COPYRIGHT 2011 © H.

GREVEMBERG — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ISBN-13: 978-1460981375 — ISBN-10: 1460981375 — FIRST PRINTING — JULY 2011

FIELD OF WEEDS
21 ESSAYS ON PERSONAL FREEDOM

H.

G

R

E

V

E

M

B

E

R

G

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ----------------------- 5
one -------------------- THE IMPOSTOR two ------------------ THE REAL CURE three --------------- THE COLLECTIVE four ----------------------------- POWER five ------------------------------- CHAOS six ----------------------- THE GROUND seven -------------------------- POLITICS eight ----------- THE LONG RETREAT nine ----------------- EVENT HORIZON ten ------------------------------- TRIBES eleven ---------------------- QUADRISM twelve ------------------- BLACK SWAN thirteen ------- 3RD STREET BRIDGE fourteen -------------------- THE FIELD fifteen --- THE ILLUSION OF GRACE sixteen ---- HOW TO SAVE THE GIRL seventeen ----- THE ORGASMATRON eighteen ------- THE TRAIN TO NOHO nineteen -------------------------- E.O.C. twenty ----------------- THE UPRISING twenty-one - A CAUSTIC REACTION 9 17 24 31 37 42 49 57 67 76 87 95 106 114 124 132 141 149 157 165 172

INTRODUCTION

Collecting the data stream... rivers constantly appearing, shifting... long live the ID The luxury of freedom in my life, a purposefully vagabond wandering to the point of recording the important parts left out, maybe the whole of it. I can’t be sure, as there’s always more. The great teaching that I mean to absorb is plainly evident in the flow of events. The field of weeds is a metaphor, a powerful symbol in my life, a totem. All of it is there: the dispersion of life; the shape, movement, pattern. Wild nature appears in limitless forms wherever the machinery and longing of man fails to consume, or bury. There will always be a breach: a crack in the cement, a lack of civility, a burned out bulb — and a legion of stomping feet walking past, pressing you forever ahead, obscuring, devouring, mocking. How can we know anything if we aren’t able to observe, calmly, the play of events, and, more importantly, what is driving them?

The sounds of the city inundate me as I pause to collect my thoughts. The work that follows is informed by this. You may doubt that a noisy train has an innate wisdom. I’m not to convince you otherwise. Why waste the effort? No, the truth of it is for you alone to discern. The door rattles closed. “Are we getting off at Hollywood?” I don’t know anything about the scene, the same as you. I pick up a great amount by simply observing. The life stories unreel like a Bergman film. Why he didn’t film random people on the Los Angeles subway is beyond me. A slouching Asian woman puts on makeup with a square compact. A woman with a purple mullet takes the elevator, though she has no bags. Westlake/MacArthur Park Nobody rides the subway in LA. I don’t know why. The sentiment draws me much like the abandoned fields of my youth, only here there are people. Abstract, unknown people. The data passes through the membrane as if there were none. Countless twists and turns, like the coursing of rivers, only the streams are constantly appearing, shifting. “Hey, we were all that small at one time.” The flow is constant in all directions. It is no work of gravity, but of fire and sparks, electric currents through biochem traces driven by the primal instinct, encompassed by a newer cortex, reason and complex thought

at the cost of impenetrable suffering. A great many are driven mad from the pressure. Erratic, the turbulent flow, the clashing of minds. “She does not dress that way for you.” The mind on its own doesn’t have the ability to resolve itself. It requires a concerted effort, an impossible shift in perspective — an organic process where the ability is grown by the instrument that conceives it. From the outset it would appear that a great span of time would be necessary, and a willingness to cut the cord. The Zen tradition, though at times crude, is a necessary adaption, for we’ve hardly crawled out of the jungle. As I write this time races into a funnel like pouring wine into a toilet. The train stalls, another one pulls in, both out of service for some time like some kind of psychological challenge. I fail the test, get trapped on the wrong one, had to be let out with a key. I stare through the glass like a low-class citizen. The cold has gotten into me. This path is not one of rest, but of dynamism. The truth is not recorded indelibly, but must be gleaned from every shuffle of feet, every lost moment underground. The etchings on the glass show the turmoil. We rebel constantly, against everything. We have not yet found the source of the madness because it is so immediate. The Id cannot be usurped; long live the Id... but its careful, plodding, thorough dismantling is the expression of the true master. The essays here are a record of this process.

The day is transformed under the direction of the higher self, the pressure unpredictable, wild as anything, yet perfectly under control — in fact ahead of the flow. It is through the exchange that I discover the important events that will unfold, just as the conversations/ instances with my teacher wouldn’t be fully appreciated until long after he’d gone. Now it is for you to grapple with, as that you have encountered this text is no small matter.

one. THE IMPOSTOR

A walk into the sunset... razing through the forests... no end of night Days 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 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, si-

lence. 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 abil-

ity 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.

two. THE REAL CURE

Perception, how it changes through our lives, how it defines us... going around the edges without defining anything... escaping through the back door I don’t speak as an authority for the pattern that has manifested in my life, but as a witness. This is no time for rationalization, conjecture. Here there are no contracts to sign, and no thing waiting, at either end. The day is sweet that isn’t burdened with the preservation of things, as time and space don’t recognize whatever attempt to hold out. I live at the other end, immersed in it, in accord with it, emulating it, continuous movements back and forth, familiar room to unfamiliar one, smiling faces of the sea of humanity — who understand, who know. A privileged life. Is there such a thing as life of privilege? The curtain cannot conceal the darkness outside. I prefer to stay there: the filaments of moonlight, the pack of coyotes in the distance, inside the line of trees. The things that play out, the whole story is there, written in perfect form and symmetry, the true expres-

sion of the Absolute: the field of weeds that we are so frantic to put in order. A friend recently moved to San Francisco with her teenage son, who was so homesick for Los Angeles that they made their escape, stayed with me in Hermosa Beach for an extended weekend — in a house she would not enter before. There wasn’t anything wrong with the house, a mansion on the beach, it was the owner she didn’t get along with, my benefactor. This added all sorts of unneeded complexity to our lives, undue stress. Really, I tire of these demarcations. It was different then, finally. Since her comfortable nest in Studio City was gone, and the new one far away — she adapted. After all those years! Truly there was no way to change her perception until the root of the problem, the ground, was taken away. Whatever perception you have, it’s not real. I’m not telling you to live in the moment — a desperate fix, a way to glide over the deformations of character. No — the real cure requires more than that. I have preserved a piece of it: the creaking sound of a windmill in a cowfield, the smell of the grass, the remarkable way the day is orchestrated by the sun. The emotion of this place, what has become my emotion, is a clean life that’s very difficult to realize. I remember it plain enough, but there’s no way to return, and no reason. It’s not an actual place, but an amalgam of things melded together into southern Texas. There are other places. I’m making one now, here, by the fountain,

though these are not full days… there’s no great volume of time to record things anymore, and that it’s no longer a concern of mine, there’s something entirely more pressing. There was a great upheaval, and a long period of change, where I began to put things away, as if I were going on a long trip, one that would last for many years. After leaving the Zen community of a fine Korean master — as he aged and left things to a political system entirely untenable — I began to drift, to walk through unfamiliar places and be reduced to wandering where there would be no thing that belonged to memory, that could be fastened to, and, more importantly, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, no end of night. What is it that drove me to the street, initially, where there’s no high–minded place to dwell, no safe nest from which to study and contemplate the “deeper meaning”? I feel at home on the streets, or in a sunny park, the endless sidewalks of America. It’s there that the work is given form, not at the tail end of a day of labor. I agree with Miller here:
“Either you work part time and do your work on the side, or do your work full time, and starve — that’s a difficult choice.” – Henry Miller (1891–1980)

