Sunday, December 20, 2015

Unborn Child

.

She thought, An unborn child lives the life of a woman it might never know, hearing her laugh or cry, feeling the scare that makes her catch her breath, tighten her belly. For months its whole life would be all dreams and no waking. ---p. 106, Lila, Marilynne Robinson

.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Mystery of Grace and Poetry



``I think you are asking me these questions because of some hard things that have happened, the things you won't talk about . If you did tell me about them, I could probably say not more than that life is a very deep mystery, and that finally the grace of God is all that can resolve it. And the grace of God is also a very deep mystery.'' --- p.31, Lila, Marylyn Robinson

 "One actually thinks in poetry. It's a form of thought, not a form of expression, because a form of expression means you have something separate from what's being expressed." ---Margaret Atwood
Source: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/arts/today-in-1968-margaret-atwood-schools-her-interviewer-on-the-meaning-of-poetry-1.3234496

 “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood” T.S Eliot
 Source: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2015/11/ts-eliot-the-poet-and-the-professor.html

 "Naturally, if what I say has truth in it, this will already have been dealt with by the world's poets, but the flashes of insight that come in poetry cannot absolve us from our painful task of getting step by step away from ignorance torvards our goal." Fear of Breakdown, D.W.Winnicott



Monday, November 30, 2015

Golgotha


Maybe 
we are all children
of a forsaken God

Was it him, who forgot us,
or us, who forgot him?
Or, does it matter, after all?

We climb our cross
and offer our spirit
only to find 
he has long 
left us behind

in your eyes
in your mind
in your heart

https://youtu.be/CSvFpBOe8eY




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Touch and Body Synchrony

I am gaining a deeper understanding of how to work with my fears. I am not yet able to articulate this understanding so instead I discuss another important topic: Proximity. Bryan Stevenson, in his book ``Just Mercy'' as well as many of his interviews, emphasizes the importance of proximity as the main and only way of getting a deep understanding of something:

“Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” ― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

And yet, the ``proximity'' may seem like an abstract idea. So, I want to discuss it in a completely different setup: Courting behaviors of animals and human beings. In her book, ``Anatomy of Love,'' Helen Fisher describes David Givens (an anthropologist) and Timothy Perper (a biologist) systematic observations of Americans' courting process in social environments (such as cocktail lounges). They describe a general pattern involving five distinct stages of ``attention getting'' (entering the scene and attracting attention), ``recognition'' (which starts when eyes meet), ``grooming talk'' (a conversation in which hidden signals are more important than what is said), ``touching'' (physical proximity, which begins with ``intention cues'' and reaches the climax in an actual touch), and finally ``body synchrony'':

``Body synchrony is the final and most intriguing component of the pickup. As potential lovers become comfortable , they pivot or swivel until their shoulders become aligned, their bodies face-to-face.  ... after a while the man and woman begin to move in tandem. Only briefly at first. ... Then they desynchronize. In time, however, they mirror each other more and more. ...'' p. 29, Anatomy of Love, Helen Fisher
This tendency to synchrony is captured by ``dance'' rituals in different human cultures. The significance of synchrony goes beyond courting:

... body synchrony is basic to many social interactions ... Called interactional synchrony, this human mirroring begins in infancy. By the second day of life, a newborn has begun to synchronize its body movements with the rhythmic patterns of the human voice. ... people in many different cultures get into rhythm when they feel comfortable together. ... even brain waves get ``in sync'' when two people have a harmonious conversation. --- pp. 30-31, Anatomy of LoveHelen Fisher

I find it important that physical closeness is necessary, or at least an important facilitating factor, for the synchronous movement. This synchronicity is a metaphor for deeper understanding, or in fact, it is a bodily form of deep understanding. As sex appears to be the climax of body synchrony, we can imagine that it symbolizes a stage of union or integration that follow deep understanding.

