Monday, March 30, 2009

Postmodern Rejection of Absolutism

This was certainly a left-fielder, but was worth the read (if only for a good laugh) - I'll update with my own comments later.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Davidson, Knowing what you believe

First a snip from Davidson's "Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective" (Pg. 26):

"Burge has suggested that there is another way in which external factors enter into the determination of the contents of speech and thought. One of his 'thought experiments' happens pretty well to fit me. Until recently I believed arthritis was an inflammation of the joints caused by calcium deposits; I did not know that any inflammation of the joints, for example gout, also counted as arthritis. So when a doctor told me (falsely as it turned out) that I had gout, I believed I had gout but I did not believe I had arthritis.

At this point Burge asks us to imagine a world in which I was physically the same but in which the word 'arthritis' happened actually to apply only to inflammation of the joints caused by calcium deposits. Then the sentence 'gout is not a form of arthritis' would have been true, not false, and the belief that I expressed by this sentence would not have been the false belief that gout is not a form of arthritis but a true belief about some disease other than arthritis. Yet in the imagined world all my physical states, my 'internal qualitative experiences', my behavior and dispositions to behave, would have been the same as they are in this world. My belief would have changed, but I would have no reason to suppose that it had, and so could not be said to know what I believed."

This sounds quite unsatisfactory to me, as it seems to follow the reasoning that the act of being right or wrong and knowing what one believes is a matter of being accurate with respect to communicating your state of affairs – or representing them properly. But that puts language use on the plane of being a medium, and knowing your beliefs a matter of using the medium correctly and representatively. It also seems to connect and perhaps conflate language with belief, and/or assumes that to hold a language is to necessarily hold beliefs, right or wrong. In another way, that our rightness and wrongness stands either in relation to correct representation, or how ones word meanings connect with the language community at large (coherence).

Without a language do we not hold beliefs? Maybe? I suppose we could say that, just as truth only exists in language, belief also only exists in language.
But then what does "knowing what we believe" stand in relation to (representation, coherence, what)? And whether or not I'm correct in accurately verbalizing my state of affairs, am I not correct in believing that my hands hurt like a bitch? Which above Davidson says, yes, that we have the same state of affairs, but in this case we don't know what we "believe". But should we seperate belief and know in this way? Hm

I'll have to read on.....

of course I'm not talking here about what I assume Davidson to believe.

Quote of the Day

Myths are public dreams,
dreams are private myths.


Why are Books better than Movies?

How about some nonesense...?

I think because, in a movie, someone else got to re-create what you once had in your imagination, and those two are never the same. Two people can like a book for the same reasons, and in a discussion talk about it in much the same way, go through the same sequence of events, quote the same lines, reiterate the same feeling of emotion; but what the setting was is alone the individuals. In many ways, then, the story is made personal and movies do nothing more then objectify and destroy it.

Works of art, I think, are completely the opposite. If you read a review of a work of art, it has a tendency of trivializing your own feelings on the matter by objectifying what it believes to be the true feeling ..

Anyway, it gets me to thinking; why do the some “men” who prefer books to movies prefer pornography to romance novels? I don’t partake in either one of course, but I was 21 once.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.

~Joseph Campbell~

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hierarchies of Thought

This is P.6 of "The Two Horns of Reaism and Non-realism"

I'd like to preface this with an exerpt from Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (I'll ultimately go another way):

Precision instruments are designed to achieve an idea, dimensional precision, whose perfection is impossible. There is no perfectly shaped part of the motorcycle and never will be, but when you come as close as these instruments take you, remarkable things happen, and you go flying across the countryside under a power that would be called magic if it were not so completely rational in every way. It's the understanding of this rational intellectual idea that's fundamental. John looks at the motorcycle and he sees steel in various shapes and has negative feelings about these steel shapes and turns off the whole thing. I look at the shapes of the steel now and I see ideas. He thinks I'm working on parts. I 'm working on concepts.

