From: Sue Armstrong
To: Ken Teel
Date: Feb 10 1998 4:32:05 am
Subject: doubting gods
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Making a good dice roll, Ken Teel cast doubting gods at Curtis Johnson -
and all hell broke loose.

JS> Are you sure???  (Perhapts we are all butterflys dreaming)
JS> Something from the late 60's early 70's...
KT> It's actually an ancient Chinese (Taoist to be precise) saying.
KT> Much older than that.
CJ>  There's actually a name (sorry, can't remember) of the
CJ>  man who dreamt that he was a butterfly, then when he woke,
CJ> asked  how he could be sure that he wasn't a butterfly
CJ> dreaming that he  was a man.
CJ>  Actually, there do seem to be tests to distinguish between
CJ>  the two states.  I rather doubt that one can solve a
CJ> moderately  complicated mathematical problem in a dream, for
CJ> instance.

KT> It's an ancient Chinese saying.

Actually, it's an ancient Chinese riddle of sorts - like Zen koans
or such to ponder upon and eventually clarify the mind, as a sort of
meditative device.

It's not really meant to be solved; sure, one might expect to be
able to tell the difference between reality and a dream, but that's
not the real point.  The _point_ is to ponder upon the situation,
and learn to tackle things from different mental points of view -
and, perhaps, to learn that sometimes there are no answers.  Things
sometimes just _are_.

KT> If memory serves (sometimes it doesn't), this is attributed to Lao
KT> Tzu:  the alleged author of the Tao Te Ching (perhaps 3000 years ago).
KT> There is some debate as to whether Lao Tzu actually existed.  There
KT> are several good translations of the Tao with historical notes that
KT> suggest that "Lao Tzu" was a fictitious character and that the Tao is
KT> simply a collection of ancient Chinese wisdom.  The name Lao Tzu
KT> (according to the texts I have read) means "The Old Master" and cannot
KT> be linked to a specific person.

I've also seen it translated as "Old Man".  But as noted by Curtis,
that isn't here nor there, either.

CJ>  IIRC, it *wasn't* Lao-tse.  Definitely Taoist, though.

It _might_ have been Chuang-Tzu, who wrote a lot more than
"Lao-Tzu".  Don't take that as gospel, though - it could well have
been someone else (or could have been Buddhist or Confucian, for
that matter), and it would take me some time to sort through the
collection of the complete writings of Taoism that I have.  I seem
to recall the same sort of idea used to illustrate a point in a
more modern Taoist book, though.

CJ>  You're correct about there being some question as to
CJ> whether   he existed--but then that really isn't important
CJ> to Taoism.

Nah. Even the temple Taoists who include him as one of the Eight
Immortals don't generally give a shit; it's simply not important.
What "he" passed on in writing was.  Why waste one's time getting
all hot and bothered like the Christians over the existence (or
non-existance) of one man, when there's a whole world of men out

If some Christian, say, ever thought to fuck up a Taoist by saying
Lao-Tzu didn't exist, he'd be in for a nasty shock and a very long,
convoluted philosophical discourse that the Christian would have no
hope of following.


... "Tie two birds together, and they can fly - if they become One."
--- GEcho 1.11+
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