When I was younger and driven by bottomless ambition, suffering, I’d walk until I would nearly collapse. It invigorated me. I was nearly cruel in the way I’d drive myself. I’ve become convinced that it’s part of a process

— that, as a species, we learned to walk upright before we learned to think. It’s somehow linked. Gradually I began picking up scraps of paper and scribbling things down. Though I had no intention of becoming a writer, there was something there. They say that, in order for a child to become possessed, he must be ripped from his tender years by some pain that goes to the bone. Likewise the writer, his voice stifled, his experiences catalyzed into something white hot that formulates itself and begins speaking on its own. It’s a moment of profound joy and absurdity when this “voice” begins to assert itself, as it’s quite foreign to the everyday self. You may think this peculiar, but it’s common for us to develop multiple lives — one secret piled on top of another. Even as children we have our friends and those like us, and the other, the adult world, of authority. As I grew older the voice became more closely bound to my daily goings on, to the point that I put my daily affairs in jeopardy. No place of my own meant no hesitation to pack up and go — anywhere. The fat of the land, the modern wilderness — a playground for the voice to trammel its way out. I find a dime on the sidewalk and look for more. Maybe they were in a hurry… no luck. I should throw it back, but it might come in handy. There’s a mowed down field of wildflowers left vacant for the high–tension wires overhead, a powerplant across the street. The wires crackle over me and a few old RV’s on this lonely sidewalk. I’m on one of my rounds in Redondo Beach, to visit an old lady by the school and see about

fixing her cabinet. She’s asked for me several times, as I’ve been busy with the work and so forth. On the way to her house I find a box of books someone’s giving away. Literary criticism, unfortunately, a product of the “publish or perish” professors seeking tenure, to become an authority on others’ work and repeat the cycle. Why is it that no one who studies literature in college can look a book in the face? There’s both the failure to savor the work of the masters, and the failure to produce something of value. I’ve never been formally trained as a writer. If I’m not meant to be educated by the titans of the Ivy League, then I refuse to bear their scrutiny. What has this scholarly world produced of late? I stopped reading anything after Thompson and Bukowski. I don’t admire modern painters either. If there’s any new work that commands my attention, it’s in the fields of science and technology. Still, I feel we’re on the brink of a new existentialism yet unearthed that will define a new generation, the privileged who have access to everything, every movement of our species since the first bastards crawled out of the ocean.
“The refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life — that is the heart of existentialism.” –Walter Kaufmann (1921–1980)

A lot of friends these days are hitting the wall. Maybe it’s my age, where the dregs of youthful abandon are

gone. No more pressing things that must be, no more dream of the unicorn. Whatever has been made of it didn’t come out the way we planned, and there’s been enough of the gnawing truth revealed, the baseless, empty nature of existence, that hands are thrown in the air, eyes cast down. What are we made of? The collection of experiences we cling to and defend — as our persona? The way that we move against the onslaught? Are you the same person that you were twenty years before? Surely there’s a familiar thread, but the world changes as our perception changes. Perception creates our world, our time, our sensibilities: fashion, music, religion, self–identity. To get to the core of this, to reduce this complex equation to its smallest common denominator, consciousness itself… I don’t usually refer to Buddhist doctrine, as it’s a dead thing that must be surpassed, but to make even a single step out of the existential mire there has to be some sort of framework. The core of Buddhism, the key to dissolving the thought mass and getting down to the stuff of bare existence, is to remove the subject from the stage. It seems abstract because we were raised differently, and, I believe, in error, always with the belief in acquiring more as an answer — to what? How sure we are — no matter what is said — that the thing we’re after will appease us, when the whole mechanism is at fault! What is the lack that drives this? To resolve this we go through the process of dismantling the psyche, the real work of meditation. Unfortunately, there is no green tea that will do the trick. What passes for Zen in

the mainstream is so softly focused, so watered down, that I doubt its effectiveness. Unfortunately, it’s all we have. Use it. Use the system to circumvent it. I assure you the mind can resolve itself. I’m going to break this down for you in the following essays so there will be no mistaking how to proceed. Just remember that the gates of perception are very wide — indiscernible. In every phase of your life you have the illusion of grasping the matter, yet you were proven wrong at every turn. Worse those of you follow some idea or dogma. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but you’re only creating more things that must be dismantled, digested. And, as the old masters say, “You can go through your whole life without digesting a single drop of water.”

three. THE COLLECTIVE

The nature of existence... our need to understand it The gauntlet has been set, across the board. The way things go — the pattern that appears repeating everywhere — how long before we realize consciousness is a singular entity? Not yet — for we have the incomparable teachings of the masters — signposts only, brief glimpses into the true nature of our existence — being disseminated by those who’ve been captured by the forms and words. The whole thing slides into the realm of philosophy, reason — from the point of view of the individual. Everyone speaks as if there were a vast gulf between us. You can tell right away how far along the adept is. There are few teachers who speak from the other side of the wall, as this doesn’t draw one in. The ego, as important as it is, is made of the bricks and mortar we’ve put together throughout our years — it is the wall. The teaching society, no matter how profound the

platform, is yet another facade, another silo. If you are a man or woman of the path, this is an urgent matter to be looked into with a unperturbed eye. If you become enmeshed in form or dogma, ideas, devices — you’ll have to break free of them in the future — at great expense of time and energy. By all means go in, but read the environment. If you’ve reached the point of absolution, there are no more contests against your identity. It’s as if everyone has secretly agreed to play nice, to the extent of their abilities. But really it’s your own nature reflected, the pattern that you manifest. In my younger days I received instruction from the Buddhist hierarchy to not react to other’s provocations, but of course there was no resolving the turmoil on the surface. It wasn’t until there was a shift in my consciousness, an opening, that I was able to enter a blissful state — where the need to react was removed, by itself. I don’t think the mind or karma can be directly manipulated — not in any meaningful way. Though the Buddhist teachers had a point, it was a signpost only — a concept that could not be attained outright, and is indeed beyond the grasp of nearly everyone. It means nothing. These teaching devices are from the minds of true masters. You can’t make the leap from ordinary citizen to sage on encountering their work. It does ring a bell down some dim corridor though — doesn’t it? The old masters were not wrong, just a considerable way ahead. It only seems magical or other–worldly. This is the inherent problem, that their example demands a current–day example — and it’s a

strange sort of human that gravitates toward positions of authority.
“There are people like tigers, who thirst for blood to lick. Whoever has once experienced this power, this unlimited mastery over the body, blood, and spirit of another human being, his brother according to the law of Christ; whoever has experienced this control and this complete freedom to degrade, in the most humiliating fashion, another creature made in God’s image, will quite unconsciously lose control of his own feelings. Tyranny is a habit; it is able to, and does develop finally, into a disease. I submit that habit may coarsen and stupefy the very best of men to the level of brutes. Blood and power make a man drunk: callous coarseness and depravity develop in him; the most abnormal phenomenon become accessible, and in the end pleasurable to the mind and the senses. The human being and the citizen perish forever in the tyrant, and a return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration becomes practically impossible for him.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) The House of the Dead

