Tuesday, May 24, 2016

dogs at the doctor's office

Last week, I had a nothing-special appointment with a cardiologist. His office was one of many in a honey-combed floor of offices in a staid stone building. The waiting area was painted in a stolid tan with a number of sometimes-interesting oil-paintings on the wall. The year-old magazines were on various coffee tables. All in all it had the usual mausoleum-esque seriousness that most doctor's offices seem determined to impart. There was no likelihood that anyone would tell a good joke and any farts would be muzzled by tight cheeks.

After the doctor had caught up with my current status and seemed roughly satisfied, I suggested to him that it might be nice if he added a dog or two to the waiting area. Dog or cat ... something human and tactile and unblinkingly affectionate. He gave the knee-jerk responses why it wasn't a good idea -- allergies, fear of animals, etc. -- while I plumped for the positive side of the coin. It was clear the idea was going no where.

Today, I had an appointment with a dermatologist and lo-and-behold, there were two sheep-dog-sized dogs lying about obediently. The dogs belonged to the doctor. They were not obtrusive, but they really made me feel good ... there was something reassuringly human and alive about them.

A small concatenation.

religious deflation

Juices seem to be stagnant this morning, though I did noodle a little on a Buddhist bulletin board:
If I had to pick a single impetus for the dwindling social toe-hold of religion, I think I would pick the Internet. It is harder to weave wondrous tales where information -- right, wrong or indifferent -- is so readily available.
But I agree with the sentiment that suggests spiritual life will find another channel, another expression, in future. Just because popes and imams and rabbis and gurus lose their claim to some high seat does not mean that individuals have lost interest in a realm that is without doubt or free or joyous or enlightened or whatever word anyone might choose. The unsatisfactoriness/dukkha of Buddhism is true whether or not anyone calls it "Buddhism."
Is the diminishing-religion situation any more true or credible or devoid of fault than what preceded it? I seriously doubt it. Most of the truths anyone finds in life require a lot of wading through the lies. So I think new names will be found, but the wading will be pretty much the same.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Israel performs a right-er face

Reuters, a news agency whose straightforwardness and clarity I generally appreciate, has offered up a story depicting the political discontent in Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turns even further to the right.

The story struck me as simultaneously muddied and important. It may be that my brain is simply not operating well. On the other hand, it may be that the reporter was drunk or tired or unedited.

Anyway, the spookiness of Benjamin Netanyahu is worth keeping an eye on. He's the kind of fellow, like Dick Cheney or one of those other American neocons, who could be very generous with other people's lives.

sharks ... what's for lunch?

so nice to make nice

In defense of mediocrity, critics beware: Pretty soon everyone will speak and write in the dulcet, understanding tones that offend no one and ... teach nothing.

I can't pretend to understand the legal chess moves involved, but I can smell the advance of personnel departments everywhere ... let's all play nice ... and do things my way.

Here's an article about getting a choke-hold on criticism by claiming copyright infringement. As I say, I don't get all the ramifications, but I can smell the rise of yet more mediocrity.
Writing a bad review online has always run a small risk of opening yourself up to a defamation claim. But few would expect to be told that they had to delete their review or face a lawsuit over another part of the law: copyright infringement. Yet that’s what happened to Annabelle Narey after she posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet.
If you put forth an idea or project, isn't it to be expected that someone will disagree or point out its flaws? Isn't that part of the price of being an adult? Is it necessary to resort to the oleaginous insertion of legal leverage? Is there something wrong about having an opinion ... "s/he's a lousy worker" or "it's a poor product."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

the resurrection of Eido Shimano

If you wait long enough, the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler will be remembered for creating the autobahn, for conceiving the Volkswagen and for restoring the stature of a Germany battered by World War I. The mercilessness of World War II that Hitler stoked will become a footnote -- an oh-well -- if you wait long enough.

And so it probably is with all events. Harboring critical thoughts takes energy. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu's treatment of the Palestinians is -- oh well -- an acceptable approach, however Hitler-esque it may be. He may not have an autobahn in mind, but he certainly has proven his willingness to build housing projects without much consultation.

And now too, Eido Shimano's questionable and self-centered activities can be relegated to an oh-well status too as time passes.

Shimano was an expositor of his version of Zen Buddhism in America. He was part of the effort that created a Zen temple in New York City and a monastery in upstate New York. He was brought down and expelled after his shoddy treatment of various women students came to light. His financial shenanigans were never fully investigated. His expulsion meant that, since he had no lineage on which he could base a connection to the Zen establishment, he became an old man on a mostly-deserted island.

But now, with the passage of time, his resurrection is at hand. In connection with the anniversary celebrations planned at the Dai Bosatsu monastery Shimano helped to build, the current abbot, Roko Sherry Chayat has invited (May 7, 2016) Shimano to be part of the occasion, albeit a shadowed participant.
I would like to invite you and your Sangha to a special private commemoration on July 4, 2016, from 1 to 5 p.m. in honor of the Fortieth Anniversary of International Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji.
As I mentioned when we met at Shobo-ji, due to the unwillingness of many special guests and speakers to come if you were present, we moved our public commemoration on July 3. That way, we can acknowledge you for your great accomplishments on the actual anniversary date.
I am sorry that there is continuing ill will toward you in the hearts of so many people; this arrangement seems to be the best solution.
I send my warmest wishes, and hope that you and your students will be able to come on the afternoon of July 4.
Shimano responded on May 20:
Dear Roko,
Thank you for your letter invitation dated May 7, 2016.
Right now, both Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo Ji and New York Zendo Shobo-Ji are like barren deserts waiting for drops of rain. I will attend the July 4th afternoon event at DBZ with the request that there will be drops of rain consisting of two periods of Zazen. No festivities or entertainment is necessary. Just pure sitting to commemorate the 40th Anniversay of International Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji.... [Letter dictated to Martin Hara by Eido Shimano.]
All of this is collected to in the Shimano Archives, long a repository of Shimano machinations.

