Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Destroyer of Delights

"Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is the vital matter." 
On my drive home today, I saw a horrific automobile accident develop right in front of me, even as I was moving along with the flow of traffic at more than 70 mph.  An 18-wheeler truck just a few car lengths ahead of me crossed out of its lane and bumped into a car off on its right front side, knocking the car forward like a billiard ball.  While parts were flying off of its chassis, the car pinwheeled around in front of the truck and then slammed into the concrete traffic barrier with a loud crash.  

I tapped my brakes as I saw the accident about to occur in order to stay behind the impact, and smelled the burnt rubber of the tires as I passed.  I noted the license number of the truck in case it kept driving, but it did pull over and stop.

I'd like to say that no one was killed but I honestly don't know.  I can't find anything about it on the news, as sadly this is a fairly routine incident in Atlanta, and most people just experience it not as a human tragedy but as an irritating traffic jam. 

The truck driver didn't expect it to happen.  The driver of the car certainly didn't expect it to happen. I didn't expect to see it happen, and it reminds me of just how fragile and impermanent our existence here on Earth is.

Be kind to each other.  They or you may not be here tomorrow.  
"Grass, trees, and bushes are impermanent and are nothing but potential. Human beings and things, and body and mind, are impermanent and are nothing but potential. The earth, mountains, and rivers are impermanent because they are potential. Supreme awareness (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) is impermanent, since it is potential." 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Living in the Red State, Bible-belt South, I've often had to ask myself the question, "How can someone who is otherwise so intelligent and well-read as him/her also maintain a belief in their mind as ignorant and uninformed as that?"  The specifics about the person and about the ignorant and uninformed beliefs vary from case to case - sometimes it's politics, sometimes it's religion, sometimes it's just plain buffoonery - but the question keeps coming up again and again. 

It usually goes like this: someone is trying to explain something to me, something that I just know is completely and totally incorrect, and I try to set the record straight with "the facts" and find them looking at me in a condescending way that tells me they consider my opinion naive and embarrassingly childlike.  

So the answer to my question may be found by rearranging it to ask myself "How can an intelligent and well-read person like him/her come to consider the reasonable beliefs in my mind as ignorant and uninformed?"  

Are we all blinded by our self-delusion?  Have we all mistaken the mental models we've constructed for the truth?  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meanwhile . . .

By the way, I came home from work the other day and found that my neighborhood has become a hazardous spill zone.

Apparently a release of raw sewage spilled into the creek across the street from my house.  I don't know the source of the spill, but Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has been engaged in a major road-widening project just upstream of here, and the project has included a lot of sewer-line relocation and repair.  The State of Georgia, putting the "GD" in "GDOT."  

Fortunately, there are no odors or other evidence of the release except for the signs and caution tape.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Brownest Loaf Yet

All the loaves to date, the banana bread, the zucchini bread, the cranberry-walnut bread, etc, may all have been brown in color, but this one most deserves the color - it's a chocolate chocolate-chip bread with a Kahlua glaze. Neither chocolate cake nor fudge or brownies, it's a dough-based bread like its predecessors, but loaded with cocoa and chocolate mini-chips.

The koan in this case was letting go of the lessons about baking learned to date and moving out of one's comfort zone, and doing something different and trusting in the guidance of the recipe.  To be brutally self-critical (and we must always be merciless censors of ourselves), I may have left this one in the oven about 5 minutes too long - it's a little drier than I would have liked, but it's hard for me to tell if that's from baking too long or just all of that chocolate in the mix.  In any event, I can attest to the fact that it goes very well with a morning cup of coffee.     

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Scenes From The South Broad Street Block Party

On a momentous night for the advancement of Atlanta's downtown rejuvenation and growth of it's artistic community, the alternative weekly newspaper, Creative Loafing, celebrated its annual Best of Atlanta issue with a block party on South Broad Street.  South Broad, formerly the home to mostly abandoned shop fronts and a few marginal businesses, is being transformed with the assistance of The Goat Farm into a new arts district, with The Mammal Gallery and Eyedrum already operating in the area and new enterprises, such as Murmur and The Downtown Players Club, starting up.  The block party served not only to celebrate the Loaf's selections of the city's best but also as a formal debut of the Broad Street Arts District.

