Friday, August 1, 2014

Feeling good in my fresh Road ID kit, I venture on to the park, stopping calmly on the small road in the woods to pull the lax chin strap of my helmet tight.  Past the Cathedral, past Porter, crossing Reno at the light at the bottom of the hill, crossing Connecticut and dropping down the steep hill of Tilden, taking the road by the Czech Embassy, stopping to fill a water bottle.   Through the parking lot after passing along the creek, past the mill, onto Broadbranch, then turning onto the climbing S curve of Grant.  It's time for some hills.  The forest, the horse pasture with picnic tables, beautiful evening.  Crossing Broadbranch, the great hill of Brandywine where I used to do reps, then back up into the park again, then dropping down the windy road out onto Beech Drive by the Park Ranger Station, along the stream as a treat.

I slow down carefully at the intersection, seeing a strong cyclist, a tall man come through straight.  On a bit, along the stream, I find myself closing on him, coming up behind.  He's not intent on going fast.  Maybe he's spinning the lactic acid away, or maybe he's waiting for something.  I want to push it a bit, to gain speed, but I know he is far stronger than I, and don't find an opportune point to pass him, with traffic coming the other way, so I relax at 23 or 24 mph and draft off him.  There is a differential of speed, a tension of following.

At a curve I sense something ghostly coming up behind me, and along comes, without warning, a pace line of the serious team cyclists.  Each set of legs is ripped, and there's that particular sound of a carbon fiber wheel set, the whir of a high end carbon fiber road bike, and they are doing about thirty.  One, two, three pass me, and they keep coming, more riders, cranking away, and with the curves and the curb on my right it is disconcerting, really fairly scary to be enveloped by the forceful peloton coming up behind me, passing me, just to my left.  I've not been in a pack in a long time, and it seems to be throwing off my direction at this speed.  NCVC, local velo club team kits.  I'm finally passed by the last of them as we come up on the Olmstead stone bridge over the creek, two tight curves.

By the time I am toward the end of Beech where it meets Broadbranch, I turn onto the shortcut sidewalk, and am back at the foot of the S curve just in time to see them above, bending forward out of the saddle as they climb, flying.  I did a hill climb once with my friend Dan when he rode seriously.   And I got dropped right away.  I did my best.  Catching them on the way back, going downhill, I got dropped again.  Not my thing, riding in such tumult.  That time, having survived, I went off for a fifty mile ride alone, and felt great.  My attitude different from these serious guys with serious muscles competing with each other.

The peloton safely up the road, I hope, without embarrassment I lolligag my way back up the hill.  I can tell the yoga is helping.  I feel comfortable on the bike.  The new Giordana bibs and jersey with the black, white and orange of Road ID, hey why not, Bob Roll wears one, feel good too.  Ignoring the evidence of being slow, I feel good, like I'm finally filling out at age 49, the way some do at 18.  Beautiful evening, one more lap, a sprint, jacking it up to 27.8 mph for a run along the stream, leaves me soon popped, and I reflect I was wise not to pass the initial serious cyclist guy who strikes me as a kill joy anyway next time I cross paths with him up by the barns.  Is he the guy Dan used to ride with, who looks a bit like Mario Cippolini, a mature gentleman who'd rip your legs off, an executive of some sort, a guy who makes money.  I climb back up making little switchbacks in the wide private road by the Czechs, and then finally, I'm topping the big hill of Tilden, relieved.

Muscular tension, yes, that's what we feel, in the Buddhist handbook way of looking at things.  We objectify things, responding to our surroundings, somethings desirable.  For the muscular guys with huge thigh and calve muscles, going fast in Rock Creek Park is desirable.   Stomping on the pedals, hitting the climbs, speed, agility, not crashing, being in excellent shape, and some friendly competition to get the adrenaline flowing, bravo to these guys on their own terms.  It must be fun.  I've had a taste of it, and it is fun.

