Accidents

I have to get this off my chest (as the cliche goes). We were walking along a lonely country road, my partner and I, near dark, when a SUV passed us and disappeared around a corner. Then there was a scream and aloud thunk. We hurried ahead and found a trail of vehicle debris, a neighbourhood dog paralyzed on the side of the road, and then a woman, an acquaintance, collapsed in the deep ditch, hidden under a tree. My partner climbed down to see if she could comfort the woman till help arrived. Others arrived and called 911 from a home phone. Then the vehicle returned, its right fender crushed and mangled. I lost it and started screaming at the driver for leaving. My partner cautioned me and I left off. The fire department, the police and the ambulance arrived. Competence took over.

We stood and watched over the dog as it died. Two people volunteered to take the dog to the woman’s house and bury it in the garden. I gave the police my name and number then went home. Here I sit. Just now I hear the air ambulance taking off from the health clinic, headed for the hospital in the city.

I can think of all sorts of things about the driver’s culpability. The worse being that he only returned to the scene because he was on a small island and could not get off without being caught. But this isn’t the root of my emotional response, it is just a logical construction. My partner tells me to think about how young the driver was, that he probably just panicked. She is right. The driver may just as well have come back to the scene because he worried about the woman he hit. Who knows what he was thinking? All I can say is that it will be horrible for him because it will change his life. And all for a moment of not paying attention.

But why did I yell at the driver, and why do I have so many tears ready to flow?

No matter how much work I do on myself, I am always surprised by things that got programmed-in, deep in the past. My sister got hit by a drunk driver when she was six and I four. That is what came back: the grief built-in from before.

On the surface I yelled because I could think that if we hadn’t gone for a walk, the woman might have been left in the ditch to die. What a mess that would have been. The suffering could last for years. But underneath, I yelled and cried because my sister’s life was changed for ever, in an instant, and I have never fully been able to process my four year old reaction.

So now we pray for and worry about our friend. I think about how sad it will be for her when she wakes up to the news that her boon companion, her dog, has died.

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Sciencetific Buddhism and Quantum Mechanics

I received this from Mr Wawa:

‘Sorry to bug you again Arnie, but I couldn’t help but think of you when I read this, food for thought-‘

“All religions, including Buddhism, stem from our narcissistic wish to believe that the universe was created for our benefit, as a stage for our spiritual quests. In contrast, science tells us that we are incidental, accidental.

Far from being the raison d’être of the universe, we appeared through sheer happenstance, and we could vanish in the same way. This is not a comforting viewpoint, but science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel.

Buddhism raises radical questions about our inner and outer reality, but it is finally not radical enough to accommodate science’s disturbing perspective. The remaining question is whether any form of spirituality can.”

Which he extracted from here.

If you follow my blog, then you might anticipate my answer:

“Hi Mr Wawa,
No, a simple spirituality or religiosity cannot accommodate reality because it is not based on any observed reality (and that is all we really have to work with) but is most often opposed to it: deny the earth and gain heaven. But we do not have to engage Buddhism in a religious mode; I think Buddhism serves better as a social/psychological science because it gives a method that allows us to reprogram our minds to escape suffering. The Buddha’s original statements (the four noble truths and the eight fold path: the method) are completely compatible with quantum physics, and in some ways can be thought of as anticipating it (emptiness, illusion of things, and the nature of the void). And so, while I generally agree with most of the statement you provided (above), the first sentence of the last paragraph seems wrong. Buddhism is scientific because it is a system for looking at reality and recognizing what is directly in front of us. Albeit, Buddhism is a science directed towards social and personal problems and not one that studies subatomic particles. In my experience, Buddha’s method steps in after the psychotherapy.

It cannot be denied that many people do make the Buddha into a saint or a god and ignore his ideas in because they need either a metaphysical father figure, who will solve all their problems, or an external source of the validation they cannot give to themselves. At its best, Buddhism, as a religion, does work for many people because it directs ones focus on the awareness of moment by moment reality. But even if people use Buddhism as a religion, it does not negate the Buddha’s scientific approach.

For me, Buddhism as spirituality is unnecessary. On the other hand, science is only useful once we have answered the philosophical questions lumped under the rubric Ethics. With no ethics scientific pursuit can bring us to unlimited destruction. Buddhism is focused on alleviating the suffering of oneself and of others. The big ethical questions are answered in Buddhism-as-a-science in a way not unlike entanglement in quantum mechanics, in that we are all entangled with each other and would do well to act accordingly.

As for Buddhism not being radical. And if your purpose is wanting to understand yourself and your place in the universe, Buddhism as an experimental science is a pretty radical idea.