May05

The Trouble With Agency

Filed under Prose

IMG_5663Agency implies an agent. If there is no agent, there can be no agency. Agency, of course, is the action or intervention of a thing, or person, that produces an effect. To say that language can’t capture the truth is even more true when silly things are being stated. So when someone talks about causes and conditions, they are being silly because these are not the same. A cause is that which makes a thing happen. It implies an agent and agency–a veritable proliferation of sillinesses. A condition is that which opens the possibility of something happening. But conditions can never cause anything to happen because they are neither an agent nor have agency. Perhaps this surprises you. But think about all the things you thought were going to happen in your life that didn’t, and all the things that did that you never saw coming! Scientists call this stochastic behavior–it extends all the way down to the quantum level (and perhaps especially there!). It’s the reason why a computer needs a clock, that coordinates all the stochastic behavior of electronic components so that the device can actually accomplish the tasks it has been engineered to allow to happen. Notice I didn’t say “make happen,” because sometimes things don’t. And we’ve probably all experienced that too.

Often, in our attempts to make sense of reality, we fall into old habits of thought that arise from an understanding in our heads that things do things. Exorcising that understanding happens naturally when a certain point is reached, but without the direct experience, silliness abounds.

Parmenides, an Ancient Greek philosopher once wrote a poem about his insights into reality. He didn’t use any pronouns, and few, if any nouns. Smart people, thinking they knew what he meant, supplied a lot of additional wording that made the poem easier to read, but empty of truth. Then, once that was done, they realized that Parmenides hadn’t said the right thing in the right way, so they fixed that up too. When Parmenides said: “the same: to be and wherefore is intuitive awareness” (“ταὐτὸν δ᾽ ἐστὶ νοεῖν τε καὶ οὓνεκέν ἐστι νόημα”), equating the manifesting appearances and selfless knowing, they clarified it, equating “being” with “thinking,” turning it into a kind of “I think, therefore I am!” statement instead. Silliness. Neither the Greek word for thought, nor for thinking appears anywhere in Parmenides’ statement.

So, try to make sense of conditions, not as any kind of interaction between entities, not even in a metaphorical fashion. Instead, think of how a seed grows. The sun doesn’t cause the seed to grow, any more than rain does, or the soil, or all the bacteria, fungi, animals, and other plants do. Yet, for the seed to grow, all of those conditions need to be right, including the condition of the seed being present.

As to what causes the seed to grow, well, just let the idea of causes go. It involves agents and agency, and they are just silly nonsense. Understand that when the right conditions are present, the possibility of genesis is present, but what actually happens is uncaused.

Now divest that scenario of all sense of things inherent in it. Sunlight isn’t a thing, except as a concept. Neither is water, or soil, or all the life present in soil. These are all just ideas, ways to talk about reality in shorthand. Instead, see an amazing, and coherent presencing of selfless naturing. Don’t even hold onto the idea of a nature, as something doing the naturing. It will cause a cognitive dissonance that will tire you out, but the effort lays a groundwork for the direct experience to come. It’s all just more conditioning, and in this case, it’s called mind training, but it could be called mind conditioning as well, because you are not making anything happen, you are only developing the right conditions for certain experiences to happen.

So remember: there is no mind, instead there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless naturing. Or if you prefer, there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless minding. But no nature and no mind anywhere–just the appearance of awesome beauty.

Reflect on that phrase, “awesome beauty.” Another way of expressing it, that I use, is the visceral essence of selfless loving. But you can just call it bliss instead.

One Response to “The Trouble With Agency”

  1. Roman Wolf says:

    Greetings and of course Namaste. When I began my advanced studies I was plagued with the problem of where to begin. We are fooled to think the questions we ask today are different from those asked 2,500 years ago, in the Axial age. The Ancient Master’s of Lost Wisdom live on in Ancient Texts we read in hope of gaining insight and understanding. We face many questions they did not then, but the fundamental questions still reside in our psyche’s. A fundamental question is that of First Cause that Aristotle named the Unmoved Mover. There is a belief everything must be explained for us to achieve our Telos, to become that we were meant to be. An acorn’s telos is to become an Oak Tree. Nothing makes it an oak tree, it is its inherent destiny. It is, I am, We are Being and Becoming at all times, in time. Aristotle, the last of a certain line of thinkers, set the West on its path to understanding of Natural Science with its language that is oft at odds with Eastern Thinking. With the Wests advance into Quantum Physic’s we find ourselves Looking to Eastern Mysticism and the correlations in the two. This I see as a Modern Renaissance, an inevitable merging of distinct viewpoints, greater than the influx of Greek Literature into the Latin Culture after the Fall of Byzantium. The problem we face is addressed here in the editing of texts by minds that sought to explain thoughts they did not understand. Great Truths grant or contain an understanding the common mind can grasp, but point to a Greater Understanding we gain only through Being and meditating on our Becoming.

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