Sunday, December 02, 2007

EVERYTHING FALLS APART


I'm writing this today from the Psychobabble Coffee House in Los Feliz (part of LA, just east of Hollywood). The chick who made my herbal tea is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Their website is weird, though. But Psychobabble has played host to way more of these postings than Angel Falls coffee shop in Highland Square, Akron. And I gave them a plug. So I s'pose Psychobabble deserves one too.

Before I get down to the Zen stuff, long-time reader Jules Agee (who may be one of the first people who wrote me regarding my old webpage a million years ago, if memory serves) is doing a run for cancer and needs your donations. So go support the guy. OK?

I've been thinking about impermanence a lot. In fact, that may be the true theme of the new book I've been working on. I realized I needed to clarify about my new book cuz even though I thought everyone knew, it seems like they don't. It is another memoir-ish philosophical type book about Zen, like Hardcore Zen and Sit Down And Shut Up. So don't worry. It's basically the harrowing story of my life this year in which, as Husker Du said it would, pretty much everything has fallen apart.

It's also related to something really profound 0DFx drummer Mickey X-Nelson said recently. They were working on transferring the new 0DFx tracks we recorded last month to (evil) ProTools and encountering all sorts of unforeseen difficulties. He said something to the effect of, "It's like in the movie The Fly, all you wanted to do was move this thing from one place to another, but..." I think life is always like that.

There's an old koan that ends with the line, "From birth until death it's just like this." I've always liked that line. It really tells you all you need to know about Buddhist philosophy. Everything important, anyway.

We're always looking for something permanent and unchanging, something reliable. Everyone is. All the things we imagine will be permanent never are -- family, friends, marriages, houses, possessions -- they'll all fall apart some day. Even if they last until we die, we still die and then all our stuff is gone all our relationships are over, all our beautiful memories blow away like smoke, everything we did falls to dust.

This year I've been faced with loads of impermanence. My mom died, I lost my job, my grandma died, important relationships in my life went sour... Lots of impermanence. It's been a lesson. That's for sure. Thank you, Jesus, for all your lessons this year! (Brad says as he secretly raises a defiant middle finger to the sky)

In the midst of impermanence, we seek for something we can count on forever but most of us never find it. The only reason we fail in our search is because we're not paying attention. That which is permanent and perfectly reliable is staring us right in the face even as we look past it searching for something else. The empty and silent present moment of which we are just a superficial manifestation is eternal and unchanging. It is the essential ground of our being. We imagine the ground of being must be far, far way, off in a distant galaxy or buried deep in some mystical place we can only reach with the proper spiritual guidance (fully paid up, of course, major credit cards accepted).

But the present moment is always right here. There's no place it can go. It's never hidden from view. When you die it will be right there beside you, just the same as it is now.

There's another Zen koan in which a student goes to his master all excited because he thinks he has The Answer. The Master asks what the answer is. The monk says, "The child of fire comes seeking for fire!"

The master says, "That's bullshit. You have no idea what you're talking about!"

The monk gets all weepy and begs his master to tell him the real truth. The Master says, "The child of fire comes seeking for fire."

Our intellectual understanding is worthless. The monk was able to present his understanding only as a superficial intellectual construct, not as a living reality. All the master did was tell him the very same thing, only for the master it was a real, living thing, not a theory.

Whatever. That girl behind the counter here is so hot...

45 comments:

noiret sym laden said...

"From birth until death it's just like this."

That reminds me of the scene in "The Professional" when Mathilda (Natalie Portman) asks Leon (Jean Reno) "Is life always this hard, or just when you're a kid?" and Leon answers "Always like this."

Mysterion said...
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noiret sym laden said...

"SERENITY NOW!!" - Frank Costanza

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5513mXmQbw4

Mysterion said...
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zenshred said...

Its funny man, It has been in this same spot this year too. I dont think I can match whats happened to you, but things always seem to be changing and I'm torn between spending a majority of my life closer to my hometown friends or taking risk and seeing the world and doing what I want to be doing, and then there is finding that balence which I've been working at for a majority of my life.
Great blog Brad, really helped me summerize some shit.
Thanks dude.

Captain Steve said...

Brad,

Awesome work on all fronts, here and at SG!

I especially liked your previous post about silence always being available. Eckhart Tolle talks about the same concept from a little different angle in 'The Power of Now' (or in the follow-up book 'A New Earth', can't recall which)

BTW, the dates on your web pages for the weekly zazen sittings and monthly retreats are slightly outdated.

If you're not too crazy busy, could you update them? I'm planning a trip to LA to sit with you and would like to know when you will be there. I bought eight of your books as gifts and would be honored if you would sign them!

I met you at the Sit Down and Shut Up talk and book signing in Tempe, AZ this spring.

