Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why All Spiritual Teachers Other Than Me, Nishijima Roshi and Dogen SUCK ASS!!!!


My Facebook page gets all kinds of goofy ads for just about any vaguely "eastern spirituality" related thing that advertises on Facebook. I often wonder how FB knows to target me with these ads. It's kind of scary. I certainly didn't call Mark Zuckerbeg and tell him I was into that stuff. The Facebook folks also seem to think I want to date younger women. But that's a whole other subject.

Lately whenever something particularly silly appears on my page, I take a screen shot of it and post it with a comment. The other day I posted the ad you're seeing now on this blog with the following comment:

"But can Reggie Ray help me stay in the Alpha state or can Omharmonics help me step more deeply into the river of my life? And can either of them get the gunk off my shoes?"

This upset some of the fans of Reggie Ray who subscribe to my FB page. They thought I was dissing their dude. But actually I had never even heard of Reggie Ray before this ad appeared. The only Reggie I know of is Archie's rival from the Archie comic books. Maybe he got all spiritual when he grew up.

I really do not follow the Buddhist scene in America, or anywhere else for that matter. That seems to surprise people sometimes. But I honestly have pretty much zero interest in who's who in the land of famous spiritual masters. Occasionally when some dill weed starts advertising that he can get you enlightened for more money than I've made in the past three years combined I might take notice.

But generally I don't care about any of these people. Some of them are probably nice, well meaning guys. Others are clearly in it for the money. It's like rock and roll or movies of any other form of mass entertainment. Most of what ends up being big is garbage calculated specifically to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Though on rare occasions something good breaks through. Spirituality in 21st century America is one more form of popular amusement.

In any case, I thought what I said was pretty clearly not a put down of Reggie Ray. It was just a comment on his ad and on the fact that it was paired with an ad for Omharmonics in such a way that they seemed to be competing with each other.

One of my FB friends said I ought to attend one of Reggie's retreats because "he is a genuine dharma conduit." Maybe so. But I'm over that stuff. Years ago I kept hearing about this particular Buddhist master who was supposed to be really great. So I went and saw one of his things. I was appalled. The guy was a master all right. A master of working the system. He was playing his followers like they were an accordion and he was Weird Al Yankovic. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Maybe Reggie Ray isn't like that. Maybe he really is great. I don't know and I'm not all that interested in finding out. No disrespect to Mr. Ray intended. It's just that I have a teacher. I don't really feel any great need to find someone else or to sample all the flavors out there on the spiritual buffet table. I'm just not into that sort of thing.

One response I got to my FB post was, I think, pretty typical of what happens when I say absolutely anything about any other teacher. It went, "I'm forever grateful to you Brad for writing Hardcore Zen. It brought me to the practise. But you really seem close minded when it comes to any other teacher. Is it because of your dislike of the fakes out there that you're skeptical? Or is it something else?"

It's like what happened when I mentioned Thich Naht Hanh (did I get the spelling right this time? I honestly tried!) the other day. I knew that titling the article "Thich Naht Hanh is Wrong" was bound to cause some consternation. But read the article and you'll see that it's about a particular statement attributed to TNH and the way that statement was taken out of context and presented. Unfortunately, little soundbytes like that seem to be the way most people approach Buddhism or spirituality in general these days. They're too busy to go into Buddhism or anything else in any kind of depth. So they look at a couple of Twitter postings and think they've got it down.

Be that as it may, I do not think all other spiritual teachers suck ass. On the other hand, I'm generally not terribly impressed with most of the people currently working in the area of "commercial spiritual teacher" -- by that I mean spiritual teacher types who write books, who do lecture tours, who get movies made about them etc. like me, for example.

There is a whole other class of spiritual teacher who are entirely different from "commercial spiritual teachers" who I (generally) respect a lot more. These are people who work mostly anonymously, who nobody ever hears of, whose next door neighbors don't even know what they do -- whose next door neighbors are, in fact, many of the people who say, "There are no teachers near me! Why can't I just do my Zen training on line?"

