Posts Tagged ‘Resentment’

Two Monks And A Woman

June 24, 2017

All knowledge is belief, but not all belief is knowledge


Two monks and a woman” is a well-known “Buddhist” story (although Taoists also view it as theirs). Let me recount one version of the story, and its most common explanation. Then I will add that there is much more to this version of the story than said “explanation”. The usual explanation criticizes the younger monk, whereas I will explain the older one’s motivations. Trust me to twist fairy tales into other dimensions!

Two Monks and a Woman – a Zen Lesson

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

Women Caused Lots Of Problems To The Wisdom Of Old

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his 

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”


Here is the traditional pious comment on this story:

This Zen story reveals a message about living in the present moment. How often do we carry around past hurts, holding onto resentments when the only person we are really hurting is ourselves? We all go through times in life when other people say things or behave in a way that is hurtful towards us. We can chose to ruminate over past actions or events, but it will ultimately weigh us down and sap our energy. Instead we can choose to let go of what doesn’t serve us anymore and concentrate on the present moment. Until we can find a level of peace and happiness in the present circumstances of our lives, we will never be content, because ‘now’ is all we will ever have.


There is much more to this story than just that it feels good to let go of resentment, and thus that eschewing resentment maximizes contentment: The older monk exerts judgment. He goes meta, comes out of the box: the senior monk captures the fundamental meaning of “not touching women”. Clearly crossing a dangerous river does not engage the same neurology and neurohormones as those involved in sex and reproduction. Instead, the older monk realizes that this is all about engaging the mental machinery of survival and care, a completely different mindset, noble and human in the best way.

(The preceding, realizing which neurology is appropriate to a situation at hand, relates to the problem of US healthcare: it conflates fundamentally two opposite mentalities, two neurologies which hate each other, care and greed.)

Thus the older monk sees the higher purpose, and sets himself to accomplish it. As it has only to do with surviving a river, it’s easy to forget, when the river is long gone.

However, the mind of the younger monk focused on the woman being a woman, and what monks are not supposed to do with women, although he wants very much to do it; the junior monk does not focus on the noble observation that the woman is in danger from the river.


Don’t Make Fun Of War, It Will Always Win, And Some:  

One can go one step further in the meta-analysis: why should we resent resentment? Resentment is a mental agency. It’s not exactly the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, but it has a somewhat similar inner purpose, providing a motivation to find out what really is going on. As all mental agencies, resentment evolved because it responded to some purpose. Here is a little Taoist story to enlighten us here:

All the people in the world are gathered in one room, and God asks, “Who wants world peace?” Everybody raises their hand except one man. God asks, “Who wants a war?” The one man raises his hand. God points at him and says, “He wins!”

Right, mosquitoes don’t care: lack of enlightenment is only a problem to the enlightened. Mosquitoes don’t resent, either (but even flies know fear, recent stories show!)

The older monk crosses the river with a woman on his back, because he cares. Mosquitoes care only about one thing. The older monk cares about accomplishing a good action, which will make him feel good, enlightened, and light, thereafter. The younger monk cares too, but not the sort of care which is just a gift to the other.

Resentment can be good when it leads us to feel again (that’s what re-sentment means!) what the emotional landscape was, and whether it was handled optimally thereafter. Not just handled optimally by us, but by others, and by the hand of fate. Amusingly, modern neurology is on the side of resentment: most of “feelings” actually originate in re-entrant circuitry. So most perception can be looked at as resentment! (Roll over, Friedrich Nietzsche!)

Homo is a thinking being, or is not. A wise human explains things. A wise cockroach, with its million neurons takes care of number one, itself! Munching over what happened, and why, and whether it could have been different, and better, if it had been different is not necessary idle thinking, because establishing theories is what humans do, and what human culture is made of. If resentment helps, so be it. Just as, if principles obstruct higher principles, they have to make way.

Patrice Ayme’ 

What Are Germans So Angry About?

July 15, 2015


The terrible war between Sparta and Athens which destroyed Greece, started because Sparta wanted to be seen as the hegemon of Greece. Whereas, truly, all indicators were that Athens was the rising hegemon.

And the reasons for this were deep: the racist, fascist exploitative model of Sparta, far from being a leader, was going down, whereas Athens, whom Pericles described as an “Open Society“, was going up. Athens is the leader (hegemon) that we are following today.

Smart people learn from history, and France, in particular, has long pondered Athens’ fate.

Balancing a budget is worthy, as long as there are not excellent reasons to make it unbalanced.

