Letters Column for December 2006: Four Noble Truths

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here is my thought.

A peculiar power is given unto us that we may give aid unto others—not to act for them but to open space for them to act, to clear their eyes when they are clouded and to free their hands when they are bound.

It is never a bad year to use that power.

This no more or less than any other.

But it seems a good year to keep that in mind. To remember that that is the power we have. To hold that in our thoughts as we deal with others around us.

I will leave generic thanks and other monthly updates until the next post.

I like alot of “dude” sayings, really. Dude is like, the buddha of the modern age. You know it’s true! dudette
— GoldenH

I can see it.

He’s down at the Dude Ranch, which is where they farm free-range Buddhas—

Because you do not want a factory farm Buddha—

And he’s leaning back with his eyes sort of closed and he’s got fringed pants on and a cowboy hat and he’s tall as your thumb. And he’s strumming on his zither, the way little Buddha dudes do, and he’s saying this:

“I will tell you the noble truth of suffering.
It comes from clinging.
You don’t let things go.”

And the farmers say, “That’ll do, little dude. That’ll do.”

Then the Little Buddha Hook comes along. It catches him up humanely. It dips him in chocolate. It puts him in the box. It ships him to a supermarket.

It can’t ship him to a submarket.

The sea’s in the way!

So it ships him to a supermarket—to a supermarket near you.

And you can go there, if you like, and if you do, you’ll find the dude.

You’ll find him there, the dude, the dude in the Buddha box, the Buddha of the ranch. And you’ll be all like, “Dude! You’re a tiny Buddha coated in dark chocolate!”

And he’ll be all, “Sweet.”

It is ironic that they add preservatives.

Rather, I think that in our world, it makes some sense to say that Jesus toppled Zeus from his throne.
— David Goldfarb

I imagine Konami could make an extremely fine game about running up to people on thrones and pushing them over.

It could be their answer to Left Behind: the Video Game.

Why shoot infidels when you can push them?

And cross-compatibility with Katamari Damacy would allow a great flexibility in evangelical technique.

At that, . . .

I find myself wondering why this is not a thing any great revival has ever tried.

People are heretical. It’s in their nature to be what evangelical zealots don’t want them to be. The only real answer is to apply suppressive tactics to convert them against their standing judgment. Typically deception, community, and force are the tools coming to hand. Why not rolling?

A person, once baptized, is forever Christian.*

One could adapt this to a given denomination by theorizing that once rolled, the soul is saved. That’s why they call it the “ball of souls.” A syncretic tincture of voudon would allow you to do this without even touching the real person: a symbolic metaphor would suffice.

Once rolled, blessed soul’d
Iesu SHOVE teach you love.
— Hitoshi Tetsudai

* lest this serve as a subject for debate: I do not consider this “true.”

Max later repeats the same dragging-someone-with-him action and it’s considered okay.
— rpuchalsky

Reality is an ocean; nonbeing is a point.

I don’t mind your characterization of the story as a story of relationships.

Yet I think it’s important to understand that “make someone an is” is in some respects closer to “grant someone a voice” than “make someone a prisoner of the world.”

Perhaps I simply do not appreciate the wide fields of nonbeing.

I always find your work incredibly intriguing, challenging and thought provoking.
— ADamiani

Thank you for your kind words.

I think, incidentally, that you’ve understood my comments on theodicy well.

In terms of chapterbooks or monthbooks—

It’s not very high on my queue right now. Je regrette.

It is necessary for any world in which people can have desires that conflict, and which does not contain logical contradictions, to contain the possibility that people will experience things they do not want.
— Eric

“I will tell you the noble truth of the origin of suffering,” says the chocolate Buddha.

You’re not sure whether to eat him yet.

I mean, he’s coated in dark chocolate. He’s a chocolate-coated little dude you found at the supermarket. He’s probably not really alive—more like Mrs. Buttersworth or Vice-President Cheney, able to present a convincing appearance of life.

But he’s got a zither.

“I will tell you the noble truth of the origin of suffering,” he’s saying. “It comes from craving.”

“Dude,” you say.

“From craving sweets,” he emphasizes.

It just now occurs to me that being “someone who fights suffering and wins” is perfectly compatible with there being a universal characteristic of suffering. It’s like playing whack-a-mole with all the starfish stranded by the sea.
— cariset

I’ve been reading Karl Popper’s book on the scientific method. So far, genius, although I haven’t gotten as far in as I’d like. One of the comments he makes is that there’s an inherent asymmetry between verifiability and falsifiability. To falsify a universal statement says nothing about the individual case; to verify an individual statement says nothing about the universal case. So it’s possible to study the world through logic, but only up to the point that we care about universal truths—to learn that something is not tautologically true tells us nothing about its truth. (I do not think Bayesian reasoning helps us here.)

In a similar fashion, it’s possible to study the world through individual facts, but only to the point where we care about what is not true. We study the world through experiments not to discover but to test.

If you’re cleaning up old entries, there’s also what appears to be a typo in Dancer in the Night. Sixth paragraph; It is not that I am great, that I am great; context implies the second that is really a though in that’s clothing.
— Recherche

Thank you! Fixed.

I also need to get on that art school-cum-time machine idea. I’m having trouble drawing jaguars that don’t look like leopard-print-negligee-sporting shrubbery, let alone a representation of Manfred imprisoned that doesn’t look like, um, a black index card.
— mineownaardvarks

. . . that’s not what jaguars look like?

Oh God.

I have been such a fool.