Anyway, those anonymous people are almost always better than anyone you've ever heard of who also does this "spiritual teacher" thing. The supposed superstars of the spiritual world and most especially me -- though I'm a C-list spiritual celebrity at best -- are no match for most of these anonymous humble teachers.

The idea that people sell spirituality as a commodity bugs me. I don't mind people who sell books about spirituality. That's fine. Or books about their own experience of a practice. Also great. But what a lot of these guys are selling is clearly not that. They advertise themselves as being able to grant you enlightenment, realization, peace of mind, or whatever, for a price. But they can't do that. Nobody can do that. If someone really could, that would be great.

But you cannot buy that kind of thing. Just like you can't buy genuine love. Even though you can buy a night with a very good prostitute, some of whom are adept at the "girlfriend experience" which means they can simulate genuine love. But that costs you extra. And a lot of what I see advertised sounds to me like a Zen version of the "girlfriend experience." That's what Genpo Roshi is selling with his personalized five-day retreats for only five people in a luxury hotel.

Also the idea that we must not question anyone as pure and lovely as Thich Naht Hanh or Reggie Ray or whoever worries me. When we lose our ability to be critical, we're stepping into a very dangerous area. We're no longer looking at things in a balanced way. That's when trouble begins.

Friday, March 23, 2012

JOHN CARTER and HUNGER GAMES


I saw two movies this week and if I blog about them I can justify writing off the ticket prices (and the nachos!) on my taxes. So here goes.

On Wednesday night I saw JOHN CARTER. The one thing most people seem to know about this movie is how badly it's done at the box office. It's too bad that it's faring so poorly with the public. Because it's really not a bad movie. It fails to be as epic as it wants to be. But it's good fun. My friend Dale, who read all the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars books when we were both in high school, says the movie is very true to the novels.

As a guy who writes books I feel like a little bit of a traitor for saying this. But maybe they would have done better to deviate a bit more from the original story. We know a lot more about Mars now than Burroughs knew 95 years ago. If some of that was taken into account perhaps the film could have been more science fiction than what it seems like to us now, a fantasy epic set in outer space. Although fantasy epics set in outer space do very well (Star Wars, for example). So what do I know? It's impossible to say why people go for the films they go for.

I liked the film and I'm glad I saw it on a big screen. It's the kind of movie that I can't imagine would be nearly as fun on a DVD. Though that's probably where most people will end up seeing it.

Last night I went out at midnight to see the first area screening of HUNGER GAMES. This film is based on a series of mega selling novels aimed at teenagers. As I might have expected I was one of about five people over 18 in that packed theater last night.

One aspect I personally find intriguing about the novels is that the paperback edition has a list price of $8.99 and sells on Amazon for just five bucks. (I like Amazon, but folks, support your local booksellers, that extra $4 helps your community) Regular paperbacks like mine list at closer to $15. Perhaps it's because it's a teen novel that it's so much cheaper? But the only teen novel I've ever bought, Yvonne Prinz's The Vinyl Princess, lists for $16.99 in hardcover (I don't think there's a paperback edition). OK. Whatever. Just a little aside there.

Hunger Games clearly has a lot more to say than John Carter. It's a satire of the contemporary American Idol/America's Next Top Model etc. etc. type show set in a nightmare post-some-kind-of-undefined-war-thing future in which the contestants have to kill each other for the cameras in order to win. The rich people in the big city enjoy the bloodsport at the expense of the poor folks who do the real work needed to support their lavish lifestyles. It's all kind of surreal. But it's not hard to envision our own future ending up something like this. Though I doubt it will ever get quite that bad. At least I hope it won't.

Did the teenyboppers in the Highland Theater in Akron last night get that? It's hard to say. I'm sure some of them did. I'll bet most of them didn't. But a large percentage of the audience seemed familiar with the books. They laughed at lines that could only be funny to people who've read them. I had to ask the person I went with, who had read the books, to explain what was funny about one of the characters threatening to cook her cat.

