Bob Schwartz

Category: Philosophy

Chuang Tzu and Dreams

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.

Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) (c. 369 BCE – c. 286 BCE) is one of two renowned sages of Taoism. The other, Lao Tzu (Laozi), is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, but is thought not to be an actual person. Though the details of the life of Chuang Tzu are murky, he is thought to be very real, though not all the writings bearing his name may actually be his.

The adventurous and challenging words of Chuang Tzu are unlike any in global literature, religion or philosophy. Above is his most famous story, repeated and pondered for centuries.

For a slightly bigger picture, following is an excerpt from Chuang Tzu in which the story of the butterfly is found.

Only fools think that they are now awake and that they really know what is going on, playing the prince and then playing the servant. What fools! The Master and you are both living in a dream. When I say a dream, I am also dreaming. This very saying is a deception. If after ten thousand years we could once meet a truly great sage, one who understands, it would seem as if it had only been a morning.


From The Book of Chuang Tzu
Translated by Martin Palmer

Chapter 2
Working Everything Out Evenly

‘How do I know that the love of life is not a delusion? Or that the fear of death is not like a young person running away from home and unable to find his way back? The Lady Li Chi was the daughter of a border warden, Ai. When the state of Chin captured her, she wept until she had drenched her robes; then she came to the King’s palace, shared the King’s bed, ate his food, and repented of her tears. How do I know whether the dead now repent for their former clinging to life?

‘Come the morning, those who dream of the drunken feast may weep and moan; when the morning comes, those who dream of weeping and moaning go hunting in the fields. When they dream, they don’t know it is a dream. Indeed, in their dreams they may think they are interpreting dreams, only when they awake do they know it was a dream. Eventually there comes the day of reckoning and awakening, and then we shall know that it was all a great dream. Only fools think that they are now awake and that they really know what is going on, playing the prince and then playing the servant. What fools! The Master and you are both living in a dream. When I say a dream, I am also dreaming. This very saying is a deception. If after ten thousand years we could once meet a truly great sage, one who understands, it would seem as if it had only been a morning.

‘Imagine that you and I have a disagreement, and you get the better of me, rather than me getting the better of you, does this mean that you are automatically right and I am automatically wrong? Suppose I get the better of you, does it follow that I am automatically right and you are therefore wrong? Is it really that one of us is right and the other wrong? Or are we both right and both wrong? Neither you nor I can really know and other people are even more in the dark. So who can we ask to give us the right answer? Should you ask someone who thinks you are right? But how then can that person give a fair answer? Should we ask someone who thinks I am right? But then if he agrees with me, how can he make a fair judgement? Then again, should we ask someone who agrees with both of us? But again, if he agrees with both of us, how can he make a true judgement? Should we ask someone who disagrees with both of us? But here again, if he disagrees with both of us, how can he make an honest judgement? It is clear that neither you, I nor anyone else can make decisions like this amongst ourselves. So should we wait for someone else to turn up?

‘To wait for one voice to bring it all together is as pointless as waiting for no one. Bring all things together under the Equality of Heaven, allow their process of change to go on unimpeded, and learn to grow old. What do I mean by bringing everything together under the Equality of Heaven? With regard to what is right and wrong, I say not being is being and being is not being. But let us not get caught up in discussing this. Forget about life, forget about worrying about right and wrong. Plunge into the unknown and the endless and find your place there!’

The Outline said to the Shadow, ‘First you are on the move, then you are standing still; you sit down and then you stand up. Why can’t you make up your mind?’

Shadow replied, ‘Do I have to look to something else to be what I am? Does this something else itself not have to rely upon yet another something? Do I have to depend upon the scales of a snake or the wings of a cicada? How can I tell how things are? How can I tell how things are not?’

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.

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“Dear God, Are You There? We are in a deep spiritual crisis that can’t be relieved by politics, or philosophy.”

This is excerpted from the New York Times. Please read it in its entirety.


Dear God, Are You There?

We are in a deep spiritual crisis that can’t be relieved by politics, or philosophy.

By George Yancy

George Yancy is professor of philosophy at Emory University. His latest book is “Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly About Racism in America.”

