out there zen painting

What game shall we play today?

How about What Do We Really Know?

What game shall we play today? Let’s imagine the following scenario: You are a discussion leader in a group of representatives of different philosophical orientations. Let us agree that religions, even natural sciences, are nothing other than philosophies. Because they all have one thing in common: they try to answer the basic, eternal questions of human beings, namely: Where do I come from? What is the meaning of my existence? What will happen to me when I close my eyes forever?

Now you start the discussion with the question: Which school of thought in relation to our existence is the absolute highest?

Representatives of religious communities might say: We don’t need to talk about that any further, the highest principle is God (Christian God, Allah, Jahwe….), because he created everything and determines our existence.

Well, that can’t be the highest principle from an objective point of view. If a certain deity took some to heaven and banished others to hell, that would be questionable dualistic thinking on the one hand, and arbitrary and very unfair on the other – at least to those who live in the jungle and have therefore never heard of any “God”. So this can never be the supreme thought.

The physicists in our imaginary group would say that natural sciences are the supreme principle because they are the only ones based on facts that are testable and therefore verifiable.

water and sands zen painting
recent artwork

Quantum Physics and Zen

Recently I read yet another interview with Prof. Anton Zeilinger, an Austrian quantum physicist who won the Nobel Prize last year. When I first heard him years ago, I was immediately impressed. Not because I know anything about quantum physics, but because I love being confronted with new “worlds”. Physically as well as mentally. What I particularly liked in this interview is his statement: “Sciences are good at measuring something, but cannot say anything about our being“.

I have written elsewhere that quantum physics is increasingly confirming Zen Buddhist thought like Zen being concerned with things as they are, without trying to interpret them. Zen points to something before thinking, before all your ideas. Another of the core statements in Zen is that nothing really exists and is only a product of our thoughts [1]. Admittedly, this is difficult to understand when we live in a world shaped by science. (It would be wrong to assume that Zen is anti-scientific or rejects religion).

Let’s try to illuminate a few aspects of these contradictions.

Let’s play a little imaginary game again: Jane buys vegetables at the grocery store for $8.50, pays with a $10 bill, and gets $1.50 back. That’s how it should be, her world is fine. She then goes past the butcher and when she pays there again with a $10 bill and is waiting for her change, the clerk says: “Sorry madam, but your $10 isn’t worth $10. Not even close.” “????” “By far not. Intrinsic value is a few cents.” “????“. “You see, it has been printed out of thin air and isn’t backed up against anything – except thin air. The paper itself is still the most expensive, then a bit of the value of the paint. The most expensive part of the money is production and distribution, then design, and printing, but they don’t add any intrinsic value. Anyway, I still can calculate $5 for 10“.

Our Jane leaves the store in disgust and informs her 5000 social media readers that in her town a $10 bill is only worth $5. We know what will or can happen next. Bank runs [2], mayhem. BTW: Many became billionaires in this way around 100 years ago.

money and stamps

Our god is money

Money is our God, and as long as everyone believes in this, everything works quite well – basically. To be on the safe side, let’s write a spell on it:

in god we trust dollar

Far-fetched? Let’s look at another example, preferably math or physics, they’re rock solid. [3]
At some point in history, to put it simply, someone suggested: “Let’s call the distance from here to there one meter“. If we divide it exactly by 100 we say 1 cm and if we multiply it a thousand times 1 km. Undoubtedly a sensible and useful proposal that has caught on in most parts of the world. For some, it is not in their interest and they stick to feet, miles, and gallons. And the world keeps turning anyway. Quite simply because there are enough others who accept this system and find their way around in it.

Anything becomes reality when enough people believe in it.

