Saturday, February 12, 2011

There will be a Moment

There will be a moment when you close your eyes and it will be the last thing you remember, never to be alive anymore and never to have another moment. The reality of our own existence. It happens thousands of times every day in the world, from the most peaceful to the most violent moment, when each of us aren't anymore. Aren't here. Aren't aware. Simply gone.

I was listening to an interview of someone who watched their loved one die from a terminal illness. He said, "I watched her breath. One breath after another. One breath and then no more." While we can be there when someone dies, we can and will never know what it is like being the one dying, and being the one who takes the last breath.

A recent issue of Scientific American has an interesting article on death, and why we don't know what it is or even have or ever will have, the slightest clue what it is. All because we're always alive until death and then we aren't. Anymore. Death, as they say, is just a heartbeat away. Meaning one beat after another until the last beat, of our heart.

We take our heart for granted. I don't anymore, not because of my heart, it's fine along with the arteries of the heart, but because of my pulmonary artery which has a 20% blockage, not enough for serious intervention, although I've been on a drug I stopped due to the severity of the side effects, but enough to realize it when I exert myself and run out of breath.

This, as it turned out, has been a nearly 20 year old problem, first noticed when in my early 40's when I had problems breathing while running or hiking. I put it off to the Rheumatic Fever I had as a child and the lasting effect on my heart. That wasn't and isn't true. I have a very slight heart murmur but nothing distinguishable anymore from the normal wear of time.

But either way, we notice life by our heart and our breathing. But we can't experience it by our death. We won't know beyond our last memory and then nothing. We can only experience it when we die and maybe see or know there people around us watching us die.

That's the best we can hope full, to die quietly and peacefully, and hopefully in a place we love. The last is all too often does not happen as we die in hospitals or hospices, die in accidents or from violence, die of our own hand doing what we love or just something, or die out of nowhere.

I think about this every time I lie down to take a nap. And during the nap I don't remember anything except that I wake up some time later. But I think what happens if I don't wake up. After some naps I have to take a few minutes to collect my thoughts and find myself. It's a little quiz I take, like what's today, what time did I lie down, and so on until I'm fully awake and conscious to the world.

But I know I too, like everyone before me, will have my moment and I won't exist anymore. It's the reality of each of our being and our living, to die. Simple as that. Breathing and then not. A moment here and a moment gone.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Occam's Razor

I was reading about Occam's Razor, the idea that the simpliest solution with the least number of assumptions is likely the best. Well, not quite what he actually said was, "Plurality must never be posited without necessity." The key is the conumdrum of where to draw the line between the simplicity, the least number of assumptions, and the complexity of any issue, problem or question.

Taosim teaches you to see not just the whole of the issue, but also the imagination beyond the whole of the issue. Not just the what is of it but the what if's of it. That, however, requires, expanded the assumptions beyond the obvious, beyond reality and into the imagination, to be creative, innovative, and imaginative to think over the horizon, deeper than the wells, and father than the limits of the sky.

And see where the line is between the least number of assumption which resolves the issue and the rest of the solutions, but not just for the moment, the present and the future. That's where simplicity runs afoul of reality. And we're faced with the choices where Occam's razor fails to separate the assumptions into the necessary and the rest, where the solutions uses the optimum number of assumptions but not the least number.

In statistics you can use regression analysis to weigh all the factors and determine the statistic importance and relevance of each to the whole, and then you can reduce the factors based on the probability of a good answer from the optimum and the least number. And then evaluate the assumptions associated with the factors.

In Taoism, however, we can't do that, and have to rely on the subjective information to find the best answer or solution among the messiness of reality. Everything becomes intertwined and interconnected and the separations become fuzzy, and more than likely include ourself and our own view of things. We are part of it.

And we have to also parse ourself from the whole, or reduce and narrow our own assumptions, often before we can look at the rest of it. And add the dynamics of life and the world, and everything changes while we're still trying to understand it. Not unlike trying to capture everything about a passing train, the blur and gone in the distance, over the horizon, and just a memory.

It's the conundrum we have to apply Occam's razor to ourself before we address what we're thinking about, determining what we know with what might be reality and what we think with what actually is. We have to simplify ourself and our own assumptions about it before we can do the same with what we working on.

To be continued.