We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Book of Life, Black Holes

Summer                                                                    Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180622_193239Yesterday was a big day. Up early to write, workout. Lunch with Alan Rubin to start planning for the 6th and 7th grade religious school at Beth Evergreen. Home for a fitful nap. Left at 5:30 pm with Ruth for Boulder. We had a reservation at Japango on the Pearl Street Mall before seeing the Fiske Planetarium show on black holes. Driving home under the waxing gibbous moon with Jupiter below it, Mercury and Venus visible, too, as well as Mars and Saturn. A planetary moment. No twinkling please.

A highlight from the Alan Rubin meeting was deepening my relationship with him, learning more of his history, sharing some of my own. I agreed to take on the task of researching Jewish Liturgical history.

Rosh-HashanahWe want to reframe the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, in a reconstructionist way, then help the kids come to their own way of reframing. In the traditional understanding, taken here from the Chabad website, each year on Rosh Hashanah “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” After ten days to seek repentance from those we have harmed in the previous year, God closes the Book of Life, sealing the fate of each worshiper.

book of lifeThe tradition implies a white bearded, Santa Claus like God who checks on the naughty and the nice. He takes out his celestial quill pen and starts scratching. He pauses, waiting to see what you have to say for yourself, then after a reasonable interval (the ten days), he writes fini.

How did these holidays come to be celebrated in the first place? Why? Who observed them and how? Have the observances and meanings of those observances changed over time? How? This is the exegetical move, gathering as much data as possible about the historical holidays. The hermeneutical move comes after it, asking what in our current circumstance, our present moment, if anything, corresponds to the original intentions. There is, too, a theological move here, asking if the metaphysics of the holiday can still be plausible. If not, that informs the reframing, too.

japangoIn my peculiar little world this is great fun. Looking forward to engaging similar research throughout the upcoming liturgical year.

Contrast this with my evening with Ruth. (Ironically, she is exactly the target audience for the above work, being a Jewish girl about to enter 7th grade.) We went to a sushi restaurant in Boulder where she had a sushi Tokyo plate. I had a sashimi plate, chef’s new choices. Green tea, too, for both of us. Ruth said, “You know me so well.”

black-holeAfter the dinner we drove back up Broadway to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, about 5 minutes. At the planetarium, where we’ve gone many times, we saw a presentation on black holes. It covered the usual topics of star death, neutron stars, supernovas and the formation of black holes with their extraordinarily deep gravity wells. It also covered recent observation of the long pursued gravity waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

From the book of life to the heat death of the universe in one Friday. Quite the journey.

 

 

 

Reconstruct. Remember.

Beltane                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

UNESCO and European Union undertake to reconstruct the cultural heritage of Timbuktu

UNESCO and European Union undertake to reconstruct the cultural heritage of Timbuktu

Had an insight the other day about Beth Evergreen. The reason I like it there, feel comfortable there, is that I’m a reconstructionist at heart. Not a Jew, but a reconstructionist.

If I’d known about the concept when I started my reimagining project, I’d have called it reconstructing faith. Now, I do and I think of it that way. Reimagining and reenchanting are still part of this journey for me, but reconstructionist thought captures me in a particular way.

reconstruct scrollHere’s the key idea, from Mordecai Kaplan: the past gets a vote, but not a veto. That is, when considering tradition, in Kaplan’s case of course Jewish tradition, the tradition itself informs the present, but we are not required to obey it. Instead we can change it, or negate it, or choose to accept, for now, its lesson.

This is a powerful idea, especially when considering religious thought, which too often wants us to turn our backs on the present, get out a prayer rug, put our butt in the air toward the future and stretch out our hands in submission to the past.

LiveWhich brings me to another realization I had this week. Just like environmental action is not about saving the planet, the planet will be fine, it’s about saving humanity’s spot on the planet; the idea of living in the moment is not about living in the moment, it’s about remembering we can do no other thing than live in the moment.

In other words, this moment is all we have and all we will ever have. There is no way to be in the past or in the future, not even for a bit. We only live in the present. Living in the moment is not a choice, it’s a necessity by the laws of physics. What is important is realizing that, remembering it. Which goes back, come to think of it, to sharpening doubt.

ichigo-ichie_6The past is gone, the future is not yet. Always. We can be sure, confident, only of this instance, for the next may not come. To be aware of the moment is to be aware of both the tenuousness of life, and its vitality, which also occurs only in the moment. To know this, really know it in our bones, means we must have faith that the next moment will arrive, because it is not given. Not only is it not given, it will, someday, not arrive for us. That’s where faith comes in, living in spite of that knowledge, living as if the next moment is on its way.

