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." 1
Two weeks ago, only purple catalpa
Today, white catalpa flowers
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
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
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
1Paul Reps, compiler, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,
Doubleday Anchor edition, circa 1983 CE, "Real Prosperity," page 78.
All other text copyright © 2006–2008 by David Newkirk. All rights reserved.