The premise of Hunger Games is quite clearly based on the Japanese film Battle Royale (2000) starring "Beat" Takeshi Kitano in which teenagers in a dystopian future also kill each other for the entertainment of adults. It's not a remake of the Japanese movie. But the influence is unmistakable.

I hope the Hollywood people paid off the Japanese originators. Though the differences between the two films are so great that maybe they didn't have to. These kinds of things are always very complicated. I've was involved in some of this stuff when I worked for Tsuburaya Productions. It usually comes down to whoever has the most power and money winning and has nothing much to do with any laws that might exist.

As for any kind of Zen perspective on these films, it's hard to know what to say. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks out a lot about films and music that he thinks poison our minds. "We (writers) do not have the right just to express our own suffering if it brings suffering to others," he says. "Filmmakers, musicians, and writers need to practice Right Speech to help our society move again in the direction of peace, joy, and faith in the future."

I have a hard time agreeing with this. I do think that there are forms of entertainment whose sole purpose appears to be to excite people in unhealthy ways and generate profits. But almost every time I think I've come up with the perfect example of this, it turns out that either the makers of the thing had a higher purpose in mind than I'd imagined or that the fans of the thing got more out of it than I ever would.

I also think that many of the films, books and music that helped me get through my life -- particularly my adolescence -- would have probably been labeled "negative" by Mr. Hanh and his loyal followers. I can imagine him recommending me to watch Mary Poppins and listen to The Carpenters instead of reading Philip K. Dick and listening to the Sex Pistols. This would have ended up making me kill myself since I would never have known there were others just as dissatisfied with life as I was. At least that's how I take what he's said on the subject. And I'm certain I'm not alone in taking it that way.

In the case of Hunger Games, there's a lot of violence and ugliness. But that ugliness and violence appears to me to be intended to make an important commentary on contemporary society. So it's valid and good. You couldn't make the points they wanted to make without all the bloodshed. John Carter is more just pure entertainment and spectacle. It's not really trying to say anything at all. But it's unpretentious and honest in its aims. So again, I think that's also valid and good.

Sorry Thich Nhat Hanh fans if I've offended you again. I'm probably not allowed to do that either.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Mafia Precepts


I'm starting to get over my jet lag from my trip to California last week. But I think I lost some money when I changed my cash over from Ohio currency to California dollars and then back again. When the clerk at the LA airport's Currency Exchange handed my California money over I told him that it looked just like Ohio money. But he assured me the sophisticated natives of the West could tell the difference even if rubes like me from Ohio could not. He was really nice and helpful, so I gave him a big tip — in California money, of course!

When I got back home, I received the following question from someone who'd been at my talk at Against The Stream.

I have a question about something you said during your talk. You jokingly mentioned contracts and mafia hit men, but then you said there was a possibility that a hit could be justified. I'm paraphrasing but I understood it to mean that murder can be justified at times and I'm testing my understanding. If that's what you meant, how does that fall in line with the precepts?

I was just thinking out loud. Often when I give a talk on the precepts I say that pretty much any job you do can be done according to the precepts. I often make a joke after saying that about how perhaps the job of mafia hit man could not.

It occurred to me as I said it this time that perhaps even mafia hit men have a role in society. They kill other mafia guys. And the fewer mafia guys there are, the better. Probably. Or maybe not. Because it was the Japanese mafia, the yakuza, who were among the first to deliver aid to the people hardest hit by last year's earthquakes in Japan. Governments -- especially the Japanese one -- move slowly and inefficiently. The yakuza can move quickly.

What I'm getting at is that this karmic stuff is very complex. I think it's a mistake to imagine we know what's good in every instance. Sometimes things that appear to be evil really aren't evil. Sometimes they really are evil.

If someone followed the precepts, it would be nearly impossible to be a mafia hit man, I think. Maybe absolutely impossible. But then I think about military people. I couldn't do that job myself. But I am very grateful that there still are people who can. Otherwise we'd live in a world of total chaos. I wish that were not the case. And I think some day we won't need militaries anymore. Though I think it will be far in the future. And in certain cases, like Japan after the earthquakes, organized crime starts to function almost like the military when the military can't do their jobs. And much like hit men, the job of most people who serve in the military is to be prepared to kill other human beings and often to actually kill them when ordered to do so.

