I am sick of waiting - when are my superhero powers going to kick in?
See, when I was little, I didn't want to be a fireman or a cop when I grew up - even though that's where I ended up for a time. I wanted to be the Human Torch (no 'Flaming' jokes, please...). It wasn't so much the flying and the setting stuff on fire - though that would be cool - it was the way that the Fantastic Four always got stuff done. Sure, they beat up the bad guys, but they also solved problems. They knew how to fix stuff - I want THAT power.
Like any true superhero, I would use it for the good of others. I'd start small, just concentrating on the Laramie vicinity to begin with. I would help Aubrey finish her paper, I'd get Abra to relax, I'd bring Ainsley a brain, I'd find Mandy a man, ditto for Jim - oh, what the heck; I'd find them each two men - and naturally, I'd have this all done in time for the weekend (no sense trying to break in new men on a weekday - right, Jim?).
I'd bring Ben a few extra pounds for his midsection (I'm sure Jim and I can donate enough to fill him out...). I'd help Kim D. find a few puddles to jump in, and to round out the short list, I'd deliver to Rachel ('She who IS all things good and cute') a big box of peace.
Alas, my superpowers seem to lie mostly in the realm of grammar, kiteflying, and quoting movie lines. Unless... could really loud body noises be some form of superpower?
How can we ever lose interest in life?
Spring has come again
And cherry trees bloom in the mountains.
- Ryokan (1758-1831)
Due to the presence of some "literalists" in the flock (Mandy), the legal department says we have to post this:
"Neither the author of the preceding post, his henchmen, lackeys, or hirelings, nor the International Offices of The Ministry of Linus, Inc., its subsidiaries, holdings, or other pending entities, in this or other countries, planets, or planes of existence, are responsible for the presence or lack thereof of cherry or cherry-like trees, in the past, present, or any of the alternate futures, in the mountains near Laramie, WY, or any other mountains, for that matter. It's a metaphor, people - try to keep up."
I think it's a bit over the top, but when I went to ask the lawyers about it, they were out in the alley rolling some drunks for change. One of them had a knife. I think I'll let it stand for now...
In other news, it is the natal incept date of the NerdyGirl - Happy Birthday! I assume she is having a wonderful NerdyGirl day, off doing NerdyGirl things in her own NerdyGirl sort of style. It is the Way of the NerdyGirl... "Nerd Do," as the Japanese would put it. Enjoy!
by special guest blogger, Ainsley Lambert
This day began like any other - I awoke as the long-haired human tried to push me off her face. I keep hoping that she will come to realize that I need to stretch out on both pillows on the bed to be comfortable, but she is adamant about putting her head there every night. It was kind of early for them (the humans) to be getting up, but I was willing to let this interruption of my usual schedule slide because I was hungry. Those two-legged bastards had taken the food and water away last night before I had my post-dinner-late-evening snack. I had decided before bed that I would knock over the bathroom trashcan and leave a trail of chewed-up Q-Tips in the hall as a warning to them.
I politely told the long-haired one that I was hungry; "Goddamn it, I'm hungry and I want some food now, bitch." Still, she didn't put out the chow. I scavenged a bit in the kitchen, but they have added a locking lid to the trashcan, and there weren't any dishes on the counter to lick. My ire grew. I decided to tip over the trashcan by the computer too, just to let them know that I'm sick of this crap, and I mean business.
I stretched, then wandered into the bathroom, where the big, short-haired human was floating in water again. He does this every day, sometimes more than once. I watched for a while, but when it became evident that he wasn't going to drown, I moved on. I hate him.
I did my usual workout with the elastic mouse on the door frame - today I worked on my double front paw attacks. I've been hitting the gym pretty hard lately, and I'll soon be ready to challenge Primus (also known as 'Tons-o-fun') for the top spot around here. I caught Hazel checking me out as I was finishing up. She was looking pretty hot this morning... she's started to shed that "little kitten" look and put on some womanly curves. She ignored me, but I know she digs me. I can tell. I can't wait for her "Auntie Flo" to visit... This pussy is gonna' get a little pussy, yo. Dat's what I'm talkin' 'bout.
