Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Monday, December 27, 2004

End of year hiatus

For various reasons, I won't be blogging this week. I'll be back at the beginning of the new year. In the meantime, do us both a favor and check out some of the links on the right. You might find something you like.

Happy New Year, y'all!

Friday, December 24, 2004


Because of the previous entry, I thought it best to get on the topic of Christmas.

I'm sure we all have alternative lyrics to Christmas songs. This year I made up these words for "Oh Christmas Tree."

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
You were alive but now you're dead.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
An angel's butt's crammed on your head.
Your lovely fragrance all around,
Your needles fall upon the ground.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
We'll throw you out when you turn brown.

What does it say about a religion when to celebrate its most holy day people go out into the woods, kill something, string it up in their living room, and hang little doo-dads all over it? And then spread presents under the carcass, wrapped in still more dead trees? (Don't forget to put an aspirin in the tree water!)

Many years ago Mike and I made up new words to "Winter Wonderland." Let's see if I remember them.

Oh my nose is a sneezin'
And my toes are a freezin,
My lips have turned blue, my eyes frozen too,
Walking in a winter wonderland!

In the village we can build a snowman,
Make him anatomically correct.
Preacher walkin' home from his sermon
Is shocked to see that Frosty is erect!

Catch a plane to Miami,
Spend the winter with my grammy.
To hell with Vermont, it's warm that we want,
Walking in a winter wonderland!

There may have been more, maybe Mike's got it on his computer somewhere and will share it with us. (If he isn't pee-ode because of the Aggie joke.)

With all this you'd think I have a low opinion of the holiday. I'm not a Christian, and my wife is only partly connected with Christianity. But we have a tree (who decided it was the man's job to deal with the lights?) (I wanted to have a Christmas table, and just put presents under that, but I only have 49% of the holiday vote) and presents for friends and family. This evening we will be taking an elderly friend out to look at lights, followed by snacks at some friends' home, and tomorrow we will be at the in-laws for feasting and paper-ripping. Even in its secular form, it's a holiday for giving and spending time with your fellow Earthlings. It's hard to be against all that.

So, Happy Holidays, y'all.

An inappropriate joke

This is a totally inappropriate joke for Christmas. It's probably inappropriate for a number of reasons. However, in the wee hours of the morning I dreamt I was telling this joke and so even though I don't take such things to be signs I'm gonna tell the joke here anyway.

But first, I have to explain what an Aggie is. It's not a marble (that's an aggie with a small "a"). An Aggie is a student of Texas A&M University. Their favorite color is maroon, which is handy because they only need to add an extra "o" to their designation to spell it. In Texas, the Aggie is the butt of jokes, much like Newfies in Canada. So, now that I've explained that, here's the inappropriate joke:

After finishing basic training an Aggie was sent to war. Because they did not have enough rifles, the Aggie was instead issued a broomstick and told to point it at the enemy and yell, "Bangity! Bangity! Bangity!"

Once on the front, the Aggie pointed his broomstick at the enemy and yelled, "Bangity! Bangity! Bangity!" Sure enough, his enemies dropped like rocks. This went on for a terrible fight. Suddenly, in the distance, the Aggie saw an enemy soldier walking calmly towards him.

The Aggie pointed his weapon at the soldier. "Bangity! Bangity! Bangity!" But this time, the enemy soldier kept walking right at him. "Bangity! Bangity! Bangity!" he yelled in desperation, but soon the enemy was upon him. The enemy soldier pushed the Aggie to the ground and walked right over his body, crushing him, and continued to walk, saying, "Tankity! Tankity! Tankity!"

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Shoes Outside the Door

Earlier this week I finished reading Shoes Outside the Door by Micheal Downing. For those not in the know, the book is about the events leading up to the ouster of Richard Baker as Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center in 1983.

Baker was the Dharma Heir to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi; of all of Roshi's American students, only Baker was given Transmission. Baker was installed as Roshi's replacement to run Zen Center before the latter died of cancer in 1971. That Baker was chosen over more senior students plays a large role in the events that were to follow.

To cut to the chase of the story, Baker began to live an extravagant life; meeting celebrities, lavish dinners, expensive works of art, students as silent servants, and extra-marital sexual liaisons with students. At least once when he ended an affair he used his position to isolate his former lover from the rest of the community.

Under his leadership, the Center expanded into multiple businesses, including a restaurant, a grocery, and a clothing factory; in each case, these businesses were staffed with students for whom the work was to be part of their practice. As such, the students worked long hours on a small stipend way below minimum wage.

