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Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:13 pm
by Jean Fournell
This thread is meant for discussions, comments, questions-and-answers, differing points of view, and other such things that needn't clutter up more specifically dedicated threads.
It is not exclusively meant for "The Fool", but also for more or less related topics.

Please understand that at present the fool's story is not yet entirely told. So there might easily be questions that find their answer in later fragments, and in this case I would have to ask for patience. But on the other hand there might be things of course which make more sense if one or the other point is clarified.

Let's see what happens...

Re: Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:10 am
by vlcoats
Thank you Jean for starting this thread.

As you know from our discussions in other threads, I wanted to comment on The Fool and had a question or two. I decided to read The Fool from the beginning. And I have started to do that, but before I continue....

I should confess that I have struggled with lessons, parables, and abstract teachings. My mother said when she read Aesop's Fables to us, I was too impatient to listen to the story and would always ask what the lesson was first. I have always wanted the 'big picture' and still do. A few years ago, I joined an aikido class. I wanted to take boxing, but it was full. I was very frustrated that there was no instruction and no direction from the sensei, and beyond being supplied with my Gi, I was expected to just 'blend in' and somehow know what to do. The only reason I stayed was because I wanted to find out why no matter who approached the sensei or how they approached him, they would end up on the floor, while it appeared that the sensei had not moved at all. He was full of energy but like a mountain. I believed they were playing along with his illusion until he invited me to try myself. So I stayed, but unfortunately too soon life circumstances interfered, and I moved out of the area. Aikido was offered in my new town too, but not by that sensei, so I knew it would not be the same. But, I have always felt that if only the sensai had given me a better indication of what he was teaching, I would have learned much more.

My last story regarding lessons and the big picture is about a boyfriend I had very briefly when I was 18. I think he was maybe a Zen practitioner, but it was so long ago that I am not sure. I do remember very well that he kept telling me that I needed to look deep inside myself and only when I realized that there was nothing there could I discard my ego and .... (here is where the big picture was lacking... because he never told me what I should expect to happen at that point). Try as I might, and deep as I might look, I could never find the 'nothing' he expected me to find. In fact, I felt that there very much a 'something' inside and not a nothing. In the end, I felt he was full of baloney (for lack of using a word that fits better), and we parted. Then, I read a book called "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, and it made much more sense to me than anything he was saying. I was very young, so I didn't know anything about her or her philosophy. Since then, I have learned that she has been ostracized for being selfish and has been aligned with political beliefs that I know in fact are not my own. So I am confused how it is that both Eastern spirituality and Ayn Rand can speak so clearly to me at the same time... and what does Leonard Cohen have to do with it? Because he speaks very clearly to me also. I think this all has something to do with the big picture though.

So now, I am searching for the big picture in your writings of "The Fool". To confess, when I first zipped through it, I felt either I was stupid or you were crazy! But after rereading from the beginning, I find out that I am able to understand most of it up to (and including most of) 8.1, but then I am lost. Should I just keep following along like at that aikido class, where things became more clear as I went along?

I also confess that I will not have as much time as I need to learn much at all.


Re: Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:09 am
by Jean Fournell
Thank you Vickie, for this first post and for the interesting questions raised!

First, a few minor points:
● I had never as much as heard of Ayn Rand. So I can't say much on that subject, except that she seems to be advocating the law of the strongest.
● Nor am I qualified to say whether you should go on reading, am I?
("The Fool" is crazy whence the title.)
● I obviously don't know what happened in your aikido practice, and so I can't comment on that. My own aikido practice only lasted about three years, but it contained some highly concentrated bokken fighting and a training course with master Tamura : my partner and I were desperately trying to find out how many arms and legs we had, and after master Tamura had done the movement once with each of us, we still didn't know but our body-mind systems practised the exercise as though they had never done anything else...

As for the "big picture", as far as I can provide any such thing (and: I'm still working on the English version...):
"The Fool" is a kind of horsemanship "Pilgrim's Progress", and after a first phase of rather receptively discovering things, the fool is presently (chapter 12) in a phase where he actively works with what he discovers. In a third phase, he will be put to the test; and in a fourth phase, in an accelerated movement, first a second, then a third and maybe a fourth fool will join the party.
But I'm afraid it doesn't end in a "lesson", and it's not a "parable". It's story-telling. There are things happening to someone, but not necessarily because of this or that ideology.

