A Couple of Mind Games


Going Topless

“It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been, was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything– room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them, snow-peaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.”

D. E. Harding “On Having No Head” included in “The Mind’s I” by Hofsteader and Dennet.

I really relate to this feeling at times. Try having no head: it is a mind-blowing experience.


A Zen riddle posed by Master Kyogen:

Zen is like a man hanging in a tree by his teeth. His hands grasp no branch. His feet rest on no limb, and under the tree another person asks him: “Why did Bodhidharma come to China from India?” If the man does not answer he fails: and if he answers, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?”

From “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones” by Paul Reps

I say the man could hang in a small tree and maybe only sprain an ankle.

Or if he was good at ventriloquism, he could answer safely, but still a good round of therapy wouldn’t hurt.

But the real question would be “How in the hell did you get in that stupid position?” and then of course you would go for help. What kind of sadistic asshole is going to ask some Buddhist history question.

If I was a ventriloquist and in the tree (like that would ever happen) I would answer, “Why don’t you look it up later. Meanwhile could you find a fucking ladder or a few cushions.”
I guess I’m not in a zen space today.

This entry was posted in Other peoples words, philosophy, Questions and riddles, Teaching and Learning, whereever you go there you are and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Couple of Mind Games

  1. bwinwnbwi says:

    Here’s an example of “jumping out of the system” (which, I suspect, is not much different from the “feeling of having no head”) :

    A major discontinuity in the history of mathematics occurred in the l880’s when Georg Cantor developed his theory of sets. Cantor (who later committed suicide) developed a diagonal method from which he worked out the mathematics of infinities. The essence of this method is, according to Douglas Hofstadter, “the fact of using one integer in two different ways–or, one could say, using one integer on two different levels–thanks to which one can construct an item which is outside of some predetermined list.” [Douglas R. Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979, p. 423]

    Here’s another example of “jumping out of the system,” one that I suspect even better mirrors the true condition of having “no head.”

    Let ~bb represent a higher form of the “otherness of existence,”– the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b represent the existence of the physical event of a self-conscious being. In other words, at this higher structural level, (b~b ~bb), the “feeling of no head” becomes free to stand alone. Potentialities, as opposed to actualities,” now occupies the emptiness where “head” used to be. In the freedom of the participatory moment of a conscious self, we not only encounter the meaning of “jumping out of the system,” we also encounter yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s Zen space. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  2. randomyriad says:

    Thank you for your enlightened comment. I read Godel, Escher, Bach a while ago, and am always impressed by Hofstadter’s way of presenting of mind growing ideas. I will have to go back and wrestle with this one again. I have been reading a lot about how the brain functions. I wonder what a brain scan would look like when someone is pondering this kind of puzzle?

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