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Effort + Thought = Us

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Effort + Thought = Us

What would you get if you stirred together a bucket of effort and a bucket of thought? You'd get yourself, or more generally, you'd get what we (self-referentially) call a "human being", because that's basically what we ARE. We're effort/thought beings -- not that it's anything to brag about.

There's a great Zen aphorism that goes: "The bamboo shadows sweep the stairs, but raise no dust." That's us. We're the bamboo shadows. So what's the dust? Easy, the dust is reality, it's what's really the case, but what's really the case doesn't give a rat's ass about human effort and thought.

This was what the Aztecs (just one of a zillion examples) never got straight. They really thought their ghoulish sacrifices of young women and girls was keeping the celestial show running. Hey, no slit throats, no sunrises. Duh.

But that's bamboo shadowing! It's like going to a seashore and thinking it's "up to me" to keep the tides coming in and going out. Boy, if I don't crank up my will power and stay very concentrated, who knows what might happen. Maybe gravity will stop functioning, maybe the tides will stop. Duh.

And we do the same thing to ourselves. We think thought/effort is somehow in control of our lives. There's a relaxation exercise which consists of simply lying on the floor and letting go -- you know, just going with the flow for a few minutes. But lots of people are afraid to do that. They think, "Oh, oh, if I really let go of my self control, who knows, I might turn into jello and soak through the rug! Got to keep it (i.e., me) together here. Keep that control thing going."

But that's bamboo shadowing again. Doing a thought/effort tap dance that nobody's watching. That's the problem with whistling in the dark -- the dark's not listening. The shadows aren't raising any dust.


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A liberal American, PhD mathematician, bipedal Earthling.

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