mingling molecules and attitudes sinews and desires platitudes and functions nervous circuits and circadian rhythms pure crap and masterful conceptionsMichael Gregory: This is your mind as green slime mold — Vox Populi
…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
when what needs to be
one needs to
I find writing excruciatingly difficult but it feels so good when I stop. And just having someone take the time to read something I’ve written thoughtfully is huge for me.
The idea of making enough money to live on from my writing is like comparing me, stumbling along with my bundle buggy to the grocery store, to an astronaut in a rocket shooting for the moon.
HOWEVER, I don’t think there is an astronaut who doesn’t see the same moon as I see when I am happy to sit by my window and stare at it.
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.
If we really think about education and what it’s going to look like in this pandemic it helps to think about what education always is. It is instilling a sense of wonder and that happens by creating a space where this can happen, but it’s not entirely physical because learning happens within the sense of self. This “space” is not limited, it can take all sorts of shapes and forms.
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.
All beings without number I vow to liberate
Endless obsessions I vow to release
Dharma gates without measure I vow to penetrate
Limitless awakenings I vow to unfold!
I have this so ingrained that I find it really difficult to chant anything else. It is very grandiose isn’t it? But I think that is the point of Vows. I think we might be embarrassed to make Great Vows but for fear of what? Of seeming egotistical? Of failing? What?
And this is one of those times when we are exerting ourselves for all beings aren’t we? It is a big deal. Nevertheless even when we do something that is just an everyday sort of thing, like when we pick up after ourselves it is a big deal too, because we are liberating ourselves from the conceit that anyone else should have to clean up after us, and from the idea of our own permanence by remembering we might not have a better time to do so. To open our awareness of what is arising within the space that somehow we have the shear luck to occupy and that we are not alone even when we are alone.
The next vows all follow fairly seamlessly if we get the first right, or even if we don’t, even if we fail when trying hard enough to say “I vow” and then blush to be so bold.
People are dying and even small efforts are of benefit, not the least because we care.
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 am in that weird place in life when I have lots of time to just observe things. I see when the wheel on the wagon is wobbling but it’s not my wagon.
Not any of it is my wagon.
I just try to appreciate every moment and applaud every success. “Yay!”
Crazy people, cruelty and all the other painful things humans can perpetuate on each other, hatred, confusion, obscuring the way forward; It is a crazy time. Maybe it is always a crazy time.
I find zazen, sitting staring at a blank wall excruciating, but preferable to action often because I don’t know what I can do in the face of so much suffering. I know I am probably getting my practice completely wrong. I imagine Bodhisattva cringing. I remember teachers telling me not to talk about my practice outside the Dokusan room…
The other day the bus was so full the driver told us to try to get on at the back door. It looked impossible and I was the last in line. All these backs towards me, every shade of skin a human can possess represented before me, me, covered in liver spots and freckles. For the doors to close, fat, thin, male, female, shy, brazen, tall, short, young, old, we had to smoosh together.
“Well, we are all good friends now!” Laughter and smiles, people looking over their shoulders at me in the crush, somehow making room for me where there was none.
That was enough.
It is never a personal Titanic on which we arrange the deck chairs.