Aug. 7, 2019

Dear God,

This letter was prompted by the 22 precious lives taken in El Paso on August 3, 2019, by a 21-year-old white supremacist gunman. He told investigators that he wanted to kill as many Mexicans as possible — people who Donald Trump, in his campaign for the office of president, described as criminals “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime,” and as “rapists.”

Just hours after I sat down to write, I heard about the horrible killings of nine more people, this time in Dayton, Ohio, carried out by a 22-year-old white male gunman. How much can any of us take? We are failing ourselves. We are not asking the right questions; we are failing to use truthful and courageous discourse to describe the suffering from human violence, the sort that is nationally and globally predicated upon forms of white nationalism.

Regarding those killed in El Paso, President Trump said, “God be with you all.” Personally, I’ve had enough of empty rhetoric and religious hypocrisy when it comes to naming white supremacy.

I have no idea what Trump means when he utters those words, or what they amount to, other than an effort at mass distraction and obfuscation. To sow seeds of white racist divisiveness, hatred and xenophobia, and then cynically use the words of a healing spiritual message stinks of religious duplicity; it is discourse steeped in denial….

I’m tempted to say that for Trump and his vast evangelical following enough is never enough. And if this is so, something has gone theologically awry. We have not become more loving as a nation. As James Baldwin writes, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” Baldwin doesn’t mean to offend; he is, I’m certain, a prophet of love.

So, why write this letter? Ralph Waldo Emerson argues: “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticisms. The foregoing generations beheld God face to face; we through their eyes. Why should not we also have an original relation to the universe?” Emerson emboldens a legitimate question, though one with a theological inflection: Why can’t I have an original relation to You, God? There is nothing about our universe that proves a priori that this letter will not be heard by You. So, I’ll just take the leap.

I realize that the act of writing such a letter is itself hasty as it assumes that You exist. Of course, if You don’t, and there is no absolute, faultless proof that You do, then this letter speaks to nothing at all. The salutation is perhaps a bit silly. Yet, that is the risk that I take. In fact, it is a risk worth taking….

This letter is not meant to proselytize, to convert. Rather, the letter is meant to entreat that which is perhaps beyond all of the major religions and yet inclusive of all of them, hoping that perhaps each one has something to say partially about You. I say all of this even as I define myself as a hopeful Christian theist, the kind who hopes, without any certainty, that You exist and that the strength of agape, Christian love, is possible and liberating in a world filled with so much existential, social and political catastrophe, where anguished parents cry long into the night because their children have been taken too soon by acts of mass violence.

This letter is a lamentation; it speaks to our human pain and suffering, but it also speaks to this philosopher’s dread in the face of apparent silence. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “It is not just that we are in search of God, but that God is in search of us, in need of us.” That is not a philosophical argument, but I eagerly respond: I am here!…

The weight of myopic fanaticism and dreams of white national purity takes its toll. I’m thinking of the nine who were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015; the 11 who were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018; the 51 who were killed at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019.

So, it is with this letter that I seek You, that I ask for something more than we seem to be capable of, more than the routine prayers that are said in response to tragedy and sorrow. I don’t want to simply repeat clichés and recall platitudes. I am a philosopher who weeps; I am a human being who suffers.

This letter is not for me alone. It can’t be. The suffering of others is too great not to be moved by it, not to feel somehow partially responsible for it. So, it is with this letter that I seek an original relation, one that seeks our collective liberation, one that desires to speak especially on behalf of children and to free them from our miserable failure as adults to honor their lives more than we honor flags, rhetorical mass distraction, political myopia, party line politics, white nationalistic fanaticism and religious vacuity.

Four Reliances: How to Discern the Real Thing

When it comes to teachings and texts, when it comes to our own thoughts and conclusions, how can we tell the authentic from the inauthentic, the worthy from the unworthy?

The Buddha spoke and taught, and many of those discourses were recorded or remembered by those close to him. But over the centuries, as those discourses were passed along, changes were inevitably made. Later others spoke in the Buddha’s name, and still others spoke on their own, with the Buddha as guide and inspiration. The same can be said within other traditions.