When you meditate, you find calm.  You do see what the Buddhist is talking about, the basic suffering inherent in experience, seeking muscular relief like sex is muscular relief.  It's a great ride.  No wonder we find it desirable.  And yet, somehow with all the worrisome stuff going on in the head, the meditation works as nothing else does.

I wake up a bit hungover again, having fallen into the soothing bottle of Chinon from the night before with the steak and rice and the television.  I might have gone out, but it was One AM before I really felt like moving, and I had a whole batch of cycling laundry to care for anyway.  Loneliness is a problem.  It leads to more wine.  I watch a show, My Wild Affair, after catching up the war action in Gaza, a family raising a baby black rhino named Rupert, who looks like a big strong pig.  It costs too much to go out anyway, and I'm unless I'm with my friends from work, it's always unsatisfying.

It is an interesting observation, about this muscular tension we seek to relieve.  I've seen it for years in the restaurants, the seeking to fill a need, a hunger, with something tasty, desirable, combined with a group of other appetites, social, sexual, for pleasure in general.  And having sought artificial relief, rather than calm itself, more or less innocently as I put back the wine to sooth the trouble of cooking and eating dinner alone, today I feel a bit down, the after effect.

The Buddha offers another way of looking at it.  There is a way to back away, to gain some will power.  Through meditation, through the experience of experiencing things, through waking to the dream of existence, we gain something.  The violence with which we seek out the stuff of self begets violence.  Some seem to like living that way.

Meditating, I return to calm, and must observe the lesson that life is, if we make it, through following through with the tension and the desire, suffering.  And if more people meditated, the world might be now in a better place.

I'll never be as fast as those guys, but maybe I don't want to be.  Is that lack of a competitive attitude, or the showing of some deeper wisdom, innate, but still hard to come to terms with.

Today I head out to the nearby hills beneath the Shoreham and the Finnish Embassy as dusk approaches, and I don't seem to be going very fast.  I take the hills, steep ones, but on a recovery ride you just want to go slowly, and I take the mental space to think about muscular tension.  I guess some of us, whether we would want it or not, are more predisposed to see this great I-want-to-say final point of Buddhist thought, that we set things up in such a way of tension and relief.  I've known it myself:  you work hard, and then toward the end of the night you have a glass of wine, put things away, go home.  But by nature, some of us are never really keen on the competitive aspect of life, and have an inkling that everything means tension, thus prompted to think at a deeper level about experience.  Why do we experience things so, we ask ourselves, and such questions lead to ponder the nature of self and where it all fits in.

Passing the huge houses, with gates and fences, a collection of small castles with an ordinary large house thrown in here and there, I see the tension, the tension that must be there to have such a big house, the house the relief of such tension, hard earned, a competition.  And here I am, pedaling, out for a slow workout, taking in the available wildlife and scenery that could overgrow everything in time.  In time I'll be glad to roll home to my own apartment, where I will calmly meditate after I get something to eat.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waking in a kind of a strange fog...

Decent writing should leave an event open to interpretation.  One day you might see things one way, the next the other, maybe even as opposite.  Complexity.  Then you've achieved more, getting more of the truth in, the truth ultimately undefinable.

If something is strongly proclaimed, it may well be crap.

Writing is an odd thing to be doing.  But there must be something natural about it, and rather than condemning its practitioners to ranks of deviancy, we treat it as an art form, something worth study, even if we're not sure why, other than that people seem to do it, to be drawn to it.  Is it because of certain psychological situations, or a certain kind of reaction such as a youthful rebelling?  Perhaps the writing came out of a strange coincidence, as maybe indeed such an act deserves...  as if to deal with a fluke happening, something strange.  Should we get judgmental about the origins of writing?   Is it part of a healing process?

But it is an odd act.  Roth's understanding that writing is an act of offense to family life, completely selfish I will leave to his sharper accomplished mind.  But you could say, Mr. Writer, you've accomplished nothing with your life;  you've not tried anything, not made an effort, sat in your room analyzing, but what comes of it all?

