped to define the nuances that we might discuss at any given time and that hard to pin down ‘It’ was best represented by Authenticity which is best defined as recognizing that we are part of the material world full of pressure and influence from external forces. To ‘get It’ is to be authentic. It is to recognize that you have to be true to yourself despite these pressures. I never cared what anyone thought with a few rare instances of unrequited love – but so did the nihilist in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. Bazarov could only admit it on his deathbed.

I faced up to it when I would encounter it.

The next concept whose realization lead to a strange comfort is the first noble truth of Buddhism: that Life means suffering. We’re not perfect and the world is not and so we will endure a life of physical pain and mental anguish. Even on the lowest level, like being in the company of someone you really enjoy, the time to part inevitably comes and while you’re not devastated, you long on some level. That’s not to say that there are not happy moments free of suffering but everything is cyclical and so you can expect disappointment and fear to return. You will be depressed and you will be sad again. Life is incomplete and not permanent.

I suppose to some degree I also agree with part of the second noble truth; that attachment is the source of suffering. As life is transient, so to are those things to which we are attached. If you can experience it, you can become attached to it. I part company at the point of the transient ‘self’; the jury is still out for me on that one. I’m not so sure that life just stops. I tend to believe that a God is possible. My question here lies with my concept of Anselm’s God that exists outside of us and so we can never know its mind. He goes on to state that God can know our mind because we are wholly of his experience. But I wonder if we are so finite that this God cannot know really know our mind?

Sorry for wandering off there…

Since I don’t believe in the cessation of self, I have to reject the third noble truth and the idea of Nirvana. I can never remember the Noble Eight Fold Path and so it hasn’t really made an impression on me other than I think it might be possible to create a model to achieve a sort of sub-enlightenment but I disagree that one needs to walk between the extremes of hedonism and asceticism. Sometimes you have to get into the pool to see if the water is cold. Walking the path between the two is to risk deceiving yourself and accepting something other than what is. One cannot be sure some times unless they imbibe.

TO weigh the merits of anything, I analyze it using my own take on Hegel’s “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” and I’ll detail it here. A proposition is the thesis which I compare against the negation of the thesis. This is the antithesis. The common truths are identified along with any other new findings and this is now reconciled as the synthesis. The synthesis now may become a new thesis. This probably sounds really complicated, but it really is quite simple. I profess no truth in the following but only use it to make the concept easier to use. Here’s an example: Capitalism is the thesis; its reactionary antithesis is Communism; the synthesis can be seen in the current governments of Iran, Russia, China and will soon be on our shores. It’s not quite Fascism and it seems to sometimes be nationalistic but I think it is still being defined.

The next item is relatively new to me but the concept is definitely scalable.

MISEN PLACE, or just mise is literally French for “everything in its place” and is one of the core concepts taught in cooking schools. I really can’t improve on the Wiki entry for it: “It is used in professional kitchens to refer to the ingredients, such as cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components that a cook requires for the menu items that they expect to prepare during their shift. Recipes are reviewed, to check for necessary ingredients and equipment. Ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls. Equipment such as spatulas are prepared for use, while ovens are preheated.” With everything in its place, the Chef can just cook. When I first read Tony Bordains description of mise in Kitchen Confidential, I was floored – what a portable concept. This doesn’t just work in the physical confines of a kitchen but it can be applied to a lot of different areas every day. And I do tend to keep “everything in its place”.

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2 Responses to “What made me”

  1. Jeff Backner Says:

    Thanks for including me in on Midnight Satori! SEEE, THAT is exactly what I was referring to, WE JUST “Got It” back then and even today as we speak as other scoff at their own ignorance to process such intelligence! I have search the world over, for such easy answers, which have been if front of my face ALLLL these years!!! Thus I love the phrase, ‘It is what it is’ It is Soooo simple, like yin yang, BUT YET Sooo complex that MOST who think the phrase is elementary, they belittle the quoter for using such an ambigous phrase, because they lack the ability to even comprehend satori. So sorry for my inability to spell this morning, my synapse arent firing after a 4am plus Christmas Party last night, or rather this morning! Im usually more insightful, as you well know! See, I have learned over the years of searching for my ‘CHI’ that, you need not search for what is right in front of you!!!! Hmmmm We shall continue this discussion after 5 more pots of coffee LOL WOW 3 hrs of sleep and Im Philosophi’ing (LOL My George Bush Verb lol, damn it if the Moronic President can make up words,lol then this genius can utilize the same vocabulary rules lol ) Well I really enjoyed your insightfulness, and I find it exhillarating, that even at such a young age, the gene pool didnt discriminate our satori!

  2. Bartek Says:

    It is interesting to me that you and I have taken different paths to arrive at a very similar solution.


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