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JANUARY - 2014

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Idling has no limit....

....why not?


Below, slightly modified, is some Zen stuff I wrote a while ago in a letter to someone.... which is more about the title than the actual subject of the title...

Because if it was attained its object would probably cease to exist. Ask those geeks who study elementary particles.

...the term 'idling' in this context is predominately though not exclusively subjective.


ZEN in the ART of IDLING

That’s the title of a book that doesn’t exist, and maybe can’t exist because what would anyone capable of writing a book on anything know about idling?

But maybe a thousand or so words is possible…. not that brevity guarantees competence in expressing valuable or accurate info. And who knows whether any of this will be interesting or even useful? If Zen is a concept you’re unfamiliar with then it might strike you as a bit weird at first. Zen is a subject, though, I’ve looked into just a bit, and from what I’ve gleaned have written briefly about here: Zen.
There’s a related link at the top of that page to my take on ‘Meditation’ (which you may be pleased to know has fewer words than this little article).

I haven’t read vastly on Zen, but dipping-in on a few tomes at least it looks to me very worthwhile. I notice too that some literature on the subject seems to contradict the kind of impression of Zen I give in that article I wrote - which portrays Zen as a generally inactive philosophy, a kind-of perception of the world someone might have if they were completely calm and composed with a fresh unbiased mind. So in contrast, there are some that regard it as an active philosophy: a way of achieving authentic action (as opposed to inaction) … specifically in this instance as applied to idling. These two angles (‘inactive’ and ‘active’) are not inconsistent, as you’ll see.

Authentic action (or inaction), incidentally, is achieved when every aspect of mind-&-body is focussed (or blank), with no stray or irrelevant thoughts to distract from that.

I think some authors writing on Zen are attempting to expand on its basic application as explained in a very famous little book I read several decades ago: Zen in the Art of Archeryby Eugen Herrigel, which is not so much about archery, as I interpret it, but - using archery as a vehicle – about how to take a Zen approach in any (in)activity: essentially, life in general.

I wrote very briefly about my encounter with this book on another page under HERRIGEL here: Books in My Life - Zen where I explain why Herrigel’s book, and therefore Zen, was quite an eye-opener for me when I read it. It was my first glimpse of what Zen was really about.

Of course, being aware of information on a subject is a separate issue to what one does with that information. So I’m not advocating that anyone should read this stuff or that Zen is especially worth following, though I think it’s definitely something everyone should know about and get a taste of. I mean, if you don’t know about something, how can you decide whether it might be of any use to you?

As ever, we have to assess these things for ourselves according to what feels appropriate, which will depend on one’s own unique way of thinking as well as experience of life, the world, etc – which inevitably changes with time, sometimes dramatically. Some people think Zen is outstandingly brilliant, and practice it as much as possible; others reject it as irrelevant or even as tosh.

In fact, although to me, as i say, Zen looks pretty good, some accounts strikes me as not entirely in line with Zen as I understand it. So how one perceives it, or from which of the various angles one approaches it, is for each of us to find and home-in-on for ourselves – assuming one decides it’s worth looking into.

Basically, as I see it, Zen is a bit like operating on an elevated level of awareness (or consciousness) from where you can observe yourself being what you are and doing what you do. This higher ‘self’, which unlike the rest of your mind remains identical from birth to death, is unaffected by learning and by preconceptions or prejudices, moods or circumstances, happiness, anger, contentment or gloom, wealth or poverty etc., etc., and is completely in tune with the reality you’re in, which the rest of your mind usually isn’t…. unless you’ve been practicing Zen (or something like it) for some while. This means that by using the Zen perspective you’re able to detach yourself from irrational thoughts, disabling emotions or disturbing conditions because you now see them for what they truly are, and at the same time – as a kind-of bonus – you’re able to deal with any situation in the most expedient, and all-round beneficial way… untainted by irrational aspects of thought, etc… like Hakuin in the little Zen story (in blue) at the end of my article, which is a fine illustration of Zen in practice: Is That So . This demonstrates beautifully how idling forms the very essence of poise so that Hakuin, by adopting the idle mode, achieves perfection. That’s the theory anyhow… or some of it.