Chekhov included a darker opinion of artists in his vision, often quite directly dismissive, seeing the idle frivolity of it, the indecency...  To include the different sides of all things, the masculine, the feminine, the positive, the negative, is sign of a thinker's vitality.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yeah, you kind of need a bottle of wine, of the low alcohol sort, when you get home from doing Free Wine Tasting night with the busboy downstairs for the greater part of the evening.  I go through a lot of glassware when entertaining, a way of keeping the customer occupied when I'm spread thin.  A bottle of Chinon and an indoor bike ride while there are still Tour de France highlights available through the cable box.

And the next day, having one more dragon of a shift to defeat after doing pretty much every night from Friday through Tuesday alone, the demon of jazz night with an 11 top back in the wine room, what do you write about?   About the fragility of young love, easily disturbed or subverted, and yet the impossible durability of the same, neither a convenient quality but what-can-you-do, it all must mean something, maybe that one needs to abandon dualistic understandings, hot and cold, because everything simply is?  Do you write about an aging king, fresh to a new frailty who sees suddenly in a trusted servant the wisdom, steadfast brotherly love and depth he's missed all along, carrier of valuable true things?   Do you write about the whale quality of people, how some people are soothing to be around, pleasant, swimmers of deep calm old waters, who express things with less sound?  Do you write down the thoughts your 83 year old self-confident distinguished African American gentleman friend shared with you at the end of the night when you walked with him down the steps and out to his car, about how "it's all about her;  it's not about you," advice to the lovelorn, how you take a step, see if she wants more, take another step...  "You're too timid."

Well, you're up out of bed, rising later the last few days, less time for yoga and meditation.  We all need a trade.  These days, one could do worse than what I do, which is an ancient thing, predating psychiatry and even medicine.  An interesting journey in the modern world.

We are indeed in an awkward spot.  The moment you say something, it's no longer true.  It's the same thing as light.  You see it as a particle it acts like a wave.  Thus it is necessary to return to good old school 'stamp collector' science, the taxonomy of the botanist, how leaves are related by structure.  Things are a reflection of That Which Is.  A certain necessary poetry to science.

And so there is a certain truth, even as we don't know what to make of it, to something that like Hamlet reaches so deeply and accurately into the human experience, incredibly painful as it might be to watch, young love going awry, Ophelia's madness after Hamlet's feigned, or the story of King Lear.  Plays which themselves might be about the futility of naming things.  An actor should never get smug on Charlie Rose about playing such roles, never think for a moment, "I am so n so, successful experienced Shakespearean actor," because then you are missing something, grown facile.

Seeing Coldplay sing "You're a Star," it could kind of get old, at least by itself, after awhile, the beautiful love story of anthem rock, as it works less and less as you grow older, more like carrying on what would be impossible to carry on.   The preference grows for duality, to show how that love is mixed with other things, more realistic things, even as it might endure.  That's an honesty better on the system.

"The crap I used to write," MacGowan says, before the stuff of real Irish music came.  "The Auld Triangle," Brendan Behan's song of imprisonment is probably not a song of courtship and fun, but it might better describe what a relationship might really go through taken as a whole.  "A terrible beauty is born," Yeats writes, and it rings truer.  You want to love with the greatest passion;  you also want to go run and hide, never to be seen again.

I am reminded of a scene from a presentation of The Singing Detective, the BBC one with Michael Gambon, a strange Larkinesque beauty to it.  Is it the singing detective himself, stricken with a horrible skin condition, or is it the old man in the hospital, struggling to say something and then who finally says it, then again, louder.  "Asshole!"  A moment of Shakespearean truth.  A kind of 'why don't you be nice to me' honesty to it.

We go to school, we study liberal arts, in order to have a personality, to be, in effect, more honest.  It's served me well as a bartender, though a vast untapped reserve, full of words.  One hopes that's still a good thing in today's world.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It is the end of July.  My own kitchen floor is looking a little grubby, a special breed of greasy dust inhabiting the air.  And in the restaurant on such a Sunday night a cobweb could grow.  The frozen yogurt shop is busy until 10, but we, given the business and the reservations make the call to close the kitchen at 9.

