Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Lions surround family in burning car"--from news gathered by the Weather Channel.  In game preserve, park wardens save mother and children, video of a family style van engulfed in flames.  Little more is told.  No pictures of lions sitting expectantly on haunches surrounding the vehicle.  Dialog of sentient beings the lions?  Hey, what do you think we should do?  Ah, nothing.  Tourist dollars keep us safe.  Wouldn't pay to do anything more than express a little curious interest.  Besides, it will be a story on the Weather Channel.  But we don't need the coverage.  We'll just play it cool.  Terrible thing, fire like that.  They'll come to save them.  No worries.

Born Free tells the story of the dignity of these creatures, and revisiting, following up, the lions come and sit respectfully at the man's cairn gravesite.  (Poachers killed him.)

The story of Prince Gautama is the story of all of us.  Young fellow, in his particular case, raised in ease, with pleasures given to him, an exaggerated case.  He practiced the arts, probably was a literary young fart writing poetry and whatnot, music, swords, whatever.  Consorts to school him in pleasures.  But all of it details as far as his greater accomplishment as Buddha, awakened one, enlightened being.  The final truth of no mind.  No mind, only light within.  No need for any story.  Only thing to tell is a general guide of how to live in accordance with that, supporting that ultimate reality.  Thus, no engaging in story, which perhaps is the point of  the Zen branch.

A few stories to illustrate, to teach the point, but otherwise, get right at it.  Meditate, clear the mind.

We crave narrative.  Our minds love the habit of qualifying things, labeling, nailing down, discussing.

Chekhov's Black Monk, the specter haunting the protagonist of a famous story, perhaps representing that there is no story to tell, that it's all relative, nothing to nail down ultimately, no judgments to be made that really last.

I think of my egoless father…  How with such great love and tolerance he put up with my presence, placed little need for a narrative upon me…  And that is love, the way we feel it, when we sense that great agelessness, the need for narrative no longer pressing up against us or our relationship, passive in a way…  telling us, as maybe the lions said to one another, 'no mind.'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Okay, painters in the kitchen.  Do not set the alarm.  Do not set the alarm, I repeat to myself as I leave, finally.  I watched myself close the door.  I watched myself push in the code, followed by the little beep beep beep.  I opened the wine bar door, picked up my bicycle, backed it out onto the steps down to the sidewalk as the door shut.  Then, about to lock the deadbolt, uh oh.  Shit.  So, I scramble, open the other door, punch in the one code I know.  I'm inside now.  Will it work?  And then, no.  Very loudly, no.  (Never to try to rob a place.  The alarm noise is such that you can't even think.)  But, somehow it doesn't seem to effect the painters, viewed through the porthole window on the kitchen door.  Or they are such stoics that the noise, through the closed door doesn't seem to bother them.  I try to figure out the keypad alarm system, but can't find my reading glasses, blasted by the horns, so eventually, I lock the door and step outside.  I wait around for a while.  A policeman goes by hurriedly on a motorcycle, to the Safeway.  The noise stops.  I check my phone, and pedal away, pulse racing, guilt following me.  What if the cops come and think the painters are robbers?  No, it's pretty obvious they are painting the kitchen ceiling.  Long night.  Kitchen closed three hours before I'm finally done.  A quick run to the Safeway for groceries, rice, quinoa.  Back to restaurant, groceries into courier bag, get ready for ride home.   Boss's wife stays late with my regular customers, electric violin from the live jazz in my ears, no wonder the distraction, the mind gone into auto mode.  The jumble, as I ride, distractedly, home, stopping in the park to see if any remnants of the meteor shower are still in the eastern sky.  Too much light pollution anyway.

