No Different from Each Other

“Whether alike or different,
we still belong to a certain group,
and then we are really no different from each other.”
(Chuang Tzu)

Jane Goodall's quote
Jane Goodall

Carl Sagan.jpg
via More Trees Less Assholes

Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Please Call Me by My True Name” comes to mind with terrorists’ attacks in Belgium and Pakistan, the refugee children in Europe and the four-year-old girl decapitated by a random killer near a Taipei MRT.

“I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his ‘debt of blood’ to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.”
“I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda”.

Starving Children

The Science of Right & Wrong

Many years ago, it was my job to translate scientific papers into marketing communication literature disguised as health education initiatives leading a team of nurses turned marketers at Johnson & Johnson in Taiwan. Our target audience included expecting mothers, nurses, gynecologists and pediatricians in hospitals and clinics or young girls expecting menstruation, teachers and nurses in schools. The range of products included talcum powder, baby oil and shampoo or sanitary napkins and tampons.

The talcum lawsuit in the news brought back memories from a couple of decades ago and then I remember a documentary on Australian victims on hip replacement with products from a subsidiary of J&J. That was shocking since the credo was a big thing when I was working there. It was appalling that the orthopedic team  knew about the problems but “managed perception”. The following is a clip of the documentary “Walking Wounded”.

Elizabeth Holmes who founded the legendary startup of diagnostics had been a media darling for years until the recent problems erupted. Not only is it astounding to find that she has not even filed any patents or published any data on her hyped technology in scientific publications, but her lab does not even comply with government regulations.


“Right may not be right, being so may not be being so.” Chuang Tzu.

Biotech has been in the limelight in Taiwan since our new President-Elect selected a scientist trained in epidemiology-genomics at Johns Hopkins as  Vice-President to demonstrate her determination to promote the industry. Stocks of biotech companies had been rallying up and down but recently a star company’s value tumbled as their cancer drug did not meet the primary efficacy end point of progression-free survival in their clinical trial.

The value of another so called “biotech company” star (with a extremely expensive fermented soy extract product acquired from Japan) had increased in folds and the journalist founder made great profits selling his company to one of the richest and renowned businessmen in Taiwan. When he first started out decades ago I drafted the technical document with a mechanism I speculated for application patents, I left because I could not honestly go along with the clinical trials of efficacy claims for bacteremia, appetite and fatigue in chemotherapy.Many had called me a fool but even now that they are just upholding the appetite and fatigue claims I still consider the scientific evidence as flimsy. They still use the speculated mechanism in marketing without any further research to ascertain it.

One time I chased after a chemistry professor heading R&D for scientific papers supporting his cancer cure claims at another dietary supplement startup with fungal components until he felt so stressed out that he had a motorcycle accident. The founder of the company was a mechnical engineer with no bioscience knowledge, he was puzzled why no product materialized after four years and hired me for marketing, unfortunately upon review of the scientific papers the chemist finally produced there was no viable claims even from the marketing perspective let alone scientific merits.

A pesticide company spinned off a biotech start-up developing a microbial biopesticide, I was suddenly called to go on a business trip to China with a consultant evaluating field trials when the vice president with respectable experience in agricultural science was fired. The consultant was a retired field trial professional with many decades of experience at Monsanto. He considered my function as the corporate wallet to pay for wine and dine because of my marketing position but I was trained in plant pathology even though my experience had mostly been in labs and greenhouses on microbes or disease forecast. After visiting the fields and hearing how the commissioned agricultual scientists tweaked the experimental design and evaluation for the desired claims, I quit the job upon return to Taiwan.

Since then I had stayed away from any biotech ventures even after a couple of decades’ aspiration and attempts to get involve in Taiwan’s biotech development in private or public sector. When I hear the merge between Syngenta and ChemChina, the China field trial memories surfaced along with Monsanto ingenious breakthrough in marketing and science with seeds of evil from genetic engineering and patenting a couple of decades ago. Who has dominion over nature?

“Do not use man’s mind to harm Tao, or man’s way to help the Universe.”Chuang Tzu.

If even US has problems with its biotech giants and startups, how can we expect to develop the biotech industry properly with limited capital, talents and resources on the small island of Taiwan without the innovative strengths of Israel but most important of all integrity (in teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu)?


Why Meditate?

“Mind Leveled, Why Meditate?
Actions upright, why keep precepts?”
(Huineng, Sixth Patriarch of Zen)

See character and pictogram of mind and heart. In Chinese, mind and heart are the same character. The second character of “leveled”, “equal” or “balanced” is actually made up of the character of “war”. The pictogram is a weapon, When the pointed ends of the weapon are inverted, it becomes a flat table where people can sit and communicate as equals with balanced minds. It is then the pictogram of leveled, equal or balanced.

Mind Levled
The character of “walk” can mean “conduct”, “actions” or “behavior”. The pictogram has a foot or leg on the right and left depicting walk.

Action Upright

The character or pictogram of “straight” is made up of an eye and a cross of a vertical and horizontal stroke to represent the eye assesses if the lines are straight or not, The curve below represent lines.

When one walks a straight path, his conduct, actions or behavior would be upright.

In Chuang Tzu‘s terms, a balanced mind is one of “Dual Path” that is “not engaged in being right but dwell in the common“. “Sit and Forget” so there is “No Self,No Merit, No Name” and “No Self-Interest“. “Fast the Mind” so it is “Clear as Morning” or “Void“. Being in the common or on dual path is to “harmonize right and wrong” in “One“. When you are “Void” and “One“, you can have “Peace amidst Chaos“.

“Integrity” in Taoist philosophy literally is depicted by its pictogram which  has the radical of “Walk” (the drawing of the left foot) and “Straight” depicted by its pictogram (except with the drawing of the eye turned ninty degrees so it’s on its side in the modern character ) above the “Heart”pictogram or drawing of a heart.

Walk Integrity.png

If you can void your mind of right and wrong so it is one with all and walk straight from the heart, you have a free easy mind. Why meditate or keep precepts?


Paradox Babbles

Forget about Debates

Even if I debate with you, if you won over me and I did not win; are you really right and I am really wrong? If I won and you did not, am I really right and you are really wrong? Or either one of us is right, or one of us is wrong? Are we both right or both wrong? You and I cannot understand each other; everyone can be disillusioned with the dark.

Who can we ask to make sure it is right? If we ask someone who agrees with you, he already agrees with you, how can he make the right judgment? If we ask someone who agrees with me, he already agrees with me, how can he make the right judgment? If we ask someone who has different opinions from both of us, he is different from both of us already, how can he make the right judgment. If we ask someone who has similar opinion to both of us, if he is similar to both of us already, how can he make the right judgment? If nobody can understand each other, who are we waiting for?

(from Chapter 2 “All Things Equal”, The Book of Chuang Tzu)

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