I was talking about these concepts yesterday when I said that a motorcycle can be divided according to its components and according to its functions. When I said that suddenly I created a set of boxes with the following arrangement:

And when I said the components may be subdivided into a power assembly and a running assembly, suddenly appear some more little boxes:

And you see that every time I made a further division, up came more boxes based on these divisions until I had a huge pyramid of boxes. Finally you see that while I was splitting the cycle up into finer and finer pieces, I was also building a structure.

This structure of concepts is formally called a hierarchy and since ancient times has been a basic structure for all Western knowledge. Kingdoms, empires, churches, armies have all been structured into hierarchies. Modern businesses are so structured. Tables of contents of reference material are so structured, mechanical assemblies, computer software, all scientific and technical knowledge is so much so that in some fields such as biology, the hierarchy of kingdom- phylum-class-order-family-genus-species is almost an icon.

The box "motorcycle" contains the boxes "components" and "functions." The box "components" contains the boxes "power assembly" and "running assembly," and so on. There are many other kinds of structures produced by other operators such as "causes" which produce long chain structures of the form, "A causes B which causes C which causes D," and so on. A functional description of the motorcycle uses this structure. The operator's "exists," "equals," and "implies" produce still other structures. These structures are normally interrelated in patterns and paths so complex and so enormous no one person can understand more than a small part of them in his lifetime. The overall name of these interrelated structures, the genus of which the hierarchy of containment and structure of causation are just species, is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.

To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as "the system" is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There's no villain, no "mean guy" who wants them to live meaningless lives, it's just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There's so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.

That's all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There's no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone's mind -- number three tappet is right on too. One more to go. This had better be it -- .I've noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this...that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes...pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts...all of them fixed and inviolable, and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees "steel" as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all out of someone's mind. That's important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone's mind. There's no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There's nothing else there. But what's "potential"? That's also in someone's mind! -- Ghosts.


While thinking about my conundrum of representation - at least insofar as communicating it in such a way that finds some agreement - the above passage from Pirsig came to mind. The key notion to consider in dissolving the idea of philosophical representation and/or realism with respect to what Pirsig has said, is the whole idea that what we consider phenomenon, or the objective world is mostly a mental process. In other words what we see when we observe things and what we make of them stands in relation to a hierarchy or paradigm of thought in such a way that to speak of representation – whereas it may make a certain amount of sense within a given hierarchy - it falls apart outside of it, and is circular within it. Not to mention our adaptation of idea is more closely related to functionality then with accurate representation.

What I’d like to do first is recognize, as Pirsig did above, that things like government, motorcycles, map making, religion, physics, so on, are nothing more then systems of rational thought which can be seen as existing within a hierarchy. In other words, individual propositions in a language don’t stand independently in relation to the things they refer to, but rather stand within in a larger context where their truth value is relative to their logical consistency within the hierarchy. That the socialist concept of distributing the wealth is wrong or bad, is really recognition that within the hierarchy of Democratic thinking there is no such concept – which is why when one infers such a state of affairs, we all cry “SOCIALISM”, and not simply, “That sounds really shitty!”. It’s not that socialism is necessarily false, wrong or bad per se, it simply doesn’t fit into the context of our belief/value system – you could see this as a bit of dogmatic thinking, but I’ll get to that later.

That a motorcycle exhaust pipe is exactly that - and not just in statement but as represented on an engineering print – is true relative to the hierarchy of thought about motorcycles. Outside of that, or the hierarchy being unknown, there’s no telling what the piece could be and/or what it could be interpreted as. Perhaps an Australian shaman from the bush stumbles upon it and immediately proclaims it’s a religious symbol of some sort, whereupon all the people of his village bow down once a day to worship it. That sounds pretty wacky to be sure, and no doubt we’d say they were wrong about the odd piece of metal, but that’s simply because the system of thought we’re using to talk about the part is different from theirs. One might make the argument, well, it wasn’t intended to be a religious symbol from its inception and therefore on those grounds the shaman is completely cracked – he’s applying a system of thought to the part that doesn’t belong to it. But who’s to say that our current conception or system of thought about trees is the right one? The point is we’re interpreting an object relative the hierarchy of thought we’re working in, and relative to the use we find for a given object/concept.

