Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Buddhist Time: Being and Non-Being

Image Source: Jewcy.

The renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh has gained fame lately on the Internet. Now in his late eighties, he has been a well-known figure since the 1960s. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. on a trip to the United States in 1966; in a recent interview, he told Oprah Winfrey that when he heard of King's assassination, he lamented: "When I first heard of his assassination, I could not believe it. I thought that the American people have produced King, but are not capable of preserving him." On the basis of that collective lapse, the great African-American leader passed from our world. And we may well ask why this was so. How do societies become obsessed with death and power? What values might undo that obsession?

In the video below the jump, see a teaching from Thích Nhất Hạnh in which he questions the western emphasis on duality, on being and non-being. He questions our understanding of time based on birth and death and rather stresses life in the present moment, flowing on a long line of endless continuity. It is a completely different vision of time from tech-driven Millennial urgency. The latter gobbles up time, keeps people in a constant state of near-hysterical desperation and stress, with endless demands from mechanized standards of productivity and a corresponding devaluation of life and accomplishment.

The conviction that we have little time before we permanently expire creates ambition, economic growth and expansion, as well as the extreme stresses in western thought and culture. As a book on the same subject, Towards Non-Being (2005) suggests, this highly-strung attitude toward time pre-dates the Technological and Communications Revolutions:
Towards Non-Being presents an account of the semantics of intentional verbs such as ‘believes’, ‘fears’, ‘seeks’, and ‘imagines’. It tackles problems concerning intentional states which are often brushed under the carpet, such as their failure to be closed under deducibility. Drawing on the noneist work of the late Richard Routley (Sylvan), the book proceeds in terms of objects that may be existent or non-existent, at worlds that may either be possible or impossible. Since Russell, non-existent objects have had a bad press in Western philosophy. Th[is] book mounts a full-scale defence, and in the process, offers an account of both fictional and mathematical objects as non-existent.
The western dualistic mindset creates never-ending battles between opposing world views, between religiosity and atheism, between belief in non-existent objects and existent objects. The line between life and death is a line drawn in the sand; and that line is the origin of western politics and worldly power. The message is: You have no time; carpe diem. Casual searches on google reveal the correlation between this view of time and extreme profit, competition and aggressive expansion.

Image Source: Shutterstock.

Image Source: acentejokids.

Image Source: Deacon's Wife.

For example, the works of the English bard, William Shakespeare, focus on the problem of fleeting time before inevitable death and obliteration from this existence (see my post on this here, and a great reading from The Tempest, here). Take the speech from Macbeth, which indicates a pit of western nihilism and despair beneath this central problem:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Important modern texts in this tradition include Martin Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (1927; Being and Time) and Jean-Paul Sartre's L'Être et le néant : Essai d'ontologie phénoménologique (1943; Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology). There have been other attitudes toward time, being and consciousness in the west which were more forgiving and humane. But even the central value of western creativity, expressed directly below, still rests on an inflexible idea that time is carved into two worlds of being and non-being.

Image Source: Status Mind.

For the famous Vietnamese monk, existence and non-existence are false categories. Birth and death are a game of hide and seek. And to consider a non-being object as non-existent is "unjust." Thích speaks of a flame of non-being which manifests, then no longer manifests, according to worldly conditions, but never actually ceases to be; he gently dismisses Shakespeare's obsession with life and death:
When conditions are sufficient, I manifest. You cannot qualify me as a non-being before the manifestation and you cannot qualify me as a being after the manifestation. ... [Of a dead loved one:] Darling, I have gone nowhere. Because conditions are not sufficient, I have simply stopped my manifestation. ... There is no coming, no going. It means the notion of being and non-being cannot be applied to reality. ... To be or not to be - that is not the question. ... [There is] no birth no death. [And when the flame reappears:] I am not the same flame as the one you saw last time, but I am not a totally different flame, either.
Thích Nhất Hạnh's main remarks on this idea appear in the first half of the video below the jump. The latter half of the video is religious and ceremonial.

Lifespeed's Millennial Paradox

The Dalai Lama warns that living in time skews our perception of time and the value that time has in our lives. We have all the time in the world, in lifetimes which disappear in a blink. The Internet further confuses temporal priorities. It is a time-sucking black hole. Virtual reality has made killing time and squandering countless hours a way of life. Web surfing presumes that time is a cheap, a boundless commodity.

Because plugged-in society is wasting so much time, we never have time to spare, especially at work. Work-time also accelerates due to mechanized standards of production. We are expected to achieve ever-expanded goals within shorter and shorter time frames. This is time's Millennial paradox: it is the most abused and most precious aspect of our lives.

We are on what Troy Blackford calls, 'a journey to death at lifespeed.' Every Web procrastinator will want years of wasted time back. Every workaholic with no time needs to procrastinate and explore time in a creative way, without obvious material outcomes.

Below, see a series of photographs by Adam Raasalhague (aka Adam Hassnal Sulaiman) which address the Dalai Lama's words. The Flickr blog reports that Raasalhague became a photographer after he struggled in a company job in London:
"[I]n 2007, I started taking photographs to find a way to express myself and escape the constant negative pressure at my job. I was frequently threatened with being let go. This was when I realized no amount of money is ever worth such treatment.” Adam spent the next few years in a holding pattern – unsure of his next move. Despite feeling like his career path was crumbling around him, Adam slowly discovered his new passion and freedom as a photographer. He poured his heart and soul into his photography and it allowed him to find a bit of peace and solace.
“By 2012, I was incredibly unhappy,” Adam recalls. “But I made the most personal photo I ever had to date called The Sextuple Theory.”
You can see more of Raasalhague's photos here. Seize the day, he insists, in the name of personal evolution. It is a frightening but liberating path, where the Millennial lifespeed paradox can be resolved.

All image copyrights belong to Adam Raasalhague and are reproduced here non-commercially under Fair Use.

The Sextuple Theory. Image Source: Adam Raasalhague.