Monday, August 29, 2016
The 1864 Civil War battle at Tanyard Creek was a part of the larger Battle of Peachtree Creek, which in turn was a part of Union General Sherman's siege of Atlanta. I'm told that 4,700 men died in one day of fighting at Tanyard Creek.
Today, Tanyard Creek enjoys the dubious honor of being one of the most polluted creeks in Georgia, the victim of sewer system overflows and urban runoff.
The surrounding park is still beautiful, though.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Zen Master Chōka Dōrin died in 824 at the age of eighty-four. He belonged to a side lineage in the Zen tradition, going back to the Fourth Patriarch Dōshin, but not through Enō (Hui-Neng). "Chōka" means bird’s nest; it is said that Chōka practiced zazen in, and lived in, a treehouse.
Someone once asked Chōka, “What is the purpose of the Buddha's teaching?”
Chōka answered, “Not to commit wrongs. To practice the many kinds of right.”
The questioner replied, “If it is so, even a child of three can express it!”
Chōka said, “A child of three can speak the truth, but an old man of eighty cannot practice it."
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Returning from West Berlin (that's West Berlin, New Jersey, not West Berlin, Germany), I had some time to check out the City of Philadelphia, but my only experience there was getting stuck in traffic, first here, then there. I couldn't even find a place to pull the car over and get out to walk around. Above, barely moving on 15th Street.
A couple of observations about the New Jersey experience on the other side of the river:
- For some reason, they make it incredibly inconvenient to buy beer. Not that buying beer is a life-style priority for me, but after a long day working under the hot sun, a cold one back in the hotel room is a welcome relief. In Georgia, you can buy beer just about anywhere: gas stations, convenience stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, just about anyplace there's a cash register. If I want to give someone some money for beer, and if that person wants to take my cash in exchange for that beer and has at least some controls in place to assure that I'm not a minor, it's perfectly legal in Georgia, and Chris Christie doesn't need to get involved. But in New Jersey, beer is not sold in gas stations, convenience stores, or in supermarkets (except, I'm told, for a very select few), and you have to go to these liquor stores, most of which operate at "warehouses" and "outlets" and keep limited hours, so if it's after 9 pm, you're pretty much out of luck.
- Each day I was there, someone would approach me at a gas station or at one of those beer-less "convenience" store and ask me for a ride somewhere. Once it was a woman, and in most places I've been, women go to great lengths to avoid getting into cars with strange men. I hesitated to give her a ride at first, not knowing if she would then accuse me of some unseemly crime, but decided to drive her the requested two or three miles anyway so that she wouldn't end up accepting a ride from someone else who did have criminal intent. The next day, it was a young man who was asking each person leaving the store for a ride. It was sort of like hitch-hiking, but without the standing-by-the-roadside aspect. I gave him a ride as well, and in both cases they each got out at the requested spot without any incident or further requests, and acted as if begging for rides was a perfectly normal event.
- Zoning, if it existed at all, seemed like an afterthought at best. I saw expensive McMansion-style houses next to some beat-down shanties; automobile repair and maintenance businesses next door to homes, fast-food restaurants, and municipal buildings; a cemetery on both sides of a four-lane road with no fence or shoulder separating traffic from graves; and parks and playgrounds surrounded by industry. I'm all for free enterprise and letting the market decide land use, but the haphazard distribution of things in New Jersey appeared to drag down the value of all real estate and reinforced to me the value of at least some degree of civic planning.
- I never really figured out the roads, other than a rote memorization of how to get from my hotel to the job site and back again, which made finding my way back after giving those rides to strangers so much more interesting than it needed to be. Roads came and went at haphazard angles, had no apparent names other than their numerical designations ("73," "30," and "295," etc.), and to go anywhere required a turn in the opposite direction in order to access a jug-handle lane or an entrance ramp. If you find yourself northbound on one of the many divided highways and actually need to be somewhere south, you may have to drive all the way north to New York State before you can turn around.
Strangely, none of these things really bothered me or made me angry, as much as they amused me. It was sort of like visiting a parallel universe where everything was both very familiar and also strangely different at the same time.
Or maybe I've been living in Georgia for too long.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Those choosing to walk between Concourses A and B at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport instead of taking the train are rewarded with this immersive installation by artist Steven Waldeck. Soothing, tropical relief after a week spent in the pine barrens of southern New Jersey and the long flight back home.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Speaking of academic Buddhists and the teachers of non-contemplative practices, Zen Master Dogen once wrote, "Bands of demons and beasts are many. They often go on about the traditions and practices of this sect and that sect. How distressing! How truly distressing!"
