|28 Nov 2008 @ 14:04|
The head is through, but the body is still sticking out.
A flower falls, even though we love it;
and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.
Kassan had a monk who left and went all around to the various Zen temples, seeking. But no matter where he went, the name of Kassan was mentioned to him as the name of a great master.
Finally the monk returned, interviewed Kassan, and asked: "You are reputed to have the greatest understanding of Zen. Why did you not reveal this to me when I was here earlier?"
Kassan said: "When you boiled rice, did I not light the fare? When you passed around food, did I not offer my bowl to you? When did I betray your expectations?"
With that the monk was enlightened.
Photo: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images
The title of this reluctant article is on the subject line of the latest message from David Plouffe, campaign manager of Obama For America. It came Tuesday, and suggests the grassroots hold house parties the middle of next month to energize supporters in continuing the message of hope. In the weeks before the election, David or someone from www.BarackObama.com used to email us every day, as did other Democrats and independent progressives. The others either have quit campaigning, fallen in a holiday heap of exhaustion, or gone back to work. Some of the progressive groups seem to be casting about for something to do or new issues to keep contributions coming in. But the Obama organization is trying to keep things together and the momentum going. At no point in Mr. Plouffe's message does he mention growing doubt as a matter for concern. The man isn't even President yet, but the Internet is groaning with disappointment.
My personal reaction to the election, as far as the Internet is involved in my life, was to sigh relief and vow not to bother readers with any more political writing. People who have known me for a while, and who encouraged me to write and post stuff, remember I used to compose reminiscences and pastoral observations of nature. I got very nice responses to that...and still do. But in the Roman tradition of the gentle farmer who must leave the plow and go to battle when the republic is under attack, I started to write political things several years ago. I lost a lot of readers doing that. They didn't want to know about it, or if they did know didn't want to read it on this piece of furniture many use only for recreation. I thought they'd be happy if they found out I was back!
And Thanksgiving yesterday at my home seemed to reflect the wisdom of this perception. We have a pretty animated political group of people who come here---and that includes some who have given up completely various dreams for the future. Everybody is vocal, and in past gatherings we've discussed current affairs in loud speeches. With the Hillary/Obama schism, there came debate and argument. But yesterday---I shall be corrected if wrong---I don't think a political notion was uttered. We talked about babies and traveling and food and shopping---actual normal American conversation. Our worries will be addressed and taken care of, and we can return to our gardens.
But then...but then, I venture into the news sites and blogs this morning, and I find no such peacefulness prevailed in cyberspace yesterday...or in the columns of newspapers. I'm sure there are plenty of articles about things to be thankful for, the usual ones, and we did a lot of gratitude in our house. But in reading today I have to say I soon was overwhelmed with crisis and gloom. So much so, that I hate to tell you I need to share it...not so much to spread it around, as to offer up a reality check. Is a sense of relief really called for? More >
|24 Nov 2008 @ 10:57|
We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men...trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true; but our own little comings and goings are only little more than tree-wavings---many of them not so much.
Sit just to sit. And why not sit? You have to sit sometime, and so you may as well REALLY sit, and be altogether here. Otherwise the mind wanders away from the matter at hand, and away from the present. Even to think through the implications of the present is to avoid the present moment completely.
The universe came into being with us together; with us, all things are one.
The illustration is a movie poster for a film that is making its impact felt increasingly through word-of-mouth. Since it may be a bit hard to find here's a synopsis: In a world of six billion people, it only takes one to change your life. Sixty-two-year-old Walter Vale is sleepwalking through his life. Having lost his passion for teaching and writing, he fills the void by unsuccessfully trying to learn to play classical piano. When his college sends him to Manhattan to attend a conference, Walter is surprised to find a young couple has taken up residence in his apartment. Victims of a real estate scam, Tarek, a Syrian man, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, have nowhere else to go. In the first of a series of tests of the heart, Walter reluctantly allows the couple to stay with him. Touched by his kindness, Tarek, a talented musician, insists on teaching the aging academic to play the African drum. The instrument’s exuberant rhythms revitalize Walter’s faltering spirit and open his eyes to a vibrant world of local jazz clubs and Central Park drum circles. As the friendship between the two men deepens, the differences in culture, age and temperament fall away. After being stopped by police in the subway, Tarek is arrested as an undocumented citizen and held for deportation. As his situation turns desperate, Walter finds himself compelled to help his new friend with a passion he thought he had long ago lost. When Tarek’s beautiful mother Mouna arrives unexpectedly in search of her son, the professor’s personal commitment develops into an unlikely romance. And it’s through these new found connections with these virtual strangers that Walter is awakened to a new world and a new life.
As so often happens, particularly on Mondays when I review the weekend papers, most of the computer work I'd planned to do this morning got scrapped by a single item. Then one sidetrack led to another, and soon I was wandering in the woods again. The piece that did it was in The Times of London yesterday, and some editor there I guess had seen it in its complete version in the current edition of Spear’s Wealth Management Survey magazine. It was written by the former "proprietor" of the London Daily Telegraph, who currently resides in a federal prison here in the United States. He's been there for 8 months. I know nothing of the case nor how long his sentence is. Whatever it is, he's appealing it and apparently has had some success.
