writings on math, logic, philosophy and art

zen shorts

The things you fear

The things you fear will happen are already happening (else there would be no way to fear them). The only way to stop them from happening is to stop fearing them


At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost. Elena Ferrante — My brilliant friend

I could have went with “The world is a stage…” as an opening quote, but this one by Elena Ferrante rises the question I want to ask here: What is so bad about playing your role in life?

Shakespeare was clearly on to something too: roles are a fiction. We just act out models that we have seen. A teenager acts in the way that they have seen other teenagers act, because they have no other way to act. An old person acts like an old person, just because that is the role that society assigns to them. Because a teenager that acts like an old person or an old person who acts like a teenager are just ridiculous, no matter how much they themselve believe in their role.

But then, how is playing your own role less ridiculous? It kinda isn’t, but at least you wouldn’t be confusing people over who you are. And what about refusing to play any role — now you are just playing the role of the person who refuses to play roles.

The most ridiculous thing is to take your role too serious. To think that the “you” people perceive is the real “you” and to cling to that “you”, even after it lost it’s purpose. Sometimes roles have purpose. When you are working with people at a common goal, it is good if each one knows his parts. That’s when roles work.

By playing your role right, with good timing and without extra pathos, you acknowledge that roles aren’t something serious.

So, be like Robert De Niro — choose your movies by the script, not by the character you have to play.

Win and lose

One of the things I wrestle with in my spiritual practice is the idea that you will never be able to truly win and truly fail — all mistakes, weaknesses and missed opportunities do not matter, unless you want them to matter (no point in doing so). More importantly, the positive things you do don’t matter as well. Leaning on them is sends you back to square one.

There is something spiritual about this principle itself, it somehow defines spirituality.


“I have everything but I am still not happy.”

Well, that’s because you don’t have everything, you have just money (and things that you can buy with it)

You don’t have a job that satisfies you while letting you retain your piece of mind.

You don’t have quality relationships with people who will be there for you, even if you are broke.

You don’t have material objects that fulfill your needs without having maintenance costs that make you dependent on corporations that you don’t want to depend on.

Or maybe you understand that you need all these things, but you are thought that you need them in addition to being rich.

Or that you want to make money first and then concentrate on everything else.

Both of these are dead ends. Act now to attain what you want. Directly.

Why, cause “character is faith,” as Heraclitus says. The saying is more literal than it seems:

Pursuing your goals is not merely a prerequisite to getting the results you want. If you look at it from the grand scale, goals are themselves results - pursuing the goal to be good (“good” both as a person or good at some specific skill) is the same thing as being good.

By the same token, pursuing a goal as obtuse and meaningless as money makes you an obtuse and meaningless person.

e.g. a person who is sorry for whatever bad thing they have done and wants to be a good person already is a good person, better than a billionaire who donates 10% of this fortune to charity.

10-year-old-kid who has set their mind to become a great pianist is a great pianist, better than anyone who merely plays just for the money.

On being self-critical

My focus for the next year or so is to stop being so self-critical. No reason whatsoever to beat yourself for stupid shit, and it destroys your self-esteem, allowing you to be exploited by people who don’t even know what self-criticism means.

Instant gratification

Seeking instant gratification is not “living for the moment”, it’s a manifestation of our your fear of death (so kinda the opposite thing)

Positive nihilism

Positive nihilism:

Nothing that you say or do matters in the grand scheme of things, and this is pathetic, but more pathetic is the refusal to accept that fact, instead of conforming to it and thus making it the only thing you conform to:

Your achievements don’t matter, so no point in being dishonest.

You failures don’t matter, so no point in giving up.

Your strive to perfection is vain, so no point in pressuring yourself.

On the concept of myriad of things

Dogen’s concept of a “myriad of things” (or “the thousand things” as it is sometimes translated) is very similar to Kant’s concept of the “manifold of sensibility”, essentially both are trying to highlight the novel, flux-like aspect of reality, the fact that the concept of objects are subjective (no pun intended). It would be a really cool plot twist if it turned out that Kant had read Dogen (very highly unlikely in real life).

On productivity

Seems that all this obsession with productivity that we have is due to the fact that we don’t believe in the things we do and so we want to at least do more of them.

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