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The Universe and the Snail

The ink drawing above by Gibbon Sengai (1750-1837), is often referred to in English as ‘The Universe’ despite having no inscription other than his signature. It is also the most famous of all of Sengai’s painting, and has become a historic image in Zen Buddhism ever since.

Sengai was a Japanese monk of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, he was initiated as a monk at 11 years of age and after 30 years of practice under various masters across Japan, became the 123rd abbot of Shofukuji temple, the first Zen temple to be established in Japan. At 61 he retired and spent his last 27 years painting.

Immediately what struck me about this painting was it’s bold composition and the way in which it seems to capture something profound despite being made up of just 3 simple shapes placed together and barely overlapping. My knowledge of the title contributed to this sense but the questions arose, ‘what is the universe?’, and as the word ‘universe’ is commonly associated with the external ‘objective’ world of physics (which seemed at odds with the subjectivity of the image) I thought, ‘is the universe referenced one of physics or the one of the mind?’

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Returning to PM again after a not altogether brief hiatus stemming from a move to the big city, everyone’s favourite blogger, Me, returns to the forefront of the popular consciousness to tackle the big issues facing todays society, and to offer the long awaited cure all answers to modern day conundrums.

Not really. I have just gotten a few thoughts together that I would like to share on a topic that is very close to my heart. (And lungs.) Namely smoking. The burning of dried leaves and poisonous chemicals for the purpose of inhalation through the mouth. Many of us do it; I do it (But don’t tell my Mum.) Dot Cotton does it, but it appears to me to be an issue which society is entirely conflicted about. Is it bad for you? (Yes) Is it addictive? (Yes) Should non-smokers have to breath our dirty smoke? (No) and most importantly, does it make you look cool? (Yes)

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Do the Dead Dissapear?

The time I am most mentally productive just so happens to be the time when I ought to be concentrating on haling/ dodging speeding cars. Funny how the mind works really.

Having  hitch-hiked the breadth of our fair country today, with a greater emphasis on the hiked aspect of it.  Unsurprisingly that left me with a lot of time to have a wee muse to myself. (While simultaneously becoming a connoisseur of roadside beauty.) Not least when I stumbled across this tiny little churchyard with some of the oldest and strangest stones I have seen in all of my years of skulking about angstily in graveyards. It got me thinking about the sentimental side of death, and actually realigned some of my previous thoughts on the subject to the extent that I had to whip out my laptop to scrawl down some notes.

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Well then, now that I have sat down and had a brew, I feel physically and mentally prepared to write a wee bitty on something that I have been thinking about over the weekend, and for a while in general. That is the role of emotion in our lives, and how it relates to the process of rational thought. Sounds interesting no?

Oh just me then?

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Is Realism the New Pessimism?


Well no, probably not, but I do have a few things to say on the subject, and I would be interested to hear if others had come to similar conclusions. As this is the first actual posting here on PM, I would like it to shine as a fabulous example of the sort of rubbish that we will all hopefully be waffling on about in the near future.

Too often I hear people using the word realism as an excuse for a lack of motivation. As a sort of buffer between their ideals and their actions. I worry that this type of attitude could have grave consequences for us, for the planet, for business, for everything really.

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Hello all of you beautiful potential readers. I wish you all the fondest welcome to Polite Musings. The plan is for this humble shell of a blog to become a repository for our vast and varied collected wisdom. I envision a free place of expression, learning and sharing, just the way it ought to be. We all have a lot going on upstairs, and it is a dreadful waste for it to stay there! (Apart from that. That can stay up there.)

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