 

Beginner’s Mind

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20180315_080258Odd things. First, a small group of folks at Beth Evergreen, mostly qabbalah students like myself, report seeing me as an artist. A visual artist. This is based on my last two presentations, the first being Hebrew letters with quotes relating to their deeper meanings and the second, last Wednesday, that used the sumi-e zen practice of enso creation. Now I’m far from a visual artist, I have two very good ones in my immediate family, Jeremiah Miller and Jon Olson, but to be seen even modestly in their company is a real treat.

repair2Second. Damned mower wouldn’t start. As I said earlier. Put in fresh gas. No joy. Hmmm. You Tube. You Tube, that Chinese patron saint of the do it yourselfer. Looked up mower won’t start. Found a video of a guy. One with a small wrench who showed how to take apart the carburetor, poke wire into various holes and then, voila, vrrooom. Didn’t look too hard.

Took the mower out, put it on the deck so I could reach the carburetor easily, found a wrench, took off the cap, got out my wire, poked the holes in the thingy four or five times and put the cap back on. Oh, I forgot. I did the video one better. He said you had to drain the tank or gas would flow out. I’d just changed the gas and don’t like siphoning. Yuck. Gas not taste good. Thought of surgical clamps. Got a vise grip, tightened it down on the fuel line and Bob’s your uncle, no drip!

fix itBest of all, when I yanked the starter cord after closing the carburetor back up, the mower started. To those of you with a mechanical gene this no doubt sounds trivial, probably very trivial, but to me. Wow. I fixed it myself.

I mention both of these because they relate to each other. I like to challenge myself, see if I can do something I previously thought I couldn’t do. Exercise was one such challenge, now over 30 years ago. Still at it. So was Latin. No good at language. So? I’ll give it a try anyhow. Then in my recent melancholic phase I realized I needed more touch, more tactile experience in my day. That led to the sumi-e work and prompted me to see the non-starting lawn mower as an opportunity.

beginners mindI’m not an athlete, not a Latin scholar, not a very good visual artist and definitely not much of a mechanic, but I have an amateur’s capacity. Trying these things makes my heart sing, keeps life vital. I suppose, going back to yesterday’s post, you could say I have faith in myself. Not faith that I can do anything I try, that’s just silly, but faith that if I try I can learn something new, maybe introduce something important to my life.

Who knows, maybe someday I will be a visual artist. Nah. Probably not. But, you never know.

 

 

Hoping for a good result

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Incheon International Airport

Incheon International Airport

Sister Mary reports high levels of security in Singapore. She’s eating lunch at a mall near the St. Regis Hotel where at least one of the principles will stay.

I hope Trump succeeds. And, if he does, I’d vote for him for the Nobel Peace Prize. If I could. With a Korean daughter-in-law and a son in the Air Force who spent a year deployed in Korea this is personal. Not to mention Mary has spent most of her adult life in Southeast Asia, Mark much of his. Peace in Korea would make the world a safer place and improve the lives of many Koreans.

Joseph bought me a chunk of barbed wire taken from the Korea DMZ, the line that separates the two Koreas, established at the end of hostilities when the armistice took hold. We didn’t make it up there though I hope to on a return trip to Korea.

20160406_152903On the ground in South Korea a vital and energetic economy has created a vibrant country with feet both in the world of Samsung and the past. Riding on buses or trains through the country side, ancient tombs dot the hillsides. We visited this palace/fort in a city near Seoul. The procession of women in hanbuk at the international airport in Incheon, with the Bottega Veneta and a moving walkway in the foreground brings the two worlds together.

SeoAh's mother and sister in Hanbuk at the wedding

SeoAh’s mother and sister in hanbuk at the wedding

So did Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding. Like all instances of American foreign policy we’re not effecting exotic people in strange lands, but real people with daily lives that focus, like ours, on family, work, hopes, dreams. Every culture deserves a chance to live its way of coping with these matters without the threat of extinction.

