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We replaced all editors of dictionaries. We were going to change the past by manipulating the lens through which we view it.

The ancient texts, the classic texts, and the historical texts, already had settled into some measure of permanence, so our plan was to change the interpretation of those words by changing the meanings of the words in those texts.

It had to be done subtly though. People always noticed when changes were large and abrupt.

Slowly we would change some connotations, positive to negative, or the other way around. We added a few alternate but similar meanings and de-emphasized others. Eventually the older meanings could be completely demoted, while our new definitions would be elevated to official status.

Our first goal was to debunk opposition texts. Alter the meanings enough and what they said became increasingly illogical and nonsensical. Eventually our readers would start ignoring those texts completely, thinking them obsolete thoughts from a backwards era.

With our opposition neutralized, we could further consolidate our power. Other classic texts would then be bent to more firmly solidify our control. Eventually it started to seem as if all of history's great literature was pointing in our direction. The telescope to the past was successfully modified. We became the filter, not only removing trains of thought we didn't like, but also inserting new thoughts that previously never existed in the old texts.

Our Minister of Definitions became one of the most powerful offices in the land, one hotly contested whenever the administrations changed, and one in which different factions continuously battled for in their politicial programs. It was, after all, going to control how we would interpret our reality.

In the beginning was the word, and it seemed that in the end, it was coming down to the word once more.

We were now burning books without having to set anything on fire. We were burning them after they reached your mind.

It is conceivable that someone perusing this node on this site might not know the historical context of gate’s excellent and thought-provoking writeup above. So allow me to be Mistress of the Obvious for a moment and give context.

The title of this writeup is a point of Buddhist doctrine, framed as if it were a quote from Shakyamuni Buddha. It is a very old image and basically part of Buddhist scripture in the same way that Jesus’s parables are scripture of Christianity.

The “finger” in question is the teachings of the Buddha (the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Three Marks of Existence, impermanence, groundlessness, conditioned arising, Indra’s Net etc.) and the “moon” in question is the experience of enlightenment.

Anyone (who is not vision-impaired) can see the moon, without a finger pointing to it, which is why Buddhism might be considered a primitive precursor of liberation theology (though perhaps “theology” is a bad word choice, since Buddhism is a nontheistic religion), much as First Nations society was labeled by Engels as primitive Communism. But for some people, a pointing finger does help.

A similar metaphor used in Buddhist scripture is that Samsara, the world of illusion in which we all dwell, is like a rushing river between us and Nirvana, and the teachings of the Buddha are like a raft to carry us to the other side. When you get to the other side, you are supposed to be able to leave the teachings behind, because no one carries a raft around with them on their journeys on dry land.

Brevity Quest 2019 entry, 263 words

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