| Where Recherche duTemps Perdu|
---- meets Kirchliche Dogmatik
Heat, Health, and Homesickness. Les Temps is, of course, supposed to mean "the times," but right about now, if you're inclined to translate it as "the temps!" as in "the temperatures!", I'm right there with you. As far as I know we're under heat advisory right into the weekend, and it's not even getting lifted at night. This weather reminds me of what it was like in Houston; it never got as hot there, as it did in, say, Dallas, but it just would not cool down at night either. Usually they say, "Don't go out to mow your lawn until after 6 pm or so"; right now they're saying, "Don't go out to mow your lawn." I did so anyway on Monday afternoon--at least the part of the yard that wasn't covered with willow branches from a recent storm--mostly because I was having a little hissy-fit. When we had come back from spending most of the day at Dr. W's, I thought I would go to the public pool, my first time since having overcome the "ickiness," but it was closed, presumably because the 4-H fair is also transpiring there. So, my immediate thought was, well if they want me to die of heatstroke, I might as well do so while getting something significant accomplished. I'm wondering, is that kind of immature reaction a "guy thing"? Your opinion is invited.
A large part of the back yard still looks like a jungle, but at least I eradicated the flourishing beginnings of a forest of stink trees, aka "trees of paradise."
But it sure is hot. Man, is it ever hot! — — Well, how hot is it? — — Let me tell you how hot it is. I just saw two pedestrians going down the street, and they were both walking.
I promised you that I would address the topic of "The 'Ickiness' Revealed." So, I will now make the announcement that I have revealed the nature of the "ickiness" that had been plaguing me several weeks to a number of people. Actually, there is a reason for my flopping around on this matter. I will continue to do so for another week or so, and then, if I have not received any e-mails specifying a particular reaction to my veiled allusions, I will, in fact, tell you what the "ickyiness" was.
With regard to other medical matters, my lab results came back, all good. Nothing that disclosed anything about why my leg should be hurting. No further lines of investigation proposed. How many times over the last six years have I written something along the line. The Dr. orders a test; test is negative; no more intrest. Maybe when I see Dr. B next month, he'll send me to get an x-ray or something. Don't you wish that medicine really worked the way it is consistently portrayed on TV shows?
My writing topic today has been Max Müller, the so-called Father of Comparative Religion. He fits in well with many a German immigrant that I've encountered in this country, only he spent most of his life at Oxford in England. Living out his dreams there, doing precisely what he wanted to do as his life's work, and eventually having an endowed chair created especially for him-- the Chair of Comparative Philology--he still consistently bemoaned his fate of self-imposed exile from his fatherland. He turned down some prestigious invitations from various German universities, including Berlin and Bonn, but he remained in England because only there could he really accomplish his goals. Needless to say, he also complained that no one at Oxford was capable of interacting with him on his level of research. That is what happens when you become a "cutting edge" scholar in an area. He knew full well that he would not even have been able to do his sort of scholarship in Germany, where higher criticism was not only devastating biblical scholarship, but that of most other scriptures of different religions as well. So, Oxford was the place to be for him, but that did not keep him from being discontent about it at times. He manifested a common, if not downright fundamental, trait among Germans, as far as I can tell. It seems as though they love to travel to far-away places so that they can experience a solid bout of Heimweh. If nothing else, that phenomenon has given rise to some beautiful music.
Why didn't I say "we" just now? You have to understand that I came here as a thirteen-year-old, and I usually think of myself as American in most regards and these days I'm thoroughly German only during the World Cup or by special demand, but then it's a steep learning curve for me any more.
Dependent Origination, part 2.Last time I pointed out the nature of this idea by contrasting the notion of "the Root of everything" in Samkhya and Buddhism. The Samkhya Sutra of Kapila tries to avoid an infinite regress in trying to identify the "Root" by stipulating that there must be a "rootless Root," viz. an uncaused cause. The Buddha, on the other hand, dismissed the idea of anything being uncaused. An infinite regress is what we have, but ultimately that's only because we're asking a question, "How did the world originate?", that will only attach us further to the world and, consequently, increase our suffering.
The fact of the matter is that Shakyamuni did not concern himself with metaphysical questions, though many Buddhist philosophers did later. For tonight, here is a sample of how the Buddha, the "Exalted One," responded to such questions. This is an extract from the Potthapada Sutta; it may bring back memories to some of my students from my last years at Taylor. Potthapada was a mendicant, a begging monk, on his way to joining the Buddha's order, but still filled with questions. He was hanging out in a large hall that the local queen had erected specifically for wise and holy men to hold serious discussions.
As the curtain rises, Potthapada is sitting there, surrounded by 300 or so would-be-monks who are talking drivel and telling dirty stories. When Potthapada sees Shakyamuni approaching, he shushes them, and then he and the Buddha carry on a lengthy discussion on the gradual cessation of one's consciousness, a goal of Theravada Buddhism. Potthapada is making some progress in understanding, but he's slow (or from another perspective "fast" because he comes up with quite a few objections along the way). Let us join them about two thirds of the way through the first discussion in this sutra, as Potthapada is desperately attempting to understand:
'But is it possible, Sir, for me to understand whether consciousness is the man's soul, or the one is different from the other?'
'Hard is it for you, Potthapada, holding, as you do, different views, other things approving themselves to you, setting different aims before yourself, striving after a different perfection, trained in a different system of doctrine, to grasp this matter!'
'Then, Sir, if that be so, tell me at least: "Is the world eternal? Is this alone the truth, and any other view mere folly?"'
'That, Potthapada, is a matter on which I have expressed no opinion.'
[Translator's summary: Then, in the same terms, Potthapada asked each of the following questions;--
'But why has the Exalted One expressed no opinion on that?'
'This question is not calculated to profit, it is not concerned with the Norm (the Dhamma), it does not redound even to the elements of right conduct, nor to detachment, nor to purification from lusts, nor to quietude, nor to tranquillisation of heart, nor to real knowledge, nor to the insight (of the higher stages of the Path), nor to Nirvana. Therefore is it that I express no opinion upon it.'
'Then what is it that the Exalted One has determined? '
'I have expounded, Potthapada, what pain is; I have expounded what is the origin of pain; I have expounded what is the cessation of pain; I have expounded what is the method by which one may reach the cessation of pain.'
'And why has the Exalted One put forth a statement as to that?'
'Because that question, Potthapada, is calculated to profit, is concerned with the Norm, redounds to the beginnings of right conduct, to detachment, to purification from lusts, to quietude, to tranquillisation of heart, to real knowledge, to the insight of the higher stages of the Path, and to Nirvana. Therefore is it, Potthapada, that I have put forward a statement as to that.'
'That is so, O Exalted One. That is so, O Happy One. And now let the Exalted One do what seemeth to him fit.'
And the Exalted One rose from his seat, and departed thence.
Dialogues of the Buddha. The Dîgha- Nikâya: Potthapada Sutta.. Translated by T. W. Rhys-Davis. Emphases in bold are mine.
As Michael Collender has shown in his M.A. thesis, the Buddha's philosophy was, if anything, pragmatist. But the same label did not necessarily apply to his followers. We're going to take a little closer look at how they dealt with the nature of the universe.