The State of the River

A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.
     Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."
     The rich man became angry. "I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke as this?"
     "No joke is intended," explained Sengai. "If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity."

Two weeks ago, only the purple of paulownia
Today, white trumpets of catalpa
      are already thinning for falling.
Year after year, the recurrence
      of sufficiently similar conditions;
Year after year,
This sequence of flowering.

So said the Buddha, according to some schools,
      that through attaining nirvana
            one escapes
                  the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

The full graph of a sine wave
      we call one cycle
            because in our sparse virtualization—our modeling in Mind—of its mechanism
                  we imagine multiple instances of one cycle arranged end-to-beginning
And project this simple repetition as What Is.

In fact, in any occurrence of a sinusoid outside of virtualization,
      multiple cycles occurring end-to-beginning
            are a series of similars, not the repetition of identicals,
For at each of the wave's changes of state,
      the state of its subsuming Universe
            of the position of every electron
            of the flutter of every leaf
            of the curl of every breeze
            of the boil of every star
            of the phase and intensity of every electromagnetic emanation at every point in Being
                  has changed
Such that at the beginning of every alternation
      the "repeating" wave differs from its previous alternation
            in that, and because,
The whole of Being has changed.

The reduction to the generic,
      to the minimum necessary bandwidth,
            of Observation, Ascribed Cause, and Predicted Effect
Is pivotal to the viability of the tools of Science and Mathematics
      in proceeding from observing and enumerating the Specific
            to predicting the General
                  and back again to application in predicting and producing the Specific.
But such simplification is achieved by reducing the bandwidth
      not only of observation, calculation, and prediction,
            but also of virtualization generally,
Such that Creature-Self-Limiting Of Understanding
      to only The Realm Of That Known, Desired, And Expected

So it is that mathemathics in application,
      through the behavioral negative-feedback loop of Thought
            operating in and across multiple human creatures working in community
                  can build bridges
                        but can neither fully predict nor control
                              every effect in Universe
                                    of the aggregate of actions undertaken
                                          in securing, transporting, and assembling the raw materials
                                                in the building of a given bridge,
With the effects on Local Environment
      of the subsequent presence of the bridge,
            and of the concomitants and artifacts of its maintenance, and of the decay of its constituents in situ,
                  lying even further outside the bandwidth
                        of Group Virtualization.

Such inabililty to perceive, and therefore to control, Process
      results from insufficient perceptual bandwidth—
            a crisis that in the ultimate is unavoidable
                  because Being Itself
                        comprises the superset of bandwidth
                              available for the unfolding of Event
                                    of which creaturehood Perception is a subevent—
Because Being holds Thought
      and therefore cannot be held in Thought.

So it is that the expansion, through industrialization, of metrology and reportage
      to increase by aggregative prosthetic means
            the bandwidth of Group Perception toward greater human steering of Event,
                  would deplete the ability of Local Environment to sustain us
                        long before we can "fully understand"
                              the effects even
Of felling a single tree.

There are no cycles, only series:
Similar flowerings of Effect that occur
      whenever conditions of Being sufficiently approach similarity of Cause.
Understanding this, we can appreciate
      that when Heraclitus says
            in a widely invoked fragment
                  that one cannot step into the same river
This must be, we realize, not only because
      the state of the river cannot recur
            but also because the state of the creature who "again" steps into the river
Has changed no less.

Disregarding outright the fantasy of reincarnation—
      itself a permutation of the Suffering its inculcation and instantiation in Thought are undertaken to mitigate—
            the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
                  is more realistically understood as a series and not a cycle:
Observation encounters the progression of human generations as traversing entropic Time
      not through multiple end-to-beginning series of birth-death-rebirth
            but rather through a spacetimematterenergy-braided torrent
                  of multiple midstream-to-beginning series of conception-birth-growth.
We live the recurrent series grandparent-parent-child;
The death of a progenitor does not begin the life of its offspring.

We come to understand this
      not by questioning the Buddha or any other teacher or authority
But by observing and understanding
What Is.

  1Paul Reps, compiler, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,
Doubleday Anchor edition, circa 1983 CE, "Real Prosperity," page 78.
All other text copyright © 2006–2020 by David Newkirk. All rights reserved.