I come home, amped still.  I vacuum the living room rug, the television on, something about Rembrandt compared with a Chinese Buddhist nature painter with the black brush sketches.  But there is backsliding going on, and despite lighting candles, and some incense, I know there is an open bottle of Ventoux in the fridge, and though I've been dry all night, home, I do not resist the urge.  "Just don't bring any home, next time," I tell myself.  Thus, no temptation.  Live simply.  But, yes, there is backsliding, even though I find where I was in the YouTube "Dalai Lama -- How To Practice:  The Way to a Meaningful Life."  I'm no longer bent on getting the electric razor out and shaving my head, Buddhist style, like I was a few days ago.  Hair, a problem, it would be better to not have to deal with it really.  Typical, no follow through, just another one of those phases in an unserious life.

Stupid intellectual, should have never gone slumming for such a job, I might have mumbled to myself as I do the dishes.  Finally go to bed.

Today, the third anniversary of my father's funeral.

My head's a jumble, subtly pained, too much, the night before.  The depressive aftereffect of a melatonin tablet, a glass and a half of wine, on top of the seeming lack of direction, the need to show up to work tonight?  I don't seem to know what to do today.  How to find some calm before going off to wine tasting…    Where did I leave off yesterday in my calm clear understanding about how we all are in dharma reality, and that it might be construed that we act accordingly on a deeper instinct.  Somehow we find our way in the dharma, naturally, on instinct, like a bee does its work in the hive.  And this is to resist the outer pressure to conform, to do all the things we're supposed to do as citizens and people, sons and daughters.

The problem of society is the impugnment of motives.  Motives, motives, everywhere.  And the motive of some people is little more than finding a way in the dharma, finding a place,  way to teach, however they can.  This, of course, requires an awakening, to be conscious of this primary quality of mind.  And this awakening is not encouraged much here.  It's hard enough to come o an understanding of it, given favorable conditions.  Yes, the greater motives of the world are confusing and weighty.   Everyone seems to think, you need motives to get you through, don't you, anyway…   Don't have any?  You must be a fool, with no ambition.

But there is that place of learning, that ability to be open and ready for a lesson,  wherever it might come from.  And that's how we treat a student, with the benefit of such respect.

There is also the condition that a student might one day mature, grow into being a teacher, having awoken to a logic, a coherent philosophy.  And with the dharma, perhaps it depends on how you fit into it, as either an example or a teacher, through an understanding of it or through a choice of ignorance for it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finally, at the end of Easter, feeling odd with a house guest in the basement who goes to bed early, tired from Saturday, I opened a bottle of wine around midnight after a long nap, still feeling the smoke from grilling meat on my face, dishes undone  After taking a week off, only a few glasses of wine after the Tuesday shift, a beer after Wednesday night jazz, then three days completely dry, even the Saturday shift, I felt I could try a little wine and see how I felt about it.  I needed some calm energy, I thought, to sort through my book shelves, assess what I had.  Too much stuff, beginning to weigh on me.  Attachments.  I'd ingested bread at work on Saturday at the end of the night, feeling it in my joints, unable to get into lotus.  I felt I could use a glass, just to smooth things over, calm me down, let my writer mind wander unselfconsciously.  Do some recycling.  Strip things down.  "Good wine is a necessity of life for me," Jefferson said, so maybe it will help me organize my little Monticello with too many books, too many guitars, papers, Hemingway magpie clutter, Madam Korbonski's Polish stuff.   I see the picture of Dad, the botanist as a boy back in Turner's Falls atop the desk.  The cat knocked it over, broke the glass.

Okay, try a glass, okay.  After all this Buddhist stuff, let's see if I'm being a little too Taliban, a little too Puritanical…  It all makes a supreme amount of sense, but let's see how the calm reaction to it will be…  trying not to get nervous because maybe my future as a barman is riding on this.  Peter Matthiessen, you can't get any better than that, the magazine section piece noted him having "a well stocked bar," and maybe the Zen wing more readily allows that, holds that it's the intoxication, and that you can get intoxicated on anything, even Buddha.  And poor old Kerouac liked to allude to old Chinese monks of the mountains who loved their wine, whatever they made it out of, even though this hints loudly of enablement.  (He could go dry when he had to.  Fame… that's what fucked him up.  Let's drink with the King of the Beatniks, they'd say, knocking on his basement window as he sat at the typewriter.)