I see these demons and beasts daily, but I capture them with Poke-Balls and take them away. However, I hope that I myself don't become one of Dogen's demons and beasts by mistaking cognition for contemplation.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
"Before the eyes, no potential. Mind is before the eyes" - Rakuho
Everything is intimately interconnected with everything else, and nothing exists independently. Yet the mind separates this out from that and confuses one thing as distinct from another. But since potential is not some thing before our eyes, it's beyond the reach of our perception.
In the Heart Sutra, it's said, "no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind," so what is it that's seeing and hearing? What is reciting the Heart Sutra? Which is the host, and which is the guest?
Friday, August 19, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
"The civilization that began in Greece, developed in post-Renaissance Europe, and has come to dominate the modern world is an intellectual civilization that defines and categorizes everything. But, having organized everything intellectually, the people under the strongest influence of this civilization seem to be on the verge of suffocating . . . ." (from Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama, Wisdom Publications)
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
When food comes, fill the mouth. When sleep comes, close the eyes. When washing your face, you rub your nose. When taking off your shoes, you touch your feet. At such times, if you miss the point, take a light and search hard in the depths of the night.- from the Preface to Case 39 of The Book of Equanimity
Monday, August 15, 2016
Right now as I sit here on this bright summer day, there are stars in the sky. I can't see them because in daylight our eyes can't reach that far, but still they are out there, shining. In fact, we are each a star, shining in the sky in this vast universe. Our eyes can't reach that distance, our mind can't really comprehend, so we don't see it, but when we sit still like a mountain, it comes to pass that through the crickets, and the whale, and even through the repetitive sound of machinery, we can begin to feel this vast dimension that seems outside ourselves but actually is found right here within us. And if we see it, recognize it, and experience it, then we begin to know that we are a part of it and that it is a part of us, that this vast dimension is our own most intimate depth. Then, even within this ever-changing moment, we will truly know that it is always there.- Jakusho Kwong, No Beginning, No End - The Intimate Heart of Zen (Harmony Books)
Sunday, August 14, 2016
To live in potential is neither easy nor difficult, but those with limited views are fearful and without resolve. The faster they hurry, the slower they go. To be attached even to the idea of nonattachment is to go astray.
- Seng-ts'an, ~600 A.D.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The Olympics are back, as I'm sure you're aware. They were here in Atlanta 20 years ago, and it's hard to believe that 20 years have passed since then.
It seems like just a couple years ago, but we had a wonderful time during the 1996 Olympics. Beth and I hosted a friend of mine from California, my brother-in-law's sister, and one of her friends. We had people sleeping in the guest room and on the sofa, and every morning we'd pool our tickets and decide which event we were going to attend.
Downtown Atlanta seemed like a different place, not only because of all the newly built Olympic venues, but also because of all the foreign tourists milling around, and the large security presence all over town which made walking in even some of the sketchiest of areas relatively safe.
Of course, all that security couldn't prevent a right-wing domestic terrorist from setting off a bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. We weren't there when it happened, but had been at the park earlier that day, and at the same time as the bombing the day before. But we had all agreed that we weren't going to let the cowardly act of one madman ruin our time, and we, along with thousands of other Atlantans, bravely went back to the Olympic venues the next day, and even to the Park itself.
Ah, memories. . . . Brazil vs. Nigeria in soccer at Athens, Georgia, Team USA beach volleyball somewhere south of the city, boxing on the Georgia Tech campus, and gymnastics at the Georgia Dome. We had lots of baseball tickets, too, as I recall, but didn't go to many games (too long). We saw the US men's basketball "Dream Team" play one game from the cheap seats at the Dome.
Everybody had a good time, and I still have some souvenirs and tchotchkes left over. I wish Rio the best, and hope they have every bit as much fun as we did.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I have a theory on the conservation of consonants. My theory is that there's a natural law that states consonants cannot be created or destroyed. There's a fixed number of consonants, and that number never grows and never diminishes.
Consider this: someone in New England says he's concerned about the "gah-den," dropping the "r" in the word "garden." Now where does that dropped "r" go? Does it just disappear, never to be heard again? No, the Theory of the Conservation of Consonants states that consonants cannot be destroyed, so the dropped "r" must reappear somewhere else in speech, and therefore someone from Ohio has to go "war-ter" that garden.
Now, where did that extra "r" in "water" come from? Did it just suddenly appear out of nowhere? No, the Theory of the Conservation of Consonants holds that consonants cannot be created, so it must be the same "r" that was just dropped from the "gah-den," as consonants cannot be destroyed, either.
I'll put it this way: every time someone in Boston "pahks the cah in the yahd," someone else "warshes the soder off the pianer." Every time a New Yorker takes a cab to "Toity-Toid and Toid Street," someone else gets an "idear about the dater coming from Warshington." There's always the exact same number of consonants in human speech, and minus one here means plus one there.
