This is where we get to the deeper end of the pool.
I said this site was a mind dump. I meant it.
Today I spent part of the day thinking. Thinking is just such an amazing activity. Have you ever thought of it? Have you thought of it lately? Have you thought about it at all? I ask sincerely, reader. Think about it.
Why is it that we think? What is thinking? What do we think for? Who do we think for? What is it that we really are?
I don’t know. But I think we all would like to find out.
I thought of writing down my thoughts and being really honest about it. I have many limitations, so my thoughts may not be smart. They might be crazy. They might be obvious. I haven’t ever told many people what I really think. I haven’t ever committed.
I recently converted to Buddhism, and I think you should be a Buddhist too.
How corny, right? To become a preacher of a religion after reading about it on the internet? Because this is what’s happening here. I don’t belong to a Sangha — in Buddhist parlance, the community of like-minded people:
“”“Sangha is a Sanskrit word used in many Indian languages, including Pali, meaning “association”, “assembly”, “company” or “community”. It was historically used in a political context to denote a governing assembly in a republic or a kingdom. It is used in modern times by groups such as the political party and social movement Rashtriya Seva Sangh. It has long been commonly used by religious associations including by Jains and Sikhs.
In Buddhism sangha refers to the monastic community of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns). These communities are traditionally referred to as the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. As a separate category, those who have attained any of the four stages of enlightenment, whether or not they are members of the monastic community, are referred to as the āryasaṅgha “noble Sangha”.
I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism. I got into meditation (vipassana) and all. This happened while I was writing Flancia — whatever this thing you’re reading is. I’ve now reached a point of empathy with the whole idea of Buddhism as I understand it that I need to become it, adopt it as part of my identity, declare to the world that I’ve found a religion that is worth following.
What is it to follow a religion? It is to follow a set of ethics. The ethics are not that of a government; they do not strictly overlap with the definition of judicial legality. You have to follow those rules, but these others (that of religion) are optional in most civilized countries.
Ethics is what you have to use to make your life decisions once you have exhausted all other possible venues of determination; life makes many decisions for you given the material circumstances that you are born into. But within your means, within your material present, what you choose to do with your time is very similar to your ethics. Ethics is everywhere; we just don’t see it often enough.
When we choose to do something, we choose ethically. We are not choosing all the alternatives; all the infinity of alternative choices we could take, in this reality of ours we share. There is no consensus on free will; what is it? Does it exist? What definition of existence can you agree on to help settle that old question? But whatever it means, free will is inextrincably linked to ethics; if we can be said to choose anything, our choices are exactly what we are. A life can be seen as a mathematical construct: a linked list of moments, of thoughts we think, of moments of existence that we choose to have.
I saw this in meditation, and I saw it to be true, and I have to tell the world about it. I have to start with someone, so I’m starting with you. This is why I write this, readers; this is why I dedicated this book to you. To my friends.
“Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.”
My friends are my sangha, regardless of whether they are Buddhists. Buddhism should be good enough for everyone and I want the world to understand that, but I don’t want to exclude people. Buddhism should make people understand that we can all be Buddhists and solve things, get along. Buddhism doesn’t care about your religion, really; you can be Buddhist on top of all other things. Buddhism doesn’t care about your gods; keep them if you have them, don’t miss them if you never had them.
Buddhism is an add-on, and you should think about it. It has a lot of advantages.
You exist all the time. You do things all the time. Wouldn’t you like to make it worth it?
Buddhism thinks that we should all get along. Look it up, it’s there. Can you believe that? I can.
Buddhism thinks that reducing human suffering is the most important thing. I’m paraphrasing, of course. But it’s there. Can you sign up for that? If you care about anyone, you don’t want them to suffer. If you don’t know someone, why would you want them to suffer? At the most you might just not care about them. So, there you go — reducing human suffering means making things good for the people you care about — your friends. Wouldn’t you want that? It’s built into the definition of caring. So there, I’ve mathematically proven that it’s irrational not to want to reduce human suffering. No reason not to make this a priority in your life.
