I’m going through a book of writings by Takuan Soho before I get back to trying to go through the Tengu writings. Can’t quite muster the concentration for that one, maybe in the winter, which seems to be coming soon since we’re in an election campaign and they are never called in the summertime because that just irritates Canadians who have little enough summer to enjoy.
The essential problem, according to Takuan, is that the mind gets caught on something while we need to see it all if we’re going to survive a swordfight. Thing is, humans are set up to eliminate input and concentrate on one thing, hence the getting stuck on things. We need to do this or our brains are overwhelmed by the input. This explains our ability to not see the guy in the gorilla suit who moves across our field of vision during psych tests.
The other thing is that most zen types (and Takuan was a zen guy) talk about mindfulness, paying attention to stuff, like drinking my coffee and paying attention to it instead of drinking it and typing. We really don’t multitask so put down your phone and pay attention to the road in front of you.
How do we work this out, this paying attention to stuff without getting caught on it? It seems contradictory, and I seem to remember the last time I read Takuan I was a bit put off between fushin and fudoshin, frozen mind and immovable mind.
Serial attention, we don’t mulititask, we pay attention to this, then this, then this, which is how we miss the gorilla suit. What’s the thing about immovable mind then? And frozen mind? Simply not letting things go. We must move from one attention to another smoothly, it’s sort of a relativity thing, the mind must remain immovable in our head as it were, and not get frozen like our tongue to the metal pipe of the last thing we were looking at. (Did I mention winter is here?)
The problem is not concentrating on the task at hand (avoid the sword) but lingering on the last thing we were doing (wow that was close… aaargh). The frozen mind is stuck on some thought or image and can’t deal with the change that is approaching. This is the problem with trying to make a kata fit the real world (or an economic theory that has become a religion?) trying to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail is to be fixated on the screwdriver rather than going to get a hammer. The immovable mind is not dragged around by old thoughts or theories, not trying to force the world into a belief system, it is one that moves from present to present and deals with the world as it appears before us. A frozen mind cannot change, an immovable mind simply observes and adapts to change without itself being dragged about by that change.
To “change your mind” is to assume that the mind is fixed in one shape. This is fushin, a frozen mind which might just shatter if it is forced to change so changing your mind is bad. If your mind is immovable, not frozen into a belief system or fixated on a kata or a theory then it can’t be said to change. The whole point is that the mind is itself, change, it is meta-change, beyond change because only something which is frozen into a shape can change. Formlessness cannot change, only form can change.
The method of thought called “science” is an example of formlessness, if the evidence, the real world, does not conform to your theory, move along and modify the theory. This is fudoshin. If, on the other hand, you have a belief system passed down to you by your father like some precious jewel, be very careful not to test that belief too strongly, simply ignore what contradicts or that belief system can shatter. That is fushin.
It’s actually quite subtle, or it seemed so when I was younger, now it just seems obvious. Move along, as Musashi would say, if you lose your spear draw your sword, if your sword breaks, draw your dagger. Regret about losing your spear will do you no good at all.
Aug 3, 2015