Archive for the ‘Zen’ Category

The stone mind

January 6, 2018

Way down there somewhere is the Duke City.

My Bicycle Retailer and Industry News column may be a thing of the past, but I still have deadlines, and Lord, how them sumbitches can fill a feller’s dance card.

I’ve been burning daylight over the Giant ToughRoad SLR 1, exchanging emails with former VeloNews comrade Andrew Juskaitis, now senior global product marketing manager for the Big G, and after an extended stretch of demonstrating my profound ignorance I decided yesterday that it was time to ride one of my own damn’ bikes for a change.

It had to be steel, of course, with drop bars, rim brakes, and tires with inner tubes. And with the weekend promising congestion on the trails I thought it might be nice to get a quick off-road ride while the gettin’ was good.

When is a rock not a rock? When it’s a Buddha.

So the Voodoo Nakisi and I set off for the usual casual loops around the Elena Gallegos Open Space.

Well, almost the usual.

Our local trail network is well marked with signs for people who like to follow maps (Trail 365, 305, etc.) and for those who don’t (Trail Closed for Rehabilitation). But there’s the occasional unmarked stretch that makes you go “Hmmmm.. …”

On a whim, I followed a couple of those yesterday, just to see where they went, and one of them meandered upward until it became frankly unrideable (by me, anyway). So I got off and wandered around for a bit, assuming I was more or less up against the wilderness boundary, taking snaps with the iPhone and just enjoying being away from the office.

I looked down at the Duke City, and snap, and then looked up at the ridgeline, and … holy shit! Check out that rock formation. It looks like a Buddha sitting zazen with his back to all of this.

Well, it does to anyone with an overactive imagination, anyway. It seemed too heavy a stone to carry around in my head, though, so I bowed to it, left it where it was, and got back about the business of avoiding business.

• Editor’s note: Further bows to “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings,” compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki.

Does a cat have the Buddha-nature?

January 2, 2018

Meow.

The Bravo Foxtrot Hotel

October 12, 2017

Every day a little less green and a little more gold.

Thursday has its roots in the Old Norse for “Thor’s Day” (thōrsdagr), and it was definitely hammer time round El Rancho Pendejo today.

I burned a bunch of daylight polishing the penultimate “Mad Dog Unleashed” screed of 2017 for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, then scribbled a “Shop Talk” cartoon for the same outfit. No work, no eating, as the Zen master Hyakujo has taught us.

This shot makes the Elena Gallegos Open Space look a lot less active than it was.

Then it was 90 minutes on the Voodoo Nakisi, chasing myself around the dusty trails of the Elena Gallegos Open Space. Next to nobody in there yesterday and today it looked like the Big Eye at rush hour. Go figure. Are there no prisons? No workhouses?

The Boo requires a variety of medications and we were short one, so off to the vet I did go, flushing still more dinero down the medical loo that is our smelly little one-eyed pee-weasel.

And I checked in with friends in Santa Rosa to gauge the state of affairs out there. Not good, as you probably already know. Nearly 3,000 homes destroyed, 29 people dead, and both numbers expected to rise.

Among the houses incinerated was one belonging to the late Charles M. Schulz, creator of the fabled “Peanuts” strip.

My man Merrill is planning another cross-country run before settling into his new life on the Left Coast and hopes to pass through the Duke City this time around, so I’ll get a full report sometime next week from a former New York Times man. Right now he’s couch-surfing at the mayor’s digs and resting up for the final push.

And my old buddy Miz Lo is hiding from the smoke down Petaluma way but hopes to return to the Pink Palace soon. She knows many people who won’t be so fortunate.

The first Noble Truth

April 14, 2017

Another good sit. Not on the cushions, mind you, but still.

All life is suffering.

Gassho, Peter Matthiessen

April 5, 2014

Author, naturalist and Zen teacher Peter Matthiessen has gone west.

Jeff Himmelman recently wrote a piece on Matthiessen for The New York Times Magazine — I just read it last night, and a good read it is — and today an obit followed in the news columns.