In the case of map-making we again have a system of rational thought at work. On the one hand representation is a slick piece of rhetoric to apply to the map relative to what it’s doing – representing the terrain – however we miss the fact that what the terrain is exists within its own mental hierarchy. In this way (philosophically) we simply see the map representing (if anything at all) another hierarchy of thought. It represents, in the form of marks, scribbles, alphanumerics, etc., our very human rational thought process as it goes to work on it’s own needs and interests; it’s a concept worked out in paper, or to put it another way, it’s just more language. Again, as stated above, the map only makes sense within the context of rational thought it was conceived in; give it to the shaman above, and he might tack it up right next to his exhaust pipe and say it’s a picture of the God-head himself – on what grounds do we say he is incorrect. Once again, the idea of representation itself is nothing more then a concept which exists within a larger framework and who’s truth makes sense only within that context. Since the map is really just more language, the realist is stuck with the same problem of showing how language represents anything. Of course one could make the same argument about me, but as a pragmatist I defend my positions, well, pragmatically; if you don’t like them, or find no use for them, neither of us are any worse for ware.

Moving on, one of the road blocks that stand in the way of any two different understandings is generally one of dogma, or so I’ll argue. That a given thing is an exhaust pipe and nothing more, or that the part is a religious icon and nothing more (in statement or belief), is nothing more then a statement of dogmatic thinking. It’s an insistence that our language, along with our needs and interests surrounding the part, correlate; or more extremely (as we’re talking dogma here) that we represent reality as it is, properly. “It’s an exhaust pipe you religious wack-job!” Essentially what you end up with here is one hierarchy/system of thought claiming relevance over another hierarchy/system of thought and in some cases conflating purposes. On the one hand the westerner could assemble the part onto an actual motorcycle and demonstrate it’s use relative to his hierarchy, but on the other hand the shaman could do just the same – so long as both sides are unwilling to step out of they’re dogmatic little hierarchies, no real conclusion on the matter may be reached.

This leads me to another dogma of realism, which is the notion that scientific inquiry makes progress by finding out more and more about the same objects. But once again, this assumes (in true realist form) that we are building upon a system of thought which exists in the form of one big pyramid, as apposed to several competing pyramids, furthermore that the purposes these structures of thought serve are the same. Going back to the exhaust pipe, it’s easy to see from the outside looking in that their difference in opinion exists mainly in the purpose the object serves. Relative to this view point we cannot here make the claim that either side is incorrect, more right or more wrong; we can only say that this side or that sides purpose is meaningless to us.

In the same way we can move to an example given earlier, about where Aristotle’s ideas of motion stand relative to Newton’s. We may be tempted to consider the following statements, “Aristotle said mostly false things about motion”, or “Aristotle said mostly true things about what HE called motion, but we don’t believe there is any such thing.” Or we might want to say, “Here Aristotle goofed, even in his own terms.” Or, “here we have a statement which would be true if anything in Aristotelian physics were, but which, alas, refers to something which does not exist and thus is false.” What we’re trying to accomplish here is to distinguish between Aristotelian falsehoods which are the result of the nonexistence of what he was talking about, and those which result from his misuse of his own theoretical apparatus. However in both cases we’re making a judgment of a particular system of thought relative to the dogma of another system of thought – on the one hand, assuming we’re talking about the same things, he completely misconstrued and/or misrepresented the nature of motion. On the other hand, he was talking about ghosts and fairies that we can’t seem connect with any phenomenon by today’s standards. In both cases we neglect whatever practical purpose his dialogue about motion served at the time and instead substitute it with the practical purposes we have today – thus it is by those standards we make a call. Our current hierarchy of thought isn’t “more true”, it’s simply better suited to our current needs and interests. This is exactly the case between the westerner with the exhaust pipe, and the shaman with the religious icon – each is conceiving of a given thing within a different hierarchy of thought to serve a different need. There is no way of talking about their object that is more true then any other; it’s not more true to call it “A” instead of “B”, nor is it more true that it serves purpose “A” as apposed to purpose “B”. In the same way it isn’t more true to call motion “Aristotelian” as apposed to “Newtonian” (or visa versa), nor is it more true that motion serves an “Aristotelian” purpose as apposed to “Newtonian” purpose. Once again, it would be my argument that a shift in position is a shift in systems of thought relative to the purposes those shifts give us, not their “truthy-ness”.