How are we determine what is the real thing—not just in Buddhism, not just in religion, but in all facets of our lives?

Buddhism developed the universally useful Four Reliances to help in this quest and questioning. Whether you are reading a scripture from different traditions, or texts of any kind on any subject, or are hearing the news of current events, these are valuable guidelines.

Here is the succinct formulation from Red Pine, found in his translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra.

Rely on the teaching and not the author
Rely on the meaning and not the letter
Rely on the truth and not the convention
Rely on the knowledge and not the information

They wanted a postmodern president (though they didn’t know it). They got him.

Postmodernism (aka pomo), a wide-ranging and pervasive intellectual concept and movement, is hard to talk about precisely. Many minds have contributed to its complexity, many others have transformed it into a pop culture referent. Its usage grew vague, as it came to try to mean whatever anyone wants to say it means: everything to everyone, nothing to no one. What’s more confounding is that in many quarters, it has now been left behind as an old-fashioned and uncool intellectual fad, even though it is only a few decades old.

Nevertheless, it may turn out to be a useful analytical tool, as we are increasingly drowning in two questions: Where are we and how did we get here?

One attempt at a succinct definition of postmodernism:

A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tried to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind.

From the PBS show Faith & Reason

Did some people “want” a pomo president? In some ways, yes. Let’s assume we can’t stand still, as individuals, as nations, as societies. Which we can’t. Whatever modern moment we reached, it turned out to be unsatisfying for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons. One reaction is to want to “get back” to an earlier point. But that is impossible; there is never going back. If you can’t go back, and refuse to continue on the current path, why not, essentially, throw it all away—all the “modern” thinking and principles that got you where you didn’t want to be.

And so, pomo Trump. Defying objective truth, defying explanation, defying principles. The intellectuals who gave us postmodernism believed it to be a way of looking at the world. They also knew that, like existentialism, its wholesale adoption as practice rather than theory was problematic. Like a tree without roots, a house without foundation.

In contemplating those questions—where are we and how did we get here—we are through the postmodern looking glass. The other even more important question—how do we get out of here—is the most important question of the age.

The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire

I cannot fully explain James Hillman in this space, not briefly, not at all. If there is a badge, it might say psychologist, or Jungian psychologist, but that would be misleading, limiting and wrong. Thomas Moore, in his Prologue to The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire, begins with this:

James Hillman is an artist of psychology. If it sounds odd to call a psychologist an artist, then you, the reader, know your task as you take up this anthology. You will be challenged all along the way to rethink, to re-vision, and to reimagine. The difficulty in reading Hillman is not to learn a new bag of techniques or a new conceptual system. Hillman demands nothing short of a new way of thinking. He takes psychoanalysis out of the context of medicine and health, not only in the obvious ways, rejecting the medical model, but in subtle ways: asking us to give up fantasies of cure, repair, growth, self-improvement, understanding, and well-being as primary motives for psychological work. He is more a painter than a physician, more a musician than a social scientist, and more an alchemist than a traditional philosopher.

Hillman has written many books and articles, but A Blue Fire, made up of short passages from many works, is what to read to get the essence. Choosing a representative excerpt is impossible, since it is bound to miss most other points Hillman makes. But the excerpt below, covering the nature of illiteracy, silence and imagination, is close to my heart, and to some of our life in 2018: “An education that in any way neglects imagination is an education into psychopathy. It is an education that results in a sociopathic society of manipulations. We learn how to deal with others and become a society of dealers.”


Why have we as a nation become more and more illiterate? We blame television and the computer, but they are not causes. They are results of a prior condition that invited them in. They arrived to fill a gap. When imaginative ability declines, other ways to communicate appear. These ways work even though they too are dyslexic in structure: simultaneity of bits, odd juxtapositions, messages that do not move linearly from left to right. Yet television and personal computers communicate.