I believe there should be something written into the doctrine that the promising student or adept be set on his or her own after a certain period of time — a decade, maybe more — to roam freely, so that the full extent is laid bare, the candidate at the mercy of the play of light, with no refuge anywhere. Does the universe embrace one? No? Well… maybe it is you who should do the em-

bracing. At any rate it’s an encouraging thought, that the wise and unformed youth be folded back into society, to learn to live again, as human beings. But what about the majority of practitioners who don’t go through long periods of residency, monastic training? The pattern is already there. It’s not my business, or that of anyone else, to interfere. If there is no great flowering of dharma, ah well… human life is at such a primitive stage. What do you expect? There is not one life that isn’t called out of chaos — the shock of it, of becoming aware of our own existence! It will remain with us until we cease to be reborn. We have very little time in our lives to penetrate this great matter, and coming from our necessarily entrenched views, the resolution is far from us, much too far — but someday. They have mastered me, this confluence of currents. I like the weight of it, the immediacy of being pressed against everyone, made to boil, and evaporate. I’m held to a concrete bench in South Gate. There’s no use explaining. It wouldn’t make sense without a story too much for me to consider. It’s hard to think of anything outside of this blinding light; the moth who never eats, only to flutter against the glass with powdery wings in a prison of sunlight. Whoever has the wherewithal to sort through my observations can make their own reasons. The lunch shift didn’t show, just today, so they closed down the post office for an hour. My luck, I happened to be there for an hour. Maybe the second shift was busy reading some of my observations? They need

some kind of rotating schedule here in South Gate. There are plenty of candidates driving around me. Their cars go by like insects, buzzing and whirling around the lights, purring hotly, impatiently. The slow lanes merge into a bristling freeway like strands of silk on a web. If you haven’t been here, it’s something you must be indoctrinated to. There’s a constant and ready need for danger, thrills. Time is highly exaggerated, compressed, the whole of it vibrating madly like a wormhole between worlds. A flood of wild creatures, racing wheels, and narrow eyes — loud motorcycles wind their way through like sentinels, with helicopters careening overhead, everyone wild–eyed and clinging to their controls, bored with the tedious chore, and full of rage because of it. There are no champions. Everyone is more or less equal inside inside their cages of steel, and, with no one keeping score, there’s a tremendous show of aggression and cowardice. I’ve rode through a thousand towns in all kinds of vehicles. Whichever one landed me here, does it matter? It was a locust shell, which I left on a tree. It smells like sweetgum now, and car exhaust. The things around me are hard to describe. There are so many colors. I feel like digging back underground, but since I’m free at last — free! What a joke! It’s only a matter of time before I succumb. I should be busy recording shit like everyone else, and trying to find a mate, only I travel light, and I don’t want to leave anything behind. The wind feels good on my back like a long poem

of summer and dead souls. There are so many of us! The crows sing overhead as if continuing the thought. A traffic jam forms in front of me and disperses like a line of ants, but I lose sight of them in the whirlwind. I’m pressed again between the cool, dark limbs. As it grows dark, and the time for me to speak with you draws to a close, I’m transfixed by a parade of coffins. Keep it quiet. No church bells, no last kiss. Bach please, the organ pieces. They’re so sad and mocking. I understand him. * * * The work has been frantic. This season is full of challenges to my dignity, my livelihood. From the center of this cacophony I’m pleased to note that I remain unperturbed. Truly my life has become its own reward. The moon hangs large in the sky tonight. Is there some correlation? This wild energy… maybe it’s too much for me. I sometimes feel that my life is only for a moment more — from the intensity. I’m sure it doesn’t appear that way from outside. All the great ones speak about this curling energy, yet most are completely unaware, even doubt that it exists. Why have we turned cold in such large numbers? It’s as if the nature of consciousness is not at all singular, but a collective. We see what everyone else sees, so deep, so prevalent our code that there are few anomalies. There nearly has to be a revolution — and what for? Why are some inclined to look into the nature of our existence rather than enjoying our time here? We did not get where we are by not being the cruelest and most cunning. Our history is not one of rest-

ing on our laurels. If there’s no press forward… none of this — there would not be anything. There is an innate respect for those who are pushing the envelope. And those trapped behind the wall, swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others, who are unable to fathom the magnificent pattern, instead focusedon the mundane? Why is it that so many great things are lost to time? How many brilliant minds were taken down out of fear? Why are the Aztecs in ruins? Stonehenge? The great pyramids of Egypt? So many things we are oblivious to, that we ourselves have devoured and left to dust and ruins.

four. POWER

No more need for outward mechanisms... to be liberated from them... a leaf falling to the ground Friends... now that I’ve stepped away from the angst that accompanied my drive to establish myself, or more accurately, after the unstable foundation was grounded, the communication between myself and others has become so velvety deluxe. There is a place you get to where there is no more conflict. It occurs naturally through the practice of meditation. The method is one of repetition — to develop a resonance, to tune yourself to the flow of energy. The technique is unimportant. I’ve used several: following the breath, repeating the Great Dharini, keeping a question. These days I only keep “What am I?” And there are long moments where there are no questions, no subject or object, only the rapture of the state itself. Like many things that we don’t understand, our approach is backwards, archaic. You don’t go in trying to

still the mind. That happens by itself, in the presence of the Absolute. It’s getting to that point, which has as much to do with resolving your own existence, softening, giving in as sitting on the cushion repeating phrases endlessly. The world we live in, there is no running through fields of flowers, at least not without some kind of payment. Outwardly the decision has to be made, whether to live anonymously — a life of freedom, or to go for a position of power, authority. Not only in the field of politics, business, but religion as well — the world operates under hierarchies. No one escapes this model. You can refuse to take part in it, but that doesn’t change anything. There’s always a head. These demarcations are important, to a degree, but ask a dying man. The work of Zen is to become liberated and to teach the path of liberation. It doesn’t follow convention — even though the institution follows the hierarchal model. This is where the revolution takes place — between the individual and the established order. If there were no hierarchies, where would we be? It’s hard to even imagine. I see it as a luxury, a convenience. Everything is organized for you, run by those who believe in the system. The ladder of success — it’s built in, the climbing. It doesn’t matter whether the prize is a million dollar home, a stripe on the sleeve, or a Zen stick, it keeps everyone occupied, the infrastructure humming. The pattern revealed is a field of boxes — bland, austere, with some sort of flash designed to lure the unwary custom-