Representation then, can only take place dogmatically (rhetorically) within a given hierarchy of thought. In other words if two speakers are agreeing to converse within a given context, they can make claims and/or arguments about correct representation only within that context. So you can say, relative to systemic world view “X”, it would be inaccurate to represent reality as containing a God as nowhere within the hierarchy is the logic, reason, or rational to deal with the concept. This of course doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist anymore then the exhaust pipe may or may not be an exhaust pipe or religious icon for the same reasons. The key point here is, that any idea, whether contained in what we’d call object or in dialogue, makes sense only within the context of the language it takes place within – the same is true for the idea of representation. If one would like to use it, fine, but as we cannot justify it outside of pragmatic grounds, then happy chit-chats to you.

The final matter I’d like to address is the idea of constraint, or being constrained by reality in such a way that this gives us a legitimate claim to realism. Since it’s obvious we bump into a world that seems to hold us back from doing certain things, it follows that there must be a world in itself that we have the capacity to represent. I’m not going to fully tackle this here, but say for the moment that, in much the same way the Buddhists say, “Desire is the cause of all suffering”, and Nirvana is the escape from this suffering, I will say, “Rational thought is the cause of all constraint”. It constrains us in governmental systems, religious systems, subject/object metaphysical systems, and in philosophical systems in general. Whatever our current forms of thought are that we hold dear to within any of those systems are the vary things that constrain us, they are the dogma of our lives. As Pirsig notes, through revolts within governments, scientific revolutions, or shifts in religious perspectives, we never get to the point of releasing ourselves from the real culprit of constraint and suffering, which is systematic reason itself. Our lives through these revolutions seem to have some short term gains, but we quickly fall into the same sorts of depressions that led us into the revolutions in the first place.

I’d like to paraphrase Nietzsche with the following:“When a thing becomes known to us, it ceases to be of a concern.” (he goes on to say from here, “…so what was on the mind of God when he said, ‘know thyself’,”) In other words it (the thing) becomes dogmatic, ordinary, meaningless, and so on. It becomes something that doesn’t quite get at the core of what it was we were trying to say, and as a result we build new systems of thought to deal with that new sense of emptiness we feel; which are interpreted as our new needs and interests.

Quoting Pirsig in ZMM again he states:

“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts...something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it's important also to see what's created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Comrade Schwartz: The paradox of choice

I don't think I've ever come across commie drivel that was packaged in such a neat and amusing pile of bullshit as this – so I thought I’d post it…

Busy @ Work

Aerospace audit & conformity this week and next... Rest assured, when you hop onto an airplane, the ammount of paperwork that went into qualifying each piece that went into the contruction of it, weigh more than the plane itself - at least that's the joke.

So when a plane leaves the assembly bay, the chances of something going wrong are as close to nothing as one can imagine.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sunday, March 08, 2009


In the absence of an effective general mythology or religion, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream. The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of Fourty-second Street and fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.

The Knight, the Buddha and the Dragon

Another tale from Campbell:

“…The old English tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a famous one. One day a green giant came riding on a great green horse into King Arthur's dining hall. "I challenge anyone here," he cried, "to take this great battle-ax that I carry and cut off my head, and then, one year from today, meet me at the Green Chapel, where I shall cut off his head." The only knight in the hall who had the courage to accept this incongruous invitation was Gawain. He arose from the table, the Green Knight got off his horse, handed Gawain the ax, stuck out his neck, and Gawain with a single stroke chopped off his head. The Green Knight stood up, picked up his head, took back the ax, climbed onto his horse, and as he rode away called back to the astonished Gawain, "I'll see you in a year."