Of course, here I am thinking about symbolism of consensual sex. The more non-consensual and violent sex becomes, it would correspond less to union/integration and more to dominance and exclusion. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Holy Trinity

The Passenger
The Purpose
and The Path

--------------------------------------

PS. Another interpretation, less poetic but equally important:

Self soothing
Calming others
Offering self to be consoled


No one gets to play Jesus. But we do get to experience Jesus in that holy place where we meet others' needs and have our own needs met. ... The fact is, we are all, at once, bearer of the gospel and receivers of it. We meet the needs of others and have our needs met. And ... we never know when we experience Jesus in all of this. All we have is a promise, a promise that our needs are holy to God. ---p. 48, Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber



Sunday, November 01, 2015

Christ and God


Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand. He went where He was supposed to go. He stayed where He was needed. He took little or nothing along, a pair of sandals, a bit of a shirt, a few odds and ends to stave off the loneliness. He never rejected the world. if He had rejected it, He would have been rejecting mystery. And if He rejected mystery, He would have been rejecting faith.

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth---the filth, the was, the poverty---was that life could be capable of small beauties. He was't interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven. To him that was a dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, bruised and damaged, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism against all the evidence. ---p. 20, Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

I wanted to add my new revelations about God, but this quote says it all, and says it well. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Truth and its Path

`` ... The truth is only recognized as the truth after all the lies are told and discounted. You won't appreciate the truth or even begin to fathom it unless you take a tortuous road to find it.'' ---p. 262, Word of Honor, Nelson DeMille
Maybe truth is not really at the end of the path, but it is the path?!?
``It has been said by combat commanders that the battlefield is the most honest place in the world. It has also been said by legal types ... that, regarding war crimes, there are unique complexities in discovering the truth about a combat soldier doing his duty in the filed.'' ---p. 412, Word of Honor, Nelson DeMille

I am not sure I want to add much to these quotes. They just seem important, to me, now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Real Genius

``... Any fool, including an ROTC lieutenant like me, can be a military genius at the breakfast table twenty years later, after having read a comprehensive history of the battle. But real genius is the ability to grasp the essence of a situation as it is happening. To think---not on your feet but on your belly, with five radiotelephones screaming at you, men dying and crying in pain, your pants full of piss, and the thump, thump, thump of nurture rounds walking toward you.'' ---p. 118, Word of Honor, Nelson DeMille

Of course the quote describes the situation in a battle field, but I have a strong feeling that it applies to other walks of life, for example trading in stocks and options!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Our Demons

Our deepest fears: we cannot keep fighting them or running away from them. The solution is listening to them and try to get through them:

`Stahl had ended most of his sessions with the words ``You cannot run from the demons, so you must make friends with them.'' He had advised Tyson to recall the dream in detail, talk with characters who peopled the dark landscapes of his mind, until one day they would become familiar, friendly, then perhaps banal and insipid. ...' ---p. 55, Word of Honor, Nelson DeMille


Friday, October 09, 2015

Art and Artist Perception

A good artist has an uncanny perception power, everyone who knows something about life knows this! Yet, to benefit from artist perception, you can only approach them via their art. What most people don't know is that even when people have genuine wisdom, they do not necessarily express that wisdom properly in ``language.'' So do not listen to artist, connect with their art works.

Here is a beautiful example:

''... I brushed him out for a long time, talking to him, and he pushed at me with his nose. I could feel him relaxing. I didn't give him a treat, only scratched his belly. I don't think there's a better feeling in the world than having a big, scared animal relax around you.'' ---p. 44, Wounded, Percival Everett



Sunday, October 04, 2015

Layers of Hell

``Marina had thought she understood this place. She had spotted the luncehead after all, she had cut apart the anaconda. She had performed surgeries she was neither licensed nor qualified to perform on a dirty floor and had eaten from the trees and swum in the river in a bloody dress only to find out that none of those things were on the test. There was in fact a circle of hell beneath this one that required an entirely different set of skills that she did not possess. She would have to go there anyway. She had been foolish enough to think that she had given up everything when in fact she could see now that she hadn't even started. ... '' ---p. 331, State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Change and Practice

In the process of a fundamental, genuine change, there is always a period of outmost uncertainty and confusion. When we have left an old habit behind but yet are not in the position to fully exploit a new habit. The more important the context, the more nerve racking the experience. That's where practice comes into the picture. Practice in the sense of learning Kyudo, for example, or yoga, or any kind of art form or physical activity that requires fine muscle coordination. In such practices, we go through stages of learning over and over and learn how to control our anxiety.