Here are some scenes from the celebration, and of what downtown can be made to look like.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Paula T, one of my favorite bloggers on the internet, left this mortal life on September 16.  She will be missed by many and in many ways.

Paula's House of Toast provided me years of fascination and insight, and I'd long admired her macro-photography prowess and exquisite sense of natural beauty.  Her cleverness in combining pictures and words were in many ways an inspiration to me and encouraged me to keep posting on this blog for these past 10-plus years.  I have no imagery to share that can even begin to do justice to hers, so today's posting is without pictures.

One form assumes another and we can no longer distinguish hers from the rest of all potential.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cooking As Meditation

"I often say that cooking for me is a form of meditation. Assembling ingredients, chopping vegetables, tending to a stir-fry, grilling fish — all require mindfulness, the full focus of attention on the here-and-now that is the essence of meditation practice." - Andrew Weil, M.D.
Someone else (in addition to Zen Master Dogen) who apparently shares my views on baking practice and recipes as koans, Dr Weil also writes:
There is another reward of cooking that fascinates and motivates me: it is excellent training in practical magic.  By that I mean that cooking gives you a chance to practice the esoteric art of manifestation — bringing something from the imagination into physical reality. You picture a perfect dish in your mind, not just its appearance but also its aroma, taste, and mouth feel. The challenge is to create in your kitchen a product that replicates as exactly as possible the one in your mind. Following recipes may help you as you begin this practice, but with experience, you should be able to free yourself from them and feel more confident about tweaking them, improvising, and creating ones of your own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Downtown today, while I was hanging out with the cool kids, I realized that I am continually blessed with some of the hippest clients in the American South.

Monday, September 21, 2015

If Atlanta Had Viable Public Transit, This Wouldn't Have Been So Nerve-Racking

Yesterday, starting my car to head our for food shopping on a glorious late September afternoon (the equinox has arrived, reminding me that it's time to update the template for this blog), I was disappointed to observe that my car failed to start.  Instead of turning over, the engine just made a sort of clicking sound but wouldn't engage.  Dead battery.

I approached a group of neighbors down the street to request a favor and one of them volunteered to come over and jump start my car for me, no small feat considering the steep hill on my driveway and the limited space available for maneuvering.  But we did get it jump started and, in an attempt to recharge the battery, I decided to go drive the greater distance over to the mall first instead of just to the local supermarket.

After I parked at the mall, out of an abundance of caution, I tried restarting my car just to make sure the battery had in fact recharged.  Clicking sound. No start.  No friendly neighbors down the street to assist me either, and worse, I had parked facing away from the lane, making it difficult to get another battery close enough to mine to jump me, unless one of the cars next to me pulled out.  After a while, though, I did manage to flag down a parking lot security officer, who as it turned out had an extended set of cables with him for jump-starting customers from the other end of their cars (I doubt I was the first person there to have had that problem) and we got my car started again.

Apparently, driving the car wasn't recharging the battery, so I assumed that the problem must be the alternator, and I didn't want to turn the engine off any place where I wouldn't be able to get a jump start to get going again.  The end of my driveway on top of the hill on a Monday morning didn't seem like the best place and time to get jumped, so instead of going home, I went to the office, parked the car, and took the company truck home (if you're wondering, I'm allowed to do things like that, but I sent an explanatory email to management anyway letting them know where the truck was).

I had a business meeting in the morning, so I couldn't take care of the problem until after lunch. When I got back from the meeting (in the company truck), I got a colleague to jump start my car for me and drove it over to the dealer, prepared to leave it overnight as they replaced the alternator.

As it turns out, it was just a dead battery, so dead that there was nothing left to be recharged, despite the alternator's best attempts to revive it.  Why the battery died, I don't know - perhaps I had left a light on overnight, perhaps a door or the trunk was left partially open and the warning light had burned all evening.  But the good news is that I was out of there in about an hour, and the whole ordeal cost me less than $200.  I was expecting to have to pay a lot more.