Zen is a tough nut to crack, but I think Matthiessen did a pretty fair job of it while arranging what seems to have been a graceful departure given his circumstances (more than a year spent battling leukemia). Discussing radical experimental measures that might have helped keep him around a while longer, he said,  “I don’t want to hang on to life quite that hard. It’s part of my Zen training. … The Buddha says that all suffering comes from clinging. I don’t want to cling. I’ve had a good life, you know. Lots of adventures. It’s had some dark parts, too, but mainly I’ve had a pretty good run of it, and I don’t want to cling too hard. I have no complaints.”

Speaking with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, he said that Zen “is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake.”

“We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past,” he continued. “Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”

In the here and now, Matthiessen’s final novel, “In Paradise,” is to be published on Tuesday.

It’s New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2013

Sit like a cat

We should

sit like a cat

and wait for the door

to open.

—From “Braided Creek: A Conversation In Poetry,” by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser. This one’s for Chris and Theresa Elizabeth Coursey.

The summer grasses remain

November 12, 2013

I neglected to post something yesterday about Veterans Day, thinking I didn’t have anything fresh to say, and finding the outpouring of social-media thank-yous to the military slightly irksome. I never served, but if I had, I expect I might not enjoy being pandered to any better than I would being ignored.

Like Charles P. Pierce, when I was a squirt I didn’t know anyone whose father was not a veteran. Since the old man was career Air Force, we mostly knew the kids of Blue Zoomies, but in the course of affairs we would meet others; sons and daughters of soldiers, sailors, Marines.

dad2We’d hear the tales secondhand (none of the dads I knew bragged to kids about his service, so the kids bragged for them). This one was at Omaha Beach, that one at the Battle of the Bulge; this one got shot down in a B-29 after bombing Tokyo, that one flew unarmed Gooney Birds out of New Guinea.

It all sounded really cool, especially while consuming a steady diet of war movies at the base theater, like “The Longest Day,” “The Dirty Dozen,” or “PT 109.” And then we got a little older, and a little smarter, and we came to realize that going to war involved a strong probability of getting one’s arse shot off.

We realized that we never got to hear kids tell about their dads who didn’t make it back, because those kids died unborn with their would-be fathers, figments of an unrealized imagination. And we didn’t get to hear about the men who returned from war damaged in body, mind or spirit, or meet them; not until our own war, Vietnam, came along.

Books like “All Quiet on the Western Front” took on new meaning. And there were others, like “Dispatches,” by Michael Herr; “A Rumor of War,” by Philip Caputo; and “Everything We Had,” by Al Santoli.

In “Narrow Road to the Interior,” Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-94), following a visit to the ruins of Yasushira — and riffing off a line from the Chinese master Tu Fu about how war had left “the whole country devastated,” a place where “only mountains and rivers remain” — wrote:

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams

In “The Poetry of Zen,” co-author Sam Hamill calls this poem “a brilliant indictment of the stupidity and cruelty of war,” one that reminds us how little we have learned over the millennia. How does one say “Thank you for your service” to the grass?

By seeing to it that subsequent generations get to spend as much time as is humanly possible enjoying the sunny side of it, I suppose.

Peace to those to served, and especially to those who never came home.

‘These rulers, so cruel’

October 11, 2013
"The Poetry of Zen," compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill.

“The Poetry of Zen,” compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill.

I’ve been reading a little poetry of an evening, much of it from the collection “The Poetry of Zen,” compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill, and recently stumbled across a couple works that, alas, confirm my suspicions that the assholistic Reign of the Morons Charles P. Pierce has been following so assiduously is nothing new.

The first is “Bad Government,” from T’ang dynasty poet and painter Kuan Hsiu (832-912):

Sleet and rain, as if the pot were boiling.

Winds whack like the crack of an axe.

An old man, an old old man,

at sunset, crept into my hut.

