Monday, September 16, 2013

My Reality is Terrible

Note: This is a letter I wrote today to a prisoner. We write these letters to encourage their Buddhist practice.

Dear A,

I should preface this by saying that I live a pretty idyllic life. I have wonderful friends, good health, ample resources, and freedom. I’m not sure how I would be in your situation. I admire your efforts to survive.

I enclose Buddha’s sutta on the Dart. When you say “my reality is terrible” you are expressing your idea of your reality. Reality in itself is neither terrible nor wonderful. Some who have “everything” are miserable and others in dire circumstances love every moment they are alive.
I read about monkeys who were performing tasks for rewards. As long as they received the same reward for the same task, they were happy. But when one received less than the other, he was angry. He might have been satisfied with the lesser reward had he not experienced his buddy getting more. We see the "deprived" monkey constructing a reality that causes him great anguish.

The good news is that one can choose their view of their reality. In the sutta, the Buddha speaks of two darts that come from pain. One is the pain itself, and the second is that pain that we create. For the time being you are stuck in a physical environment. This includes your body, your cell, the other inmates, the guards, etc. This is a given. It is up to you to determine what are you going to do. Are you going to suffer or thrive? The second dart is the one created in our minds. That is the one you need to look at if you want to relieve your suffering.

You say that peace is “really hard when a bunch of jerks act stupid.” Letting your peace become dependent on others is stupid. They do what they do. You create a judgment about their actions … and you let that judgment affect your happiness. It is you against them.

Instead, embrace them. They are your brothers and they are doing their best to cope as you are. Show them some kindness and they will respond with kindness.

Eckankar appears to be a cult like Scientology and Hare Krishna. I’m not sure that all organizations aren’t partly a cult. They want followers and work hard to get and retain them. I suggest you take their literature and throw it away. And telling others why they are a cult to you sounds like a responsible thing to do. I don’t think the United Nations will pursue them as they have their plate full with what they probably consider to be more important human rights violations.

I liked your story of the monk and the tigress. Our minds look at actions in various ways and judge these actions according to our perspective.
Take care and let me know how it goes … accepting that you are the creator of your reality … and as the creator, being the one who can change it.

Mr. Kim

Friday, September 13, 2013

Grandpa Nofun, Part I

I'm no fun. And now, since I became a vegan yesterday after about 5 years of gluttony, I’m probably less fun. Growing up, my sisters called me “a bump on a log.”

When my neighbors played cowboys and Indians, I watched and tried to figure out how they could imagine that they could be anything other than who they were. Maybe if we had a TV I wouldn’t have had this my problem.

I just wanted to take things apart to see how they worked ... and then when I was twelve I discovered art and I just wanted to do that ... and then when I became hooked on computers I wanted to do that and art ... and when I realized I could change things in the world, I started doing that. I don't even drink—not even a soda pop. No donuts, only 100% chocolate … no sugar … zilch! I was eating almond ice cream, but I decided that I don't like how the sweetener makes me feel, so I quit that.

I’m not one for imagination. I don't think of my art as creative or as making thing up. I just take advantage of my lack of talent ... and my faulty memory … and all kinds of good stuff seem to come out. My friend and fellow artist of 50 years, French Fry, has a great imagination. He makes up enough stuff for the two of us. My wife too has been an artist for 1/2 a century, and she too doesn't have too much fun with anything. She just likes to perfect things. Once she had fun in graduate school with some art about her love for peanut butter, but that soon ended.

When I was in high school my girlfriend’s father was a minister and he gave a sermon about how we had to find new ways to celebrate life. I really liked that, but, looking back, I would have been happy celebrating in old ways. In college I got drunk a couple of time, and I went to visit some elephants, but generally my life has been pretty dull and boring. I identified much with Andy Warhol when he came to our college to talk. No matter what he was asked he'd answer, “I don't know. We just work a lot.”

When I studied literature, I wondered if writers made up their thrilling and passionate stories. How could they be serious craftsman and have fun too? What was that about? Did they live the lives they wrote about? Or take a movie actor like James Dean. Was he a craftsman or a hoodlum? I couldn't imagine how someone could be both.

I think I was attracted to Buddhism because it seemed like it would be no fun. All work and no play make Kim happy. Black was the color of choice, and tea was the drink, and silence was the word. Everything was overcast. All was dreary until ...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reading Photographs

The assignment was to bring to acting class an object that was very precious to us, and then to do a kind of show and tell, and tell the class what it meant. Many brought photos of things. Some brought objects that were mass-produced. I remember one woman who held a little photo in the palm of her hand and proceeded to tell us that it was her boyfriend. I wondered then how that picture took on the power of a human being.

Kim Mosley
There is a saying in photography that the real subject of photography is the photographer. We make so many decisions when we make a picture that we end up expressing ourselves fully. Sometimes, however, we look at a photograph and believe it is about the object or scene depicted. Our body knows better. We respond viscerally to the photograph as an object, and look through the subject into the creator.
AJ Bunyard
John Szarkowski curated an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art about 40 years ago called Mirrors and Windows. His view was “that the photograph is seen either as a mirror—a romantic expression  of the photographer's sensibility as it projects itself on the  things and sights of this world or as a window—through which the external world is explored in all its presence and reality.”  I tend to think that he was wrong with his premise and that all photos are about the internal workings of a psyche. Our challenge in reading a photograph is to channel the photographer though the object, as we do when one's friend tells a story. What we listen to is a litany of emotions. We get a sense how they are feeling and who they are. The words themselves just become the carrier of the feeling. In the end, the story is just that. Much more moving is that part of themselves that we have just shared.

Kim Mosley

Anatomy Lesson and Love