Becoming Bamboo

Becoming Bamboo: Western and Eastern Explorations of the Meaning of Life

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Becoming Bamboo
    Book Description:

    The many problems we face in today's world -- among them war, environmental destruction, religious and racial intolerance, and inappropriate technologies -- demand that we carefully re-evaluate such issues as our relation to the environment, the nature of progress, ultimate purposes, and human values. These are all issues, Robert Carter explains, that are intimately linked to our perception of life's meaning. While many books discuss life's meaning either analytically or prescriptively, Carter addresses values and ways of meaningful living from a broader perspective, using Japanese philosophy to augment his investigation. He examines Martin Heidegger's distinction between "dwelling" and existing in the world, Lawrence Kohlberg's "stage seven" of human moral development, and the works of Viktor Frankl, Carol Gilligan, and Nel Noddings. He applies hermeneutic and deconstructionist theory to the question of meaning, and explores the feminist contribution to ethics and its relation to the interconnectedness of things celebrated in Zen and Shinto thought. Bridging various dichotomies such as East/West, reason/emotion, male/female, and caring/justice, Carter shows that ethics, environmental concern, caring, and joy in living are dependent on the growth and transformation of the self. Only by becoming aware of the interrelatedness of things, Carter reveals, can we become as supple and as strong as the bamboo tree, long the symbol of longevity and constancy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6321-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Robert Carter’sBecoming Bamboois a creative piece of philosophizing in a new key. Let me try to place his work in a wider perspective. For the fact is that such cross-cultural essays are vital in the development of a global civilization, which is not only desirable from a human perspective but is necessary to the survival of us all. The planet is evidently one, but for the first time we humans have the possibility of wrecking it. To avoid that, we need both co-operation and sensitivity. Both are pointed to in this book.

    It is an irony that in...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    What is a value? This question has daunted, excited, and plagued thinkers from the beginnings of history. There are many divergent opinions, each technically adept and partly convincing, but as with other great questions of humankind, the question has to be asked again in each age and tradition and answered in a way that attends to the specific issues and concerns of the time. Here I want only to sketch out an approach to value and valuation that will serve to make sense of the distinctions that will arise in later chapters of this exploration. It is not the only...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Values and Valuation
    (pp. 11-43)

    W.T. Stace remarked that one of the benefits of “a God in the sky” was the sense that “the universe, created and governed by a fatherly God, was a friendly habitation for man.”¹ Yet it is not the case thatonlya belief in a parentally concerned God can provide a sense of being-at-home in a friendly world. Stace also observed that the modern world appears to be “nothing but an immense spiritual emptiness. It is a dead universe.”² Most of us no longer see ourselves as an integral part of the universe, dwelling in the midst of nature as...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Kohlberg’s Stage Seven
    (pp. 44-69)

    I was the guest of a recently retired chief executive officer of a Japanese automobile manufacturing company. Without my asking, his daughter had responded to my correspondence on behalf of the family and had offered to meet me at the Tokyo airport and then take me to my guest apartment in their apartment building in Tokyo. I would stay there for two nights, until my room elsewhere in that gigantic city was available. I was greeted with warmth by the daughter, and later by her mother and father, whom I had not seen since their return home after nearly a...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy
    (pp. 70-96)

    As early as 1946, when Frankl’sMan’s Search for Meaningwas first published in English, he saw clearly that “long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naïve query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value.”¹ Frankl writes that to look for the general meaning of man’s life would be comparable to asking a chess player: ‘What is the best move?’ There is no such thing as ‘the best move’ apart from the one that is best within the context of a...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Relatedness
    (pp. 97-127)

    This chapter and the one following are essays in comparative (cross-cultural) thought. In order to try to express the importance of the sense of relatedness, of caring, and the resultant experiences of joy, I will dwell on sources both Western and Eastern (primarily Japanese). No one tradition has a monopoly on insight, and none is without significant difficulties resulting from its way of being in the world. Often, however, you can better capture the significance of an idea or practice by going beyond the habitual and expected approaches of your own tradition to those of a foreign and less well-known...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Where Is Here?
    (pp. 128-167)

    Margaret Atwood powerfully describes Canadians as a people who have struggled tosurvivein an environment that is perceived as threatening, if not hostile. She accepts Northrop Frye's insight that Canadians answer the question “Who am I?” with another question, “Where is here?”¹

    In societies where the environment is well-defined (i.e. already humanized), the question is not likely to be “Where is here?” but “Who am I?” precisely because “in societies where everyone and everything has its place a person may have to struggle to separate himself from his social background, in order to keep from being just a function...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Deconstructing Meaning
    (pp. 168-192)

    Nikos Kazantzakis, whom I quoted in beginning the discussion about the sense of identification of self with the whole sweep of entities constituting the cosmos, endsThe Saviours of Godwith a credal-poetic repetition of the key insights of his exploration. The eighth entry in the string of nine reads “Blessed be all those who free You and become united with You, Lord, and who say: You and I are one.” It is a comforting way to end, because it brings the reader back to what appears to be a conventional rendering of religious understanding: however difficult it is to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-206)
  13. Bibilography
    (pp. 207-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-224)