Is there a “Flying Spaghetti Monster”? The majority would probably say: NO. What nonsense! The people who come up with this should get a real job.
Let’s put the question differently: “Are there people who believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster“? Now we have to answer the question with YES. At the latest when there is a wikipedia entry, there is also the underlying idea or thing. And: According to Uncyclopedia, there are at least 18,000,000 Flying Spaghetti Monsterists in the world today.

out there zen painting
No, I did not have Flying Spaghetti Monsters in mind when I painted this 🙂 Details of recent artwork

The subject could go on for a long time, but we keep getting to the point that the world is how we see or think it is and objectivity is something we would all like to have, but it is not possible. So when I ask myself which philosophy is the highest, Zen always comes back to me – but that’s not surprising 🙂

We always find it difficult to understand the dimension of our thinking in the epoch in which we live. But if we look back, we shake our heads or are even appalled. The first person to say the world isn’t flat didn’t have it easy. In the case of Copernicus, the question of the question of “objective knowledge” becomes even more interesting: With his postulate, he questioned another power of faith and, as we know, this brought a hitherto dominant system of power into trouble.

shore, details of painting
details of recent artwork

[1] Zen Buddhism is based on Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. It began in China, spread to Korea and Japan, and became very popular in the West from the mid-20th century. The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language.

Zen Buddhism shows that there is no antithesis of self and “no-self.” Paradoxically, the true nature of the self becomes known only by inquiring, doubting, and negating the self.

[2] a) The last wave of bank runs in the USA continued through the winter of 1932 and into 1933. b) The biggest bank run in history happened on March 9th, 2023 on Silicon Valley Bank

[3] If you follow scientific publications, you come across articles at ever shorter intervals that at least partially question physics as we know it today. e.g. just today the author came across this article, which also questions mathematics as a construct. bigthink.com: Is math real?

Above all, the exploration of space brings new insights every day. At the same time, however, the realization that we can understand a maximum of 5% of the universe at all.



53 responses to “What game shall we play today?”

  1. Spira avatar

    Hear, hear!
    A thought provoking post. Coupled with beautiful details from your recent artwork… what else can anyone ask in this virtual sphere of discourse?

    If I may add one of my favorite “principles” of Richard Feynman: “I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something”.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! How kind of you! And a special thank you for your quote! Right! Names are meaningless and often misleading 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Myriade avatar

    I like your paintings and also your thoughts about buddhism

  3. swabby429 avatar

    My old guru once stated that hierarchy is Samsara and distraction from reality. He advised his students to let go and follow the heart.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks a lot! You mentioned your old Guru before and he must have been a very wise man. But even with the word “heart” it may be that we all mean something different by it 🙂

      1. swabby429 avatar

        He seemed to imply that heart is the core of the mind.

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        I was sure about his understanding but I am not sure if the average Westerner can easily understand,😄

  4. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    As always, Fred, you have given us something provocative to ponder and something beautiful to behold. Thank you for sharing your evocative work with us!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      You are very kind as always! Many thanks! I wish you a most pleasant weekend! Sunshine in and out 🙂

      1. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

        Danke, Fred! Lovely comments!

  5. David Milligan-Croft avatar

    Brilliant, fascinating and thought-provoking as always. Whilst my next statement is based on subjective belief rather than object fact, it is also partly based upon witnessing the phenomenal inventions of the past 50 years which were only science fiction when I was a child. Touch screen phones and GPS are just two mind-boggling examples to a child growing up in the 1960s. (Even self-opening doors were only seen on Star Trek!) I suspect the same would be said of Victorians imagining spaceflight. Where this rambling is heading, is that ‘if it is imaginable, it is not only possible, but probable’. And why not? You only have to look at Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! 😉

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks, David! Yes, sometimes I think if someone had told our grandparents what we take for granted today, they would have thought we were crazy 🙂 Every day we experience sensational things from our galaxy alone – and we are only at the beginning. In 10 years we’ll look down on our ignorance 🙂 Fascinating and scary at the same time, right? Unfortunately, I don’t know Douglas Adams’ “Infinite Improbability Drive” and will find out more. Best regards from Vienna!

