Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015.08.09 — 10,000 Views, Mr. Palomar and the Fushigi* Zazen of The Upanishads & The Nature of Personal Reality

[Begun on the 9th, and re-commenced on the 13th.]
The fushigis continue to outpace my ability to blog them. Even now, even though I sat down tonight to write a memoir of inertia, my inertia has kept me from writing it and I found myself writing silly Zenish fushigi things instead.

And now, I will begin with music from last night’s small fushigi,
mostly because it involves the joy of listening to Laurie Brown’s The Signal and how her music interacts fushigish with my life. I had Laurie’s music in my ears as I was writing a letter to my sisters. We had had a reunion the night before. I hadn’t seen the one sister since 1991 the other since 2004. We shared our own paths of survival and recovery from the trauma we’d experienced under the charismatic and sociopathic cult-like charms of our mother. (That’s for another story.) I began the letter struggling to describe how I felt. I wrote “I am smiling at how easy and peaceful, perhaps even tranquil, the time felt to me.” As I was writing that, I heard Laurie Brown introduce the next song with, paraphrased, Alana Yorke
bringing ‘comfort, peace and tranquility’. How often do you hear or read the word tranquility these days? And yet as I’m writing it Laurie’s is speaking it. Anyway, I went and found the song from The Signal’s play logs because it is quite beautiful. Enjoy: Song of the Piano Man.

And tonight there was a funny fushigi. It began with my beginning to share on FB a small miracle, or magic, in its own right: Thursday [yesterday, the day of my reunion] I received an email from the Readwave reader/writer webpage that my total story and poem reads there have reached 10,000. That ‘milestone’ occurred on the same day I met with a sister I hadn’t seen since 1991, which is some kind of milestone. While a little amusing, that is not the fushigi. And, funny enough, as it turns out she is married
to a writer! Too funny, how life goes. And even funnier, he is not a mainstream writer, as he explores the liminal areas of human experience. Jasun Horsley is fascinating, and an excellent writer and podcaster.

When I went to share my 10k milestone on FB, I wanted to be clever, and find some quotation on the limits of words. That words have limited functionality and are prone to creating serious miscommunication is a regular theme in my writing. I began to flip through a few of my books. After a few unsuccessful flips, I came across this one in a book that I bought today:
How to Awaken
Most students of Zen apply themselves to mindless zazen [meditation] — a grave error. [It is to be remembered] that the mind is transmitted and enlightened by itself. The non-sentient cannot attain the Way. Students today can’t seem to grasp that to feel cold or warmth, hunger or fullness, is to be mindless and on the right path (61).
Zen: Poems, Prayers, Sermons, Anecdotes, Interviews. Translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto.
Nice! I thought to myself. And marked it with a sticky for later, when I would put together this blog.

Well, for some reason, I decided to take a quick look at the other book I bought at the same time as the Zen one. It is Mr. Palomar by the amazing Italian writer, Italo Calvino. And this is what I read!
Ch. 1: Reading A Wave
The sea is barely wrinkled, and little waves strike the sandy shore. Mr. Palomar is standing on the shore, looking at a wave. Not that he is lost in contemplation of the waves. He is not lost, because he is quite aware of what he is doing: he wants to look at a wave and he is looking at it. He is not contemplating, because for contemplation you need the right temperament, the right mood, and the right combination of exterior circumstances; and though Mr. Palomar has nothing against contemplation in principle, none of these three conditions applies to him. Finally, it is not "the waves" that he means to look at, but just one individual wave: in his desire to avoid vague sensations, he establishes for his every action a limited and precise object.

Mr. Palomar sees a wave rise
in the distance, grow, approach, change form and color, fold over itself, break, vanish, and flow again. At this point he could convince himself that he has concluded the operation he had set out to achieve, and he could go away. But isolating one wave is not easy, separating it from the wave immediately following, which seems to push it and at times overtakes it and sweeps it away; and it is no easier to separate that one wave from the preceding wave, which seems to drag it toward the shore, unless it turns against the following wave, as if to arrest it, Then, if you consider the breadth of the wave, parallel to the shore, it is hard to decide where the advancing front extends regularly and where it is separated and segmented into independent waves, distinguished by their speed, shape, force, direction.

In other words, you cannot observe a wave without bearing in mind the complex features that concur in shaping it and the other, equally complex ones that the wave itself originates(3).
And that was perhaps an almost perfect example of a writer using words to move beyond words and, at the same time, embodying the antithesis of the Zen teacher’s lament that student of life cannot live within the ‘natural’ order of life. So delightful.

This was almost immediately followed up with a delightful
‘analytical’ version of Calvino’s Mr. Palomar. I found it in The Nature of Personal Reality by Seth/Jane Roberts.
As mentioned (in Chapter Four), the conscious mind is a portion of the inner self; that part that surfaces, so to speak, and meets physical reality more or less directly.

You are mainly concerned now with physical orientation and the corporeal materialization of inner reality. Therefore the conscious mind holds in ready access the information that you require for effective day-to-day living. It is not necessary that you hold in steady consciousness data that does not directly apply to what you consider your physical reality at any given "time." (Pause, one of many.) As soon as the need for such data — aid, information, or knowledge — arises, then it is immediately forthcoming unless your own conscious beliefs cause a barrier.
The exquisite, precise and concentrated focus of your conscious mind is quite necessary in physical life. It is because of this highly selective quality that you can "tune into" the particular range of activity that is physical (95).
I decided to search a bit more, and a flip or two later I came across something from the Chandogya Upanishad. I read it in The Upanishads, translated by Eknath Easwaran:
Narada, approached the Venerable One, Sanatkumara,
and asked him to teach him. The Venerable One replied, “tell me what you know, and then I will teach you what is beyond that.”

“I know the four Vedas, Rig, Yahur, Sama, Atharva — and the epics, called the fifth. I have studied grammar, rituals, mathematics, astronomy, logic, economics, physics, psychology, the fine arts, and even snake-charming. But all this knowledge has not helped me to know the Self. I have heard from spiritual teachers like you that one who realizes the Self goes beyond sorrow. I am lost in sorrow. Please teach me how to go beyond.”

“Whatever you know is just words,” said Sanatkumara, “names of finite phenomena. It is the Infinite that is the source of abiding joy because it is not subject to change. Therefore, seek to know the Infinite (188-9).”
How does all this tie into a family reunion? Each of us related our struggles out of the deluded illusionary world our mother had made up for us. We had all come to the awareness, had woken up in Zen language, that our mother’s world was ultimately an empty and psychologically poisoned one that only words and the blind who will follow them have the ability to make manifest. Only words have the power to create ideas and ideologies that are completely disconnected from the real world, a world that is comprised of the complexity of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual beings. We each of us had, in our own unique paths, left the cult of ‘just’ words that our mother adeptly made. And ‘cult’ is not my description. Some time after breaking off communication with our mother, our eldest sister described her shocked realization that the documentary on cults she was watching was describing our childhood.