Sunday, April 26, 2009

ASPEN SUICIDE AND ME


My friend Aspen Suicide of the Suicide Girls (that's her in the photo) put a conversation we had up on the SuicideGirls website. You don't need to be a member to view this article and you will not be able to see any naked pictures on this page. So don't worry!

I like this article a lot because it's not really a normal interview. Aspen and I have become pals over the course of the time I've been writing for Suicide Girls. She's very interested in Yoga and spent several months one year in India on an extended retreat. She's not so interested in Zen, although she has made it to the Hill Street Center a couple times sometimes with her fellow Suicide Girl James (there's some extra incentive for you to show up!). As she says in the piece, our usual routine is to eat burritos and complain, which is always a lot of fun (seriously). Sometimes we watch LOST together and I point out all the really ridiculous faux Buddhist nonsense. I love the show, the same way I loved Kung Fu, which was also full of faux Buddhist nonsense.

Aspen wrote this piece by typing out what we were saying as we talked. So it's not really a transcript of exactly what was said. Like when she asked what I was suffering about and I said "cookies," it was more to get a laugh out of her as she typed up the answer. Although I do suffer an awful lot about cookies, I have to admit. And the comment about "going back to Knoxville" refers to visiting my sister there. In the context of the piece it sounds like I once lived there, but I never did. Anyhow, it's a fun article.

As a quick aside here, someone recently asked me if I felt any qualms about writing for a website with the word "suicide" in its name. The writer felt it might offend people whose lives have been touched by suicides.

As a person whose life has been touched, perhaps irrevocably altered, by the suicide of an acquaintance who I deeply admired, I don't find the name of the website particularly bothersome. You can't possibly avoid offending everyone, so I don't even bother anymore. I know some folks think it's vital that no Buddhist should ever do anything that anyone anywhere in the world could possibly take offense to. But I disagree with that completely. I'm sorry if it might turn people away from what I write. But, then again, if something like that turns you away, you're probably not the type of person who would enjoy what I write anyway.

I do know that the name of the website derives from the old term "suicide blond." A suicide blond is someone who bleaches her hair. It's a joke that "she dyed by her own hand." I've also heard Missy, the co-founder of the site, came to regret its name. But by then it was too late to change it.

Also, Phil Fox Rose quoted me in his Busted Halo column.

If you want to read this blog in Greek go here. I'd say "It's all Greek to me," but that'd be too obvious, so I won't.

Also Gustav Ericcson just started a really wonderful blog about Gudo Nishijima. Go take a look!

My next live gig is at Dawson College in Montreal tomorrow (Mon. April 27, 2009) at Noon. Then I'm at Casa del Popolo, also in Montreal, Tuesday at 7 PM. All details are on the link over to your left, as well as info about upcoming stuff in Detroit and Saskatoon.

Oh! And the hardcore band I play bass for, Zero Defex will play The Comet in Detroit on Friday May 1st with The Amino Acids. Be there!

28 comments:

KaliDurga said...

"I know some folks think it's vital that no Buddhist should ever do anything that anyone anywhere in the world could possibly take offense to."

Thinking like that is kind of shying away from reality and straying into wanting things to be a certain way, isn't it? Which would kinda sorta make it antithetical to Buddhism, wouldn't it? Hmmmmm...

Anonymous said...

His Bradsterness sayeth:
"If this messiness creates an idea of what it wants to be then the idea is fundamentally flawed so its better to look at the mess and if you keep looking at it, it sort of gradually sort of fixes itself."

OK, but how long does this process take
before it becomes noticeable? I've been
sitting daily for thirty minutes a day
for several years and I'm still looking
at the same old mess -- nothing has
"fixed itself".

So, how long do I have to wait?
And then of course there are people who
have been sitting for decades who behave
worse than many people who have never
sat at all -- how can I be sure I won't
end up an even bigger asshole? (That's a
lot of effort and time to spend in order
to change for the worse or not at all.)
If I had spent that time doing something
else, I'd be really good at it by now.
What a waste. At what point do you decide
that you're throwing good money after bad
and call a loss a loss? (Or hunt Brad down
and say "Look, Motherfucker, because of
your lies, I've wasted a shitload of time!
You owe me! Big time! ;)

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:17 PM, consider yourself
lucky. I have been sitting for several years
and I have noticed one change:

permanently sore knees!
Yet the blind fool persists...

Rich said...

"OK, but how long does this process take
before it becomes noticeable? I've been
sitting daily for thirty minutes a day
for several years and I'm still looking
at the same old mess -- nothing has
"fixed itself"."