Unlike the military, in which many Buddhists serve, I don't imagine there are any precept-following mafia hit men. But I also think it's not a good idea to point at someone else and say, "She has broken the precepts." Because you don't know all the details. You might be able to say that in really obvious situations, like when talking about Nazi concentration camp commandants. That one I can't come up with any justification for at all. If that one is like 99.999% certain (I'd say 100% but I want to allow for circumstances I can't conceive of*), I'd rate mafia hit man as perhaps 97% certain. Depending on the hit in question. Maybe he's been called in to rub out a guy who killed a dozen civilians and will certainly do it again unless he's killed first. There's a small margin there of uncertainty.

As a Buddhist I don't view people as discreet entities who exist over time. At each individual moment we are something different from what we were just a moment before. Sometimes a mafia hit man isn't a mafia hit man. Perhaps he's a father out swimming with his kids, or a guy mowing his grandmother's lawn. In moments like these he's upholding the precepts and should be honored for doing so.

I feel like we should only apply the precepts to our own actions and not to the actions of others. This is extremely important. I can see no good at all coming from pointing out that someone else isn't upholding our ideas about the precepts.

I know this first hand because I'm often accused of violating the precepts, especially the one that says we should not criticize other Buddhists. But the intention of this precept is to keep the peace within the monastic community. It means I'm not supposed to start talking shit about the guy who sits on the other side of the zendo. It's not meant to shield people who abuse the good name of Buddhism to put forth dangerous money-making scams.

Accusing me of violating the precepts doesn't really say anything. It's an attempt to shame me into shutting up without really addressing the core issue. Instead it might be more effective to tell me why I'm wrong about these guys. But very few have attempted that.

In a wider sense I think that accusing others of violating the precepts is always like that. It's ineffective and useless. If you think you see that going on, you might instead try to address the matter at hand directly and without resorting to shaming tactics that won't work anyway.

As for mafia hit men, I generally try to stay out of their way.



* This exception to the rule about concentration camp commandants was pointed out in the comments section by Lubob.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Authenticity in Los Angeles


I just got back from Los Angeles and boy are my brains tired.

I always find that shorter distances are more difficult than longer ones when it comes to jet lag. I can usually recover from a trip from LA to Tokyo, with a time difference of ten hours, in a couple days. But it always seems like it takes me a week to recover from the three hour time difference between Ohio and California. So I'm all spaced out right now.

And, of course, as soon as I leave Ohio, the weather gets nice here. I think the temperatures were warmer on average in Akron last week than they were in Los Angeles.

I did two Zen events while in California, one all-day zazen micro-retreat at the Hill Street Center in Santa Monica and a talk at Against The Stream, Noah Levine's place in Hollywood. I also appeared on Suicide Girls radio with hosts Nicole Powers and Darrah De Jour. The other guests were two women who work at The Dominion, an S&M club on Venice Blvd. in LA. Snow Mercy was a tall dominant and Koko was a teeny little submissive. It was a pretty interesting chat.

We also filmed some more of the documentary they're making about me. I'm determined that this will not be the standard type of reverential fluff-piece that usually comes out when people are doing documentaries about so-called "spiritual teachers." So I've been doing my best to try and trash any hint of that. Hopefully the finished product will at least be funny and entertaining. The photos on this post are stills from last week's shoot.

I think it's really vital to destroy the image that has been built up of what a "spiritual teacher" is supposed to be. I feel like no good can possibly come of the belief in supposedly perfected beings. They simply do not exist.

On the other hand I have no doubt I'd be far more successful in the way that term is usually defined if I just played the role that's expected of someone in my position rather than constantly questioning it. I just don't see that as a way to do anyone any good. And not only that, I wouldn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy acting like an idiot in front of a camera or an audience.

People in this Eastern spirituality business often talk a lot about something they call "authenticity." But usually what they call authenticity seems to me more like fitting into a mold of what someone else imagines authenticity ought to look like. I think it's time someone tried being truly authentic for a change. It's more fun that way anyhow.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?


