There is a lens to our awareness of others that we constantly have to adjust for context and proximity. For example, the personality of a comedian is one that often explodes the personal to mythic proportions for laughs, and as the audience grows, the message changes because the audience and impact also changes and the comic must take responsibility or create derision. But, as ego also inflates with the kind of surreal success of celebrity (often) it tends to shut off empathy. The very thing that gave them insight when they started, becomes their blind spot. And those they love, loved and lost, suffer in that darkness too. It is a trajectory we see often in those we once considered “great”.
Its hard enough raising a child who is born wanted by two parents, surrounded by family and friends who are in harmony, have the resources, will, maturity, and the time, living in a society at peace, with a history of social justice, tolerance and inclusion. *Its hard enough* If that scenario ever exists.
Now strip all that away. Add pain, fear, loneliness, lack of resources, housing insecurity, income insecurity, no history to recall on to find hope, no one to call at all. Knowing your baby, the one you had no choice but to bare and birth, was just excuse for that society to further grind you down to being nothing. You and your baby. Just in case there was a slim chance of you reaching towards a fair share of what is good.
And now think of the crying. A mind, body and if there is a soul, that too, being stretched to the limits of existence while a tiny developing brain wraps itself around continuous want and neglect, sucking on the dry teat of hypocrisy, of an ideology that used your abstract beginnings for its politics. If this brain develops enough to speak it can only say:
“I was not and then I was, but only as part of your agenda. AND NOW THAT I AM I am NOT WANTED. not really, you BUY ME nothing more than A GUN.”
There are worse things than terminating a pregnancy. Everyone knows it. We come closer to caring for each other when we give access to safe abortions to those who need them.
…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