  6. Ashley avatar

    Another great thought-provoking post! It also makes me smile! 😊 Now in my early 70s I look at the world in horror, thinking this is not how it’s supposed to be! This has been bothering me for many years, especially since retiring from employment. Of course, I look back to growing up in the 1950s and 1960s and clearly recall the number of times my parents complained about the world not being how it was supposed to be! History repeating itself? Or, everything changes everything! 🙏

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks! Haha! Yes, being satisfied with the now is not that easy 🙂 Above all, the changes are happening faster and faster. Just the short period of time from the first mobile phone to today’s models with their incredible possibilities can make you think. One of the big problems I see is that technical development is proceeding at an unbelievably rapid pace, but in our thinking we are still partly in the Stone Age. Of course not all of us 🙂

  7. dancinglightofgrace avatar

    Recently a blogger commented on one of my posts with ‘spa getty’. It was about food. I got a Deja Vu while reading your tag for your ‘Spaghetti Monsters’ artwork. It happens on some distinct sites in my experience. May i ask what your name ‘Zettl’ stands for? And you’re from Vienna– I once recorded that I wanted to visit Vienna for its rich musical heritage. Thanks for visiting my site. Have a nice day.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! Ha! I hope he wasn’t a spa getty monster 🙂
      My parents and siblings were called Zettel, due to a mistake my name is Zettl: Zettel is a piece of paper.

      Yes, I live in Vienna. And yes, the music scene in Wie is very enjoyable, at least as far as classical music is concerned. I’m not very familiar with more modern ones. Jazz also seems to be fairly well represented.

      Vienna has again been voted the most livable city in the world this year. I don’t know if it really is, but I think life here is pretty good. Warm regards from Vienna and all the best!

      1. dancinglightofgrace avatar

        A pleasure talking to you. It’s synchronicity that some of your article talks about pieces of papers. And I got to learn that natives use ‘Wie’ for Vienna. 🙏

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you! Actually Wien. 🙏☀️🍸

      3. dancinglightofgrace avatar

        Reminds me of WION channel. 🙏🌿

      4. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Ha, I never heard of this channel before. Learning something new 😄☀️😁

  8. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    A fascinating reflection on human existence and reality. The detail with the reference to Flying Spaghetti Monsters draws me into its calm center of light and life. The detail with dark tones reflect the chaos of our times.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks Rosaliene! I am very pleased to hear that you can gain something from my reflections! Your feedback is very helpful for me. Best regards 🙂

  9. Edith avatar

    Du Lieber, dein Denken las ich wie immer mit großer Hingabe.
    Doch ich glaube an Gott, von Kindesbeinen an, bin christlich erzogen und zu DDR-Zeiten hat mir das sehr geholfen, da ich nie in eine Partei gedrängt wurde.
    Gerade lese ich zum 7. Mal die Bibel und immer wieder finde ich neue Bestätigungen, die mein Leben prägen, die mich glauben lassen. Ich bin mir bewusst, dass letztendlich kein einziger Mensch das Gegenteil von dem, was dies alles ausmacht, beweisen kann. Wir werden es vielleicht nach dem Tod erfahren.
    Mir hat mein Glaube schon sehr, sehr geholfen und IHN habe ich auch selbst schon erfahren.
    Aber, du weißt, ich akzeptiere andere Meinungen, auch deine. Wir haben alle unsere eigenen Quellen dazu, auf die wir uns verlassen.
    Deine Bilder sind fantastisch. Dieses nichtfliegende Spathettimonster spricht mich total an…
    Lieber, dir wünsche ich einen ganz feinen Sonntag, mit allem, was dir begegnet..
    Herzlichst, Edith

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Vielen herzlichen Dank, liebe Edith! Es freut mich sehr zu hören, dass Du meinen Reflexionen etwas abgewinnen kannst! Ich hoffe, dass ruebergekommen ist, dass ich keine Religion bzw. Glauben per se ablehne. Meine Zweifel bezogen sich auf das Wissen. Geniesse Deinen Tag, poetisch, kulinarisch oder wie auch immer – isch 🙂 Herzlichst f

