Monthly Archives: January 2006

Anti-Bacterial

With a couple of dogs running around the house more frequently than having no dogs to begin with, anti-bacterial products seem a little more useful than before. To discover another dog’s worth of hair jammed into the dust bag of the vacuum cleaner makes me wonder what else have my dogs unleashed. But, while I was walking through the cold, brightly lit aisles of Staples, I stumbled upon the oddest pen. It’s called the FlexGrip Elite, a Papermate pen that does look a tad inconspicuous save for the large sticker: ‘with Anti-Bacterial Pen Protection.’ I must have scanned the entire package for what seemed to be a few more moments while I tried to grasp why such a terrible pen existed.

Certainly people would like to be neat and orderly while going about their business, I can understand that. But, unless I so happened to drop my pen into an aquarium or a pile of poop, I don’t think the cleanliness of my writing utensil is going to be a high priority. Most pens come by the dozen so if you don’t like where one has been and you aren’t particularly attached to it, the act of replacing that one pen is simple. If so much concern can be mustered for the cleanliness of a pen, perhaps some more attention is needed for the hands. Why not buy some of that Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer? Just rub that stuff on your pen while you’re at it.

Also, I’m not quite sure how the anti-bacterial feature for a pen is supposed to work, but I have seen anti-bacterial dishwashing gloves in action. If you ever have the fortune of sticking a brand new pair of these gloves into an aquarium you can tell something’s sloughing off the rubber surface. I don’t think that’s much fun if the same were to happen with an anti-bacterial pen. But, even if the anti-bacterial pen does not ‘slough’, bacteria is already everywhere. What’s the point of having an anti-bacterial pen if, for instance, my own immune system cannot handle the bacteria? Then I’d be thinking about more serious matters rather than how clean my damn pen is. I’d probably want to use it to write out a quick will somewhere on my body or a piece of paper. I’d probably jot something like ‘Avenge me!’ So long as the pen can write that down we’re fine, right?

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The Teaching of Buddha

According to the Teachings, suffering and change are constant and operate from both outside and inside the mind. If one can achieve the “unchanging” mind, enlightenment occurs. When compassion and wisdom are used to solve problems, suffering should end.

So what is the unchanging mind? I have no idea. The causes of a changing mind are ignorance and desire, the two basest ills that lead to suffering. It is argued that compassion and wisdom can end the cycle of suffering. But, enlightenment cannot exist without ignorance. I take this paradox to suggest that enlightenment is an ideal state; once achieved, the world as it is now ceases to exist. Thus, sitting in a room (or a cave even) meditating for enlightenment is a fool’s errand.

One cannot sit expecting divine intervention. The Teachings say each person possesses “buddha-nature,” the potential to achieve enlightenment. Does this not imply that each individual is a miracle? If not, then each individual is, at the very least, a potential miracle. For (potential) miracles to expect enlightenment from meditation or some other process is ludicrous. If one was able to achieve enlightenment by such means, this says nothing of one’s surroundings. What’s the point of floating in a mental bubble devoid of suffering and change when one’s surroundings are the opposite?

Since suffering and change are constant the only option is to attempt to effect change to influence suffering. Now, with what means does one have to even begin to effect change? And, more importantly, why should one bother to embark upon such a task? For these two questions I have found one passage of the Teachings that I took note of:

Behind the desires and worldly passions which the mind entertains, there abides, clear and undefiled the fundamental and true essence of mind.

Water is round in a round receptacle and square in a square one, but water itself has no particular shape. People often forget this fact.

People see this good and that bad, they like this and dislike that, and they discriminate existence from non-existence; and then, being caught in these entanglements and becoming attached to them, they suffer.

I do not yet understand this passage completely. People are capable of changing their perceptions, and interpreting worldly phenomena under different understandings. The power to challenge one’s own assumptions and to consider other possibilities is one of the tools that people possess. This tool enables people to face the challenge of something as amorphous as suffering.

Following the ‘water’ passage above, people attach definitions to life and death, leading them to suffer. Though the Teachings argue that these attached definitions for life and death are illusions, death involves losing the ability to effect change on a level that can be appreciated. This does not apply in all cases since there are plenty of examples of prominent, (in)famous people who continue to influence future generations long after death with their ideals and beliefs; however, their physical presence and ability to manipulate their physical surroundings are definitely lost in the event of death.

Since death is somewhat restrictive, I would assume that something ought to be pursued during life. Unfortunately this does not give an answer to the question why should one attempt to effect change to influence suffering. One could operate without considering suffering to a certain extent, or influence suffering to intensify it.

I’ve gone mad haven’t I.