You can't be an Enlightened Buddha overnight.  It takes practice, daily practice, the following of moral code, the discipline of meditation and physical readiness.  As I hoped, the wine didn't taste that good, and nor did it soothe.  I know one can easily get 'holy, holy, holy,' think he is getting somewhere, pray to Jesus in sincere hopes of a second-coming;  I know one can go through phases, fully buying it one week, and then a few weeks later, losing enthusiasm and will power and vision.  Don't get ahead of yourself.  Don't become a full Catholic quite yet, as nice and as comforting as that would be, your mind made up for you about just about everything.

Therefore, test things yourself, in your own laboratory, be honest with yourself, and see what happens. What's all this Buddha stuff about anyway?  What is the Lama saying when he says that within all pleasures there is, if you partake, the increase of suffering?

And what I felt was, after all these years of trying to fit in, of telling myself a story, was that no, I don't need it.  There was no great aversion, no spitting out, just non-attachment, the truth of non-attachment, distance from the ego-body of 'wine enjoyer.'  (And look how my email in box is full of wine related offers, along with all the rest of marketing crap.)  There wasn't even too much--though there was some--of great regret, at least the next day in daylight.  There was simple plain honesty.  A simple note of how very preferable not to even begin.

I might wonder why.  Because wine represents attachment?  I'm not sure.  Or maybe I was just now being honest with myself, cutting through all the crap myths of self, seeing rather the red flush on my cheeks as I looked in the bathroom mirror.  "Oh, yes, writers are supposed to drink," a voice said, but it was old and distant, an old fool, tired, though I did not beat up the voice, fearing reprisal, fearing being taken back in.  "Think of Coltrane, the Love Supreme, for the newly clean, newly strong."

Forgive self for, in state of complete hunger and growing stiffness from seven hours on your feet after a busy shift for reaching toward the glass of camaraderie, the drink with the chefs jolly to be done with their very long day sweating the kitchen over the proverbial hot stove.  There's no fault, just the call to be aware, to raise awareness, to not do the knee-jerk patterned response, after an evening of seeing everyone wrap their own lips around the edge of a tipped wine glass, as if stories and laughter of Czech proportions would come out of the pagan woods, that spirits would dance, the sky would open above and that one would return, with all his hard working good hearted friends to the bosom of a nice small town somewhere tucked within forested hills with very old trees and gardens and courtyards, a magnificent light pollution free sky overhead, fresh mountain air, a river, a fountain, then go home to sleep well under a thick feathered comforter embraced and embracing the girl of dreams.

No, enough fantasies, and each day is day one not be drawn in by the old habit, but to see freshly, to not even dwell on the sins of the past, but be liberated and be the moral being of good just wisdom who harms no one and wishes for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

Yes, doesn't it feel good, after two ibuprofen, to be up at a reasonable hour for a night shift worker, sipping green tea.  And if I can't figure everything out today, quit my job as barman instantly, as I might like, go join at last the monastic call, well, I guess that's okay.  Just, yes, live in the present, and only care about what you need to care about and really wish to care about.  And don't I feel calmer for saying so.

We cannot but help practice Buddhism in our lives.  That is the funny thing.  You might as well realize this, and map out to what extent you are doing this negatively or positively.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

In the hours before my shift tonight, Saturday, I think of the suffering of humanity and all creatures, the deep secretive pain we all feel not knowing enlightenment and the refuge of the Buddha's teachings.  I feel strange about the duties of work now, as if I am only adding to the illusion of escape, through wine, through promoting the whole restaurant ritual.  How many martinis and manhattans and old fashionedes will I have to make?  How much bubbly will I pour?  I will offer dessert to every table that dines, unless otherwise instructed.  And all I will do cordially and in a good-natured way.

