First of all, thanks to the nice folks at Lake Claremont Press for sending me a copy of their book From Shock Theater to Svengoolie, all about TV horror movie hosts in Chicago. Cool book! TV horror movie hosts were a big part of my growing up years. Now sadly they all seem to be gone. I guess they served a useful purpose in the 60s and 70s which is now being served by others. The Ghoul in Cleveland used to have to hide behind a goofy fake goatee and sunglasses to say what needed saying. Now we have a lot more freedom in what we can say. Good. I like the world today better than the one I grew up in and I like younger people better than the members of my own generation. Even we ex-punk rock kids are way more uptight than people in their twenties these days -- speaking in sweeping generalities of course (as usual). I'm optimistic for the future. Cautiously.
Someone asked for an explanation of Gudo's recent answer to Jordan regarding karma. I went and looked at Gudo's blog and it seemed pretty clear to me. But maybe that's because I'm pretty steeped in how Gudo explains stuff.
Basically, the word karma is often misunderstood as being analogous to the concept of fate. There's the idea that you have your karma, the big load of past actions we all carry with us, and these determine our future. To an extent this is true. We cannot escape the effects of the causes we've set in motion. But this point of view is only relevant when we look at time in the usual linear fashion.
Real time in the Buddhist sense is only now. Right now we have complete freedom to act. Our karma sets up certain limitations to this action. Right now my karma has placed me in Torrance, California at a Whole Foods supermarket. Because of this karma I cannot, for example, take any action at my friend Nina's house in Los Feliz immediately. I have to drive there first and it takes time to get there on the perpetually congested So Cal freeways. All of that stuff is karma.
But I am perfectly free at this moment to take any action at all that my karmic circumstances will allow. These words I am writing, for example, are not predetermined. Yet if we were to stand back later on we could trace a line of cause and effect that might make even the words I'm writing at this moment seem to have been predetermined.
But look at your life right now and any notion of predetermination falls to dust.
Still, we need to be careful what we do. There are always effects. Yet we can't be timid. We need to act with a certain degree of boldness. Knowing there will be effects of our action that we cannot be aware of, still we act anyway.
For example, I'm in the midst of writing a new book. In it I am seeking to uproot, rather violently, a lot of the notions of what a Zen teacher ought to be. I'm concerned that the book will make a lot of people upset. It attacks some very fondly held illusions. Yet I believe the overall effect of attacking these illusions will be positive. I believe it's necessary.
Part of me wants to be timid and not push things. But my intuition tells me it's better to push hard because nobody else will do it and it needs to be done.
I think we all struggle with this kind of thing all the time. It's hard to know what's right to do. And so I practice zazen everyday. I believe the balance established in the practice will aid me in seeing what's best to do.
Happy MLK Jr. Day!
Monday, January 21, 2008