So for the previous 18 or so hours, I had this dark cloud of anxiety hanging over my head, worried that I was facing major and expensive repair work, and it turned out to be no big thing, just a routine battery replacement.  The worry was for nothing, but it reminded me once again that typically, things aren't as bad as our minds make them out to be.  Sure, bad things happen, but they're rarely as bad as we imagine they are or will be.

Our worst enemy is sometimes our own imaginations.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Brown Loaf

Today's koan was zucchini bread.

The point of the first koan was to follow a fairly complicated set of directions, including mixing at least three different batters, temporarily setting portions of some batters aside for use later, and then building up an apple crumb cake in layers.  

The point of the second koan was mindfulness in slicing cranberries for cranberry bread (and finding cranberries in Atlanta in September), and the point of the carrot bread koan was mindfulness in grating carrots.  

As it turns out, zucchinis are a lot easier to grate than carrots (higher water content), and the point of this fourth koan was in artfully substituting ingredients from the carrot cake recipe to account for the higher water content of the zucchini.  This includes an extra two tablespoons of flour to take up the extra moisture, as well as a half cup less zucchini than carrots. 

The zucchini bread is cooling right now and we'll find out how it tastes in the morning.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

As the discrimination between self and other and between inside and outside falls away, it's only natural that we begin consider the Earth and the environment to be the same as our bodies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

However many rivers we cross, we're always on the same shore.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Am Nerd (Part 2)

Well, look what was waiting on my doorstep when I got home today!  Diverse Excursions In The Southeast: Paleozoic To Present, the Geological Society of America's 2015 guidebook for selected field trips in the American South.  

As opposed to all those back issues of academic journals that arrived here in time for my Labor Day reading, the guidebook doesn't just describe the geology but includes maps and road logs for you to go out and actually see the rocks themselves and experience the geology firsthand for yourself, although there's plenty of academic and esoteric theory and discussion to occupy your mind while you're out there.  

In that way, they're better than the journals or other books - it's like the difference between a book about food and a cookbook on how to actually make and enjoy the food about which you've been reading.    

So, more time for me to geek out with science, and who knows?, you might be seeing some field trip pictures here in the future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An ancient Chinese manual states that if the cook offers a meal without a harmony of the six flavors and the three qualities, it cannot be said that he serves the community.

Zen Master Dogen tells us that when washing rice, we should remove any sand that we find, and in so doing, we should not lose even one grain of rice.  "When you look at the rice, see the sand at the same time.  When you look at the sand, see also the rice.  Examine both carefully.  Then, a meal containing the six flavors and three qualities will come together naturally."  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through." - Paul Valery
Or, as I would put it, everything is composed of potential, and sometimes the potential shows through.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Things Not To Do

For that woman in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples based on her interpretation of Biblical law, here are 75 other things banned in the book of Leviticus:

  1. Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born” (19:33-34)
  2. Selling an Israelite as a slave (25:42)
  3. Sleeping with another man’s slave (nothing against owning or sleeping with your own, though) (19:20)
  4. Selling land permanently (25:23)
  5. Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11)
  6. Failing to include salt in offerings to God (2:13)
  7. Eating fat (3:17)
  8. Eating blood (3:17)
  9. Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve witnessed (5:1)
  10. Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1)
  11. Touching an unclean animal (5:2)
  12. Carelessly making an oath (5:4)
  13. Deceiving a neighbor about something trusted to them (6:2)
  14. Finding lost property and lying about it (6:3)
  15. Bringing unauthorized fire before God (10:1)
  16. Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)
  17. Tearing your clothes (10:6)
  18. Drinking alcohol in holy places (10)
  19. Eating an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (cf: camel, rabbit, pig) (11:4-7)
  20. Touching the carcass of any of the above (11:8)
  21. Eating – or touching the carcass of – any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12)
  22. Eating – or touching the carcass of - eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (11:13-19)
  23. Eating – or touching the carcass of – flying insects with four legs, unless those legs are jointed (11:20-22)
  24. Eating any animal which walks on all four and has paws (good news for cats) (11:27)
  25. Eating – or touching the carcass of – the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon (11:29)
  26. Eating – or touching the carcass of – any creature which crawls on many legs, or its belly (11:41-42)
  27. Going to church within 33 days after giving birth to a boy (12:4)
  28. Going to church within 66 days after giving birth to a girl (12:5)
  29. Having sex with your mother (18)
  30. Having sex with your father’s wife (18:8)
  31. Having sex with your sister (18)
  32. Having sex with your granddaughter (18:10)
  33. Having sex with your half-sister (18:11)
  34. Having sex with your biological aunt (18:12-13)
  35. Having sex with your uncle’s wife (18:14)
  36. Having sex with your daughter-in-law (18:15)
  37. Having sex with your sister-in-law (18:16)
  38. Having sex with a woman and also having sex with her daughter or granddaughter (18:17)
  39. Marrying your wife’s sister while your wife still lives (18:18)
  40. Having sex with a woman during her period (18:19)
  41. Having sex with your neighbor’s wife (18:20)
  42. Giving your children to be sacrificed to Molek (18:21)
  43. Having sex with an animal (18:23)
  44. Making idols or “metal gods” (19:4)
  45. Reaping to the very edges of a field (19)
  46. Picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard (19:10)
  47. Stealing (19:11)
  48. Lying (19:11)
  49. Swearing falsely on God’s name (19:12)
  50. Defrauding your neighbor (19:13)
  51. Holding back the wages of an employee overnight  (19:13)
  52. Cursing the deaf or abusing the blind (19:14)
  53. Perverting justice, showing partiality to either the poor or the rich (19:15)
  54. Spreading slander (19:16)
  55. Doing anything to endanger a neighbor’s life (19:16)
  56. Seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18)
  57. Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)
  58. Cross-breeding animals (19:19)
  59. Planting different seeds in the same field (19:19)
  60. Eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it (19:23)
  61. Practising divination or seeking omens (i.e., astrology) (19:26)
  62. Trimming your beard (19:27)
  63. Cutting your hair at the sides (19:27)
  64. Getting tattoos (19:28)
  65. Making your daughter prostitute herself (19:29)
  66. Turning to mediums or spiritualists (19:31)
  67. Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32)
  68. Using dishonest weights and scales (19:35-36)
  69. Cursing your father or mother (punishable by death) (20)
  70. Marrying a prostitute, divorcee or widow if you are a priest (21,13)
  71. Entering a place where there’s a dead body as a priest (21:11)
  72. Slaughtering a cow/sheep and its young on the same day (22:28)
  73. Working on the Sabbath (23:3)
  74. Blasphemy (punishable by stoning to death) (24:14)
  75. Inflicting an injury; killing someone else’s animal; killing a person must be punished in kind (24:17-22)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Baking Practice

I know all these photos of brown loaves of quick breads all look alike, but the first was actually an apple crumb cake and the second was a cranberry-banana bread.  Today's koan was carrot bread, and those dark spots you see on the sides are raisins.

The mindfulness part of last week's practice was slicing the cranberries, and the mindfulness part of today's practice was grating 3 1/2 cups of carrots, although the potential to scrape one's fingers against the grater surface certainly helped one stay focused on the task at hand.  The "riddle" part of the koan was in the ingredients and this week I learned the difference between turbinado  sugar and brown sugar.  Also, the recipe called for safflower oil instead of butter, and it took me two stores before I found that particular ingredient at Fresh Market. It's nice living in the city and having the option of so many great stores (Publix Supermarket, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, and more) around me.  No "food desert" here.

I haven't tasted the carrot bread yet (I'm supposed to let it sit overnight before eating), but it certainly smells like it came out alright.  Anyway, the point isn't the product, it's the process. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Whenever you say or do anything, behave as if the world were watching." - Thomas Jefferson
Zen Master Dogen once said we should refrain from committing evil even though no one might see us or notice what we do.  We should not discriminate between outside and inside, or between bright and dark.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Chez Kimberly

Dropping away all discriminations, including self and other and the sacred and profane, who are you this moment?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dead Stars As Cranberries

"We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.  We reflect on our practice and virtue and whether we are worthy of this offering." - Zen Buddhist meal verse
In our cooking practice, we try to put our undivided attention into the work of slicing the cranberries and not being absent-minded in our activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of our actions that we fail to see their other aspects.