Two days ago I put up a piece here called "Thich Naht Hanh is Wrong." It was a deliberately provocative title. I said in the comments to that piece that the title was meant to ask, "Who is Thich Naht Hanh?" Someone said that smelled like fresh bullshit to him. I'd like to ask that guy, "Then who is Thich Naht Hanh?"

Some folks got upset that I was being disrespectful to a man who has dedicated his life to bring peace to the world. But was I? If I had any reason at all to believe that Thich Naht Hanh would ever see what I wrote, then possibly. Although even then I'd say "disrespectful" was not the right word. But let's get real here. Thich Naht Hanh will never see what I wrote about him.

So who was I being disrespectful to?

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

A few people got bent out of shape that I said I believed that Thich Naht Hanh did not write his own Twitter posts. It turns out I was right. He doesn't. His Twitter profile says, "My twitter account is managed by senior students, both monastic and non-monastic." He probably didn't even write that!

I've also been told by people who seem to know what they're talking about that Thich Naht Hanh doesn't write his own books. His talks are recorded and transcribed. Then senior students edit them into books, which Thich Naht Hanh approves before publication. Of course the covers of these books simply say "by Thich Naht Hanh."

Ask anyone who writes for a living what they think of that sort of thing and I guarantee they'll get a little wrankled by the idea. Writing is hard work. People who claim to be writers but don't actually do the work annoy those of us who really write our own stuff. It's not a big deal. But it irks me enough when I see this very common practice that I like to point it out. I would guess that about half of the "authors" whose books are shelved near mine at your local Book Barn "write" their books in pretty much the same way. I don't think it's disrespectful to say this. I think it's truthful.

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

One commenter said, "Brad is a wannabe Zen master who is envious of the big boys in the Buddhist world. It's so obvious: His passive-aggressive sleight-of-hand barbs at Dalai and Thich betrays a desire to be the 'bad boy of Buddhism'. Grow up, Brad."

Envious of the "big boys in the Buddhist world?" Moi? Not really. Rather I am amused by the idea that there is a class of people we can call "big boys in the Buddhist world." Zero Defex, the hardcore band I play bass for were not envious of the "big boys in the rock and roll world." Rather, we found them boring and wanted to provide an alternative. While we might have wanted to be a bit more popular than we were, we certainly did not want to be among the "big boys." That would have run completely counter to what we were trying to accomplish. Part of being an alternative to the big rock bands involved staying small. I feel pretty much the same way now about the "big boys in the Buddhist world."

The idea that the "big boys in the Buddhist world" are somehow qualitatively better teachers than the less well-known ones is a very troubling notion to me. And I'm not talking about myself as an example of one of the less well-known teachers. I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher.

The rise of this new class of Mega Masters troubles me. Such teachers cannot possibly have direct contact with the massive numbers of students who claim them as their teachers. I met some people once who talked about feeling some kind of magic mojo when the Dalai Lama walked by them thirty feet away, deep in a crowd of fawning fans, surrounded by secret service guards. Such fantasies are extraordinarily damaging.

It's precisely the same kind of thing a fan feels when he gets to be near a celebrity he admires. I know I felt it when I got to meet Gene Simmons of KISS in person. But I didn't add to that feeling some kind of weird idea that my being in proximity to Gene Simmons conveyed some sort of spiritual shaktipat, or that I got a big ol' ZAP of pure Zen energy or some such nonsense. When Genpo Roshi charges suckers $50,000 to have personal contact with him you'd better believe he's implying that some of his supposed enlightenment will rub off when they're close. I'm not sure I want any part of what rubs off of Genpo Roshi, though!

When I said in the comments that Thich Naht Hanh is no more a simple wandering monk than Bruce Springsteen is a blue-collar working man, some people pointed out that I have an image as well. Why Mr. Holmes, your powers of deductive reasoning are astonishing! Of course I have an image! So do you. So does everyone.