The long-haired one came and picked me up - I was figuring I'd let her give me a bit of a belly rub before going around to the scratching mat to sharpen up for the day. I didn't see that damn harness in her other hand. I restrained my normal and quite justified urge to go all medieval on her ass (I could kill her if I wanted to...), and soon I was strapped up like a pain piggie at a fetish ball. I hate her.
I was about to go unroll all the toilet paper in protest when I saw that they were strapping Hazel up too. She was definitely tasty in her pink nylon harness - dude, I love a chick in bondage gear... I was just coming over to get my swerve on, when the two-legs scooped us both up and took us out to the car.
I yelled at Primus (fucking lunchbox) to help us. He just smiled - "See you later, Stud." He emphasized that word in an odd way, then waddled his fat, ball-less ass up the hallway, laughing to himself. I hate him.
It gets a bit hazy for me at this point... I remember there was a cold steel cage, and then some blonde two-leg came and stabbed me in the shoulder. I hate her. I felt all fuzzy and floppy - well, that's normal for me, but more so - and then everything went dark.
I woke up feeling worse than any catnip hangover I've ever had. My eyes wouldn't focus and my coordination was fucked. I lolled about on the cold steel floor of the cage for an indeterminate time, and then the same bitch that stabbed me came and fondled me. Now I'm not the kind of guy to complain about getting my nuts rubbed, but it fucking hurt! Something was drastically wrong down there. Once she let me go I took a quick look.
I don't know how to describe it... something was... they were... were... MISSING! I layed back down and closed my eyes. "This is not happening, this is not happening, this is not fucking happening..." I looked again - to add insult to injury, the sick fuckers had actually shaved me too! I passed out from the drugs; or maybe I just fainted, I can't say. The next thing I knew, my humans were there to take me and Hazel home. The long-haired one was fussing over me, and the big one was laughing at how stoned we looked. I hate him.
As we pulled into the driveway, Primus (that tubby bitch) was sitting in the window, all fat and smug. I wanted to rush him and kick his ass all the way across the living room, but right then I was doing good to even stand. That bastard knew what was going to happen, and he didn't even try to help! God damn I hate him.
I hope you two-legs realize that this calls for an act of feline terrorism on an epic fucking scale. As soon as I can stand up without crying, you two are so gonna' pay. I'm gonna' go Compton on your asses, and do a kitty drive-by. If you think the time I ate the cord on your headphones was bad, just wait...
I had a good topic for this week. It was a gentle, sweet message, but delivered with enough toughness and profanity to fit my idiom really well. You know, that whole 'Reverend Linus, the thug with a heart of gold' schtick. It was gonna' be great; ya'll would have loved it.
But now, after the past few days, I'm just too tired. I don't have the energy to work up a full-fledged, pulpit-pounding bout of righteousness, and there is nothing worse than half-hearted evangelism. So instead, I just have a suggestion - no, a request.
Be nice to everyone, 'kay? They may not deserve it, or need it, or even want it, but try, please. And forget who started it; I'm so tired of counting coup.
That's all. Sorry to let the flock down like this, but you'll all manage, I'm sure.
Go in peace.
Argot, Discourse, Locution, Parlance, Patoi...
[Set Rant Filter to Medium]
I love the English language. Though I am not fluent in any other languages, I have been assured by those who are, that English is just about the most maleable language on the planet. It gives rise to great poetry, prose, and drama certainly, but its flexibility is unilateral; it supports politics, advertising, and the indecipherable babble of lawyers just as well.
Normally, I revel in the elastic quality of my language, but today I am just sick of it. I'd gladly trade it all in for a dull, inflexible language - perhaps Esperanto, or something in a Klingon dialect. Something where you can say what you mean and it only means that. Not the mealy-mouthed indecision of English. Not the kind of language that allows old friends to misunderstand each other for years on end. Not a language that can make enemies of comrades in a matter of a few misheard sentences. I'm sick to fucking death of all the palaverous prevarications and pleonastic pontifications - the flattulent forswearances, the magniloquent mendacity, the orotund obloquy, the turgid terminological inexactitude, the grandiloquent guile...