But when we put our full attention and understanding to it, we see that the statement "we sliced the cranberries" is woefully inadequate and very egocentric.  It really misses the mark.  The cranberries were around long before we started slicing them and "we sliced the cranberries" only describes when we got personally involved.  We should reflect on the effort that brought the cranberries to our table.

We purchased the cranberries at Whole Foods, so there was the effort of shopping. carrying them to the register, purchasing them, carrying them to our car, driving back home, carrying them into our house, and then placing them into the freezer, all before the actual cutting began.  And when we consider that someone prior to us constructed the Whole Foods store, staffed it, stocked it, and managed it; when we consider the entire biographical history of the cashier that rang us up; when we consider that the car we drove in was manufactured by others (and probably overseas at that) and powered by petroleum which formed millions of years ago, was extracted from the earth, refined, and transported to the gas station where we bought it; and when we think about the construction and history of this 70-year-old house where he kept and later sliced the cranberries, the imagination begins to stagger about how many people, virtual armies of persons unknown to us, were involved in getting the cranberries to our kitchen.

But let's look even further back, before we saw the cranberries in the Whole Foods freezer.  The package says the cranberries are a "Product of Canada," so they're most likely from British Columbia's Fraser River Valley region, where some 95% of Canada's cranberries are produced (although they could possibly be from the New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland or Quebec production regions).  Someone had to plant them, someone had to irrigate them through the summer months, someone had to flood the fields and harvest them, someone else (most likely) packaged them for shipping to the distributor, someone drove a truck (petroleum!) to take them to the distributor, where someone else repackaged them and froze them, and then another person drove them to our local Whole Foods store (if they didn't, in fact, go to some intermediate warehouse first).  Someone at Whole Foods had to empty the truck and stock the freezer, just so we could come along and become a part of the cranberries' long journey.

With just a little more imagination, we can begin to imagine how every one of the components in the cranberries' long journey were also on a long journey of their own, and how every component of those journeys were themselves in constant motion, and so on and so forth (turtles all the way down).

But let's look even deeper still.  The cranberries grew from soil that was an erosional remnant of the nearby Coast Range mountains, which themselves were once seafloor that rose to great heights due to subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American continent by geological tectonic processes.  The water that nourished the cranberries was a part of the global cycle of precipitation, runoff, storage in the ocean, and then evaporation back to the atmosphere, and only briefly interacted with the cranberries.  And the cranberries derived their nutrients from the soil and water using energy from outer space - the Sun, part of the Milky Way, part of the visible universe, which in turn resulted, as I understand it, from the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.

In fact, every atom in every molecule of the soil, the water, the nutrients, and the cranberries formed in stars - if not the Sun, then long dead stars that exploded and scattered their mass across the cosmos. It's only in the unimaginably high pressures and temperatures of stars that fusion of protons and neutrons can create more complex atoms from simple hydrogen, and every atom in our bodies and in the cranberries that's not hydrogen (and many that are hydrogen) are from dead stars.  Us slicing cranberries, on a large enough space/time scale, is nothing but dead stars cutting dead stars.

And that's just the cranberries.  The bread we baked last weekend also contained bananas, walnuts, butter (cows!), flour (wheat!), salt, baking soda (whatever that is), and a whole lot of other ingredients I can't remember right now.  So if we think enough about it, it's not an overstatement that our banana-cranberry bread contained the efforts of the entire universe, and it was nothing less than the entire universe that consumed the bread.

Innumerable efforts bring us our food.  We really shouldn't just take it for granted.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Pittsburgh 1993

Sometimes the text determines the picture I post and sometimes the picture drives the text, and sometimes the two seem to have nothing to do with each other at all.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Cutting Cranberries

"The most Zen-like part of the whole baking process was cutting each individual cranberry in half as the recipe directed, and keeping one's full concentration on the somewhat tedious task of splitting two full cups of cranberries."
In his Instructions For The Cook, Zen Master Dogen wrote "Put your undivided attention into the work, seeing just what the situation calls for.  Do not be absent-minded in your activities, nor so absorbed in one aspect of a matter that you fail to see its other aspects."

