Welcome to the first entry in my Frequently Asked Questions series! It will likely also be the last, since at the time of writing, the frequency of this obvious question (much less any other) being asked is precisely zero*, due doubtless to the fact that I don’t write anything interesting enough to draw an audience to this vanity blog of mine.

*(My wife came close to asking recently, but stopped short of framing a serious question and instead just made fun of me. “That going up on Zen Juggernaut?” Yeah, thanks. Juggernaut would pretty much be the antithesis of this uninfluential corner of the blogosphere.)

Zen Cybernaught?
Just what the heck is that ludicrous blog title about?

Zen Cybernaught is my Internet Alias, which I have made my blog title since I seem to have no use for online pseudonyms and end up registering accounts everywhere with my real name because I am, well, boring like that, as well as naïvely trusting about posting my actual identity everywhere around the Internet. (I would say this is an expression of my patriotism by making it that much easier for the NSA to correlate disparate data on me, except that I think it’s more patriotic to support limits on government surveillance, regardless of how noble the original justification. Plus, in general, I am an advocate for accountability through transparency, so it would be hypocritical to hide behind an assumed name, something I’m sure all of the other literal-minded, unimaginative Keith Gillettes wish I would do, since I have taken our eponymous username just about everywhere on the Internet worth having an account.)

Regardless, when I started this lame blog, I felt inspired to think up a nom de ‘net, and the admittedly clunky and overwrought Zen Cybernaught was it! Here’s why.

First, some relevant definitions:
  1. Japanese for ‘meditation’.
  2. A school of Buddhism emphasizing direct experience over dogma.
  3. An aesthetic based on, among other core principles, simplicity, elegance, and energized calm.

  1. From the Greek kybernetes, ‘steersman’, from which comes cybernetics, the systems science of communication and control
  2. A prefix signifying anything computer-related, especially Internet-enabled.

  1. Nothing.
  2. Homonym for naut, Greek for ‘sailor’.
Now, some self-revelatory, self-important explanation:

I selected the moniker because I fancy myself a systems-building systems thinker4 (as well as understand myself to be a [slowly recovering] obsessive control freak4), and this weblog is my Internet platform5 for communicating4 some of my reflections and insights2 as I attempt to steer7 a course through life, mindful1 of its vanishingly small insignificance6 in the grand cosmic order, while still striving to harmoniously compose it.3
I have been drawn to both Zen and systems science since I read Robert Pirsig’s book Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and took my first systems course as a undergraduate at UW-Madison. Though I am not a Buddhist by virtue of adhering to any of its accreted mythology, I accept the Four Noble Truths. I especially appreciate Zen’s recognition of the limitations of language and thought, a principle that in strongly distinguishing between the relative truth of our current best intellectual understanding of reality and the transcendent underlying reality itself, allows for the emergence of better future explanations, driving out dogma and enables dynamic systems of thought like science to flourish. I have also found personal value in practicing the mindfulness technique zazen, even if somewhat sporadically and shallowly. Moreover, the Zen aesthetic appeals to my minimalist proclivities. Were that our lives as artfully composed as a Zen painting.

However, now that I’ve spent so much time expounding upon my Internet alias, I’m dissatisfied with it. What’s a better nom de ‘net?

Ah, dukkha…