Mountains Are Mountains

chineseMountains
Guest post by former editor David Rosales

 

老僧三十年前未參禪時、見山是山、見水是水、及至後夾親見知識、有箇入處、見山不是山、見水不是水、而今得箇體歇處、依然見山秪是山、見水秪是水

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

— Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin, Ch’uan Teng Lu

Those who thirst for knowledge and wisdom move in cycles of understanding delimited by internalization and externalization. These transitions are not tied to fixed degrees and their own depth as well as their distance from the next phase varies from one person to the next. The cycles of understanding can be exemplified by the process of finding out how an electronic or mechanical device works: we first pry it open and find ourselves faced with a multitude of components whose nature we usually do not even begin to understand. It is only after a while that we slowly start to identify the function pertaining each of these elements.

At first, and as we acquire basic information on the system, we are taken aback by the complexity of the relations between the different pieces working with each other in interlocked patterns. Even after understanding the purpose and function that each of the pieces has, one is not assured a proper grasp of the bigger picture. The reason for this is that this is not simply the result of the mechanical output of wheels and cogs, but something else arising from the total.

And so, after a first wave of study, analysis and pondering, a first picture is obtained. The student may think he now knows what’s going on, and that all undetermined parts are simply “subjective” or “random” and cannot be considered relevant. Some would call it a day and leave it at that. Others would continue from this higher ground, recharging batteries and pushing forth theories and testing them for incongruences until a newer picture emerges, one where what he considered parts of a whole are only parts of a partial system, embedded in either a greater mesh or having a completely different shape or balance of parts.

In dealing with the enigma of true learning, the conscious human mind is impaired with an understanding that remains clear only up to very straightforward deterministic causal relations and requires its most powerful tool to attain its full potential: the underestimated intuition. If anyone has doubts regarding the role of intuition and the subconscious (unconscious?) in learning (the attaining of understanding), one only has to think that cramming on a particular subject yields instant information on the most direct and obvious levels, but that it is only after one has “slept on it” that repercussions and otherwise unimagined dependencies are revealed to the mind.

Most valuable information, of course, can also come through experience and a scientific exploration of any subject, which provides the springboard of systematized analysis that scientific thought is. Unfortunately for humanity, “science” has slowly become a synonym for “materialist close-mindedness” ever since the so-called Enlightenment, and anything that is not “scientifically proven” (which is an interesting parallel to reducing any idea to the lowest common denominator in its requirement of the idea in question being universally reproducible in laboratory conditions) is held to be unreliable and irrelevant – unless the establishment likes the idea (for political or ego reasons, more often than not), making the profit-based scientific research advance at an unbearably slow speed towards the fabrication of commodities and pointless lifespan prolongation.

Applying this description of universal acquisition of human wisdom to music appreciation cannot only afford us with a clearer way of realizing the value of art but may as well arm us with the steel necessary to combat the nonsensical idea of complete subjectivity in the perception of music which cripples any discussion on its value in favor of modernist un-human experimentalism and post-modernist adoration for the recycled novelty. Modernist and post-modernist ideas about art arise from the same so-called-scientific materialist thinking that spawned infantile Marxist thought. All of these have in common that they use the word “science” and “objectivity” as a shield while they naively ignore human nature in favor of completely biased ideas on how civilization should proceed in their consideration of either arts, politics or economy. The haughty claim is made that there is no such thing as human nature or that nobody understands what this even means. As if its imperfect understanding were enough to discard it as irrelevant, all evidence to the contrary.

In the true spirit of the scientist, the learner, the explorer, the experimenter, the reader and avid metal fan is encouraged to never stop considering the reasons behind the effects of music, the role of structures and textures and how they can be perceived, how they relate to meaning and in what contexts, as well as any other ideas that lead to understanding rather than to an obfuscation into which unscientific thought has lead the establishment while at the same time they hijack the word “science” for their personal views! Just because a problem is hard to solve, just because the variables involved are complex, and just because the obtaining of a knowledge does not represent life or death it does not mean it need not be pursued. Humans thrive on the tackling of problems, and the supplying of baser needs such as food and clothing should only mean that human intellect is now more free than ever to delve into higher mysteries.

14 thoughts on “Mountains Are Mountains”

  1. Dualist says:

    ‘Unfortunately for humanity, “science” has slowly become a synonym for “materialist close-mindedness” ever since the so-called Enlightenment, and anything that is not “scientifically proven” (which is an interesting parallel to reducing any idea to the lowest common denominator in its requirement of the idea in question being universally reproducible in laboratory conditions) is held to be unreliable and irrelevant – unless the establishment likes the idea’

    Well put, especially the last point. In fact, they are not even averse to making dogma out of an idea that is actually NOT supported by modern science.

    Every investigation into sex-differences between men and women has shown demonstrable, physiological differences. Men have bigger brains, even when body size is controlled for. We are constantly finding more anatomical differences between male/female brains even at the large scale. All the races score differently on IQ tests, even when educational differences are taken into account.

