Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dance With the Stars

The world isn’t the way I want it to be.
The world is just as it is.
What am I going to do about it? 

I mentioned that if someone wrote a screenplay about the world as it is, no one would believe it.

Then I started thinking about what the world might be like if it was how people would like it to be. I'd like to eliminate all the meat and candy from Central Market. And also all the wine. Who needs that stuff anyway? People just do the wrong thing when they drink.

But then D came by and he wanted peanuts… just peanuts, so then the world changed and CM had only peanuts. And so on. So that might really be crazy if things were how we’d like them to be.

Actually, in retrospect, our delusions often let us believe that the world is how we’d like it to be… for those incredibly short moments. Even today, I mentioned that I was 1/2 of my world. A crazy delusion!

Yesterday I was talking to T about the way it is, and he mentioned another aspect that I didn't even consider. What it is is not just what we read about in geology and biology textbooks. It is also how we feel about it. So I'm driving on Interstate 35 and there is lots of traffic. That is what is. And I'm feeling frazzled… mad, wishing that I had left a few hours earlier before all these people got out of bed. So "what is" is not just the traffic... it is my mind agonizing over what is. Imagine someone looking down onto Earth. Someone who only observes and doesn't react. She would see you and me and the cars... And we'd all be what is.

And then the tough question. What will I do about it? I can run, I can endure, or I can change. Or I can do nothing. Just sit there like a “bump on a log,” as my sisters would say when one of us wouldn't play.

There is an event coming soon that I would rather didn’t happen. I can avoid it, hoping it will just not be. I can go, but not really go, hoping that I can satisfy both the need to go and not go, or I can really go, fully embracing the situation authentically.

Complaining and disparaging might take place. Bad qi might permeate the space. Is that doing something about it? Or is it just wishing that things were different? And if things were just like we’d want them to be, would we like that? Or would we complain about that too?

My house is too small. No room for a ping pong table. Next day, when vacuuming, the house is too big. No time for anything but cleaning it. And on and on.

So I guess facing the music is all that I can do. I can embrace and embody things as they are. That's all we have to work with. I can observe it, and me within it, reacting, responding, hating or loving. I’m a half of what is... It is real to me, but not for you.

Do we live in the same place? Hardly. But we can meet somewhere, somehow, and dance with the stars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ten Preceptions (a.k.a. Be Nice)

Note: This was written for my second “taking of the precepts,” also called a Jukai ceremony. Some don’t do windows (glass and Microsoft). I don’t do assignments, so instead, I’m giving one pithy personal example for each of the precepts, as stated by the San Francisco Zen Center.

1. A disciple of Buddha does not kill but rather cultivates and encourages life. 


Adults often tell 
kids what to do. 

When I took my 2 year old Nate 
to the park,
I let him lead 
and I just followed. 

Life and freedom 
feel interwoven. 

When Nate was the leader—
the explorer—
he became his own

He stood up
straight, and said,
“Grandpa, come follow 
me around the park.”

2. A disciple of Buddha does not take what is not given but rather cultivates and encourages generosity. 


I tore up the postage stamp 
that was not cancelled—
After rationalizing
many justifications. 

The use of the stamp 
had not been given 
to me. 

Though a nominal sum,
it was like a (single) vote 
in an election. 

One vote doesn’t matter 
until it joins 
another. And then 
we have, or have not, a post offices,
morgues, and bad karma.

Smiling equals generosity. 
suggesting to others:
something is right 
and see this joy in life.

I rarely say “no.”
I don’t see myself 
separated from others. 

I’ve been feeding chickens
and, against my vegan ethics,
ate a few of their eggs. 
Only for science,
was my excuse.

I felt my heart
open to them 
when I held two warm, 
recently minted,
and well-constructed
eggs in my hand. 

I cared about those chicks,
visiting them
feeding time. 

Were they ok? 
Did they have water? 
Was their gate latched
to keep out the coyote?

The neighbors’ garden hose 
and sprayer were leaking.
So I repaired them. 
“It needed to be done,”
said Mother Theresa,
and “Yes, I like to fix things,”
said Rube Goldberg.

Even things should 
not suffer, even if 
they are “inanimate.” 

3. A disciple of Buddha does not misuse sexuality but rather cultivates and encourages open and honest relationships. 


Sexuality is a force 
that drives us.

I thrive on open 
and honest relationships. 

When I’m opening up,
others tend to do that.

I’m challenged to moderate 
distance between myself 
and others. 

When should I speak
or not?