Suffering, I know, because I too have suffered, and blindly sought to escape it, looking at my own behavior, not constantly poor or cruel or evil to others, but enough to feel shame and realize I hurt people close to me who were far more enlightened and serious than I.  And I know what it's like, to go home, feeling the great angst, not knowing what else to do, but pour a glass of wine and feel the medicinal numbing, almost sleepy, as I lean back on the couch, remote in hand, nodding, until I wake up and try to go to bed.

Saturday Night is a shift of suffering anyway for those who have to work them.  There is tonight the six top just before kitchen closing.  That's life.  That's business.  "Do you want to not be busy," the boss would ask, to make his point firm.   Stress is involved.  I get in early and diligently, very diligently, set up.

So I write this minor meditation on it, as if to present the issue, clearly, coming out of my mind, this time, rather than bottled up within.  "I'll have a splash more," a regular fellow, a very decent guy who visits the wine bar of The Bistrot of the Dying Gaul, says when he gets rolling.  Of course his buddy comes, a man in his prime with lots of energy, serving him a complicated business to be endured.  "Well, my friend, you do not need a splash," I might like to say tonight.  For you, I, and all poor creatures are dearly suffering in this existence, ignorant of the dharma truths.

The night is busy, but it goes by.  Mercifully, no bar crowd expecting entertainment.  My coworker stresses.  (I've begun to hint to him that meditation would be helpful, as it helps keep the calm in the air-traffic controller stress situations common in busy restaurants.)  He barks orders.  "I need bread on 62," he half shouts, wide eyed, loud like a bluejay.  The little walkie talkie behind the bar rings its beeping electric alarm, an excited frantic tone, and he goes off running downstairs through the main dining room to the kitchen and back with whatever is ready.  I would have let the busser make the trip in the hectic pitched battle hours.  Enough to do here as it is.

As I student, as a young writer trying to find my voice, I was aware of the problem of suffering.  I  sought alternative to the  deep joy of mediation.  I tried the escapes of pleasure, and years went down a hole, even as I showed friendship and compassion to my fellow beings.  I thought a mutual escape of reality seemed a solution, as if it was a political movement, as if it would bind people on a common ground.  I went on long bike rides, stoically propping up my mood and physique.  There was always suffering there, the unsatisfactory quality, dukkha, from which no one can escape, for whom efforts to escape will only generate more suffering.

But it is uncommon becoming a Buddhist here.  I was an idiot and passed up several good opportunities at college, special chances that I let pass by, missing the boat.  I didn't know how to go about becoming one, and still don't know what to do, except begin an attempt at my own little practice.  On the other hand there were the books my father passed down to me, from his Theosophical tradition, and I read when I could, and yes, such things made sense.  But then it was always, back to work, back to the shift, and then back to the modest pleasures of close friends--you bring a bottle of good wine, they cook dinner, you catch up.  Always, the problem of a career, and years ticking by.  Life in a city--you drink wine, keep up to date somewhat.  The city's greatest paper, repository of culture and art and all the news that's fit to print, has a wine column, a beautiful subject.  "Buy in, buy in," it all says.  You don't want to look odd.  And your own foolishness, lack of direction, career obtuseness left that your best option, knowing how to open a wine bottle and talk about it, to read people, to entertain, to get the job done.

So what do you do?  The monastery?  If you were honest, if you weren't stuck with too many possessions already from trying to enjoy some of life, yes, you would.  You would disdain attachments as low things, and move on.

I get home, spoon up some quinoa, nothing on television, wash face, brush teeth, pour glass of water, tuck myself in in the April cold, put a melatonin tablet under my tongue.  I wake at first light, Easter morning, with a day free ahead of me, but not feeling I know what to do with it, and rather feeling darkly about a lot of things, as if anything I could do at this point in life, mid life, late mid life, wouldn't help anyway.