"Mr. T will be coming in tonight, I know it," I tell server V who is working alone downstairs after already working the day shift, when I arrive to work at 4:15. Yes, that would be perfect.  Agonizingly slow night, then Mr. T comes in right before the kitchen closes, has his Manhattan, orders three courses, and everyone in the kitchen is staring at each other.

I have a pleasant man, 57 years of age, with an impressive goatee, who turns out to be from Belgrave, an engineer who went to medical school and became an anesthesiologist.   He's been to Baux de Provence, the beautiful village perched on Bauxite rich cliffs where they have excellent local wines, and he opts for the rosé we have by the glass, which is from nearby Aix.

A father daughter couple come in and sit at a table near the front windows and have an easy Sunday night dinner.  The daughter would be age appropriate to date, but for the fact I've done nothing with my life, and the father at a good ripe age is in great shape and there is good conversation, the two at ease with each other and the state of life.

And then H, busboy, downstairs, who's running my food shouts up at me, hey.   Hey what?  I ask, as soon as I find a neat break in the conversation with the gentleman.   Kitchen closing at 9.  Okay.  When the gentleman, who has earned a life, and who's having problems finding a house in Northern Virginia before it gets snapped up, finishes up with our talk of soccer and where to send his rower son to college, departs, I clean the floor of the wine refrigerator, underneath where the fruit brandies and the Lillet and the juice store'n'pour containers rest overneath, taking bottles out, Windex, bar rag.  Medicine is getting very corporate these days, the man was saying.

A chocolate mousse to share for dessert, talk of John Oliver's take on Net Neutrality, and father and daughter depart, seeming to appreciate my effort to be friendly but not intrusive, as an idiot can be a little hyper in such a situation over making conversation.  The place is empty, and now the final minutes are ticking down, the nervous hour.  I'm rearranging furniture, after putting the place settings back in the low mahogany table's drawers, putting things in order for tomorrow night's jazz.  I look out at the street.  Foot traffic, again, in to have some yogurt.  No one interested in a nice glass of wine.  My own preaching, backfiring?  The digital clock on the Aloha computer screen turns silently to 9:00 PM.  Safe, or so you think...

Gathering some things, the few dishes that have piled up on a milk crate below the bar rail, placing a white cloth napkin over them, I head downstairs, turn the knob of the door to the main dining room with its customary click, and there is Mr. T, sipping his Manhattan, and of course he sees me, and raises his arm high, "Tim!  Hello."   I may have dodged the bullet, but at 9:08, V has not.  "Tim," he explains, "I got here just in time and ordered right away," he says, explaining why he won't be keeping me company 'til midnight upstairs, singing along to the sound system.  I typed Mahler into the Pandora's brain and created a new late night station for such a purpose, and I also dug up a few Jacques Brel CDs I'd burned with some appropriately slow and philosophical maybe even morbid and depressing songs, beautiful on some days, indigestible on others to certain mindsets.  "I'm having the catfish," Mr. T says proudly, and I help out by pouring him a dose of Pouilly Fumé from the half bottle he's ordered from the ice bucket.  In the kitchen folks are staring at each other.  There is a piece of uncooked catfish filet out on the cutting board.  "I have no social life," the chef explained to me last week.  "Just shoot me, please," V says quietly to me, as I look guiltily into her brown eyes.

But what are you going to do?  You're an upstairs guy who doesn't do downstairs.  I change, back into cargo pocket shorts and the white tee shirt I came in with.  I bring down my check out, which feels weird, as the downstairs people come up and hand me the checkout paperwork and cash a good while before I leave on just about every single shift I've worked in ten years.  I finally go to fetch my bike from the basement, after we take a group self picture with Mr. T's new iPhone.  I notice Mr. T has on some shiny patent leather white slippers for shoes.  As I bring my bike up Mr. T says, "Tim, I want to give you something," reaching into his purse.  I ignored him before, but he insists, saying "Now Tim I think I've mistreated you before," handing me a folded twenty.  "Be careful about your bike," he says, meaning, be safe, but also don't let it get stolen.

