[MD] Does every thing have a why?

David Harding davidjharding at gmail.com
Mon Dec 17 04:11:53 PST 2012

Hi Dan,

>>>>> I am delighted to see your reply! Even though my work hasn't let up I
>>>>> did finally finish my latest book. It's such a great feeling, for
>>>>> about a day. And then I get right back into writing again.
>>>> The sign of a born writer…
>>> I am sure it is a sickness... an affliction…
>> Nah. I like good writing. :-)
> Dan:
> Oh, I like reading good writing too. Writing good writing is so much harder…

Well, is that then truly good reading? A tough distinction you make..

>>>>>> Excellent articulation.   I have a couple of questions that your writing raised in me that I suppose we will continue to discuss.. But I'll also offer my tentative answers for these questions as well.
>>>>>> 1. Is Zen social and Motorcycle Maintenance intellectual?
>>>>>> Yes, they are these things, though in my opinion Zen is better described as a cultural(social + intellectual) religion whose goal is DQ.
>>>>>> Motorcycle Maintenance is best described as an intellectual activity whose goal ought to be (though as RMP discovered isn't always) DQ.
>>>>>> 2. Why is there no 'why' for Zen but there is one for Motorcycle Maintenance? Isn't Motorcycle Maintenance a Zen activity after all?
>>>>> Dan:
>>>>> It can be, sure. When one's practice ripens to such a point everything
>>>>> becomes a zen activity. The why of motorcycle maintenance is much the
>>>>> same as the why in music and in writing and in painting portraits...
>>>>> we envision an end point and work towards it.
>>>> How are end points related to why's? You mean to say that we need an end point before we ask why? Why do we even ask why?
>>> Dan:
>>> A customer brings a bike into the shop. It won't start. Why? The
>>> endpoint is the answer to why. Maybe the spark plugs are fouled. Maybe
>>> the gas in the tank is bad. If that same customer goes out to the
>>> garage and the bike starts fine there is no why.
>>> It is the same with writing, at least with me. I envision the ending
>>> of the story and then I start out writing with that ending in mind.
>>> Every word, every sentence works towards that ending. Does the ending
>>> sometimes change? Sure. Just as the diagnosis of the malfunctioning
>>> bike might change as the work progresses. The ending is Dynamic in
>>> that fashion. One must always be aware of something better so as not
>>> to become stuck. But the endpoint is always there, whether it is
>>> fixing a bike or writing a story or painting a picture or composing a
>>> song.
>> Okay then, from this perspective sitting on a cushion is no different.   The goal of sitting is enlightenment.   Just as with all the other things you mention. One must be *aware* during Zazen so as to not become stuck in the static quality goal of 'becoming enlightened'.
> Dan:
> As you know, I don't see a goal to zazen or meditation; there is no
> enlightenment to be found. To sit with the goal of enlightenment is to
> waste one's time. But there is a specific goal while engaged in such
> activities as motorcycle maintenance. If this were not so, then such
> actions would be wasted.
> Likewise, should one approach zen with the goal of enlightenment,
> their efforts are wasted. Better to just sit, to just work, to just
> do…

Disagree Dan.  If you focus on the goal of fixing the bike the whole time you try and fix a bike, then you would never fix the bike because you will be thinking about the goal the whole time.  Both Zazen *and* Motorcycle Maintenance have goals, both of which are achieved not by focusing un-necessarily on the goal but by being present in the moment and doing them.  This to me is the whole point of ZMM.  'Just fixing' is the same as 'Just sitting'.   The goal for both things, indeed everything, if we are to prescribe one, is to move *away* from all mechanistic static patterns.  A broken bike is a low quality very static situation… you aren't going anywhere…  Likewise someone who is beginning Zazen practice, if they are anything like me, will likely begin by being very static and constantly thinking! Tick tick tick the mind goes… But naturally the mind will wind down..

Of course, this is where I see the quote you provide below being significant...

"... Phaedrus wrote on one of his slips, "It seems clear that no mechanistic pattern exists toward which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns?"