Here is a related quote from Carlos Castaneda's ``Tales of Power'':

``You are in a terrible spot,'' he said. ``It's too late for you to retreat but too soon to act. All you can do is witness. You're in the miserable position of an infant who cannot return to the mother's womb, but neither can he run around and act. All an infant can do is witness and listen to the stupendous tales of action being told to. .... For you there is only witnessing acts of power and listening to tales, tales of power." ---p. 56, Tales of Power

I may be in a similar position. It's quite frustrating specially since it `appears' that my whole life depends on how I act and decide. I emphasize `appear' here, because part of this is an illusion constructed by my conscious/logical/rational mind, an extremely powerful illusion. Our lives depend on many factors, within and without, that are out of our control, that do not follow our puny reasonings. And yet, trusting that we do not need to pretend to know and control everything ... that trust comes at a high cost. When things get dire, when we feel hitting a wall, no way forward nor back, it becomes unbearable. And yet, things always work out one way or the other.

Here is another fascinating piece of puzzle. The transition period is naturally filled with a `helpless' attitude in addition to anxiety:

``There is nothing wrong with the feeling of being helpless,'' he said. ``All of us are most familiar with it. Remember that we have spent an eternity as helpless infants. I have already told you  at this very moment you are like an infant who can't get out of the crib by himself, much less act on his own. ... an infant wants to act and since he can't, he complains. there is nothing wrong with that, but to indulge in protesting and complaining is another matter.'' ---p. 82, Tales of Power

Put anxiety and helplessness together and you have a good recipe for `depression'! No wonder that people like me who learn fast and learn often are plagued by depression episodes. The curious thing is that the best response to these feelings of anxiety and helplessness is to -not- indulge in them and instead try to stay calm. Easier said than done!

And we are back to the idea of `practice'. The only way that one can stay calm under the heavy weight of anxiety and helplessness is to be his/her own soother. Similar to what a mother does to her infant, one needs to be able to contain those emotions and stay calm and centered. But how? By practicing them over and over in a not-life-threatening setting, what I call a daily `practice' of a physical  exercise or an artistic talent.

At a deeper level, the act of soothing is a bodily act, something that we need to learn with our bodies and not our logical/rational minds. The unfortunate separation between mind and body that the current human culture thrives on makes this counter-intuitive and difficult. We have severed a natural tie between different aspects of our being:

I  said that I could not conceive that my body was acting by itself as if it were an entity separate from my reason.
``It isn't but we have made it so,'' he said. ``Our reason is petty and it is always at odds with our body. This, of course, is only a way of talking, but the triumph of a man of knowledge is that he has joined the two together. ...'' ---pp. 83-84, Tales of Power



Sunday, August 02, 2015

ZenDo SourDough

I am going to open a Zendo to teach something that is close to a Zen practice and call it "SouDough ZenDo"! Why? I am thinking about making sourdough breads as the center practice for my ZenDo. I spent most of the day today making sourdough breads (and reading a novel, ``Motherless Brooklyn," by Jonathan Lethem, for the second time). This was my third try and the breads came out good this time (both taste and texture); not excellent, but quite decent.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Truth of Perception

Talking about "genuine listening" or "true seeing" ... brings up the question, what is the truth in perception? I am reading Dostoevsky's ``The Idiot'' and a conversation between Prince Myshkin and Epanchin's (in which one of the daughters exclaims that she cannot see and hence cannot paint) reminded me of the topic.

There is a dimension in perception that relates to our state of being. Nothing complicated. Imagine yourself in your best, most relaxed vacation and remember how perceptive you were compared to the everyday routines of high stress and being closed to almost everything happening around. That's it.