I slip away into the night eventually, around 10:30 without a sip of wine.  I'm going to get home and watch the final stage of the Tour, and ride my bike indoors.  I roll up, and the upstairs neighbor looks out from his lit high window where he's sitting at his desk, and taking off my helmet, the headlamp on it turned off, I give him a wave, and enter my flat and close the door.  (My brother thinks me entirely pompous for using the word, flat, but it's a good quick word, and that's what it is.)  I did not need one more person, it turns out, and I turn on the TV and thank god for Bob Roll, and there is Vincenzo Nibali standing shyly on the podium, a beautiful moment as they play the national anthem of Italy, which must be a tradition at the final ceremony of the Tour.

But it's lonesome after all the noise, though I have no business going out.  And fortunately I have a bottle of Beaujolais to open, though I wish it was chilled.  It takes me some time to get organized enough to get on the bicycle.  I get the television adjusted and begin my workout and the sip of wine eases the fact that I am totally unprepared for the future, as if I were living still in a college dorm, not the slightest idea about what to do as far as real estate, a living situation for coming golden years.  And the thought is never far away, what a disappointment I always am for women, getting sucked into situations like with my grandfather on Easter night, people I spend time with too generously, people like the pot smoking high school buddy who appeared to need in his middling squalor a friend, people like Mr. T, all the sort of people you end up knowing without selfishness or an agenda to protect yourself with.  (I was never arrogant enough to be a professional intellectual.)  I deserve it, being stuck alone, a bottle of wine and an indoor bike ride the only thing to sooth the deep unease that must be mixed with some gratitude for it not being worse.

Joseph Mitchell too, I think as I ride, would have known loneliness.  There is in him somewhere, the piece about Old McSorley's Ale House, a line about the drink "insulating" an older person against the loneliness of night.  And that is what it does, as I drink my mild bottle, waiting for the Tour to come on again, watching on interesting piece about a director of low budget horror type films, beautiful eloquent rapturous films about zombies and such and big cats that stalk the night.

You'd really like to cry sometimes, but forgetting how, well, you go on.  And thus, meditation is very important, the only real way to control the mind, the wine's benefit now making you slightly more depressed and stuck on thoughts then you might otherwise be.

To find your own natural style, that is actually the hardest thing for a writer to do.  It takes time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The barman's bedeviler is an entertaining guy, with impeccable shoes and a tweed jacket, who lives out in the country with horses and dogs.  He'll eat dinner downstairs with his party, then just as you're finally getting rid of the last people after dinner service in the bar, he will, remembering earlier times, late nights, cigarettes, relaxing with the lights down low with chicks, indulging in his taste for Jameson's with a good hearted audience for his stories, come to haunt.  He likes to tell stories in which he, a practical man, tells people 'to suck my d...' all told with a smoky voice accented by the mastery of English across the sea.  The people of a certain island, a U.S. territory, sit around and scratch their balls.  The two young ladies chuckle.  I chuckle.  He would not have come up here if I weren't here.  The young man, who ordered the round of drinks, puffs from an electric cigarette, and thankfully there is talk of another late night hangout.  I feel a bit bad I've jacked up the lights and turned the music down, the candles up except for the one on their table in the corner, saying to myself, 'no, no, please no...' as I run the bar mats through the dishwasher.   The cook comes up stairs and offers me a Salvadoran butter cookie, and I pour him a glass of Bordeaux, and I remark on the cool festive Hawaiian-like shirt, sent to him by his sister in Gabon, and the fedora on his shaved head.  He's going out to meet some cook friends.  "Where's yours," he says politely, so I pour myself a small amount of Chinon, the first of the night, even as I grit my teeth somewhere, mildly.  I take a sip, and ask him if he has any grey hair yet.  Yes, he does, on his chin.  The charming devil over in the corner is making a hyperbole over recycling a certain rubber item.  JB asks for his check, quietly, proudly, sadly giving me his credit card.  There may well be some tequila in his future, tonight with his friends, in Georgetown or up on 18th Street.  I give him a bro hug before he goes;  the restaurant has been through some changes lately, the departure of a chef.

