Thursday, 29 January 2015

Forging the Chain

Haflinger horse.

Here's a fun little experiment:

1. Load any Wikipedia article, about anything.
2. Click on the first link in the main text of the article; links in (parentheses) or italics don't count.
3. Click the first link in that article, again avoiding parenthetical or italicised links. Then click on the first link in that article. And so on.

In most cases, no matter what topic you started on, you will eventually wind up at Philosophy. (If not, you probably either clicked on something that was in italics or parentheses, or somewhere you encountered a WP article whose first link took you out of Wikipedia. But this is rare.)

To test this claim, I started with the article on Haflinger horses. (I don't remember why.) Sure enough, after many clicks, I ended up at Philosophy.

I was curious to know where else the technique might lead, so I clicked on the first link there, too. That took me to Reality, then Reality to Existence, Existence to Awareness, Awareness to Consciousness, Consciousness to Quality (hello, Robert Pirsig!), Quality to Property... and then back to Philosophy; I'd finally pi'd out.

So there it is: our Big Bang. Human awareness itself originates in the perception and judging of Property. (A Quality, let us recognise, that only exists in our minds.)

Fellow Zenners, at the risk of being a Paine, I'll say it right out loud: our chains are forged.

(Photo courtesy of Jon Shave and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

WW: Pond in winter

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Outback Kyôsaku

Fan K'uan 002

"Take your inspiration from those who, long ago, went to live in the far-off mountains and practice ascetic discipline in distant woods."

Eihei Dōgen, Shōbōgenzō

(Photo of 11th century painting of the Zhongnan Mountains by 范寬 (Fan Kuan) courtesy of National Palace Museum, The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei DVD-ROM, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

WW: Coyote crosses the yard

(Poor guy appears to have the mange, which is probably why he showed himself so close to the house in broad day.)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Shock and Awe

Tumbled gemstone pebbles arp One of my Franciscan brothers in Québec, a friar named Henri, presented seminars on Christian practice to groups of Catholic seniors – of which he was one. He spoke on many topics, but his most popular lesson began with him silently passing out polished rocks purchased at the dollar store. He then read the opening verses of John 8 – the oft-quoted and roundly ignored Gospel passage wherein Jesus intervenes in the case of a convicted adulteress, subject under law to death by stoning. "He that is without sin among you," he says, "let him first cast a stone at her." From there Henri brought the teaching forward, pointing out at last that we all possess the Christ-like power of not-throwing.

Henri was a quiet-spoken man, with a gift for landing a point, and he quickly became famous across the province as « le gars qui fait le truc avec les cailloux » ("the guy who does that thing with the rocks"). His main point was that we all carry a rock through this life, and whereas throwing it is a mean and menial act, not-throwing it amounts to a kind of superpower; in a world where we have virtually no agency, we can always do this, to devastating effect. And no-one can stop us.

At the end of the seminar Henri sent everyone's stone home with them, as a reminder of their potential for violence, and their power to contradict it. (On a touching note, some attendees, aware that the Church in Québec is in financial distress, tried to give theirs back, so he could use it in another talk. Henri assured them the Church could still afford rocks, and they'd do greater service to keep it and remember why.)

Proof of Henri's impact came when he encountered former participants, often years later. Many told him they still had their rock, on their dresser, night stand, bathroom or kitchen counter, or dashboard. More than one reached into a purse or pocket and produced the very one; they'd carried it with them everywhere since that day.

I thought then, and I think still, that weaponising not-throwing is a remarkably Zen concept. And so I share it with you today. Indeed, I say we go Henri one better: let us each not-carry a proper Zen stoneless stone through this delusional world, and not-fling it with blockbusting shock and awe at the drop of a hat.

(Photo courtesy of Adrian Pingstone and Wikimedia Commons.)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

WW: January evening

Thursday, 8 January 2015

No Hay Camino

Las Medulas 16 by-dpc
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino nada mas;
caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

― Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla

(English translation)

(Foto de camino castellano por cortesía de David Perez y Wikimedia Commons.)
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