The MOQ is an answer to that question.  All *things* are moving towards DQ.  Zen recognises this and shows us how to directly experience DQ. However the MOQ differs with Zen which says that these patterns of experience are an illusion…

"The word “I” like the word “self” is one of the trickiest words in any metaphysics. Sometimes it is an object, a human body; sometimes it is a subject, a human mind. I believe there are number of philosophic systems, notably Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism,” that call the “I” or “individual” the central reality. Buddhists say it is an illusion. So do scientists. The MOQ says it is a collection of static patterns capable of apprehending Dynamic Quality." - LC

So in other words in the MOQ (unlike Zen where the patterns are illusory) the patterns quality is valued. 

>>>> I think that we don't need an end point before we ask why.  As the title of this post suggests, I think that every thing has a why including Zazen. The reason is that we can always ask - Why does x exist? That's about as fundamental a question as you can ask.  But that's not how all why's come to us.   One of the first things we empirically experience is a certain level of quality.  If the level of quality is low, such as with a broken motorcycle, we will ask, 'why is the motorcycle broken?'.   In other words - we don't need an end point to ask this question!  The point is that we are moving *Away* from the low static quality situation and towards some undefined betterness.  It is this movement away from static quality and towards DQ that can be found as the goal of all things.
>>> Dan:
>>> I can see that, sure. I would say though that the stilling of the
>>> internal discursive voice continually running through one's head has
>>> no why, no end point. The whys exist within that internal discursive
>>> voice as it stutters the world into existence. When that voice stops,
>>> the whys of world stop.
>> Sure, and so what we can do with that inner voice thanks to the MOQ is designate the stopping of the mind an intellectual symbol - "Dynamic Quality" - and use those words to intellectually represent the stopping of the mind.  Without the words 'Dynamic Quality' the MOQ would be much poorer as a result.   That's why I disagree and say that the voice does have an end point during meditation; an end point which is called Dynamic Quality.
> Dan:
> I suppose one could call it anything they like but they would still be
> incorrect in naming it. I know Dynamic Quality is used in Lila as a
> reference to neither this nor that. To introduce any symbol is a
> mistake, in my opinion. Dynamic Quality is an intellectual construct,
> not an end point to meditation.

Dynamic Quality is an intellectual construct the same as trees are an intellectual construct the same as human beings are an intellectual construct the same as books are an intellectual construct…  All things are intellectual constructs - including Dynamic Quality.

Therefore the end point to meditation is Dynamic Quality.  This statement is mystically degenerate but intellectually valuable. If you don't want to talk about the static quality intellectual constructs of static quality and Dynamic Quality then your presence on this forum is very peculiar. 

>>> Now, with such matters as a malfunctioning bike we need that endpoint
>>> in order to understand the why. I mean, if we are to fix it, of
>>> course. We can berate the bike, calling it names and kicking it. We
>>> could just throw up our hands and say the hell with it, park it in the
>>> garage, and let it rust for the next 30 years. We could bring it to a
>>> mechanic who will rationally determine the why of the malfunction and
>>> work towards the endpoint of fixing it.
>>> Likening this to one's own life, we can see how people mirror these
>>> activities. They can blame the world for the dilemma they find
>>> themselves mired in, or their parents, or The Man, or any other entity
>>> that seemingly has it out for them. Or they can take the initiative to
>>> understand their own faults and work toward the endpoint of resolving
>>> those issues. Or they can park themselves in front of a tv, drink a
>>> case of beer each night, and vegetate their lives away. Or they can
>>> seek professional help such as therapists and counselors who dedicate
>>> their lives to sorting out the troubles of others.
>> Right I see how they are both the same thing..
>> But sometimes, for me at least, it will be because the quality of a situation is low and it is a matter of determining what is wrong so that I can get out of that bad situation. We might say that getting out of that bad situation is the goal but there is no real goal that I am following other than following some sorta undefined 'betterness'.  To do this I might question the situation to try and re-adjust my current understanding of the situation to see which of my original assumptions might be wrong.  This makes me think of the Brujo example…
>> "If you had asked the brujo what ethical principles he was following he probably wouldn't have been able to tell you. He wouldn't have understood what you were talking about. He was just following some vague sense of 'betterness' that he couldn't have defined if he had wanted to."
>> The Brujo doesn't have a why for what he is doing. He is just following some sort of undefined betterness. We can ascribe whys to what he is doing but doing so would be an after thought and not what is actually driving him.
> Dan:
> Ah. This is true. And yes, to follow undefined betterness while
> working on a motorcycle is a viable option when one becomes stuck on a
> problem. An artful mechanic might even seem like a brujo to the
> uninitiated, a worker of magic, conjuring solutions out of nothing.
> What is driving the mechanic, though, is an endpoint, a solution to
> why the bike isn't running or running properly.

