"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Craving and suffering

In my Zen Sangha (it's a word that means a community of some sort) the teacher has recently been going over some of the basics. We started on the Third Noble Truth last week. I'm still working on mastery of the Second Noble Truth and getting pretty good at it. Today, for example, I thought I might die of wanting a new bicycle. But yesterday I felt almost the same way about wanting a new car, and last week I was practically bedridden with longing for a new computer, and the week before I was desperate for an electric guitar amp. Those are just (some of) the cravings to which I'm willing to publicly confess. I'm not going to talk about how many (boxes of) girl scout cookies I've eaten in the last couple weeks, for example. At least I can afford to buy a few (boxes of) girl scout cookies even though the price has gone up 228% since I sold them. (There's a story problem waiting to happen.)

And lest anyone doubt my mastery of wanting things, I am able to sustain any number of my cravings simultaneously. Like juggling bowling pins that stay up even when I'm not really trying to juggle them. I think I'm just about at the peak of my craving powers.

The discussion of the Third Noble Truth didn't go completely over my head, though. The teacher said all you have to do to stop suffering is stop craving. If you don't like what you're doing, just stop doing it. Anything that you can willingly start doing, you can willingly stop. Psh. Easy for him to say, Mr. Zen teacher smarty pants. Though he said that recently he really really wanted a new bike, too, and a 20-something year old body to go with it as opposed to the second-hand cruiser and the 70-something year old body he's got. He saw a college boy riding by on some little number with a carbon-fiber frame and felt a terrible pang. In a moment like that you can't really feel how fine a thing it is that you are able to ride around town on a bicycle of any description, or that your computer still sort of works and perhaps you can borrow one that works better, or that your current vehicle runs fine and you can drive it when you don't really feel like riding whatever bicycle(s) you have. I think it's easier to focus on things that seem to be lacking. I have so much stuff already that it would be too overwhelming if I were to focus on all of it instead.

"Support and Gear"

In my practice runs as a new crew member for the 2009 NorCal AIDS Challenge this weekend I learned the meaning of some cycling terminology I had long misunderstood. In long rides where there's a vehicle following along to help you if you need a ride up the hill or a new tube or packet of Gu, or help of whatever sort, that vehicle is commonly known as a "sag wagon." I always took it quite literally and thought it was the car that picked you up if you were 'sagging' too much in your cycling and needed a bit of propping up. But I learned on Saturday that it actually stands for "Support And Gear." On my way to being a very knowledgeable and helpful crew member.

Tomorrow night I'm taking a CPR class. Hopefully no one will be 'sagging' THAT much, but it seems like a useful skill to have regardless, and the class is being offered at the community center next door to my complex so I thought if I'm going out to get my mail I might as well get certified in CPR.

Special thanks to people who have already contributed to the ride...if you haven't yet taken that opportunity, it's easy and fun! Just click here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When all else fails, make a list (or maybe a basket?)

I know that some people look to my blog for updates about / from me since I can be a bit underachieving in the phone-dialing department...maybe other communications departments as well. Don't worry, it's not just you, I'm behind on everything except taking the dog outside for her nighttime potty break. So there's something. And I was just telling somebody that no matter what else I have to do, I always take time to stare aimlessly into space. I should start putting that on my to-do list. I no longer have the advantage of being able to write a list and then lose it, since I started using Google Tasks. If you're unfamiliar with G-Tasks, it's a feature you can set up with your gmail account that allows you to make endless lists that you can never misplace, and when you finish something it puts a satisfying little check in the box next to the item and draws a line through it. Not only that but it lets you look up what you checked off going back for at least a month or so, after you've already cleared the 'done' items from your slate.

In terms of providing update, I haven't figured out whether that is one of the express purposes of this blog or just incidental to it. If it's the former, I'm not doing a very good job. But either way, since I would like to offer those who care some glimpse into current events beyond riddling Facebook status updates (and acknowledging that some who care are trying to give Facebook and the like a wide berth), and in homage to an ancestor whose diaries I was peeking at a few days ago, here's a recap of the week so far:

Sunday 15 March Bewared the ides. Woke 5:30 without the alarm and walked Ripley in the dark. Planned to ride around 7 or 8 or whenever it seemed less dark and cold. Tried to install new bike computer for next 3 - 4 hours, no success. All dressed up to ride, rode to bike shop for a cheap computer I could have the shop install. After 2 more hrs. they had me ready to roll out the door but their new computer didn't work either. Tried 2 more times, each time it seemed they would hope I would just not notice it still didn't work and go away. Finally decided to let them keep their computer and traded it for a new helmet. Very grumpy by then, whole morning felt wasted. Went home and sulked and then did laundry and took Ripley for a long run in the park. Felt better. Monday 16 March Went to work. Called to apologize to somebody for taking so long to finish their project, person was very kind and appreciative of help however glacial its pace (that expression might not work any more, what with the glaciers melting so fast). Didn't go to the gym after work as I planned. Played "Farm Town" on Facebook (don't ask me what the point of that is, no doubt there are less benign ways to completely waste time) in between reading paragraphs of a chapter on California housing element law and inclusionary zoning ordinances in anticipation of my speech to City Council the following night. Tuesday 17 March. Winced, but not visibly, when girl at front desk of the gym said "Top o' the mornin' to ya!" She said this to each and every person that came into the gym. I wonder if it was her idea or her boss's. Sat in the spa to warm up and then swam (outdoor pool) almost 20 minutes. Got to work, had a meeting, a staff birthday lunch, and the city council meeting. City council meeting was 3.5 hours long. But it was going well, so a coworker and I stuck it out. Got home and couldn't sleep for awhile. Wednesday 18 March Ran most of 3 miles with Ripley, walked some. Drove with her out to Elk Creek to visit the Native American cultural day at the elementary school. Some of the parents from the Tribe invited me.

That's as far as we get tonight. Falling asleep.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Christopher Smart (1722 - 1771)

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt, Jubilate Agno)

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Christopher Smart

[Thanks M.A. for sharing this!]