I keep neglecting to post a link to the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles YouTube page. There are a bunch of nice videos up there in which I give erudite answers to crispy questions.
The snow is deep here in Brooklyn. And it's too damned cold to go outdoors. This has an up side to me. When I lived in California I often felt terrible about staying in for long hours writing. It was so sunny outside! How can you waste a warm sunny day?
This mentality was left over from my childhood in Ohio when warm sunny days were a rare and precious thing. In Los Angeles almost every day is warm and sunny. I never really got used to that.
I'll be heading out of New York soon, though. The place I moved into isn't really working out the way I had hoped. The notion of moving somewhere else in New York isn't so attractive. It would cost a whole lot more and I'm just not in love with New York enough to make that seem worthwhile. I'll let you know where I end up.
I'm heading off on my Midwestern tour in a few days anyhow. Everyone reading this in the vicinity of Akron, Ohio; Lawrence, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis Missouri and Cedar Rapids, Iowa is hereby ordered to come to all of these events. No excuses!
I can't tell you how many times I hear from someone saying "When are you coming to my town?" and it turns out to be a place I was just at something like three weeks before. Doesn't anyone read these posts?
The image on this post is from Erin at the Missouri Zen Center. It is a scary snow dragon about to squash a helpless snow person! Let this be a warning to anyone in the area who chooses not to attend my talks!
All this cold plus the need to finish up the first draft of my next book before I go out on tour has been keeping me glued to the computer far too much lately. It really is a sinkhole of infinite stupiditude. I once heard Nishijima Roshi say, "You cannot find reality inside a computer!" So true.
Reality is not virtual, kids. Reality is the real world. The universe is not an illusion. The world we are living in is real.
Computers are very good at producing simulations of reality. But simulations are not the real thing. A zendo in Second Life is not a real zendo. Your time spent reading blogs about Zen, including this one, is not real time spent with a Zen teacher.
I've been reading a pretty good book lately called Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin. A guy I know is making it into a movie. I don't know yet what I'm allowed to say about my involvement in the film. But I have some personal interest in it. How's that for vague?
Anyway, this is the first novel I've read wherein characters chat with each other via gmail and other such Internet platforms. I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time this has been done in a novel. But it's still kind of uncommon. Yet this is the way a lot of people are talking to each other. For some of the younger people I interact with these days, even writing emails seems slow and cumbersome. And here I am, a guy who still recalls being amazed that you could send a letter without spending money on a stamp or waiting to see when (or if) it arrived.
Internet-based conversations are a fact of life nowadays. I've had to shut off the chat function of my Facebook because every time it's on, people I don't know want to have long discussions with me. Usually late at night. These conversations themselves are not usually so bad. Sometimes they're quite entertaining. But when I'm at a computer I generally want to stay on task with whatever I switched the thing on for. So I end up being rude to fans and that's no good.
And just now, I got this ad on Facebook, "Open your mind & experience true peace in the largest user-created virtual world. Chat weekly with Buddhist clergy. Join now!"
Anyway, my point...? Uh... Did I have one? I suppose my point is that these new forms of communication seem more real than they are. For example, sometimes people will tell me about conversations they've had with others. I've had to start remembering to ask if these are actual conversations or Internet-based "chats." These days people seem to think there's no real difference. But there is.
I've said all this before. But I'm starting to get concerned over what the effects will be of a generation that can't tell the difference, who are accustomed to sitting in their bedrooms on computers for endless stretches and don't actually understand how to speak to each other anymore.
I don't think this is just about me not being hip to what the kids are into. I understand the efficiency of chats and Internet-communications. Here I am using a blog to do what I used to have to do by Xeroxing a 'zine down at Kinko's and then trying to get the local record shops to sell it. This is a much more efficient system and I wouldn't want to go back to the old way.
Still, I can see it in myself. I was already kind of a loner to begin with. This Internet stuff makes it far too easy to hide from the world. I know this for a fact because I myself do it!
This is why I keep fighting the good fight against the forces that want to move Zen practice on-line. It's the one area where my so-called "expert opinion" stands a chance of being listened to. I also want to have record stores to go to, and bookshops to hang around in. But the Internet is killing those things. And, in doing so it's taking away more and more of our opportunities to actually see and mingle with each other.
And that ain't good.
So get off the computer and go talk to somebody. OK?