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The Gift of a Question

  1. May 17, 2003 #1
    Because we are ignorant we can find the answers. This is the essential wisdom of paradox all of us understand intuitively and as well as rationally. To a great extent, the answers will come to us seemingly without effort if we just allow ourselves to admit, accept, and even occationally embrace our ignorance. In a very meaningful way, our ignorance is the answer from which all other answers arise.

    Without acceptance (and the gift of the questions it makes possible) genuine skepticism, rationality, and pragmatism are impossible to achieve. Being diligent and thorough in tearing apart and analyzing all the various possibilities life presents us, is simply not enough. Pushing aside our feelings and striving for objectivity is one way to begin, but merely one of many and a meager beginning at that.

    Exactly how we find acceptance within ourselves is a personal affair that can be as easy as taking our next breath or more difficult than rocket science. It isn't necessarilly any intrinsic difficulty of the task so much as our unfamiliarity in certain cases with how to cultivate acceptance, and any conflicts of interest we might possess. Sometimes we just seem to want to be angry, sad, and generally unaccepting for no reason at all.

    Often at such times I find it helpful to remember to think of something I can be grateful for, to meditate on the source of my feelings, just decide in the moment that I don't want to feel that way anymore, or otherwise directly address my negativity. The gift of a question is another excellent place to start, but instead of questioning my ignorance or the situation I question my feelings. Writing down my feelings, speaking them out loud to myself, looking for a friend to talk to, etc. can all facilitate the process of acceptance.

    This is the heart of science, the thing they don't teach in school and, often it seems, some people prefer we not learn.

    If anyone else would like to contribute their own thoughts about the gift of a question, acceptance, or anything else I've written here I would appreciate any comments and feedback. :0)
    Last edited: May 17, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2003 #2


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    Greetings wuli !

    I'm not certain what exactly it is you
    mean, but I think I disagree.

    Only a sufficiecntly powerful mind can
    truely be open and achieve willfull discovery
    and exploration. Only a powerful mind can
    intentionally achieve progress in any field.
    Sometimes, the weakminded can do this by
    mistake. But, most often it takes great
    dedication, effort and hard work.

    Live long and prosper.
  4. May 17, 2003 #3
    Re: Re: The Gift of a Question

    This is an excellent demonstration of my point.

    As Aldoph Hitler and others have demonstrated so graphically, exactly how powerful our mind is and how motivated we are, has little to do with how open we are. The opposite is also demonstrably true, and how open our mind is has little to do with how powerful and motivated we are as demonstrated by famous people at the other extreme in history. In fact, the evidence indicates our IQ and personal inclinations are simply aspects of our unique individual genetic inheritance.

    One implication of your response is that only negative environmental influences can motivate us to maximize our genetic inheritance. That is, only by seeing ourselves as fighting the good fight can we accel. This is often the case, but clearly not always the case. Just as some people can accel under oppressive conditions others clearly suffer whether they perceive themselves as fighting the good fight or not.

    The issue then is obviously not whether we perceive ourselves as fighting the good fight, strong willed, or whatever so much as how can we best maximize what we have in whatever situation we find ourselves in. In order to determine that, again, what is required is an open mind and heart. One without preconceptions and preoccupations, neither particularly negative nor positive. An accepting and unbiased affect.
  5. May 17, 2003 #4
    We have only to ask and we will know. That is from the christian Bible, paraphrased and I don't know from exactly where. It is as I'm sure you know, a tenet of Zen. I have read other places that we are born knowing all that we need and want to know but growing up we forget that we know. I do not know how many time I have learned something and said at least to myself; "Of course, I knew that." I have seen evidence of it in my own children when they were young and now my grandchild. Out of the moths of babes etc.
    With you, I think acceptance is the key to vertually everything in life. Unless we accept our ignorance we can learn nothing. Unless we accept our sins or wrong doing we cannot repent and thus forgive ourselves. Unless we accept our hurt, anger, rage, shame, etc. etc. we cannot embrace them and only by acceptance and embracement can we let them go and be free forever of them. This I have learned and been told simply by asking; "How can I get rid of all this anger, rage, shame, all this negativity that is destroying me and ruining my life."
    Another paradox; we cannot rid ourselves of something unless we first accept it and then embrace it. Only by embracing it can we let it go.

