Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes Anger is Necessary... NOT!

Again, someone used that phrase, "sometimes anger is necessary." And again it hit me hard... like something is wrong but I can't figure out what. Just like the people who pay the minimum on their credit cards. Who cares that the interest is stupendous. They are living now, not tomorrow. I've never had a late bill... but others... Someday, someone will explain what is wrong with that.

In the meantime, I figured out the error in logic with the statement "sometimes anger is necessary." Well, the error is in the logic that anger is justified because good things may come from it.

Tonight I thought about jumping out of a tree to scare someone walking on a dark path. What I didn't know (this is all pretend) that the person (a woman) was partially paralyzed for many years and doctors could not help her. So, with only evil intent, I jumped out of the tree, and she saw me coming and ran out of the way. Her paralysis was no more. Now... was my scaring her a good thing? Of course not. Did it have a good result? Yes.

We don't need anger. Sometimes good comes from it... but generally it just breeds war. My friend sent me an article, Major cyber attack on Iran cripples its industries. His friend sent it to him, with the comment, "great news, for a change." I wrote back that it is never good news when we hurt one another. Maybe the least of all possible evils, but no, not good news. That's sadistic (and there I go with judging my fellow man).

Supposedly the martial art warriors know that anger will not help them. Do they know something that we don't? Enough said?

So I ask again, what might be the compassionate response to this very special buddha?

This guy has been going into people's driveways at night and checking their inspection sticker and license tag to see if they are up to date. When they are not, he scrawls on their windshield, "I don't care if you are broke don't drive if u are! Don't be a bitch get it
fixed. I can't believe u can drive illegal!! If ur going to own it get it
inspected or I'll get it towed."

He's being called a "creep, weirdo, and idiot."

I asked our neighbor e-list if there might be a compassionate response that we might make.

When we lash out it feels that we are perpetuating anger.

Which reminds me of the story of Job, who lost everything but still had faith. This man may have lost his faith as well.

Then there is the Buddhist description of the odds of being born human. "The likelihood of a half-blind turtle, rising from the depths of the ocean to the surface once in a hundred years, putting its head through the hole in the yoke is considered greater than that of a being in saṃsāra achieving rebirth as a human." That's how special is each person. It would take more than a creep, weirdo, and idiot to achieve such an accomplishment. We should bow to them.

So are we talking about sin here? Is this man a sinner, trying to right the sins of those who don't follow the law?

So I ask again, what might be the compassionate response to this very special buddha?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Remember That

I did a one day sit with Robert Kennedy Roshi, a Jesuit Priest/Buddhist Roshi/psychoanalyst/former professor. I'd been told that he was good... and I trusted the source, so I went with a friend to San Antonio to see for myself.

The hours of the "sesshin" were not as advertised, so when we got there we discovered that everyone was sitting. We waited for the short 25 minute to be over so we could join the group in kinhin (walking meditation). Though I had seen a picture of him of the web, I couldn't recognize him.

My friend had black pants and a black shirt with white spots. He asked me when he got into my car if I thought his shirt was too lively for the sesshin. No, I said, this guy is pretty cool.

So I looked over the group walking. In the official zen world a priest would have a robe. No, noone had a robe, even the priest who ran the zendo. But everyone was in black, even yours truly. Everyone, that is, except a tall gray-haired man with kaki pants (w/rolled up cuffs) and a patterned shirt. Clearly this would not be Kennedy Roshi. He should have a robe and a collar and maybe a patch over one eye... not kaki pants and a patterned shirt.

So, you guessed it... it was him, in all his splendor.

I'm now listening to some of his talks on CDs that I purchased. He told an interesting story about Bodhidharma, who supposedly said that if a monk only studied and copied the teachings then he could be killed because there was no need for him. We need people with insight. Yea... not to the killing, but with that the point of view. How it might change education?