Soon, our guest the dominant male asks for the check.  "Put a hundred percent tip on it," he says, thanking me for my late night friendly tolerance, my joining in with the late nights (for which he always paid the check.)  Stories, great ones, the joy of being regaled, indeed, it has its pull.  And I feel a bit guilty, for not switching back into the old mode.

The downstairs manager had come up an hour earlier and simply said his name.  I looked at her, preoccupied with tying a few loose ends up.  She describes him, his drink.  "Oh, merdre, he popped into my mind a few days ago."  "You shouldn't have thought about him," she smiles.  "He wants to come upstairs."    Maybe if I hadn't have known it would have been better, but when you've been jerked back and forth in the summer's mix of slow-slow-slow and then a pop, jesus-christ-just-let-me-go-home.

The Uber is here, the young man says, and by the time I find the man's credit card underneath the low Indonesian pod chair, run downstairs and catch him getting into a Lincoln Navigator with the chicks and the guy, he is my friend again.  And later, alone, not very happy, a bit rattled, too lazy to go buy rice across the street at the Safeway, I eat a small dish of salmon tartar, putting the capers aside.  The end of the night is a vulnerable time.  Ah, just get me home and I'll ride my bike indoors to the Tour's last time trial (and the huge powerful mastodon legs of the World Champion at the event) my mind says, and that is what I do.

I get my ride in, a good sweat, with a few glasses of wine from an opened bottle in the fridge, shower, go to bed after a bowl of rice and some rye crackers with almond butter, and wake up feeling a bit lost, adrift, the bad influences, my weaknesses playing in my mind.  The Tour rolls into Paris and onto the Champs-Élyseés.

After a shower I look down somewhat glumly at the yoga mat, without my contacts in, the day getting sweaty, as if it were a diving board, and I go through my basic routine, the inversions to wake the third eye and put one in a better mood, along with the triangle, the half moon, the warrior, finally a headstand before the meditation that time before work might allow.  I think of Joseph Mitchell, some of the best writing I've ever read, haunting in a good way, the courtly man from North Carolina who came to New York as a police reporter, who wandered all New York near and far, writing pieces for The New Yorker.   He captured New York, now a very old New York, before it all changed, before its realness was lost, drifting away, taken over by the uniform stamp, as if writing of unicorns in a time when once they were quite real.  His own story, whatever it was, he never really told, though it gave him a deep enough soul to serve as recording material for much of humanity and human experience in its diverse realms, something you might say, if you had to, tender about him.  Perhaps he alluded to it here and there.  We may never really know.

If I should write a book maybe it would be like the inverse of Mitchell's walks to distant cemeteries and humble territories, or his feet, one might imagine, bumped by rats on the ships he may have explored to write a piece about rats on ships.   It would be of a slow and steady barman, who mildly, self-editingly, recorded a bit of the life that came past him, though of course, the great bulk of it lost into the obscurity of even a decent memory.  It would record all the unannounced guests, and maybe some of his own random memories, like that of bringing flowers once to a girl at the end of a school year, standing in the door, feeling suddenly the height of his throat above the floor of the hallway in which he stood, looking at the girl look up at him before he nodded and tucked the box back under his arm and walked away into the rain.  "Okay.  I won't write you," the young voice said, and yet everything he would ever write about be for such mythical eyes, as if to present her too the flowers of experience.  Scraps here and there, like MacGowan's.  It would not be good as Joseph's Mitchell's, but might explain a few things none the less before they too were lost to modernity and all its rules and means, to carry on the human story with the mighty pen.

