Re: The Meme Machine

Bill Benzon (
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 06:30:21 -0400

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 1999 06:30:21 -0400
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: The Meme Machine

At 9:00 PM 4/7/99 +0100, Chris Lees wrote:

>I also think of the self as a construct. My feeling is, that a large complex
>mobile multicellular organism would require some kind of executive
>neural faculty, for want of a better term, to be able to function effectively,
>and such a coordinating executive centre thus evolved, and we experience
>it in people as something approximating to the self or agency.

But I don't think of this self as a "coordinating executive centre." The
self-construct, in the sense I mean it, is very much a creature of
language. Whatever it is that is dealing with first and second person
pronouns (I, me, my, mine, we, our, ours, you, yours--in English), that is
the self.

& I think animals have agency without having such a self.

>at will. Emptiness, or absence of self, can be a permanent condition,
>of external circumstances.

Does someone in this condition stop using first and second person pronouns
in the normal way and lose all sense of personal history?

>Drawing upon zen techniques, the Samurai trained themselves to live without
>self. This was nescessary, because they had to live in a condition of constant
>alertness, constantly expecting instant death. If they had any fear of those
>four foot long razor blades, if they had any doubt, if they had any concern for
>self-preservation, they would be much more likely to die. So they cultivated
>a condition of absolute emptiness and serenity, sometimes called mushin, or
>no-mind, as a permanent state.

I've always figured that what the Samurai needed was a split-second
advantage of their opponents and one way to get that is disarm the
self-system, thereby eliminating a synapse or two from the neural chain of
command and thus getting a split-second time advantage.

I once read a description by a football quarterback of going into "the
zone." Time slowed down and he had all the time in the world to execute.
Same thing. Drop the right synapse or two from the command loop and you
gain a world of time.

>Yes, I understand what you are saying. As I mentioned, the experienced zen
>student should be able to enter or leave the kind of states you describe, at
>To be able to understand why some folk have concluded that " the self-thingy
>is an illusion ", you really need to understand what the fundamental project
>of Buddhism was all about, otherwise it makes no sense.

I've got a reasonable sense of basic Buddhist doctrine, though I'm a bit
rusty on it.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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