Sunday, May 8, 2011

New Mind

The Zen master offers the student a cup of tea.  The student holds out a saucer with the cup on top.  The master pours tea into the cup and keeps on pouring as the tea overflows the cup.  The student asks why continue pouring when the cup is already full.  The master says that the mind, like the cup, must be empty to receive new wisdom, new insight.

My friend, a scholar and PhD in French, writes

Your comment about Montaigne's advice to forget what you read reminds me of the French saying: "La Culture est ce qui reste quand on a tout oublié."  --Culture is what remains when you've forgotten everything (you've learned.)  It seems to me that Montaigne must be referring to the deeper understanding and grasp of the whole that lies beneath all the details that our memories amass (and let go of.)

I wonder if the recommendation to be slow-witted might be related to what Jesus meant when he said that we needed to become as little children.  Most of us, as adults, think we're so smart and know so much--and as soon as we hear something new we trot out all our old concepts and try to fit the new in somewhere, or to reject it, based on all the structures of thought that we've so carefully built up.  I'm aware that when I'm listening, I'm often also rehearsing everything I already think I know about the topic.  It's really not the best way to enjoy the richness of the present.  I need to keep reminding myself about "bare attention."

Another friend, an expert in administration and human relations, writes

Bill, I am reminded of the notion in literature of "willing suspension of disbelief," a term from another century that refers to the viewer/reader having to suspend independent judgment/thought about the scene/novel/poem so that one can be immersed into it.  You have probably experienced this concept watching movies.  If you try to remember pieces, judge the acting, wonder about the actor's real life or anything other than becoming one with the story and its people, you will not be able to become a part of the story.  Ultimately, we are asked to turn off our minds, our critical processes, our attention elsewhere so that we can become emotionally a part of the thing being unveiled. Even the best artistic events wither under our critical disbelief.

I went to college with the actor, Marsha Mason, and was never able to appreciate any of her movies because I could not get past my real life knowledge of her.

Imagine if we approached conversations with our loved ones with willing suspension of disbelief and became totally immersed in the conversation without separate thoughts or judgments.

As a tool for lifting spirits over too much cold weather, I wrote

Lynn is slowly getting a handle on the iPad, which in turns gives me glimpses into it and the worldwide web's parts that I wouldn't otherwise think of or find.  Yesterday, she put "laughing babies" into YouTube and looked at many videos of babies exploring the world.  Of those she showed me, I guess the now rather famous Emerson reacting to his mother blowing her nose is the most memorable.  It will put you and your family in a good mood and is just this one form of several has been viewed over 17 million times.

Watching Emerson and other babies (and also videos of kittens on the same site), I am struck again by how the new-to-this-world see the wonder in everything.

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