Reprising the years and years of Shimano depredations is beyond my energy. I do wonder, however, if Shimano and his loyal adherents will show up for the festivities in a spanky new Volkswagen.

sap and syrup

Come March here in New England, the days grow warmer and the maple tree sap begins to flow. Cool nights and warm days are best for the collection of maple sap that drips from taps in the trees. Nowadays, long plastic tubes are sometimes used to harvest the sap, but when I was a kid, two lumbering dray horses pulled a large sledge through the remaining snow. On top of the sledge was a vat (what was it? -- 100, 200 gallon?) into which the kids would dump the harvest from the tapped trees in the surrounding woods. The vat was then dumped at the sugar shack, the boiling-fires would be set and fed, and the steam would begin to rise through the still-bare branches ... boiling, boiling, boiling the sap down like some Kentucky still. And in the end, there was maple syrup -- a thick and viscous and astronomically sweet stuff distilled from the watery sap. The flavor of that syrup seemed to reach back and back into the earth that had given birth to the sap. This was the result: A single drop of syrup spoke of gallons and gallons of sap. A single drop of syrup told the whole story and there was no longer a need to repeat every detail of the story.

Isn't this the tale of any devotion -- great and particular effort expended and then, with the passage of time, a shorthand of understanding arising? One phrase is enough to paint an entire tableau ... and everyone's tableau is different. But no one has the energy to reprise all the energy spent: The phrase or drop of syrup will do. Others may consider it far too facile or just plain wrong, but that's OK -- sweet is sweet.

I think of spiritual adventure. Drip, drip, drip. And of the various drops of syrup that I employ and others may deride. They're just reminders of the warming soil for me and some sound like this:

-- No baby ever came forth from the luxuries of its mother's womb imbued with a spiritual persuasion. Spiritual life is an acquired taste and this means that individual responsibility is a sine qua non. No amount of wriggling or petition or argumentation can erase this fact. Read 'em and weep.

-- Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help. Yes, kindness is a more salutary direction whether in terms of self or in terms of others, but cruelty is apparent at every human turn and so must be granted a place at the dinner table.

-- Explanations are like cock-teasers -- all promise and no delivery.

-- Belief and hope are useful tools in the initial stages of spiritual adventure, but over the long haul they are destined by their nature to lose force as experience kicks in. Belief and hope are limited and yet what is sought is not. From this it may rightly be inferred that the deeper the belief and the more touching the hope, the greater the doubt. And yet what is sought is beyond doubt.

-- Nothing is for free, but when has freedom ever concerned someone else?

-- Is there room for laughter. I think there is.
These are not clubs I would use to beat others into submission. They are just bits of syrup in my life. A formatted spiritual adventure, of whatever sort, has only one purpose -- to provide an adherent with the ammunition to shoot down that persuasion and recognize that "this is bullshit" and "I can do it better." And that observation is 100% on target ... you can do it better because you are the sole proprietor of whatever spiritual persuasion you choose. You can do it better -- that's the point of a formatted spiritual persuasion.

You can do it better.

So do it. 

That's the whole point. 

Drip, drip, drip.

Just noodling.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

marinated human flesh

China's foreign ministry has denied reports that Chinese food companies are canning human flesh and selling it in Africa as corned beef.
The country's state-run Xinhua news agency said one tabloid newspaper in Zambia was falsely quoting an unnamed woman living in China.
She said Chinese firms were collecting dead human bodies, marinating them and packing them in tins.
Chinese spokesman Hong Lei said the reports were "irresponsible".
As long as it's marinated, who could complain?

On a more serious note, it's interesting that no one is testing to see whether the claim is true and the flesh is/isn't human.

en passant

How the hell anyone would know beats me, but it sounds likely: "Parallel lines meet in infinity."

Similarly, various disciplines strike me as likely to mix and mingle, assuming anyone really digs in. Sort of like one whiff-waft of campfire smoke mingling against the night sky with another. Smoke heaped upon smoke.

Zero, for example, is the poetry. But add a one and it becomes prose. Yet both are mathematical constructs, exact as a scalpel and not at all the wafting, winking, infusing components of a passing brook or shading tree.

Not that it's important or worth chiseling in stone. It just crosses my mind like indistinct chatter on a warm summer beach. All this and a couple of bucks will get you a bus ride.

Friday, May 20, 2016

starkers Shakespeare en plein NYC air

On top of a hill in New York’s Central Park about a dozen women flit about naked, as two more play a pagan folk tune on the violin and acoustic guitar. The sunlight is slowly disappearing, and murmurs of the oncoming cold are quieted as on the makeshift stage, a storm erupts.
This is an all-woman, fully nude, abridged adaptation of William Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, performed in part to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. Produced by the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (they go by Topless Book Club for short), this is the first of two consecutive performances.