What I want is straightforward; no redaction, no spin, no vetting, no parsing, no blue-penciling, no scrutination, no emendation - just the simple flow of ideas. Actually, now that I think of it, even that sounds like a pain in the ass.
I'm tired of trying to communicate any higher thoughts. Yes, you read that right; I, the Reverend Linus, "He who never shuts up," am tired of talking. I think I'm going to just grunt and point for a while...
(Disclaimer: No Thesauri were harmed in the posting of this rant.)
(Warning: If anyone comments with a correction of my spelling, grammar, or syntax, I'll break my foot off in their ass.)
Peace favor your sword.
Behind the Curve
Sometimes a writing project gets on top of you. You know when it is due (in this case, Monday), and you know what you are going to write, but somehow it climbs over all of your good intent and sits on your throat, undone. It messes with your head, and after a while, you are powerless in its crushing grasp. You put it off, pushing it behind other homework. You plan, reschedule, plan some more, and then lie to yourself about how good you are at pulling all-nighters.
Right now, I have a paper that is so on top of me, it's humping my leg. It's carrying a riding crop, wearing a strap-on, and yelling, "Who's your Daddy?!"
I've had weeks to do it, and I haven't written a single word yet. It just needs to be a few pages long, but the loathing of it has grown to immense proportions in my mind. It looms like a precariously placed boulder, likely to crash down on me and my GPA at any moment. I have convinced myself that if I don't get it done, it will wreck my grade in a class that is in my major. No cum laude, no grad school, and a degree that only qualifies me for a future in the exciting world of fast food management. My only comfort is that other people in the class are suffering from this malaise too. Perhaps we can all get jobs together at Burger King.
I guess I'll pull an all-nighter on Sunday...
Mr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) once said, "I only write when I am inspired. And I see to it that I am inspired every morning at eight." I always figured that this dedication was spurred on by some remnant of the Protestant work ethic, or simple economic need. As I am not a Twain scholar, I have no idea which it was, but either is an excellent motivator for a writer.
Alas, I have neither; I am an inherently lazy recovering Catholic who lives on student loans and a bit of familial generosity. Actually, I am a ward of the State - before each semester I go to the office of Financial Aid, hold out my bowl like Oliver Twist and say, "Could I have some more please?"
Blogging started as an outlet for humor, and a vent for my spleen. "In the beginning, I was funny, and it was good." I figured I'd come to the blog whenever I wanted to, rant for a bit, and be done with it. Then came my Ordination, and suddenly a Sunday Sermon became mandatory (contrary to popular belief, being a Minister is a tough job - it's not all eye make-up and tax breaks ya' know...)
Just as I was adjusting to this added responsibility, Big Gay Jim (my twin brother by another mother) ups the ante. In pleasant conversation (well, it was pleasant if your name is not Abra) he casually mentions that "SOMEone" hadn't posted since Sunday. It's not so much what he said, but how he said it - it was like being verbally bitchslapped by a younger, larger version of Nathan Lane...
So here I am, with no real topic, posting about not posting. Metablogging. Damn you, Locutus of Blog...
Sunday Sermon "Gathas"
Gathas are small poems that many Buddhists and Zoroastrians use to focus their minds on the task at hand. To the Western eye, they look like prayers, but really they are just a form of ritual self-talk (which might be an excellent definition for what really goes on during prayer anyway, but that is a can o'worms for another day...)
There are gathas for just about everything - for waking up in the morning, for turning on the light, for using the toilet, for turning on the television, for answering the telephone, for doing dishes, for driving the car...
This car is my legs.
It goes where I choose.
When I drive with awareness,
Everyone lives in safety.
It is best to coordinate the first line to an inhalation, the second to an exhalation, and so on. This helps us be mindful of our breath, and enter a more meditative state.