The ironic part of your reply is that I DO go to art school. I’m a photo major, we need none of this “drawing” nonsense!
— insanitykun

Can’t you photograph from imagination?

How peculiar.

Glad that you received it and that it’s proving inspirational.
— gamera_spinning

^_^

Okami is helping with a little thing I am calling Xi Meimao for now. It is a subject I will no doubt revisit, and with spoilers, soon.

The only reason I know what Cobol is is because my dad used to talk about it like it was Latin.
— syme

Of course.

I have loved the magic of etymology and the way it conjures forth deepness from words that have little on their surface. To derive a term from Latin—such joy! But to understand how our modern language has evolved from the reserved words of Cobol—

Is it okay if I show you all some of my favorite examples?

Temporary
Here is one that astounded me. Transient, a thing that will end, a passing moment. For many years I naturally assumed this came from the Vampire RPG Discipline, “Temporis.” In fact it is a simple prefix cut from Cobol’s

istemporary

How wonderful!

Sis Boom Bah
I wondered all my life where this came from and what it meant before I finally discovered it a corruption of

sysdba

Do you see? Do you understand? The boom is the database going down.

Union
It is a thing often forgotten when we discuss the holiness of marriage that the term itself derives from the Cobol concept of

union

How did the ancient tribes of the world find this wisdom engraved upon their sacred tablets? How did people come together in the days before vacuum tube machines?

It is, I think, the supreme extratemporal action of

datetime_interval_code

Def

I suppose I shall make this my last etymological discursion; I would not want to bore. Yet—do you see why I love so the origins of these words?

And def is one of the best of them.

There is a Hindu style of negation that inspires my fondness—a style that adds a sense of depth to words, and perhaps only to my foreign eyes, through negative particles such as ‘nir’ and ‘a’ and ‘ifn’.

Nirguna: beyond attributes. Nirakara: beyond form. Ahistorical: beyond historical. Ifnbuddha: Buddhaless.

—because you know that he would be saying that you have to let him go.

The little chocolate-coated Buddha, I mean.

“I will tell you the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.”

And you know what’s coming.

“You have to let it go.”

You have to be ifnbuddha to know Buddha. You have to be ifntightass to free yourself from suffering. You have to seek the ifnignorance and the agreed and the nirrighteous nircertain ifnpomposity.

And you have to take that little Cadbury-dipped dude with his zither and his wisdom and you’ve got to let him go.

Ifnbuddha.

—but that isn’t the point.

The point is “def”—a brilliant coinage by an Indian linguistics student:

the symmetric antonym of ifndef

DefCon: the con that transcends the quality of having ifndef.

Defrays: rays to cleanse the ifndef from a scientific sample.

And Def Leppard:

the leppard that transcends the quality of having ifndef.

The leppard, put another way, that is non-dualistic: a leopard-print-negligee-sporting shrubbery in a place of darkness; and also a great cat; and both, and all, and neither.

Ah! Ah! How beautiful!

But I have made an error, I fear, in my methodical and diabolical preparations for the end of the Mayan calendar; and I think I must attend to it. So, with assurances of a continued letter column soon, I leave you;

Rebecca out.

4 thoughts on “Letters Column for December 2006: Four Noble Truths

  1. I had something to say about Karl Popper, but after reading what you wrote again, he didn’t say what I was hoping he did. Ah well.

    Anyway, have you seen the Dr Who Christmas Special? I couldn’t help but think about Hitherby at one point ;)

  2. Reality is an ocean; nonbeing is a point.

    I don’t mind your characterization of the story as a story of relationships.

    Yet I think it’s important to understand that “make someone an is” is in some respects closer to “grant someone a voice” than “make someone a prisoner of the world.”

    Perhaps I simply do not appreciate the wide fields of nonbeing.

    I may have written too much about this already, but I’m not really saying that people should appreciate nonbeing. First, as a reader (rather than writer) of Hitherby, it’s not clear to me that isn’ts really are victimized nonbeings — it sometimes looks like some of them have traded potential global consequenciality for near-immortality and magic powers. But that’s kind of beside the point in the case of Sid, since that’s not what happened with him.

    Mostly, it’s that if you view the whole Sid/Max interaction as being like a story about a real-world relationship, it looks a lot more like the nonbeing-ness was Sid’s problem all along, a consequence of his having unrealistic expectations for a Max of his imagination that didn’t correspond to the actual Max. In a magical world in which you can make someone a nonbeing by calling them into Hell, Max did something very wrong. In the real world, it’s hard to come up with something that Max could have done that would be as bad. It doesn’t seem to equate to an abusive relationship, battering, violence, etc. It could be like Max having Sid committed to a mental instiution on the basis of worries about what he might do, absent any history of him actually doing anything, which would also be very bad. But the problem for that analogy is that Max went too. The best equivalent that I can think of is Max checking himself and Sid into one of those we-will-make-you-heterosexual “therapy” programs.

    If that’s the analogy, then I can see Sid being very hurt. But, as in the story, he can decide to physically check out of the program whenever he wants; what is making him a nonbeing is his reaction to Max’s betrayal, and Max’s attempted definition of him. But Max’s internalized homophobia, however hurtful it is to Sid, is really Max’s problem to work through. If you’re willing to say that it is “their” problem, then the story is about relationships again.

    All that is beside the point is you say that the story is about a magical world in which you can literaly make someone a nonbeing by calling them into Hell, etc. I understand the story at that level (I think), but I think that looking at it only at that level leaves out a lot of what I think makes Hitherby really good. Other readers vary, of course.

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