Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You Have To Be Stupid To See

A friend recently sent me a link to an interesting article titled The importance of stupidity in scientific research and i have to say, i'm slightly worried: did she send it because she knew i'd agree with the author's thesis or just to rub my nose in the fact that i'm stupid? :-)

Actually, i admit i am stupid — hence my chosen name Lao Bendan. But, for the most part, stupid in a good, useful, and valuable way. I know i don't know everything. I know i know infinitely less than i don't know. I know there will always be infinitely more to know, no matter how much i learn. I know that no matter how much we "know," it will never explain what we "are." All of our combined knowledge will never explain "reality" as it really is. I know there are an awful lot of "i"s in this paragraph and yet I have no concept of who or what that is, even though i do.

Yet, even with all this known stupidity, i will never give up trying to learn more. I will go to my grave (or ashes, actually) proud of the fact that i value learning and growth over stability and a firm ground to stand on, which in many people's books makes me stupid in a bad, not worthwhile way. But, while i respect them as human beings, i consider flawed, people who advocate sitting on your laurels and accepting good enough as good enough.

I spent part of a morning the other day listening to an online talk by Steve Hagen, of the Dharma Field Zen Center up in Minneapolis, called Who Are The Awakened?. Taken hand in hand, the above article and Hagen's audio go a long way in explaining how i see the world, why i studied Physics at the university, and why i've tried to live Buddhism for over 30 years. (FWIW, you don't practice Buddhism, you live it. Yoda was right in this case, there is no trying, you are either living it, or you're not; there is no practicing. But, this is an argument for another posting.)

In a way, i could probably be labeled a serious schizophrenic. On the one hand, i have a serious addiction to personal growth: learning new skills, improving the skills i have, taking on new challenges, pushing the envelope of what i do, and finding the limits of what i'm capable of doing. That's the side of me that studies the relative world. That's the side that causes me so much professional grief.

On the other hand, there's this thing called the absolute that exerts an equal pull on me. Reality. What is it? This can't be studied. This can't be examined. You can't learn a little, study that piece, then learn a little more. There is only one way to approach the absolute: admit you don't know what it is, admit you will never know what it is, admit no one will ever know what it is, admit you can't know what it is, and live it.

You can't study or research reality. You can study theories of reality, but not reality itself. In your search for what you are, you can read other people's accounts of their experiences and use those as pointers to what they've experienced, but that's all. These serve as hints, pointers, kicks in the butt, but not as study guides. You can't know reality, you can only be reality.

On both sides of my coin it's obvious that the author of the article is reading from the same playbook that i am. You can't get ahead in life, or Life, especially Life, without knowing, admitting, and embracing your stupidity. Only when you get to that admission will you find yourself with a serious chance of success.

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