Sitting in the present moment,
I breathe mindfully.
Each in-breath nourishes love,
each out-breath, compassion.
Here are some for the activities of the day. Some of these were selected because they are universal to us all, and some were chosen with specific members of the flock in mind; you know who you are...
As I wake up, I welcome a new day,
A mindful smile with every breath.
May I live each moment
With compassion and awareness.
First Steps of the Day
As I take my ﬁrst step,
My foot kisses the ﬂoor.
With gratitude to the earth,
I walk in liberation.
Turning on the Water
As I turn on the water,
My body's essence pours before me.
Clouds, oceans, rivers, and deep wells
All support my life.
Each dish I wash
Is my most cherished child.
Each movement contains
Flushing the Toilet
My body's waste is compost.
Down the hopper it goes,
Returning to the earth.
My mind can go in a thousand directions.
Now I walk in peace.
Each step creates a warm breeze.
With each step, a lotus blooms.
Each thought, each feeling
Creates the world.
I hold joy and suffering
Tenderly in each breath.
Calming the Mind
Chasing after the world
Allowing it all to come to me
Turning on the Television
Mind and television
Receive what I choose.
I select well-being
And nourish joy.
Earth, water, sun, and air,
All live in this food I prepare.
turning on an electric light
Ancient trees, water, and wind
Join my hand to bring light
To this moment.
Problems at Work (by Robert Aitkin, Roshi)
When things fall apart on the job
I vow with all beings
To use this regretful energy
And pick up the pieces with care.
Hugging (by Thich Nhat Hanh)
I am so happy to hug my dear ____ .
I know (s)he is real in my arms.
Going to Sleep (by Robert Aitkin, Roshi)
Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
To enjoy the dark and the silence
And rest in the vast unknown.
And here we have two sort of general ones...
All composite things are impermanent,
They are subject to birth and death;
Put an end to birth and death,
And there is a blissful tranquillity.
The teachings of the Seven Buddhas
Not to commit evils,
But to do all that is good,
And to keep one’s thought pure --
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas
Monks use gathas to refocus their minds during the day. Because there are so many times when a gatha is helpful, you will frequently see them posted in various places throughout the monastery - over the kitchen sink, over the toilet, on the ceiling above the bed, next to light switches. I'm going to print up the one for the car and stick it to the visor...
Go in Peace.
I have a few things to add to the Basic Rules for Life (See March 1st if you missed the original list...)
7) After eating baklava, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, especially before touching your wedding tackle.
I thought I had licked all the sticky stuff off my fingers, but I soon discovered otherwise when I got to the urinal. (It did impart a nice honey and orange smell to that area though...)
8) No ironing in the nude.
Sharply pressed kilt with crips pleats - Good.
Edge of hot iron touching bare furry tummy - BAD.
9) Do not attend 'Drag Queen Bingo' dressed in a red snakeskin kilt.
I'm not speaking from experience here, but let's face it - this one's a no-brainer. (I hope Mandy and Jim had fun tonight though...)
Waking me up
To the Spring that’s come
Water trickles down
The valley, and long crag-bound ice
Now cracks open, slides free.
- Saigyo (1118-1190)
Sunday Sermon "Skillful Means"
This is not just another Sunday - this is the first Sunday of Spring Break!
The natural world renews itself at this time of year, and so we in college use this time for renewal as well. Many of us go to warmer climes to relax, unwind, and kill brain cells at a prodigous rate. Even here in Laramie, the weather cooperated and it was quite drunk out last night. I was planning on an early bed, but a friend called from the pool hall, where more than a few people were having a bit too much fun. I played some 8-ball, lost a game of chess (Yes, I lost. I hope you are all happy...), threatened a drunk who lifted up the back of my kilt, and sipped diet cokes while the rest of the room whirled around me.
