Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Delusions Are Inexhaustible

Last night, my house caught on fire.  A seemingly spontaneous short circuit in the wiring inside of a wall first produced a loud scraping sound, and then a strange roar not unlike a leaf blower, and when I came into the room to see what was going on, I saw sparks and smoke coming out of an electrical outlet.

Somehow, I found the presence of mind to run to the fuse box and throw a circuit breaker to stop the flow of electricity to the outlet.  The noise and the sparks stopped, and the hot wall gradually cooled down, but the electricity was out for half of the house, far more than could be accounted for by the circuit breaker that I threw.

All that night, I had feelings of dread.  My mind assumed the worst - the house will soon catch fire by itself and burn down and take me with it, or all of the wiring will have to be replaced and insurance won't cover it for one reason or another.  In my mind, I had visions of walls broken open for wiring repair, of exorbitant repair bills, of smoke and of fire damage.  I could barely get myself to call an electrician in the morning I was dreading the outcome so much.

But I did call, and when he arrived, he at first looked as concerned as I did, but then had everything fixed in less than 15 minutes.  No big deal, he explained, and the short probably started because the previous owner had painted over the outlets, including the plates and the sockets, and some combination of an ungrounded wire and the lack of heat ventilation due to the paint caused the reaction.  I was advised to replace the remaining painted outlets.

The point of this post is 1) a lesson in home safety - don't paint over your outlets and replace any ones that have been painted, and 2) things usually aren't as bad as your mind imagines they may be.  We create our own little fantasies of the worst that could happen, and then inflict suffering onto ourselves, and often on others, as we indulge in our fantasies.  It's better to face things as they are, and deal with the good and the bad as it comes up.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Beings Are Numberless

Monks and other Buddhists practioners around the world frequently recite what is called the Four Great Vows, starting with "Beings are numberless; I vow to free them," or some similar variation of those words.

In my experience, most people, at least here in North America, recite those words without much thought about what it is they are actually vowing to do.  How can one person free numberless beings? And free them from what?
My interpretation is we can free them from our own delusional perception that the numberless beings are individual things somehow separate from ourselves and from each other.  In place of seeing all beings as either assets or impediments to our pleasure, we can fulfill the vow by freeing the numberless beings, including all appearances and all forms, by embracing them, meeting them just as they appear, and not merely using them for our own purposes.  In so doing, we free them from our own clutching minds.

For those interested, this is discussed in further detail in a great dharma talk posted on line by Upaya Zen Center here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halloween Parade

It used to be, at least since at least my pre-teen years, that I hated parades.  Noisy, boring, and predictable, I thought.  In recent years, thanks in  no small part to the East Atlanta Strut and the L5P Halloween Parade, I've come to love them.

Here's some pictures from today's L5P Halloween Parade.

A large part of the appeal of the L5P Halloween Parade is the L5P audience is just as interesting and colorful as the parade itself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The purpose of life is to experience love.
- Shokai St. James

Friday, October 10, 2014

The purpose of death is the release of love.
- Laurie Anderson

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Fun Times in Babylon

The high point of my day wasn't during my morning commute, when a terrible traffic accident reduced highway I-85 to a single lane, and I spent a good half hour on one half-mile stretch just south of Shallowford Road.

The day could have been far worse - I could have been one of those unfortunate people involved in the accident - but it was a frustrating way to start the day.  I got to the office about an hour late.

The high point of my day wasn't driving out to Athens. Georgia that afternoon, when construction shut Georgia Highwy 316 down to a complete standstill for at least 15 minutes, only to let us creep along at about one car length per minute after that.  The incident seemed to have been been caused by an oversized truck trying to haul a large concrete girder over an overpass, and the State Troopers decided to shut down the road beneath until he crossed.   I got to my meeting about five minutes late, only because I broke about every speeding law on the books between Collins Bridge Road and Athens to make up for the lost time.

The high point of my day wasn't driving back from Athens, where the already narrow two-lane access road for Peachtree Street off southbound I-85 was reduced to one lane because some other unfortunate person's car broke down in the other lane.  No complete stops, but one-car-length-per-minute driving for a mile-long stretch.  But again, the day could have been far worse - at least I wasn't the guy waiting there for someone to come along and rescue me. 

The high point of my day wasn't coming home to my cats, who were oblivious to my trials and just happy to see me, nor was it imaging the smile on your face as you read this.  No, the high point of my day was knowing that all of this was just the perceptions of my own mind, and the commuting and the homecoming and the smiling were only as frustrating or as rewarding as my mind imagined them to be.