Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Don't Give Up.

There was a time in my life wherein random strangers would appear with the message "Don't give up."

Seriously.

And, yes, literally.

One time, sitting in the courtyard in front of the local mall with my mandolin, I was chatting with a fellow interested in the instrument. He knew guitar, if I recall correctly, so I explained the mandolin's tuning, showed him a few chord shapes, and handed him the instrument. He strummed it and sang an impromptu song with a chorus highlighting "Don't give up."

In my last post I mentioned encountering "messengers" and hearing those odd messages hidden inside me that I probably needed to hear. Here was a message coming again and again, but I had no idea what it was for. "Don't give up. Don't give up. Don't give up what?" The situation never devolved into an undying desire to find what it was I wasn't supposed to give up. It just lingered ~ who knows why? The notion occurred that maybe it was a message for someone else, but for whom? The best I could do was to pass it on, letting people know what I had heard.

"Don't give up" faded away.

Today, I am tired ~ a bit worn. Days and nights are both long, and I'm awake, studying new things, building on what I know, wondering how that direction might play out. And there's little to show from all that increasing effort but thinning faith.

Tired but not asleep, listening to the rain...

The Pabbatopama Sutta: "I inform you, great king, I announce to you, great king: aging and death are rolling in on you. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?"

Don't give up? I don't know.

In my first post for an old zen center's new website, I announced back then "Don't suffer alone," so the taunting or the silence of all voices keeps one company.

Don't give up.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Living Koan

This fellow... I met him in a random encounter I don't know how many years ago, and I've seen seen him again in random encounters I don't know how many times since, here, there, and everywhere, all around town.

Tonight he rolled up on his bicycle, dropped his kickstand, and took a seat at the table with my son and me. He's somehow past the need to ask if he's intruding.

In fact, and by his own assertion, he's wired a little bit differently than the rest of us. Now in his thirties, his mom cared for him until her death earlier this year. He is "functional" in that he holds a job and can get out and about alone, but he is undoubtedly a bit touched.

Folks like this I think of as "messengers" of sorts: they operate just enough within the envelope of normal conversation to slip into your own flow without "turbulence," but inevitably something is going to happen that completely disrupts that flow or just splits your thought patterns enough to cause you to tilt your head and squint a little, leaving you wondering what this conversation is really all about.

That effect -- the mental "hiccup" -- is particularly interesting if you can get past the annoyance of something not making sense and you can catch yourself tying to fill in the blanks. These "messenger moments" are times when, out of the blue, I see something beneath my own surface appear before me -- a message for me from within me appears. Sometimes, it's an eerie realization that my thoughts and speech are not directed at the person sitting in front of me; rather, I'm reliving an older conversation with someone else, or maybe I'm giving advice to a version of myself, or maybe I'm realizing that --given new information and experience -- an old conversation was a mistake. Sometimes it's enough to see that I am projecting myself into the encounter and not really hearing the person in front of me...

But then again, maybe that fellow in front of me is doing the same, and we're not hearing each other at all. We're odd reflections of ourselves that catch our eye, triggering sequences and patterns as we relive them all again.

Soon, by the way, maybe it's not just people... after all, what can have our attention that is not entwined with our experience, thoughts and memories, hopes, our senses, habits, and so forth? If the world suddenly blurred into a van Gogh painting swirling about, wouldn't we still find ourselves in it? What would be your teacher, moment to moment, if you didn't believe it had to look like a person with robes, a stick, and a certificate? The teacher is everywhere if a teacher is what you believe you need; with any luck, it will be in a form you can recognize and accept.

And maybe once we're done experiencing that and we understand it, it's gone.

Another dead end? Maybe not. How can everything change if you can perceive it differently? What if the answers to any of your questions could be found all around you?

Still have questions? Have none? Back to practice.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Removed from Experience

I've seen the transformation occur more than once: A YouTube channel owner begins presenting material where he or she has some deep expertise and direct experience. Over time, people begin to take notice. The channel becomes more interactive, and the presenter begins to drift in response.

That "drift" begins cautiously, generally with the presenter offering opinion somewhat grounded in his or her experience. The audience naturally responds to opinion and the presenter is emboldened. More emboldened, the opinions drift further and further from the grounded subject matter expertise and experience. Eventually, the presenter is in unknown territory, making definitive statements outside his or her direct knowledge.  If lucky, the community will correct the presenter -- often in anger -- growing the community and again emboldening the presenter. Eventually there are opinions that are simply erroneous -- and it does not seem to matter to anyone.

It seems that one of three things can happen:
  1. Guided by the corrections, the presenter may acquire the new subject matter expertise;
  2. Supported by subject matter experts who are always ready to step in with corrections, the presenter may indirectly represent subject matter experts' statements, but without understanding why; or,
  3. The presenter may thrive in the celebrity status, regardless of any expertise, completely untethered.
It has always seemed strange to me that people are willing to accept what is presented without challenge, but they do, routinely.

If "success" for you means finding truth ~ even finding those technical details that are important to you mission ~ then these tendencies are quite an obstruction. If "success" means finding a path wherein you have the unquestioning support of others, then perhaps it's time to step off into the unknown and to gain that subject matter expertise in raising waves and surfing them.

Why let truth stand in your way? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