Still don't believe me? Still don't accept the Theory of the Conservation of Consonants? Then explain this to me - recently, Hillary Clinton was accused of stating that she was going to raise taxes on the middle class, but what she actually said was "we aren't going to raise taxes on the middle class," but she (kinda, sorta) dropped the "t" in "aren't" (she did get the "n" in, however).
Now, where did that dropped "t" go? The Theory of the Conservation of Consonants holds that it must turn up somewhere, and here it is, hilariously appearing at the beginning of "cities" in a Donald Trump speech:
Concerned scientists are studying where Trump's dropped "c" will appear, and everyone's praying it's no where near the word "aunt."
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Say what you will about red-state Georgia, but we're a practical people here. Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most mercantile, most business-friendly states in the country, and we don't tolerate a lot of foolishness that's going to interfere with the business of business.
Nathan Deal, our Republican governor, is not my favorite politician, but I'll say this for him - he allowed local jurisdictions to decide if they wanted to allow Sunday beer, wine, and liquor sales (Atlanta and Fulton County said "yes"), he vetoed one of those silly "religious freedom" laws like those in Indiana and North Carolina that legalize discrimination based on religious beliefs, and he vetoed a "campus-carry" gun law that would have allowed college students to bring concealed weapons into the classroom (what could possibly have gone wrong with that?). If a bill will interfere with tourism or commerce, it doesn't stand a chance in this state, even with a Republican controlled legislature and a Republican governor.
So the majority of Georgians aren't going to fall for this Donald Trump nonsense. Sure, it's considered fun in some circles to rock the political boat and promote a candidate who clearly has no interest in governing, but investors and business people like consistency and sobriety and dependability, not chaos. Not that they're particularly fond of Hillary Clinton by any means, but after some raucous flirtations and poking fun at the establishment, Georgians are coming around to the serious business of considering how government should be run, and will not cast their electoral votes for the short-fingered vulgarian from New York City.
Monday, August 08, 2016
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll recently gave Hillary Clinton a 4-point edge in a head-to-head matchup against short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. A Clinton victory in Georgia would be a stunning upset, as the state has consistently voted for the GOP nominee since 1996. Although Georgia still isn’t directly in Clinton’s cross hairs, giddy Democrats are still hopeful that Trump skeptics will flee the GOP in droves. And Republicans are digging in, preparing to defend 16 electoral votes once thought to be safe.
Voters for both candidates cited a steadily eroding view of the nation’s direction, but many on both sides of the aisle said the threat of overseas violence or domestic attacks isn’t what’s keeping them up at night. “Trump is unprepared at this time to be president of the United States,” said an African-American ex-educator from Vidalia. “He doesn’t have the temperament. And everything he says he makes a joke of.”
A whopping 87 percent of black voters lean toward a vote for Clinton, while Trump’s support is a statistically insignificant 2 percent.
Saturday, August 06, 2016
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
This commercial application of augmented reality still fascinates me.
Zen Master Tozan once said, "When it is cold, be completely cold; when it is hot, be completely hot." Since we suffer hot and cold only in contrast to our own temperatures, if we allow ourselves to become intimate with the hot and the cold so that there is no longer any contrast, any difference, we will not suffer.
Some people translate Tozan's remarks as " "When it's cold, kill yourself with cold. When it's hot, kill yourself with heat." This is confusing if you don't understand that the "killing" is simply removing yourself from the equation. It's not too hot or too cold if you're not there to complain about it. But don't go away - just accept and embrace it.
It sounds too simple, but I would say, "If you want to stop minding the heat, take your mind off the heat. If you want to stop minding the cold, take your mind off the cold."
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
A place neither hot nor cold is not a geographical location, nor is it a state of mind. It might be called a state of no-mind, as in the state beyond distinctions between good and bad, hot and cold, up and down, and so on.
Hot and cold are only that way in relation to us. Things are cold only because they feel cold compared to our human bodies. To an iceberg, freezing would feel just about right. Other things feel hot only in relation to us; to the sun, the hottest day on earth might feel cool. Hot and cold are only in relation to ourselves, and if we take ourselves out of the picture, "we" (whatever that may be after we're out of the picture) have arrived at a place neither hot not cold.
But having said all that, it's been a particularly hot and muggy summer.
But having said all that, it's been a particularly hot and muggy summer.
Monday, August 01, 2016
This talk of a place neither hot nor cold comes from an old Zen koan:
One day a monk asked Zen Master Tozan, "How can we avoid hot and cold?"
Tozan said, "Why don't you go somewhere that is neither hot nor cold?"
The monk asked, "Where is a place that is neither hot nor cold?"
Tozan replied, "When it is cold, be completely cold; when it is hot, be completely hot."