Posted on March 09, 2009 in Uncategorized

In Zen, if asked, "What is the Buddha?" one should raise a clenched fist. If asked, "What is the ultimate meaning of the Buddhist Law?" before the words have died away, one should respond, "A single branch of the flowering plum" or "The cypress in the garden."It is not a matter of selecting an answer either good or bad. We respect the mind that does not stop.....Although there are many ways-the Way of the Gods, the Way of Poetry, the Way of Confucius-they all share the clarity of this one mind.

Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman

Once a sword fight has started, the thing is not to let your opponent raise his hands. Once the fight has started, if you get involved in thinking about what to do, you will be cut down by your opponent with the very next sword blow.

Yagyu Munenori, The Book of Family Traditions / The Killing Sword, in The Book of Five Rings

(See also improvisational theatre teacher Keith Johnstone's take on that quote from Munenori, from Impro for Storytellers: "A Japanese swordsman wrote that if you fight someone who has no plan, you'll be thinking, I'll do such and such! as your severed head bounces down the temple steps! (Well, he didn't put it exactly like that.)")

Sure, you might say, that's great for you Eastern hippy Zen improv Yoda types. But we ‘merkins deliberate before we act. We get better answers that way.


Have you read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Consider also the Pareto principle: for many effects, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you spend five times as long thinking about a problem, you might make only one-fourth more progress.

Finally, computer science catches up with Zen, swordsmanship and improv with new developments in probabilistic computing (Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle (@ChronSciGuy)):

If asked to compute 2+2, a computer must answer 4. But what if computers didn't always have to answer correctly? Nearly a decade ago, a Houston computer scientist posed this heretical question. Today, it has led to a movement dubbed "probabilistic computing," which he believes will revolutionize the future of computing.On Sunday, Krishna Palem, speaking at a computer science meeting in SanFrancisco, announced results of the first real-world test of hisprobabilistic computer chip: The chip, which thrives on random errors, ran seven times faster than today's best technology while using just 1?30th the electricity."

I love it when things start to come together like that.

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