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NO END OF NIGHT
ays are no longer my own. Time flows sweetly, not toward an accomplishment, or more likely disillusionment — but a living thing of its own. There are many intersecting nodes, stories — uncountable. The following collection of essays are meant to be wild, appearing as they will from whatever circumstance I find myself in. I find in nature the best experience when things are left to go their own way — the natural pattern that emerges. If there is a movement forward, and there must be, and all of the ancient forms abandoned, still there will be a pattern to our activities, inner patterns. It beats its own rhythm, dazzling, the scope of it. Who says we can only see so much, feel so much? Truly there’s no limit, only how much you’re willing to burn. This season a mad amount of work if I’m to make winter kyol–che in Korea with some old Zen dogs who ring like tuning forks this whirling poem of existence. If I don’t make it, then another retreat of solitude in the Louisiana wilderness, when conditions allow. There’s no problem anywhere. The rocking of the subway pulls me from this, across the bay, into the silver light of San Francisco. The shipping containers rise in pale blocks of orange and blue, the cranes in the
RAZING THROUGH THE FORESTS
A WA L K I N T O T H E S U N S E T
distance quiet. Down to the depths! The razing blackness of the tunnel pulls at me as if I were falling out of the sky. How many thousand pass above us, unaware? There are so many here. I wonder if anyone else on the train can feel the weight of it, the intensity! Yes, all of them.. they all know. A meeting with a sword master, unique in the world. He instructed me for an endless time — for the next phase of practice beyond the wall. It can’t be repeated here. Of this I must remain silent, but the miracle of this time, on this I will write volumes, the pattern repeated again throughout my days here. The meeting was a sword cleaving me in two halves. I remain destroyed, out of necessity. Outside of his careful work, I was to meet a Zen Master about rejoining the lineage — but he was away in Alaska, and otherwise busy. I suppose the lineage can wait? I did have a marvelous night with a Christian minister of great depth, an old friend. We spoke at length about forgoing the Zen/Christian convergence in favor of a pagan one. “Why on earth… what about Father Kevin Hunt? He’s a Roshi now.” “The contemplatives are on a different path. Regardless, Christianity has is its own line. It doesn’t need or want Buddhism. Do a long retreat alone in the wilderness — before long you’ll have a mound of dirt, a clearing, a bonfire. You’ll be paying close attention to the phases of the moon, the movement of the animals.” He didn’t respond to this, but the Christians and Pagans, not a lot between them. The crab retreats into its shell. The onslaught, the source of breath, is so compelling in its razing through the forests just outside, out there. What’s the point of protecting against it? To endure a tattered daydream life that begs to be snuffed out? From sheer exhaustion! How much meaning can there be? How much frenzy is optimal here? The years are few, perhaps too many, but the
end is certain, and so what use these observations? It’s hard to judge, so transient and illucid. Who is the victor? The one who clamors to the top of attainment to see into the tangled cord of life, or the docile citizen? If it comes to the same result, the struggle would seem pointless, except for the small matter of enlightenment, and passing on the torch. How many images pass through the cortex, yet without the careful work of the mother, of raising the child in the bosom of modern society, the hard work of our forefathers, the human strain would turn feral in a single generation. What is the value of human life? I’m pressed to divine it from every glimmer of an eye, every hot breath. It’s difficult to convey what I’ve seen, for the answer is such a long equation one has to detach completely from the world before the words can be discerned, and they pass like lightning! The rising, there is the real mystery. How can the random movement of particles produce the witness? The more I stare into the origin of things, the more quiet I become, and less hopeful, less desirous, more independent, driven… give me the onslaught, the wild thing unknown that I must weld myself to, give up my blood and bones for — for there is the only solace. The cycle begins anew with contact with society, the dissemination of what has been trammeled out. The bond between the unseen depths of phenomenal life and what is shown in its reflection — on the surface. If there’s such a thing as knowing with the whole body, that is how this thing must be perceived, as it rings, pulses, sings through every cell, every thing. A mind is lost in it, held lovingly, sweetly. The mystery, the press forward, the wellspring, the magnetism of the atom, the dark matter, the beehive, the core of emotion, the only true love — as it excites every cell of every living thing, every mineral, spore — to forever expand, move forward, assimilate, learn, adapt to the light, to produce a new, stronger seed. It’s evident uniformly in all directions,