I do a small rubber made tub of dishes, as tea brews.  It's Easter morning, and I will attempt to meditate.

Who is happy?  What is happiness?  What if I had caught that train early on and became a Buddhist scholar, taught, had a respectable job, a house somewhere, family life…  Or was it better, for the purposes of understanding, to live a suffering life with that strange beauty of enlightenment within grasp, but difficult to attain, until finally comprehending it as fully as one could from within.

The Buddha is right to explore suffering, to experience it first hand, freed from illusion.  The problem is that this philosophical look at suffering, this experience of it, causes a change in one's look at things, a change one might compare to the atomic bomb explosion, such that suddenly one sees all things differently, entire great cities not mattering anymore than an anthill, all human endeavors seen in new light, separating the things that matter from the things that do not matter in an entirely new way.  The things that conventionally matter suddenly shrink and blow away in importance, the bulk of human society amounting to sand pipers trotting hurriedly around on a beach as waves come up and then recede.  The things that were taken as utterly important, like the kind small act of a stranger, are suddenly the atomic solar light, far surpassing the strict codified system of manners and social rules and social position and estimations of personal importance in their relevance to the good of the world, the shy and the often silent upholding the species and its footing on the planet.

But who wouldn't initially want to back away in pain at such realizations, seeing all the good one has done in the form of small acts, not wishing anything in return, suddenly more important than what all the world's "great leaders" manage, ants too, but not with the knowledge that they are ants.

"My Life had stood--a loaded Gun
In corners--Till a Day
The Owner passed--identified
And carried Me Away."

You, like I, have felt the unsatisfactory quality of conversations, particularly over the phone, talk about stuff, plans, happenings…  You want to say, 'no, that is just stuff of the ego;  we're not really interested in that, so let's not talk about it.'  Talk about stuff can be amusing, but it falls short, distracts.  Perhaps that's another reason to enjoy Emily Dickinson's poem here, its sense of great resolution.  And that resolution, almost like a mantra, seems to pull the reader into a place of resolution too, a place of contentment, everything, even relationships, in the right form, proper, well-mannered.  And this speaks of course of the initial state of not being content, of running things of the past through the mind and wondering why things turned out so, as perhaps she, being "the spinster," might have felt closely.  And again, that sense that seems to run through her poems, of feeling that townspeople curiosity, "what's up with Emily, does she like that Colonel guy?"  (which we still feel compelled to ponder--"maybe she's gay"), juxtaposed with her own deep sense of things that basically pays little mind to that stuff, having an entirely different view of time, thus being present enough, egoless enough, to see and compose a poem on its own terms.

Does that sense of time account for the enigmatic ending of her poem, born with the power to kill, but not the power to die…  What is the sense of "He must longer live"?  Is it desirable, to live longer, if you must?  Is she speaking of living in a great omniscient present, thus no power to die, the freedom of being passively in perfect order with the Universe?  That the narrator has now few worries, because of the epiphany, in one reading of it.  Without the power to die, she has found eternity's presence.  Still, it is an odd meeting of the normal material time we live in and the eternal, puzzling.

The palpable satisfaction of suddenly finding no regrets, of a great order to life, lasts through the end of the poem.  She has found a greater purpose than would have come with other relationships.  It was all easy in the end, being chosen, carried away, no need for any effort but to be what you are.  What a comfort to the reader beating his or her self up for something that didn't happen.

Suffering does lead us somewhere.  It's a fact we live under till we are carried away by a realization...

Friday, April 18, 2014

So we see, vis a vis, Emily Dickinson's poem on the loaded gun in corners, vis a vis a job tending bar for twenty five years, that people pleasing is different from pleasing the deep master of ultimate reality, 'the Owner' of her poem.   One looks for calm to know the difference.

Hypothetical situations:

Stuck in a the family vacation, between the wishes and claims of two factions, why please B, asks A.  Well, this whole thing is not much about me doing what I want to be doing, so what real difference does it make anyway whether I take mom with sunburned feet into town or sit or the beach?  Indeed, the Buddha sees no difference, that to see the difference is to live in the misery of samsara with all its tempting devils, when all, ultimately is the same.

