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Saturday, July 31, 2010

seek and ye shan't find

This thread on atheism/agnosticism produced this gem (from the commenter's thesis).
In Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain poignantly describes the dilemma that occurs when we defer to rational, utilitarian thinking alone. In doing so he simultaneously lends credibility to other ways of learning, experiencing, and knowing. Ways which he apparently comes to esteem as equal, if not superior.

“Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry, had gone out of the majestic river…All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat. [Speaking of his pity for doctors in this regard he continues,]…doesn’t he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?”

When Joshu asks Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen replies “Ordinary mind is the Way.” “Shall I seek after it?” Joshu inquires. To this Nansen responds, “If you try for it, you will become separated from it.” Confused, Joshu persists, “How can I know the Way unless I try for it?” Nansen’s response is full of intrigue. He says, “The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is a delusion, not knowing is confusion.” He concludes by explaining that the Way is vast and boundless as space itself and that it cannot be talked about in terms of right and wrong; that the Way is an experience rather than a conceptual understanding—an understanding that somehow lies beyond right and wrong.

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