This is a great question, one which I suspect everyone asks from time to time. I probably come across as a heavy, very serious zen student in these blogs but in everyday life I'm pretty easy going and find a lot of humor and funniness (except bad drivers piss me off). In the sitting business there are no guarantees and you have to clean up your own messes.
since the balanced state is nothing special you hardly notice it. I sit because it feels good and gets me away from all the shit, kind of like R&R for the Universe. Maybe you need to do some hard training to make it more 'noticeable'. go ask your teacher.

Azeworai said...

Don't you get tired of everyone picking apart everything you say? My gosh, what a pain in the rear. Anyway, I enjoyed your third book. It took a lot of courage to write what you did. Your journey was a nice alternative to the usual Zennish books/articles that are out there.

Mysterion said...

I would add that I bought SD&SU for my sis & sent her the third book at the same time.

Remember, sis & I were booted out of sunday school (when I was 11 or 12) for asking who killed goliath.

David: (1 Samuel 17:50) - "Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand."

Elhanan: (2 Sam. 21:19)- "And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam." sourceHer comment: "Brad seems to be someone who has little fear of truth telling."

(In short, he is no mainstream republican)

KaliDurga said...

@Anonymous 12:17pm--"So, how long do I have to wait?
And then of course there are people who have been sitting for decades who behave worse than many people who have never sat at all -- how can I be sure I won't end up an even bigger asshole?
"

Ummmm, by maybe not depending on sitting to fix everything and by maybe spending some time focusing off the cushion?

While listening to similar questions during Brad's recent DC talk, the thought occurred to me that sitting is a metaphor for living: You attempt to focus and constantly pay attention to your posture, to your thoughts, and to bring yourself back to what's right while on the cushion. Same thing in every day life: You attempt to focus and constantly pay attention to your behavior, to your thoughts, and to bring yourself back to what's right in the moment at hand.

Thinking of sitting in those terms kind of makes it clear why it's called meditation practice.

Elvis Bob Rasputin said...

Anonymous 12:17PM:

Nothing ever truly fixes itself. It can't, not if it's your mess. Zazen isn't about fixing, it's like training your being to be ready to take on the mess. It's a refuge, a point where your butt meets the real world and that's all. There is no point to it really. That's what makes it annoying/special.

If you're waiting for something to happen, then you seem to be missing some of the point. While you're waiting, everything is happening. Zazen isn't a fix for character flaws, or a cure-all for psychoses. I won't pretend to even know what it is. I wish I had some answer to your question, but perhaps all your sitting has served the purpose of becoming more acutely aware of other people's b.s. and asking these questions. Now, Anonymous-sensei, what is your answer?

Jinzang said...

OK, but how long does this process take
before it becomes noticeable?


That's hard to say without knowing you and knowing the change you are looking for. Generally after a couple of years, you will be a calmer person. Other people will notice this even if you don't. I first caught on when people described me as quiet. Being a calm person has its advantages, but then, this might not be the change you are looking for.

Meditation is a lot like traveling in a hot air balloon. Because you aren't fighting against the wind, but being pushed by it, it seems like you are not traveling at all. In the same way, the changes meditation produces are effortless and you hardly notice them. You just change things because it seems the sensible thing to do. So while you think you still have problems (and you do), things are slowly working themselves out without you paying much attention to them. From one perspective "fixing things" is a problem because it implies going against the flow. Something which is fixed can easily be broken again.

Anonymous said...

"you will not be able to see any naked pictures on this page. So don't worry!"

Fuck You Brad. You are such a condescending tiny penis boy.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

I actually like that basic commentary made above regarding why it's called "practice." Sometimes its easy to think of meditation as being "the big game" itself, and it probably isn't. At the same time, taking the sports metaphor one step too far, there is an old sports adage that "you play like you practice" meaning, if you practice like a lazy bum then you wont play very well either.
So, what does that mean for meditation? If there's anything to it (which i vary on from day to day), then it probably pays to work hard at it and at the same time, understand that its not the be all end all.

floating_abu said...

OK, but how long does this process take
before it becomes noticeable? I've been
sitting daily for thirty minutes a day
for several years and I'm still looking
at the same old mess -- nothing has
"fixed itself".

Besides the good words of Jinzang, the only thing that comes to mind is "pay attention".

And thanks for your efforts.

