Thursday, December 31, 2020

Gloomy day

I made a video of me making this piece because someone asked how I did it. Here it is:

New Year’s Eve

We don’t usually stay up until midnight. We watch the NYC ball drop at 11 our time, and then turn in for the night. We don’t have any problem with NYC beating us to the draw. But tonight at 630pm I received a voice message from 2021… from Europe. How could that be? I thought, a voice from the future. I felt way behind, like my spaceship was stuck in the past and I was hearing from the future. And now the futures are sleeping. At the same time I was corresponding with a cousin in California. Their sun hadn’t sat yet.

I’ve spent countless hours at the seashore counting waves. You see, when the tide is coming in, every 7th wave comes in. The others don’t make it all the way. And this is all because of the moon. I was never told why. And then, that damn Internet. Some oceanographer from UCSD claims that the ocean isn’t that smart, that the ocean can’t count, and none of this fantasy about seven is the effect of the moon but rather the wind. I know we have an epidemic of not believing in science. I believe science except when it contradicts my experience. Then I just say to myself that the so-called scientist should have spent more time on the sea shore and less time thinking.

This might be the 11th year for our weekly writing group. One of my weaknesses is not being able to quit. If it has to do with art, especially. Some people don’t do groups. I start to waste time without parameters. I regulate much of my life. I drink 8oz of coffee a day. I think I might have cheated the other day and took an ounce more, but usually it is just 8 ounces. It is that or the whole pot… and then I don’t sleep well, and my marriage goes on the rocks because Mensa goes for some coffee and there is none. So now she knows what I’ll do and all is well.

This year a zebra joined our household. This is a highly particular zebra, as zebras go, and it insists on sleeping on our bed. Luckily it doesn’t mind if we plop on top of her so room in the bed isn’t a problem. But the dark strips on the zebra, being full of pigment, mark up our sheets… so I told zebra that she needs to leave the stripes on the floor. What, she said, do you want me to be naked? Well, we now have perimeters for that too. We turn off the lights, close the shutters, close our eyes, and then zebra carefully bundles all her stripes in a neat pile… on the floor…before crawling under the covers.

P.S. Someone asked if the zebra story was a dream. Of course not, I answered.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

My Neighbor Totoro


At one time I convinced myself that now did not exist. Thinking of a time line, now is a point on the timeline. It is a point, not a line segment. A point has no length; ergo, it doesn’t exist.

So I imagined one’s spiritual path as footsteps in the snow. It is morning and the rising sun glistens the new blanket of snow. You walk out into the virgin snow and when you turn around you see the path that you took. You look ahead and you see your destination. There are no footprints in front of you, but you can imagine your path forward toward your destination.

You look over at the cat. You stop in your tracks. You look down at where you are standing. That is now. It is not the trail you have created. It is not your anticipated journey. It is that track that you are creating, right here and right now. It is under your foot, that one footstep in the snow. By the time it sees the sun, by the time it can be seen, it is the past. It is not now.

I’ve been told that each moment recreates itself. It is not a little shift, a little alteration. Each footsteps in a new footstep. One has infinite choices of where they might place their left foot after stepping into the snow with their right. It is a new day, over and over again, with each step. That is now, and it does exist. But you can’t see it because it is “underfoot.”

Monday, December 21, 2020


I said the other day that I don’t like curriculums. I seem to be going through a period of not liking things. I suppose I could figure out what I really don’t like, so that the other stuff wouldn’t have to suffer. But that isn’t in the cards for today. Suzuki Roshi talked about turning on a pure plain white screen. In meeting others, whether it be an individual or a group, that seems to make so much sense. Another Zen teacher quoted or misquoted Buddha saying “Gaze upon your thoughts with kindness and remain still.” As we gaze either upon ourselves or others, with stillness and presence it is hard to be anything but kind. The next nugget from the Zen teacher was this phrase, “without manipulation or judgement.”

So you walk into the classroom. If you were a boy scout or a sailor, you’d wet your finger and see which way the wind was blowing. That’s starting with a pure, plain white screen. You certainly can have a topic but curriculum seems to bind you to a particular approach to the topic. Suppose you approach the other as a pure white screen. At first you notice how they walk into the room, and then you notice how they are when they sit down. Are they ready for wonder and curiosity, or are they preoccupied with what happened last and how are we might be perceiving their constructed colorful screen?

When we sit in meditation we can construct the same pure white screen. We might have pictures on the wall, but we can pull down the screen and start there. When you clear your mind, what appears? What have you been obsessing about that is on your screen. You walk into the zendo? You bow to the zafu and then you bow to the room. Finally you are sitting and physically still. But where are you? Did you remember to even open the door? Did you get out of your car? What is on your screen?

You don’t have to worry about being bored. The whiter and purer the screen the more it will reflect the space around you. You’ll see everything in the room, including yourself. You’ll see your mother who hit you. You’ll see your father who deceived you. You’ll find your childhood pet who licked you on the face. The challenge is simply to watch the movie rather than to be in the movie. Typically you have nothing to add to the old stories. But you do have the opportunity to watch these thoughts as you might watch birds playing in a spring puddle, without “manipulation or judgement.”

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Holiday Greeting

Dislikes, Likes, and more Dislikes

I don’t like art. I just want to tell how I feel. Seems like there is a side of art where one does anything but tell the truth. Art is just technique when it isn’t art. Just technique. It looks good but stops there. Seems like art can deny the importance of life and death. Couch art. Pretty pictures. Art unfortunately occurs despite someone not having enough food to eat or having a life without love. I feel like running as fast as I can from artists, especially those with talent. Some think of talent as a gift. Because I don’t have any, I think of it as a handicap. Imagine having 1000 voices. How do you know how to talk? Which voice would you use?

I don’t like recipes either. They neither work, nor are they fun to follow. And they always suggest garlic, which I consider to be food’s worse enemy. Food is delicious. Why garlicize it to make it taste like garlic. That makes no sense. I shouldn’t have said that recipes don’t work. They work on TV, but not when I try to follow them. And they always seem to scan your kitchen and ask for ingredients that you don’t have. They must be sadistic at heart.

One more thing I don’t like is instructions. Usually on the web they are outdated, so they lead you down a path that drops you off the edge of a cliff. Every once in a while, like with an Ikea puzzle, they make sense. But usually it is more fun to mess up and learn what not to do.

I guess I should like something or someone might think of me as a sourpuss. Well I like being loss. I like it when things are broken. I like when there are challenges. I like when there is the expression of love or pain. I thought I’d like it when I’d look at the NYTimes and Trump was not on the front page. But now I don’t know. It is kind of boring when you don’t get to read about the meanderings of a crazed man. Seems like I could cancel my subscription and all would be well. I’m not sure how much I like that.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Kim and Linda

I wanted to go to a monastery. I though there my life would be simpler and I could focus on what’s important. And then it happened. This little bug spread its wings and made too many people sick and made too many people dead and so I stayed home. I had my food delivered and barely walked out my front door. I would walk around my house in circles until I had reached 4000 steps. It was the best of times and it was the worse of times. Some people suffered terribly, and for some, their lives were saved as families became closer and were able to give nourishment that was so sorely needed. I wish, when it is over, we can hold on to some of the good stuff… people connected with their immediate family, and the earth getting a respite from our earlier insane life.  

Anatomy Lesson and Love