TRAGEDY THEN FARCE

------------------------------------------T-R-A-G-E-D-Y---T-H-E-N---F-A-R-C-E----------------------------------------------

Welcome

Tragedy Then Farce is focused on constructively battling the illnesses our age through creativity, curiosity, and communication. If you want any higher quality copies of my photographs to download, just let me know and I'd be happy to oblige. Welcome.

A Philosophy and Photography Blog

--------------------------------P--h--i--l--o--s--o--p--h--y-----A-n-d-----P--h--o--t--o--g--r--a--p--h--y---------------------------

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reaching for Rice Cakes

Sorry Friends and Followers, It's been a while. My computer is on the fritz, I can't access any of my photography at the moment- there won't be too many pictures for a while. Here is some thinking I've been doing.


      In his poetic teaching, "Painting of a Rice cake," zen master Dogen illuminates the nature of the relationship between emptiness and phenomena by breaking down the seemingly inherent dualism between the two conceptualizations. Dogen describes the fundemental interdependence between 'truth', and the image of truth; the two concepts are intrinsically embedded in each other's existence, they cannot be thought of as seperately. Dogen believes that the image of truth, or the "painting of a rice cake", and the rice cake itself, do not oppose one another. Neither dharma is more valid, neither is more capable of actualizing realization; the picture becomes reality, and reality becomes the picture. The thickly interpenetrating non-duality of reality is the philosophical teaching Dogen is striving to express; he achieves this end through a myriad of imagistic language, complex extended metaphors, and enigmatic, yet undoubtedly meaningful and artistic analogies.
      Dogen begins by providing a breif description of arising, the popping into existence a manifestiation, and along with it a plethora of other, non-obstructed and not obstructing existences both tangent and absolutely different to each other. No manifestations, no dharmas, come forth with opposition to each other, rather, they cause one another, and thus, in a sense, they bestow upon one another attributes and actualities vis-a-vis their interpenetrating existences. This interpenetration is not reserved to humans, or sentient beings, but rather it permeates and envelops our enviroments. Thus, mountains, roads, rives, buildings, and paintings are exchanging existential characteristics. Dogen references the act of penetrating one of these concepts; to realize that mountains are doomed to crumble and that buildings are complete fabrications, this penetration doesn't take away the validity of their inherent characteristics. People summit mountains, and live in buildings, and give meanings to paintings, music, and drama as part of our everyday activity, thus  these dharma-characteristics, realized through their actualization, are penetrated but still exist; and are both empty and full the same time.
      Dogen quotes an ancient Buddha as saying that "A painting of a rice cake doesn't satisfy hunger." On one hand this statement is making an important point; that it is not enough to read and to study the sutras; one must actively participate in one's own enlightenment.  However, if "satisfying hunger" is seen as an aspect of validity, or confirming reality, this statement  is like saying  that since Jude Law didn't 'really' die at the end of Hamlet, the audience's thirst for meaning is  left unquenched. The invalidation of the performance or the painting based on its illusory nature doesn't take into account the fact that  the audience still reacts to the experience with psychic weight;  they despair, rejoice, chuckle, and sob. The reality of these neuropsychological responses to an artistic event can be compared to the real potential for meaning creation and realization in the painting a rice cake. To invalidate the painting because it cannot satisfy hunger is demonstrating first-level emptiness of this particular dharma; to make this claim is slipping into means-end thinking. Dogen's reponse to this claim of the painting's emptiness breaks down dualism by going into second-level emptiness, the emptiness of emptiness, and thus understands that, although the painting is empty, emptiness permeates reality; the painting is real, and since it is real, it is equally valid and capable of leading to realization- the terminus of all suffering.
      The second-level emptiness Dogen invokes is based on the insistence and reliance of emptiness on phenomena. Without any phenomena to percieve, there is nothing to be empty, without any perception from which to perceive, there is nothing that is empty. Emptiness is not an absolut. Dogen is vehemently against establishing absolutes because of their tendency to lead to strict dualism. Rather, emptiness's existence is relative to the phenomena that are there; the phenomena thus guide and shape the emptiness around it; they are postive and negative spaces working together to produce a cohesive reality: yin and yang. For Dogen, everything is empty and everything is full; this is true both of the picture of the rice cake and the rice cake itself; they are both witnessed via a limited perspective, in a confined context, yet they both are the all inclusive total cause of existence, they both have dharma power. Because of this inherent parallel between the rice cake and the painting, when talking in terms of actualization, all rice cakes are paintings of rice cakes. All are limited, all are subjective, all are total, all are actualized constructions in the moment.
      Having established the nonobstructive, nondualsitic existences of the rice cake and the painting, Dogen questions perspective and representation by inspecting the metaphor of a painting, examing a painting as a microcosm for the universe. Dogen observes that in a painting, very much like the human perspective, there exists a certain, fixed frame of reference. The only way to determine the characteristics of one item in the painting is to compare it to another. A giant monolith can look like a toothpick depending on its contextual enviorment. We assign values to things by comparing them to one another, relational thinking is our conventional way, it is not empty, its trajectory is guided by schematic perceptions. The entire universe is a painting, with phenomena and empty space colliding on the canvas. They cannot be picked out, the syntheses of the two creates a unique painting with a distinct, dynamic frame. Our experience arises from this painting, our experience is thus a painting, and contains all of its perspectives limited subjectivity.
      If we take the notions of satisfying hunger as a metaphor for meaning-creation, the only means to fulfill the hunger will be through a "painted" rice cake of some form, a representative fabrication of our own that contains the meaning we decide to allot it. Dogen advises his monks in this address to progressively construct a system of fabrication that leads to fulfillment and the elimination of dukkah. Existential satisfaction is fashioned from the self, it doesn't emanate from some external absolute. Ultimately, we can create what fulfills us, but that doesnt make the process of finding fulfillment empty or invalid; the ability to be fulfilled is latent inside a person from the moment one is thrust into the universe. Finding fulfillment and attaining realization is not to be found by striving for absolutes or resigning to nihilistic relativity; fulfillment will not be found solely in the rice cake nor the painting of the rice cake. Rather, by cultivating a true wisdom of the interdependence of the painting and the cake itself; and by flowing and cooperating with the inherent emptiness in the phenomenological world we can come up with a truly creative, non-dualistic meaning system that follows the Buddhist ideal of the middle way.