"Put your undivided attention into the work" is translator Thomas Wright's interpretation of the Japanese expression shogon joshin, while "seeing what the situation calls for" refers to the expression makoto, that is, the true situation seen without prejudice.  Dogen's use of shogon joshin and similar expressions referring to the attitude and spirit of the practitioner include both a sense of "undividedness" or concentration in every situation, as well as an attitude of sincerity and of working without prejudice.  

So when cutting cranberries, we shouldn't be letting our minds wander on to the next step in the cooking process, much less to other matters,  but we should just be fully present in the act of cutting cranberries.  We shouldn't cling to a goal of achieving two full cups of cranberries, bearing with the task only for the sake of the outcome, nor should we cut one more cranberry than is necessary to fill two cups.  We should be so present in the act of cutting cranberries, and every other action that we undertake for that matter, that the distinction between the cook and the ingredients begins to disappear.

Anybody can cut a cranberry in two.  The trick is to cut a cranberry into one.  

Monday, September 07, 2015

Maybe This Is Why We Should Limit Our Use of Facebook

I greeted an old acquaintance online the other day, a fellow Zen Buddhist back from my days practicing at the Atlanta Center.  More specifically, I complimented some pictures that he had posted to Facebook, and his reply, in addition to thanking me for my comments, was something along the lines of, "Nice to hear from you. I hope you're still meditating."

I know he means well and no offense was implied on his part, but I found his reply a little troubling. No "Hope you're doing well" or "Hope you're healthy and happy," but instead just a simple "Hope you're still practicing the same faith as me."

Now, it could be argued that he hopes I'm still meditating because if I'm meditating, then I must have at least a certain minimum level of health, and as an adherent would have it, if I'm meditating then happiness, or at least contentment and acceptance, can't be far behind.  

If we base our behaviors on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then if I have the spare time to engage in a contemplative practice of self-actualization or self-transcendence, I must have the basic needs of safety, housing, clothes, food, and so on covered, and I'm obviously not out living on the street begging or stealing for food.  It's been argued that humans put of extravagant displays of leisure in order to demonstrate that they have the basic needs so well covered that they have the time and resources to spare in order to engage in time-consuming grooming activities (outrageous hairdos or facial hair, six-pack abs, suntans in winter, etc.) or pastimes like golf that consume a lot of effort without fulfilling basic needs.  We can display our suitability as mates to the opposite sex by showing off the wealth of free time that we have.  I personally have never considered the hours of meditation as demonstrations of this sort of wealth and I've not heard anyone state that so-and-so must really have it together because they have the time to sit and stare at walls, but I guess if you do have the time and resources for a layperson's practice, you probably are at least relatively affluent and have the basics covered.  Maybe that's why Zen isn't as popular with the poor and the homeless as it would be otherwise.

But I'm off course already.  Where was I? Oh yes, I don't think he was wishing me health and prosperity in a roundabout way by saying he hoped I was still meditating; I believe that his reflexive wish for me, the first thing that came into his mind, was that I still practiced even though I'd left the Zen Center.

And that upsets me even more so.  Anyone who knows anything about my leaving knows that I didn't leave because of any change in my attitude or interest in Zen practice but due to an inevitable and unavoidable conflict with the ego of the teacher there.  The whole confrontation was arranged by the teacher in such a way that I would be the one to leave and he could say "I never forced him out," but the truth is he felt threatened for some reason and turned on me in a way he knew would cause my departure.  I don't like talking much about it as I don't want to be one of those persons - or be perceived as one of those persons - who define themselves by the wrongs they feel were done to them, but I'm still as much of a contemplative practitioner as I was on the day I was kicked out.

The comment "I hope you're still meditating" either misunderstands the reasons I left or assumes that practice outside the confines of the center is tenuous at best.  Neither case is true.  In fact, I can argue that a self-directed practice is more in line with the teachings of the Buddha than relying on the guidance and counsel of a self-appointed teacher.