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

Is it you? Is it your image of Thich Naht Hanh that I've disrespected? If so, why does that bug you? Is it you that I've disrespected? Who are you?

These are important questions.

Someone in the comments section seemed worried that maybe I had some inside dirt on Thich Naht Hanh. He asked, "Do you know of Thay's actions that bring him into disrepute?" The answer is no. I do not. As far as I'm aware Thich Naht Hanh is a totally scandal-free guy. But I don't know that much about him.

Suffice it to say, I am not trying to imply that Thich Naht Hanh is a disreputable teacher who should not be trusted. He seems like a decent guy. I like most of the quotes I see from his books. Even the quote I criticized last time might be fine in context. It might be fine as it is, too. But we all need to be careful how we take things.

Even when someone says something 100% true, sometimes you need to question it. Because your interpretation of what was said may not be correct. It's not the fault of the speaker when his words are misconstrued. Everybody's words are misconstrued. Misconstruing what we hear people say is what we human beings do. This is why we have to be careful.

Jeez, there was even a commenter on my previous blog posting who thought I said that Hitler and Charles Manson were enlightened beings! I never said that Hitler and Charles Manson were enlightened beings. But I can't shut up forever just because some doofus might misconstrue the things I say. As Katagiri Roshi pointed out, "You have to say something." And most of the time what you say will be completely misunderstood.

So I stand by what I said before. Thich Naht Hanh is wrong.

But who is Thich Naht Hanh?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Thich Naht Hanh is Wrong



I follow Thich Nhat Hanh on Twitter. But, whereas I write my own Twitter posts, I doubt that Mr. Hanh sits in front of his Macbook and types his out for the world to see. My guess is that some minion of his scans his books for pithy statements that fit the Twitter mold and then uploads them. The Thichster probably never even sees them. I rarely see them either. But yesterday this one popped up:

"When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful & concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you."

So I Tweeted the following back at him:

"@thichnhathanh Sounds to me like mindfulness would get in the way of the sunrise."

I've said here a few times how much I hate the word "mindfulness." This quote seems to embody everything I don't like about that word.

To be fair to Mr. Hanh, there are many ways to take this statement. There are a lot of things he might have meant by it. For example, he might have meant it as a sort of advertising for meditation. Yardley Aftershave Lotion might tell you, "You'll get lots of chicks if you douse yourself with Yardley" as an incentive to get you to buy more Yardley Aftershave Lotion. Perhaps Mr. Hanh wants you to know that you'll appreciate the sunrise lots more if you do meditation practice. Which is fine, I guess.

But there's another way to take this statement. And I honestly believe it's the way most people would take it. They'd look at it and say, "Gosh. I'm not mindful enough. I'm not concentrated enough. Because when I look at a sunrise, I just shade my eyes so that I can get through this traffic jam on West Market Street without running over any of the kids from Our Lady of the Elms. Sunrises kind of annoy me. They give me a headache. I better get more concentrated and more mindful so that I can be more like Thich Nhat Hanh and let the beauty of the sunrise be revealed to me."

In other words, the concept of "mindfulness" gets in the way of the sunrise. It becomes a big obstacle between what we think of as our self and what we think of as the sunrise. And we make our efforts to try to overcome the obstacle we've placed in our own way. Most of the time I hear or read the word "mindfulness" it sounds to me like an obstacle.

Pretty much all of our religions and our various self-help practices are based on the idea that what we are right now is not good enough. We then envision what "good enough" must be like and we make efforts to transform what we are right now into this image of ourselves as "good enough." We invent in our minds an imaginary "mindful me" and then try to make ourselves into that.

The problem with this kind of effort is right at its very root. We are setting up a habit of always judging ourselves as being not whatever it is we want to be. Whether you're poor and want to be rich or whether you're dull and want to be mindful, it's pretty much the same thing. Of course we'd probably have a better world if more people were ambitious to be mindful than were ambitious to be rich. Probably. But maybe not. Because the effort to be something you're not always seems to go wrong no matter what it is you want to be -- even if you want to be super terrifically nice.