The worst devils, as Melville may have once explained to the original Queequeg at his altar, are the ones who tell you not to write.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm discovering more and more the beauties of the low alcohol reds, the Pinot Noir, the Gamay, the Cabernet Franc wines of Central France...  Easy on the esophagus, and for an enthusiast, self-controlling.  The geology, the terroir of the season comes through such wines, making them sometimes acidic, other years more lush...  Of course, as the French know, they are great versatile wines to highlight the flavors of the food reasonable people tend to eat.

The world of wine, jammy high alcohol fruit bomb irrigated vine wines aside, let nature take its course, is indeed interesting.  It presents a way of interacting with our fellows, facilitates some conversations, perhaps, it's a staple of diplomacy, and indeed, in Washington, DC, a mode of being important to the easy functioning of things, where the ego is almost a virtual necessity.

But drinking is part of being mired in suffering, in the dream of existence of subject and object.  There is to it an honest acceptance of the suffering of life, and for good reason do we associate the glass of wine with the Christian understanding, its story and ritual and deeper meanings.

There are parts of it that are, for some people at least, medicinal.  But ultimately, for the sake of clarity of the mind, it must be put aside, enjoyed less and less, and hopefully, finally, not at all.

Poor chaste mature Lincoln (experienced in the world) had an understanding of drinkers, accepted that they could be good hearted people, aware of suffering.  Never one for a taste of it, beside the occasional diplomatic sip of wine, he put it aside.

To really grasp suffering, it follows that you need to be beaten down.  It needs be that you really have to see how the mind itself is what causes us to suffer, through its needs, through its constant whining, through its immediate urges, through all its misdirections.  Some of us, I suppose, can neatly avoid that, and live a well-functioning life amidst that suffering condition.

Thus does one see the great gentleness to the body, to each muscle, the offer of a tender stretch to realign, to re-realize, that yoga is.  One sees the beauty of its greatest most gentle practitioner seated lotus style under a Ficus tree, right hand touching the earth, I too have the right to be here in this space on this ground, the clear atomic power insight emanating from him.

In waiting on people I am allowed to trust more and more the things I'd naturally say to them.  My line as I held the door open to a nice lady who's going climbing in the Tetons, "even Robert Kennedy didn't like heights so much."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Tour gives me the chance to ruminate, to recover from the family vacation.  (People are indeed mired in suffering, sleepwalking in the dream of existence.)  My Nineteenth Century mind has some difficulties with it, with everything, really, but perhaps more particularly with modern life in general.  The pitch of the coverage, in some overview, is for self-centeredness, and all the commercials reflect it.  "Be a 'me.'  Me, me, me."  The conventional thinking of the commercial world, of  life experienced solely as a subject amongst objects is reinforced by the excitement of the commentator, that each rider is a subject, with a clear goal, with clear obstacles, a body reaching for power and speed, victor over loser.

The riders are men talented at riding, and they are simply doing their jobs, good for them.  And the Tour is not all about subject and object, if watched meditatively.  The fine athletic accomplishments remain, as do the old churchyards and abbeys, the peaceful landscape, the vineyards, the farms, the hill towns.  The idyll of the Tour lives and breathes, and with a trained mind less we see of the annual facade and the corporate logos and the Light Beer commercials that say "YOU (objectified) know how to live life (objectified) in the fullest," that takes us for needy creatures easily bored, in need of stuff and things to do beyond the good stuff that would naturally occur to us given a modicum of parental love and support and reasonable educators.  The Tour does remind us, as the great writer Blondin famously referenced, of the schoolboy's pursuit of hands on sports excitement, and riding a bike is, after all, fun.

The viewer can indeed say, "I had my own little ride yesterday, saw swallows rising on a thermal at dusk above the finger of forest."  Or were they bats.  Anyway, interesting flying creatures doing the dance of life.  And today the viewer has finally returned to read and ponder the Washington Buddhist Vihara's excellent piece on Buddhist Meditation, found at, which lays it out for you clearly.

Our road maps, our directions in life, our landmarks, we often construct around the self.  Senses get in the way;  we seek pleasure, and accomplishments.