In spite of my antipathy toward Trump, look at the embarrassment of the G7, this is not about him, but about the future of a people who have become important not only to my current life, but to the life that will follow after I’m dead.

 

 

 

Ensos and Hot Dogs

Beltane                                                                         Sumi-e Moon

C.C.

Under the sumi-e moon I introduced this ancient art form to the qabbalah class. It was a sight. I forgot to take the aprons from home and asked Tara if Beth Evergreen had aprons. She found some. All but one were bright red aprons with Hebrew Nationals (a hot dog) in prominent blue letters.

That meant that in this class focused on our relationship to time, utilizing insights from the medieval world of Jewish mysticism, a pagan skeptic led an activity rooted in Zen Buddhism, which itself has roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism. This is the beauty of Beth Evergreen and Reconstructionist Judaism. And Rabbi Jamie’s approach to qabbalah. It allows for both a broad and deep mixing of tradition(s), yet focuses on bringing the insights gained from them into daily life.

20180607_203218

Rabbi Jamie, Debra, Alan

In this spirit I introduced the practice of drawing the enso, not only as a profound symbol from the world of Taoist inflected Buddhism, but as a potential daily practice, one that insists on the present, that insists on marrying the body and the mind and achieving that marriage not by intention so much as by letting go of intent, the brush work an extension of the lev, the heart-mind.

It was fun and soulful.

Livin’ Is Easy. Sort of.

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

20180604_122702After sledging and searing the meat and softening the vegetables in the fat, I put a three or four pound hunk of chuck roast in the slow cooker along with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. It cooked all day, coming out fork tender. An easy meal. Jon and the kids got stuck in traffic so they ate later.

Had a visitor, a young mule deer buck with velveted horns, a small knob on top of each one. He loved our front yard, carefully eating only dandelion blooms. Wish I could have gotten him in the back, he’d have loved the delicacies there. In this brave new world on Shadow Mountain, dandelions are a beautiful addition to the late spring, early summer yard. Mowing only to keep down the fuel. Gonna have a go at that today after I put fresh gas in the mower.

Ruth and I are going to practice sumi-e today. I want to mimic my presentation for Thursday night. Enso practice, then a keeper. I also want to learn the kanji for ichi-go ichi-e.

Summer temperatures have come to the mountains, but in the way of heat in this arid climate, it’s not unbearable. The new fans in the loft, bedroom and over the dining room table help.

 

One meeting, one moment

Beltane                                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

ichigo-ichie_6

enso-zen-circleMy presentation on time falls under the sumi-e moon and I plan to use sumi-e. I’m taking my brushes, ink, ink stones, red ink pad, Kraft paper, and rice paper. As well as my hourglasses. I will do Shakespeare’s soliloquy from Macbeth as a counter point. Each person will first practice an enso on the Kraft paper, then do one on rice paper.

icho.go.ichi.e3What is an enso? The word means circle in Japanese. In Zen it has a much more expansive meaning.* Zen is, of course, Chan Buddhism, a curious blend of Taoism and Buddhism created in China. Monks from Japan went to China to learn about Chan and brought it back to Japan. They also brought back the practice of drinking tea, which initially was a stimulant to help with long meditation sessions. It later transmogrified into the Japanese tea ceremony with its beautiful idea of ichi go ichi e, or once in a lifetime.

*”In the sixth century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment.  It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, “Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.” In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon’s reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.”  Modern Zen

The Tao

Beltane                                                                               Mountain Moon

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Black Mountain sits, stoic and massive. No Pele here on Shadow Mountain either though not far away, less than 600 miles, is the supervolcano at Yellowstone. Does Pele feel these others, all these others? Stromboli? Mt. Etna? Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills volcano? Mt. Pinatubo? All those seamounts like Lo’ihi? Are there other Pele’s around the world or is She the one goddess of fire beneath the earth’s surface?

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak. Albert Bierstadt 1863

The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak. Albert Bierstadt 1863

And what of the Rocky Mountains? Is there a Vishnu-like deity here, noted for His calm, stolid presence, a stable and stabilizing force? To be on and among these mountains does not call out terror, does not reveal the raw fierce power of an erupting volcano. The wildfires that can scour their flanks are not of them, but of the soil, of the world of plants and lightning, of drought and human folly. Their orogeny was, of course, violent, a brutal tearing of the earth itself, forcing rock up, up, up, a tectonic plate pushing hard against another. But that was long ago, ended long ago.

