Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Braiding: The whole and the hole

The Buddhists tell us to live in the present. What is the "present"? That instance of time which we are caught up in at any ...err... instance. The sharper the definition of that instance; a better buddhist we become. But wont that make our progress disjointed and quite schizophrenic? Of course it will; if we go only by that definition: We may not be able to establish connections to the past and also understand how the future evolves. 

So we need another concept here. I call it "braiding" Here is a WikiHow article on how someone with long tresses braids her hair. The image on the right shows how braiding is done when knitting a scarf. 

Each instance of the "present" is that point in the braid where the hair comes flowing together to meet at a knot. Analogously; we move from one "present" instance to the next one when we braid together what has happened in the past and tie them into the present. What of the past is to brought into the present instance will depend on our skill and knowledge we possess. If we try to bring everything from the past then the hair will get all entangled. If we bring very little; the braiding will get completely disjointed.

And what happens beyond the knot of the present instance? The future opens up into more possibilities... and they are again braided into the next knot. So each instance in our life is a coming together (synthesis) of a previous set of options (analysis) brought ahead and tied. These instances are not at pre-determined spots along the braid (That is where the analogy really breaks) We live through a continuum of instances. So we experience dynamic braiding that is going on continuously.  Or should I say; ideally we ideally would be doing that. Many unfortunately do try to determine what constitutes their present instances they want to recognize. They are the ones who are caught up either in the past or too worried about the future. 

I often explain my students the same concept using another analogy: That of pottery. When we make a pot we have to continuously work on the whole pot. However; at each instance when we work on the whole we are actually analytically braiding the past. You have to have the right mix of both the analysis and the synthesis. Of the two; I believe synthesis is often lost out. 

Some people unfortunately end up digging only holes: They go in a linear direction; continuously analysing. It really does not produce results and it ends up being a bottomless exercise. Fortunately; the Eastern philosophies have taught us a lot more on these matters and I think the time has come to show the world this method of moving ahead in life.

I often notice that people are much more comfortable finding patterns analytically.  Grappling with the whole; especially if it is large and unwieldy; is quite disconcerting. They would rather remain in the analytical hole. 

Here is a very nice paper on Analysis and Synthesis