The relaxedness dimension I just described also reveals itself in the power of (real) imagination which reminds me of the following quote from Moshe Feldenkrais in ``Awareness through Movement'':

``One of the great disadvantages of the spoken language is the fact that it permits us to become estranged from our real selves to such an extent that we often have the mistaken belief that we have imagined something, or thought of something, where in reality we have only recalled the appropriate word. ... when we really imagine an action we come up against the same obstacles as in performing the action itself.'' --- p. 135, Awareness through Movement, Moshe Feldenkrais

What I am trying to approach here is a physical dimension to imagination that is closely related to the physical aspect of the state of being calm, open, and curious as appear in works of Stephen Porges and Cesar Milan, and I described in a series of posts in February 2014, haphazardly: http://myimpossibilitytheorems.blogspot.com/2014_02_01_archive.html

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Midnight, Paris, Love, Death

From the Woody Allen film, ``Midnight in Paris'', articulated by the Hemingway character:


‎"All men fear death. It’s a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears. Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe. You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman’s heart, the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another. Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness you will feel immortal. 
  I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face like some rhino hunters I know or Belmonte, who was truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds... until it returns, as it does, to all men... And then you must make really good love again. Think about it."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nation of Fear, Nation of Deaf

We SCREAM
       when we cannot hear
when we are not heard

Listen
     to the climax of vibrant red
          green, yellow
              and blue
to see
      everything is fine
           we are fine
things are
      the way they should be
and there is no need
      to shout and scream

Listen
     and be free


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dog named Sex

Some funny stuff I am digging up during cleaning up my email:


 Everybody who has a dog calls him "Rover" or "Boy." I call mine Sex. Now Sex has been very embarrassing to me.
 When I went to City Hall to renew his dog license, I told the clerk I would like to have a license for Sex.
 He said,
"I'd like to have one, too."
 Then I said,
"But this is a dog!"
 He said he didn't care what she looked like.
 Then I said,
"But you don't understand. I've had Sex since I was nine years old."
 He said I must have been quite a kid.
 When I got married and went on my honeymoon, I took the dog with me. I told the motel clerk that I wanted a room for my wife and me and a special room for Sex.
 He said every room in the place was for sex.
 I said,
"You don't understand. Sex keeps me awake at night!"
 The clerk said,
"Me too."
 One day I entered Sex in a contest, but before the competition began, the dog ran away.
 Another contestant asked me why I was just standing there looking around.
 I told him I had planned to have Sex in the contest.
 He told me I should have sold my own tickets.
 "But you don't understand," I said,
"I had hoped to have Sex on TV."
 He called me a show-off.
 When my wife and I separated, we went to court to fight custody of the dog.
 I said,
"Your honour, I had Sex before I was married."
 The judge said,
"Me too."
 Then I told him that after I was married, Sex left me.
 He said, "Me too."
 Last night Sex ran off again. I spent hours looking around town for him.
 A cop came over to me and asked,
"What are you doing in this alley at 4:00 in the morning?"
 I said,
"I'm looking for Sex."
 My case comes up Friday.

This was an actual email exchange on "Car-Classified" list:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 05:31:09 +0000 (UTC)
From: Mark Gibson
Newsgroups: cmi.classifieds.vehicles
Subject: Re: piano lessons
Kevina Lam wrote:
>Doctoral student in piano
>teaching assistant at Univeristy of Illinois
>patient and experienced
>reasonable rate
Nobody in their right mind would pay you a dime for piano lessons since you can't even figure out that cars rarely have pianos in them.
Mark
Another good old one :)

A mother was working in the kitchen listening to her son playing with his new electric train in the living room.  She heard the train stop and her son say,  "All of you sons of bitches who want off, get the hell off now, cause this is the last stop!  And all of you sons of bitches who are getting on, get your asses in the train, cause we're going down the tracks!"
The horrified mother went in and told her son, "We don't use that kind of language in this house!  I want you to go to your room and stay there for TWO  HOURS.   When you come out, you may play with your train again, but I want you to use nice language."
Two hours later, the son came out of the bedroom and resumed playing with his train.  Soon the train stopped and the mother heard her son say, "All passengers who are disembarking the train, please remember to take all of your belongings with you. We thank you for riding with us today and hope your  trip was a pleasant one. We hope you will ride with us again soon."  She hears the little boy continue, "For those of you just boarding, we ask you to stow all of your hand luggage under your seat. Remember, there is no smoking on the train.  We hope you will have a pleasant and relaxing journey with us."
As the mother began to smile, the child added, "For those of you who are pissed off about the two hour delay, please see the bitch in the kitchen!"