Evidently, reading does not depend solely on the ordering of words or the ordering of letters in the words. Indeed, poets use dyslexic structures deliberately. Reading depends on the psyche’s capacity to enter imagination. Reading is more like dreaming, which, too, goes on in silence. Our illiteracy reflects our educative process away from the silent grounds of reading: silent study halls and quiet periods, solitary homework, learning by heart, listening through a whole class without interruptions, writing an essay exam in longhand, drawing from nature instead of lab experiments. This long neglect of imaginational conditions that foster reading—Sputnik and the new math; social problems and social relatedness; mecentered motivation; the confusion of information with knowledge, of opinion with judgment, and trivia with sources; communications as messages by telephone calls and answering machines rather than as letter writing in silence; learning to speak up without first having something learned to say; multiple choice and scoring as a test of comprehension—has produced illiteracy.

The human person as a data bank does not need to read more than functionally. A data bank deciding yes or no on the basis of feedback (i.e., reinforcement) need not imagine beyond getting, storing, and spending. Just get the instructions right; never mind the content. Learn the how rather than the what with its qualities, values, and subtleties. Then the human agent becomes an incarnated credit card performing the religious rituals of consumerism. You need only be able to sign your name in the space marked Xy like an immigrant, like a slave, or a …

Or a psychopath. Descriptions of psychopathy, or sociopathic personalities, speak of their inability to imagine the other. Psychopaths are well able to size up situations and charm people. They perceive, assess, and relate, making use of any opportunity. Hence their successful manipulations of others. But the psychopath is far less able to imagine the other beyond a fantasy of usefulness, the other as a true interiority with his or her own needs, intentions, and feelings. An education that in any way neglects imagination is an education into psychopathy. It is an education that results in a sociopathic society of manipulations. We learn how to deal with others and become a society of dealers.

James Hillman
“Right to Remain Silent”
Journal of Humanistic Education and Development (1988)

Politely Ask Trump to Resign

The majority of Americans think that Trump is a threat to civility, to honesty, to American values, democracy and institutions, and to American and global peace and progress. As one new and untried tactic, we should simply, politely and plainly ask him to resign.

This is not a replacement for any of the other ongoing approaches, including investigation of his wrongdoing, ridicule, humor, and calls for impeachment or action under the 25th amendment. And of course, voting.

It is, however, a civilized way of doing something it is increasingly hard to do: be a better and more civilized person than Trump himself. It is hard not to fall into the sinkhole of being as terrible as our worst nemesis—that is an ancient theme. The pragmatic fact is that it is sometimes unavoidable, if the better is to triumph over the lesser. But when that happens, we are in danger of being just as bad, and our remaining upright and our job of healing and recovering is made that much more difficult.

So let us ask Trump to resign, politely explaining the many reasons it is best for America and Americans, and for the world. Of course he will not do it or consider it, and will mock it, since in his mind any show of decency and quiet reason is a show of weakness. Instead, though, it is a small demonstration that we still believe that decency is a show of strength. Which is something we are understandably starting to forget.

Note:

As is my practice, I asked the I Ching about this proposal. It is appropriate to do that for two reasons. The I Ching itself is in part a philosophical response to centuries of national political changes in China, cataclysms that make a few years of Trump look like a picnic. Second, China itself in 2018 still uses the I Ching for guidance. So why shouldn’t we?

The I Ching says (Alfred Huang translation):

59
Huan • Dispersing

NAME AND STRUCTURE

Originally Huan meant ice breaks, melts, and vanishes. Later on, it came to mean to separate and scatter.

Sequence of the Gua: After happiness and joyfulness, there comes dispersing. Thus, after Joyful, Dispersing follows.

The ideograph of Huan expresses its original meaning. The image on the left represents water. It resembles the primary gua for Water, turned vertically. On the top right is a knife, and on the bottom are two hands with fingers and arms. In the middle are two pieces of ice. Taken as a whole, this ideograph pictures a knife used to break up the ice, with two hands separating the pieces of ice. The ice melts and becomes water, at last dispersing and vanishing. The structure of the gua is Wind   above, Water   below. The wind blows over the water and disperses the waves. The inner gua is Water; its attribute is danger. It symbolizes one’s vital energy blocked within. The outer gua is Wind; its attribute is penetration. Penetrating and breaking the blockage leads to dispersion.

