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The Mind of the Creator

J.B.S.Haldane was a 19th century British biologist at a time of great scientific and religious controversy. brought on by Darwin's theories of evolution. Was science compatible with religious belief? Did the complexity of the world and especially of life imply the existence of a Creator or was it all the product of undesigned natural processes over millions and millions of years. The story goes that someone once asked Haldane , "What has all your study of the wonder of Creation taught you about the Mind of the Creator?" Haldane was silent for a few moments, evidently  deeply pondering the question, and finally he replied, "An inordinate love of beetles." For as you may know, the insects are by far the most common form of life on the planet, and beetles the most numerous of the insects, there being tens of thousands of different species of them.So there must have been nothing the Creator enjoyed Creating as much as beetles! We can imagine God on the Sixth Day, having created man and  all the animals, about to rest and declare his creation good, when suddenly He stops and thinks to himself, Well, maybe i have time for just ONE more beetle."

I'd suggest that we're all that way when it comes to our own thoughts. No matter that we've already had tens of thousands of different ones, we all want to make time to have just one more. And so we as liable to be overrun by the profusion of our thoughts the way a New York city apartment can be overrun with roaches. How are we going to handle this infestation? Psychoanalysis and Buddhism traditionally offer different solutions. Psychoanalysis teaches us to study each thought carefully, to see its unique characteristics, and examine the intrapsychic and interpersonal milieu that it lives in. Freud even taught us to trace each one back to a common Oedipal ancestor. But the problem is that studying thought with thought always just seems to lead to more and more thought. Is there ever an end? Buddhism usually sounds as if it recommends the opposite route, that of extermination, the extinction of thought and Self. And indeed certain concentration practices can make thoughts disappear...for a awhile, for like the bugs. they always manage to come back eventually. But here the problem is that we are liable to turn practice into an endless and losing war with our own minds, trying to eradicate something that won't go away. Zen isn't, or shouldn't be, some kind of spiritual RAID to exterminate thought. The Beat poet Lew Welch, incidentally, making ends meet working in an ad agency, is the person who came up with the slogan , "RAID kills bugs dead." His most immortal line!

The practice of labeling thoughts offers us a middle way. Labeling can be a matter of simply repeating an intrusive thought back to ourselves: "Thinking: 'It's damn hot in here.'" Or, if we find ourselves having wandered down some long discursive mental track, he can simply stop and say "Thinking" to ourselves and return to an awareness (or counting) of our breath. Some bugs however, carry a particularly nasty bite, and those are the ones we should be most eager to study and not rush to exterminate. These are the ones that bear psychoanalytic scrutiny. Why does THIS thought keep coming back over and over, bringing with it such pain or fear or anger? Just where am I so sensitive that its bite hurts so much? This is what we're here to sit with, what we're here to study.