He sighed. He sighed as if to himself,

“These rulers, so cruel. Why, tell me

why they must steal till we starve,

then slice the skin from our bones?

For a song from some beauty,

they’ll go back on sworn words;

for a song from some tart,

they’ll tear down our huts;

for a sweet song or two,

they’ll slaughter ten thousand like me,

like you. Weep as you will,

let your hair turn white,

let your whole clan go hungry . . .

no good wind will blow,

no gentle breeze

begin again.

Lord Locust Plague and Baron Bandit Bug,

one east, one west, one north, one south.

We’re surrounded.”

The second is an untitled piece from the mythical Han Shan, an eighth-century Chinese construct I first heard of via Jack Kerouac in “The Dharma Bums”:

I stand here and watch the people of this world:

all against one and one against all,

angry, arguing, plotting and scheming.

Then one day, suddenly, they die.

And each gets one plot of ground:

four feet wide, six feet long.

If you can scheme your way out of that plot,

I’ll set the stone that immortalizes your name.

At least it’s an ethos

September 9, 2010
And now, "Bowling for Virgins," starring The Dude.

And now, "Bowling for Virgins," starring The Dude.

Jesus, I knew all it took to get on TV was a near-fatal case of the dumb-ass (insert your favorite stupid TV show here), but this Pentacostal pinhead from gator country has lowered the bar so far that Beelzebub can do chin-ups from it.

I’m not going to link to any of the stories about him, because he burned through his 15 minutes faster than a snowboarder does a bong hit and I’m not granting any extensions.

However, I expect the mainstream media will — the NYT is already going through an extended breast-beating session headlined “When a Fringe Figure Becomes News” in its “Room for Debate” discussion group. My news judgment! O my ducats! Choices, choices. I’m not linking to that bullshit, either.

The Rev. Billy Bob Goebbels reportedly has called off his Koran-burning, perhaps so he can spend more time negotiating for his own prime-time program (a cooking show? What kind of barbecue sauce goes with wood-fired sacred text?).

But fuck ’im, I went out and bought a Koran anyway. My copy is “The Koran Interpreted” by A.J. Arberry. I scored the fall issue of Tricycle magazine too ’cause it had The Dude on the cover. Him I will link to. Is that some kind of Eastern thing, man?

Earth, wind and fire

June 18, 2010
You can plant these on my grave if Palmer Park ever succeeds in killing me.

You can plant these on my grave if Palmer Park ever succeeds in killing me.

Another scorcher today, with plenty of wind and a big-ass fire to the southwest of us (my man Hal Walter at Hardscrabble Times has a pic).

With 90s in the forecast and a long shift in the Velo-barrel tomorrow I decided to get out early for another of my patented weirdo cyclo-cross rides, a two-hour blend of asphalt, concrete, pulverized-granite paths and moderately technical, powdery single-track that took me into Palmer Park, where the cacti and Indian paintbrush are in bloom.

I love riding a ’cross bike in this park, especially when it’s windy, because you can hide from the breeze in its miniature canyons, where the trails are well screened with foliage this time of year. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it dramatically shortens your line of sight, and the park is popular with a wide variety of outdoorsy types — runners, joggers, dog-walkers, equestrians, bird-watchers, stoners, boners and mountain bikers.

So I’m not exactly rippin’ the trails on my Nobilette, is what I’m saying. Life is already plenty short enough, and if I merely get laid up instead of laid out, well, free-lancers don’t get sick days. “A day of no work is a day of no eating,” said Huai-hai. And as you know, I dearly love to eat.

Still, I did manage to clean one section of trail that has had stymied me for the better part of quite some time. And I almost got a second bit, a rock garden that has defied me for as long as I can remember. I had it dicked but spazzed out just at the end, nearly T-boning a trailside tree.

“Damn it!” I barked, just as a couple grinning mountain bikers appeared, headed in the opposite direction. “Don’t mind me, I’m just trying to kill myself here,” I explained, and off they went, effortlessly navigating the rockpile that tried to feed me to a tree.