You go out, to be social, with a neighborly friend, dinner, a glass of wine, and then slowly comes out the projection of your friend's particular issues on yourself.  You sit, nod, take a sip from your glass, and quietly feel disturbed.  Patience.

How to be your own master?  How to break into the open?  Cut off the regulars as soon as they begin to get loud and silly.  "One is never enough, is it?"  I know, believe me.

Buddha, sitting under the tree, tempted by Mara and his army of demons, asking Buddha, as a last resort really, what right had he to the space he sits on, touches the earth, and the earth responds as his witness.

The precious instrument of the clear mind.

When you have meditated enough, you find it's true, that beyond the experience, the sensation of breathing, there is no fixed self, no real I separate from everything else.  This is something you must find out on your own, directly, through meditation.  Maybe it doesn't hurt to have puzzled over the human condition and gone through all the weary illusions, seeking safety, comfort, sanity, a break from fear, in all other things.  No more pleasure sought in conventional ways, for what is pleasure.

When you come to see the light of Buddha then the codependent situations become that much clearer to you.  You are no longer participating, no longer jumping at the usual instigations, the usual calling peace into question.  You are no longer going along, doing things that hurt you, whereas before you thought of doing so as good will.  What you took as stupidity and foolishness all along, you know better to hear your voice saying so.

I can see that writers, like a lot of the economy, are in a codependent situation.  They have to feed something in order to be popular, and to do this act, they have to dumb themselves down often enough, so that they too can have their cars, vacation homes, whiskey, nice clothes, etc.  So what do they write about?  Not the truth of no-self, but cars, vacation homes, whiskey, nice clothes, people stuck in codependent situations.  Who calls the tune?  That is hard to figure.  When did the novel itself become a  material possession, an enabler of the illusions of life, a rehearsal for silly things?  The ego crept in to reality and suggested that boring plain old life wasn't good enough, that it had to be dressed up with great conflict and ever-present and mounting tensions, a narrative arch that kept one on the edge of the seat.  The novel had to do false things, its practitioners felt.  It had to sell to be worthwhile.  It had to be good by certain standards.

Zen must have come about because of a tendency for posing and posturing in their Buddhist practices...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun/  in Corners--till a Day/  the Owner passed--identified/  And carried Me away," she wrote, judiciously as always, poem number 764, after establishing her practice and thinking about many things.

I went to see my father teach a class a year or two before his retirement. on the subjects of plants and society.  At the beginning of it, he drew a distinction, between praying and playing.  When we pray, it is much different from playing.   The two should not be mixed.

That was during the days when I had graduated, looking for a way in the world, back home, thinking it over, what to do.  I suppose in a quiet way I was leaning toward a life that can most readily be compared to that of a monk, perhaps a Buddhist, all of this coming out of the subconscious.  I was thinking, as the Buddha's mind was doing, back when he was a prince now wandering seeker practicing this and that, thinking over the nature of suffering and desire, etc.  But living here in modern world America, one thinks first, 'well, how am I going to make money, what am I going to do for a career, keep a roof over my head, maybe start a family.'  So, one day, tired of a vague period of employment in landscaping, not feeling I was getting anywhere, I left my hometown with a few possessions and got on the train toward a city having absolutely no idea of what I would do.

I found a place to say, steady work.  A few years went by.  I worked a lot.  Slept on Saturdays.  And eventually, my curiosity led me out of the suffering that is the modern office clerk's life to the different form of suffering that is pleasure seeking, a lively restaurant that had a democratic quality to it.

