I really enjoyed Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on multiple levels. I could really relate to the narrator and I loved the way the Chautauqua handles being both a description of a cross country motorcycle trip and also stream of consciousness of the narrator. Here is a passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that introduces a third possibility to binary situations.

"Yes and no ... this or that ... one or zero. On the basis of this elementary two-term discrimination, all human knowledge is built up. The demonstration of this is computer memory which stores all its knowledge in the form of binary information. It contains ones and zeros, that's all.

Because we're unaccustomed to it, we don't usually see that there's a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don't even have a term for it, so I'll have to use the Japanese mu.

Mu means "no thing." Like "Quality" it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "No class; not one, not zero, not yes, not no." It states that the context of the question is such that a yes or no answer is in error and should not be given. "Unask the question" is what it says.

Mu becomes appropriate when the context of the question becomes too small for the truth of the answer. When the Zen monk Joshu was asked whether a dog had a Buddha nature he said "Mu," meaning that if he answered wither way he was answering incorrectly. The Buddha nature cannot be captured by a yes or no question.

That mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is evident. It's just that, as usual, we're trained not to see it by our heritage. For example, it's stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for "one" and a voltage for "zero." That's silly!

Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu state. They aren't at one, they aren't at zero, they're in an indeterminate state that has no meaning in terms of ones or zeros. Reading the voltmeter will show, in many cases, "floating ground" characteristics, in which the technician isn't reading characteristics of the computer circuits at all but characteristics of the voltmeter itself. What's happened is that the power-off condition is part of the context larger than the context in which the one-zero states are considered universal. The question of one or zero has been "unasked." And there are plenty of other computer conditions besides a power-off condition in which mu answers are found because of larger contexts than the one-zero universality.

The dualistic mind tends to think of mu occurrences in nature as a kind of contextual cheating, or irrelevance, but mu is found throughout all scientific investigation, and nature doesn't cheat, and nature's answers are never irrelevant. It's a great mistake, a kind of dishonesty, to sweep nature's mu answers under the carpet. Recognition and valuation of these answers would do a lot to bring logical theory closer to experimental practice. Every laboratory scientist knows that very often his experimental results provide mu answers to the yes-no questions the experiments were designed for. In these cases he considers the experiment poorly designed, chides himself for stupidity and at best considers the "wasted" experiment which provided the mu answer to be a kind of wheel-spinning which might help prevent mistakes in the design of future yes-no experiments.

This low evaluation which provided the mu answer isn't justified. The mu answer is an important one. It's told the scientist that the context of his questions is too small for nature's answer and that he must enlarge the context of the question. That is a very important answer! His understanding of nature is tremendously improved by it, which was the purpose of the experiment in the first place. A very strong case can be made for the statement that science grows by its mu answers more than by its yes or no answers. Yes or no confirms or denies a hypothesis. Mu says the answer is beyond the hypothesis. Mu is the "phenomenon" that inspires scientific enquiry in the first place! There's nothing mysterious or esoteric about it. It's just that our culture has warped us to make a low value judgment of it."

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