If you click on this link: Zen in the Art of Archery  …then scroll down you’ll see a load of reviews of what other people have made of Herrigel’s famous book.

Likewise for instance with Zen Guitar (ie, one can search and find several books on some focus or other of Zen... for instance Ray Bradbury's 'Zen in the Art of Writing'). Most speak well of ‘Zen Guitar’, though one person has put ‘RUBBISH’ – which it might be to some people (or some parts of it might be)…. I thought that review was especially interesting, though I reckon they’re all worth looking at.

Who knows what a novice might make of all this? At least, assuming you’re not familiar with Zen, it should present a little exercise in investigating and weighing-up something new and weird, and then judging from one’s own experience whether it might contain anything valuable. Many things in life are like that, I reckon, and are entirely up to us to decide for ourselves one way or the other or just keep an open mind until we know or have experienced more. As for me, sometimes I’ve got it wrong and rejected some issue, only to rediscover it years later and wish I’d examined it sooner. But I think the reverse is more often true: that one takes-up issues or interests that later one discovers to be nonsense (ie, religion, for instance) or otherwise problematic (ie, politics). I never fell for religion – it’s just so solid with insane rules, rituals and other crap, and is based on notions that are about as absurd as it's possible to be – but plenty of people do; most people, it seems, are astonishingly gullible. As for politics… another hazardous arena for the gullible... well, I could write tons (I already have, and wasted tons of time doing so)… not to say I haven’t enjoyed it and learned a lot in the process… see below: ‘To The Government’…

... so here, on mention of that terrible word ‘politics’ that will one day become redundant like 'punishment' and even 'crime', I’ll digress from the benefits and joys of being idle with… How about:


Zen in the Art of Digression?

My conclusion from all this, though, is: to always adopt an ‘evidence-based’ (scientific) outlook whenever something new or mysterious appears. Above all, with the plethora of tricksters and swindlers out there, one can’t be too skeptical. I go with the notion: never trust what is unclear, or what I don’t understand; and never believe that anyone who propagates information or advertises something, does so from altruistic motives. Sometimes they do, but it’s rare. Adverts, to me, are merely some outfit attempting to get my dough. And that’s the primary function of every advertisement, promotion and product-placement, etc., that exists. These days ads are often so subtle that they’re frequently not obvious as ads, so one has to be increasingly alert to the diabolic methods and schemes of the corporate mobsters that run virtually everything. The planet seems to be moving towards becoming just a vast faceless commercial machine – a colossal ubiquitous money-making scam. (I’m not a cynic for nothing!).....

For instance, have you ever seen an advert for cabbages or carrots or spuds or sardines....etc? Unlikely, because there's no BIG dough in them - they're healthy, good and cheap. (Same for all kinds of ordinary useful things like scissors and paper and string.....) Which means ANYTHING advertised should instantly raise suspicion.  

OK… a few months back some nut from the ‘ruling’ party here in the UK dropped a questionnaire in my door. I saw here a chance (pointless though it was) to contradict almost every answer I supposed they expected or were hoping for. And when it asked in a space near the end to write what above all in my opinion the party should do I wrote:

"Only support policies that are in the interest of those who elect you, DO NOT engage in war, DO NOT pursue aggressive foreign policies, and above all DO NOT support business (that is BIG business, which looks after itself only too well)!"