er. You can tell what drives us. The ambition is not for beauty or love — but power. What of our dying man? In a very real sense he is immune to the hegemony — at least on the surface. Inwardly he may still battle for a position in heaven. It is the sage who truly becomes free — free of the noise of civilization while immersed in it, free of the immense suffering that our ambitions create — but it’s the freedom of a sword’s edge: hard won, hard to maintain — imperceptible. To align oneself to such a task brings a new kind of power — a personal one. I’m not going to go into why one would choose such a path. I assume, if you’re reading this essay, you’ve already found the normal pursuits unsatisfactory. Unless you were born into a family with money, unless you find your own power not dependant on outer conditions, you will not have an easy life. As I say this, I’m walking, late at night — more than a mile — to get a shower. Ha ha… It’s been a long day. All kinds of things that were difficult in some way. I don’t struggle with my environment. I’m able to swing a hammer and keep alive, keep the projects going, and do long retreats. I don’t know how I will survive when I get old. I can’t be walking so far… pressing on. The cool night air, the clatter of dinner plates being put away — and music, fragments only. A few more steps and I’m clear of the hulking apartments. The utility lines hang menacingly over a few beat up old vans with blankets over the windows. How many long walks? The scenery can’t be recorded here. There’s nothing that commands one — though I know I’ve been here before.

Something telling about who they are, the way they arrange their things — with the least amount of thought, with no consideration at all for a man of my sort. There’s an enormous feeling of alienation only possible in a city of machines. Here a pedestrian is an oddity — or maybe it’s that I’m acting out of bounds. It’s hard to tell, harder still to focus on their drone–like behavior. The thing about machines, they don’t care about you, what you’re doing. You’re free to walk to your demise. There’s a feeling of the bottom falling out, pressure; there’s no place to turn that isn’t filled with images of them. You can’t avoid picking up snatches of their lives, being stranded somewhere between things — from one box to the next. The night, blessed night: made of things half done, filled with sounds that distract you even more — of stumbling on things unexpectedly, hearing far more than you should; long moments between things; falling into things set like traps to snare you. Was I wrong to look into a box that someone left behind? There are so many of them here. The Buddha gave his most remarkable teaching at the end of his life. He said he waited for the end because his students weren’t ready for it. “All things are contained in the pure and clear dharmakaya.” Not the meek alone, not the good ones, or the ones with clean feet — but all of us: every hurricane survivor, every lost child alone in the world, every crow on the roadside —

all of them friends of mine. *** I have no luxury of time to exist without a struggle. I’ve never know a life otherwise. As far as we’ve come, we’ve never been able to escape this. Some work night and day to dominate, live in fear of being outmaneuvered by the competition — which, I suppose, gives some amount of satisfaction, pride — that you’ve climbed over the backs of millions to reach the summit — like Ozymandias. Have you heard the story? I met a traveler from an antique land who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. and on the pedestal these words appear: `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.’” What an example! What a contribution. If you think ahead a few thousand years, will the crumbling ruins of your legacy inspire, instruct, give foundation for the enlightened culture that must surely be the evolution of society? Or will this time be a blight on the surface, a cancer that has thankfully been removed? There are a

lot of ways to look at it. Obviously a long–term approach is not where we are (as a society). The concept of free market, like a virus, does not care about the condition of others — only how they may be exploited — a critical flaw.
“It’s very hard to be in one of these positions (of power) and not have a certain amount of almost psychological, maybe even physiological addiction.” – Jefferey Pfeffer — Power

Hierarchy — power.. it’s the way of the world. There’s a boss in every pot, and a yard full of chickens scrambling for it. It’s given us a lot of remarkably similar box dwellings in indefinable city after city.. if we could only change our names to numbers. We are so lofty in our ideals compared to the communist model, yet the end result is remarkable similar. This is the pattern of humanity — it can’t be avoided. Everyone’s yelling from the sidelines, pointing out the corruption that we must endure — when we’re all so primitive. There’s no real way to manage us. It’s all fake, a charade. The truth is that we have no self–existence, and no meaning to our lives, the forward press the function of substance. If you will, look around you. Everything alive struggles against reason to continue on. There is no will or command that will stop it — we are completely powerless against it. Yet we spend our years trampling back and forth, raising wall after wall… the sidewalk continues on, the night air full of human concerns.

five. CHAOS

All points burn through to the surface... a little deeper, if possible, into the underlying substance There are so many unique souls out here. All of them seem to have a handle on it — even the children. Their happiness is in human terms: fleeting, a moment only — the crest of the wave. In the study of meditation, countless times I’ve seen the adept grappling with this. Not wanting to break from the depths, they try to remain seated after the chugpi is struck. You can’t keep it, you couldn’t bear it — moments only. Then the walk, single file, eyes down. The practice continues, only from a more agitated position. We need the change, yes, to move the blood through the legs, but also to break from the intensity of the floor, to stimulate the senses. There’s no state of mind that remains constant, yet we are never resolved to this, no matter how far along. We refute it, because we know in truth there is a constant. Our entire struggle is to reveal it, once and for all.

In Chaos and Fractals — New Frontiers in Science authors Peitgen, Jürgens, and Saupe show, through repeated feedback evaluations using two different calculators, remarkably different results after only three iterations. The same is shown on one calculator using two different implementations of the same equation. The pattern that these anomalies reveal is an endless spiral, into the depths. To paraphrase, chaos, the breakdown of predictability, is the rule in nature, while order, or predictability, is the exception — but chaos follows very stable patterns. The pattern revealed is startling, at once familiar and unknown. In Chaos and Fractals there are many examples of spiral patterns, naturally occurring fractals, in the veins of a kidney, broccoli flowers, the branches of a river, mountain ranges, coastlines, moon craters. The math is very complex — I’m sure I’m glossing over details, but the seeming unpredictability shown through complex math to draw the fractals we know today would be unthinkable without the aid of computers — and I’m no match for that. The underlying symmetry is a beautiful pattern, the harmony of substance. In a way you could say it’s the true form, the face of it. Happiness, bliss, the rapture of existence, is the same. It’s not found on the surface, it’s indiscernible — but once you become aware of it, once your brain knows how to decipher it… so, this is our work. If it were easy there would be geniuses everywhere computing magnificent fractals beyond comprehension. It’s the path of the hero, the rockstar. It’s amazing we’re beginning to understand these things at

all, with our limited facilities. It is there — the capability. It must be nurtured, organically grown, but yes… if it’s important to you, you can cultivate a mind that can perceive substance. Funny that in the perception of it there’s a catalyst — the mind heated, forged; the beating core, and peace everywhere. Since we’re striving night and day to reach it, from every conceivable angle, I’m sure we will. It’s not so far. It nearly requires the psyche, the ego, to give way, to be abandoned. Its clumsy mechanisms don’t work here — its faults too conspicuous, the emotional toll too destructive, wasteful. Regardless, the turmoil and suffering of humanity, the cloud of ignorance, is the cure.
“If a monastic still envies a lay person’s wealth and fame, or is lonely and still feels sorrow, this is truly shameful.” – Zen Master Man Gong (1872–1946)