    Yet it is an article of faith to say that if one group does not have equal attainments to another group it MUST down to ‘privilege’. So they’re even prepared to ignore the science if it’s not convenient…

  2. Viranesir says:

    To try to work out why you like something is an honourable pursuit, it will make one understand (to the limits of their consciousness and intellect) why they (and their spiritual kin:) like something and if they practice art, make them able to apply it to their work. People with similar tastes (their kin) might end up really liking that outcome. This is the very basis of practical fine art academia. Studying art history is also a great addition to this pursuit as it opens up the mind to the study of universal appreciation. But no matter how hard you try to come up with a formula that works for your tastes and works, your tastes and works will always end up being shit for someone else, and some works you infinitely value will always stay hidden in the labyrinths of underground and that is where it loses its “indisputable/universal/objective value”. Remember that nobody lives anybody else’s life, and experiences are key to taste. Not to mention ego, timing and psychology… A piece of art’s success does depend utmost on the subjective minds of the beholder in the time it was manifested with regard to the way it was presented… though that subjectivity varies person to person. Having lived in 3 continents and 3 countries long term, spending almost the entirety of the time studying and making art I can say that there is not only enough variety of people, but also enough variety of works of art to destroy any sort of value capital that critics might try to come up with, no matter how wise they sound. And %99 of critics do try to come up with value capitals, which is a fun sight to see:)

    1. Poser Patrol says:

      But no matter how hard you try to come up with a formula that works for your tastes and works, your tastes and works will always end up being shit for someone else

      Would the sky stop being blue if everyone thought it was neon pink? By the same token, would Beethoven stop being brilliant just because Nicki Minaj fans don’t think so? Reality is not a democracy.

      1. fenrir says:

        Exactly. We need more Plato around here.

      2. Viranesir says:

        What do you mean by the word “brilliant” in context to Beethoven? Please do answer but in any case, the sky being blue is different than sky being brilliant… So your “same token” theory does not apply.

        1. Poser Patrol says:

          Brilliant as in it expresses an elemental form of beauty as derived from fundamental truths of human nature and the structure of reality. Contrast this with a grosser form of beauty that arises from temporal phenomenon such as listening to Sam Smith and remembering all those times you snuggled with your bae and he did that thing you like to your spicy little dirt star.

          1. Viranesir says:

            | Brilliant as in it expresses an elemental form of beauty as derived from fundamental truths of human nature and the structure of reality. | So you claim…

            It is great that you describe your personal interpretation of the pleasure you get from Beethoven’s pieces as an elemental (earth, water, air, fire) form of beauty (aesthetical pleasure). I wonder if you have examples to support the connection you made from which of his piece(s?) to an “elemental beauty”.

            Please do enlighten me on what you specifically mean by

            A) fundamental truths of human nature
            B) structure of reality

            And how they support your argument about the in-disputability, universality and timelessness of beethoven’s brilliance. There is two ways to argue about a universal superior taste,

            1) bringing data that most people like Beethoven and the majorities taste is the superior taste because it applies to the mass. So your brilliance claim is calculated by numbers.

            2) that the tastes of a few is superior because the pleasure they get (from Beethoven) is a greater pleasure than an inferior artist can offer. So your brilliance claim is calculated by a proclaimed relativity of pleasure.

            1. Poser Patrol says:

              Elemental in this context refers to something intrinsic or inherent, not Pokemon types.

              Your two arguments are both utilitarian and miss the point. The second is a bit closer, but the goal of high art isn’t pleasure — pleasure is the realm of entertainment — but truth and beauty. It expresses the world as it is, not what we project on to it. That is the “objective” in art.

              Beethoven is deeply moving in the same way a mountain vista sunset is: you feel dwarfed by the immensity of existence but at the same time affirms the glory of being alive.

              1. The second is a bit closer, but the goal of high art isn’t pleasure — pleasure is the realm of entertainment — but truth and beauty.

                I find this on point. Also, that nothing is subjective; “subjective” merely means the individual is unaware of what they are communicating by the choice. Solipsism again.

              2. Viranesir says:

                “Elemental in this context refers to something intrinsic or inherent, not Pokemon types.” – if you are taking a word out of its universal meaning, better explain it rather than eluding it in dogmatic phrases like something intrinsic or inherent.. I thought I was the subjective one…

                You claim his work represents the world as it is by exemplifying how nature and his work make you feel a similar way. This kind of explanation used for an argument is the very basis of subjectivity in thought and practice. You don’t even feel the need to exemplify the connexion, you just say Beethoven’s work is like mountains and claim this baseless, highly subjective interpretation is objective. This is to put a swastika band around the bicep of a nigger…

                You bring in the term “high art” into the equation, please explain what sense you use the term before I answer because your usage of terms are often too subjective for me to make out from their historical meanings.

  3. OliveFox says:

    I heard tell that if I have faith I can move them things.

    1. hypcrite says:

      Once my eyes moved them…

      1. OliveFox says:

        I chopped one down with the edge of my hand. Not so difficult.

  4. Anthony says:

    Very interesting way of looking at the acquisition of knowledge. I remember feeling the same way a lot during math classes in school, where everything seemed infinite and intangible, then you would come to understand a new concept, but when you really mastered that concept, you came to see that everything actually was infinite and intangible.

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