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June 08, 2008

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*It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth.*

Equally, he could be on the verge of destruction. Or he could simply replace his old certainties with a set of new certainties.

*Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.*

Doubt could also be a barrier to entering the "Present". What if the doubter doubts the experience of being in the present? How do you know what the present actually is if one has not been living in it? Is being in the present something that one reflects on later, weaves into a narrative, ie, one can only recognise being present when not being present after the event?

One can only take advantage of an opportunity if

1) you can recognise it as such
2) you have the power to do so
3) are inclined to buy into the optimistic tone that the writer is pushing.

It seems such a new-agey piece of thinking. Doubt as a path to salvation, don't worry, all things work together for the good of those that love God, yada, yada, yada.

Well put, Helen.

This seems like an example of art as sacrament. In the arena of shifting ideas, manifesting an amorphosness like doubt is a Pyrric victory over the flow of time. Now that I name Rumplestiltskin three times, I get my baby back.

There is a conflation of the mental gesture that is doubt, with the long sodden journey through feeling the fear that accompanies doubt. Grasping the feeling, I banish the gesture.

It is the manifesting through art that makes this a ritual of banishment, a sacrament of the separated mind on its throne.

Unlike Helen and Edward, I rather liked this piece. Helen seems to be averse to the new-agey optimism when using phrases like "enter the present." But what is the piece is summarily rephrased as:

"It can be relieving and even fun to pay attention to what's happening with an attitude of open-mindedness as opposed to believing that life should feel a certain way and living with constant disappointment."

Any takers?

Hello Adam. You write:
*Helen seems to be averse to the new-agey optimism when using phrases like "enter the present."*

I'm not sure where you get the idea of "averse" Adam. It's a bit of a strawman argument, focusing on what appears to be feelings rather than the points I made on topic. As such, I can't really take you up on your offer to discuss the issues unless you address the points I raised which is to recognise that doubt is a double-edged concept.

Turning to your own summary: it pointed out to me how vastly different people's readings of a text can be, but that is because nobody reads a text in a neutral state. I don't know if your summary was simply about the article or if it was in reaction to how the article made you feel, or in reaction to how the responses to the article made you feel. And of course it may not have been based on feelings at all. But which ever is was or wasn't, I'm not in a position to know or assume.

What I do know is that in no case did I understand the authour to be saying:"It can be relieving and even fun to pay attention to what's happening with an attitude of open-mindedness as opposed to believing that life should feel a certain way and living with constant disappointment."

And whereas I may indeed agree with what you say there, I nonetheless think it's immaterial to the points the author is making.

I thought the authour was talking about doubt functioning in the same way a koan is supposed to function, ie, mental constructs fall away revealing Buddha-nature. However, he also discusses the meeting between Self and self, in what I can only describe as an exploration of Achintya Bheda Abheda or inconcievable oneness and difference.

Hi Helen,

When I wrote that you seemed averse to the new-agey optimism of the language of the piece, I was interpreting this part of your comment:

"It seems such a new-agey piece of thinking. Doubt as a path to salvation, don't worry, all things work together for the good of those that love God, yada, yada, yada."

Perhaps you simply found the points weak, and saying you are "averse" seems a strong comment. I meant no harm, only to say that I found an interesting point regardless of the language. You are right of course that every reading will be different according to the reader.

I am a composer, and have gone through the experience the author is talking of...thinking at certain points that I understand my music, only to have my habits become undermined by new impulses I could not have foreseen. The adjustment period to listening to the new impulses feels weak, often scary, and full of doubt. But then, I won't dramatize it and say there is some great resolution, but then I start working again, and something else happens. And this process repeats itself. Working in the face of not knowing what to do is what I call "entering the present."

I too have experienced what you discuss Adam, and I imagine (I imagine because I have no proof) that its a natural occurance and that most human beings, if not all, have experienced something similar. The reason I believe this is because the mystic wings of all faiths discuss this very experience and try to formulate methods and paths in order to achieve such experiences.

Sorry. Posted before i'd finished what I was thinking.

What I wanted to add is that yes, I do think that doubt can lead to the experience that JPS discusses, but then so does any feeling/thought that is fel/thoughtt intensly enough. That's why certain religious traditions talk about devotion being the easiest path to follow. The intensity of devotion, or the intensity of desire, the intensity of seperation. Ekhart Tolle experienced the "now" state by being intensley afraid. I achieved it by being intensley angry at myself for not being able to give up smoking. Adam achieves it by focusing intensley on music.

I'm not sure that intensity can be manufactured though.

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