    As always with great respect,
    Last edited: May 17, 2003
  6. May 17, 2003 #5
    Well... I don't really believe you need to embrace everything.

    To paraphrase R. W. Emerson, "Virtue is its own reward, to have a friend you must first be a friend." Friends accept each other, warts and all, but I still might urge my friend to get a wart removed. I may accept their wart in the sense that I decide I can still be their friend and that a wart is ok in some sense, but still urge them to get it removed. :0)
  7. May 17, 2003 #6


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    Greetings !

    I'm don't think this example with Hitler
    is appropriate here. What I mean is that
    at the beginning there is ignorance, but one
    that assumes it can know everything, in
    the middle lies a long and difficult effort
    of discovering everything and at the end
    is the recognition of ignorance and acceptance
    of it and of the possibility of everything.

    Most people don't get past the middle part,
    only a sufficiently powerfull mind in terms of
    both genetics and PRIMARILY experience
    (which is very difficult to characterize)
    can reach the end of this journey.

    Live long and prosper.
  8. May 17, 2003 #7
    I just don't understand what you are trying to say. I will try one more time from a different tac to see if we can communicate effectively.

    The smallest infant can accept the world around them. By following their innate inclination to explore and play, they can learn ten times as much as an adult in the same amount of time without any clear goals or assumptions about eventually learning everything. If prevented from doing what comes naturally or vigorously pushed to learn everything, they will usually rebell. Instead of learning about the world at large, they merely learn about the local environment which defies their natural inclinations and struggle against this.

    This has also been supported by research with adults. MRI scans have shown that more intelligent people actually think less. They simply add A+B and go straight to the answer. Less intelligent people take more circuitous routes, in part, because they are preoccupied with their internal struggles and abstract rules such as "I must always struggle" which often have no relevence to the situation at hand.

    Thus, our innate capacity to learn and explore is not some realization we have to achieve or force. The realization we do have to achieve eventually is that abstract reasoning can be highly structured and manipulated, and that such structures and manipulations can be very revealing about the world around us. Such realizations, however, need not be motivated out of sense of fighting the good fight. Instead, some of the greatest geniuses of all time have often commented that what they do comes as easy to them as water off a duck's back.
  9. May 17, 2003 #8
    Yes, wuli. to carry your analogy of your friend with warts a bit further. It also points out at least a couple of other facts of life.

    1. To accept your friend you must also accept his warts because they are a part of him. Whether you emprace your friend with or without warts is your business and I'm not even going to go there.:wink:

    2. There is nothing that you can do about your friends warts whether you accept them or embrace them or not. Only he can do anything about his warts and the first step is for him to accept the fact that he has warts. If he chooses to get rid of them he must embrace them in the form of addressing the issue directly and taking some action to rid himself of is warts.
    This is a basic fact of life that many including me and my wife have had trouble learning and accepting. There is nothing that we can do to make other people better. They must do it for themselves. Sure we can help them with basic physical necessities and advise them and make it possible for them to help themselves but we can't do it to them or for them. Hense the old saying; "You can lead a horse to water; but, you can't make them drink."
  10. May 17, 2003 #9


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    Greetings !
    I'm sorry to say that appears mutual at the moment.
    So, he's inclined to ACCEPT. But, true "acceptance"
    is probably (as there is probably no determinacy...)
    not acceptance but rather recognition of
    possibilities or doubt - does an infant doubt ?
    I don't think so. He accepts and accepts and goes
    on possibly until he dies, or at some point he
    possibly realizes that acceptance is actually
    to accept that no real acceptance probably exists
    (and the "probables" chain is probably infinite :wink:).