The fog has rolled in this morning. The train beeps and rattles its doors closed. To Watts! Several more trains wait in the distance, the tracks between them rusted, but concrete and steel is what they require. How much thought went into every small detail? That I can pay my hard–won dollar and board this, if slow and clunky, thrill ride to the heart of the city. Most, if not all, faces are besmudged and gloomy. What would they require? Magic? I suppose it’s not so much the vessel, but the troubles they bring onboard: a caustic stew of disappointments, deaths, miscarriages, early and late arrivals, bad teeth, and bad digestion. What a heavy load! I’m surprised the

train is not heavily fortified. The wheels squeal as all of our demons weigh in, but before the thing careens into a pitch black tunnel of despair, a few teenagers bound to their seats and it’s all sunshine and good vibes and the smell of candy. Rosa Parks is the crossroads between the green and blue lines, metaphor on top of metaphor. I love the strain of humanity I encounter here. The place is alive with so many deep and worn characters; if I were a painter I would surely be dumbstruck. Maybe one day I’ll have the courage to photograph them. The blue line races to the financial district and ends there, under what I remember as a large, ugly building — but I won’t see it today. The financial district, gateway to Broadway — which in LA… they could call it Mexico and no one would question it. Maybe they already have. The grand old buildings there all seem left behind like there was a mass exodus, one of the reasons I like the place. Surely there’s some meaning. Why bother over old texts or count how many stones in the grand gallery of the pyramids? There’s as much meaning here, how we’ve joined these divergent elements: the lay of the streets, the movement of the crowd, the winding flames of my tattooed friend, who’s brought a pillow onboard and, to my knowledge, remained slouched near the door. What’s the rush? We’re forced out at Washington. Some problem ahead. All of us shuffle out and onto waiting buses. The packed conditions have me repeating the great dharani, soaring. Gangsters, thugs, tiny children clinging to their

mothers, we again find our ease together. Hands are shaked, wapos congratulated — shrieks and moans, the indiscernible sounds of excited humans. I’m fortunate enough to stand near a sleeping child clinging now to her father. Watching her, it’s the same feeling as the retreat cabin in the heart of the wilderness. It’s too noisy for her to remain asleep, but she’s determined, and quite relaxed. The morning fog has become an urban haze — the best weather for traveling across the grid. As I walk through the nearly deserted streets I’m on the lookout for graffiti, abandoned corners of desolation — suitable places to add my stickers. I’ve been doing it enough that it’s reflexive: finding the right spot, scanning the street for trouble. Today I place several right in front of the cops. The last one before I made my stop an officer tracked me through the whole process. I didn’t notice who she was until I was on the escalator down. She watched me disappear into the waiting tunnel with a complete lack of interest or concern, but I was so encouraged by the placement of the sticker (I’d seen the red box a block away) that I must’ve looked like I owned the thing. The light in the subway flashes the same code of existence, being, the substance revealed in the intricacies of the form. I enjoy the hypnotic flickering. So much information is passed, even here.

six. THE GROUND

Of fire and becoming... to stand apart, to work freely... to cut off their heads if necessary Put in a vice where I can’t move, it’s not what my brain would prefer. It’s not pleasant, but it is here where character is formed. I’ve not yet seen a great mind come out of idleness, or entitlement. It seems there’s always something driving the adept. At best an undying concern for humanity, but there are a multitude of reasons. Talking to the uninitiated, there’s a certain wall where communication becomes impossible. The self–identity is too entrenched. There’s no view outside securing the nest, playing whatever game they’ve managed to throw together, like lashing together timbers before a storm. The adept doesn’t hold the mind the same, has no fixed abode, so moves easily from scene to scene, from teaching environment to solitary retreat, from blue–collar angst to radiant Buddha — as Zen Master Seung Sahn would say, “Follow the situation, not your idea.”

I have a number of ordinary people around me, of course. I say ordinary, but I suppose they’re far from it: wealthy businessmen, drug–addicted failures, builders, breeders, and the highly neurotic. We’ve become so complicated. Countless things we’re at a loss for, and every piece of it causes us anxiety, even if it’s only the next meal. Driven from one box to the next, an endless parade of partners — if the dream can’t be made real it often becomes a nightmare world of broken homes, broken emotions. The drive itself is flawed, as an individual cannot be made whole externally. Maybe it’s the observation that’s the problem here, as most people aren’t going into such details. Even so, there should be a base level of contentment, instead of a need. You come to a resolve, when working with several tools all plugged into the same source, that the cords will become tangled. Care must be taken to free everything before you crouch among the timbers or whatever else, otherwise it’s a battle scene from one job to the next, as much fighting back against the avalanche as you can bear. It never works to your advantage. There isn’t someone going before you to sort things out. You have to learn how to conduct yourself. Enmeshed in countless lives, I’m dead serious about where the cords lay. It takes a good amount of threshing out — not to interfere with anyone’s business, to hold no concerns, to let whatever drama spill over into me and back out — but there’s no choice. You can’t interact with others without bathing in their troubles, so there must

be something in you that isn’t overwhelmed. The development of this core is the initial step toward freedom. Things continue whether or not you bother with them. The universe is yours to enjoy, to marvel at. There’s no reason to become entangled. It won’t work to your advantage, and will in fact rob you of all your resources — to the limit of your endurance. If you don’t fall under what I’ve struggled to paint as the whole of it a free life is revealed, where there’s no more need to collect things, to protect them. If you think this is a sort of death, or near death, look to the example of the great saints of history: Jesus, Buddha, Milarepa, Bodhidharma. Were they in constant need, or free? Did they seek out partners? Were friendships even necessary? Isn’t this something to emulate? Why not set your own freedom as a goal? For myself, it’s what I most desire, and with it the end of waiting. No need to capture any of it, as the whole is taken in and left where it is, untouched. Under the pine trees in Huntington Beach, the clouds and fog obscure the sun. It’s better for walking, for enjoying the roadside with all of the birds. The crows are very healthy here, almost tame. The start of a long day. Time shifts when you’re alone, to what matters to you, what’s draws you. Sometimes nothing. At some point I’m motivated to plow back into the work — what I’m a slave to. I give all my best moments to bringing this matter forward — to the page or podcast, to my interactions with others, to my expression of life. Always be-