Things came to a head in 1983 when, during a Peace Conference at the Tassajara Monastery Baker had an affair with the wife of one his best friends and supporters. When brought up at a board meeting (which included a few members who had displeased Baker and had thus been "disenvited"), the resentments and damage done by Baker over the years also came to light. Baker resigned. According to the book, members who went through this period refer to it as the "Apocalypse".

I read the book pretty much straight through, with the kind of morbid fascination one has while observing a traffic accident or listening to gossip. The book included interviews with Baker, who seems to admit to few mistakes and acts as if he is misunderstood. Among the long-time members of Zen Center he still has supporters as well as detractors.

Earlier this year when I went to a sort of orientation for the Vermont Zen Center, during a discussion on choosing a teacher it was brought up, with at the time what seemed to me to be unusual emphasis, that a teacher should never have sex with a student. It occurred to me then that there must be a story there; now I know it.

Baker is not the only teacher that, to my knowledge, slept with students. Chogyam Trungpa is said to have done this (as well as having problems with alcohol abuse). The book addresses this; while Baker is portrayed as having covered up his liaisons, Trungpa was very open and up front about his affairs.

Both Baker and Trungpa were very charismatic leaders. Many people have learned from their teachings. No doubt there have been other Buddhist leaders who have lived questionable lives. We shouldn't think that, because Buddhism teaches self-awareness and enlightenment, it is exempt from the kind of scandals that occur in other religions. I am reminded of the adage, "Power Corrupts." When that power is religiously ordained, I think that the potential for corruption is even greater.

Music in my head: The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby

Monday, December 20, 2004

Practice makes closer-to-perfect

I've been asked to join an issues blog, Alamo City Crossfire. Though I do not live in San Antonio, I qualify because I'm a Texan and every Texan has two homes: his own, and San Antonio.

I haven't decided yet if I am going to join. Issues/political blogs tend to be leftist or rightist and I'm a radical extreme centrist which means I'll probably end up agreeing with everyone else and nobody at all.

The current issue being debated is the death penalty, and even though I haven't decided to join I find myself composing an entry in my head. I guess I'm still a debater at heart.

What is somewhat serendipitous is that, this weekend, I read Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ. The debate on the death penalty has swerved into areas of Christianity over at Crossfire. Something that Thay had said struck me as kind of important.

When I began to study Buddhism, I learned that Zen is mostly about practice: meditation, mindfulness, and integrating it into your everyday life. Thay wrote in the book that Christianity is also a practice. (The book goes on to show how Buddhism practice and Christian practice is sometimes similar.)

It seems to me that in America religion, particularly Christianity, is not practiced, but merely believed. We have a religious life (on Sundays, some holidays, at weddings and funerals) and we have a secular life (the rest of the time).

When I think back on my past experience with people who struck me as "Good Christians," it seems to me that those folks were people who practiced Christianity. It went beyond saying grace at the dinner table; the teachings of Christ were integrated into their lives. They were compassionate, generous, and thoughtful. They were generally quite tolerant of other people's religion, and seemed to understand that the differences between the various forms of Christianity were details, not roadblocks or serious detractions. They didn't try to convert you to their brand of religion, but if you were interested in it they were friendly and tried their best to make you feel welcome.

Interestingly, this is the same attitude and action I have observed in my contacts with Buddhists and Muslims.

I don't want to see our society turned into some sort of theocracy. I'm a firm believer in the notion that "Power corrupts" and in theocracies there are no checks on that power. But I'd like to see more practice and less belief in our society. Through practice, belief and faith can be replaced by experience, which I think makes one's religious roots stronger. Maybe the movement away from religion towards spirituality will make this happen.

Music in my head: Elemental Lullabye, Dana Robinson

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Cold living

It hasn't been cold enough.

I came to that conclusion last night while taking Kane for a walk around my in-laws' neighborhood. All day yesterday I watched the temperature drop, and it plunged into single digits at dark (negative temps C). Even with all the light pollution of Essex Junction, I could see quite a few stars.

It reminded me of an experience one winter when I was visiting friends who lived in the Paradise Valley of Montana. Having lived at the time most of my life in Texas I had not experienced single digit temps. I remember going outside at night and climbing part way up a hillside. It felt like the cold was reaching into my chest trying to pull the life out of me. Each breath was a confirmation of being alive. I recall saying to the cold, "Not yet."

