[sc34wg3] Topic Maps Reference Model posted (new draft)

Murray Altheim sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 02 Mar 2005 14:18:54 +0000

Bernard Vatant wrote:
> Murray's excellent post reminded me of some Zen story about 
> the wise man and his evolving perception of what mountains
> are or are not. Could not remember the exact text nor author,
> but browsing around, found out something close to it at
> http://members.tripod.com/~SpEd2work/AllThingsZen.html
> which attributes to Ch'ing Yuan Wei-hsin the following 
> questioning about identity of things in the world
> 	Thirty years ago, before I began the study of Zen,
> 	I said, 'Mountains are mountains, waters are waters.'
> 	After I got insight into the truth of Zen
> 	through the instructions of a good master,
> 	I said, 'Mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters.'
> 	But now, having attained the abode of final rest,
> 	I say, 'Mountains are really mountains, waters are really waters.'
> 	Are the three understandings the same or different?
> I'm sure Murray will agree that Zen has brought about long ago some 
> definitive views concerning relationships between human languages/
> representations/perceptions and the real world, considering the  
> latter as being artificially divided by the former ...
> Bernard


Thanks very much for your message -- it raised a broad smile.

Yes, I certainly agree that the amount of thought given this
subject goes back many centuries, and it seems a shame there
is so little attention paid such a wide body of thought by
those in the "knowledge representation" field, or its new-
fangled derivative, the "Semantic Web," since it is so much
at the heart of what the field is about. There are of course
some notable exceptions.

Zen originated in Ch'an Buddhism, which was heavily influenced
by Taoism, so their roots -- in the case of Taoism, going back
into prehistory -- are rather similar. Taoism is of course
missing the Buddha, but given we're all supposed to miss the
Buddha anyway, I figure it's probably better to just avoid him
outright rather than having to kill him. The paths are similar,
but the Taoist path involves a good cocktail now and then.
Abstinence does not make the heart grow fonder.

Zen training (much like army boot camp) involves shaking up
an individual's ideas of reality, getting them to question
the conventional (and often wrong) ideas they have about the
nature of things. We're currently in the middle of a cultural
campaign pushing the meme of how grande is our intuition over
our rational mind, led by those who prefer not to deal much
with the inconvenience of rationality ("my [god|gut] tells
me that torture just feels like the right thing to do"). Zen
training shows both how intuition is to be trusted, and how
it also can completely fail us. The very idea that we have
something in our heads called "intuition" and something
called "rationality" is so very dualistic -- both are parts
of one mind, one body. Whatever our real constituency, a
balance is what is called for, a middle way.

For anyone really wanting to turn their head into knots (and
who wouldn't nowadays?), I can recommended picking up a copy
of The Blue Cliff Record (trans. by Cleary & Cleary, from
Shambala Press). There's more than a lifetime of confusion
there for those looking for it, and it just looks great
sitting on one's coffee table, too. I just received this in
email yesterday, which seems apropos:

   "The moment you come to trust chaos, you see God clearly.
    Chaos is divine order, versus human order. Change is
    divine order, versus human order. When the chaos becomes
    safety to you, then you know you're seeing God clearly."
                                              -- Caroline Myss

The idea that all is fused in an indivisible oneness -- the
Transcendental Merge -- really musses with anyone's idea of
"subject identity." We live in a world of "unconstrained
scope." Our challenge is to figure out how to balance this
with our need for necessary differentiation. If we are going
to categorize, to analyze (etym. "cut up", ant. "synthesize")
how to do so without doing violence to reality? I find myself
at odds with myself over this all the time, so I beat my self
silly now and then, just for practice.

I often regret we don't live within café distance of each other,
Bernard, but then we might grow tired of our philosophizing if
we did. Of course, then we could just have a drink and play
a game of dominoes...


Murray Altheim                    http://kmi.open.ac.uk/people/murray/
Knowledge Media Institute
The Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK7 6AA, UK               .

  Sometimes things are so obvious that they merely need pointing out:

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