A military situation is an excellent reason for unbalancing the budget of a state. The USA generated a massive deficit in World War Two. So did Britain, or France.

Hegemon Celebrates In Style Victory Over Germany In The Case Of Greece, July 14, 2015

Hegemon Celebrates In Style Victory Over Germany In The Case Of Greece, July 14, 2015

The USA deficit was from credit extended by the USA, to the USA. In other words it was convertible into a tax. The debt could be extinguished by taxation. And that is exactly what FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower did (tax rates were hiked up as high as 93% under Ike).

The British or French debts were credited by the USA, and that meant a sort of slavery, looking forward, as happened. France has seriously recovered. In August 1914, 38 million Frenchmen were invaded by 122 million German speakers. Now there are significantly more young Frenchmen, than young Germans.

Right now, the French Republic’s army is making war, or containing organized outlaws on several continents (South America, Africa, and Eurasia) and many countries. The French government does not have the money to do so. Thus the French government ought to keep its budget unbalanced. The French imbalance is targetted at 4.5% of GDP (in violation of Euro regulations by 50%).

British budgetary imbalance is only at 3.7%. The price Britain pays for this better budgetary balance, is to play now only a puny military role… relative to France. France does not like that, her only serious ally being now, once again, the USA. Same old same old, just as in the 1780s…

Germany has a primary budget imbalance of zero percent. Which may look balanced, but is not, because it’s mentally imbalanced to count cents, while Europe burns.

A republic which does not defend its values is not a Republic.

Balancing a budget can kill an economy: the Greek GDP is somewhat down 30% from its peak. However Greece has a primary budget excedent: that means that the Greek government spends less than it receives in taxes, fees, etc. The reason for the Greek overall current account deficit is payment of interest to (world government’s) institutions such as the ECB, the ironically denominated European Stability Fund, the IMF, etc.

The French government knows all of this, and is, truly, the real hegemon of Europe. So when the French president drew the line, Germans, most of them against keeping Greece is the Eurozone, according to polls, had to capitulate.

Another 85 billion Euros is going Greece’s way. Dr. Merkel, in the end did the reasonable thing, what the French government told her to do (and she overruled her hawkish, asnd somewhat deranged finance minister).

However, the Germans are angry. Very angry. The New York Times ponder “Germany’s Destructive Anger“.

The author, Jacob Soll, an American, played a role in Greek debt drama (rumors are that the debt may have been overestimated). Says he: German anger, and we know they are angry. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was reported to have started yelling during Saturday night’s negotiations. France and Italy have both made huge loans to Greece, but neither country has expressed hostility to Greece. Why is Germany so angry?

As an economic historian, I got a taste of this resentment…”

Indeed why are the Germans so angry? Because they are resentful. About what? Nietzsche was so intrigued by German Resentment, that some view him, first, as the philosopher of resentment.

How did Germans got so crazy, once again?

Mr. Soll, a professor of history and accounting at the University of Southern California, is the author of “The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations.” He concludes: “German attendees circled me to explain how the Greeks were robbing the Germans. They did not want to be victims anymore. While I certainly accepted their economic points and, indeed, the point that European Union member countries owe Germany so much money that more defaults could sink Germany, it was hard, in Munich at least, to see the Germans as true victims.

Here lies a major cultural disconnect, and also a risk for the Germans. For it seems that their sense of victimization has made them lose their cool, both in negotiations and in their economic assessments. If the Germans are going to lead Europe, they can’t do it as victims.”

Krugman makes similar observations in “Angry Germans“.

Says Paul: “Germany’s sense of victimization does seem real, and is a big problem for its neighbors.”

Germany’s sense of victimization is how it got to hate the French, the Slavs, and the Jews. Just read Hitler’s Mein Kampf: it starts with Germany victimized by the French, then smoothly transit to it being victimized by the Jews…

Why so angry?

Because the truth is out: Germany is not the hegemon of Europe. It tried, once again, and completely failed. Once again. The French Republic stood in the way, gathered around her a more powerful coalition than Germany, in the Eurozone itself, and then added the IMF.

The IMF made first a 180 degree turn: it has concluded that the Greek debt, as it is, is completely unsustainable, and should be cut drastically (Tsipras proposed 30%, I propose 50%). All serious students of debt agree. And Germany used that trick several times in the last 150 years.

Meanwhile, the USA had rallied the French position. The USA has created for its economy 13 times more money than the Eurozone.

France won. France won even Merkel.

France is the hegemon of Europe, Germany the moribund. Because, assuredly, only the mentally moribund would strike such a stupid position about Greece with so much obstinacy, absent any capacity for reason and introspection.