When Kane and I got home, it was to the darkness that living in the country affords. The stars didn't twinkle; there was a bit of a moon. Orion was climbing in the sky, his bow at the ready. The air was crisp and clean and clear, and there was a whisper of a breeze in the tops of the pines. Again, the cold reached down into me to touch the point of living, only this time it was was the cold that whispered, "Not yet."

Music in my head: Empty Page/Start Again, Dana Robinson

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Being a seeker

Tony at Beneath Buddha's Eyes has an short, interesting entry "Recognizing That I Am A Seeker."

On a few blogs there is a link to this blog (for which I am humbled and grateful) under the category of "seekers" or something similar. I guess this description fits. For as long as I can remember, I've been curious about many things; lots of little things and maybe a few big things.

At some point I recognized that for most questions it was sufficient for me to have an answer. It had to be an answer that fit within the framework of what I thought I already understood. Alternatively, it could be an answer that called what I thought I knew into question; these latter answers needed to have some kind of basis in logic or experience. Outside of that, answers would be something stored away until I could make some sort of connection to them. What's important here was getting an answer, not necessarily the answer.

I think this is still true for me now. Being involved with science has taught me that what is considered "fact" is often conditional. For example, Newton's laws are approximately correct for objects traveling at tiny fractions of the speed of light.

That may be why Shunryu Suzuki Roshi's quote at the top of this blog so appeals to me. I found that some of my biggest problems have had at their root some "fact" in my thinking that turned out not to be fact at all. Oftentimes the conditions of the fact were not met, or a heretofore unknown condition changed things in an important way.

So, I work on trying to retain my Beginner's Mind. In that way, everything seems fresh and new, and even wondrous. It allows for many possibilities, even for things seemingly impossible. If this willingness to question what I think I know makes me a seeker, then I'm willing to wear the label.

Music in my head: If Only For One Night, Brenda Russell

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Identity function

(Not a mathematical post, so you can keep reading.)

Occasionally you run across a stranger that tells you something significant about yourself that you didn't know. I think this probably happens a lot, and we just don't realize it. But, if you are fortunate, said stranger says said something in a way that gets past the internal filters and resonates. You get an insight which alters your sense of reality, and forever thereafter you can point to that one moment and say, "That changed everything."

This happened to me over ten years ago when I read Polly Young-Eisendrath's book on relationships You're Not What I Expected. Over the years I had been through a number of relationships, and most of them had ended with me disenchanted after some period of time. I may be a little slow, but even I realized that there must be something about me that was at the root of this trend. Not only did the book explain what I was doing in terms I could understand, but it also taught me how to create a space for communication with my partner which is very effective at fostering mutual understanding and preventing conflict. Shortly after reading the book I met Karen, and we've been blissfully together ever since.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I recently ran across The Resilient Spirit: Transforming Suffering into Insight and Renewal. I'm in the middle of the book now, and it has come into my life at such an opportune time it is almost scary. To quote from the description on the back of the book: "Polly Young-Eisendrath shows us how to move beyond our emotional or physical pain toward greater hope and understanding by drawing on the rich theories of Jung, the practice of psychoanalysis, and the ancient teaching of Buddhism - as well as the stories of people who have faced tremendous hardship."

I have been reading and practicing from various books on how to transform pain, and I've been picking up things here and there. But through this book, I'm finding again that Young-Eisendrath has put things into words that hit home, that slip through the filters, and makes some many ideas clear. I am sure this is a book I will pick up again and again over the years.

This has been a long winded preface to a quote in the book that I read last night that changed my outlook; it was one of those key moments in life. It's not even directly about pain, but made for me the connection between impermanence and identity that was never clear before. Here is the passage:

When people suffer from dissatisfaction and a lack of purpose, they often search for something unique and enduring in their identity - a True Self. Maybe they've heard or read the lingo that some people have problems with a "false self," and they look forward to being able to say, "This is the real me" or something similar. There are many cultural assumptions about the uniqueness of individuality in our society, and many adults look to psychotherapy for a true or authentic self.

Ironically, I understand the goal of this kind of search to be almost the opposite of discovering a True Self. To identify and take responsibility for your suffering and transform it into a purpose, you will surely need to let the self - and the whole idea of
an authentic self - die. In its place will be an honoring of change as the basis of life, and impermanence as the basis of self.


A particularly painful aspect of our ignorance is the belief that we have or can find a True Self that will be permanent and everlasting. To ignore impermanence, to hang onto things as they are at this moment or try to make them what we want, is to create more suffering...As a Tibetan Buddhist teacher says, "The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hang onto, perhaps our only lasting possession." For us in the West, especially, it is often hard to embrace the impermanence of the self and to grasp the idea that the self is a function, not a thing.