Regards from the Sonoran desert...

David said...

yea, i totally feel you with that beautiful girl behind the coffee counter thing.

anonymouse said...

way to go jules!

rednikki said...

I just wanted to say - I read your column this week over at Suicide Girls, but couldn't figure out how to comment there - and that column moved me and hit me where I live. It's strange; I was up because I suddenly got hit with a wave of sadness over my dad's death (he died five years ago). I watched him die, like you watched your grandmother die. And, yeah, it's life-changing.

My boyfriend is a Buddhist and has been encouraging me to practice with him. I think I'll take him up on it. What you described about living your life in a no-bullshit way is something I've been working on since my dad died.

Anyway, thanks - really good stuff. Am planning to peruse this blog soon.

Ordinary Extraordinary said...

A nice and poignant post Brad. Thanks. 'From birth to death it's just like this' is one of my favourites too.
Hope 2008 is a better year for you.

Justin

vinegar said...

Sorry to hear about the soured relationships.

Anonymous said...

This one would like to know which koan is the one with the ending? Thanks.

Mark said...

Lot's of people reference Eckhart Tolle on here. Ive read his books for what there worth. Seems like he's gonna hit real hard when he falls of his horse someday and all that bliss he feels evaporates into nothingness then what will he write about?

Mysterion said...
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Jules said...

Thanks for the plug, Brad! And thanks for the shout, anonymouse.

I've also been getting a lot of "lessons" about impermanence lately. Lots of really bad stuff has happened. A friend of mine died from emphysema the day before yesterday. Lots of really good stuff has happened too. My life is going places I never expected it to. It's been really moving to get so much support on this latest project, which was motivated by some of that 'bad' stuff. Thanks again.

louis said...

Dear Brad,
It been a while since I had a chance to drop by at HCZ. I am sorry to hear about you grandmother, and I hope your Dad is doing okay.

On your job search, I think something like
this
might be to your liking. I would encourage you to hit up the department chair of anyplace you might be interested in (Yale Divinity or Fairfield University pleeese) and send them a resume and copy of your book. Anyone would pounce upon finding a person with your background. Especially if you just want to get your feet wet for a year or so to see if you like this kind of thing. Hope your feeling better, and take care.

Louis

Ricardo said...

Everything falls apart and then everything comes together.

I like your teacher Nishi's web site because he answers students questions with sincerity and meaning. I know you don't answer your email and I haven't seen anywhere you answer questions.

I'm sorry about your losses.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

[i]There's an old koan that ends with the line, "From birth until death it's just like this." I've always liked that line. It really tells you all you need to know about Buddhist philosophy. Everything important, anyway.[/i]

Alan Watts wrote (or said) practically an identical paragraph. have you been studying him on the quiet?

Anonymous said...

btw it also reminds me that Alan Watts was fond of quoting Shakespeare on impermanence:


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


with the comment that it's impermanence that gives life its beauty and 'meaning'.

Mysterion said...
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PopeJoeRatz said...

Speaking of Alexander Pope:
"In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labour's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb."

This is about a pomegranate and not an apple!

Pomegranate 1
Botticelli Pomegranate 2
Detail above from Pomegranate 3
Leonardo's Pomegranate 4
Pomegranate 5
Secret of the Pomegranate 6

Bling bling

Is Mara Mary? Rosy Lips?

Virgin and child.

Amphitrite

We can profit well from mythology. We'll just package and sell it as religion!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading your book Hardcore Zen right now. Totally dig your writing style Brad.

My vague interest in Zen is warming up. That is, I'm trying Zen to beat my anxiety. Hasn't worked yet but I've read lots of neat books.

ffleur

Cope said...

Brad,

I always liked that line, "The children of Vulcan come seeking fire" in somebody's (Bob Meyer's?) translation of one of the chapters of Shobogenzo.

He quotes it in Latin though, which always puzzled me. Is it likely that Dogen and the monks would be sitting around putting together koans in Latin? I know Dogen himself was very well educated, but that was a long time ago, and a long way from Europe.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your mp3s - "Yesterday will never Tell" really rocks man, it's a great track.

J. said...

Is expansiveness before thought?

kavi said...

Loved the last two posts Brad. Thank You.

Anonymous said...

mysterium tremendum said...
Is expansiveness before thought?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 8:29:00 PM



jundo cohen said...
Is dinner before the movie? :-)

Mysterion said...
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Ellen said...

I'm so with this shit right now.

One of my favorite cats (He's NOT like a neighbor's attack cat - this guy was a ball of luvvin' his whole life.) is dying right now.
Comfortably but slowly. And it hurts.

Shit. Everything falls apart. I always knew Husker Du was right.

Impermanence - it's not just a word anymore.