    In other words, an infant is good in order to come
    for one side, but you need the other side too
    (probably...), don't you ? :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  11. May 17, 2003 #10
    In one sense this is correct, but in another sense it is false. The unspoken assumption is that people possess free will, a very Christian and western assumption in general. Often this assumption is used as an excuse to abandon such people or even dump on them.

    Whether or not we possess free will is a moot point as far as I am concerned, however, if you are interested in a viewpoint similar to mine which espouses free will this website is by far the most poinent and well articulated I know of, they are new age christian-buddhists:


    Being a friend and accepting someone as they are does not necessarilly mean we spend time with someone or support their bad habits or whatever. In a very real way I can be a friend to people I will never meet. Simply by helping to clean up the environment, for example, I befriend the planet. If in return, despite all warnings to stop, people continue to pollute the environment it is, I assume, because they are not accepting of something.

    Words often fail to convince people to change where actions prevail. Sometimes the smallest child can convince us without intending to do so, not using words, but just by being who they are.
  12. May 17, 2003 #11
    I would not confuse acceptance with the concept of "good."

    The problem most westerners have with understanding this kind of viewpoint is that they are focused on behavior to the exclusion of attitude. The end justifies and explains the means and our feelings for many in the west. Rather than adopting and attempting to justify a specific abstract viewpoint like this, I prefer to just describe what I perceive.

    This is why Taoists often use analogies to water and infants in particular. Neither of them justify their actions or claim they are "good". They are what they are, their actions are as natural and uncontrived as it gets and to argue otherwise is just silly.

    Although particularly accepting, infants are also notoriously violent for example. Toddlers will hit each other as hard as they can with whatever is handy when they get angery at each other. The concepts of good and bad and the ability to make judgements are just beyond their capacity until about five years old. Psychological evidence indicates such capacities are not really fully developed until adulthood, which explains many of the bizarre things teenagers will do as well. Chinese tradition is to treat children five and under as basically no different from beloved pets until age five under the assumption they are simply incapable of being reasoned with.

    Is a maneating tiger good or bad? Is it even helpful to label a maneating tiger good or bad? I say it is not helpful. It is a tiger and if it kills people it must be killed or locked up, both of which are regretable actions just as the death of people is regretable. The reasons we apply different standards to people are themselves, ironically, just as unjustifiable in light of the evidence. We are what we are, and to insist otherwise is to deny nature.
  13. May 17, 2003 #12


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    Geez !
    Did you really assume I meant something
    stupid like that ?!
    NOW you really misunderstood me ! :wink:

    I meant that babies are an example of
    being good AT = well at approaching understanding
    of existence from one side - trying to find out
    all the data they can and make some sense of it.

    BUT, they are not good at = poorly capable of
    approaching the understanding of existence
    from the other side - the PoE. The acceptance
    of the recognition that no full and true acceptance
    is possible (including this recognition itself
    and so on to infinity of uncertainty).
    Now, reread my messages if you wish to
    understand what I was talking about.

    I hope you'll finally understand me now...:wink:

    Live long and prosper.
    Last edited: May 17, 2003
  14. May 17, 2003 #13

    I don't believe in stupidity, just people who reject things. :0)

    Babies are a good example of the opposite in my opinion. Rather than being attached to any single explanation for anything, they are quite open minded and accepting. I'm a Rubic's Cube fan and this has also been born out in studies with the cube. Children under five years old are more likely to solve the cube than adults because they are not attached to attempting to superimpose two dimensional views onto a three dimensional puzzle as adults usually are.

    Taking this example to the extreme of the paradox of existence, children still display more open mindedness, some would say gulibility, than adults. Young children can believe twelve contradictory and impossible things simultaneously. However, the younger they are the more they simply experience the paradox of existence without comment, judgment, or need for any explanations. Adults, on the other hand, tend to demand a single rational explanation and assert it is better than any other, even when confronted with the paradox of what they believe to be a rational explanation.

