July 11th, 2003


I love this stuff. I really do.

Wu-Men's Cautions

To maintain standards and follow rules is to tie yourself up without a rope.
To indulge freely without restraint is to behave like heretics and demons.

To maintain the mind in solitary depths is the specious Zen of quietism.
To give rein to the will and ignore karma is to fall into the pit.

To be alert and never unclear is to wear chains and an iron yoke.
To think good and evil is to belong to heaven and hell.

To have a Buddha view and a Dharma view is to be enclosed by two iron mountains.
To treat each thought as realization is to trifle with your spirit.
To cultivate samadhi is to practice in a haunted house.

To proceed is to stray from the truth.
To retreat is to violate the Tao.
Neither to proceed nor to retreat is to be a corpse with breath.

Now tell me, what do you do?

Work hard for realization in this life, or you will have regrets eternally.

excerpted from The Gateless Barrier
(Wu-Men Kuan) , translated by Robert Aitken

Video Night

Video Night Tonight. 8PM. Bekka's choice of video, unless she's completely incapable of making a decision.


will be at the video night tonight
won't be at the video night tonight

My reason for not coming:

I live too far away
I live in Edinburgh, but I'm not sure I'm invited
I'm busy
I fear that you will be watching terrible films
I _am_ coming. Didn't you read question 1?

(no subject)

Stephen's had an idea, which is an event which doesn't come along that often, so I had to share it with you.

He's wanting to set up a review group for anything pop culture. Rather than join one of the review groups for films, books, comics or whatever, he'd much rather have the opinions of friends, and friends of friends. He's planning on moderating it fairly tightly, to prevent people posting off-topic nonsense (as has happened on other revew communities, prompting him to start his own).

If you're interested, head to the link above and offer a word of encouragement.

Abandoning Truth

Everything is possible, nothing is True.

While growing up I was obsessed with Truth, with finding out what was true, being right and finding the best methods for isolating the truth.

Over several years that got changed from "finding the truth" to "getting closer to the truth, even though you can't get there."

Inspired by some arguments about science that I've been reading, I've decided that a change in definition is needed:

I'm interested in theories with predictive power. That is, I'm interested in ideas that, when given information about the present can tell me something about how the future is likely to be. Now, the predictions will not be 100% accurate, but that's just fine, they need to be accurate enough for the context that they are being used for.

Newton's laws of physics, for instance, aren't Truth, they aren't even the most accurate predictive theories we have for plotting the movement of objects (relativity superseded them), but in the context in which they are used, they work perfectly well.

If I accept that there is no accessible truth (which I did, back in 1995 or so), then I'm left with gossip and opinion on the meaning of that gossip. Most of the gossip is stuff that I can just accept with a grain of salt and place in the "events people have reported on, of which I have no first hand knowledge" folder.

"President Bush invaded Iraq to save the innocent Iraqis", "President Bush invaded Iraq to protect the oil business", "President Bush invaded Iraq to stop Saddam getting Nukes.", "President Bush invaded Iraq because Saddam had his father shot." Nobody will ever know which one of these is true, except for George Bush himself, and no amount of blustering about the subject will find out what his personal motives were. you simply have to read as widely as possible and weigh up the opinions you read, certainly not a recipe for truth by any means.

Opinions are more reliable in general terms, when dealing with masses of people and making statistical generalisations. Similarly, predicting the behaviour of a single atom is impossible, but when they cluster together it's possible to be fairly precise about their combined movements (changes in pressure, for instance).

But which opinions are worth taking and which aren't? Well, the ones that are reproducible are obviously better than the ones that aren't - all sorts of results will occasionally occur by happenstance, but if a result is repeatable then chances are it has some value. If it has predictive value then it's even better - i.e. explaining why something you can see happens is one thing, but explaining something that you haven't seen yet and then finding it indicates that you are definitely on the right track.

So there you go - theories with predictive power. They aren't as catchy as 'truths', and they depend on lots of that 'context' stuff that causes so many arguments, but they're a lot more realistic than Truth, and you're liable to bump into a lot more of them out there in the real world.

Sunny Day

Cut and paste from The Wolf Lady :

It used to be that everyone went to the beach, lay out on the sand, and tanned. It was fun, relaxing, it felt good, and it made you look good, too. Then the scientists said oooh, tanning, it's bad for you, it gives you skin cancer. No more tanning, at least without SPF 10099888 grade sunscreen.

Then the other day, I was reading about how many people are having health problems because of a lack of Vitamin D. Vitamin D comes from the sun, and if you have even a layer of SPF 8 sunscreen on, you won't produce much of it. Scientists are discovering every day more of the great benefits that Vitamin D has for the body, including - you got it - preventing cancer.