I’m grateful for having come in to an appreciation of Buddhist thought, an understanding of how to be in the present (see fifth floor elevator speech in previous blog, “Buddhism and Mindfulness”). I have learned to appreciate the Buddhist philosophical insights. I was always enamored by the work of David Hume, the eighteenth-century English philosopher. He was a radical skeptic who developed a theory that we could not prove any argument based simply on cause and effect because you could never truly observe cause and effect. Emmanuel Kant, agreeing with David Hume, said that it doesn’t matter that we can’t prove cause and effect. It is not a matter of reality. We construct the concept of cause and effect to understand the world. It is built into our thinking process. It is also the manner of how we construct the self. We think that we are the result of actions and reactions that have shaped our lives, but it is a fabrication of the mind. Likewise, we could never observe the self of a person, Hume argued, there is no such thing as the “self.” Since the time of Buddha two thousand years ago, as I have learned, they put forward the same notion that there is no “self.” There are only actions and reactions. The self that we proclaim to be–who we are–is really an illusion, a fabrication, a story we tell ourselves. What I have experienced with cancer, chemotherapy, Parkinson’s, and now blindness is that the self I once thought I was is no longer meaningful. And like Borges, I do not want to be intimidated by my losses, rather find what has opened up to me. Buddhism has provided me with a practice and a path forward. What I have now is amazing and immediate and I am grateful for what I have. I’m healthy, loved by my family and friends, and I feel alive.
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