    Again, belief in paradox is an oxymoron and so is rational understanding of paradox. All we can do is either accept or reject the paradox.
  15. May 17, 2003 #14


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    Greetings wuli !
    I'd call that confusion. The reason they might
    do this is because they do not recognize
    the contradictions not simply because of their
    lack of bias. If you do not have one or
    at least a minimum amount of more likely
    than others things and ways you accept then
    you are (probably) a confused person, not an
    open-minded one, don't you think ?

    Besides, it's not that they actually recognize
    the PoE in their gulibility or accept the
    recognition of their knowledge as more likely
    non-absolute. They don't even yet consider the
    source or status of their various reasoning paths.

    That is why I think that a powerful mind is
    required (primarily due to experience like I
    mentioned above and as always a slight touch
    of genetics included too).

    Live long and prosper.
  16. May 17, 2003 #15
    Confusion is not the same thing as ignorance or a false conclusion. Confusion is a state of mind involving conflict. Sure, often children reach false conclusions and are ignorant, but because they are open minded and accepting this is easily corrected. Adults are much more prone to confusion and unwillingness to change to their minds when faced with the facts.

    Some people get so confused they cannot decide the simplest course of action. Should I eat the potatoe chips or the corn chips? This process of worrying about the simplest things can lead to complete apoplexy by the time they become young adults. Small wonder the suicide rate is so high among american teens. Infants don't have such problems.
  17. May 18, 2003 #16


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    Greetings wuli !
    Indeed, that is ussualy the case.
    I do not know the relevant statistics that well,
    but I personally feel that your interpretation
    is incorrect. I believe the high suicide rate
    amongst young people is primarily the result of
    their "entrance shock" into the adult world where
    they are suddenly given just very few basic choices
    and where money rules everything.

    Live long and prosper.
  18. May 18, 2003 #17
    More broadly, it is a cultural phenomena. The highest suicide rate in the developed world is among the Dutch who often leave nasty notes blaming their employers and, yet, have the lowest unemployment rate and best welfare system in europe. The legacy of Calvinism displaying the internal strife it perpetuates on the individual and social level. It is not just money that rules in such a system, but more to the point it is violence.
  19. May 18, 2003 #18


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    I don't think I understood what you said.
    Anyway, I somehow doubt that philosophical
    confusion can have a great impact on the
    average person as such people rarely stop
    to consider such things and don't really
    care about them. The average person's concerns
    are ussualy strictly materialistic starting
    from the smallest of issues and up to their
    greatest dillemas.

    Peace and long life.
  20. May 18, 2003 #19
    That's their concern until reality slaps them in the face as happened on 9-11. The simple fact is even looking at life materialistically is a philosophical viewpoint. Any abstractions we might use to guide our lives are philosophical no matter how much we might deny this. When reality slaps us in the face one of the first things most people do is re-evaluate just how relevent their philosophy is in light of the newly demonstrated reality.

    As happens with scientific theories, usually instead of just junking the entire theory we modify it to account for the new phenomena. When we finally modify the theory enough to demonstrate clearly it is just another useful map that may otherwise have little resemblance to the territory, then we are ready to progress to radically new maps or switching from one to another as the need arises.
  21. May 18, 2003 #20


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    I agree, of course that their and any other
    PoV could also be considered a philosophy.
    What I'm saying is that they do not seem to
    concern themselves with thinking of this
    stuff and their reasons for suicide are
    different because most type of philosophies
    would still agree you're in big trouble if
    you got no money and seemingly no way
    of getting any either. Of course, other
    philosophies could save you in this case
    but the "mob" ussualy has typical and
    easily recognizable PoV of the first type.

    In short, I think less people throw themselves
    out of windows because they suddenly realize
    the PoE or somethng than the people who are broke
    or those who see no positive future for themselves.

    Live long and prosper.
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