Monday, October 29, 2007

The Zen of Kucinich's "Strength Through Peace"

A diary by WinSmith (short for Winston Smith the protaganist in Orwell's 1984) in the Dalily Kos blog site had a witty attack on Bush and the Republicans that brings up Zen:
When the President Poops, It Is Not Poop
Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 07:50:46 AM PDT

I've come to the conclusion that the radical republican zealots running this country aren't actually the batshit insane sexually frustrated war mongering incompetents that they appear to be.

They're actually Zen Buddhist Eastern Mystics offering us the most profound Enlightenment we could ever hope to acquire. We just can't see it.
The republicans aren't just the most corrupt, anti-American and disastrous political party to hold power in this country's history. They're also teaching us a valuable lesson in perception:

What we see is not what we see. Poop is not poop.

Reality is simply a construction in our minds. It's whatever we want it to be.

Oh sure, this fact free form of self delusion has gotten hundreds of thousands killed and damaged the entire 200+ year framework of our government.

But it's so mystical, man.
Because so long as we lie to ourselves inside our own minds, so long as we control our own critical thinking to automatically fall into line like intellectual lemmings, we will never again have to worry about anything at all.

Just wait for our cues.

Let the mouthpieces at Fox simply tell you what the new "truth" is, and PRESTO, it is!!

Think about how wonderful and glorious that state of mind will be!!

We can WIN in Iraq even as the country descends into chaos and disaster. We care about a "culture of life" even as millions of American children are denied healthcare.

But none of that will matter. Because if the president says his poop is not poop, then it is not poop.

It is the Zen Republican Mantra of "truth."

And it will set us all free of worries. Free of our money. Free of our environment. Free of a future.

I thought it was cute, but it does present a misunderstanding of Zen that is every bit as false as the falsehoods of the Republicans that are being criticized.

Another blogger, MarkC, wrote in response:

Could you choose a better analogy?

One of the things I like about Zen is that it is not well suited to denying reality in an "Emperor has no clothes" kind of way. Its denial of conventional reality is not selective -- you can't say "When the president takes a poop, it is no longer a poop" unless you're also saying "when anyone takes a poop, it is not a poop."

Most kinds of Zen are asking you to question the things you believe are objective about reality, but not selectively. It is part of a therapy to realize that the things you think you desire like immense wealth are not really desireable. If the Republicans were really such "Eastern Mystics" they would realize that material goods, profit off of no-bid contracts, and bloody oil windfalls would also not be real, just as their poop is not real. And we'd all be better off for it.

I agreed with MarkC and added the following post to clarify the issue of views of reality and why Zen advocates including the absolute view along with the plain but relative truth view of reality.

You are right, Zen is about truth and love.

Okay, I'm going to be serious here and discuss why the Diarist is insulting Zen,even though he means well.

The false charge of mysticism against Zen is based on a misunderstanding about the polarized mental frames that in fact Zen teaches us to avoid.

When Zen says "reality is not reality" it is not just a mystic's nonsense. It is saying "your mental construct of reality should not be mistaken for actual reality." It is not saying "your mental construct of reality should be replaced by my mental construct of reality. Zen points oat the very interesting awareness that comes from recognizing the function of mental constructs.

In Buddhism there are "three views of reality" which are the false view plus the two truths. The first of the three views of reality are the false views based on imagination. This is the view of reality of the "horn on the rabbit" or the "fur on the turtle." We can imagine this as a fact of reality even though it is not real. This is the false view of reality of George Bush when he imagines WMD in Iraq as a fact.

Then there is the view of reality that is based on relative truth of the present. The sky is blue, the water is wet, the day is warm, the night is dark. These truths are grounded in the relative perceptions of the moment. They are the truths of people everywhere and form the basic aspirations of people. They are the basis of all folk wisdom and common sense. It is when we stray from this relative truth of reality into the false imagination of reality that we get into trouble.

The third view of reality is the absolute view of what is called the mystic experience of no-view. This absolute view can be called the experience of complete unification with reality. It is directly seeing the face of God. There are no words to adequately describe this view of reality, and because there are no adequate words, it is sometimes said, "reality is not reality" in order to drive the mind out of its complacent nesting in words and concepts. This giving up of words is necessary, otherwise, only the relative view of reality is accessible, and a person will never know the awesome joy of the unity of reality.

Without the experience of the view of absolute reality (i.e., the non-experience of the no-view) a person has a very difficult time distinguishing between relative truth view of reality and a false mental construction view of reality. When any person does have a grounding of the relative truth view of reality, it is because they have intuitively touched upon the absolute view of reality within their own mind, even if they are not conscious of having done it.

George Lakoff has presented the concept of framing in a way that helps people understand how the false mental constructions operate in arguments. But it is not just enough to provide an alternative frame or mental construction to counter the Republican false views of reality. The alternative view or frame must be grounded in the relative truth view of reality.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have as hard a time with false views of reality as the Republicans do. The Democrats often don't see the false framing by Republicans, or they share it, and so they argue about small differences within the paradigm, rather than about the paradigm itself. This is how Democratic leadership buys into the false views of reality that justify not impeaching the president, that justify continuing the war funding, that justify building a border wall between the USA and Mexico, etc.

For a good example of challenging the false view of reality that the Republicans and Democrats share in foreign policy look at Dennis Kucinich's campaign for "Strength Through Peace." This is a reframing of the paradigm of foreign policy that shifts from the false view of reality to the relative truth view of reality.

The Republican's false view of reality says that war is peace. The relative truth view of reality says peace is peace, war is war, and it is easy to tell the relative differences. The absolute view of reality says at the bottom, peace and war are relative terms that both come out of the unified state of reality so don't think that you are in a position to judge what is going on until you can tell the false view from relative truth within the context of unified truth.

This Zen view of absolute truth of reality expressed in the phrase "judge not, lest you be judged" is often mistaken as an immoral view. In deed it is not so. To help people find the absolute view of reality it is said, "think neither good or evil, what is your original face?" But once you see your original face (i.e., the face of God) then you will live in the relative truth world and know the difference between hot and cold without the confusion of being judgemental. Then you can tell the difference between real peace and war, without falling prey to the false views and propaganda that would have you support "our peace by taking the war to them" whoever that may be.

When we can see that it is a false peace that is achieved by war as an instrument of foreign policy then we can see the relative truth that says a real peace can only come by giving up war as a tool of foreign policy. You can see the relative truth that war is only useful to achieve peace when it is absolutely defensive for self protection, not for protecting the imagined ephemeral and false "US interests" anywhere around the globe. This is the meaning of Kucinich's very Zen-like "Strength Through Peace" campaign, which like the Zen in martial arts, recognizes that the master of a martial art is the one who doesn't have to use it, much less to threaten to use it, unless the other person attacks first.

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