…art that honors the art and artist as well as its content, and apprehends it as more than its socio-political reality. Art is hard to do and not everybody can do it. It is not merely a pretext for theory.Doug Anderson: Negative Capability — Vox Populi
And is that going to be what decides how we respond to the challenges we face? I worry that we are getting tired and want comfort above all.
I’m tired. But I am also clear eyed. Some where recently I read, when we are uncertain of the future, take smaller steps. The truth is we are always uncertain of the future. If someone tells you they know what it holds be clear enough to see their self-delusion before you make it your own.
I take smaller steps because I am older, my knees are bad and I am not as fast as I was in catching myself from a fall, but I am clear eyed and I am accustomed to what is uncomfortable. I also have a history of what seemed impossible becoming possible.
I have an idea of what the world can be because I have known love, I have witnessed courage. So my small steps remain on a path towards a world we can live in because it’s possible.
The straight tree grew towards the light and was cut down.
Don’t blame the sun,
blame the axe.
I owe a lot to many black people. In the last century, the one I grew up in, some of the greatest writers, activists and leaders, political, artistic and religious, came up against the odds and made us better as a species. Made me a better person.
It hurts to learn how black people have suffered and continue to suffer in ways I can barely comprehend.
Sure I had my troubles, I had to learn to swim hard but it wasn’t always against the current day after day. And I was so ignorant that at times I thought myself better, stronger and braver than I really was. I really was not aware how my white skin was the current carrying me.
So it hurts and some of that hurt is shame.
And that’s okay. Being ashamed of privilege is point of attention. As humans we should always be thankful for these reminders to pay attention.
It’s how we learn to live in a world worth living in.
Awareness is always an opportunity. When you see this you can see that it is continually arising As Your Life.
And all fabrications will wear out.
There is no separation between self and other that is not a fabrication. All separation is a lie, a covering, an obscuring of the essential truth.
So what are we humans to do?
Don’t hide in a comfy nest of made up stories of us and them. Answer all suffering with compassion and continue to practice. Do what ever you can when you see an opportunity to end suffering.
I sat “virtually” with the sangha last night. It’s becoming a regular Wednesday night thing with the Oak tree in the Garden.
A “sangha” is a gathering of Zen practitioners.
I am finding myself slipping in to some very dark places, and not the actual ones that I should, like the one under the stairs that could use some cleaning and reorganizing. Instead I am slipping into a place where I get lost in thoughts that propagate really paralyzing inertia and despair.
It is good to commit to practicing with others. I doesn’t matter the context. The important thing is to just sit practicing Zazen. Which is the context of ‘NO CONTEXT’, (forget about getting your intellect around that!)
I’ve done a lot of sitting lately, lounging actually.
But sitting Zazen we gradually gain (or regain, again and again) the ability to see thoughts arise and dissipate. We learn how to return to this breath and this moment.
And you can also clean out the space under the stairs this way, although, dust bunnies, spiders…that homemade mask is going to come in handy.
Here is one last poem for the month, rewritten.
the jeweled dew glistens
in the morning light.
So, we made it through the month, I have followed advice on Facebook and marched around my two room apartment like a F—ing Champion. I have kept some sour dough starter alive for two weeks, I have no idea what to do with it but it is alive and I have already made arrangements for it should I die…
There’s talk that enough is enough. Freedom and blah blah blah, lets get back to “normal”. Normal like baloney and American cheese!
Right so, Should I die? YOU TELL ME.
I am past my “best before date” and except for making a bunch of masks (by the way I have run out of t-shirts to re-purpose for ties) I am pretty useless… I am not THAT OLD, but I have had cancer twice, I have asthma after having bronchitis last winter and now use a puffer and I have a blood disorder that they haven’t figured out yet, so I am a pretty good candidate for not surviving if I get this Covid19.
Maybe you don’t like clowns?
Smack Between the Eyes Where do we put the poems as hard as stones and as fragile as robin's eggs? Do we nestle them in skulls laid in tidy rows or do we push them with bulldozers into mass graves?
And all the poems written, shitting like dust mites under the furniture, gnawing like rats in the middle ages, dealing like brokers on Bay Street, growing like multiple embryos in Reality Television wombs --what do we do with them? While waiting in a bus shack I had my nose twisted by this Haiku: asleep on the ground motherless, a baby fawn, no, I mean a poem.
This one I retrieved and rewrote, finally understanding the answer.
This is not new except in its present form. I am afraid if you compare writing poems to making bread I’d say mine is never actually past the “I’ve got the ingredients!” stage.
There is a difference between “JUST GET OVER IT!” and letting it go. It’s weird but one is a problem and the other is a strategy.
“Get over it!” is a very industrial revolution era type suggestion. This was a time when changes were brutal and corporal punishment was the way of the world. Any one who cared about you would caution you against any action you might take with the fire of injustice your belly. After all life was cheap, your life actually. Your only hope was to some how move on, get over it. This is a very toxic thing to have to do but probably not much worse than the air you had to breathe, the water you had to drink and the hunger and cold you had to endure.