What he has to say that interests me is about the present legal system here. Of course laws can be changed. Even the Constitution can be changed. But through all that shines a spirit of America that all of us used to be raised to believe in. It has to do with equality before the law. If there are mistakes, OK, we understand that. But if there are injustices, Americans feel their freedom threatened. We respond. Or should. If we don't, or lose track of how we can respond, we begin to sink into the kind of daily despair that has plagued humanity around the world and through time, since our conception.
Let me not preach about the last 8 years---or 16, or 32. Let us simply look at where we are, and the work to do. I know attorneys, and my family boasted some prominent ones. I set about at university to become one---until Dylan Thomas crossed my path. My daughter has such plans in the environmental field. I'm supporting her in this---despite all indications of the futility of working for the EPA. Futility. Ah, there's the rub. When a people allow themselves to believe it is futile to go up against the system---either because that system is invariably right in what it pursues, or because it is hopelessly decadent, we surrender to a prison state. If I am barred from dissent by a privately contracted army, as I have been in an attempt merely to glimpse President Bush in person, I am in a prison state.
Ah, but now I'm preaching. [There are ministers on the other side of the family. :-)] Let me step aside for this gentleman in his jail cell. Then follows an editorial from yesterday's New York Times about Guantanamo. More >
|18 Nov 2008 @ 23:51|
Ever the same,
unchanged by hue,
of my native place.
Spring now has gone.
LIVE the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
---Rainer Maria Rilke
I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.
---Simone De Beauvoir
The author and first wife, The Bronx, autumn 1963
In June of 1963, I was just out of university, didn't have any money left to speak of, hadn't ever held a "real" job in the world, had no set prospects for one, and was getting married. Five years later, that wife and her mother concluded I wasn't really ready to be a married person. A judge in Bridgeport agreed, so they took our 2 kids and went away. But that summer in '63, I felt ready and eager nevertheless. I remember red roses everywhere in full bloom and beautiful.
A job came through, in The Bronx. The principal of the school hired me to teach English to the upper grades at secondary level. In July he called to ask if I could teach some social studies. He knew I had taken courses in a number of fields in college. Frankly I had chosen English finally, because that thesis was the easiest to do. So I said OK. In August, a couple weeks before we were to have moved in our first apartment, the man called again and said the English teacher had decided to stay. Could I teach all social studies? Just married, my first job, I was nervous. I said I'd do it, but I needed the department chairman to get me materials immediately so I could prepare. He said, "You are the department chairman."
Thus did I stride into the wonderful world of love, marriage, and work---at least work in the weedy field of education. But there was much more to learn. In 1963, the New York World's Fair was getting started over at Flushing Meadows in The Queens. Elvis made a movie about it. Part of the place would end up the ball park for a new major league team in New York. Our school decided to take a field trip over to see it. We took the subway, a rather long ride. The principal had decided to come along. When we changed trains in Manhattan, he spotted a beggar at the stop and nonchalantly remarked, "There's one of my former students." I think I said something about government programs to enable the poor to enter the work force. The boss replied, "Oh, so you're a Kennedy pinko."
I remember just where we were when he said that to me, as one does when one's illusions are shattered. I had grown up during the McCarthy era and knew how serious a charge along those lines could be. This guy was kidding just a little bit, but I never had been called anything like that by someone in authority. I didn't tell him this, but the fact was I didn't even support John Kennedy particularly. I had seen him once, in 1960 during his campaign for the presidency, but the voting age wouldn't be lowered for another 10 years...so I couldn't vote and didn't feel particularly committed one way or the other. A professor drove me to wherever it was in Maine that he appeared, and I know we waited forever for him so show up. But there was no doubt about it: the man absolutely radiated charisma.
I had participated in picketing his White House in March of '62. We were protesting his policy of continuing above-ground nuclear bomb testing---or at least I think that's what it was. We were up to our ankles in slush in Washington, and most of us wore beatnik tennis shoes with holes in them back then. Pete Seeger led the march from the Washington Monument to the White House. There we walked up and down, back and forth, had to keep moving. We were freezing as the sleet continued to fall. My fiancee had come along, and this was her first real dip into the world of radical politics. We knew Kennedy was inside, and ultimately a van came down the driveway and a guy in a suit got out. He said the President sent his greetings and wished us well. And here were cups of hot chocolate for everyone. That's how JFK dealt with protest. More >
|9 Nov 2008 @ 11:47|
Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control---these three alone lead to sovereign power.
---Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Growing older, I love only quietness:
who needs be concerned with the things of this world?
Looking back, what better plan than this:
returning to the grove.
...on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
Photo of Bill Ayers by Chris Walker of The Chicago Tribune.
Some of us have been on a particularly pink Cloud Nine since Barack Hussein Obama was elected the next President of the United States. But this is 5 days later and here are the Sunday papers. If we haven't been jolted out of our reverie yet by the reactions of people not sharing it, it should happen today.
