How to build a Zen temple

My daughter just went to Japan, where she was invited to a Zen temple among other things. I asked her immediately if she had seen “the error”. She was puzzled as I said it, and I had to explain myself. You see, every single Zen temple contains one “error”. Either a column is raised upside down, a window is skewed, or some other part of the temple is erroneously erected somehow. This fact has a lot of philosophical reasoning behind it. However, I like to think that the error gives us room for improvement. Something that is perfect can never be improved upon. But if there is an error, a random mutation so to speak, then we can improve upon it.

Humans are the same. Unless they are willing to admit that there is something wrong with them, they can never improve themselves. Hence, a perfect being, will stagnate, and never be able to develop. Articles are the same too. Frameworks and software libraries are the same, etc, etc, etc. No matter how perfect we create something, there will always remain one “error”. Only when we are willing to acknowledge this, we can improve upon our ideas and code, and such evolve ourselves as human beings.

In my upcoming MSDN article, that is scheduled for being published 1st of June 2019, there is also an “error”. Can you spot it? Are you a better developer than me? Can you improve upon it, such that it becomes better? At least two developers have so far improved upon the library or “starter kit” that I describe in the article. One colleague of mine, in addition to James behind the .Net Core podcast.

Can you spot the error in my code/article …?

Good luck 😉


The point of balance in a Circle

In Zen, the most important shape is the circle. It illustrates the most important idea of Zen, which is that the point of balance in everything, is outside of itself, in the void at the centre of itself, where nothing exists. Arguably not a part of the circle itself, still the point of balance that sustains and upholds the circle. In entrepreneurship these same ideas can be utilised to your benefit, by realising that the most important parts to build and sustain a successful company, is not in your company, but in the void at the centre your company evolves around. The parts that are outside of your company, but still at the core of your products and services.

One obvious interpretation of this, is how pleasing your customers is paramount, and the realisation of that the company (circle) can only exist, as long as the customer (at the centre of your circle) believes in the circle (company), and is willing to have faith in its ability to deliver that which it has promised to deliver. Arguably, any entity can only exist, as long as it is given permission to exist, by that which exists at the core of its own beliefs, and it is able to justify its existence to the parts outside of itself. If it can’t, it’ll be perceived as a parasite, and the forces outside of it, will destroy it to protect itself. Obviously, the idea was that Zen Buddhism, although arguably empty at its core, needed to justify its existence, by having that outside of itself, be willing to uphold it, and sustain its existence. Which we can see in how the community around a successful Zen temple is willing to give food and other resources to a Zen temple, because the villagers themselves perceive the existence of the temple as having value for themselves. When this “contract” is broken, the temple will slowly perish and cease to exist.

Hence, do not ask yourself how to create a successful company – That is impossible. Ask yourselves rather “how can I please those around me, whom I depend upon to sustain my existence” – At which point a successful company will become the natural byproduct, and arguably the inevitable consequence …

How Zen helped me solve Ajax

If you have read my previous article, you have probably realised how Zen is the “art of nothing”, and how this “nothingness” creates a stabile foundation you can build upon. When I created p5.ajax, which is the Ajax library in Phosphorus Five, I built it around the wisdoms of Zen.

In fact, in p5.ajax, there only exists one Ajax widget. Just like there only exist one type of element in HTML. You can parametrise this single widget though, the same way you parametrise your HTML element, by giving it a name, some attributes, and associating Ajax DOM event handlers to it. This approach however, makes it possible for you, to incrementally build more and more complex widgets, through composition – Which allows you to create anything you wish. In System42, for instance, there exists the following widgets, entirely created using the above approach, on top of one single root widget.

  • Ajax TreeView
  • Ajax DataGrid
  • Ajax TabControl
  • Modal Ajax Windows
  • Etc, etc, etc …

All of the above mentioned widgets, are entirely created using a single base widget, through composition, by incrementally creating more and more rich Ajax widgets. Zen helped me solve the Ajax problem, permanently, allowing for a single empty widget, to replace every single Ajax Control ever created on this planet. And the results, compared to other Ajax widgets, yielded up to 220 times better performance on parameters such as bandwidth usage, load time, etc.

And the bonus is that you only have to learn a single API, which is the API of this single widget, and still be able to use, consume, and create any complexity you wish in regards to your Ajax needs.

Zen and the art of nothing

Zen is sometimes referred to as the religion without religious ideas. Some would argue it’s more like psychotherapy, and is simply a bunch of mental exercises. I am a student of Zen, voluntarily on my own, and I practice meditation every day.

Another eastern religion which I have immense respect for is referred to as Taoisme, which is based upon many of the same ideas. Both holds at the center of their gravity, the “nothingness” or “the void”. They are both based upon the idea that in order to create balance, void must exist at the center. This is why Zen and Taoism is filled with ideas such as “empty your mind”, and “become nothing”.

These ideas allows you to travel light, having no minds, no worries, and no temptations. In a way, arguably, Steve Jobs was a practitioner of Zen. According to legend, Bill Gates once visited Steve back in the 80s. At which point he marvelled at this huge house Steve was living in. When he entered the house, he found almost no furniture in it. The ideas of Zen, in Apple’s products, is clearly visible for anyone who have used them, and knows anything about Zen.

The circle in the above picture, symbolises the goal of Zen, which is to “become nothing”. Be the void, that is the center of the gravity, for everything around it. Zen is simply amazing!

Phosphorus Five is built around the ideas of Zen.