“Get over it” was something I did hear often enough and young enough that I thought it had some validity. The trouble was there were too many indications that real justice could exist and maybe life wasn’t about just enduring shit. I was born in the 50’s, by the time I was an adult I didn’t believe it and society didn’t either (although there are indications it has made some major losses in this area recently).
But so is hypocrisy and we have learned enough about that in the last century or so that the one thing that made forgiveness possible, namely faith is really hard to maintain, if not just plain crazy. When faith was strong and instead of streaming t.v. shows the only stories you had for entertainment were ones where faith conquered over the bad guys EVERY WEEK, I think people might have actually managed to believe in forgiveness. (Lets not hasten a return to the Dark Ages okay?)
I myself have never been good at forgiveness. Forgiveness arises when I am lost in the delusion that I am some sort of ENLIGHTENED SAINT floating in my PERSONAL NIRVANA. It can happen. I might believe I am actually forgiving someone until I wake up from my spiritual revelry and I find am still pissed off. That’s not to say that someone else can’t manage forgiveness*.
As for “crazy” some Christians might tell me it is my faith in science that is crazy. I’d say fair dignum. I have actually had experience with how limited my understanding of science is and how weird my ideas are so I leave lots of room for possibility, and geez, won’t I look dumb on judgement day!**
But for most people Christianity just isn’t the Kool-aid that makes forgiveness possible any more, myself included.
So Finally “Letting It Go”
The advantage of Letting it Go is two fold. It doesn’t negate the injury you have suffered AND it doesn’t lead to you thinking you have a right to do something equally heinous to the person or persons who made you suffer.
Letting it go requires practice. All of the people who seemed to have the skill for moving past personal injury to address injustice had to work at it. So whatever it is you need to do to let go of the pain, you need to do it over and over. And OVER.
Every time the congealing of space around a thought or feeling arises come back to the breath, wiggle your toes and do your zen practice. You will eventually see this dense emotional state get thinner and more transparent and less of an affliction. It doesn’t mean you will lose your motivation to address injustice, but you won’t be suffering and communicating from a point of anger. Whether you call that “True Nature” or whatever it’s a lot like how it always is before a human gets messed up.
And you will have information that you can use to address social change and the strength to make real choices in your response to all the stupid stuff people do and say.
**you had to be there
I wrote the following in response to a friends utter despair over the lack of concern for the plight of Syrian refugees before this Covid19 shook the world.
Now, more than anything, I am glad to see that we are voluntarily self-isolating, and socially distancing–lessening the impact of this virus. And more than this, we are doing it with humour and love for one another.
It is a good sign. I hope too that it registers in the hearts and minds of us all that we are capable of more than we think. That not being self centered and selfish can actually change life for the better, even giving rise to real economic activity. The sort of economic activity generated by working to protect the well-being of all beings instead of just inflating imaginary numbers for the benefit of despots. Anyway, my friend just reminded me of this conversation recently and I post it here.
M: Here. These are some of our fellow humans. Their displacement has been enabled by our collective unwillingness to confront Assad’s Atrocity, Russia and Iran’s regional aspirations, the USA’s famed proclivity towards abandoning its allies, and Turkey’s Machiavellian maneuverings. It has been enabled by Fortress Europe. And it has been enabled by our utter global lack of outrage, which has given tacit permission for the Atrocity to continue, for nearly ten years, in the face of incontrovertible proof of war crimes by a variety of parties.
M:This is Orwell’s moment: surveillance, disappearances, detentions, torture, cluster bombs, the use of prohibited weapons (including gas), against civilian populations, the targeting of hospitals and first responders and medical personnel and doctors, perpetual war, all tools of Big Brother. Power for its own sake, twisting and shifting, old enemies becoming friends, old friends betrayed. Newspeak scribbling over the most well-documented betrayal of a people in history.
And we have responded with, “Do it to Julia. Not me.” The rats are coming for you all.
Rio: I think I read or heard that Hitler was emboldened by Europe’s lack of response to the genocide of Armenians, so much so that he said, no one will care if we get rid of the Jews…it is normal again to turn a blind eye. Have no doubt that there are Evil minds watching and waiting to put that into play for their hateful advantage in your own countries people. But going further, it was also considered that the grinding debt forced on Germans by their enemies for the ridiculous hubris of blue bloods, namely the first world war, created the the dish of slop in which Fascism grew…So, in my opinion, the only way forward and off this wheel of pain is to focus on stability, moderation and a preparedness to sacrifice for the benefit of our neighbours, even if they might be inclined to hate us or take advantage, to care for the weak and have that care entrenched in law. Here and now in Canada.
I am guardedly hopeful.
Every cloud has a silver lining!