Sunday, May 29, 2011


This weekend, the Sasquatch Music Festival is being held in Washington State's Columbia River Gorge, in the cleverly named town of George, Washington. I didn't go, but I am listening to it more-or-less live on I didn't go to either of the two fine shows last night, partly because I was listening to the performances at Sasquatch over the interwebs all evening. Virtually every performer remarked on how beautiful the setting is, and NPR's Bob Boilen even went so far as to say, "This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen on Earth."

I often wonder what my life would have been like had I managed to sell my house back in '08 and move to Portland. I like to think that I would have gone to Sasquatch for the Memorial Day-weekend festival (I understand it's about a four-hour drive from Portland). I imagine that my life would be enhanced, would somehow be better, if I were living in and amid all of the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge and the Pacific Northwest. I imagine that I would be more active, more sociable, and that I would be somehow better had I moved.

Of course, I can also recognize that this is just the way that the mind works. "If only . . ." I fantasize about any number of things, "then things would be better." My whole life, I've moved from one place to another, from one relationship to the next, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, always thinking that things will be different, be somehow better. But everywhere I go, as they say, there I am. As Bob Marley once sang, "You can't run away from yourself."

Had I moved in Portland, I probably wouldn't have actually gone to Sasquatch. I probably would have stayed home and listened to it over the 'net, just like I did last night. After all, I never go to Bonarroo, next month's music festival in nearby Manchester, Tennessee, just north of Chattanooga. Why would it - why would I - be any different over there?

Actually, if I were really honest about it, had I moved to Portland in '08, my job probably wouldn't have survived the recession and I would most likely have been unemployed, and with no contacts or client base in Oregon, I would have had a very difficult time finding a new job. Of course, fantasy and imagination don't like to consider financial, psychological, and other realities. It's more fun to think that there's a way to escape yourself.

Zen teaches us that although there's no escape, the present reality isn't so bad. "Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous," Boddhidharma is said to have noted. And yet we defame our inconceivably wondrous self-nature, which is to say Buddha-nature, all the time, thinking that the universe can be improved if only we had this or that, from material possessions to the respect or affection of another, from a different life to a different state of consciousness. And while we're off seeking, we're missing the wonders right in front of our nose.

Spending the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend home with my cats, listening to Local Natives and Wye Oak, among others, over the 'net, is not a bad way to spend time. After all, it was my choice, it is what I wound up selecting among all of the options available to me.

Appropriately enough, even while I was writing these words, Michael Elliston, my Zen teacher, posted a message on Facebook, saying "Buddhism, particularly in its Zen form of focus on direct experience, offers the personal revolution required for individuals to find what is missing in their spiritual lives. When and if they do, they need nothing from others, in the sense of envy and covetousness, and so are able to actualize personal peace, which is the foundation for world peace." It's ironic (synchronous?) that we were both thinking along such similar lines at the same time.

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