Some wisdom

I'm really in no position to dispense advice to anyone (indeed, much of the time I find the concept of giving people advice to be a task both daunting and ridiculous). But I would like to record a small insight. It is possible, at any moment in time, to ask oneself: what is the foolish course of action? What is the wise course of action? It is also possible to pick one or the other. Within this deceptively simple observation lies the essence of freedom, which is choice.

I don't know enough to say whether or not choosing the wise course becomes easier over time. (I actually don't think it does; what happens is that the kinds of choices you make become harder and harder, so that while making wise choices at one level becomes easy, making wise choices at higher levels remains harder).

Some people say that doing the right thing is easy; other's say it's hard. I think that there is a fine are to knowing whether or not you're strong enough to be wise right now. But, the first step in learning that art is asking the question - what is the wise path? What is the foolish path? And when I say ask the question, I don't say ask it with a derisive eye toward's the foolish path. No! The foolish path must be understood and described with dispassion and care. Indeed, derision of the fool's path connotes a certain ego, a hubris, which is a kind of foolishness in itself. No, it's almost treating yourself as a character in a story that you are writing. (Yes, there is a small problem with recursion there, but ignore that for now!)

This question can be asked of small things ("the fool would go out drinking, the wise person would stay in and read this wonderful book") or large things ("a fool would pursue wealth, the wise would pursue self-knowledge").

So asking the question is the first step. It is purely descriptive. Deciding which path to walk is a completely separate issue. On what basis do we make such a decision? Why don't we always choose the path of wisdom? I don't know the answer to this. Our minds are constructs that have their own shape and rhythm, and tend to move in certain mysterious ways. Thoughts come and go and flit and flitter in beautiful patterns. And really, when you're watching them, that's all there is. Fascination. Patience. Absorption. On waking there comes the disturbance, the extrapolation of the experience that one's thought is not oneself. What is it then? Where do these thoughts come from?

Of course, there is great danger in following the implication of a fact. So much beauty in the world stems from people's insistence on not following an implication to it's logical end. So much beauty comes from the questions that people don't ask. Entertainment and the 'suspension of disbelief' is perhaps the most visible example. Questions restructure the domain in which they are asked. Questions shape the problem. This is why so many of the holistic healing kinds of people I know have at least a mild antipathy for science: the questions that science asks seem to ruin the joy of the problem. Of course, science is so perverted these days, with kids being taught by rote what gravity is and that we're all made of cells and that the solar system has 9 planets (or however many they've decided on) that they don't have a chance to do science. Science is looking, and thinking. Science is about following implications, but they should be your own implications. Scientific questions do shape the problem a bit too effectively; there are countless isomorphisms to these problems, which might not be as efficient or terse as modern science, but perhaps these isomorphisms have some other benefits. I just think that kids (and adults) should be encouraged to do science and not be forced to explain observations they've never made with concepts that have never meant anything to them. (This is why I think all of science should be told in novel form, recapitulating someone's quest for understanding, documenting all the wrong paths and crazy ideas. The modern science curriculum is so obsessed with efficiency, and cohesion, and information density that it becomes quite unscientific!)

When is it wise to follow the implication of a fact, and when is it folly? It depends on the fact, and it depends on you. There have been times when I knew, way deep down in my bones, that I had thought the wrong question. That the answer really and truly didn't matter. There was some sort of category error implicit in the asking, and no response would be appropriate. Best to let the question's residue die off, and hopefully something more useful will arise in it's place. It is truly a shame to continue asking questions like this, because eventually you convince yourself that it's worth asking (and worse, answering). Does this mean that there is a limit to discourse? Yes! This is something that western philosophers are loathe to hear, but yes, there are real limits to what can be hashed out in word play. Sometimes (arguably, most of the time) it is better to stop and think and do, rather than to speak (or write, as I am reminding myself!).

The wise path right now is to wrap up this post and go to sleep. Good night!

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