This one builds up gradually but then suddenly ... explodes :)

Come early and bring your lunch 
A woman who was rather old-fashioned, delicate, and elegant especially in her language - was planning a week's vacation in Florida so she wrote to a particular campground and asked for a reservation. She wanted to make sure the campground was fully equipped, but didn't quite know how to ask about the toilet facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "TOILET" in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old-fashioned term "BATHROOM COMMODE." But when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward. So, she started all over again, rewrote the letter and referred to the bathroom commode merely as the B.C. "Does the campground have it's own B.C.?" is what she actually wrote.
Well, the campground owner wasn't old-fashioned at all and when he got the letter, he just couldn't figure out what the woman was talking about. That B.C. business really stumped him. After worrying about it for a while, he showed the letter to several campers, but they couldn't imagine what the lady meant either. So the campground owner, finally coming to the conclusion that the lady must be asking about the location of the local Baptist Church, sat down and wrote the following reply:
"Dear Madam: Regret very much in the delay in answering you letter. I now take the pleasure in informing you that a B.C. is located nine miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people atone time. I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people usually take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late." "The last time my wife and I went was six years ago and it was so crowded that we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper being planned to raise money to buy more seats. They're going to hold it in the basement of the B.C." "I would like to say it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly but it is sure no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather." "If you do decide to come down to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go, sit with you, and introduce you to all the other folks." "Remember, this is a friendly community." 
Short and furious :)

Cow giving birth
A man was helping one of his cows give birth, when he noticed his 4-year-old son standing wide-eyed at the fence, soaking in the whole event. The man thought, "Great...he's 4 and I'm gonna have to start explaining the birds and bees. No need to jump the gun - I'll just let him ask, and I'll answer." After everything was over, the man walked over to his son and said,
"Well son, do you have any questions?"
"Just one." gasped the still wide-eyed lad.
"How fast was that calf going when he hit that cow?"

Children ... Oh, children :)

A college professor was doing a study testing the senses of first graders using a bowl of lifesavers. He gave all the children the same kind of lifesavers, one at a time, and asked them to identify them by color and flavor. The children began to say:
Red............cherry
Yellow........lemon
Green........lime
Orange.....orange
Finally the professor gave them all honey lifesavers.
After eating them for a few minutes none of the children could identify the taste.
"Well"' he said, "I'll give you a clue. It's what your mother might sometimes call your father."
One little girl looked up in horror , spit hers out and yelled, "Oh, my God! They're assholes!"






Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prophecy

I have reached a secret
that can best be described
as a shiny ball

I can look into it
and see our future

I need five years, give or take,
to immerse myself in
to get to its bottom

and another five years
to come back

So I see you later

Come and see me
in ten years
I will have a lot to tell you

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Religion and God

A couple of paragraphs from the introduction of Karen Armstrong's ``A History of God''. I agree with the main point of the first paragraph below and rephrase it: Religion is one type of activity that aims at ``experiencing'' the source of meaning-creation in the depth of human psyche, and in this sense is very similar to art.
Men and women started to worship gods as soon as they became recognizably human; they created religion at the same time as they created works of art. This was not simply because they wanted to propitiate powerful forces; these early faiths expressed the wonder and mystery that seems always to have been an essential component of the human experience of this beautiful yet terrifying world. Like art, religion has been an attempt to find meaning and value in life, despite the suffering that flesh is heir to. Like any other human activity, religion can be abused, but it seems to have been something that we have always done. It was not tacked on to a primordially secular nature by manipulative kings and priests but was natural to humanity. Indeed, our current secularism is an entirely new experiment, unprecedented in human history. ... our Western liberal humanism is not something that comes naturally to us; like an appreciation of art or poetry, it has to be cultivated. Humanism is itself a religion without God---not all religions ... are theistic. ---p.xix, A History of God

It appears to me that as human consciousness has emerged, we became more aware of our "self" as opposed to the outside world (the first form of separation), and simultaneously in our inner world, we became aware of our logical/rational/conscious mind processes that could be directed toward manipulating and solving problems as opposed to deeper sub-/unconscious processes in our mind that would clearly manifest in our dreams and in our feelings and emotions (the second form of separation). Because the source of meaning creation is in the subconscious part, we have always felt the urge to keep and develop a connection to those areas in the form of art and religion.