I was not a total convert to Senator Obama, even after being in the midst of one of his ecstatic rallies, but I ended up on the team knocking door-to-door on Election Day. While wearing an Obama button, I nevertheless saw myself as enabling both friend and foe to get to the polls if they wanted to. While cautious and frankly very worried about the shotgun fringe around here, who loudly refused to vote for any of those liars anywhere, I wasn't prepared for the aftermath among Republicans, Libertarians, Evangelicals and those even farther to the right.
I don't think I've seen, after any of the elections in my lifetime, the opposition explode in such disarray. I snuck a listen to rightwing AM radio Wednesday night, and heard Sean Hannity blasting the Republican Party as a bunch of phonies, too scared to stand up for any of the real conservative values. Evangelicals at work, particularly those with single-issue concerns about abortion, haven't spoken to me since Tuesday. I wrote a piece honoring folk singer/songwriter Holly Near, posted it on the Internet (I was trying to change the subject) and the comment thread blew up into flames and personal invective about Obama. As I look around at other blogs and comment pages to analysis, I see I wasn't alone in having this happen.
Yesterday the UK Guardian published an article with the subtitle "The Right Tears Itself Apart In Pinning Blame For McCain's Defeat." It begins,
"As the implosion of the defeated Republican campaign continued yesterday, the landscape of American conservatism was dotted with signs that these were very strange times indeed.
"Rush Limbaugh, behemoth of rightwing radio, took to the airwaves to declare war on two enemies: Barack Obama and the Republican party. Bloggers at FreeRepublic.com, an internet hub for conservatives, announced a boycott of Fox News and John McCain's aides fell over one another to leak embarrassing details about the campaign to the press.
"Liberals, indulging in what the writer Andrew Sullivan termed 'Palinfreude', were presented with a smorgasbord, ranging from the tale of how McCain's pro-Palin foreign policy adviser had his Blackberry confiscated in the closing days of the race, to how the party had paid for Todd Palin's silk boxer shorts."
This morning The New York Times is carrying opinion columns not only from the usual Sunday commentators Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd, but from their other writers too, like Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof---and even more, including Al Gore. And there are the blogs in there and other columns too, all about the election...and what's next. Take your choice~~~ [link]
What I decided to do was open space for the most extreme rants anybody's still got bottled up. Let's just get it all out and hope that after a few days of venting, we can return to the business of our everyday with normal composure and focus. The Republicans pinned a lot of their attack on a supposed underground relationship and influence with Chicago resident, professor, and activist Bill Ayers. As far as I know, Mr. Ayers said nothing in public about all this during the campaign. Now he does. What do you think? More >
|2 Nov 2008 @ 11:55|
My epitaph? My epitaph will be, "Curiosity did not kill this cat."
---Studs Terkel (May 16, 1912-October 31, 2008)
A school of trout
the color of water!
People are like stained glass windows: they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.
The vote gets sung out in Ohio. Photo by Michael Gruber.
Maybe it was the Depression, and how all the people had to pull together to get us out of it. Maybe it was the New Deal, and all those agencies planting trees, building dams, cleaning up towns, cities, the countryside, encouraging art, literature, music, theater, movies. Maybe it was uprooted people, from the Dust Bowl and lost jobs, traveling around, bumming around, looking all over this great land for a new home. Maybe it was whole families of folk music collectors and performers: the Seegers, the Lomaxes, the Carters. Maybe it was radio, broadcasting jazz and country from small towns, heard by producers passing through, who stopped and brought them to the big cities for us all to hear. Maybe it was Woody Guthrie, riding the rails, writing down and singing out what he saw. Maybe it was World War II, making us all get together again to fight Fascism. After all that there was such relief, we just had to celebrate ourselves.
So it was that we kids, just entering school in the mid and late nineteen forties, got taught folk music in our classes. In my small city in western New York, where Sicilians and Swedes shared each other's very different cultures in order to manufacture furniture, we didn't sing that stuff every day. A few classes had pianos and teachers who could play them, but most of the time we had to depend on just one itinerant music teacher who visited each of our half dozen neighborhood grade schools once a week. But when she came she taught us the great American cowboy and folk songs those families of collectors had found in the mountains and prairies. We developed a pride in being American by learning our heritage that way.
By the early 1950s, folk music had gained such popularity we heard it on the radio. You could hear live performances like the Grand Ol' Opry and big bands and jazz groups from Chicago and New York and New Orleans at night, when AM radio carried a long way. But there were records on the juke box too. Probably most popular of all was a singing and playing quartet called The Weavers. Their records were on Decca, and they had big arrangements, with dozens of violins and choral singers, of tunes we had sung in 3rd grade. Wow! On Top Of Old Smoky...and then one we hadn't heard before, called Good Night Irene. And around that time, I heard them sing another "new" song, which was called This Land Is Your Land...and I loved it so much I was overjoyed to learn some people even wanted it to replace our National Anthem. More >
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