 Leilani Estates May 5, 2018

Leilani Estates May 5, 2018, USGS

The tao here is quiet, steady whereas the tao of Kilauea creates in ropy pahoehoe and ragged aa, in blasts from the magma chambers meeting underground water, by rips in her surface. Yet they are both the tao. No less generative, no less powerful for their difference. The tao here relies on cohesion, aggregation, altitude, the flow of the atmosphere. The tao on the Big Island relies on explosion, heat, creative destruction, movement.

Both are outward expressions of absence, the unceasing, unrelenting power of pure creation. The tao comes into this reality from the ein sof, making the ten thousand things. The same source that births you or me or the ocean or the sun or the Sombrero Galaxy.

A Mountain Path in Spring, Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty

A Mountain Path in Spring, Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty

(Emperor Ningzong’s poem inscribed in the upper right corner reads, “The wild flowers dance when brushed by my sleeves. Reclusive birds make no sound as they shun the presence of people.”)

 

Yes, I am one with the calm of Black Mountain, with the hottest lava erupting now on Kilauea’s eastern rift zone, with the gathered strength of the Yellowstone magma, with the flow of the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Platte with the globe straddling fluidity of the world ocean. So are you. We bring our own uniqueness, self-consciousness, to the tao. We know ourselves as part of the tao. I am stolid, explosive, fluid, distant, near. We are of the tao now, as we were before being thrown into this time, these places, and we will be of the tao after this life we have dissipates, falls away.

 

T’ao Ch’ien

Beltane

Ninth Day, Ninth Month

T’ao Ch’ien, (365-427 A.C.E.)

scholars in a landscape, 16th centurySlowly autumn comes to an end.

Painfully cold a dawn wind thicks the dew.

Grass round here will not be green again,

Trees and leaves are already suffering.

The clear air is drained and purified

And the high white sky’s a mystery.

Nothing’s left of the cicada’s sound.

Flying geese break the heavens’ silence.

The Myriad Creatures rise and return.

How can life and death not be hard?

From the beginning all things have to die.

Thinking of it can bruise the heart.

What can I do to lighten my thoughts?

Solace myself drinking the last of this wine.

Who understands the next thousand years?

Let’s just make this morning last forever.

translator, 2000 A. S. Kline

Bored

Spring                                                                                   Mountain Moon

boredYesterday found me getting this done, that done, the next thing done. Even found an electrician to come install a ceiling fan in the bedroom. This last one is a feat close to finding a rainbow unicorn. By 11 am I’d accomplished more than I usually do in a day. Not sure why, just sorta got into it and kept going. This included a brief nap.

Then in the afternoon I was bored. Doesn’t often happen to me, but I’d done all I felt like I needed to do, more even, so that part of my day was complete; yet, I had no idea what to do next. I tried sumi-e, but I did some representational painting and it frustrated me. I went over to Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire, but I found I’d gotten out of touch with the storyline. I have to print them both out and re-read them, pick up the thread again. I did finish a monthly Current Work entry, something I’d missed for two months.

productiveOK. What now? Not much. The three hours or so before Jon, Ruth and Gabe came up were a bust in terms of getting things done. That’s ok, I don’t need to be productive all the time. Yet. I do like to engage things during the day, either write or workout or cook or do the laundry or fix the bell in the backyard. In the evening, I like to disengage. Watch TV, mostly. I know. I know. Still what I like to do. The blue collar me.

header song2So Sunday, Sunday. Gonna print out those novels. Try some more sumi-e, probably watch Youtube videos for instruction. One of these days, maybe today though I tend to want to do this stuff during the week when the Denver folks are working, I’ll head out with my sketching stuff and go do sketches of rocks and trees and mountain streams. Stuff to work with when I get out the brushes and ink.

Might read some qabbalah. Look at the week ahead. Part of this is a formerly usual transition from winter to spring, a time in Andover when the workload would ramp up. Garden beds to clean. Bees to check. Weeding to get done. Cool weather vegetables to plant. Pruning. Bagging apple blossoms. None of that here, so all those years, 20 to be exact, of getting ready for the growing season just pushes against my day with no outlet.

 

 

June 2018
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Breadcrumbs

Trails