“Don’t follow me, because I am lost too…”

I remember reading something about Taoism and how Eastern Philosophers were different to Western Philosophers in that the main apparent difference between the two was their attitude towards their students – namely – Western ones exhorted their students to follow their examples. Eastern Philosophers, on the other hand, often told their students “don’t follow me”. *

I believe the point of the second was that in the end, no student truly was the teacher. Following exact methods would therefore not produce the same results. Instead, students were encouraged to own their newfound knowledge and make it their own. What do I mean by that?

I mean that at some point the student has to take off the training wheels and become an autodidact. At some point, they have to come up with their own ideas. Using someone else’s can only take you so far. Let this not be an attack against using someone else’s ideas, however. Newton himself, the father of modern calculus (along with another, less well known fellow), once said:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

If you take the metaphor of a house, I encourage you to build upon a foundation that those who came before you have laid down. In time, your work, combined with your predecessors, will be a new foundation, upon which the next generation will build.


Don’t follow me.


* I could have remembered wrongly. I remain the right to be completely full of shit at any time. You have the right to remind me.

3 thoughts on ““Don’t follow me, because I am lost too…”

  1. Genius. And the song does set the right tone for the article.

    I agree. Have I mentioned mimetic desire to you before? It is the concept of a desire for an object that is actually directed at another person. It is not the desire to do or have something, but to become one with the other person who does desire that thing. I think that this is very prevalent in Western culture.

    The Eastern way of thinking, with all its dialecticism, is becoming more appealing to me with each day.

    Today, I think that people are machines that process information. Ideas are never a person’s ideas. They are just the output of the input after the information has been processed. I see life not as people who exchange ideas. I see life as ideas that float through people and jerk them around like tidal waves. Get caught in one idea and who knows where it will take you. It is hardly in your control. And if you manage to control it, you will only keep wondering where the tidal waves may have taken you. How can you know you are on the right path if your path is rigid and does not adapt to the outer world?

    Is that not the root of conservatism? Habitualized ideas and emotional responses one is familiar with and does not want to let go of? How hard is it for a person who is used to living to embrace death?

    People will dislike my idea because it takes away responsibility for your deeds. You happen to stumble upon the ‘wrong’ idea and do something that others dislike or dislike very much. And then you are ‘responsible’. Well, you are. But are you ‘bad’? Or is it just a version of reality you have experienced? Can there be ‘good’ without the deliberate choice to identify a certain lifestyle and set of ideas as ‘good’?

    I wrote an article about Eastern and Western thinking, too. At least that is what it is partly about:

    Good one.

  2. Strikes a different chord with me today. It is difficult to become one’s own master, for no leader can ever truly convince you that it is reasonable to leave him behind. Ultimately, it is the wish to live as an independent soul that makes one go through the pain of separation into seeing the world from a frighteningly lonely perspective: One’s own eyes.

    • I think being your own Master leads to the greatest rewards, but the can be the most painful and difficult of journeys.

      Unfortunately, there’s no choice but to countenance the pain that comes with the pleasure.


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