Decision

Dispersing.
Prosperous and smooth.
The king arrives at the temple.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
Favorable to be steadfast and upright.

Commentary on the Decision

Dispersing.
Prosperous and smooth.
The firm comes without hindrance.
The yielding is at the proper place.
It goes out to meet its similarity above.
The king arrives at the temple.
He is in the central place.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
The merit comes from mounting on the wood.

Commentary on the Symbol

The wind moves over the water.
An image of Dispersing.
In correspondence with this,
The ancient king offers sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven
And establishes temples.

SIGNIFICANCE

The gua takes the image of the wind moving over the water to demonstrate the act of dispersing people’s resentment. During the time of dispersing, having a leader with wisdom and foresight is crucial. The king approaching his temple gives us an image of his connection with the spiritual world. Crossing great rivers signifies the hardship and difficulty of the work. Steadfastness and uprightness should be the virtue of a great leader. He has self-confidence, so he is able to live and work in peace. The host of the gua is the solid line at the fifth place. This line represents the king who approaches his temple to connect himself with the Lord of Heaven. During the time of dispersing he is the only one who, in the honored place, is able to establish order throughout his nation. The fourth line represents the king’s minister, while the second line is his officer. They faithfully assist the king to unite the people in the time of dispersing.

During King Wen’s sitting in stillness he meditated upon joyfulness and dispersion. After people had been joyful, their energy dispersed, and their focus was scattered. At such a time, a leader with wisdom and foresight was needed. He arrived at his temple and communicated with the deity. His sincerity and trustworthiness encouraged people to work in full cooperation and with unity of purpose. The Duke of Zhou narrates that to be of help at such a time, one should have the speed of a strong horse. Dispersing self-serving groups led to a union as solid as a mound.

Heschel on Politicians

“I consider the heart of the problem of human existence is to fight against mendacity, against lying. I would like to use a word which may be too often used, but it’s still the most important word—and that is “honesty,” or “sincerity,” or “trust.””

“I am against the word “politician.” I have great respect for the word “statesman.” It’s very interesting, the word “statesman” is not used. “Politician” is used. “Statesman” is a great word….The task of a statesman is to be a leader, to be an educator, and not to cater to what people desire almost against their own interests. To be a leader.”

From an interview with Abraham Joshua Heschel at the University of Notre Dame in 1967, published in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, essays by Heschel.

Q: Your esteem for religious colleagues is greater than your esteem for politicians. I think you once said that the most depressing word in the English language is “politician.” Politicians are necessary, aren’t they? Why disparage them?

A: No, I’m not against politicians in their vocation. I’m against politicians in their tactics. Against the very meaning, the semantic meaning of the word “politician.”

Now let me elaborate. It may take me two minutes to explain it to you. I consider the heart of the problem of human existence is to fight against mendacity, against lying. I would like to use a word which may be too often used, but it’s still the most important word—and that is “honesty,” or “sincerity,” or “trust.”

The tragedy of our time is, we don’t trust each other. The Golden Rule today is not “Love thy neighbor as thyself” but “Suspect thy neighbor as thyself.” We suspect all politicians because we know in advance they don’t mean what they say and they don’t say what they mean.

Q: Is that justified? That suspicion?

A: Ask the people in the country. You’re asking me? I’m only one citizen. I have only one vote.

If you go to the country and ask them, “What do you think of politicians?,” they’ll say a politician is a synonym for a person who is not necessarily truthful. Right? Do you mind my elegant way of speaking?

We have a type of politician today—I suppose we’ve always had, and I don’t want to identify anyone—who tells us that he is doing what the peoples want. And, in fact, that may be so. Of course, that doesn’t reach to the question of leadership. Should our leaders give us what we want, or is there some other role?

I think there is another role. By the way, I am against the word “politician.” I have great respect for the word “statesman.” It’s very interesting, the word “statesman” is not used. “Politician” is used. “Statesman” is a great word.

Now, about doing what the people want—I’ll tell you what the people want. One of the major inclinations in every human being is a desire to be deceived. Self-deception is a major disease.

Q: To be told what one wants to hear?