I emphasize the correspondence between a person's inner world and the images/maps that construct its fabric, one one hand, and the outside world and its relation to that person, on the other hand. I see a circle here which requires two contact points. One is the obvious connection through our senses and sensory inputs. I think there is another point of connection which is quite far from our perception and in which the deepest part of our psyche connects to a cosmic sense of outside world. A point of singularity, that we may call God!

When I began to research this history of the idea and experience of God in the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I expected to find that  God had simply been a projection of human needs and desires. ... that ``he'' would mirror the fear and yearnings of society at each stage of its development. My predictions were not entirely unjustified, but I have been extremely surprised by some of my findings ... Other rabbis, priests, and Sufis would have taken me to task for assuming that God was---in any sense---a reality ``out there''; they would have warned me not to expect to experience him as an objective fact that would be discovered by the ordinary process of rational thought. They would have told me that in an important sense God was a product of the creative imagination, like the poetry and music that I found so inspiring. A few highly respected monotheists would have told me quietly and firmly that God did not really exist---and yet that ``he'' was the most important reality in the world. ---p. xx, A History of God

The last few lines are quite amazing!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Time Being and Cat

Yesterday afternoon the following passage from Ruth Ozeki's novel, ``A Tale for the Time Being,'' caught my eye:

Do not think that time simply flies away. Do not understand "flying" as the only function of time. If time simply flew away, a separation would exist between you and time. So if you understand time as only passing, then you do not understand the time being.
To grasp this truly, every being that exists in the entire world is linked together as moments in time, and at the same time they exist as individual moments of time. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being.   --- Dogen Zenji, Uji
--- p. 259, A Tale for the Time Being

Last evening I played tennis and I did NOT enjoy it, and worse, it started a phase of deep depression that is extended to now.

This morning, I heard Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem, ``The Cat,'' on radio (Writer's Almanac: link). It felt somehow related:

The cat
                              licks its paw and
        lies down in
                            the bookshelf nook
                                                                 She
                                    can lie in a
                                              sphinx position
        without moving for so
                                         many hours
and then turn her head
                                to me and
                                          rise and stretch
       and turn
                       her back to me and
              lick her paw again as if
                                    no real time had passed
                     It hasn’t
                                    and she is the sphinx with
                        all the time in the world
                                             in the desert of her time
             The cat
                    knows where flies die
                               sees ghosts in motes of air
                                                   and shadows in sunbeams
She hears
                  the music of the spheres and
       the hum in the wires of houses
                           and the hum of the universe
             in interstellar spaces
                                                      but
                prefers domestic places
                             and the hum of the heater
--- “The Cat” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from These Are My Rivers
PS. [2015-12-12] Another translation of the first quote from here:


Seeing time as flowing away is not enough. Thinking that the only property time has is the ability to flow is not enough. If we think of time only as flowing away, then there must be gaps between instants of time-present as they pass. Ordinary people only see time as something that flows away, and this is why they do not experience time-present, and have not heard it explained. In actual fact, all the things in whole Universe are time-presents that are both continuous and separate. Real time is always time-present, and so it is always this time-present.

These days, after reading Don DeLillo's novel ``The body artists'' I am thinking about the concept of time more often.
The complete text of Dogen's ``Shobogenzo'': http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/Shobogenzo.pdf

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fear, Choice, Hope

If fear is the main factor behind excessive violence, then how can we approach our individual and collective fears? The antidote to fear is curiosity, inquiry. And yet, we have limited resources, specially time and attention, and at any point in time, we can only conduct a limited number of inquiries. If we decide to push ourselves toward being open and curious, the results will be the opposite. It increases our level of anxiety and may result in hidden violence. I suggest an alternative approach. We want to give ourselves the freedom, the option, to stay curious, open and calm. By consistently offering ourselves these "choices", we cultivate hope; hope as the orientation of the soul and the ability to stay witness.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Flex

Strike turned and noticed a boy of eleven or twelve standing there staring at Crunch, stick legs in wide-cut shorts, arms crossed high on his chest like an old-time comic-book weightlifter. The kid was giving Crunch the thousand-yard stare, testing himself, putting on his I-ain't-afraid-a-no-knocko face. Crunch, feeling the eyes, the attitude, stared right back. ``What's your problem?''
The skinny boy didn't answer, just kept starting, and Crunch went with it, staring back.
But Crunch couldn't hold it. He started laughing, and what happened next threw Strike completely. Strike expected the kid to go on staring or walk away triumphant, but when Crunch started laughing, the kid laughed too. The kid had play in him. The kid had flex, and flex was rare. Flex was intelligent, special, a good sign, like big paws on a puppy. For a minute Strike lost his anger, entranced by this kid, by possibilities. ---p. 15, Clockers, Richard Price

