Saturday, October 17, 2020

nihilism and the american religion

 Perhaps we've been looking at the current American administration and the Corona Virus pandemic from too narrow a perspective.

It might need a philosophical analysis to register the import of the man and the virus.  

The reason why Nishitani, in his middle period, likened emptiness to the all- transcending empty sky is because he sought to understand emptiness in relation to the problem of how to overcome nihilism. Nihilism is not prior to religion. Rather it is an event in history that comes after the age of religion – one which, moreover, denies any possibility of gaining salvation through religion. It nullifies all the various philosophical endeavors (of which religion is the supreme example) that humans have engaged in to overcome the nihility confronting them. Nihilism was born from the midst of religion, and has the same sublime loftiness as religion. At the same time, it can be likened to a new virus that burst forth into the world, bearing the power to invalidate all previous religions and incapable of being cured by any religion. It is characterized by a complete negativity and self-enclosure (heisasei 閉 鎖性) that no human-centered religion preaching the quest for inner meaning can resolve. There is no way to deal with nihilism from the outside. 

(--in Nishitani’s Philosophy of Emptinessin “Emptiness and Immediacy” by Hase Shōtō)

The nihilism that has erupted from the highest office of American government cannot be overcome from the outside.

And those on the inside are, it seems, too smitten with the boons of ill-gotten gain to bite the hand that feeds them.

The perversity is staggering. 

The upcoming election looms.

There was a zoom gathering this morning on Men and Loss.

Grief resounds and will continue to for the next few weeks of uncertain outcome

Friday, October 16, 2020

morning desk


this limitless world

"But do not ask me where I am going, 

As I travel in this limitless world, 

Where every step I take is my home." 

     — Dōgen Zenji

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

we must take the utmost care

Eagle Poem 

       (by Joy Harjo)

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.

(--Joy Harjo, “Eagle Poem” from In Mad Love and War. Copyright © 1990 by Joy Harjo, in Poetry Foundation)

response to student in code of the warrior ethics class

[GM had been writing about 'dueling' in prison.]

Apart from some spelling and grammar bandaids needed, I really like this paper. It serves well as a  prompt for further conversation and deliberation. Nicely done!

Your focusing on dueling in the place wherein you dwell lifts the subject from dim historical intellectual ‘entertainment’ and plops it down into an intensively felt and lived environment. You represent your opinions well and you describe the everyday duel with the eye of a participant observer.

I want to retrieve your words: "When I said that human nature is naturally evil I truly meant it." They lead me to look again at ‘evil’ and its interpretation. Aside from the awfulness of the repercussions of evil, I ask myself an originary question — whence does it come? I’ve heard many of the mythic stories, the theological stories, and the speculative thinking about evil — but I am also interested in the philosophical origin of it. Here’s my current take: 

There is word in Sanskrit, Avidyā:

 Avidyā (अविद्या) is a Vedic Sanskrit word, and is a compound of "a" and "vidya", meaning "not vidya". The word vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root Vid, which means "to know, to perceive, to see, to understand".[1] Therefore, avidya means to "not know, not perceive, not understand". The Vid*-related terms appears extensively in the Rigveda and other Vedas.[1] Avidya is usually rendered as "ignorance" in English translations of ancient Indian texts, sometimes as "spiritual ignorance".[7][8]

The word avidyā is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weid-, meaning "to see" or "to know". It is a cognate of Latin vidēre (which would turn to "video") and English “wit". (Wikipedia)


In the yogic sense, avidya means something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness about reality. The core ignorance we call avidya isn't a lack of information, but the inability to experience your deep connection to others, to the source of being, and to your true Self.  (Yoga Journal)

So here’s the question for me — Are we by nature good or evil? Or, is there a permeating ignorance that covers, shields, and deflects our attention from what is core, caring, and connecting in the realm of being and existence?

This attention or awareness is what, in my opinion, philosophy and spirituality assists in uncovering and making present to us. I’d go further and say that, it seems to me, this attention or awareness once awakened does not look at some “thing” that is good or evil, as through good and evil were some object or objective state that exists in and of itself. Rather, when you or I begin to see through the permeating ignorance within and without ourselves, it is our ‘seeing’ itself that carries with it, in its very action or activity of seeing,  what we have come to call ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

In plain talk — we are plagued by ignorance.  

We experience it in people, in. institutions, in history, and, yes, in ourselves. Seeing, knowing, or understanding — all of which seem fundamental in the process of approaching what we call ‘love’ — these three activities seem to be in constant conflict with blind reactivity, cultivated erroneous opinion, and intentional misinterpretation of another’s actions or words.

So, is there evil? Yes, there are innumerable examples of unkindness, cruelty, and separating-out behavior. Is there good? Yes, there are innumerable examples of kindness, healing, and connecting behavior.

But, (in my opinion, for conversation’s sake) good and evil are not a ‘thing’ nor a ‘person’. They are activities of mind and body that either hold on to ignorance or break through it to seeing, knowing, understanding, and — a worthwhile wish — to loving connection with what is within and that which surrounds us.

Thanks for the prompt!

—bh, 13-14oct20

Tuesday, October 13, 2020



Try to say it.


Monday, October 12, 2020

what (would have been) purpose of visit

A happy and grateful Thanksgiving to our Canadian neighbors.

So glad Celtic Colors is streaming from Cape Breton. 

Our car is still in dooryard.

the thought occurs

May she remain a good Catholic, good mother & wife, good scholar & judge, & a good person.

Unless she withdraws until after election, she will always be seen as Trump’s folly, McConnell’s lie, Graham’s cynicism, & Republican dishonesty. A painful brand!

Too bad. She seems nice.

Sunday, October 11, 2020


Thich Nhat Hanh is 94 today.

Good for him!


As time collapses

Into Itself, God is not-

Yet here, umwelt now