As the evening was wrapping up, one of the regulars was chatting with me. The conversation was pretty scattered - never talk Russian Literature with a drunk man at 01:00 - but it eventually turned metaphysical. He looks me in the eye and asks, "Linus, do you believe in past lives?" Knowing that this is not the time to launch into my particular take on this topic, I try to think of something witty to say that will defuse this, and steer us back to one of the safe zones for bar chat; girls, cars, sports, etc... But nothing comes to mind, so I say, "Yeah, pretty much. Why?"
"I'm pretty sure I've been here before," he says. I figure this is going to be the standard, 'I was a famous/interesting person in a previous life' rant, but I see that there is genuine pain in his alcohol-clouded eyes.
"Some Buddhists believe that we have each had an infinifte number of lives before this one," I say, thinking to comfort him with the knowledge that he is perfectly normal. He nods, so I continue. "We return because we still have things to learn, or because we are here to help others." Trying to distill the concepts of Karma, Suffering, Clinging, Nirvana, and the Bodhisattva Vow into one sentence is tough, but he seemed to take it in pretty well.
He stared at his drink for a moment and said, "I don't know if I'm here to learn or to help, but I am really tired of it." I didn't know what to say, so I sipped my coke. He went on to say, "I'm ready for it to be over. I'm ready to just sleep."
What do you say to that? My cop training went on alert, but I sensed that going through the suicide assessment questions would not be helpful at this point. I sifted through my mental assortment of Zen proverbs and scraps of the Dhammapada that usually suffice for deep conversations like this, but nothing seemed relevant. Here was a real chance to say or do something truly compassionate, to one who was asking for my help, and I was blank.
"Skillful Means" is what Buddhists call saying the right thing at the right time. The idea is that if you are truly mindful and in touch with the moment, the correct words or actions will come forth for the person with whom you are dealing. Clearly, I was not mindful. I offered some lame suggestions about meditating, and the title of a book he might want to read. I was somewhat comforted by his departure with friends closer to him than I, but I felt defeated. I was not in touch with the moment, and I was not ready to offer him what he needed. Weak.
I pondered what I could have done, what I might have said. I was busily punishing myself this evening when the phone rang; another friend with pain in her voice. At that moment I realized that I was not fully present - I was back in the bar, reliving my failure. This time I was not going to screw up. I stopped what I was doing, and gave her my full attention.
I don't think I said anything profound to her. Her situation is complex - acutally "ornately Gothic" is a better way of putting it - so any advice is of minimal use, but I listened. I was mindful of her; I acknowledged her pain. She wasn't " all better" when she hung up, but at the very least, she wasn't alone in her suffering.
I realize now that the 'failure' in the bar, made the relative success of tonight's phone call possible. Being awake to the moment was the lesson - but isn't it always?
Go in Peace.
Tools of the Trade
In my capacity as a minister, I am frequently asked to seek out just the right words, from one of the many spiritual books this world has produced. Due to the excellent Ben Ketron, that task is now much simpler. On his site, there is a link to Ocean Research Library. It is a search tool for over 1000 of the World's Religious Texts. It allows you to search just one text, one tradition, or all of them at once if you wish.
So, the next time you wonder, for example, how dolphins figure into Dante's Divine Comedy, Ocean will tell you that they appear in Inferno, Canto 22... or if you wonder about snot in the Hindu tradition, Ocean will lead you right to #135 of the Laws of Manu (which, incidentally, also covers earwax, phlegm, and semen) and to a couple mucus references from the Upanishads. I'm sure you can see the usefulness of this immediately...
So, hats off to Ben!! Now, go forth and download.
Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
- Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831)
Great Vows for All
Though the many beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Greed, hatred, and ignorance arise endlessly, I vow to abandon them.
Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them.
Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.
These are recited every morning in most Zendos. As I said on Sunday, there is so much to do. Nothing like starting the day off with a challenge, right? These Vows are thought to be as old as Mahayana Buddhism itself, and they echo the Bodhisattva vows. At times, I've been discouraged by these impossible tasks; I would mumble things like, "Yeah, like I'm gonna' save everybody. I have no idea where the car keys are, and I can't even balance my checkbook." Recently though, it occurred to me that the numberless, countless, endless quality of the vows is actually just job security, Buddhist style... the Great Vows simply recognize that humanity will always have need of people who struggle in the name of saving others.