People who are working on fulfilling some image they have of a "nice person" are usually a pain in the ass. Their efforts to be like the "nice person" they've invented in their heads almost always get in the way of actually doing what needs to be done. Most of the time I'd rather be around someone who is honestly selfish than someone who is forever trying to be selfless. The kind of forced helpfulness such people engage in is almost never helpful at all. It's annoying. Sometimes it's even harmful.

But those of us who realize that we actually aren't as good as we could be have a real dilemma. What do you do when you recognize that you really are greedy, envious, jealous, angry, pessimistic and so on and on and on?

To me, it seems like the recognition of such things is itself good enough. It's not necessary to envision a better you and try to remake yourself in that image. Just notice yourself being greedy and very simply stop being greedy. Not for all time in all cases. Just in whatever instance you discover yourself being greedy. If you're greedy on Tuesday for more ice cream, don't envision a better you somewhere down the line who is never greedy for more ice cream. Just forgo that last scoop of ice cream right now. See how much better you feel. This kind of action, when repeated enough, becomes a new habit. Problem solved.

As far as mindfulness and concentration are concerned, it works the same way. At the moment you notice yourself drifting off, come back. You might start drifting off again a nanosecond later. But that's OK. When you notice it again, come back again. Repeat as necessary.

Trying to be more mindful and concentrated is just gonna put you right back to where you were drifting away from the sunrise in the first place.

***

Here's an interview I did on Digression Sessions. Completely unrelated to the above article, by the way.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Davy Jones


I've never really gone public with this. But I am a tremendous Monkees geek. It must have started early because that's me at age six or seven with a genuine Monkees guitar -- which would be worth a fortune now if I still had it. Alas I do not.

But I do have all of The Monkees' albums, most of them in the Super Deluxe versions Rhino Records has been issuing for the past few years. The Monkees were a huge influence on me when I was making the Dimentia 13 records.

Long before it was available on home video, I went and saw a screening of The Monkees movie HEAD up in Cleveland. I was dumbstruck by the film's theme song, "The Porpoise Song" and annoyed that the record was, in those days, utterly impossible to find. So I went home and attempted to rewrite the song for myself from memory just so I'd have it to listen to.

About a year later I finally managed to track down a record with "The Porpoise Song" on it. I discovered that my song, "I Am a Whale" was similar in style to The Monkees but was different enough that I used it as the last track on the first Dimentia 13 record. A video I made of the song is at the bottom of this page. You can click on the words "The Porpoise Song" in the paragraph above if you want to compare it to The Monkees' tune.

So I was pretty sad to hear yesterday that Davy Jones had died. Davy wasn't my favorite Monkee. He always seemed to sing crummy syrupy ballads like The Day We Fall in Love or Dream World. But he also sang lead on some of their best songs, like Valerie and Cuddly Toy. He also had the good taste to feature Neil Young as the lead guitarist on his tune You And I from The Monkees' late period album Instant Replay.

It's odd the way celebrity deaths affect you. I never met Davy Jones, though I saw The Monkees in concert a few times in the eighties. But he was important in my life nonetheless.

Just a day before Davy died there was a horrendous shooting at Chardon High School, just a few miles north of where I live. A maniac with a gun killed three of his fellow students and wounded two others. It's a tragic story that happens far too often. It makes me sad and angry. I was one of those kids who hated everybody in my school too. But I never shot anyone. These things make no sense. Nor does the number of handguns in America. But don't get me started on that one.

I feel like it's probably more worthy to write a tribute to those kids in Chardon. But I didn't know them. And in some ways I kinda sorta knew Davy Jones even if he didn't know me. Besides that, the news outlets here in NE Ohio seem to be doing tributes to those kids 24/7. Some of which are incredibly awful.

At times like these people who are supposed to be spiritual teachers like to put some sort of spin on the news that ties it in with their beliefs. I hate it when people do that. So I'm not gonna launch into a sermon about impermanence or any such schlock.

I'm just sad that Davy Jones is dead. And those kids. And even that conservative blogger dude I never heard of until he died.