Patrice Ayme’

NEUROGENESIS: WISDOM; Memories: Resentment

August 16, 2014

The old thinking about the brain was that neurons were given at birth, and then progressively died. A researcher named Altman found otherwise in 1962: he showed that adult human brains created new neurons. Few believed him, even fewer found that interesting. However, by 1995, incontrovertible evidence of new neurons was found in at least two regions of the brain.

And if one blocked neurogenesis, one blocked learning.

The first memory organ of taxicab drivers learning a lot of streets, the hippocampus, got visibly enlarged.

A rat hippocampus creates at least 10,000 new neurons a day. Yes, a vulgar rat.

New Neurons In White: Forge, Forget, Forgive

New Neurons In White: Forge, Forget, Forgive

Yet, the mind is not just about adding neurons. For those keen to remember their past, fresh neurons are the worst things. Newly formed neurons in the hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in switching from short term memory to the longer sort — dislodge previously learned data, a May 2014 Science article shows.

That’s counter-intuitive at first. Naively, one would expect new neurons to mean a better brain, thus better memory. On second examination, though, if neurons are the brains, new neurons mean new brain, not the old brain, with its old memories.

Many studies have shown that boosting neural proliferation before learning enhances memory in mice.

More neurons increase the capacity to learn new memories. However, memory is based on circuits, synapses, and maybe pre-existing “grandmother neurons” (whatever that exactly means: it could be a tight group of cells). If one adds new elements, it makes sense that they have nothing to do with pre-existing neuronal geometries.

Quite the opposite: creating new neurons could clear old memories… Therapeutically.

In the 2014, Science study, newborn and adult mice were trained to fear an environment that brought electric shocks. The mice learned the task quickly. Infant mice remembered the horror for only one day, adult mice retained the fear for weeks.

This difference correlates with neurogenesis. Memory persistence in newborn mice was enhanced genetically and by chemically suppressing neurogenesis after learning. In adult mice, four to six weeks of regular exercise — an activity known to promote neurogenesis — reduced the previous fear.

Massive neurogenesis in young animals explains why youngsters do not remember their early life. And, as luck has it, an animal model exists.

Guinea pigs and Chilean rodents called Degus have longer gestation periods than mice, and thus reduced brain growth after birth. Baby Degus and guinea pigs do not have infantile amnesia. Yet, heavy exercise and drugs promoting neurogenesis brings it on.

Just as neurogenesis tends to deny the past, it denies visiting again the feelings one had then. That’s resentment. French for feeling again: re-sentiment (with a second “s” added to make a snake sound).

Nietzsche used the word “ressentiment”, because German has not word for “resentment”.

That semantic gap is, per se, reason enough to suspect that Germans walloped in it: if one avoids a notion like the plague, it is an indication that one indulges in it. Luther is full of resentment against the Jews, and Hitler against the French, and then, the Jews.

For the philosopher Kierkegaard, ressentiment occurs in a “reflective, passionless age“, stifling creativity and passion in passionate individuals. Individuals who do not conform to the masses are made into scapegoats and objects of spite by the masses, to maintain the status quo ante and to imbue the masses with their sense of superiority.

According to Nietzsche, the more a person is strong-willed, and dynamic, the less place and time they have for contemplating what’s done to them. The reaction of a strong-willed person (a “wild beast“), when it happens, is short: it is not a prolonged filling, and take-over of their entire intellect by an obsession.

It’s impressive to realize how the most recent neurological findings (above) relate to those philosophers’ insights.

The super intelligent person is always in full neurogenesis, in her haste to model the world with more faithfulness. That makes her unable to hold a grudge: she has better thing to think about.

This opens a new way out of the eternal wheel of conflict, and various vicious circles: react as wild beast to attack, but then smother what led to it under the new mindset of neurogenesis.

Instead of rejecting the world as painful, and hoping for a better one as Christians, Muslims and Buddhists do, think the world again, and the old problematic will fade away.

The same may apply to entire societies, nations, or religions, or civilization. If any of these favor ressentiment, it will have to spurn neurogenesis, or its societal equivalent. Just as individuals will.

Hence a vicious circle: the more resentment, the less imagination, and intelligence, and thus the more madness in crowds as in individuals.

Let’s notice, moreover, that denial and bad faith (a la Sartre, De Beauvoir) are very close to resentment.

So what would the moral conclusion of the preceding be? Generating new ideas, just as generating new neurons, is how to break out from the past’s vicious circles. Higher intelligence is also a better morality.

Patrice Ayme’