My roomie and I sat this morning, and wrestled with the noises and distractions inherent to sitting in the living room. There is a lot to do; I'm glad we got started again.
We must acknowledge that there can be no hope of gratifying the senses permanently. At best, the happiness we derive from eating a good meal can only last until the next time we are hungry.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Gay Marriage (Set Rant Filter to "High")
As a flaming heterosexual, I've never had to consider my right to get married. It's a given, like my right to pay crippling taxes, or my right to fight and die in a senseless war over Middle Eastern Oil... Recently, however, I've heard a tremendous amount about how Gay marriage would undermine the institution of matrimony, the family, baseball, the American Way, and oh, I don't know, the Time/Space Continuum as well...
I have a tip for the Conservative Right; If you really want to discourage Gays from getting married, make it as easy for them as possible! Think about it... after they experience the "joys" of married life for a while, they'll be back to "living in sin" in no time. Consider... (feel free to replace "her" with "his" where it's appropriate for you)
Thanksgiving with her family, Christmas with yours, putting your name on 6 different gift registries, picking a china pattern, making sure the caterer can feed your cousin the wheat gluten allergic vegan, making the minister adjust the ceremony so as to not offend her Catholic mother, rain/sleet/snow on your special day, getting sick on Mezcal during your honeymoon cruise to Puerto Vallarta, returning the duplicate gifts from people who didn't even look at the registries, her brother leaving his partner and crashing on your couch for 3 months, car payments, rent, joint tax returns, moving her 12 box comic book collection to three different appartments during grad school, searching for jobs in the same city, searching for a house near said jobs, begging for a loan, mowing, raking, painting, sealing, finding her delicates soaking in the bathroom sink, getting pregnant (regardless of the method, it's a pain in the ass), Lamaze classes, La Leche brochures, arguing over wallpaper for the nursery, watching your figure stretch in ways it will never recover from, trying to be nice to her fucking skinny friends from college at the shower, medical bills, explaining to her grandmother why the baby is named after your grandmother, losing your identity in parenting, watching your single friends succeed in jobs you could've had, becoming really bored with sex, feeling bad about fooling around, catching her fooling around also, screaming arguments, legal fees, divorce, alimony, child support, joint custody, visitations, Thanksgiving with the kids, Christmas without them 'cuz it's not your turn, and best of all, waiting a few years and then trying to find someone daft enough to try all of this with you again...
You see, the real reason the Right opposes Gay marriage is that they are afraid the Queers will be better at it than they are - and let's face it, it's not that hard to top the straights on this score. They are afraid that Gay couples might just get married and stay that way. The Gay marriage movement should use the slogan "We can do better than 50% - can you?"
Love is rare enough in this world - be happy wherever you find it, and let everyone else do the same.
Harbingers of Spring
The weather is warming. We all know that a 3 foot dump of snow is quite likely at any moment, but for now, the only thing that matters is that the temperature inched up over 50 degrees for a bit today. For Laramie, the Siberia of the Americas, that is Spring. I saw skirts and shorts all over campus, and it was good.
Don't be shy, ladies. Don't cover them with tights, or spend time on the fake bake couch. Those first glimpses of naked,white legs are a special harbinger of better days ahead. The tiny brunette in the denim mini feeding the meter in front of Hoyt, the blond in shorts coming out of Engineering, my roomie in a short skirt and leather boots, and (Allah be praised!) the women's cross country team running by the shuttle lot - all are like early-blooming flowers to me. Spring may not really be here yet, but it is just around the corner. Soon, I won't be the only one with bare legs on campus everyday...
Sunday Sermon "Bad Buddhist, No Nirvana!"
As I watched my friends in the Baha'i community work through the odd sleep schedules and hunger that their yearly fast entails, I was moved to examine my own spiritual path. I've thought, written, read, and meditated on the subject. It was pretty depressing, to be honest.