"As we understand, emotional excitement is not true happiness, and attachment is not true love," we can read here, from the above website.

Under the conditions of a family vacation, without benefit of the daily meditation practice, it's easier to fall into the reactive side as opposed to the will-power side.  Emotional reactions can eat at you, and under such circumstances they can override Buddhist-based wisdom of the deep appropriateness of non-attachment in love and life, such that you react to what's immediately around you and take it as a great body of evidence that love and life is first and foremost about material wealth and, therefore, professional accomplishment.  "You'd be smart and own Walker Point if you really loved me, honey, and then we'd have a big family."  (Or at least a job with a pension.)  A way of looking at things that leaves a lot of us out in the cold.

As the Tour goes on its way, mimicking how humanity tenderly shepherded its members through countryside and adventure and challenge in order to eat and survive the elements, someone will win the stage as punch the sky with his own self-centered way, which in turn allows the commercials, which preach selfishness indirectly by offering you stuff you pay for.  Something in the end makes these guys want to win, like Lance, a competitive nature, "I want to beat you," the will that makes winning worth the extra mile.  (Buddha, if in a competitive riding shape, might not care so much about winning.  And in fact, there are lots of good guys here, who have a good attitude toward competition, an impersonal regard to their bodies capabilities on a given day.  It is, after all, a less egotistical aggressive injurious sport commercially defensive of itself than American football, as one might expect from the long point of view of the European.  Hemingway writes with curiosity, mocking slightly, of discovering the sport of cycling in a hotel scene in The Sun Also Rises, as he himself discovers the European sport of writing, Sketches from a Hunter's Album sort of stuff.)  And living as adults we say, well, that's the way it is, winners and losers.  Which is looking at it one way.  Our identity can, on bad days in particular, only be based on perceived actual livelihood, yearly earnings, rent.

But, "wouldn't it be nice to believe back in the old fairly tale of love based on less practical things."  Wouldn't it be nice to see a real way of human caring that goes beyond attachment, that takes a pure form of love that does not advertise itself, that is, through selflessness often long-suffering, I mean, if we had to objectify it.  (Paul's message of he who preached a higher form of love...)  Wouldn't we almost need at least the hypothetical conjectured existence of such a thing in order to preserve enough calm to move forward in a given day...  Hey, wouldn't that be close to love itself.  Wouldn't we need to believe in the existence of it in others too.

As far as offering myself some relief, I can at least say I do not have the most selfish of jobs, at least I'd like to think.  Sure, I can do bad stuff, getting carried away with the pleasures of wine, inciting rather than abating it in others.  But, serving people, there's a lesson in it.  Perhaps, with the stress, it's a lesson in keeping calm, but more than that, a decreasing of "me, myself, I win," and an increase in "I can all help others," even if such is confused being part of a trade with a boss to keep happy.  (Actually, many bosses.)

There is beyond the experience of subject and object the experience of experience.  We are watching ourselves watch the Tour de France.  We are watching existence, and in existence there is a world with a country called France with picturesque villages set in countryside, which we in turn, to objectify ourselves, watch through the modern miracle of the television set even with live coverage.  It seems to relieve muscular tension, a desirable thing, something relaxing, to take our minds off of the pressing stuff of our own lives, to dawdle for a moment wrapped up in a man in a lycra suit needing a change of bicycles, the man in yellow taking a curve with a pleasing conservative staying within the lines, a fat man spectating out in the middle of the road with a fist raised.

Back to the experiencing of experience, back to the meditation and the awareness, back to one's own mind, back to the calm from which kindness and compassion and deep understandings come from.  Back to the de-objectifying of experience, away from the sense of a permanent fixed self, back to realizing more the dream quality of existence and the clear mind of pure consciousness itself that lives on.

To me, that is the art form.

(And also the basis of literary criticism, a topic for another day, say Chekhov's gift for capturing non-duality... or for Sherwood Anderson's defunct broken souls who still have a beauty about them...)