  10. Edith avatar

    Ja, du Lieber, das ist mir bewusst und ich schätze auch dies sehr an dir.
    Kulinarisch gibt es heut Semmelknödel und Rouladen, Brokkolisalat dazu. KNÖDEL selbst gemacht. Meine Oma war Egerländerin, lächel…
    Danke für deine Freundl-isch-keiten, ganz lieb, ich

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Knödel! Wo gibt es sowas noch!?! Selbst in teuren Restaurants bekommt man nur noch das, was man auf deutsch-deutsch Klösse nennt. 🙂 🙂

  11. Ian Bridge avatar

    Friedrich I love this post … and the holes it pokes in our concepts and ideologies. Perhaps I love most the beautiful images that light the heart-mind and the feel of my thumb grazing the cool screen as I scroll up to read.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Ian, I really appreciate that! I think sometimes you have to get off the beaten path of thinking to get ahead. I am glad that you are interested in my humble works.

  12. Cindy Georgakas avatar

    love your thoughts and your picture.. well spoken best over a bottle of wine.. you buying Fredrick?🍾❣️🤣

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      A bottle of wine?! When, where and from which region? 🌹☀️🍷

      1. Cindy Georgakas avatar

        hahahaha.. a harder sell than I thought. i like good wine as well. I’m a California girl. Chard or a good grenache, pino or cab is always good but I’m open.

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        I am a salesman myself. Beleive me, I know all tricks. Since you seem to be prof too I don’s ask if you want to buy one of my paintings? 🙂 But your wines sound tempting. 🙂

      3. Cindy Georgakas avatar

        💕Your paintings would live on my walls delightfully if I could find a bare spot. Most are picture windows with nature looking in🙏

      4. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Modern architecture, the death of painters 🙂

  13. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    Great insights, Fred, and I love the recent artwork!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 🙏 Such kind comments keep me alive – at least as an artist 😀☀️🌹

  14. graham mcquade avatar

    Not only am I not getting any likes option, I am not getting any images. Though your other correspondents dont seem to have this issue, Friedrich.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Graham! You told me before and I checked but can’t find a reason for this. Another friend told me of a similar problem. Very strange. Sorry for this and thank you for your info 🙏☀️

  15. Dominik Alexander avatar

    That’s such a great post again. For some reason, I can’t see your images on my notebook. So, I need to use my phone. I like all your recent paintings, but the one with the aquamarine colour is my favourite. There is some poem sneeking; still trying to catch it!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, Alexander! Sorry for the image-bug! I am still thinking about a painting on one of your poems. Tried, but I think I can do better.

      1. Dominik Alexander avatar

        No hurry. I also needed my time to come up with something. And besides, being and doing in a hurry is never the best in art!

      2. Dominik Alexander avatar

        Just to inform you: I can see your illustrations again! I don’t know if you’ve done anything or not. But everything is back to normal.

      3. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you very much 🙏

  16. SIBYL C.Anne avatar

    Never the less, I do not concede DEFEAT, says JUPITER.
    And I’m not kidding.

  17. SIBYL C.Anne avatar

    I meant, I’m being Very SERIOUS
    because it’s time for Revelations.
    And your Art work is Glorious.

  18. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    Fabulous, Fred! I’m not sure about flying spaghetti monsters. Guess I would have to see one to believe it. 😉

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! It is quite fascinating in what people believe when they feel bored 🤣

  19. 6qsite avatar

    Does any lie become truth if it is repeated insistently? 🤔

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! A good question! Well, a strategist in a dark time in Germany said so and it has become part of politics as well. From time to time the idea is revisited, as we have recently witnessed.

      1. 6qsite avatar

        If post-truth is gaining ground, hard times will come!

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        All eyes are on AI as it could be a game changer – to the better or worse – also in terms of truth. Let’s see….

      3. 6qsite avatar

        You’re absolutely right, Zettl.

  20. 6qsite avatar


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