When I lived in Fort Collins a few years ago, just a few blocks down the road there was the Laporte Avenue Zendo. I used to sit there every morning with a small group of dedicated practitioners, and as Abra would say, "It was good." We were done by 07:00, and I would then approach my dreadful job as a customer service representative ("complaint taker") for AT&T with a clearer mind and greater compassion.
Today, I stumble through my morning and drag myself to class. I try to remember to say a gatha for breakfast, but often there's no time for breakfast, let alone time to be thankful. My hair is no longer on fire. Unlike the Baha'i crowd, I have no Zen community around here, so I have become slack. Bad Buddhist - no Nirvana.
There is an old Zen proverb about practicing like your hair is on fire - that you should try to maintain an urgency in your practice. Reverend Master Jiyu-Kinnet preached, "Time flies as an arrow from a bow..." I can still hear her crisp British accent admonishing all of us to work as hard as we could. The Buddha told his disciples that discipline, effort, and a certain tautness were essential to following the Middle Way.
Now I know that my loyal readers (all 3 of you) are wondering when the Reverend is going to get around to the moral of this story. You all know that the part where I draw this all together and make some attempt at profundity is just around the corner.
Today, I'll simply say this; I'll be meditating regularly, first thing in the morning, starting tomorrow. If you want to come over and join in, drop me a line and let me know. If you want to meditate in your PJs at home, that's great too - just drop me a line and we'll acknowledge that we are sitting together at different places. Time is in short supply; there's so much to do. Start now!
Bringing Art to Inner City Kids
March 4th - My birthday. Dinner out with friends. So now I'm older and stuff. Then I went home to work on a paper that I could have finished at any time in the last two weeks but didn't. I went to bed at about 02:00, with the paper partly done.
March 5th - Got up at 04:00. I went to A.&R.'s to make breakfast. Eggs with salsa and cheese. Playing with hot things on two hours of sleep; cool. Then home to make breakfast for my roomie and myself. I worked on the paper some more, and turned it in electronically around 10:30. Nap time.
Today - up at 4:30. Over to A.&R.'s to make breakfast for many people. Burned a huge pot of rice; threw it out. Started more rice. Made eggs again. Made fried rice towards the end. Then home for a nap.
My observations during these days:
1) Sleep is better when you really need it. I know they say you are supposed to get 8 hours a day, but when you get only two hours or so, the next time you get to sleep is heavenly. It's not unlike a drug addiction; it's all you can think of, and so wonderful when you finally get your fix.
2) At 05:30, hot food is miraculous. ANY hot food. The Baha'i kids are so thankful to not have to cook themselves, that even hastily fried rice is like manna to them. A. likened it to bringing art to inner city kids; any art is better than no art.
3) Community is more important than ideology. I'm not Baha'i, but they have been kind to me from the very beginning. I have some strongly-held, angrily-defended positions on theology, and yet they are kind and accepting of me. They are vaguely aware that my personal history is a littany of sins that would curl their hair, and yet they are kind to me. Perhaps it's because I will get up at 04:00 to scramble eggs for them, but I have come to believe that they are just genuinely kind and accepting people.
Tomorrow we are bringing breakfast burritos to the inner city kids...
This afternoon, the sun poured through the windows in the front room. I lit a candle, offered incense to the Buddha, and meditated. The simplicity of the practice was what drew me to the Buddha's Eightfold path to begin with - well, that and the hats. Catholics have the best architechture, Southern Protestants have awesome gospel singers, and the Jews have the best food, but Buddhists have the best hats by far. Even the Pope can't top those fluffy yellow mohawk things that the Tibettans wear...
So I sat, calmed my mind, and counted my breaths. The sun moved across my back, and I felt a hint of peace returning to me; the calm knowledge that you, I, and the lamp post are one. Though I took to my cushions alone this afternoon, I am never truly alone. I am always sitting with the world.