Cheers,
Jack

33 comments:

  1. It's okay about no pictures, nice story of the painting

    ReplyDelete
  2. A very meaningful painting, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope you get back to posting!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Can't wait for the pics again!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Time to get a new computer? thats good! and bad.

    ReplyDelete
  6. dont like text without images );

    ReplyDelete
  7. interesting. i like reading others philosophy so i can compare to mine.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the pictures dog! You're an excellent photographer. Keep it up. I look forward to your future updates.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very insightful post. Hope to see more soon!

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is interesting, not sure I understand all this meta thinking though

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sucks that you can't access your photography atm, I lost loads of mine to a dodgy hard disk (not a pro photographer or anything, just pictures of friends et cetera), I'd backed up most of them but was gutted to have lost some...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love the pictures you have given us. As for the thoughts from Dogen. Everybody has the capacity for greatness, the hard part is accessing that power.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nice post and amazing photos.

    Good to see you back!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very nice read, what happened to your computer?

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Patti
    Macbook Pro stuck on loading screen. Hard drive seems to be intact, but the directory has somehow gotten corrupted. Living in mid-maine at the moment, the nearest apple store is 2 hours away. The next time my schedule allows for such a trip, Ill take it, but between my acting, research, and work, such time is hard to find.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @jack
    you could send it in. my friend sent his in and got it back 2 days later.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hullo, just started following you and I'm enjoying your blog quite a bit already. It's nice to see some people still have deep, complex thoughts on the internet sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Interesting as always. It's very curious reading and understanding someone else's views and thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Pretty cool post, defiantly made me think about somethings in my own life.

    ReplyDelete
  20. keep em coming, I love your posts!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thoughtful post , it really is worth reading, thanks for the insight.

    ReplyDelete
  22. You remind me of my College Philosophy lecturer.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You could easily relate this to modern fads. i.e. making yourself look like people you perceive as cool to make yourself into them. You have the feeling of being desired because you like like the image that you desire.

    ReplyDelete
  24. i meant to say look like in the fourth line.

    ReplyDelete
  25. well, stuff like this happens all the time, nice post like always

    ReplyDelete
  26. another great photos. thanks for sharing it with us!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oh what happened to the computer I'm going to miss your photography!

    ReplyDelete