Since you mention fragment 8.1:
The Bible says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image".
The cook says, "You can do as you like, and I'm not to order you about. Only, the consequences of your actions are things you generally won't escape."
Leonard Cohen says, "If the sea were sand alone / And the flowers made of stone / And no one that you hurt / Could ever heal".
A question of timelessness, of a static world.

You say, "I could never find the 'nothing' ".
How would you! The nothing doesn't exist, as the fool finds out in the institution. The world is something, not nothing. There can't be "some nothing" inside a human body-mind continuum. Even if there were a hollow space somewhere in the belly, containing neither air, nor photons, nor gravitational waves nor whatever, it would still be surrounded by something, and thus be an exceptional kind of something itself. And it surely would be kind of weird to discover a hole full of vacuum inside one's belly...

What we might find out through introspection is, that there is "nothing special" about our precious self. That we're just "a bag of skin full of blood and bones and crap", crap meaning both physical and mental waste.
But "nothing special" is not nothing it is perfectly ordinary something.
(Humans being what they are, we are all after something special, especially in what concerns our own ego.)

Nor can we see the absence of our own ego (nor our own death). Either we are present (and alive), and we can see; or we are absent or dead, and can't see. That's why some say that the soul is immortal: it can't see the world without itself. That's why the ego "knows" itself immortal, even if it dies 84 000 times per second.

The death of the ego is visible only for others, not for the ego itself.
And nobody can practise instead of someone else.

Let me hope this leads to more clarity, even if I'm not sure it will...

Re: Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:12 pm
by vlcoats
Thank you for your reply Jean,

Yes, I will continue reading and trust that I will understand more as I go along. That's how things normally work when I elect for patience anyway. You said there wasn't a lesson at the end of your story, but I will bet there is a lesson somewhere in the story, or many lessons. Most everything has a lesson in it.

I liked what you said about how either we are present (alive) and can see or we are absent (dead) and can't see and that is why some say the soul is eternal. That makes sense.

I don't think I agree with the nothing special part though. It is true that in essence we are just a mass of atoms and chemicals - which is why I think Leonard Cohen said what he did about being the "brief elaboration of a tube" (I always equated the tube to a test tube as in chemistry class). However it is in the elaboration, however brief, that we are something rather special after all.

I also don't quite agree that Ayn Rand advocated the law of the strongest. Maybe the law of the self, but I am not sure if that is even right. I never did read any of her other books besides The Fountainhead, so maybe I am wrong about that.

Thank you for the 'big picture' of you story. That helps.


Re: Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:09 pm
by Jean Fournell
Yes, patience often helps, doesn't it.

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

What's special here is "these words of wisdom"...

Of course all sentient and non-sentient beings are unique, and different from each other. Even if scientists should produce two identical particles, in order to be really two, they would have to be in two different locations (in space and/or in time). And with this difference, they'd not be rigorously identical any more.

It is only because we are all different that I must realise that you have no lesser rights than I. Equality is meaningful only because of difference equality of identical things would be a tautology. In most cases, a = a is trivial; it is a = b that is meaningful. It is because two apples and two more apples are four different apples that the abstraction 2 + 2 = 4 is useful.

But that is nothing special. My egos, no matter how many, are all different, and yet none of them is special. Except in its own eyes, of course. In its own eyes, each of my egos is the most special and the most important ego in the world and also if I am to believe the words of the ego-flatterers on Vanity Fair.
No need, however, to reinforce that phenomenon it works all by itself, and more than well.
(Which is nothing special either.)

Thanks Vickie, for reading my unconvincing stuff...

Re: Discussing "The Fool" and similar things

Posted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:59 am
by vlcoats
I would not say that you are unconvincing. Maybe my ego is hard to convince. Or does the fact that I recognise my own ego prove that maybe my ego is smaller than I feared after all? Or does the fact that I am asking prove it is ginormous? Who knows, right?
I have continued to read your foolish thread ( ;-) ), and I like the part about horses and being in the moment (you might have called it something else). Reminded me of working with dogs... and not dwelling on what they have done or not done in the past.
I will keep reading.