Sunday, January 23, 2011

bit by bit

Give or take, it's minus-six degrees Fahrenheit this morning. The snow drifts seem to take on an additional, more-forbidding cold. The protection offered by house and furnace feel both kindly and fruitless. Some old Zen teacher observed, "When it is hot, sweat. When it is cold, shiver." Despite the electric radiator I turned on last evening, the zendo will probably be cold today. I will wrap up and shiver anyway.

Yesterday, on the peace picket line, there was a crowd of Tea Party types who took advantage of the years-long tradition the peace picket had set on its particular corner and joined in. I'm not sure exactly what the Tea Party feels it stands for, but it is popular in hard times. The movement seems to be filled with righteousness and poorly supplied with thoughtfulness: What they don't like is apparent; but what they would propose in its stead -- what platform would they not simply state, but also live out the implications and particulars? -- is hard to see. They are loud and have flags and as I left the scene after an hour-plus, they were singing "God Bless America" ... even the woman smoking the cigar -- the one who had been walking around with the United Nations flag with a superimposed red circle with a red line through it (a roadside prohibition) -- was singing. Dissolve the United Nations! Repeal health care! Support the American-sponsored wars! Don't tread on (never mind the other guy) ME!

During the 1960's, the Vietnam war protests were filled with sometimes raucous but frequently intelligent dissent. Nowadays, there is dissent, but it seems to lack much intelligence. It feels to me like an assent of Mediocrity and Cowardice. It takes courage to think things through. It takes determination not to be swept up in the aimless egotism of what was once arrogantly anointed as "the rabble," the masses in which there might be a soaring sense of agreement and yet the fallout from that agreement was not open to discussion or investigation.

Last night on TV, there was a documentary about the rise of Hitler's Third Reich. A woman who had been among those singled out for sterilization wrote that she had decided not to be sterilized. She was sterilized anyway. Bit by bit, the Jews were singled out. Bit by bit, the concentration camps arose. Bit by bit, books were burned. Bit by bit, the doubts that people (the old-guard German military, for example) expressed about Adolf Hitler were suppressed. Bit by bit, people became afraid that their neighbors might report them ... for not greeting others with the "Heil Hitler!" salute, for example. Bit by bit the Propaganda Ministry put out the news until no one knew what the news was because news outlets had been shut down.

It's so easy to say "no" to some situation or proposal that someone else has made. But it is hard to find a "yes" and then implement it with determination and flexibility.

It will be cold in the zendo this morning, but I figure the shivering is worth it.


  1. I know thankyou or sorry is not enough.

    I hope you have a blanket in the zendo.

  2. Unrelated but thought I'd post here in case you are interested