But as I said at the start, I understand that no offense was meant and that he was only wishing me well in the way he knew how - in relation to his values and the way that he sees them.  No offense was taken, since no offense was offered.  But it does show me the problems inherent in organized practice, and makes me more glad than ever that I've set off on my own path.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Friday Night Video

This is the first year since 2010 when I haven't spent Labor Day weekend in Seattle at the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival.  The decision not to go this year doesn't represent any dramatic life-style changes on my part or a damning indictment against Bumbershoot (in fact, last year was probably my most enjoyable Bumbershoot experience of all), it's just one of those things. Everything's impermanent and nothing lasts forever, and I never took a vow to go to every Bumbershoot for the rest of my adult life.  Who knows, maybe next year?

In any event, here's a video from one of yesterday's performances at Bumbershoot that seems somehow appropriate to post here.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Second Koan

After the cinnamon crumb cake, the second koan in my baking practice was a cranberry-banana-walnut bread, and the first obstacle in this koan is where does one get fresh cranberries in Atlanta early in the month of September?

Publix Supermarket? No, and the produce manager looked at me queerly when I asked.  Aldo Market?  Nope.  Good old Trader Joe's?  Not there, either.   

I finally found frozen whole cranberries at Fresh Foods in Buckhead, and the packaging insisted that I could use them frozen or thawed just as one would use fresh cranberries.  The most Zen-like part of the whole baking process was cutting each individual cranberry in half as the recipe directed, and keeping one's full concentration on the somewhat tedious task of splitting two full cups of cranberries.

The frozen state of the cranberries did not affect the outcome, and after a little confusion on my part regarding the correct baking temperature (lesson learned: one first has to toast the walnuts at 325 degrees, then bake the actual loaf at 350), the end result was a bread that's a little softer than I had hoped, but every bit as moist as one could want.  Better slightly undercooked than overdone and dry, no? 

Friday, September 04, 2015

I Am Nerd

Well look what arrived in the mail today, just in times for the three-day Labor Day weekend - eight months of The Geological Society of America Bulletin and its companion journal, Geology.  

All weekend now I can geek out reading articles like Moss Growth Patterns and Timing of Human Exposure to a Mesolithic Tsunami in the North Atlantic, and Global Perturbation of the Carbon Cycle at the Onset of the Miocene Climatic Optimum, and Evaluating Rare Earth Elements Mineralization Mechanisms in Proterozoic Gneiss, Music Valley, California, and my favorite, Giant Stromatolites of the Eocene Green River Formation

What more could a boy want for his holiday weekend?

Thursday, September 03, 2015

American football is back in the air again.  Among many other things, it was announced today that Judge Richard M. Berman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling vacating the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady.  The New England Patriots' starting quarterback will be eligible to play in next weeks' season opening game.  Joy in Beantown tonight, I'm sure. 

Meanwhile, here in Atlanta, there's a Thursday night pre-season NFL game - Falcons versus the Ravens for a battle of the birds - as well as the first game of the college season for Georgia Tech, entertaining Alcorn State on the Yellow Jackets' home field.  Add to that a visit to Buckhead tonight for some reason by Vice President Joe Biden, and Atlanta traffic, never a pretty thing to begin with, transmorgifies into gridlock of epic proportions, making the commute home tonight just so much more interesting.  Policeman lined up all along Northside Drive, stationed at every driveway and curb cut, telling motorists and sports fans and shoppers to keep moving and come back later after the Veep's motorcade has passed.

So Brady's been vindicated, the NCAA football season is now officially underway, Falcons and Ravens, and Joe Biden's in town. That's my night.  How's yours?

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Dogen also said,
Nowadays, almost all people, both lay and clerical, want to make it known to others when they do something good, and prevent others from noticing when they do something bad. Because of this, they lose correspondence between their inner and outer selves. You should aspire carefully to make the inside correspond with the outside, repent of faults, and hide your real virtue. Do not adorn your outward appearance. Offer good things to others and accept bad things yourself.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015