When I was in college my friend Susan said that if two people say the same thing, there is only need for one of them. I don't remember too many things that friends told me almost 50 years ago... but I remember that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

He Flew Ten Feet in the Air

I went to this revival meeting Sunday. Well, not on purpose. I went to my improv class, forgetting that it was cancelled because Tami, our teacher, was doing a gig in Hawaii, and then passed by this guy singing great gospel music behind the storefront theater,

and then they invited anyone to speak about god, and I should have, but I didn't, but then a guy stood up (the one in the blue shirt) and said that he didn't speak very often but then he told the story of how four months ago he was walking across the street and he was hit by a car and flew ten feet into the air and landed on a windshield and walked away toward home and the cop stopped him and asked him where he was going and he said home so they know where I died if that is what will happen to him and the cop said he needed to go the hospital and he said "by what office do you say that" and then he woke up in the hospital and the docs said he'd never walk... after doing the MRI and how "it is just a program" and the angel came and god came and now he can walk and yada yada yada...

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Sits

Someone told me this weekend that we are just a swarm. 90% of "our" bodies is actually bacteria that doesn't carry our DNA. Not bad stuff either. We need that bacteria to function... Some of it, at least. So this swarm sits on a cushion with millions of operations going on. Each atom is doing something in reaction to some stimuli. And last night someone said that we don't really multitask... We just do one thing at a time. IMHO, nothing could be further from the truth.

When Socrates was on trial he said that the philosopher would welcome death because then they could see clearly without being mislead by the desires of the body. Buddhists appear to take a very different approach that there isn't a duality. They use the expression "not one, not two." There is a Buddhist "mind," but it is one of the sense apparatus. Who receives the sense information? Is it the body? The whole swarm?

Probably. Or not.

On a different note, my friend claims there is no room for humor given the sad state of affairs in the world. He is implying that the state of affairs is worse than what it was at other times. Is it?

Buddhists talk about big mind and little mind. I think big mind can laugh when it is stuck in traffic... or when they get a new car and see that a falling pecan made a rust colored mark in the shiny paint. Laugh. How? Perhaps understanding the impermanence of the new car. Perhaps realizing that the pecan has a life too... and part of that life might be to mark a car. Perhaps by seeing events from every perspective.

I was thinking the other day that your little mind is in my big mind, and my little mind is in your big mind. Then the next day I thought that my little mind is in my big mind, all of which is one with everything else. We look at an animal and we don't separate their mind and body. We even look at people and we see them as unified forces (even if they are swarms). Why is it so difficult for us to see ourselves in the same way?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Be Human

I have a feeling that describing what it is to be human is as difficult as thinking about higher dimensions. It may be beyond our imagination.

Maybe it makes more sense to speak of when we are human. When are we doing higher level activites that animals don't do? And who knows if that is really being human. Are we human when we love but not when we hate? Are we human when we resolve our differences peacefully rather than with war? Somehow I think of love/hate and peace/war as human characteristics, for they have prevailed throughout our history.

We behave like other animals much of the time. We are hard-wired, it seems, to fulfill certain instinctual needs. But we do a couple of things that other animals may not do: understand and create.

A dog hears a noise outside and runs to the window to investigate. He sees a cat and scares it out of the yard. So the dog did gain understanding and created change (the cat leaving) in its environment? Is this what we do when we tackle the challenges of our lives. Do we ever move to high levels? How about when we do art? Or are we just a different model of computer with a different processor and operating system?

I don't know? Can anyone help here?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Funny Business

I've been taking an improv comedy class for the last couple of months. It is one my favorite classes that I've ever taken. I wish there were not so many minutes between the classes one week to the next.

A few weeks ago I decided that I wasn't interested in the comedy part of improv comedy, but rather in the improv part. Then Wednesday night I went to an improv performance, and saw people having lots of fun. I hardly laughed, though, because I'm over 60 and everyone else was under 30 (well, almost) and why should I laugh when I've seen the other side of life.

What can be funny when people you love die, or... or...

But then on the other hand, I like jokes and send them to friends.

The other night I saw a friend laughing. He's going to become a Buddhist priest in a couple of months. I (jokingly) told him he couldn't laugh anymore once he became a priest. That's when I discovered I'm going be out of town when he gets ordained. A bummer.

All day I kept thinking that I wanted to write something funny. I've been caring for a guy who just had a bypass operation... and then an infection on the wound. It has been a hard ordeal for him and me. I told each of my kids that it was "interesting" and they both asked why. I said I didn't know.

Monks beg to give people an opportunity to give. When I learned that I didn't quite believe it. Now I do.