That year everybody was very kind to Gawain. A fortnight or so before the term of the adventure, he rode off to search for the Green Chapel and keep faith with the giant Green Knight. As the date approached, with about three days to go, Gawain found himself before a hunter's cabin, where he asked the way to the Green Chapel. The hunter, a pleasant, genial fellow, met him at the door and replied, "Well, the Chapel is just down the way, a few hundred yards. Why not spend your next three days here with us? We'd love to have you. And when your time comes, your green friend is just down the way." So Gawain says okay. And the hunter that evening says to him, "Now, early tomorrow I'm going off hunting, but I'll be back in the evening, when we shall exchange our winnings of the day. I'll give you everything I get on the hunt, and you give me whatever will have come to you." They laugh, and that was fine with Gawain. So they all retire to bed. In the morning, early, the hunter rides off while Gawain is still asleep. Presently, in comes the hunter's extraordinarily beautiful wife, who tickles Gawain under the chin, and wakes him, and passionately invites him to a morning of love. Well, he is a knight of King Arthur's court, and to betray his host is the last thing such a knight can stoop to, so Gawain sternly resists. However, she is insistent and makes more and more of an issue of this thing, until finally she says to him, "Well then, let me give you just one kiss!" So she gives him one large smack. And that was that. That evening, the hunter arrives with a great haul of all kinds of small game, throws it on the floor, and Gawain gives him one large kiss. They laugh, and that, too, was that. The second morning, the wife again comes into the room, more passionate than ever, and the fruit of that encounter is two kisses. The hunter in the evening returns with about half as much game as before and receives two kisses, and again they laugh. On the third morning, the wife is glorious, and Gawain, a young man about to meet his death, has all he can do to keep his head and retain his knightly honor, with this last gift before him of the luxury of life. This time, he accepts three kisses. And when she has delivered these, she begs him, as a token of her love, to accept her garter. "It is charmed," she says, "and will protect you against every danger." So Gawain accepts the garter. And when the hunter returns with just one silly, smelly fox, which he tosses onto the floor, he receives in exchange three kisses from Gawain -- but no garter.” “Do we not see what the tests are of this young knight Gawain? They are the same as the first two of Buddha. One is of desire, lust. The other is of the fear of death. Gawain had proved courage enough in just keeping his faith with this adventure. However, the garter was just one temptation too many. So when Gawain is approaching the Green Chapel, he hears the Green Knight there, whetting the great ax-whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff. Gawain arrives, and the giant simply says to him, "Stretch your neck out here on this block." Gawain does so, and the Green Knight lifts the ax, but then pauses. "No, stretch it out -- a little more," he says. Gawain does so, and again the giant elevates the great ax. "A little more," he says once again. Gawain does the best he can and then whiffff -- only giving Gawain's neck one little scratch. Then the Green Knight, who is in fact the hunter himself transfigured, explains, "That's for the garter." This, they say, is the origin legend of the order of the Knights of the Garter.”

“The moral, I suppose, would be that the first requirements for a heroic career are the knightly virtues of loyalty, temperance, and courage. The loyalty in this case is of two degrees or commitments: first, to the chosen adventure, but then, also, to the ideals of the order of knighthood. Now, this second commitment seems to put Gawain's way in opposition to the way of the Buddha, who when ordered by the Lord of Duty to perform the social duties proper to his caste, simply ignored the command, and that night achieved illumination as well as release from rebirth. Gawain is a European and, like Odysseus, who remained true to the earth and returned from the Island of the Sun to his marriage with Penelope, he has accepted, as the commitment of his life, not release from but loyalty to the values of life in this world. And yet, as we have just seen, whether following the middle way of the Buddha or the middle way of Gawain, the passage to fulfillment lies between the perils of desire and fear.”

