This page is presented as an interview to be published in a newspaper. It introduces some of the paradoxes and contradictions that will occur throughout the Principia.
The fictional newspaper is published in a place called “Yorba Linda”. This is a hilarious name, but it’s also a real place in Southern California (not too far from Greg and Kerry’s stomping grounds). It was the birth place of Richard Nixon, and is the site of the Richard Nixon museum and presidential library. At the time that the Principia was written, Yorba Linda was growing very quickly. It grew 30-fold between 1960 and 1980. Must have been quite a hot spot.
The final part of the interview contains a Discordian style zen koan:
GP: Is there an essential meaning behind POEE?
M2: There is a Zen Story about a student who asked a Master to explain the meaning of Buddhism. The Master’s reply was “Three pounds of flax.”
GP: Is that the answer to my question?
M2: No, of course not. That is just illustrative. The answer to your question is FIVE TONS OF FLAX!
This is a good example of the Discordian sense of humor. It amplifies traditional wisdom into absurdity. The “wisdom” often sounds like a punchline. A good Discordian koan is like a joke – it takes you down a path, and then the ending surprises you.
As we’ll see later, the Principia owes a lot to the Rinzai school of Buddhism. Rinzai monks attempt to wake up their students through surprise. Their form of enlightenment is not acquired gradually during years and years of disciplined study. It’s something internal that clicks suddenly; a realization, an epiphany.
From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
One of two major Zen Buddhist sects in Japan; [Rinzai] stresses the abrupt awakening of transcendental wisdom, or enlightenment. Among the methods it practices are shouts (katsu) or blows delivered by the master on the disciple, question-and-answer sessions (mondo), and meditation on paradoxical statements (koan), all intended to accelerate a breakthrough of the normal boundaries of consciousness and to awaken insight that transcends logical distinctions.
Here’s a description of Katsu from a book called Zen Speaks:
It follows that Discordians, who venerate someone traditionally seen as a Goddess of Strife, prefer a form of enlightenment based on interruption and surprise. Discordian wisdom is not about becoming the authority on a body of ancient texts, it’s about interrupting your own assumptions and mental processes. It’s about leading somebody down a path and then suddenly hijacking them.
It is in that moment of confusion that we are no longer distracted by the twin illusions of order and disorder.