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love

I had forgotten you
all about you
for a long, long, time

but then
it is so simple

the rays of a dying sun
stretched inside my room
saturating everything with
a bright shade of yellow

if only for
a few precious minutes

2024 Stutters

It's difficult to not hate the man and not just because of his accomplishments, but because of these lines in the beginning of his book (that relate to when he was 20 years old or so):

... that's where I met Steve Bright, the director of SPDC, ... Steve was in his mid-thirties and had a passion and certainty that seemed the direct opposite of my ambivalence. ... He showed none of the disconnect between what he did and what he believed that I'd seen in so many of my law professors. --- p.5, Just Mercy
This ``disconnect" is what I sensed when I was forty something!

 What's bothering me the most is that I ``know'' a lot, I understand human psyche a lot better than almost every person, dead or alive, whom I have met in my life, but this ``knowing'' ... it's mostly intellectual. That's the problem, you see, as I need time for all this to sink deep. Only if I could survive the next 9-10 years, by the end of 2024, then, I will have been in a very different position. I'll be 55; I will not have achieved things that he has done now (he is 55) but ... I will be something different, something bright and shiny and powerful and formidable, a force! :)

I will be back in Iran, back to my birth place, Kerman, or my dad's, Mahan (a small town in the outskirts of Kerman). I will be a social reformist figure, not a mayor or governor, but with a similar level of influence. Most importantly, I will perfect the ``art of listening'' and take it to new heights still unknown to human kind!

What is the ``art of listening''?

Alan Robinowitch (link) has written the story of his childhood, in the children book, ``A boy and a Jaguar'' (link), as a stutterer [Wiki: In grade school, he was placed in a special education class due to a severe stutter; which often caused his body to twist and spasm when attempting to speak] who could, nevertheless, talk fluently to animals. Is ``stutter'' a problem of the speaker or the listener? Could it be that the internal listener, the one residing inside a stutterer, is judgemental and violent, and yet repressed, and fights the oppressor,  the conscious mind, with its own body? Voices inside us need, and fight constantly for, recognition and respect, and yet, most of them, most of the time, suffer from serious stuttering because we have not developed necessary listening skills. Stuttering voices, unheard and disrespected, make us, our bodies, twist and spasm and ultimately drive us into anger, resentment, depression and anxiety. Prevalent violence, often hidden in plain sight, is the reaction of all stuttering voices, inside every one of us, that strive to be heard and respected.

``Art of listening'' is the ultimate remedy of our most fundamental social problem: alienation and violence!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sacred Triangle and Listening

I went to Bryan Stevenson's lecture and book signing at Carter Center last night. A big crowd showed up and he exceeded everyone's expectations. He is a charismatic speaker and his words come from his heart.

Unfortunately, he did not pay any attention to me. A few times, I had the opportunity to approach and talk to him, but I didn't. In my fantasy, it was him who should have discovered my wisdom. I just had to be present. I could have forced myself to talk to him but I didn't. I gave myself a suggestion, a hint, but nothing more. It's been a while that if doing something is not absolutely necessary, I do not force myself to do it. That's it.

I am not angry though, maybe a little disappointed but not angry. Between all his preoccupations (founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, professor at New York University School of Law, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award (1995), the Reebok Human Rights Award (1989), the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993), the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award (2000), the Olof Palme Prize (2000), Stanford Law School's National Public Service Award (2010), a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law, lecturer at Harvard and Yale Law Schools, a member of Obama's task force for police practices) and his attention to his lecture and all the audience, I did not expect him to give his full time and attention to me! Anyway, I had an important message for him. Too bad that he did not want to hear it. Well, I never asked him, so too bad that he did not find out about the message.