We can attribute that drive to what the mechanic is doing.. but as we agreed, what the artful mechanic does is follow undefined betterness and not a specific goal at all..  I disagree with you that the goal is 'driving him'.  What is driving the artful mechanic is the same as what is driving all things - it is this moving *away* from this low quality static situation where he is stuck with a broken bike and towards this undefined betterness. 

>>>>>> The question of why can have an intellectual but also a DQ answer.
>>>>> Dan:
>>>>> Would that be a non-answer?
>>>> A DQ answer as I explained above.
>>> Dan:
>>> A Dynamic Quality answer is not this, not that. It isn't rational.
>> An 'actual' Dynamic Quality answer is 'not this, not that' yes.  But even those words are not Dynamic Quality.  So really the words 'Dynamic Quality' are an intellectual designation used in the MOQ to denote what Dynamic Quality is.  This is degeneracy yes, but the person who doesn't ruin the world with fixed metaphysical meanings is a person who doesn't exist and to who no thought has been given.
> Dan:
> Yes, it isn't rational…

To be clear Dynamic Quality is not just things which aren't rational.. Dynamic Quality isn't any thing including things which aren't rational.  It isn't even an intellectual construct but we use these words to degeneratively create an intellectual metaphysics which beautifully matches our experience. 

>>>>>> All static things including meditation can be questioned.  That is not their goal but they can all be questioned with a 'why?'  Zen does have a why whose answer is DQ. That's what Koans are aren't they?  What about sitting without Koans? Why do we sit? Don't we find the answer to this question by sitting?  In this regard, Zen doesn't ignore the role of the intellect but it's goal is not intellectual. It shows us how to 'overcome' the intellect by putting it to sleep.  The same *can* be true for motorcycle maintenance.   Through mastery of motorcycle maintenance we can put the intellect to sleep as well. In fact that is the mastery of it.  When it goes to sleep we go 'aha' and we have a breakthrough and discover what is actually wrong with the machine.
>>>>> Dan:
>>>>> When an artful mechanic acts they do so by thinking to fulfill an
>>>>> inadequacy in the machine they are fixing. A mystic through non-action
>>>>> reveals the world without thought. What you seem to be asking is: can
>>>>> they be one and the same? I would say it is possible but doubtful
>>>>> while another person might say it is very likely. I suspect we might
>>>>> both be both right and wrong... probably at the same time.
>>>> I don't like that answer as it is non-intellectual.  I like philosophy because it attempts, however badly or well it might do so, to capture the impossible and give some intellectual meaning to our existence.
>>> Dan:
>>> What if the only meaning to existence is to be free of existence?
>> That is the viewpoint of Zen. But I am not a Zen Buddhist so I don't fully agree with that.  As I've said and is explained in Lila, we are alive, and being alive we can't help but ruin the ultimately undefined nature of the universe with fixed metaphysical meanings.  Picking up bar ladies and writings metaphysics are a part of life.  So as we're alive and ruining this ultimately undefinable nature of the universe, we might as well get these definitions of ours as good as we can!  One of those definitions is saying that Dynamic Quality exists and the meaning to existence is to both experience Dynamic Quality *and* improve quality of things.
> Dan:
> Actually I was thinking of this quote from Lila:
> "... Phaedrus wrote on one of his slips, "It seems clear that no
> mechanistic pattern exists toward which life is heading, but has the
> question been taken up of whether life is heading away from
> mechanistic patterns?" [Lila]
> Since the MOQ sees Dynamic Quality as synonymous with experience to
> say we experience Dynamic Quality is a bit of a misnomer. Since there
> is no mechanistic pattern toward which our existence is leading, isn't
> it better to question if it is heading away from it?

