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By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III), Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Saturday, Aug 1, 2015

The other day I was up-close and personal with a cedar tree and, noticing the thin curly extremity of a branch, thought to myself: 'I don't have an answer for that' . . . I don't have an answer for why it curves like that, how it came to be shaped as such, why each little branch tendril curves in a unique fashion. Maybe there is an answer, a scientific answer or even a tree answer, but it baffled my mind, made me stop and think how little I know about Mother Nature and how much there is to appreciate without having to know 'why' or have the answer. It gave me something to ponder . . . which is a way of asking a question in slow motion.

If and when one does get an answer from pondering, it can be one of the most revelatory moments of a lifetime, a kind of enlightenment. Meanwhile daily living requires us to attend to the often mundane moments and rituals. As the Zen saying goes: before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. It is challenging to accept that, in a sense, nothing much is going to change.

Then again we all know that: change happens . . . and happens constantly.

Yet again, as the French have said for a while: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose i.e. the more things change, the more they stay the same. If this raises more questions than answers, good!
Much of living is about unanswered questions, or maybe slowly answered questions, questions we roll about in our minds perhaps for years . . . like Zen koans. Why am I here? Why do people do what they do? After all the books and philosophers and answers, why are there still wars? Why do some people have utter disregard for the well-being of others while some people will go out of their way, no, stay in The Way so as to help others? What does it take for people to not think they are superior to blades of grass and thus start treating said grass et al respectably?
Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action” is akin to the law of karma which is akin to what goes around comes around. Yet circles can go in circles. And at some point it is time to get off the wheel of fortune and misfortune.

“Johannes Kepler, working with data painstakingly collected by Tycho Brahe without the aid of a telescope, developed three laws which described the motion of the planets across the sky.” The first one: “The Law of Orbits: All planets move in elliptical orbits, with the sun at one focus.” [1]

“from Latin ellipsis “ellipse,” also, “a falling short, deficit,” from Greek elleipsis (see ellipsis). So called because the conic section of the cutting plane makes a smaller angle with the base than does the side of the cone, hence, a “falling short.” [2]

Used in writing, an ellipsis signifies missing words, it allows the reader to use his-her imagination, to fill in the blank, and it allows the page to breathe . . .

What if that thing that is missing is an essential intangible? And by that I mean how Taoist philosophy shows us: empty space makes something functional, for example, a bowl, a room . . .

The Game With No Time Limit
In baseball metaphor, life throws curve balls. Yet maybe because of what planetary motions teach us, life IS often a curve ball and best that we learn to ride it instead of being so surprised by it all, instead of going around in circles and expecting to get somewhere else.

Politicians are notorious for side-stepping questions and talking in ridiculous circles. Coming from a Zen master the following infamous bit would, at the least, be thought-provoking, but since it comes from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld it reads like gobbledygook:

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” [3]

Ahhhh, there's that fine line between genius and insanity . . .

Ancient Egyptians, Mayans, and other Aboriginal Peoples are known for having studied the stars. They gazed out into the supposedly vast unknown . . . and after nights of non-gadgetry observations . . . unraveled some knowns. And still do.

More recently I read of this innovative approach to schooling, the grade not literally pertaining to age:
“The questions are important. As is our way as Zapatistas, the questions are more important than the answers. And it is the questions that will be evaluated to decide whether you pass and move on to the third grade.” [4]

What if we as a species are asking the wrong questions. Recently I asked a musician-friend to describe the piece he's composing. He deferred, saying that words are more suited for poetry. I couldn't disagree. Keith Jarrett's piano translates musical sound into emotions more strongly than other pianos do for me, and the cello stirs my heart-emotions. The musician did not answer my question, yet his answer answered other questions. If this is all sounding like there is no one answer, good!

A question is a quest is a query which is "to seek, look for; strive, endeavor, strive to gain; ask, require, demand." [5]

Is this not what branches do in the air? Is not a question a form of prayer?

In response to such global conundrums as climate crash and Co2 levels; this headline from 2014, “The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest” [6]; negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear missiles while missiles rain down on innocent Yemenis [7] . . .  it is no longer enough to simply question authority; we must be encouraged personally, among ourselves in groups large and small, and in the capacity of investigative journalists to "ask, require, demand" that something be done differently.

Perhaps it is we who – depending on the situation – must be good pitchers, good catchers, good hitters, or must embody curve balls, hurling ourselves through the world, the cosmos, to the local store, town meeting . . . all the while maintaining, as Kepler, Brahe, and timeless stargazers have showed us, a central focus . . .

1. “Kepler’s Law

2. "Ellipse

3. “There are known knowns

4. “Subcomandante Moises: Second Grade of the Zapatista Little School

5. “Query

6. "
The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest"

7. “'It’s Raining Missiles. A Nightmare that Refuses to End!' – Testimony from the War in Yemen

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His recent book is “Drive-thru Theofascism & The Hero's Journey” and the newest is “Dear_______, poem-letters to friends and enemies.” You can contact him via his literary website.

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