Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
I differ with Sartre in that, rather than seeking to define myself. I want to deconstruct myself progressively, clearing myself of illusion with sweeping blasts of the phaser that is my conscious attention.
"Nothing is true; everything is permissible," said the Old Man of the Mountains.
The Golden Rule is ambiguous, as you point out--if I were a polymorphously perverse cannibal sociopath, like Albert Fish, I would be pleased if others attempted to harm and consume me, for it would add spice to existence. Fish, the oldest man to be sent to the electric ...[text shortened]... rror that moral relativism is greeted has always nonplussed me, because I see it as freedom.
Wow! Now we have a real thesis and antithesis—if I may, existentialism versus Zen. Since they are two “favorites” that I keep coming back to—
Let me try to offer a synthesis: If one does not go through the process of deconstructing what I call one’s fabricated or artifactual self (which Zennist call the small-i, or ego-self, etc.) in order to see the illusory (i.e., artifactual and transitory) nature of it, how can one begin to freely and truly take on the existential task of creation? (“Man is the only creature which must create himself.” Ortega y Gasset.) The process of deconstructing is a willing process of dis-illusionment, recognizing all those “i-thoughts” as just that: another thought. What is behind all those thoughts, images and words? What is the ground from whence they arise? And, vis-à-vis existentialism, can one become aware of that ground without violating Sartre’s insistence on the intentionality of consciousness?
After “deconstruction” (which, in Zen terms, would be after the experience of kensho
), one can make anything one wants, realizing that all such makings are transitory and artifactual. Play in maya, in maya-making.
Does all of this violate the principle of “existence precedes essence?” Well, I guess it does, since Zen posits an ineffable (ineffable, if for no other reason that than it’s the “all-of-all-of-it” and there are no contrast/comparison handles to “eff” onto) ground of being from which we, as existents, are thrown up like waves on the ocean. Maya consists in seeing the waves as “separate” and perhaps as permanent. As conscious waves, we use this time to play in the separateness—then are particular existence collapses, and...
But that is why Zen also calls the essence “void.” “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” (Heart Sutra, I think). We do not remember anything before we were born, because there is no for—no we—to remember. We find ourselves thrust into an existence we do not understand. During our formative years—through education and conditioning and cultural osmosis—we acquire an artifactual self not entirely of our own making, but at least with our participation. Until we can see that artifactual self for what it is, we cannot truly engage in the existential “self-making” project.
Two asides: Sartre has too much anguish for me. Camus seems to have learned more from Nietzsche—the possibility of amor fati
as an existential attitude.
Camus says: “I want to know if it is possible to live without appeal.” I want to know if it is possible to do so passionately and joyfully, while knowing that it is an exercise in maya in any event. (If it’s enjoyable to argue about the moon, then do so as long as it’s fun—but when it gets serious, let it go!) And if it’s not possible—then perhaps that’s my Camusian revolt! Viva la absurd!
Well, the Zen master seem to be a pretty joyful bunch all in all...
This has probably been just some mind-meanderings that I foist on you by writing and posting them. But thanks to you both.