Thursday, 24 May 2018

Good Story: To See the Invisible Man

"And then they found me guilty."

I've been meaning to post on this found teisho since I launched Rusty Ring, away back in the Kamakura Period. Somehow I always found a reason not to; afraid to cock it up, I imagine. But conditions have conspired to kick me into gear.

It seems we've entered the Age of Vengeance, wherein no limitation on the godlike All-Seeing I will be endured. Both Right and Left are stomping about, meting out "justice" from a position of self-declared moral superiority, yet in style remarkably similar to a pogrom. (And also to each other. Here's a koan: if you must become your enemy to defeat him, can you?)

As for insight; empathy; forgiveness; compassion; the instinctive restraint that governs men and women of good faith…

Get a rope.

In such times, a hermit monk could do worse than invite his brothers and sisters To See the Invisible Man.

Robert Silverberg's seminal contemplation on the nature of true decency first appeared in the inaugural (April 1963) issue of sci-fi pulp Worlds of Tomorrow. I became aware of it in 1985, when it was faithfully adapted for the first revival of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone.

For those 20-odd minutes I was riveted to the television; though still in my early 20s, I'd lived enough to recognise the unflinching truth Silverberg was burning into my screen. It's nothing less than a Jataka Tale on the gulf that separates bourgeois morality from the real thing.

In this case, we have a man sent up the river for the crime of "being an arsehole". (No wonder Silverberg's utopian society has done away with prisons; with laws like that, there'd have to be one on every block.)

Will their ingenious, diabolic alternative sentence turn this egocentric bastard into a productive citizen? You'll have to see it to find out.

At this writing, two uploads of the Twilight Zone segment are available on YouTube:

The entire series is also available on DVD.

With track records like these, and any good luck, you'll be able to find at least one of them. The writing, performances, and direction are all excellent. Allowance allowed the changing norms of television production, it's aged very well.

If on the other had you prefer to read the original, then by truly miraculous wrinkle of the Enlightenment Super-Path:

For the rest, I'll leave you with my war cry:

"That which does not kill me, makes me kinder."

It's a simple insight that I realised soon after I become a monk.

It also explains why my own society frequently hates me.

(Mad-scientist chortle.)

(Photo from a screen-cap of the Twilight Zone episode.)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

WW: Before the plague

(I took this photo on the beach in front of my house in 2009. Pretty much every subtidal rock on the North Coast looked like this then; it's a scene deeply rooted in my childhood.

Pisaster ochraceus, the purple sea star (variation notwithstanding), is among the species most vulnerable to sea star wasting disease. Over the last five years that horrific plague, which literally causes infected individuals to melt into a tapioca-like substance and flush away with the tide, has wiped out virtually all intertidal starfish in the northeast Pacific.

The epidemic is associated with an invasive virus, which is itself believed to be symptomatic of rising ocean temperatures and related conditions.

Regional outbreaks of SSWD were recorded in 1972 and 1978. Continued monitoring of the latter suggests that permanent extinction, at least on this coast, is not off the table.)

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Used-To-Do Zen

I often meet people who "used to do" Zen.

Many were deeply engaged, once; some were students of famous teachers. It's an inherent weakness of institutionalised practice. Where Zen is a social act it becomes a lifestyle, and like all lifestyles it demands a weighty sacrifice of time, money, and freedom. Your whole existence becomes Zen Centre. And Zen Centre always wants more: more time, more money, more obedience.

That wears people down, uses them up. And when they reach the end, they don't just drop the kowtowing and the koo-koo-ka-choo. They drop Zen.

Hence the risk of the ordained path. It can displace real Zen, at the cost of old suffering unhealed and new suffering inflicted.

It doesn't always end that way, of course; many find a healthful home in the zendo.

But wherever my hermit path leads, it guarantees one thing: I will never used-to-do Zen.

There's nothing for me to stop doing.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Bodhidharma painting courtesy of Sojiji Temple and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

WW: Righteous cluster of oyster mushrooms

(Pleurotus ostreatus.)

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Koan: Shame

Beatus Escorial - 18 Adam and Eve

Who told you that you were naked?

Genesis 3:11

(Plate from the Escorial Beatus courtesy of Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

WW: We have spring. Repeat...

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Attitude Adjustment

Check and mate

How do you know you're a decent person? Because you're afraid you're not.

People who aren't decent never fear they're indecent.

If they were capable of that... they'd be decent.

(Artwork courtesy of Erik Pevernagie and Wikimedia Commons.)
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