behaves with perfect equanimity, with a uniform purpose that reduces one to silence, terror, silence. There’s a great sense of urgency — to lean into the onslaught with the full bearing, so that one can remain unperturbed. Otherwise there’s no chance. Things only increase, the ground quickly lost. There is no angel. There is flight — but no end of night. This blissful thing that wanders the streets, building tolerance, solace, tolerance — there’s no hope for me. This is madness. Something — some occasion has rended the fabric to the underlying truths of phenomenal existence. To say that the Zen monk alone is capable of this sort of insight is preposterous. For one thing, there are quite few of them, and not all are cut from the same cloth. I know firsthand. And that humans aren’t built of imperceptible attainments, but a steady aggrandizement of wisdom, to the degree that there is no forward movement at all without some stimulus — only decay. To be immune to the ceaseless building up of things, one must become a craftsman. The intent is what determines the success, as in nearly all respects you would appear to be as engaged as anyone. On careful analysis you would find the sage doesn’t actually build anything, every fragment of his work a reflection of the void. There’s nothing to grab hold of that doesn’t leave one with the feeling of freedom and liberation. When one is driven by this conviction, it’s quite far down the path, something peculiar from the society of our day. There’s a constant danger of falling short. It’s a difficult thing to turn life back on itself. Dangerous currents form that pull all but the most ardent back into a half–realized, half–baked restlessness that often takes the guise of spiritual fervor — and wreaks its own havoc. There are few who remain faithful to the original intent, who refuse a position here or there from which to preach a long line of drivel meant to stave off the inevitable, unknown, Godless ground that was once sought with such relish. To live the faultless life of the sages may require one to
forever remain unknown, unproven. Stranded between lives, scenes, I watch a bee collecting nectar — so quiet. The thoughts I carry overbearing like a storm cloud, are not threatening to him. Instead he instructs me. I stop and laugh loudly at the way things are. When I was young, friendship was the most important thing in the world. Now that I see the wires underneath, I’m more likely to avoid any sort of intrusion. What for? At the same time, I don’t mind walking alongside you. I can see the difference between us, but it doesn’t mean I understand it. I don’t believe it. You’re all beautiful creatures inside, every one of you. If I could, if I had the time, I would record the vital moments between events, the play of things, the gaps between reasoning and the various methods of suffering the abysmal conditions you face — between these the familiar bliss and wonderful rapture, yes? But you wouldn’t believe me. Still, I’ve seen the most rapacious of you radiant on the floor of a Zen hall after a few solid weeks. It’s one of the miracles of human life, the process of stilling the mind enough that the true nature emerges. The first hint of it and my life was in shambles. The fire of life, the noise of life, the miracle of things appearing, the shuffle of feet on an endless street — the sound captures me. I can hardly continue. I sit here, alone but not lonely, not a moment of this! Hungry, but I need nothing — not now! The pigeons walk into the sun, and I am freed. To pursue things on the surface is a quagmire that robs one of the wild, untamed fields. Wasn’t this important in your youth? Do you remember this thread? It doesn’t matter if I sit or stand or walk farther. There’s no place to stop, no end of subway tunnels, long corridors of cement, passengers on the way somewhere and me along with them, the impostor. The winds abate, and I’m left on the ground like driftwood. I don’t know how long I was out, but I’m much lighter
now. I only speak the truth, if I speak at all. Some days there is only the sound of the wind outside. I’ve found something there. There is no friend like the sound of the wind through the trees. No more need for anything, only to wander through this holy place on the side of the street, vibrating with the thousand nuances, to glide effortlessly over the cement, nearly lost to the rapture! Past the long rows of luxury cars, magazine stands, electric cables strung twenty high on poles planted in the ground like skeletons, no life singed tar and glass and the smell of pitch. I live for no one, hardly anyone knows of me. Better, for the anonymity, the ability to stand in line with the rest of them. To put the great Void in the center of your life, not the million other things, people included, that require one to hoard one’s affairs as if there were some sort of happiness to be gleaned from them. The thing we fear most is what is required to liberate us. Not that there is some special meaning to convey, but that the unborn, unknown thing from which all things arise, and return to, is the only true thing — and I live for truth.
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