This morning, however, I realized that the message was really for myself, to the part of me that identifies with him: ``If you want to keep your humanity, empathize with the oppressor, the persecutor, the bad guy!" Sympathizing with victims, oppressed, condemned is a convenient position, but over time makes you angry and self-righteous! Understanding the fears and anxieties that drive a seemingly powerful, fortunate, arrogant person, now that is difficult.

``Hope'', ``spirit's orientation'', and ``willingness to witness'' form a sacred triangle. Each one reinforces the others. At the center, is the ``art of listening'', of being present, calm, open, and curious, and containing one's anxieties. At the heart of the ``art of listening'' is a simple and powerful observation. We play the role of oppressor and victim, at the same time, all the time: when we make a decision, based on reason or emotions, and then force ourselves to go through with it. We all have grown up in a global culture that glorifies internal hatred and violence.

Another name for ``hope,'' in the sense I am using, is faith. The fundamental trust, in the face of all imperfections and uncertainties, that we can follow the ``spirit's orientation'' if we allow ourselves to stay witness, and refrain from becoming oppressor or victim, and instead try our best to listen to, and empathize with, all the sounds and characters within ourselves. And the trust that this is the most important, and the only, responsibility that we have in this life.

At this point in time, the most mysterious element of this picture, for me, is the ``spirit's orientation.'' 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hope, Orientation of Spirit, Willingness to Witness

I feel a strange significance in the following passage from Bryan Stevenson's book, ``Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.'' I am not sure why, but I know that in time I will. So I write it down here, forget about it, and let it come back to me in its time.

I'd started addressing the subject of hopefulness in talks to small groups. I'd grown fond of quoting Vaclav Havel, the great Czech leader who has said that ``hope'' was the one thing that people struggling in Eastern Europe needed during the era of Soviet domination.
Havel had said that people struggling for independence wanted money and recognition from other countries; they wanted more criticism of the Soviet empire from the West and more diplomatic pressure. But Havel had said that there were things they wanted; the only thing they needed was hope. Not that pie in the sky stuff, not a preference for optimism over pessimism, but rather ``an orientation of the spirit.'' The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong --- p.219, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Voices and Destiny, Counterpoint and Fugue

Bruce Adolphe [link to his web site] has written one of the most beautiful album notes I have ever read for the ``Bach, Beethoven, Haydn: Juilliard String Quartet 50 Years, Vol. 2'' CD. [link on allmusic] Here are some excerpts:

The word fugue, to many music lovers, implies a technically complex musical edifice, cerebral by nature and rigid in its architecture. Actually, a fugue is---like all valued formal procedures of our musical heritage---the embodiment of a metaphor, a way of understanding the world. ...

Counterpoint exists everywhere in life; it is as natural as overlapping conversations at the dinner table, ... Our minds, too, are involved in constant counterpoint: even as we cross the street while thinking about our work, we are engaged in higher-order counterpane activity. Counterpoint, in music, is the simultaneous but independent activity of voices. The degree to which the voices are heard as separate but equal (which works in art if not in life) or as co-dependent is up to both composer and listener.

Fugue is a particularly spiritual kind of counterpoint: it has to do with destiny. The question of free will and destiny is fundamental to human discourse, and naturally has its artistic manifestations. By virtue of its controlled procedure, its predetermined technical to-do list, it projects in music a sense of something larger than self. The self is fairly obviously represented by the subject (as the main motif of a fugue is called). The musical journey that is then designed by the composer---following a much freer procedure than most noncomposers imagine---related the story of the protagonist (subject) asserting his will out in the deterministic world (fugue). ...

Bach is regarded by musicians as the master of fugue because he found the perfect balance between vertical and horizontal music, that is, between harmony and melody. What this means is that the metaphor is at its richest. Harmony is destiny, it is the controlling element, the underlying foundation; the melody is free will, it is the movement between vertical pillars, the assertion of self. Because Bach perfectly balances harmony and melody, he creates a profoundly complex spiritual design which is universal in meaning. ... --- Bruce Adolphe, album notes, Bach, Beethoven, Haydn
I am not sure if he fully appreciates the depth and relevance of what he has written. In my experience, people (specially artists) often have profound wisdom without knowing it! :)

Clear Shallow Water

I started reading this novel, `` The Driver ,'' by Hart Hanson , and I did not like it much and decided to stop. But then I came ba...