Linda was reading 
when I woke up 
this morning. Do I 
interrupt her and 
say good morning?

Does she know 
I’m feeling that? 

So I haven’t talked to her, 
realizing that she needs space 
after watching 
two-year old Nate
for four days. 

Sexuality is really 
connection and non-connection
for me. It is finding the space
between us.

4. A disciple of Buddha does not lie but rather cultivates and encourages truthful communication. 


I lie. And
not only at night
in my bed.

It is another dance,
knowing when to talk
and when to shut up.

I read the book
on Honest. You’d
think that would have 
been enough.

How much truth
do you want? 
How much can
our relationship

What should I overlook,
even when I can’?

When I ask,
should I tell the truth?
You say yes,
and (soon) regret it.

Is that why, T.S. Eliot, 
“the women come and go
talking of Michelangelo”?

5. A disciple of Buddha does not intoxicate self or others but rather cultivates and encourages clarity. 


My intoxicant is distraction… 
on the Internet, on Earth. 
Not saying no. 

Believing that I have unlimited time. 

Others appear to
have great focus. 

It takes me too long 
to finish things—

“driven to distraction.”

6. A disciple of Buddha does not slander others but rather cultivates and encourages respectful speech. 

I slander in my mind and in conversation.
And I did not know it. 

Am I supporting life? 

Yes, no lie here. 

But do I speak a belief 
as if it is the truth?


Sometimes thinking that
the end justifies the means.

And even sometimes,
as I’m doing it,
I wish I wasn’t.

I just slandered my chicken friends,
calling them lazy,
after laying 13 eggs in two days,
they are taking a deserved

See, I used their 
human shortcomings, 
as justification,
for my slanderous tongue.

7. A disciple of Buddha does not praise self at the expense of others but rather cultivates and encourages self and others to abide in their awakened nature. 


I wonder when I bragged a little, 
telling how I was once this or that.

As I said it, I wondered
if I should have said,
what I did.

I wondered, too,
 if saying something
I had done 
would accomplish the end
in my mind?

If so, does that justify it?


8. A disciple of Buddha is not possessive of anything but rather cultivates and encourages mutual support


What do I own that was only mine?

Shouldn’t Iacknowledge 
where it came from?

Is it really mine 
when I depend on you
to protect it 
and be with it 
and invent it 

I say “my computer.” Ha. 
What did I do 
to help it 
come into my world?

9. A disciple of Buddha does not harbor ill-will but rather cultivates and encourages lovingkindness and understanding. 


Somedays I feel like pinching people,
for no reason except I felt pinched
yesterday or the day before.

I know it is silly, 
because pinching will never
break the pattern.

Smiling would be 
a whole lot better.
Stop pinching 
even if it seems warranted.

As humans are precious, 
pinching is never warranted…
even if it is so easy
when the target appears 
to beg for it.

10. A disciple of Buddha does not abuse the Three Treasures but rather cultivates and encourages awakening, the path and teaching of awakening and the community that takes refuge in awakening. 


As he said we need
to take care of things,
he put his holy book
into a puddle of soda.

I felt wounded, 
wanting to snatch
the book away,
and save her
from that 
indelible stain.


Personal Spiritual Ancestors:

Note: I have no idea what spiritual means, but I’ll try.

People who gave me broken machines to take apart so could figure out how they worked.

My grandpa, who let me fix stuff and who believed in me.

My grandma, who told me continually about her brother the rabbi… and whose love of music inspired me to do art.

My neighbors who went to church and had a stained glass window in their living room (in the wall with electric lights behind).

My first art teacher, Robert Erickson, who recognized something in me and gave me permission to break rules.

A philosophy teacher Joseph Agassi who let us explore and be scholars instead of students.

Two art teachers in college (and many others), Peter Bodnar and Art Sinsabaugh, who believed in me.

My Rin Tin Tin dog, Blackbeard, who found me and stuck around for ten years.

Kids and Grandkids, Josh, Melissa Jasper, Dash, Charlie and Nate, who taught me so much, esp. that other people, even kids, are there own people.

My wife, Linda, who calmly stuck around, told me the truth, and made everything she touched turn beautiful. 

Hans, Francois, and Susan, who have been friends for most of my life, who were there over and over again.

Carl Jerome, my first Zen/Chan teacher, who tried so hard to move me from my discursive mind to my wisdom-heart.

Countless sentients who gave me so much, and were around at just the right time, challenging me so much.

Anatomy Lesson and Love