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The Four Nobel Truths of Computing by Robert L. Seltman

This article was first published in the newsletter of the Kansai Macintosh Users Group, a technological journal for the Apple Computer user community in the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto region of Japan May 1994.

The core wisdom of computer doctrine is the Four Noble Truths. The first Truth assumes the existence of suffering, which afflicts both your material and spiritual being in this computer age. Every aspect of computing involves suffering: purchasing your first computer, computer malfunctions, hard disc crashes and other computer deaths, separation from your computer when it would have been so handy, and frustration when it does not live up to your expectations. But suffering is not inherent; it exists only in respect to desire. Desire is self-defeating, because we could never afford the computer we really want. Love of a computer, for example, carries in it the seeds of its own downfall, for the ultimate possession of our ideal computer will always be followed soon after by Apple announcing a better model for a lot less money. Which leads us to the second Truth: Suffering has an origin.

The second Truth teaches that all suffering stems from computer lust, from appetites which nourish our desires. There are three types: 1) lust for an ‘object of desire’, i.e. faster CD ROM, a large color monitor, a high-speed modem, a new Power PC; 2) lust for existence in a computer happy world; 3) lust for a world where we never heard of computing. Even when we stop the foolish pursuit of our ‘objects of desire’, the natural motion of time and scientific development undermines the balanced harmony we created with our old system and though we'd like to reject the whole mouse race, and return to the age of pencil and paper, society marches on putting computers in our cars, our stoves, and in our schools. Computing is here for the long haul irrespective of our own personal wishes, and this creates a need for the third and forth Truth.
The third Truth teaches the ‘stopping of suffering’ is the ‘stopping of our desire’ for up-dates, up-grades, and down-loading. Stop our longing linked to the pleasures of speed and gadgetry, as well as power-player passion. Stop that animal urge that can pull normally gentle souls to their joy stick for another stimulating simulation, or an otherwise reserved heart into a toxic frenzy on her local BBS. Stopping this cycle of log-in/log-out, boot-up/shut-down, insert/eject, is the goal of the ‘Way’ suggested in the Forth Truth, known as the Eightfold Path.

1. Right Vision, observe the phenomenal world as it really is and your monitor for what it is, the mirror of your desires.

2. Right Representation, having observed things as they are, it is important to represent them correctly, for if objects are misrepresented, they in turn falsify subsequent vision, create illusions, and nullify all attempts to escape suffering. In other words, when selling your old Mac be honest, or that sale will haunt you and your ancestors.

3. Right Word, let's face it, the primary function of most Macs is that of a glorified typewriter. Master you word processing software and start justifying the expenditure with some first class publications, or forever feel the guilt.

4. Right Activity, It is the act that stems from the Word, the physical from the mental, with which the first three items have been concerned. Do you want that CD ROM player for the encyclopedia or are you really secretly craving ‘Sally Does Dallas’ in Quick-Time.

5. Right Means of Subsistence, What are you willing to do and how far are you willing to go to support your computer habit?!

6. Right Application, without this computing is misguided, no matter how good our intentions. If it doesn't print out what good is it?

7. Right Presence of Mind, a right attitude to or understanding of Self, of Reality, of the Absolute, is completely unnecessary to log-in to a BBS. Do you want to subject your mind to that kind of loony-tunes

8. Right Positioning of the Psyche, samadhi, that ‘interior’ state, often described as a kind of mystic raptness attained during profoundly concentrated meditation has never been achieved while hacking on a computer. Are you hoping to be the first enlightened computer-age master, a silicon Bodhisattva? For sentient beings the Four Truths, with the Eightfold Path, form a progression leading from the beginning of computing discipline to final extinction – nirvana – oneness with your computer. With this ‘you’ does not exist separate from the whole, and the whole is a digital illusion, rows and rows of zeros, fed out endlessly from a collective data base, beyond our monitors, further than satellites bounce beams, to a place where all chips are obsolete, and Bill Gates has no say.

Copyright 1994 RLSeltman. All rights reserved

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