Rhyme of the Day

Various meanderings with a rhyme in there somewhere.

Non-Self Killing
Buddhism has a rep in this country as being the REAL religion of peace. But a bit of historical study can disabuse you of the notion that devout Buddhists are always peaceful. Even today there are militant Buddhist monks who are given to attacking Hindus and Muslims. But the really big example is the role Zen Buddhism played in Japan, quite notably the role played during WWII, where all the leading Zen religious figures lined up to support Japan's imperial ambitions.

“During the Asia-Pacific War (1937-1945) all Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated with a program of Bushido-promoting “spiritual education” (seishin kyoiku) based on the metaphysical foundation of the unities of Zen and the sword, life and death. Once trained, they were dispatched to the battlefield where nearly three million of them died ‘selflessly’ even as they killed more than twenty million Chinese and other ‘selfless’ enemies in the process. The fact that even today, both in Japan and the West, this corrupted Zen understanding of ‘selflessness’ has, but with few exceptions, remained unchallenged cannot but be regarded as one of the world’s most successful religious deceptions.”

And that's a Zen monk talking, albeit an American one.

You see, if my non-self kills your non-self, and death and life are really one, then my killing you is not so morally significant!

The basic attitude is actually dramatized quite well in James Clavell's novel, Shogun.

Call me unenlightened,
Call me foolishly frightened,
But my non-self would rather not be gored
By anyone's samurai sword.

I saw a new play, Fulfillment, last night. It's doing an unusual thing where it's premiering in 2 cities in quick succession, New York and Chicago. Apparently with the same director - but different actors - for both shows.

I was just looking at the audition notice for the show. It contains this heads up:

"A Note on Nudity: FULFILLMENT is a play about power in contemporary America. The roles of MICHAEL, SARAH and SIMON require actors to participate in staged sexual encounters which will require them to perform select scenes nude. The production will have a professional choreographer who specializes in staging intimacy to create a safe and comfortable environment for these scenes, which are essential to the narrative and themes of the play."

I thought the actual effect, in person, was sort of anti-erotic. Maybe that's just my defensive detachment kicking in! Or maybe it was purposely staged to suggest that the characters' sexual relationships were tawdry - showy but emotionally flat. The Trib reviewer says the play's sex scenes are "laudably unerotic", so I guess we're on the same wavelength here.

Eros without feeling,
can end up unappealing.

Christmas Carol at Dream, 2015
Last night I went to see Dream Theatre Company's seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol: An Evening of Dickensian Delights.

It's written and directed by my friend, Rachel Martindale, and I thought this was the best incarnation ever. It's the same 3 performers from last year, but with newly constructed accoutrements for the ghosts. You can see a ghostly skeletal hand below:

This is a very literary adaptation, using only Dickens's own words. Each time I attend I hear something new. He had the gift of the gab, that Dickens did. The acting is excellent, which is what you always expect at Dream. It's a tale of supernatural intervention, of course, but this is not a production loaded up with special effects. It's a production that expects you to listen to the words and imagine a lot of things yourself.

Scrooge is an interesting character, the fabulous miser, a type who has fascinated storytellers at least since Plautus wrote The Pot Of Gold. Scrooge mouths some slogans from the "dismal science" school of political economy, but he's not really an ideologue in his motivation.

When we visit Christmas Past, he and his (soon to be ex-) fiancee give the best indication of what has driven him.

He begins by making an accurate observation about the hypocrisy of social opinion:

Scrooge: “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”

But she replies with psychological insight:

Belle: “You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach.”

He fears the reproach of the world. He dreads being scorned for poverty. And so he lives practically as a pauper, sitting on a pile of money, spending almost nothing on himself, or friends, or family.

That's what makes misers funny.
They sit on a pot of money,
And moan that life is not sunny.

Head Stuck In A Can
In Maryland:

'In an episode reminiscent of "Winnie the Pooh," Maryland state wildlife workers used an electric hand saw to remove a milk can that was stuck on the head of a bear.'

Great photo if you click on the link.

Reportedly the bear was calm. But they did tranquilize it, just to be sure. Which seems like a good idea.

Endowed with awesome paws and claws and jaws,
Bears nonetheless exhibit certain flaws,
Including unconcern with human laws.

"Student Found Bound And Gagged At Law School Faked Her Own Kidnapping"

I hope your day is not as bad
as the one she evidently had.

She is gone
but the hole
in my soul
lingers on.

"Squares or triangles?" I would ask,
when serving her grilled cheese.
This was guaranteed to please,
and she gladly tackled the task
of deciding the shape of her food
according to her current mood.

So often silly things, like these
become the fondest memories.

The Miserabilists
They won't be happy,
till you're sad.
Your day is crappy?
Then they're glad.

Trail Run

Great, tough, hilly course.
Made me wish I had a horse!

I took my time, came in third to last, walked the steep uphills, ran the flats slowly, ran the downhills quickly, avoided leg cramp issues, and hallelujah for that. I do a little bit of hilly trail training, which I guess is how I managed to avoid an ankle injury, but this course kicked my butt.

Purity in Kant
This is going around, in response to something Marco Rubio said suggesting that maybe more people should go into welding and fewer into philosophy:

Kant, who was hugely influential, is the very model of an armchair philosopher. I've never been a fan exactly, but he tackled big questions, with his "critical method."

As with so many things Kantian, it's hard to say exactly what the "critical method" was, but it recently occurred to me that there was a strong similarity of program in his ethics and his aesthetics, a similarity I hadn't thought about before.

In ethics he pushes hard on the idea that you can only be sure that you're really being moral when you do the right thing when it's against your own interest and desire. So if you hand money to a beggar, and you feel good about it, and it doesn't really inconvenience you, then you haven't done a verifiably good deed!

In aesthetics he pushes hard on the idea that you're only having a true aesthetic appreciation when you admire an artwork for its form alone, absent any natural admiration of the content. So if you like a nude statue partly because it arouses a hint of eros in your mind, you're on the wrong track, buddy!

You can see the push toward purity, of a kind. Purity from earthly considerations or motives.

Then today I was thinking there was something similar going on in his Critique of Pure Reason. There's that word "pure" right in the title. But I puzzled a bit because it's not desire that plays the role of a corrupting influence in his epistemology. Certainly it turns out that it's actually impossible to really know anything about reality - the underlying reality that's out there somewhere beyond the sensory manifold, unfiltered by our mental categories.

But it strikes me that the underlying push is still the same - it is to remove the holy grail of knowledge from our earthly grasp - away from the flesh - away from our puny mortal minds - and into rarefied imaginary territory.

I write all this without quotes.
No doubt I have simplified.
His castle is circled with moats,
And many have vanished inside.

Yoga Smoke
As I arrived at yoga tonight there was a young woman puffing on a cigarette just outside the door in the chilly air. You see this all the time at office buildings, but I'd never seen it at yoga before.

Now that I reflect on it, some sizable percentage of yoga-attenders must be at least occasional smokers, but they must not do it right around class.

This young woman, it turned out, was doing 3 yoga classes back to back, meaning she'd been doing maybe 3 hours already when I saw her.

For some reason I never liked the smell, but I do feel kind of bad for smokers nowadays. They have so few spots where their habit is acceptable.

When you need nicotine on a regular basis,
you end up puffing in inconvenient places.


Log in