My friends of the Baha'i faith have just begun their annual fast. For 19 days, they will take no food or drink between sunrise and sunset. It is difficult, and hard on those with blood sugar problems, but they use the time to reflect and renew their commitment. Inspired by my friend Rachel's devotion to her path, and Abra's devotion to Rachel, I have volunteered to help by cooking breakfast for them on a couple mornings during the fast. While I will not participate in the fast, I feel the need for a time of spiritual renewal as well. My excesses and mistakes have left me with so much karma to work off...
I will use these early mornings as an exercise in mindfulness. Serving others provides a training ground for the virtue known to Buddhists as "metta" (usually translated from the Sanskrit as "loving-kindness") and these are my brothers and sisters, regardless of their beliefs. The fact is, their beliefs are not too far from mine; I found this very Buddhist-sounding quote on Rachel's site:
Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone. Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path.
Anyone who believes in that wants what I want, regardless of labels. I hope they like rice...
Two groups of monks were travelling with their masters on pilgrimage. They met near sundown on opposite sides of a narrow, but swift-running river. The bridge had been washed away by heavy rains, so the two groups decided to camp for the night, then head downstream at dawn in search of a safe ford. After the fires were built and the rice was boiling, two of the monks began to visit across the chasm. When the introductions were done, they began to discuss their masters.
"Do you follow a true master?" asked the younger monk, who studied with Master Ling Po.
"Yes, I guess I do. Is your master enlightened also?" asked the older monk, who studied with Master Wu Chou.
"Oh yes! Master Ling Po does amazing things!" exclaimed the youth. "When he is in deep meditation, he levitates off his cushions. He can speak with animals, and command fire from his fingertips. Everyday, he recites 100 sutras and does 1000 prostrations before the Buddha. He is a great holy man, and I am lucky to learn from him." Realizing that this outburst about his master might seem rude, the young monk asked, "What does your master do?"
"Wu Chou? Nothing special, really. He eats when he is hungry, and sleeps when he is tired," said the older monk.
The youth was puzzled. He went to his master, who was doing zazen on a rock some distance away from the water.
"What troubles you?" his master asked.
"The monks across the river are mislead."
"How are they mislead?"
"They follow a false master. Wu Chou is a fake."
"How is he false?
"He is nothing special. He eats when hungry, and sleeps when tired."
Immediately, Ling Po sprang to his feet. "Get my cloak, and find my hat. Tell the others that we must press on tonight," he said, as he began to repack his travelling bag.
"But Master, where are we going?" the young monk asked.
"Downstream to find a shallow ford. We must cross and speak to this Wu Chou at once - he is a true master."
"To pray is to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single practitioner confessedly unworthy."
A few basic rules for life...
1) Don’t kill stuff unless it’s going to kill you if you don’t.
I don’t mean like, “we had to attack Iraq ‘cuz they might have weapons of mass destruction, and a whole lotta' oil...” I mean more like, “look out Bob, that bear is coming fast and he wants your burrito supreme...”
2) Don't adhere blindly to religions that tell you to lop off body parts, or sacrifice your children.
Genesis 17:10-14, and Genesis 22:1-3. 'Nuff said.
3) Don’t fry wontons in the nude.
No examples here - just take my word for it; I have a scar. It's hard to explain the first time you're naked with a new lover.
4) Trust the judgement of your animal companions.
My dog Tobi only ever bit two people - my ex-wife, and her father. She was right, on both counts.
5) Do not attempt to ski/skate on snow-covered grass while wearing a kilt.
I left "ass angels" (something akin to snow angels, but much colder) on the hill in front of Hoyt Hall today...
6) Don't seek your spiritual path on the internet.
They let anybody post here.
Here endeth the lesson. Go in Peace.
Sextant and Backstaff
Sometimes, up above us,
as our souls rush away
from the burst of coming to be,
making for the edge of this plane,
we pass over another and become entwined.
Our paths bend and sway together;
influenced, but intrinsically free.
Crossing the arc of the other,
we curve in their gravity
and new constellations are formed.
Down below, we unfurl the sails,
set sextant and backstaff,
then navigate by them for a time,
until they no longer point to our destination.