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zen is the art of being at one with the two'ness

What's the being at one?
What's the two'ness?
Why two'ness not twoness?

I just don't know the meaning of this sentence.

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Is iy me only, or should it be "Zen is the art of 'being at one with the two' ness – Thursagen Jun 20 '11 at 3:26
@Ham: Iys just you. – Callithumpian Jun 20 '11 at 3:42
A large amount of "Zen is" statements are designed to make no sense. – T.E.D. Jun 20 '11 at 19:08
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are a lot of these "Zen is the art of..." phrases, and their quality and applicability varies widely. Some are profound, and actually express truths about Zen; some are jokey and mock-profound (like this one); some are marketing catchphrases or outright parody.

The whole Zen/art meme comes from a book, Zen in the Art of Archery, published in 1948, which was among the first popular introductions of Zen to Europe and the West. As famous and popular as that book was, it was overshadowed (in the US, anyway) by the 1974 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which is famously neither about Zen nor art nor motorcycle maintenance, but which I highly recommend nonetheless!) Between those two books, the connection between "Zen" and "the art of (x)" has been pretty firmly established in the collective unconscious.

"To be at one with something" means to be completely comfortable with (something) / to understand (something) so profoundly that you feel that there are no barriers between you and it. The usual usage is "at one with the Universe" / "at one with the world". (This phrase is the basis of the Dalai Lama joke that's been in the news lately.)

There's no such word as two'ness; if there were such a word it probably shouldn't have an apostrophe in the middle (so it should have been twoness.) Adding "-ness" to the end of another word is a common way of inventing a new word; like "twoness", if the meaning wasn't clear from the context, there's no point in looking in a dictionary because it won't be there.

I don't know what the context was where you saw this phrase, but I'm guessing that the writer had just been talking about duality, or the number 2, or... Tossing in a phrase like "Zen is the art of being at one with the twoness" was most likely the author trying to be funny while also emphasizing the importance of 2 (in whatever context he was talking about in the first place.)

Authors, take note: if you're trying to explain a concept, don't invent words and put them in silly mock-profound philosophical phrases and drop the whole thing into your book/article/whatever. It might make a few people laugh, but it's more likely to make a lot of people confused.


This phrase may also have been influenced by a Woody Allen line: "Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness."

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Although not widely accepted as a "real" dictionary, Wiktionary defines twoness as: The state of being two; duality. – rintaun Jun 20 '11 at 3:14
Looks to be the signature of the moderator "feline" here. – Callithumpian Jun 20 '11 at 3:47
@rintaun - I'll have to add Wiktionary to the list of places I check for neologisms. – MT_Head Jun 20 '11 at 6:03
@Callithumpian - Good catch! Sometimes the signatures that people choose for themselves on fora just make me shake my head. I wonder whether "feline" even remembers what it meant, or why it seemed so profound when s/he chose it... – MT_Head Jun 20 '11 at 6:06
@MT_Head, wordnik has it too - wordnik.com/words/twoness – Unreason Jun 20 '11 at 10:37

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