But funny. How can we be funny in the world as it is? With that elephant of death lurking in the corner. Yikes... he's in the middle of the room.

How could James Thurber have had so much fun while a war was going on?

So what's so funny.

Reminds me about the time when our daughter was so mad at us. She went up to her room and slammed the door. Then she wrote a note to us and opened the door, taped it to the door, and slammed it again. We went up stairs and read the note: "I hate you both and if you laugh at this note I'm never ever talk to you again."

I'm glad that stage passed. She's now such a wonderful part of our lives.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Tread on Me, Time-Warner

I wanted to return a modem for a sick friend to Time-Warner. I did an online chat with them and the woman told me that they could pick it up from me, considering the circumstances... but that I'd have to call to arrange that.

I called the number they gave me... and they said they'd send a box. The only problem was that they would only send the box to his old address (not to me), so that wouldn't help. I kept saying "why would you want to send a box to an address where he used to live." And then, I spoke to a supervisor, and then I spoke to his supervisor. All three said that it is policy to send boxes to old addresses, not new ones. I asked if they were human beings and if they realized how absurd was this policy. I lost it. I leaked (Buddhist term).

Finally I gave up and drove the box to their office. The woman there was very very nice, and the modem is returned and I have a receipt. And I found at their office this poster advertising my next match.

Don't Tread on Me, Time-Warner

My four year old grandson called me when I got home. I told him the story. Without asking for his opinion, he simply said, "why don't you use an old box?"

Phil Gable Memorial

Last night we had a small memorial service for Phil Gable, a priest recently ordained at the Austin Zen Center. In Buddhist memorials, the sangha is invited to speak to the "departed" (remembering that there is no birth or death). I spoke first and forgot to do that, speaking about him. In any case, I told how, though he was a great warrior, he found something (that which takes our skin and bones) who was faster on the draw. Phil wrote the book, The Source, for which I did many illustrations.  You can see these illustrations starting with (click on new post to go through the illustrations... there are about 90).

After the book is edited it will be posted in blog form with the illustrations. Paula, his angelic wife, sent this picture of Phil with his family. He is in the center with his dog.

And here is his blog:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life on Earth

One of my projects for retirement was to find the truth. The woman in the painting is looking for it with a light attached to her hat and hand. I am no longer searching for that since I now realize that "the truth" is just an illusion, hence a creation of our minds.

Yesterday I dragged my wife down to a car dealer that was apparently willing to sell us a car for much less than another dealer that we had actually decided to go with. So we agreed with the new dealer on the car... and even accepted a color I didn't like... and then got down to brass tacks. Turns out that we were talking about different models, so the price wasn't really lower... and they didn't have the car... and my wife (who hates all of this kind of stuff) was furious at me for dragging her through all of this... so we ended up going to her favorite restaurant for dinner (and hardly talked). I then decided to get a still different car that she didn't like and didn't want to drive. Then we went home, and I started reading reviews on the car she didn't like (and I did), and went back to the car we had agreed on... except with a different interior color... and all's well.

So Thoreau said, "most men live lives of quiet desperation." There it is, in one paragraph. Is it the stuff of life? It is times like these that I want a lobotomy to clear out my memory.

Oh, back to the truth. Here it is... and you will probably be disappointed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

No, not global warming, but rather having limited resources. Most, if not all, people have to choose between this or that, and in the end, they don't even get to choose.

They can discuss the pie in the sky, but then reality sets in.

Debt is a very slippery slope. Some pay each month the minimum on their credit card bill, as they increase the balance. It is hard to see the fallacy in this behavior, esp. since it worked last month, and last year, and... And in the end they'll either get that job they've dreamed of... or go bankrupt... or become "dust."

Is a new car the best deal? Or is it better to buy the worst half of the life of a car for 3/4 of the new price?  And by buying a new car they get to choose the color/model/accessories.

Money. We talk about money until we are red. The elephant? In the end we don't "make" money unless we are counterfeiters or the government. We exchange it. Tit for tat. We give a part of our life for it. And then we give it for some part of someone else's life. Or maybe for some part of the earth that someone "claimed." It is the game Monopoly except... we believe it.

Joshua, 1980