Thursday, 28 January 2016

359º Kyôsaku

Plastic Protractor Polarized 05375

"A point of view is merely one degree out of the three hundred and sixty degrees of a circle; each point of view can see from that point only, and so is three hundred and fifty nine degrees blind."
Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi
(From Before Thinking.)

(Photo courtesy of Nevit Dilmen and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

WW: Whale's jaw bone

(This is just one corner of it, actually. Came in on a winter storm. The fat end, beneath my foot, is about four inches thick. Very heavy; at least 30 pounds. Fortunately no-one else was on the beach to wonder what the hell I was doing, laying down on the sand to provide scale.)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Middle Way

I recently encountered this graphic on Facebook. Sums up the situation nicely, though I might have called the right wing of Integrity "puritanism", or maybe just "being that guy". Note that the Buddha made this principle central (no pun intended) to his teaching 2500 years ago.

These days I seem to encounter the moral right more often than the moral left. (I'm not talking about the political right and left; the moral right includes organic-insisters, McDonald's-shunners, rape-shouters, and Christmas re-labellers, as much as virginity-freaks, Second Amendment Witnesses, and guru-worshipers.)

It's hard for some to grasp that decency means living with complexity. The ethically lazy skirt such heavy lifting by sidling down one of two side aisles: refusing to recognise the need for regulation -- the hippy-dippy, whatever-dude leftist response -- or shooting down challengers to one's glorious Easy Answer with a silver bullet -- the dogfaced, procrustean prejudice of the right.

Both represent ego run amok. The Buddha's programme to bring it back under control boils down to "doing my best". Doing nothing is doing nothing, and therefore not doing your best. And doing just one thing over and over is not doing most of the full spectrum of things you're capable of. And therefore not doing your best.

Moral extremists tend to reproach centrists (which includes all authentic Buddhists) as shiftless and weak-willed, but in fact, that's them. They adopt one simplistic principle and refuse to do any dead reckoning thereafter. As the Buddha pointed out, they veer immediately off-course, and will never sail straight again until they abandon the delusion of self and get back to the relentless, inescapable work of triangulation.

'Cause there ain't no here nor there in the real world. You calibrate your moral sextant every minute of every day, or you run onto the rocks. (Then there's the karma you incur convincing others to follow you onto the rocks, but that's another post.)

Anyway, the person who created the graphic gets it. If you don't cleave to the channel, you founder.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

WW: Old phone

(From my mother's attic. It could still come in handy some day.)

Thursday, 14 January 2016


(Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn and Wikimedia Commons. Feel free to threaten anyone you want with this meme.)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

WW: Sea antler

(A friend's kids found this beautiful elk antler on the beach a few weeks ago. As the barnacle scars attest, it spent at least a year on the seabed before being dredged back up in a winter storm. Most interesting is the fact that this magnificent rack was clearly still attached to the animal when it went in; the root is present. Had it been a simple spring shed, that wouldn't be there.

So somehow, the intact carcass of a ten-point bull ended up in the ocean. I'm guessing he came down on one of the rivers, where he probably drowned trying to cross at high water.

Sic transit.)

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Way of All Things

This toney giant suburb was recently thrown (and is still being thrown) up here on our remote North Coast beach. The houses in the picture, sited directly on the ocean, are of course the most expensive.

A few weeks ago we got lots of rain. "Lots of rain" is sort of the definition of this coast. And so, therefore, is "massive landslide". (See illustration.)

I've been on this beach for almost 50 years. In that time it has changed dramatically, and I'm not talking about the housing estate. An extensive dune system, entirely absent when I was 7, now lines the shore. Entire ecosystems that I grew up with are gone, replaced with brand new ones: new plants, new animals, new worlds.

Look at the cliff face in the photo, above those dunes that weren't there. See all that brush growing on either side of the flume, and the stuff the slide scraped off, piled at its foot? None of that vegetation was there either; the entire headland, for miles north and south, was slick, barren, shiny red clay.

None of these changes were human-caused. It's just what happens here. We live on the precipice of a planetary-scale body of seawater that is literally never still. Dirt doesn't stay put in this place. Doesn't matter how much dirt there is.

Nor how rich you are. Fact is, even if you encased the entire cliff in reinforced concrete (seen it), you'd only buy yourself a few decades; the North Pacific eats solid basalt like candy, so concrete is basically its popcorn.

I struggle not to feel satisfaction over the above scene; I know that these people are essentially innocent of ill intent. (Maybe a little good old-fashioned self-centredness, but who among us…) And I'm mostly annoyed that their town-in-a-box is destroying a lifestyle I've always known, loved, and somehow considered a right. Obviously, the thousand-odd people it contains love the new lifestyle better. And as much as I rebel against the notion, at ground level, both opinions are equally (in)valid.

'Course, ground level changes. Down here, it changes a lot. And despite human arrogance – inflated exponentially by wealth – it will continue to do.

Members of my generation were raised on a succession of annihilation threats. Nuclear war. Pollution. Climate change. But since I was a small boy I've loved to look out to sea and know that it will always be there. Long after the last living one of us has belted out the last political speech demonstrating conclusively that there is no threat, the sea, in whatever shape, filled with whatever creatures, will pound this shore.

Wherever it is; ten-thousand years ago the beach was eleven miles west of here. Since then, multiple towering tsunamis have instantly smashed out brand-new worlds stretching miles inland; the last time just 300 years ago. Chances are better than zero that in another century or so my grandfather's house – built on the bluff that tsunami created – will have slid under the surf.

But the ocean will endure. Nothing short of a nova is going to change that.

And it's not even a little bit arrogant.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

WW: The 70s called

(Christmas present to my mom, ca. 1974.)
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