For some crazy reason I included my email address, but then forgot all about it. And then a week or so before Christmas I get this cheeky email (my - again somewhat pointless - reply to which follows... whether or not any recipient read it, and if they did whether they fell off their chair, I hope it at least makes you laugh):



Dear Philip,
Together, we've achieved a lot this year - but there's still much more to do to secure a better future for Britain.
That's why I'm asking you today to back our long-term plan by becoming a Supporter for just £1.
By backing our plan, you'll be playing a key part in building a stronger economy and helping people who want to work hard and get on in life:

  • Reducing the deficit so our economy is more competitive and our children aren't left to pay off our debts
  • Creating more jobs - with a record 30 million people now taking home a pay packet every week and being able to provide for their families
  • Making people more financially secure by cutting income tax - saving the average taxpayer £590 - and freezing fuel duty - saving you £360 a year, if you fill up your car once a week
  • Creating 1.5 million apprenticeships to give young people a start in life
  • Capping welfare and controlling immigration to ease the pressure on public services and make sure everyone contributes to their communities

Philip - we've come a long way this year. Our plan is working - but we can't stop now.
Join as a Supporter today for just £1, and let's secure the future we all want for our country and our children.

Grant Shapps
Conservative Party Chairman


OK, send the £1 then and I'll support you.....

But seriously:

Don't you mean: “…secure the future for the corporate elite, the middle and upper classes and other clients of the city who rake in their bonanza every day - the cream of the spending of us naive plebs from the pittance we receive for our toil.”?

No reasonable person could support the way you aim to achieve your proposals. Pension credit, for instance, is calculated on a linear sliding scale - this is precisely the basis for how tax should be charged, so big corporations that presently get away with overcharging customers and underpaying staff (except top executives) to the tune of £bns of OUR money, would be squeezed the hardest instead of getting away with paying peanuts. Only small business should be given an easy time. The bigger they are, the tougher it should be... the tougher and tighter the regulation too. Currently, the situation is UPSIDE DOWN.

Individuals should be taxed likewise: on a sliding scale, and much steeper for unearned income.

Welfare should be INCREASED not capped. If anything should be CAPPED then go for BONUSES and BIG payouts to senior bank staff (and other thieving executives). There are plenty of entirely competent people who would do BETTER than existing staff and would do so for an MP's salary.... as several honest ex-insiders who've thrown-in the towel have explained. 

Jobs should NOT be created - what could be more absurd??? - they should be shared, if anything. Why create all this work when we have machines and computers that should be earning the money - our income - while we have more leisure time. OR IS THAT THE EXCLUSIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE MIDDLE AND UPPER CLASSES? 

Your values and policies are all utterly inappropriate to the 21st C. Soon, as just one example, all this talk of more runways for more aircraft destroying the climate ever more quickly and causing vast disproportionate damage which if it was calculated into the price would make fuel and flying unaffordable even to the super-rich, so the airlines would fold, will be seen as juvenile and absurd. 

The whole way politics is conducted is out-of-date and is losing support - who does one vote for when one agrees with half each party's policies, or maybe these days less than a tenth of any of them even? We won't go along with that kind of swindle any more. And why do politicians behave like LEADERS when they're actually employees.... Ah, yes, of course, because they're NOT the voters' employees but the corporate elite's, represented by Murdoch or Digby Jones, or the CEOs of the FTSE 100.... and the rest, etc. And that's why Russell Brand was right - and was why he has received such wide acclaim and support.

I don't anticipate big change in the short term, but who knows? There's a refreshing uneasiness in the air, maybe analogous to the so-called Arab Spring. The elite have had it their way too long - so change is not only inevitable but is long overdue. The sooner politicians as stooges of the elite, as currently, cease to exist as we know them, the better - as I see it.

What I've described above is monumental corruption beside which the expenses scandal resembles fiddling the petty cash for a vicars tea party. The trouble is you're all stuck in a group-think, a state of denial, a kind of weird fantasy. True, it works, or has till now, but the plebs are waking-up.... the old establishment propaganda is being swamped by alternative perspectives. At some point the balance will tip - then you'll be finished.... and good. Genuine democracy might yet happen - or is it me who's dreaming?

Phil   (See also: 1st ITEM )