/ The Great Matter /

I am currently working on a writing project with the working title "The Great Matter," which is a Zen expression referring to life and death, the ultimate concern of anyone who begins to probe beneath the surface of things in one way or another. I am comparing and commenting on the ways the following writers ask us to probe it: Sin-leqi-unninni, the compiler of the Akkadian Gilgamesh epic; the apostle Paul; and the 13th-century Japanese Zen teacher Dogen. 

The second of these three persons is very well known to many people, but the other two are probably much more obscure, although they deserve much more attention than they usually get. Besides analyzing their writings and interpreting what meanings they have for me, I will try to put them into the contexts of what was going on in their societies at the times they were writing, especially their philosophical dimensions, since my academic background has been in philosophy.

Along the way, I expect to be trying to clarify some important philosophical issues, such as: what is science, and why should we accept what it tells us? What kinds of things are religions, which claim to tell us the truth about life and death, and should we accept what they say when they disagree with science? And what does picking over these sorts of questions have to do with how we should live?

The list of chapters I have in mind at this point is:  

1. Introduction

2. Starting With Prehistory

3. The Search for Immortality in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Epic of Gilgamesh

4. The Greek Beginnings of Scientific Research

5. Life and Death as Paul Saw Them

6. Life and Death in Feudal Japan

7. Dogen’s Zen View: “Lifedeath"

8. Conclusion

Here is a second draft of the Introduction.

And a second draft of Chapter 2.

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qedd© Jon Johanning 2011