So, the question follows, how do you make this a priority in your life?
You start thinking about it. Thinking is what we do; thinking is everyone’s job. We think no matter if we realize we think; we think all the time. If you want to do something with your life, you need to direct that thinking. Use that old free will, you know.
So I decided to start thinking, and write down my thoughts, because I guessed this is what this sort of Buddhism Over The Internet (BOTI) could probably work like. I thought of just using BOTI but in my mind it’s interlinked with Flancia, so I just call it Flancia. This is how I exercise my free will, and my privilege. I can afford to think instead of working every waking hour because I’m very privileged, I got a lucky draw in the material world side of things. And I want to do something useful — I want to start a meme. Flancia is my meme. Perhaps tons of people do it but I’m not aware of it; so call this my own innovation for now, or what I believe I can bring to the table. I’m not very highly educated; I’m a college dropout. Like Kanye West I guess. If you have a draw of life that lets you have some time to think you have to take your thinking seriously. It’s, again, the ethical thing, because we should all make what we can to reduce human suffering. Remember?
So let’s do this. We can all agree on Flancia — it’s a strict subset of Buddhism, but it is there, and I’ve found it while reading about it in the internet. And if more people adopt it, the world is going to improve at a better rate. More people working to help others clearly makes for a better world. How does the world improve? Someone has to make it better. Sure, the world itself has material limits — we cannot just create an utopia from thin air. But the world itself — us, the whole of humanity, as it can communicate over the internet — can agree to work towards the betterment of the world. And whoever is part of Flancia tries to think about these issues, all of us according to our own faculties and experiences, and we discuss possible ways of making the world better through the internet. We designate an Agora, or we build one, and then we get to work.
If we all agree to do this, we could get to my utopia, or a better one. I call my utopia, guess what, Flancia. You can call yours whatever you want — it’s your prerogative. But you should think about one.
Places are the set of things that can be true in a set of material realities according to what we choose to believe. Places and beliefs are complementary; our existence is places, beliefs, and the thoughts that we carry with us. Some places start like a belief and then eventually become actual places, once the world catches up. You need to think of the place you want to live in, have a good place of your own. You need one because what you do in life is exercise your free will to get there. Get to yours; it can be as different from mine as you want. It can bear no resemblance at all. I don’t claim to be right; I could get everything wrong, and still be right, because what I assert is not that my ideas are good but that we should all share them, write them down, and have conversations with each other. In Flancia.
Flancia is the world we get to when everybody can do this, everybody can think of their own Utopia and work towards that. That in itself is the utopia. It is a meta-utopia in a way; I’ve cheated and made mine a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, if you agree to do this. If you agree to think.
Meditation is a way of getting better at thinking and Buddhism also found that, or took it from Hinduism. I’ve done it for about six months now, and I can believe it. I think, if you try it, you might believe it too. But you don’t have to. You can do with whatever your life story molded you into; if you like those traits, keep them.
So, tell me now: do you want to live in Flancia? If you do, you only have to believe it to be true, and we’ll be in the same place. You and me — and other members of our Sangha too.
You could be a Muslim and live in Flancia. You could think of Flancia as having many beautiful gardens like in a beautiful Muslim tapestry, like I do.
You could be a Christian and live in Flancia. Jesus had a Sangha and you know it, and he was all about helping others, so come on.
You could be a Taoist or a Confucianist and live in Flancia.
You could be a communist and live in Flancia. No comments necessary here, if material conditions get good enough through technological innovation and better cooperation between Sanghas communists and capitalists might hug. I see this working just fine in China, honestly.
You could be a libertarian and live in Flancia. You can have a Sangha all of your own.
You could certainly be an Atheist and live in Flancia. Sam Harris does it for a living, and he’s doing quite well too.
We are all-inclusive.