The impermanence of jobs and apts and partners and all that does pale for me before the impermanence of just being alive. It don't last. It sure doesn't. Not for a cat, grandma, friends, or . . . (Jaws movie theme chords here) ME.

present moment, silence, yup. it's the truth.

But boy, do I hate this "find the blessin' in the lesson" stuff. An old neighbor once told me that. I'd rather hear it from Husker Du or some Asian dude. But it's all the same. Learn this shit. And die. It's okay. Like there's an alternative? There really isn't anything else going on.

Glad the waitress was hot. Good thing that stuff goes on, too!

Anonymous said...

what ever expands must contract

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Life is one long freakin' roller coaster. It's so easy to become attached or complacent in one's life until life walks up and smacks you in the face. Anyways, I wish you the best Brad. It's the least I could do since you helped light my lantern on my life. And this Rohatsu Sesshin is kickin' my butt(knees more like it!)

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Good post Brad :)

Gerry Gomez said...

The company I work for may be closing their doors in the next few weeks. Layoffs have begun. Yesterday, my boss told me that she will advise me everyday if my services are needed for the next day. After months of seeing the writing on the wall, it was very much a relief.

"There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in." (Leonard Cohen)

Anonymous said...

"We imagine the ground of being must be far, far way, off in a distant galaxy or buried deep in some mystical place we can only reach with the proper spiritual guidance (fully paid up, of course, major credit cards accepted)."

Great comment. I'd add: We imagine the ground of being must be far, far way, off in a distant galaxy or buried deep in some mystical place we can only reach with the proper sitting posture or via cultivating some proper state of mind under a properly transmitted zen teacher.

Such beliefs are just as erroneous.

Mysterion said...
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Jinzang said...

Such beliefs are just as erroneous.

I don't know if you're joking or serious. But whether you agree or not, it's a fact that hardly anyone sees the "ground of being" without meditation practice.

theloonybin said...

It may not be zen philosophy, but I don't know if I would take it as far as 'everything we know falls to dust.' I think relationships do change though and are always changing. Like they say you can never go home again, you can't keep things the same no matter how hard you try. Each little kindness and each little meanness changes all those around us in subtle ways and those changes spread in subtle ways to what those people do and the changes just keep spreading. So I think it's never gone, just always breeding and mutating. I can still remember poignantly small kindnesses that people have shown me at certain well placed times in the past. If I remember them in the now does that put them in the now as well? (beats me.)

Charley D said...

Some years back I stole a line from a MAD Magazine photo caption book. Can't remember the title, but it was, you know, WORLD LEADERS and suchlike with funny captions. Early-mid 60's humor... ANYHOW it was one of the old Eastern Bloc WWII guys (like Tito, or something) "HI! I'm STILL not dead yet!"

Anonymous said...

"Such beliefs are just as erroneous."

"I don't know if you're joking or serious. But whether you agree or not, it's a fact that hardly anyone sees the "ground of being" without meditation practice."


Serious. I agree completely. It's just that meditation practice isn't tied to what anyone proclaims to be 'proper' posture. Nor is it necessary to have a 'transmitted' zen teacher to discover what's right here. I sit in the lotus posture too. It's much like a traditional buddhist insisting that zen practitioners are engaging in wishful thinking or delusion if they imagine they can find this ground of being without accumulating merit and undergoing numerous rebirths. You can't attain Big Mind via any special technique, including sitting in a particular posture. You can't attain your own face. But sitting down and looking directly seems to be the easiest way to see what's right in front of us. Full lotus is the perfect expression of Buddhanature. So is picking your nose.

grisom said...

I always liked that line, "The children of Vulcan come seeking fire" in somebody's (Bob Meyer's?) translation of one of the chapters of Shobogenzo.

He quotes it in Latin though, which always puzzled me. Is it likely that Dogen and the monks would be sitting around putting together koans in Latin? I know Dogen himself was very well educated, but that was a long time ago, and a long way from Europe.


In the original, Dogen's writing mostly in Japanese, but the koans and scriptures he quotes are in Chinese. Which is a little odd, but not only did Buddhism come to Japan through China, I understand that any educated Japanese was expected to know a certain amount of Chinese.

The English used to have very much the same relationship with Latin. The translator probably figured that putting the quotes in Latin would be a good way to get across some of the flavour of the original.

Anonymous said...

Everything has been falling apart for me lately. Very bad year. Couldn't get work, lost my girlfriend. But I found both of Brad's books... at it's helped me. I'm learning to handle anger, and feeelings of aggression and to realize the almost constant presence of these in me. I'm 50 yrs old and its not easy to learn to let go... that's the best thing Brad has written about anger. Just "let it go."

Tom said...

There was nothing superficial about the monks answer!! The master just gave him the fire he sought.