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Art and Practice with The Heart Sutra

Toward Re-organization — Related Posts: The Aristotelian Detour, Field Mapping, Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence Most of us spend our lives avoiding the Heart Sutra, but it pursues us anyway like a heat-seeking missile, even while also rising up around us like the petals of the famous lotus flower. Allow me to explain. Blossom of Inexhaustible Kindness, 2013, by Tom Wudl We tend to assume that, at least in principle, there is nothing we may not know. The idea that being born, say, in the second half of the twentieth century in the US of A might limit or shape what we may know seems odd to us, insulting almost. And yet periods of history are defined by styles of thinking, root ideas and … [Read more...]

Shame and Connection

Affective Encounters on the Path — When we fall in love (even for five minutes) it means we have met someone who resonates with some aspect of our mind from which we have been alienated – in the lover’s presence we feel complete, and the feeling is strongest when it is mutual. Even then, however, there are, famously, no guarantees. As often as not the resonance gives way to something else. The bond begins to shift and change, quite often dissolve. We feel then as if some part of our being has again been torn away, like a ripped-off limb or a stolen organ, but none of this is actually the case. As the lover recedes we simply lose contact again with that aspect of ourselves they were able to embody, and the challenge is precisely to take … [Read more...]

Hold It Against Me

The United States of Stanley Kubrick –  Aspects of ourselves that we don’t know how to care for give rise to the complex patterns of distraction that we call our personalities. This notion came to me courtesy of Brittany Spears in a small burst of insight that happened also to illuminate the closing moments of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, a film that has always haunted me. I was surfing around on Facebook and I happened to catch a clip of some Marines from the 266 Rein Division lip-synching Brittany’s song Hold it Against Me on a supply base “somewhere in Afghanistan.” One of my characteristic distractions is to locate something conservatives (or the military) are doing, and use it to climb up on my tub and start thumping. This … [Read more...]

Ecce Heston

How to Survive Our Own Success – In Santa Fe dramatic thunderstorms are common late on summer days. Afterwards the massive banks of purple clouds will often part, allowing shafts of intense sunlight to angle down, creating sometimes vivid rainbows. At a house near downtown last summer I saw a rainbow like this, clear as a Technicolor dream. I was with a group of young scientists and I watched as their wonder shifted into analytical mode – here is an example of water molecules interacting with rays of refracted light – and then back again toward a more embodied appreciation. The sequence reminded me of the Buddhist saying in which a mountain becomes, for the meditator, something very different …and then, at a later stage, returns … [Read more...]

Citizens Koch

The Face Outside the Window –  It’s hard to know what to say about Charles Koch after reading Jane Mayer’s astonishing expose in the August 30th issue of The New Yorker. American politics have been running hot for decades; finally we can name the source of the fever. Together with his brother David, Charles Koch owns Koch Industries, the second largest private company in the US; only Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are thought to be wealthier. In a remarkably narcissistic and anti-democratic act, the Koch boys long ago anointed themselves the heroic duo who would “rip government out by the roots.” In the grip of this wayward intention, they have, for the past four decades, pumped billions of dollars worth of high-grade hatred into the … [Read more...]

From Santa Monica to Santa Fe – Part 2

The Century of the Non-Self –  Talk to people about sustainability and you might notice them recoiling into a resigned stoicism. The momentum in the direction of over-consumption seems vast and formidable, as indeed it is. Better, when caught picnicking between the hi-speed rails, to avert your eyes from the onrushing bullet train, and focus instead on how the honey drips off the baklava. You can invoke Thomas Malthus while you do so. Malthus, the 18th century economist, who, extrapolating food supplies against population growth, predicted mass famine in Europe in the not-too-distant future. The resourcefulness of human beings in their economic activities has proven Malthus wrong again and again, and perhaps we will sidestep disaster … [Read more...]

From Santa Monica to Santa Fe – Part 1

Slowly we discover how we are. On a visit to Santa Fe recently I read up on neuroplasticity and found myself haunted by the memory of a set of cement stairs. These stairs I encountered briefly when I was eight years old and my parents were hurtling toward their final separation. The stairs belonged to a monthly rental in Santa Monica where we had traveled for the summer from the East. They led up to a hallway and, at the far end, an apartment I never wanted to enter. At night the thin walls would shake with my father’s wounded bellowing and the sound of things breaking. We children would gather in the corner of the bedroom, the three of us, around our youngest sister as she cried from an ache in her chest that wouldn’t ease. There was no … [Read more...]

Art and the Fine Needle Aspirant

Hidden in Plain Sight – Revolutionary Road is a film centered around the emotional state referred to in Buddhist literature as “lack.” Leonardo DiCaprio, working with Kate Winslet and director Sam Mendes, made Revolutionary Road as an homage to the novel of the same name by Richard Yates. Showing the same restraint the Coen brothers brought to the filming of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, the makers of Revolutionary Road get out of the way and let Yates’ text have it's say. And, again like No Country, Revolutionary Road concludes in an enigmatic way that indicates the presence of a rich vein of meaning. Set in the stratified social hierarchy of 1950s America, the story begins as Frank and April Wheeler move into a new home … [Read more...]