Wednesday, 28 February 2018

WW: Thunderheads

(Thunderstorms – and their accompanying cloud formations – were rare here when I was a kid. Over the last few decades they've become much more common; yet another effect of changing climate patterns. But I've never seen a conga line of anvils like this one. Here or anywhere.)

Thursday, 22 February 2018


"This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.”
-the Buddha

(Photo courtesy of Max Pixel and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

WW: Dirt road satori

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Food For Thought On The Occasion Of My 56th Birthday

Moon on Earth horizon.png From the Shasekishū:

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before pictures of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

(Photo of full moon above Earth atmosphere courtesy of International Space Station Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao; NASA; and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

WW: Ghost shrimp

(Neotrypaea californiensis.)

Thursday, 8 February 2018

You Damn Well Can Do Something About It

This week I encountered a piece of apparent fluff from The Stranger, Seattle's edgier (or maybe just more sophomoric) alternative newspaper. And as often happens in The Stranger, it turned out to be hard-hitting insightful fluff.

A Playlist for the Brokenhearted is a Valentine's Day laundry list of good hurtin' songs for the damaged, courtesy of Sean Nelson. (By the way, Sean, if you see this: pretty much the entire Magnetic Fields catalogue. Not just Smoke and Mirrors. I Don't Want to Get Over You. I Don't Believe You. You Must Be Out Of Your Mind. I Don't Believe in the Sun. Seriously. Throw a dart.)

Seems like a throwaway premise, until you start the half-page preamble, which turns out to be an extended Zen contemplation on a "little morsel of non-insight" that crushed people are often thrown:

"The past is past. Nothing you can do about it now."

Regular readers know that facile responses to suffering are one of my detonators. And the writer goes on to vivisect this one with literary power, even citing at one point an early work by Alan Watts. (Is Nelson a Zenner? He writes like one. Not a Baby Boomer Western Zen "When Things Fall Apart" mandarin, but a gritty younger guru-sceptic "Hardcore Zen" type, from our invisible-but-still-next generation.)

The text amounts to a didactic consideration of the philosophical ramifications of love – something the Buddha suggested we'd be better off just not doing. But we're gonna do it, since it's our nature. It's also about forgiveness – of others, of ourselves, of love itself. To which end he offers his mixtape, as a means to revisit and reanalyse the reader's specific train wreck.

So I'll just let you savour it yourself. There's much to appreciate, even if the playlist itself turns out to be beyond your tastes or knowledge. (Again, you'll find the Stranger article here.)

In the meantime, I'd like to drop a bomb of my own:

You damn well can do something about it.

As William Faulkner famously said, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

Yeah, the events – and often the people – that hurt you have fled into the past, where you can't reach them.

But the suffering is right here and right now. Where you can totally kick its butt.

The fact that Zen is all about here and now leads some to imagine it means ignoring the wrongs and wounds of the past; to insist they're not alive, not important, not still banging around out there causing suffering in all directions.

If that were so, Zen would be a pointless New Age pipe dream.

So let me be perfectly clear: You damn well can do something about the pain, regardless of what caused it or when. You can make it bearable, which is the same as declawing it. You can even turn it into insight, forgiveness, fulfilment, contentment. And in a very concrete sense, you can go back into the past, to the place where the past lives, and pull it out by the roots.

Many paths will take you there, but I advocate zazen as a good start and the foundation of a lifetime practice.

I also advocate Zen and Buddhist insight into the origin and nature of emotional pain.

Most of all, I advocate awakening to the fundamental nature of reality and our own existence.

It works.

Peace and progress to all brother and sister seekers.

(Art from Sean's article in The Stranger.)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

WW: Sea dog

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Street Level Zen: Delusion

Cup of tea (High Speed Photography)-MJ

"First you get mad, then you go crazy, and when you combine the two, you've gone mad."

Eddie Joe Cotton

(Photograph courtesy of Najwa Marafie and Wikimedia Commons.)