Thursday, 29 August 2013

How To Be a Monk

Little boy without training wheels with helmet and sandals













Fall.
Get up.
Fall.
Get up.


(Photo courtesy of Mohd Nor Azmil Abdul Rahman and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

WW: Late summer still life


Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Landlords

Ravens have a cagey range of Foley effects, mechanical-sounding riffs you would never suspect from a bird. One is a deep Vibraslap, like a roulette spinning in the treetops. Another is four ascending pops, like a temple block glissando. The Vibraslap means, "Yeah, well… anyway." And the glissando: "Bob's your uncle!" You live with it, and you start to grok.

Primates don't think much of birds. Even Koko the gorilla jeered her researchers by signing "Bird!" at them. But those ravens.

You can take my word for it. Humans do not run this planet.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

WW: Jewish cemetery


The Jewish community in the North Coast town where I grew up kept a low profile; though it gave us a few influential pioneers, I never met a practicing Jew until I grew up and moved away. But we knew they were there, thanks to a discreetly dignified synagogue downtown – which never seemed to be open – and this tiny section of the Odd Fellows graveyard. Giving rise to the following explanation: "One day a Jewish person came to town, built a synagogue, and died." Judging by the pebbles lining the memorials, rumours of the community's demise are greatly exaggerated.

Another mystery for us young goyim: "Who's Beth Hatfiloh?" Solved by my Lutheran friends: "She's a friend of Gloria Dei!"

Thursday, 15 August 2013

No-one's Laughing at God



Why has Regina Spektor so brilliantly and thoroughly nailed this thing? Is it because she's Jewish, legatee of millennia of probing meditation on the nature of God and his relationship with Man? Or is it because she's Russian, and accustomed to piercing sugar-coatings and staring daunting truths square in the eye? Or is it because she's American, gifted with a dancing kind of insight that expresses itself in gentle-scathing satire?

Or is it New York?

I don't know. All I know is, in Laughing With, Spektor totally nails it. This is exactly how I feel about God. It's also the definitive response to the fanatics ("crazies", she perceptively calls them) who constantly deplore the "secular" or irreligious nature of society, who insist they own God, that he speaks through them, and that everyone outside their circle lives apart from him. Practices the founders of all world religions pointedly condemned.

"… or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus."

Word.

(See what I did there?)


Laughing With
by Regina Spektor

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God
When they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one's laughing at God
When it's gotten real late
And their kid's not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God
When they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they're mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one's laughing at God
When there's a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they're about to choke
God can be funny,
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God
When they've lost all they've got
And they don't know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they'll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one's laughing at God when they're saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they're about to choke
God can be funny,
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God in hospital
No one's laughing at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
We're all laughing with God

Regina Spektor, July 2006

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

WW: Evening rainforest

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Suicide: The Cure

Bunter Teller (27 Stücke) A year ago this month the suicide of a former student prompted me to get real on polite society's fancy backside and name the actual perpetrators of suicide, right out loud. I ended with a direct request that they knock it the hell off.

You'd think that would do it, but here we are a whole year later and my demands still haven't been met. So while we're waiting, here's a tip on how not to be their victim.

As I pointed out then, suicide happens because the culture refuses to admit that life sucks. This leads people to desperate measures to escape the deep loneliness of being the only hurting person in the world. How did they reach this improbable conclusion? Because they were lied to about the pie.

Stay with me, here. All of your life, The Consensus (aka society, "the world", people, the public, The Man, The Matrix, "they", the culture…) has force-fed you a definition of happiness based on others' acceptance: equal parts companionship (for which you must beg peers) and material success (for which you must beg The Man: teachers, the public, employers, etc.) Let's be clear: you didn't come up with this definition, and (o thunderous coincidence) you can't get either of its two requirements by yourself. The approval you need to buy Consensus-brand happiness is only sold by The Consensus.

If this sounds like some kind of dystopian sci-fi hell, welcome home. I call it "the pie". Because I love lemon pie. There isn't much I wouldn't do for lemon pie. Make that: there didn't used to be much I wouldn’t do. Dig:

The universe is a giant dessert table. It's got every dessert ever invented, plus millions more not yet invented. But you've been told that the onliest dessert worth having is the lemon pie.

Yeah. That's likely.

And – what are the odds?? – lemon pie is also the only one you have to ask for. You could grab literally tonnes of others, FOB. But Consensus says the lemon pie is "the only true happiness". And you literally have to sell your soul (to The Consensus) to get it. What’s more, The Consensus gets to decide if it even wants your soul. Which it often doesn't. In which case you're screwed. For life.

Unless you take the trifle. Or the cobbler. Or the fruit plate. Or the beavertail. Or any one of a billion other happinesses The Consensus insists aren't even there. Every one shouting "Bite me!" (Get it?)

Enough about the pie. Listen. Some people never find a wife or husband. (And lots more do and wish they didn't.) Some never make a comfortable living. Many never attain social acclaim, whether by choice or default. Literally millions of us never get lemon pie… I mean, "success". And we're doing just fine, out here with the dogs. It's not that Consensus-endorsed happiness isn't good. It's just not better than the others.

I have close friends in (apparently) ideal marriages and/or careers. They have problems, challenges, compromises, regrets. Things are missing from their lives. I have others that have neither love nor status. Some wanted them dearly, once. (I sure did.) But it didn't happen, so we cultivated other happinesses. And we're as fulfilled as the pie-eaters.

In sum:

1. WE suffer because we don't have their happiness.
2. THEY suffer because they don't have ours.

––––> Balance: there is no pie.

In adolescence, the contradiction between pompous promises and bedrock hypocrisy comes into stark relief. As their souls come online, lots of young people find themselves at the wrong end of the table. They don't date well. God didn't make them mathematicians. They aren't reassured by conventional copouts. They like weird music, clothes, books, movies. They're too sensitive. Too visionary. Too intelligent. Too gay. And the suicide begins.

But here's the thing: you don't have to play. When I meditate (you knew it was coming; does this look like a fashion blog?) I clear my mind, shut up the critics– including the one I was trained to be – and walk right past the pie. No more starving navel-deep in food. When you cultivate inner silence, truth finally gets a word in edgewise. Suddenly sunsets and rivers and flowers and wildlife are blindingly awesome; a provocative book, a road trip, a cup of really fine chai; the drum of the surf, the om of a city; a song, a joke, the utter indifference of Time itself. That's the real world. And it's infinitely bigger than people.

They tell you not to settle for that. I just go ahead and settle for it. And you'd be astonished how unhappy it doesn't make me. I'm still sad sometimes; lonely, especially. I have regrets and misgivings, fear and anger, roads I wish I'd taken, roads I wish I'd never seen. In short, I'm living exactly the same life as the pie-eaters. It's just that now, it's devoted to ending suffering. (Trade secret: start with your own.)

Word up to all my world-weary brothers and sisters. No time for small minds. Eyes on the prize.

(But why am I so hungry all of a sudden?)


(Photo of Bunter Teller (27 Stücke) im Tortenkarton courtesy of Hedwig Storch and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

WW: St. John's by night

(Command-click to see it bigger)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Keisu Koan

Klangschale mit KlöppelKoan: "What's brown and sounds like the keisu?"

Solution: "Duuung!"


Wu Ya's commentary: "Don't smell like it, though."



(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of brass keisu courtesy of Simon A. Eugster and Wikimedia Commons.)
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