A: Yes. You want to be deceived.

The task of a statesman is to be a leader, to be an educator, and not to cater to what people desire almost against their own interests. To be a leader.

The great question of today is mendacity. We live in a world full of lies. And the tragedy that our young people—or maybe it’s good—the young people have discovered how many lies are uttered daily and every moment. They can’t stand it. If there’s anything they despise, it’s someone who is phony, false rhetoric. We call it “credibility gap”—what we mean really is lying.

“In the biographies of men and nations, success often arrives in a mask of failure.”

This isn’t about baseball, though the quote is from a baseball writer. Bill James is not just a superb writer; he is a thinker whose analysis of the game has changed baseball more than any other thinker has ever changed any game. You can look it up.

This is about optimism and hope. I was reading The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (a 998-page volume whose title alone should tell you just how thoughtful Bill James is). He describes Robin Yount, who as of the time of publication James considered the Number 4 shortstop in baseball history:

Robin Yount (1974–1993, 2856 G, 251 1406 .285)

Robin Yount was a major league regular when he was 18 years old. We always wondered how good he would be, how much he would improve. In 1978, after Yount had been in the major leagues four years, he held out in the spring, mulling over whether he wanted to be a baseball player, or whether he really wanted to be a professional golfer.

When that happened, I wrote him off as a player who would never become a star. If he can’t even figure out whether he wants to be a baseball player or a golfer, I reasoned, he’s never going to be an outstanding player.

Yount was unhappy about suggestions that the Brewers would move him to the outfield. According to Dan Okrent in Nine Innings, “Yount didn’t merely reject the suggestion; he brooded about it, resented it, and lost himself in self-doubt. Members of the front office… saw Yount’s reaction as immature sulking.”

But as soon as he returned to baseball, Yount became a better player than he had been before; his career got traction from the moment he returned. What I didn’t see at the time was that Yount was in the process of making a commitment to baseball. Before he had his golf holiday, he was there every day, he was playing baseball every day, but on a certain level he wasn’t participating; he was wondering whether this was really the sport that he should be playing. What looked like indecision or sulking was really the process of making a decision.

This is often true. What Watergate was about was not the corruption of government, as most people thought, but rather, the establishment of new and higher standards of ethical conduct. Almost all scandals, I think, result not from the invention of new evils, but from the imposition of new ethical standards. Same thing with Yount; he wasn’t backing away from baseball; he was just putting the bit in his teeth, accepting new responsibilities. In the biographies of men and nations, success often arrives in a mask of failure. (emphasis added)

Yesh Me’ayin (Creatio Ex Nihilo)

Ayin

Yesh Me’ayin (Creatio Ex Nihilo)

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Nothing.

©

To Understand America 2018, Read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

We had the best education. We went to school every day. I only took the regular course. Reeling and Writhing to begin with. Then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland now. Again if it’s been a while, and definitely now if for the first time.

Lewis Carroll (born Charles Dodgson, 1832-1898) was famously creative as a mathematician and logician. He wove puzzles and tortured logic all through his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Puzzles and tortured logic seem likely to be a major component of America in 2018, as they were in 2017.

The leadership and the citizens of Wonderland are variously tyrannical, illogical, stupid, or just plain bizarre. Alice literally does not fit in. While she is only a child, she has more sense than everyone she meets combined.

If I had a news network like CNN, I’d interrupt the futile attempts to understand and explain what’s going on by having different news anchors read aloud one chapter from Alice in Wonderland every day. It would actually be more constructive—and more fun—than just listening to their trying to making sense of the nonsensical.

If Trump’s tweets were taken from Alice in Wonderland, would we know the difference? Would he?

Some Trump/Alice tweets:

We must have a trial. Really this morning I have nothing to do. With no jury or judge I’ll be Judge. I’ll be jury. I’ll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.

We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. A dog growls when it’s angry and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.

Be what you would seem to be. Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

You have no right to think. Just about as much right as pigs have to fly. I give you fair warning either you or your head must be off. Take your choice!

We had the best education. We went to school every day. I only took the regular course. Reeling and Writhing to begin with. Then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.