KoanOfTheDay.com, #Zen Kōanunism, and Why You Should Start a Religion

Kōan of the Day (stylized “kōan of the day”) is a project I started about a year ago when I had the idea to reserve the domain name and a friend said it would be a good idea. Since then it has grown remarkably; however, not in views.

In terms of an audience, the reach of kotd is quite small: a few thousand views a day, and a few hundred subscribers.

But it has helped me enormously.

I learned how to keep people’s attention with text in videos to make some of my video kōans. The next week I used those techniques to make #FitchTheHomeless.

I taught myself how to make Twitter bots in order to code an oracle, based on a character in the kōans, and that has since grown to more than a dozen bots with several thousand total followers.

I taught myself PHP and JavaScript to write interactive kōans and text-based games, and now I know the basics of web programming. I made enough small games that a friend asked when I was going to make a “real game” and I made the Tortoise Trails, and Sixty Shells, and now I have three other games in development. (@GunfightGame, the 2004 AIM Conversation Simulator, and Lettuce Walk, the third in the Tortoise Trilogy).

I spun off the writing style to an ethics handbook that I self-published through Reddit and Kickstarter, and I used what I had learned from typography design on the kōan booklets to design the book.

Each of the skills I acquired for the benefit of the kōans I was later able to use for other projects, and without the motivating force of the kōans (and its related religion, #zen kōanunism), I would not have been able to accomplish them. Without koanoftheday.com, I would have either stayed in my comfort zone or not made anything at all.

And this is why I encourage everyone to form a religion. By religion, I mean the sort of philosophy of meaning, by which Hume’s is/ought gap is crossed. If the Münchhausen Trilemma is to be accepted, and I think that it must, then this question is unanswerable except by assertion, and through the assertion of meaning, action can be wrested from knowledge.

(Within the #zen philosophy, the gap is crossed by defining understanding as application, though it conveniently doesn’t ask why anyone should strive for understanding, except to appeal to their own self-interest, or their apparent self-interest.)

And yet by asserting meaning and assuming self-interest, I generate it: the skills developed through the “understanding” of the third law of #zen are applied to other projects and produce the kinds of benefits promised (in jest).

Therefore, this religion — and perhaps any religion — serves as a sort of “leap to faith” that achieves its promises through means of a placebo effect.

Why create a religion? Because I believe that an inevitable consequence of religion is the submission of an individual’s will to another, and I believe that an individual’s artistic impulses should not be sublimated to another’s will. (However, there are those who argue that the very nature of freedom is such a constraint.) Then why would I ask someone to believe in #zen? Well, I don’t: the first law of #zen is “all #zen is a lie.”