"The self is a function, not a thing." This idea makes impermanence very real and personal for me, no longer an abstract idea confined to notions of quantum existence and Brownian motion. It's something we can all experience; just sit doing nothing for a few minutes and watch what your mind does, what your body does, what your surroundings do.

"That's just the way I am!" How many times have you heard or said this? By the time the words have echoed off the walls, they are no longer true, if they ever were.

Not only is there hope that we can change ourselves, there's a certainty we will.

Monday, December 13, 2004

How to make something disappear

With the holidays coming up and the need to keep presents secret until Christmas Day I thought I would pass along this handy fool-proof method for making something disappear.

There are limits to the technique. It only works on items no bigger than a mayonnaise jar, and an item that large is pushing the limit. Items that are damaged by cold temperatures should not be hidden using this technique. In addition, if the item is perishable, it is important to remember the fact that you hid it, and where you hid it, or it will be ruined. This last aspect seems obvious, I know, but it has been my experience that this is the most common problem associated with using this method.

Here's how it works. Take the item, and open your refrigerator. Place the item behind something else, preferably something not used much like a carton of skim milk or a pitcher of grapefruit juice. That's it!

Did I mention that this technique only hides things from men?

Music in my head: Don't Know Why, Norah Jones

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Days like this

Days Like This
Van Morrison

When it's not always raining there'll be days like this
When there's no one complaining there'll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there'll be days like this

When you don't need to worry there'll be days like this
When no one's in a hurry there'll be days like this
When you don't get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there'll be days like this

When you don't need an answer there'll be days like this
When you don't meet a chancer there'll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there'll be days like this

When everyone is up front and they're not playing tricks
When you don't have no freeloaders out to get their kicks
When it's nobody's business the way that you wanna live
I just have to remember there'll be days like this

When no one steps on my dreams there'll be days like this
When people understand what I mean there'll be days like this
When you ring out the changes of how everything is
Well my mama told me there'll be days like this

Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Happy Birthday Karen!

My lovely and talented wife turns __ today! Happy Birthday Karen!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Richard Dawkins

There's an interesting interview of Richard Dawkins which can be read here, published at the Powell's web site (if you read books you might want to know about Powell's, one of the best bookstores on the planet).

For those not in the know, Richard Dawkins invented the term meme, a term frequently tossed around on the web, in his book The Selfish Gene. He is an evolutionary biologist at Oxford. He has a new book, The Ancestor's Tale, which takes a Chaucerian view of evolution as a pilgrimage backwards. The interview is somewhat about the book, but covers a lot of other subjects as well.

If your area is infected by creationists or intelligent design folks, Dawkins is someone you might want to know.

Music in my head: You've Got A Hold On Me, Don Williams

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Power outage

A few minutes shy of 4 PM this afternoon the power went off. The wind has been raging like a drunken bull down the streets of Pamplona with sleet and freezing rain (what's the difference? good question) during the late afternoon, so this shouldn't have been a surprise, but for some reason it was. It turned out the cause of the outage was a tree fell on the lines between our house and the neighbor's, though I only learned this when the power crew showed up and tried to climb the Black Diamond run that is our driveway (nice try, fellas). All in all we were without electricity for three-and-a-half hours; no big problem.

Karen made some phone calls. I tried to get rid of a headache. It gets dark early, so we lit candles, made tea, and had crackers and peanut butter to keep up our strength and to bulk up for the cold. We have a gas stove, and I showed Karen how to light it when the power is off without making a large explosion. She had some soup.

It would have been very romantic and all had it not been that both of us had headaches. Such timing we have.

But things are back to what for us represents normal. I have a doctor's appointment (all kinds of appointments in fact) in the morning and I'm hoping the mess that is the road system will be clear by morning. As the evening light faded I noticed my vehicle was become deeper encased in layers of ice. But it's 35 out right now, so all this stuff will melt, right?

Nice how these kinds of things bring us back to basics.

Music in my head: The first movement of Brahms Fourth Symphony


For you more verbose types, you can now write 3000 characters in a comment entry before getting cut off. Just a little service for my readers. I aim to please and rarely miss.

