Before a person studies Zen,

mountains are mountains and waters are waters.

After a first glimpse into the truth of Zen,

mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters;

After enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters are once again waters.”






KNOWING something—it’s nature (pure description in more-or-less detail) and/or its causes or consequences (in more-or-less temporal proximity) feels different than REALIZING.  Realization involves a constellation of cognitive resources that may overlap significantly those that gather together the stimuli and perceptions (and their connections) that constitute knowledge.  In traditional usage, realization (as in realizing one’s ambitions, or realizing a work of art) has a distinctive affective component—it is co-constituted of sentience and sapience—heart and mind.


  • “REALIZING” something seems “easier” than “KNOWING” it–it feels intuitive, you feel you understand without the obvious conscious cognitive effort  (in this recalls “subitizing” rather than “counting”)      



is there a boundary between knowing and realizing?

(The Parable of the French Philosophers)


Must we “forget” what we have learned in order to Know? 


“To study music we must learn the rules.

To create music, we must forget them.”

–Nadia Boulanger


(recalling that cognitive functions are often in competition, maybe it is getting the internalized rules “out of the way” so that other resources may be incorporated into a concept.  Here we might connect to “expertise” and “connoisseurship”)







Daisetsu Suzuki believed myo “is the unconscious expression of the ‘something’ in Japanese life and art that goes beyond technique and conscious effort.  Suzuki alleged that Western artists and craftsmen seldom transcend mechanical skill and that their criterion for beauty is based on conscious realization–with the inevitable result that the ego interferes and true beauty cannot emerge. …anyone who consciously strives for beauty will never attain it…”Boyé Lafayette De Mente (2006) Elements of Japanese Design.  Tuttle, Rutland, VT. pp. 80-81) 











 “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity;

But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr)



(Recalls: Einstein: “the simplicity on this side of complexity was easy;

but the simplicity on the other side of complexity took real thought and effort.”)


THIS is the simplicity artists seek: 

One must look at life with the eyes of a child — Matisse (from Artist to Artist by Clint Brown). Einstein and Picasso both lamented the loss of the child’s view of the world — the view before experience ossified categories, the view before the mind, swimming in sensations, perceptions, symbols learned to exclude or ignore those that were not obviously relevant to whatever human need seemed most salient at that moment. Others were more or less bludgeoned into insensibility by our social referees, caregivers and critics, that have other priorities — such as enforced corroboration of their own beliefs by as many other people as possible (my introduction to A&O DEEP ethology – development) When Picasso visited an exhibition of children’s drawings, he commented, “When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.” (Roland Penrose, Picasso – His Life and Work, 3rd edition  Berkeley and Los Angeles 1981 p307 cited by Rbt D Mowry, Harvard Univ Art Museum in Worlds within Worlds 1997.)

and the simplicity of which the Zen monk speaks of





and here we must recall Sir Francis Bacon aphorism,


“If a man shall begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts;  but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.”

(The Advancement of Learning, Bk 1,i,3)








Before a person studies Psychoanalysis, a cigar is “a tightly-rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco that is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth.”

After a first glimpse into the truths of Psychoanalysis a cigar was no longer a cigar …

After years of study I understood that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.









In considering one of the most complex questions we can imagine–“is the universe finite or infinite?”

Understanding the infinite — both as a mathematical possibility and an impossibility of the physical universe — might be more a matter of coming to terms with infinite simplicity than with infinite complexity.  …  In an entry from early February of 1999, [astrophysicist, Janna Levin echoes Margaret Mead’s famous proclamation about clarity and writes: “I try to find a simple expression for my ideas. I figure if there is none, the ideas must be wrong. When I first started to work on topology I wondered about complex properties of spaces and didn’t take my own suggestions seriously until I realized the simple way to ask the question: is the universe infinite? Einstein’s simplest insights were profound. The simpler the insight, the more profound the conclusion.”   (from BrainPickings)





All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience (Goethe).   And sometimes we can feel we are SO close (the FOK and TOT experiences) … we study something … anything … so closely, so completely … but as Thoreau put it SOMETIMES , “It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance…” (Journal 8:44)




return to Abstraction and Simplicity



Goethe quote: Guterman trans of “Proverbs in Prose” (Spruche in Prosa … also there: “Doubt grows with knowledge”)  …   “New inventions can and will be made; however, nothing new can be thought of that concerns moral man. Everything has already been thought and said which at best we can express in different forms and give new expressions to.”  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe — Conversation with Joseph Sebastian Grüner (August 24, 1823).  http://www.poemhunter.com/johann-wolfgang-von-goethe/quotations/page-4/  SIMILAR “Every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort” (William James, TALKS TO TEACHERS   1899  Native Reactions, p 37.