26 February 2010


[click image]

Zen, having saved me from driving myself off a cliff, is something about which it is really hard to have a sense of humor... on the internet, almost anywhere in the modern world. Zen itself has abundant humor, but the subject is sore in these times. The term has been so debauched that mentioning it is immediately completely misleading. I actually recognized this as a problem very early in my association with my teacher, and it is well beyond the time when not only any outward forms of it need to be shed and replaced with new means, but even the name has to go.

I have this difficulty of needing to invoke a fathomless level of seriousness that the word "Zen" might once have been fully expected to produce, and continually notice the need to ignore the pit of my stomach when just using the word and leaving it to the buddhas of the ten directions what that's really going to invoke in the minds of anyone hearing me using it. Maybe in person I can still use the word with certain sensitive people because I pack a lot of punch in anyone's vicinity, but on the tubes it's a test of one's mettle to endure this short and sleek construction just about anywhere it can be found. The number of blogs and other types of sites with it somehow wedged into their names is ridiculous... and ridiculous to some unspeakable power of exponent if you make so bold as to click onto any of them. This is SO distressing, I am completely liberated from any need whatsoever to manifest it on my already suffering skinbag.

But a solution still needs must be found.

No. Really! There are people out there billing themselves as teachers and guides, and any number of other cutesy ways of expressing some level of adeptitude or chic seekerliness. Puking could not begin to rectify the insult to sentient being. And it is oceanic. Not even your very own deathless windmill tilter begins to have the urge to turn that tidal wave. Let it break on its shore, dashing nitwits on their own rocks until they finally desist or ebb, no more to flow. It is this unutterably appalling.

Yes. Yes it so is.

Not wishing to suspend myself in this amber I go ahead and use the word here plenty often enough, I guess, but I cringe at the quantum of jackasses possibly going to take that as a cue for how hip it is to spend any time here... leave their eyeprints on my URL. I really, really, may not have any other choice than to dive back into writing books to try to catch the thread of how to call up this gravity without using anything that suggests that word, and to shed this that is left wasting time agonizing over the agonizing.

I guess the least offensive of these are the disparate privileged types who just wish to claim that sort of esthetic... putter with "poetry" and pretty pictures... form some kind of community of gently élite pastoralists... and my most strident objections really spring from the ones being more overt about it. It has been pointed out to me that karma brings the rubes to charlatans and so that does blunt the wrath leaping to lop heads for succumbing to harming in furtherance of vanity, but it is execrable in the extreme anyway, and it would be bodhisattva work to plant little bombs on those pages if there weren't so much else needing the lift.

Idries Shah wrote a book called Learning How to Learn that will strip the paint off anyone picking it up for its esthetic value... assuming they make so earnest as to read it... and I am remembering him talking about the immediate recognition—worth the effort and not worth the effort—before even they can open their mouths. Some would, at that juncture, be moved to hyperventilate about his arrogance, I'm sure, and others humbled into sopping heaps of theatrical piety by it as well, but my brain only sent neurons an ion's breadth down those synapses, and I just took it in.

The point of teaching yourself to halt thoughts is to better learn to discern what else is springing to your awareness besides this nattering from your mental conditioning. Thinking has its virtues, and it's really optimal to apply it when you need to fix your car or plan an event... all sorts of handy things... but you can't ever learn to heed what you know before you even fully register the entrance of a person into your consciousness unless you learn to quit heaping upon it so much noise and habit energy that it becomes a needle in a haystack you might not even be able to recognize as a needle by the time you should accidentally stumble across it. It's hay to you... unless... unless you are very strong... very clear. And Shah, the Sufi, just slaps you with it—BLAMMY—without so much as stirring the air holding you and the pages of that book. Whatever stir occurs, it's your doing, not his.

What I think trips me up the most is my devotion to certain virtues in people, my gratitude for them. While having to look at my own heedless ingratitude, which came as something of a shock to me, as I'm sure you can readily understand, the gate to an infinitude of gratitude very unobtrusively began to open up. It is both barely discernibly subtle and terrifyingly-all-the-way-up-to-eleven. You have to float in that. I get hung by my own excess of emotion in gratitude for virtues certain people really DO possess, but NOT with the awakeness, the intention, the integrity, the supple strength it takes to live up to them. I end up realizing at some extreme of lateness or other that the strength of my emotion buried the needle with a mountain of hay. I can console myself that at least I can pluck the needle from it the very moment my error occurs to me, but the fit I pitch over my stupid errors overtakes taking that consolation.

It's a wonder I didn't give up before I began. The speed of my emotion is something I'm sure Einstein would have cracked open the universe contemplating. Still, being the bearer of this quantum of velocity I do seriously have to be even faster... and am... dammit... even in my hypothyroid blithering... and there WILL be the time when my own oceans cannot drown me... when I'm faster at saving your ass than you even opening your mouth.


  1. Dear Agent 99,

    I always "liked" the original cover. The plane she's holding is an icon of the F-7U-Cutlass. My next door neighbor, Bill Sunday, a test pilot for Chance Vought Aircraft, was killed – in a hard crash – landing one in 1953.



  2. Oh, man, this was the version I was looking for! Thanks. Clicked the image and got the live in Golden Gate Park version.

    I had a thing for that album cover too. I guess it made me feel hip or adult to be able to admire it.

    But the biggest thing was that my first love and I drove with the top down in his MG Midget all up and down the Coast Highway and for trips to lose ourselves in SF or play on the conveyor belts at the airport... with this album blasting out of the giant stereo speakers he'd squeezed behind the seats. I made him keep playing this song over and over and over again. I loved the whole album, but didn't want to hear the other songs... wanted it to be this song all night, every night, forever. It isn't even the lyrics. It's the emotion in Winwood's transcendental singing that sets it above just a really good song.

    I hadn't heard it in a couple decades and it came on the radio one night while I was driving out somewhere and I burst into tears so hard I had to pull over and sob, and hung there trying to will the station to play it over again.

    We had some set albums we listened to in our nightly prowls all over the wilds of West Marin and beyond. My parents trusted him completely and didn't mind if he kept me out all night. Only time I didn't have a curfew... and it was full of THIS.

    I'll change my image link to your link. Thank you.


  3. Your neighbor died the year I was born... but he probably had a heck of a lot of fun right up to the end.

  4. In today's political climate the photographer and probably the model's parents and possible the model herself) would be charged with child pornography.



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