(I thought that picture thing would draw at least a few comments. I guess all the women swooned, and the men just looked on enviously. [insert smilie here])

Learned yesterday that Chuck Pyle (the "Zen Cowboy") is not coming to Vermont in January after all. What a Grade-A Card-Carrying Bummer. And I've had his songs playing in my head for days. Hmm. I guess, in a way, I've already had the concert.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Portrait of the writer as a middle-aged man

Yours truly
Posted by Hello

Found the link to this Hero Generator at Chris Clarke's excellent Creek Running North. Before I knew what I was doing I realized I'd done a self-portrait. Except for the bulk across the shoulders that is really across my waist, it's pretty close. Well, fairly close. In a comic-book sort of way.

Mindfulness, a miracle

Are you one of those kinds of people in which an idea sticks in the back of your mind, quietly, like a shadow, biding its time, until it whomps you upside the ego with a big ol' reality stick?

In an earlier post, where I was asked to describe myself and I did, mahala noted, "I love that, asked to describe yourself, you wrote about the way your mind works." And I thought, yeah, that's about right, I'm a cerebral person, I already know I think too much and do too little. It was a good insight.

The comment stuck in my head, hiding in the bushes, waiting for me to graze, ready to pounce. And, at 4 AM, it did.

OK, it didn't pounce, it just stood up and whacked me on the ear. "Isn't it odd that your greatest pain comes to the place where you spend most of your time?"

Then it whacked me on the other ear (merciless thoughts!). "What have you been missing?"

Because here it was, 4 AM, and I'd been awake for an hour, tossing and turning and trying to think my way back to sleep. I'd tried relaxation techniques and breathing techniques and they hadn't worked. And, I had a respectable headache.

"What have you been missing?"

I let the other senses in. I could hear Karen breathing. I could feel the warmth of the blankets, the flannel on my arms and bare feet. I could smell Karen's breath next to me. There was an odd metallic taste in my mouth. I could see odd patterns before my eyes. There was an electric hum from something in the room. There was a silence from outside. Karen turned over in her sleep, and twitched a few times. (I didn't know she did that!) The water heater came on; there was the rush of the furnace; there was the tock! of the furnace after it shut off and cooled. My breath was cool in my nose, throat, into my lungs. There was pain in my head, and in my legs. When I exhaled there was a slight sound of the air against the pillow. A faint glow from the clock lit the room. Kane came into the bedroom, his toenails tic-tic-tic on the hardwood floor, I could hear him look at us on the bed, and then he laid down with a grunt.

Imagine, all this going on in the middle of the night! So much for the senses, and this close to winter, when bugs and critters outside are hibernating. What a symphony the summer night must be!

I seem to recall reading somewhere that in Buddhist psychology there are six senses, the five we normally think of and thoughts. What a treat it was to give the other five a chance to chime in for a change.

Music in my head: Slow Time Kid, Chuck Pyle

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Don't you wish you were me?

Something has come over Karen, she's been bitten by the baking bug. It started out with pumpkin bread, one of her many specialties. Then for Thanksgiving she made a healthy pumpkin pie. Then there was more pumpkin bread, then a pumpkin mousse, and then apple crisp using this year's crop of Macintoshes (the apple, not the machine or the raingear). She's been baking with Splenda, so it isn't high calorie stuff, and she's been using whole wheat flour, so there's been some semblance a healthiness to it. This evening she roasted potatoes, cooked butternut squash, and slow-roasted a pork roast in garlic and onions. Is it any wonder I have trouble losing weight?

Probably against the advice of the Dartmouth folks I have been slowly diminishing the medication that was supposed to prevent migraines (it wasn't working anyway). As I have done so the weird aches and pains in my arms have gone away, too. I am scheduled to have tests run to determine the cause of these pains, but I think I have already found the answer. Things may be back to a level where I can start to sit again. Woohoo!

In addition, while looking for something else I ran across some information on mercury poisoning that some people have gotten from their amalgam fillings in their teeth. I've had such fillings since I was eighteen or so, but it could be that the mercury has begun to leach out of them, which can cause headaches. I am having some tests run to test the mercury levels and hope to have some news this week. Gosh, wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

Now, before I set off any worries, most people who have these fillings are fine. While mercury is poisonous, it is combined with other materials in amalgam fillings which (should) make them safe. Keep in mind that chlorine is a poison, too, but, when combined with sodium, makes salt, a necessary mineral.

But, when compared to some of the crazy things I've tried in order to control migraines, this one doesn't seem so far out there. It's a simple test, so it seems reasonable to do it.

With all this sweet baking going on, I need to watch out for new cavities.

Music in my head: Camel Rock, Chuck Pyle

Friday, December 03, 2004

Not your regular programming

The ol' migraine is acting out today, so I'll send you to a good blog to check out, Vermont Diary, another Vermont blogger who writes some pretty good stuff. She's got puppies for the next few weeks. Everyone likes puppies.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


A monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does even a dog have Buddha-nature?"