I wrote then, I did some reading, of course, on the side, but steadily, nothing to be particularly proud of, but an effort.  Years, and years, and years.  And then, perhaps as I might have realized all along, but stuck in some psychological pattern of people pleasing, of overly empathetic urges--like when I'd go hang out with the old retiree in his tiny one room bare apartment with a Coleman kitchen, one burner, after a shift for one more beer--I was not in that mode of what to a Buddhist is 'right profession.'  In fact, I was in rather one of the worst and most harmful of professions, short of selling guns.  I was harming people.  I was aiding them maintain a great ignorance.

I was playing when I should be praying.

But there is that quality to life, the thoughtful life, of being a loaded gun, waiting, in a corner (where propped up safely so as not to fall down and fire off accidentally, as it might if leaned up against a wall) till the Owner, the Transcendental Oversoul, deep spiritual reality, Buddha nature, comes along and finally puts the real thou-art-that-which-is being into its proper usage.  (What else can you do with a gun but shoot it.)

I think of all the foolish years enabling people, thinking I was being kind to them, listening to their stories, having, years ago, not anymore, 'shots' with them.  As if anyone ever benefited in the slightest from any of that.  Just one long stupid 'ha ha ha' joke that, at the end of the day, went nowhere.

When I heard her poem's line quoted by a regular patron in the bar, as a vanity, as a means of showing off that he knew his culture as he swilled, blinking his eyes proudly, but with no follow up, no curiosity about what it might mean in all its deep sense, no placing it in within the Transcendentalism of her time,  I had to sense that I was in the wrong place.  As well intentioned as it may have been, or not, to quote Emily in passing context as a kind of show…

The sweeping logic of it all, Buddhism, I felt I could finally accept, and see finally as my own awkward efforts to fit in, to have an identity, a distinct self I could show, beyond the plain being I was, for the selfish confused vanity and attempt at scheming that it was.  For life is simple.  You eat, you sleep, you do your chores.  To try and carry, to hold up any identity--and this I might have felt more than others, having no easy proud professional identity to fall back on, lawyer, doctor, etc., thus having to try harder as a kind of tentative 'wine guy' (because I saw myself initially as a writer of undefined sort)--is tiresome.  It turns out that all experiences , to the Buddha, are pretty much the same anyway, no distinctions to be made in the final analysis, between the room at the Four Seasons and a tent.  Living in a city it seems all about making distinctions, what's the best job, the best hang-out, etc., but I found myself only able to relax when I made it all as simple as I could, and as I walked past a bar and looked into the window with greater certainty could I pass it all by as samsara, just that, the world where oneness of all isn't seen.

So I began to rue whatever extent I was participating in the illusions of pleasure and distinctions commonly made.  I seemed to find that a glass of wine wasn't the desirable thing after all, but rather a thing getting in my way to apply the logic and the meditative clarity of Buddhism to life, as I felt one finally must, finally being serious.

I guess it's a matter of needing to experience first hand the delusion, to prove to yourself that such laws are applicable and true.  I found myself, technically speaking, in the wrong profession, over and over and over, and could/can only hope that through it I might find the right one.

I have to see Dickinson's ultimate literary success as rising beyond simply that.  She was wise, as we all know, for keeping out of the spotlight, away from the 'admiring bog.'  This gives her time and the security for her message to evolve and mature beyond being, simply, good poetry, on into the timeless wisdom that we need.  She waited for her poetry to mature.  She didn't let the praise or critique of others effect it.  She wrote poetry for its own sake, indifferent to outside definition of what poetry should be like.  She followed a noble path in it, took it day by day, wrote of moments that speak of one who appreciates the present moment.  There is nothing quick or facile to her work.  She built it from the ground up, from little scribbles on backs of envelope paper.  No pop anthems that instantly achieve great commercial success but then blow away as far as offering any deep moral advice or psalm that lasts either in the life of its creator or the public at large.

And this is one of her gems.  There's a real sense of joy and purpose in it, the great comfort, that almost reminds one of an affectionate dog out with her master.  There's a sense of carrying through, of finally figuring everything out, so that all things make sense.  It's a victorious poem, one of fine clarity, conveying that all important sense of knowing what we doing here in this world.