tween things, from limousine to shoe–leather, long hair to crew cut, to Buddhist monk. Each new chapter as the last: no fame or infamy, or clinging to traditions. I work with what’s put in front of me, but if I would have one request, it would be for more: more house parties, more long walks at night, more loud mouths — about everything; more general confusion, reasoned or not; more graphic novels — though I never read them, more graffiti, piercings; more things flying through the air; more explosions, more moonless nights where you find yourself alone in this vast universe, and shout for joy. The situation I find myself in today could be considered grim, by some. Others would beg for some small piece of it. It’s often more than I can handle: the incessant demand that I perform, the lack of sleep, short funds, the solitude — it invigorates me. There’s a certain disaster always within reach. It’s my choice to endure, to put on a good show. One day I may choose otherwise, if it would ring true — either toward more freedom, or a greater challenge. The thing beats on its own, in its own time. When your true nature is revealed, however much you are capable of discerning, the game changes; to the amount the degree. The question should be, “How do you prepare for it?” The spirit doesn’t respond to languor. It doesn’t need to be embellished, or celebrated. It requires a flame, a near constant burning, and most of us spend our entire lives running from it! Because of this, what I’ve gained from it, I’m more likely to nestle in to trouble, to work twice as hard. Do you see? We take everything so seriously, but it is mere hyperbole.

We won’t allow the flames to touch us, we won’t burn. Ahhhh…. If I’d received a teaching post, I would press only this point — to go into the blood and bones of your existence and there make the ramparts, build your walls — to contain heat. Don’t allow anything to escape the conflagration — all of it. Don’t attempt to escape, don’t turn away, don’t hesitate, but everything aflame. There are many of us. A lot have gone pro and are attempting to hold the line. We talk about it often, how it will survive. Of course it’s absurd and hopeless, but it’s not about the dogma alone, more a fostering of an enlightened society — for all of the suffering masses to turn to when the turmoil on the surface is no longer sufficient. Unfortunately, enlightenment isn’t easily grasped — no matter what you’ve heard — the societies imperfect, challenged by unrealized teachers corrupted by power. The linear hierarchy of these communities is its own undoing, as time and again the ruling class sees the rambunctious youth as a threat, and renders them impotent, throws them out. There are many casualties. Because of these difficulties the lineage may soon collapse, may already be irrelevant. I’m sure there are few Zen masters or teachers who agree, even as their memberships dwindle in front of their eyes. It’s that we’re not good enough. We can’t take the heat. Well, you know what? It works anyway. It doesn’t require that you fall to your knees in front of Zen royalty to achieve it. Life provides its own cure. The press forward continues regardless, as its impeccable nature demands. The perfect unfolding of dharma can’t be regulated, doled out like

C–rations by the shoddy examples of authority we have today. Forget them, use them, for your own progress — then burn them, surpass them, prove them wrong. But neither is it about you. Life revolves around, what? Your appointments? The important thing that dominates your thoughts? Well, maybe… this certainly appears to be the case, yet things always go awry. It’s as if we have a stake in the progression of events, our own self–identity projected through the events themselves. But this is misleading. All of it is the self. If you could be catapulted at once to the primordial, the constant, the source, and from there observe the goings on, you would be in awe. Every piece of it — precious life in its movements, its trials and tribulations, triumphs, like one long poem of existence. *** But it’s not so easy to cross the plane of existence. Most doubt that it even exists. Those that are driven to cross it often don’t live long enough to see it through — not because it’s so far, the distance is negligible, but that the ego doesn’t know how to negotiate without constantly creating new ground. The fire of practice is the method we use to circumvent this, but it is cumbersome at best. Because of this, many institutions have sprang up who indoctrinate unwary students with yet more ground that must be trammeled over — and there is no word that the thing may become a hindrance, a quagmire.

“Stay with the group! Be wary of the heretics out there.” It should be generally understood that the practice take on a life of its own, outside the institution — that it be allowed to go dormant, if necessary, to avoid becoming dull, jaded; that the stream provide its own teaching, in the flow of it, directly, not through this or that interpretation. Once the mind has honed in to the underlying truth, it will not stop until the subtle ground is revealed. It will, however, when confounded by the machinations of the institution. Dead words, and politics, do nothing to liberate the soul. It is the discipline, the support of your peers, being encouraged to stick with it long enough that it seeps into your pores. That is the role of the institution. After a certain point it becomes a hindrance. No one from inside’s going to tell you, that’s my work.

seven. POLITICS

Midterm elections in America... tumult and greed and avirice and hope...a look into the politics of the Zen hierarchy Society is governed by a flawed system that can’t be fixed, as we are not in the position to do otherwise. Obvious, as the same results play out everywhere. Dictators become corrupt, people take advantage, and take as much as they can. In The Rebel – An Essay on Man in Revolt, Camus notes, “…as for the Republic, it stands alone, and morality was supposed to exist without benefit of the commandments.” The idea of the Republic depends on an enlightened society. We just aren’t there yet. A peek inside any religious institution would show the same governing principles: the dictator, corrupt; the brown– nose politics — all of it. If these are our greatest minds, then we have a long way to go. And they are inextricably

linked, government and religion — whatever is said. The view we have of ourselves as a society: the personality, quality of life, development of wisdom, compassion — aren’t these things necessary for a Republic to function? Since there are no commandments written into law, thankfully, it’s up to the individual. I think we should all read more, and take up the practice of meditation, if you haven’t already. That’s where the revolution takes place, not by voting for another version of the same banality. It’s impossible to be agreeable to the majority without watering down politics until it’s hardly effective, nearly invisible. What, other than paying taxes and saying hello to the nice officer, is relevant to your daily goings on? To be liberated, free, is our birthright. It can’t be manufactured, but it does require a great deal of work, all of it internal. How many tormented souls on this earth! There’s your political environment, the fabric of society. If we would teach, from the beginning, how to utilize the brain, how to process emotions — to become the observer… it isn’t in our dialogue. We can’t digest what we’ve done because we don’t have the tools for it, or the knowledge. How does the brain work, when properly managed? What about emotions in the skilled grasp of an adept? You won’t see any of these running for office, unfortunately. The work to control others is the hallmark of an immature psyche, a lack of trust. It points to the restless desire and endless need of a soul that has not yet described itself, and so is unstable. This

instability can only be remedied internally, through understanding the machine. Ironically, this deep wisdom, when acquired, gives direct insight into the complex personages we’re surrounded by, and so the control of them becomes ubiquitous. That’s how I see it, the way civilization will turn, eventually. Too bad we aren’t born with an innate wisdom, instead programmed by our environment, and what a poor job we’re doing in that regard! It’s a wonder we aren’t surrounded by homicidal maniacs. But the soul is inherently good, the wellspring of consciousness dazzling and impeccable. In a Zen hierarchy, the founder, invariably from Asia, carries the teaching line of previous Zen masters stretching all the way back to the Buddha. Each Zen master appoints a new successor, or several, to continue the line — in the society what amounts to royalty, those that receive transmission and what we have today, the 2nd generation who are trying to receive it. All of the teaching lines were brought over to the West in the last 50 years. The institutions were built up quickly, many teachers and Zen masters appointed, and nearly all the founders gone. Inexplicably, there are very few Asian Zen masters in the world today. We had one shot at it. We have to make the best of it. What we’re grappling with is a number of half–formed, half–baked Zen worthies repeating the words of their founders, struggling to keep their communities afloat, often forced to work for a living, to raise families — obviously fragmented. No time for long retreats or for just being Zen masters.