_/\_

And then of course there are people who
have been sitting for decades who behave
worse than many people who have never
sat at all -- how can I be sure I won't
end up an even bigger asshole? (That's a
lot of effort and time to spend in order
to change for the worse or not at all.)
If I had spent that time doing something
else, I'd be really good at it by now.
What a waste.
This is a risk perhaps as one "knows" more and more about Zen Buddhism. As Suzuki Roshi said, it is hard to maintain beginners' mind and it is harder still to pierce through the masks that people put on -- and sometimes the more knowledgeable, experienced and certain one is the harder it is for that individual to see through themself.

I am reminded of my friend genkaku who quotes Shakyamuni Buddha as saying "It is not what others do or do not do that is my concern, it is what I do or do not do that is my concern"

Beside that, there is the recognition that you generally know how you are being. And failing that, keeping an open mind and continuing to be willing to learn and be humble and open to feedback - as much as possible - can help.

We sit to slow down, and we sit to learn the immediacy of presence and awareness.

Who knows how those efforts come forth, but undoubtedly Ol' Buddha Man knew what he was talking about. It is necessary to bring a level of conviction, persistence and determination to this practice, even when it seems like all is lost.

You are not alone.

floating_abu said...

gniz: So, what does that mean for meditation? If there's anything to it (which i vary on from day to day), then it probably pays to work hard at it and at the same time, understand that its not the be all end all.

How would it be if it was like brushing your teeth? It's something we do every day, just so. It takes this kind of persistence, faith and determination to live through our Zen practice. If we brush our teeth every day, it doesn't seem like much and perhaps evidence isn't easy to find - but after a few years or even days the effects trickle through. Let alone with a core part of the Eightfold Path - right meditation. No need to debate, just incorporate. :)

Best wishes and thanks for your efforts.

YogaforCynics said...

I've certainly known people who, whether because they considered themselves Buddhists or New Age or yogis or Christians or whatever, felt they should never do "anything that anyone anywhere in the world could possibly take offense to." And, I must say, that every single one of those people offended me with a smug, self-righteous attitude, which, I think necessarily goes along with the notion that one is so positive and spiritual that it's possible never to offend anyone...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely great topic
I after years of sitting without asking about the 'E' word, someone in conversation with me asked what my religion was and then brought up the 'E' word.
I decided right then that I knew nothing about 'E' but like not knowing a thing or much about oxygen or my thymus gland: it didn't mean my cellular make up wasn't permeated and I chose to completely give up the topic of 'E': I will sit zazen until I can no longer sit
When I die on this middle path, may my skull be one of the cobble stones for others

grisom said...

Fun interview :)
"I have a lot more associations with the word burrito..."Hey, on a completely different topic: There's this neat Zen quote I've been trying to find the source for. "Man stands
in his own shadow and wonders why it's dark, but only he can turn around."
It seems to be some sort of scriptural reference, but Almighty Google can only tell me that it is a "Zen proverb". I'd really love to know where it comes from and what it is in the original language. Anyone here up enough on their Buddhist scriptures to help me out?

Anonymous said...

nice interview, bradley. spot on about passion.

barry

Anonymous said...

Sitting without "E"?
I'm sorry, I just can't get into my zazen without lots of Ecstasy. You're too hardcore for me.

Mysterion said...

Theravada Buddhism is rational, possessing a coherent philosophy, which neither incites violence nor excites passion.

passion has a long and sorted history.

...the earliest answer that we learned in our catechism in Masonry. “To learn to subdue my passion and improve myself in Masonry.”

Anonymous said...

Man the comments to this blog have really slowed down. People finally getting tired of the bullshit.

Rj said...

Yes, Brad's bullshit and the bullshit comments.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

I really liked this exchange:

Aspen: Well right now I’m a mess, Brad.

Brad: Well then that is very helpful because what you want to be is an idea created by that mess so it’s not a sound starting point. If this messiness creates an idea of what it wants to be then the idea is fundamentally flawed so its better to look at the mess and if you keep looking at it, it sort of gradually sort of fixes itself. But I don’t think there is any other way to do it.


Good point!

Jinzang said...

Brad's bullshit and the bullshit comments.

I googled "zen bullshit" and found two interesting articles.

You know that "bullshit" is simply a term of abuse and means nothing more than "I don't like this," don't you?

Mr. Reee said...

"How long does it take?"I suppose if you feel you have to ask that question, then it will take as long as you keep asking that question.

The smart-ass (but true) answer is it takes just a moment, and that moment is only found right here and right now.

Raymond said...

Brad,

I enjoyed the article. Thank you for sharing it.

Raymond