Monday, October 8, 2007

Murakami on memory

Korogi stands there holding the remote control.

"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed 'em to the fire, they're all just paper. The fire isn't thinking, 'Oh, this is Kant,' or 'Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,' or 'Nice tits,' while it burns. To the fire, they're nothing but scraps of paper. It's the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there's no distinction--they're all just fuel."

Korogi nods to herself. Then she goes on:

"You know, I think if I didn't have that fuel, if I didn't have these memory drawers inside me, I would've snapped a long time ago. I would've curled up in a ditch somewhere and died. It's because I can pull the memories out of the drawers when I have to--the important ones and the useless ones--that I can go on living this nightmare of a life. I might think I can't take it anymore, that I can't go on anymore, but one way or another I get past that."

-- from After Dark (2007)

Monday, September 24, 2007

For those plagued by self-doubt despite ardent effort

Sayadaw U Pandita offers this, from his meditation manual In This Very Life:
In Burma there is a saying to encourage these people. "The more the anagārika loses his way, the more rice he or she gets." An anagārika is a kind of renunciate that exists in Buddhist countries. Such a person takes eight or ten precepts, puts on a white coat, and shaves his or her head. Having renounced the world, anagārikas live in monasteries, maintaining the compound and aiding the monks in various ways. One of their duties is to go into town every few days and ask for donations. In Burma, donations often come in the form of uncooked rice. The anagārika goes through the streets shouldering a bamboo pole that has a basket hanging from each end.

Perhaps he or she is unfamiliar with the village byways and, when it is time to go home, cannot find the way back to the monastery. The poor renunciate bumps into this dead end, turns around in an alley, gets stuck in that back lane. And all the while people think that this is part of the rounds and keep making donations. By the time the anagārika finds the way home, he or she has a big pile of loot.

Those of you who get lost and sidetracked now and then can reflect that you will end up with a really big bag of Dhamma.

Friday, September 21, 2007


In the men's bathroom here at my office, on the wall above the urinals one will find:
  1. dried boogers (lots)
  2. black ink smears, apparently from newspapers used in a hasty attempt to remove #1
    (the NY Post can usually be found on the bathroom floor in various stalls throughout the day)
I mean, I leave my socks on the floor like any other self-respecting guy, but that's just ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

6 years hence....

My bitches,
Hatred never ceases through hatred, but by love alone.
- Buddha
It's easy to hate your enemies.
It requires bravery to try and find love for them.
The question of whether they "deserve it" is empty.
Don't close off your heart to the human condition....

The Sound of Enlightenment

Even after so many years of hearing it, Brian Eno's "An Ending (Ascent)" still kills me every time. I close my eyes, and instantly, I've transcended this world. Sounds gay, but I'm not kidding.

There are other pieces of music that have a similar effect, but what's so freakin amazing about Eno is that he does it with just one simple synthesizer phrase looped over four and a half minutes.

If you don't have it ... go find it!!!

On a related note, my favorite stream: the Sleepbot Environmental Broadcast. Good selection of ambient and minimal experimental music, low cheese factor.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Patience vs Inertia pt 2 a.k.a. skillful action, rules

Continuing the discussion from the first installment & comments:

On the idea of having rules to guide skillful action, JC writes:
i like the idea of having rules like that, but the problem with an external system is that my state of denial will affect how i apply it. it still comes back to a sincere effort to make the best decisions i can, based on the self-awareness i have today.
Yes, very true-- in all practicality, you can't separate the rule (or more specifically the interpretation and application of the rule) from the rule-follower. However, I think there are varying degrees of objectivity you can instill into a rule.

An example of a pretty objective rule I try to follow these days is, "no more than one alcoholic drink per evening (two if it's Thursday night) when I'm working the next day." No getting around that one. Superficial, yes, but I mention it just for an example of simple objectivity.

I'm trying out another rule that's more relevant to the current discussion (distinguishing patience & inertia, etc), though it's more like a general guide than a rule, and it's two-fold:
(1) choose the option that makes your heart grow bigger rather than contract
(2) choose that which opens your eyes further to the truth rather than shuts them in delusion
Yes, there's a lot of room for interpretation there, but the rule definitely helps. I can see sometimes what is the right action even though I really want to choose the other option. Oh, and that yields the third part of the rule:
(3) whichever the more challenging option is, it is probably the better one
Ok, back to work for me....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Have you ever noticed...

... that despite whatever you think makes an attractive or unattractive face:

... that everyone has an attractive smile?
... that, up close, everyone has interesting eyes?

This sentiment may be totally gizzay, but it's really helpful for my metta (loving-kindness) practice as I'm walking down the streets of NYC. I see all kinds of people, all walks of life, and I can open up my heart that much more by looking at their eyes and imagining them smiling (if they aren't smiling already).

It's also amazing how hard it seems for the average New Yorker to crack a smile at a complete stranger. I'm trying as much as I can these days to do exactly that. I still find it easier to do with women. It's a bit harder with guys, I'm guessing, because I haven't yet gotten over the possibility that they're mistaking me for (a) a flirt, (b) a tourist, (c) a stoner/candy flipper, or (d) a plain idiot. Thus there's also the question of whether by smiling at women I'm actually seeking their affirmation that they find me attractive as much as I'm wishing them happiness, even if I'm not ogling their bodies or craving sex at the time.

This is all the same thing -- my EGO is still involved. I'm working on it!!! (Don't judge myself, don't judge myself, don't judge myself) However, I know I'm on the right track because I've gotten to the point where I don't feel worse about myself when people don't smile back.