Could tending bar ever be a 'right profession?'  It's a complicated issue.  (In a modern world of interconnectedness, who isn't involved in the sale of alcohol in restaurants…  Perhaps wine making allows regional countryside traditions to live long happy lives.  Christ himself wanted joy for people, wine out of water.)  One the one hand, yes, you're a binding element in a neighborhood, a place to discuss things, to share in information and life stories.  But, the Buddha is strict on this, that even a small amount of intoxicant impairs the mind, interferes with  the instrument.

Was Christ a more co-dependent figure than Buddha, a topic for another day...

So, it's a child's job, that of one who claims not to know any better.  I was impaired in judgment taking up such work, and it dependent on impairment to keep it up.  I came to a city and suffered along with it, but that doesn't suffice.  It was a job that embodied co-dependency.  And it was, like a lot things, hard work, physically, mentally, spiritually, meaning that it was a hindrance rather than a help.

But it was always as if the great reality had, like "The Owner," waited for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I feel the sweet gentle melancholy as I wake after the night of work that had the glass of wine at the end of it, Tuesday night wine tasting by myself, and a chimerical busser, at The Dying Gaul.  I was pretty entertaining all night, to just about every party that came in the wine bar upstairs there.  I didn't have that much, as I ate a piece of grilled salmon with broccoli mousse, cleaning up at the end of it all, before walking home under a clear sky and a bright moon.  Enough, after two days off from wine, to begin to feel the burn deep in my gorge, more sensitive witness to the self-destructive, but it wasn't a lot.  I got home, and fell asleep without staying up 'til dawn and bird singing, but then woke very early, three hours in, then again, and then later I got up.  But you feel the adrenaline kick in the first waking.

I finally had the sensation, reflecting on the previous few nights of dreaming, that the world we live in, that seems so real, that it too is a dream.  But today I don't remember any dreams.  I do the dishes from yesterday and drink my tea, put brown rice into the cooker.

It is this Buddhist stuff that has helped me, happily, in an authentic good mood, to face work the last few days.  That there are, or once were, monks, and communities of them, monasteries, makes me happy.  That there is a rich and full philosophy, and many hues of the spectrum of practicing spiritual energy, comes as very pleasing.  And one piece of it leads to the understanding of another, and I come across the Buddha's law of dependent origination.  The flame cannot burn without the wick, without the candle.  A worthy subject to read up on, but to summarize the obvious, we wouldn't be here, alive, burning, without having done something in a previous life to be here.  We cannot deny responsibility and simply disappear from this existence, nihilistically, nor can we say there is an eternal immutable self that goes on forever, positivistically.  Always, the middle path, toward understanding.  And so it seems, first and foremost, we must acknowledge some guilt, some imperfect understanding, that led us here, and that's just a plain fact.  The good news is, we can wake from that ignorance, and do the best we can this existence, for that will help us along the ultimate path to enlightenment.  And this is empowering, and helps us see when we sin, and then, gentled, we can find again, the love supreme, which even we sinners are worthy of.

Then we can take a step back from the world, and see better what its issues are.  We can see that we are dangerously corroborating with the Chinese in our nationalist materialism, treason to the true cleric and the spirit of deep education and wisdom.  We can see that we have a similar guilt, pushing the human soul into sweat shop factories, and who knows, one day maybe it will be us, toiling there under a police state that knows our every move, the natural world drilled and bulldozed into a vast spread of smoke stacks, human storage units, trains to take us back and forth.

Or, we can see the larger issues of why we are here and where we are and what we share.

In Buddhist-minded retrospective, I look back with some approval and what in poorer understanding seemed to have 'bothered me' enough to write a book about it, the inherently conflicted reality of attraction and desire.   It is with some sense of a student's joy of learning something that I look back on the main character of A Hero For Our Time and see for a moment that his impulses came out of a deeper understanding.