“A third position, closer than Gawain's to that of the Buddha, yet loyal still to the values of life on this earth, is that of Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra. In a kind of parable, Nietzsche describes what he calls the three transformations of the spirit. The first is that of the camel, of childhood and youth. The camel gets down on his knees and says, "Put a load on me." This is the season for obedience, receiving instruction and the information your society requires of you in order to live a responsible life. But when the camel is well loaded, it struggles to its feet and runs out into the desert, where it is transformed into a lion -- the heavier the load that had been carried, the stronger the lion will be. Now, the task of the lion is to kill a dragon, and the name of the dragon is "Thou shalt." On every scale of this scaly beast, a "thou shalt" is imprinted: some from four thousand years ago; others from this morning's headlines. Whereas the camel, the child, had to submit to the "thou shalts," the lion, the youth, is to throw them off and come to his own realization. And so, when the dragon is thoroughly dead, with all its "thou shalts" overcome, the lion is transformed into a child moving out of its own nature, like a wheel impelled from its own hub. No more rules to obey. No more rules derived from the historical needs and tasks of the local society, but the pure impulse to living of a life in flower.”

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Saying "YES" to Life

The following is a clip from Joseph Campbell's, "The Power of Myth":

.. So Jesus says, "Judge not that you may not be judged." That is to say, put yourself back in the position of Paradise before you thought in terms of good and evil. You don't hear this much from the pulpits. But one of the great challenges of life is to say "yea" to that person or that act or that condition which in your mind is most abominable.

… There are two aspects to a thing of this kind. One is your judgment in the field of action, and the other is your judgment as a metaphysical observer. You can't say there shouldn't be poisonous serpents -- that's the way life is. But in the field of action, if you see a poisonous serpent about to bite somebody, you kill it. That's not saying no to the serpent, that's saying no to that situation.

There's a wonderful verse in the Rig Veda that says, "On the tree" -- that's the tree of life, the tree of your own life -- "there are two birds, fast friends. One eats the fruit of the tree, and the other, not eating, watches." Now, the one eating the fruit of the tree is killing the fruit. Life lives on life, that's what it's all about. A little myth from India tells the story of the great god Shiva, the lord whose dance is the universe. He had as his consort the goddess Parvathi, daughter of the mountain king. A monster came to him and said, "I want your wife as my mistress.'' Shiva was indignant, so he simply opened his third eye, and lightning bolts struck the earth, there was smoke and fire, and when the smoke cleared, there was another monster, lean, with hair like the hair of a lion flying to the four directions. The first monster saw that the lean monster was about to eat him up. Now, what do you do when you're in a situation like that? Traditional advice says to throw yourself on the mercy of the deity. So the monster said, "Shiva, I throw myself on your mercy." Now, there are rules for this god game. When someone throws himself on your mercy, then you yield mercy. So Shiva said, "I yield my mercy. Lean monster, don't eat him." "Well," said the lean monster, "what do I do? I'm hungry. You made me hungry, to eat this guy up." "Well," said Shiva, "eat yourself." So the lean monster started on his feet and came chomping up, chomping up -- this is an image of life living on life. Finally, there was nothing left of the lean monster but a face. Shiva looked at the face and said, "I've never seen a greater demonstration of what life's all about than this. I will call you Kirtimukha -- face of glory." And you will see that mask, that face of glory, at the portals to Shiva shrines and also to Buddha shrines. Shiva said to the face, "He who will not bow to you is unworthy to come to me." You've got to say yes to this miracle of life as it is, not on the condition that it follow your rules. Otherwise, you'll never get through to the metaphysical dimension.

Once in India I thought I would like to meet a major guru or teacher face to face. So I went to see a celebrated teacher named Sri Krishna Menon, and the first thing he said to me was, "Do you have a question?" The teacher in this tradition always answers questions. He doesn't tell you anything you are not yet ready to hear. So I said, "Yes, I have a question. Since in Hindu thinking everything in the universe is a manifestation of divinity itself, how should we say no to anything in the world? How should we say no to brutality, to stupidity, to vulgarity, to thoughtlessness?" And he answered, "For you and for me -- the way is to say yes." We then had a wonderful talk on this theme of the affirmation of all things. And it confirmed me in the feeling I had had that who are we to judge? It seems to me that this is one of the great teachings, also, of Jesus.