Zhaozhou said, "Mu!"

-from No Barrier: Unlocking the Zen Koan, translation and commentary by Thomas Cleary. (Edited slightly by me)

In a footnote to the late Philip Kapleau Roshi's book The Three Pillars of Zen, mu is translated as "no", "not", "have not", or "nothing." This koan plays an important role in The Three Pillars; many of the students recorded during dokusan have been assigned this koan.

I've had dogs for a good portion of my life, but I don't think I'm qualified to comment on whether or not they have Buddha nature. I'm not sure I'm willing to take Zhaozhou's (or Chao-chou or Joshu, as his name is sometimes spelled) word for it, but am willing to acknowledge he might have known more about it than me. I don't know anything about his experiences with dogs.

But our dog Kane, I've noticed, has the most amazing ability to sit. He doesn't sit in the formal sense, in the lotus on a zafu (dog legs just won't do that). And he doesn't sit for long in the way that you tell a to dog "sit!" But, he has the ability to sit mindfully for incredible amounts of time.

He sleeps some, mostly at night. But during the day, not so much. His eyes will get that unfocused look, gazing a few feet in front of him (he likes to sit in our recliner, we put a cover in it so it doesn't get all dog-hair encrusted), breathing evenly, and takes in his surroundings. He hears sounds outside and me moving around the house. Every so often, you can see his nose sniffing ever so gently at something. And he just does this for most of the day. A good portion of the time, if I go over to him and pet him while he is in one of these states, you can tell he is passively receiving the sensation as just one other thing in his environment. He doesn't react. And he is r-e-l-a-x-e-d.

He can get enthusiastic. He loves to go for walks, and gets excited about car rides. But even in the car, after a little while, he just melts into what looks like this mindful state, his chin resting on the door, watching the world glide past.

Maybe I should have him as my zazen partner. Take my mat and my bench and sit next to him. He may not have Buddha nature, but I think he could teach me a thing or two about mindfulness.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Late breaking answers deux

Karen chimes in:

How would you describe yourself?
I'm a very simple fellow. I see complicated things sometimes. I forget things I don't use, except sometimes things just hang around in my head for no apparent reason, and then - viola' - bits of trivia just float to the top. It's like when you are looking at the surface of a pond, and suddenly an air bubble pops to the surface. That's how facts sometimes come to me. I've been described as a seeker, and it sort of fits, but it's more that I'm a curious person. I'm not sure I need to know the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (though I do know it, it's 42), mostly I'm just looking for peace of mind. I think too much and do too little, so I have ideas where I could have experience. Judging from my fondness for using first person pronouns, I'm pretty self-centered. I'm trying to change that.

What would you most like to learn?
Thankfully, you didn't limit me to one thing, so...I'd like to learn: how to play piano; how to speak and read French, Arabic, Japanese, Tibetan; more about the life sciences; sailing; orchestration; linguistics; how fingerprints keep getting on my reading glasses; neurology; what happened to Amelia Earhart; the Colonel's secret recipe; distributed programming; how clutter seems to magically manifest around me; why traffic suddenly starts coming from both directions just as I'm pulling out of the lot; and finally, can a 747 airliner do a barrel roll? (the latter without me in it). There are some other, less significant things.

What brings joy to your heart?
Once, while taking photos on a Sunday morning in Dallas's "Arts District" (which, at the time, had exactly one artist living there)I was accosted by a large black woman who asked me, "Hey, can you spare a few dollars for a hustler to get a burger?" We were around the corner from a burger joint, it was around 9 AM, there was no one around except her and I. It seemed to me, though I can't say why, that the hooker had been up all night long. Why she was broke is a mystery to me now, though she wasn't all that physically attractive. She was dressed in burnt orange stretch pants and a brown, short-sleeve blouse. She was broad at the hips, and in fact gave a very human expression of roundness. She had extremely short, bright copper hair. There were needle marks along both of her arms. In any event, I opened my wallet and gave her a ten-dollar bill. I told her, "Get yourself some fries to go with that." She took the ten, smiled so big a jack-o-lantern would have been impressed and said, "Hey, thanks, you're sweet!" and planted a kiss on my right cheek. I suppose you could say I paid for that little peck, but the smile-and-kiss combo was worth every dime and every ounce of kindness. That brought me joy.

Music in my head: Ruby, Chuck Pyle