The next tier, the Zen monk, is ill–adapted to Western materialism. It’s difficult for the communities to support them, as they usually don’t work. Health insurance? Really you need to be independently wealthy to pull this off, or else live in a monastery in a Buddhist country. If the monastic community requires you to work an ordinary job, then it’s little more than a change of clothes. To add to this, there are no monastic role models in our culture, and, personally, I find it abject to adopt another one. As a result there are few monastics, and much fewer lay practitioners now that the founders have gone. The dynamism here isn’t toward attaining enlightenment or pushing toward long retreats, but more of community building, indoctrination. Some fear that they will become religious organizations with no enlightened masters at all — or completely disappear. The teaching devices aren’t the problem. Zen master Seung Sahn would often say, “I can teach you everything you need to know about Buddhism in ten minutes.” You don’t need a large amount of data for this, just an undying need to penetrate this great matter. If you depend on the communities for your practice, your practice takes on the tenor of the institution. The same problem with all religions — like our political arena, they’re watered down, impersonal, ultimately unsatisfying — and the human mind is not one to remain in a bland state, so the inevitable climb up the ladder by taking precepts, passing koans, becoming firmly established with the teaching society. After a certain point, if there’s no forward movement — if the candidate doesn’t mesh with the teach-

ers, isn’t wealthy enough to be a monastic, has no more easy goals to acquire, then he/she either falls from the ranks or becomes a potted plant. These dynamics don’t make for an enlightened society. I fear it isn’t possible, where we are today. If this is so, then no need to waste time looking to these communities to provide the whole experience. They are like libraries of human books who have information that can’t be recorded otherwise. Politics come into play when the adept has made some headway, not with the work of meditation (how to gauge it?), but the good graces of a lineage holder. The same brown–nose techniques apply here as anywhere, for the new appointments aren’t based on a quiet reserve, independence, holding no concern for your own affairs, having no self–nature — the very qualities required for attaining the work of Zen. If you want the title, then you have to go for it. No one’s going to chase you down and hand you a Zen stick. It may have been that way with the founder, who needed to set up a community very quickly, from nothing. But once you give a human being power over another — madness. This has nothing to do with a saint; saints are incorruptible — but a normal human still possessing an ego, in the sense that he/she hasn’t made the transition from caring only about their own affairs to caring about others. The power comes not only from the lineage, but the secret, the thing you must get that only he/she possesses. The joke of it is that they have nothing. Anything you attain is from your own sweat and blood — to the

amount, the degree. But the institution must live, and it survives by these methods, by instilling hope in successive generations, that they may someday wear the gold brocade, that they may know the secret. How many lives wasted, entangled in this! I know many adepts who received a title, and there reached a plateau, never to rise further. In fact, it could be said that their practice degraded substantially. It’s as if the practice becomes grounded by position, glamour, whatever that is. What’s the alternative? Use them as you would a library. Don’t buy the book. Develop your own practice life, and, if you really want to finish this great matter, start doing long retreats, both with a group and on your own. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. These institutions have a lot to offer, but I can’t help feeling the same sort of unease as I watch the various factions form in American politics today. Don’t drink the Kool–Aid. There’s no utopian world available. No one is right. Some say the best we can hope for is gridlock, so nothing gets done at all. How much government do you need? *** The sidewalk is hot today, the day after the midterm elections. The TV was on all night, cable news. There were so many speeches, opinions; panel after panel dissecting what promised to be a spectacular defeat by the Republicans, who nearly all smiled like religious zealots — because they were right. They were finally getting their piece of it. For the casual observer, an indepen-

dent one, it didn’t feel right. It looked like a cloud of poison gas had leaked into the ventilation system, causing group hysteria. What exactly did all of it mean? Were these crazed mutants going to accomplish great things for the betterment of society? Madness! The honking sounds from the TV invaded my dreams. The politicians features exaggerated, they peed in the corners to mark their territories, threw excrement and bile at each other; incomprehensible blathering, snorting, scratching the ground, their toothless smiles gave the same image of terror that I’d found on the surface — of an ego inflated to incredible proportions, until the bloated thing became self–aware, began feeding on its own. The husk of its human skin fell like a tattered flag, the inhuman creatures lifting moth–like wings, flying softly to their dark caves. I woke feeling that I’d been kidnapped, the glowering faces on TV all bloodied from the kill. The lines were long at the feeding trough. I was forced to stand near the coke machine. There were a lot of thirsty humans from the heat wave, everyone in a hurry, their faces washed out, impatient. “…yeah, that’s 72 please… 72.” A burst of laughter. It was me. The ice machine was loaded from the top with a bucket; the sound of the ice tinkling together, a torrent. At the far side of the room an older Asian woman in turquoise held the room perfectly in her piercing soft gaze, her mouth firm, with the

trace of a smile. Some of us enjoy all of this humanity: the packed conditions, the noise. I know them on sight, these wise ones. If only she would run for office. I look up to see about her, and she’s gone.
“I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom… a politician.. as I talked with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, wiser still by himself. I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but he was not really wise; and he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present. So I left him, saying to myself, ‘Well, although I don’t suppose either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he — for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I do.’” – from Plato’s Apology

eight. THE LONG RETREAT

A breakdown of the major flow of practice life, from my low vantage point A friend asks about the next retreat. “Next year.” “You’re not going to Korea?” “No, to the retreat cabin in Louisiana.” We talked for a while longer about the retreats and the seasons between them, how to balance everyday life with intensive practice. He absorbs what he can. He does understand that it’s important to me, but he’s never sat before, or had the inclination. To explain the life, the incredible heights, the immaculate ground, the subtle nature of pure consciousness… since there’s no way to convey anything meaningful, we talked of other things, and had a good morning together. For those of you who haven’t gone deeply into this,

there’s no way to bridge the two worlds. I’m not attempting to reveal anything here — that’s for you alone to uncover. Instead of flooding you with poetic concepts, I thought I’d do something on technique, something practical — to share what I’ve gleaned from a lifetime of community life and long retreats. My next retreat begins October 2, 2011. I chose this date on the phases of the moon, so that it ends on a full moon, and also that the only possible wilderness retreat in Louisiana is in the winter, when the insects are dormant. There may be other retreats before then, but this is the thing that dominates me, quietens me. May I always have something like this on the horizon. The schedule was adapted from the Korean Chogye style. They sit enormous retreats — hour–long periods from 8 to 21 per day. The 18 and 21–hour programs don’t allow for sleep at all, and they hold this schedule for 90 days. I do a 12–hour schedule, which is what I can do reasonably, allowing only 5 1/2 hours sleep, and just enough break time to cook and clean and keep the machine running. The schedule that follows consists of 4 rounds with 3 hour–long periods each. The day begins at four in the morning and lasts until 10:20 at night. The breaks between the rounds tighten as the day progresses. I stripped the form of anything cultural or religious and made it very uniform, the same from morning to night — to give the day a resonance, that the mind can sink freely, deeply into substance with no disturbances.