Right.  But as I mention above, we are doing more than just moving away from these static patterns..  We are also creating static patterns as a result of experiencing DQ and these are not illusory as the Buddhists say.

>> Discovering this answer by the emptying out of the mind… Is this really a rational activity?
> Dan:
> Absolutely. One steeps the mind in the problem, considering every
> angle, every possible solution, and then just sets the problem aside.


agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan for economic development.
having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: a calm and rational negotiator.
being in or characterized by full possession of one's reason; sane; lucid: The patient appeared perfectlyrational.
endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.
of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rational faculty.

What is rational activity to you? To me it is intellectual activity…  Intellectually deciding to set the problem aside, and following though on that decision - is to no longer rationally think about that problem.  

>> Is it rationally following the steps of logical induction and deduction to arrive at how to solve the problem.  As you admit, these can be exhausted and still no solution presents itself. This is where it motorcycle maintenance becomes very much an art.  Some can give in and say it's not fixable, or others might start to try and fix something which isn't broken.  But art is more than this.  Art is high quality endeavour. Art is being a good motorcycle mechanic and caring for the machine. Motorcycle maintenance is more than a rational activity.  Rationality will get you only part of the way there. Having 'great peace of mind' before you begin the maintenance is not part of logical rationality but it is necessary to be an artful mechanic.
> Dan:
> I disagree. Peace of mind can be cultivated. It isn't something that
> appears magically of its own accord. When one finds oneself drifting
> away from the center, it is best to bring awareness back into focus.
> There is nothing mystical about it. It is a rational activity.

Peace of mind can indeed be cultivated.. The cultivation of peace of mind is indeed achieved by bringing awareness back into focus.. I disagree though that there isn't anything mystical about it or that it is exclusively a rational activity just as you seem to agree below… The mystical aspect is the bringing oneself back to the present moment and to what you are doing.. This is not rationally thinking about the problem necessarily - sometimes it is just staring at the machine..

>> That's why I say motorcycle maintenance is not *exclusively* a rational activity.
> Dan:
> Well, sure. Nothing worthwhile is exclusively a rational activity.

Right. So we agree here..

>>> This too though is a rational activity.
>>> One has purposely set aside the work until it is time to work again.
>> I purposely set aside time to sit in meditation.  Is meditation for me now a rational activity?
> Dan:
> That depends. Do you have a goal?

Yes, the static quality goal of experiencing DQ. But as soon as I sit and say.. "I am here to experience DQ." Then I won't ever experience DQ. This is why the 'goal' of meditation is really 'no goal'..  This contradiction is explained by the gateless gate.. From a static quality everyday perspective the gate is the goal.. But once you experience the goal you realise that there is no goal because the goal is the source of all things..  This same experience can be found when we achieve many different goals..  However the results of our toils is less apparent when we sit.  This is because all we have been doing is perfecting something as simple as sitting and not trying to master our maintenance of a bike which, all going well, would result in a fixed bike and the art which produced it.

>>> The mystic on the other hand strives to set aside thought. Working a
>>> koan has nothing to do with rationality. A typical Westerner may think
>>> that working a koan is the same as thinking about it but that isn't
>>> so. Even if the practitioner takes on a koan in a rational way it soon
>>> becomes apparent that there is nothing rational about it. So they
>>> either give up or give in.
>> Right. But is that rational activity not a part of the discovering process of the answer for the koan.  As you say, we will rationally try and answer it and try and try, and until we give up(not good), or give in.  But give in to what? To DQ? Isn't that the whole point of the Koan? Koans point you to that place where you cannot rationally solve something.  But in order to understand that you must be rational to begin with.. see?
> Dan:
> Dynamic Quality is synonymous with experience. We cover 'it' up with
> thought. So thinking about a koan will only take one away, not bring
> one closer.

If that is so then why have koans? Why do they exist? Aren't they just a distraction?  I don't think that they are. I think they are there to be thought about..  They point to that non rational place where you can't solve anything..  Think and think and think about them but they have no immediate answer… Like sitting, the mind will start on them at a great pace thinking about how to solve the riddle. What becomes more and more apparent by thinking about them though, is that the answer to this riddle is not rational and one will become more and more acquainted with what is the source of this riddle - DQ.

Thanks Dan,


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