Thursday, 20 September 2018

Street Level Zen: Things As They Are


"Do you realize it's three o'clock in the morning, and my daughter... Jesus Christ, you're naked! I thought you said you were decent!"

"I am decent. I also happen to be naked."

Neil Simon, The Goodbye Girl



(Photo of Mahavira statue courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

WW: September afternoon

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Jutting Jaw

The Angry Boy Some years ago I heard a story from the Bhagavad-Gita, in which a great warrior is called to battle, only to find himself facing his mother, his father, his best friend, his kindergarten teacher… in fact, everyone he ever knew.

It's one of the most fundamental koans in scripture, drilling into the heart of striving, dependent co-arising, enlightenment practice, and just plain existence.

But today I'm not contemplating the teaching itself. What's rendered me thoughtful for the moment is the reaction I often get when I share it with others:

"So what do you suggest we do, Mr. Sensitive Zen Hippie Guy?"

Such interlocutors are offended I've brought up the fact that everything we have was taken from someone else, and therefore living itself entails constant karmic consequences. Their reflexive response is to shut down discussion of this troubling, muddling scientific principle, before it jeopardises comfortable assumptions.

I often want to respond, "Well, Mr. Jutting Jaw, I've already got my hands full just dealing with my own karma. Suppose you get off your lazy arse and find your own answers."

And I sometimes do.

Because truth be told, jaws jut everywhere. In fact, the entire conservative impulse is nothing but jut. (I'm not just talking about political conservatism, although that is nothing but hammer-headed denial repackaged as ideology. But Conservatives aren't the only conservatives. We all angrily protect our sloth and cowardice.)

The Jutting Jaw has no truck with challenges. It has no time for uncontrolled variables or human complexity, which is why it hasn't either any relationship with logic, justice, or ethics.

The Jutting Jaw doesn't wait for facts or elaboration. Its motto is, "Bitch first, and if anybody asks questions, bitch louder."

It is a convicted advocate of Lynch's Law.

The Jutting Jaw is in you, and it's in me. It flounces out whenever I hear something I don't like, stomps in every time I'm accused of insufficiency or insensitivity or an ulterior motive I don't actually have. (And sometimes one I do.)

The Jutting Jaw generally signals itself with a distinct nervous tic: it begins most sentences with "Well" or "So". "Well, if that's the way you feel about it...", "Well, then, why don't you just...", "So, I guess you'd rather...". When you hear that, lay a quick wager. 'Cos jaws gonna jut.

It's the sarcasm that tells you your opponent isn't actually talking to you, or that you're not talking to her, or both. Because the argument – such as it is – addresses a point that hasn't been made.

So you're arguing with someone who's not there.

Which'll get you arrested on any street corner.

Insofar as this chip-on-the-shoulder brittleness opposes clear-seeing – and for that matter reason, morality, and sanity – I move we each weave dejutification into our practice. Let's engage to make reasoned, nonreactionary arguments, when we make any at all. Further, let us take a precept not to put words in others' mouths.

It's unsanitary.


(Photo of Gustav Vigeland's Sinnataggen courtesy of Lisabeth Wasp and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

WW: Kitty fudo


(This is a funerary fudo I made for a cat friend of mine. [The cord is white, red, and black, the three bardos of death.] She was buried here in the woods a few months ago.)

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Extraterrestrial Snail

The large round shells of moon snails (Polinices lewisii) are one of the more memorable features of a walk on North Coast tidelands. Their sheer size – some reach softball proportions – is remarkable, in a region otherwise bereft of large gastropods. But the casual tourist may miss the fact that the animal itself was even two or three times larger than that.

In echo of their spacey name, moon snails are great sci-fi doomsday machines, implacably bulldozing the mud in quest of anything that can't run. Just under the surface, the animal expands to dinner plate size, squishing and undulating through the substrate, leaving just a quarter-sized bit of shell visible from above.

All shellfish it encounters are engulfed in that big gluey mantle, after which the snail's abrasive tongue rasps… rasps… rasps… until it's drilled a neat hole in the victim's shell. The attacker then pumps it full of digestive juices, which dissolve the flesh. Finally, it sucks the slurry back out and moves on, leaving behind a half-digested husk.

Thus, the presence of Polinices can be readily divined, not just by the vacated shells of past generations, but also the many clam and cockle shells littering the beach, each with a distinctive round hole near the hinge, as if pierced by a Native pump drill. Rubbery grey sand collars – its equally extraterrestrial egg cases – are another clue.

When I was a kid, oystermen and clam diggers threw moon snails up the bank to stop them damaging their beds. The law is not so dumb as to allow that now, but I used to eat this mega-escargot regularly before a decade or so, when that too became illegal. I'm not sure why; they're certainly not endangered, and the only people I ever knew who gathered them as food were me and a handful of elderly tribal members.

Any road, the only creatures that benefit materially from these Dr. Who villains today are the similarly B-movie giant black-eyed hermit crabs (Pagurus armata) that inhabit their empty shells.

Those guys are, if anything, even more memorable.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

WW: European chestnuts


(Castanea sativa)

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Ride

TulipStair QueensHouse Greenwich Down the banister
The wild schoolboy I was slides
To enlightenment



(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)
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