WAKEUP MEDITATION BREAKFAST

_ _ _

3:50 4:00 - 7:20 7:30
2 HRS 40 MIN BREAK
MEDITATION 4-5, 5:10-6:10, 6:20-7:20
( 1 0 M I N U T E WA L K B E T W E E N R O U N D S )

_ WORK PERIOD 8:00 MEDITATION _ 10 - 1:20 LUNCH _ 1:30 MEDITATION _ 3 - 6:20 TEA BREAK _ 6:30 MEDITATION _ 7 - 10:20
MEDITATION 10-11, 11:10-12:10, 12:20-1:20 ( 1 0 M I N U T E WA L K B E T W E E N R O U N D S )

1 HR 40 MIN BREAK

MEDITATION 3-4, 4:10-5:10, 5:20-6:20
( 1 0 M I N U T E WA L K B E T W E E N R O U N D S )

40 MIN BREAK

MEDITATION 7-8, 8:10-9:10, 9:20-10:20 (10 MINUTE WALK BETWEEN ROUNDS)

I haven’t heard this mentioned anywhere else, this resonance; a crucial element of practice. I first noticed it on a long retreat at a desert monastery nearly twenty years after I’d begun practicing. There’s a poetic description of it in Chapter 19 — Fire of The Zen Revolution, available free on www.thezenrevolution.com and on www.scribd.com. I found it much easier to penetrate deeply if I would focus in short bursts, then relax — to do this rhythmically. It wasn’t so much the technique but becoming aware of the ebb and flow of consciousness and operating within its constraints, not trying to hold some sort of unnatural stasis. Now when I sit it’s very stable and accessible, and easily breached. If the thing you’re after is at arm’s length, why get into a frenzy? It was later, in Korea, where the rhythmic probing brought about a tremendous experience that further defined

me, convinced me of the importance of both operating within the natural resonance, with no concern, and holding the mind delicately, completely, with complete mastery. Many retreats after, I keep the same schedule that developed from this. Though it’s very difficult, it’s a very effective and powerful method. Not only the 100–day solo, but how to support it? I’m not able to take 100 days off every year, though if it were important I could probably manage it. Why put myself into peril? The natural pattern of life has its own seasons of trammeling through the million things, of reflection — its own resonance. If you allow it to manifest, it’s as if a living Buddha springs before you at each step, instructing you, revealing all of the subtle things that can’t be described. The voice, like what I use here, the writer’s voice, begins to operate directly, with no effort. Then you’re able to make this dynamic path come alive, give it what it demands from you — to be fully integrated, connected, free. Waiting in line at the AFI Fest, the wrong line it turned out, I’m dazzled by the display. A concentration of art fans and intellectuals, half of them wearing glasses or walking strangely, wearing terrible, mismatched clothes; misshapen, brooding, even grim. The thousand faces of Mara, the kind and good — a swelling community gathered for the cinema. A fine day to be trapped in the wrong line. Don’t get mad but if I stand in a line too long, or have a long moment of quiet anywhere, I slip into a meditative, blissful awareness. I naturally en-

ter retreat mode, my mind knows it so well it enjoys returning there. It’s no longer a question of discipline, although a 100–day retreat is no easy task. All of the difficulties have been worn smooth, the turmoil released, and the thing has gained enough momentum that it ignited, melded together the layers until it became its own entity. I’m far enough into this process of melding to recognize it. Having met several enlightened masters, I’m both humbled about where I stand and assured of the greater conflagration on the horizon. It has all become rosy, this whirling existence, because already I’ve found a great peace and a life that only increases this. To live this way is the fruit of long labor. The body has to learn first, a long process of developing the muscles in the back to allow sitting comfortably upright for days on end. It’s difficult to attain, but without it the depths remain largely out of reach. The body is the gateway to the soul. All of the traditions teach this, and to develop an equally important emotional strength. For this the community is invaluable. If you’re not able to become a resident, the group will still pull you into a practice regiment, encourage and support you — and there you will encounter your first of many retreats. Once you’ve committed to sitting through an entire day, the importance of correct posture and emotional health becomes immediately evident. The two are directly linked. If you’re holding something mentally, you’ll develop headaches, strain various muscles which soon develop into painful cramps. You’ll lose all your energy

weathering this. You quickly learn what a beast your mind is. Taming it is certainly the most difficult thing you will ever do. In fact, it’s impossible from where you are now. Your identity must be heated, forged, blasted to an elemental state. Only if you survive this, penetrate this, will you’ll know what I’m talking about. Long before you’ll imagine that you’ve gotten somewhere, but the floor will show plain enough your shortcomings. It’s far from you, so far that the thing is lost completely — do you see? It is quite extraordinary, this journey. There are a million small details that go along with a full day of meditation: how to focus the eyes so that they aren’t strained; how to breathe, so natural that you wouldn’t think it required any work — and it doesn’t — but there are countless ways the body/mind gets entangled, and breathing is a big one (there’s something to the techniques of yogic breathing and kundalini. In deep states of meditation my breathing either becomes very faint and completely stops, or becomes shallow and rapid, or a combination of these. A vast subject of its own); you have to learn how to focus your energy, not in your cranium, but your tan jin, or energy center; how to hold it gently enough that there’s no outward stress, but not to the point of falling asleep (many students never master this); how to deal with the tedium of the floor; how to eat so that you remain healthy and alert, but not too full; how to hold the attention when arising from the mat, and the transition to walking meditation; how to sit through the pain, to utilize it. How to sit cross legged for long periods without having the legs fall asleep. Be-

lieve it or not, the blood vessels adapt to allow this new posture, eventually. And the back learns to support itself, to hold just the right amount of tension. The mind is the hard part. To keep from getting lost or rooted in some concept or delusion, koans and interviews with a teacher are a common practice. They’re designed to knock your legs out from under you, to break apart the new layers as they form; to challenge, taunt, destroy. But the study of koans leads to yet another layer to break through. There’s truly nothing to hold on to, save the One, the thing alluded to in a thousand poetic phrases — all of them koans themselves. How elusive the mind is! I don’t know how this will unfold for you. After the basics are assimilated it becomes very personal. I can only speak of my own experiences, you must take what works for you and discard the rest. But we are very similar. I’m sure there’s not so much to throw out. After ten years in the Zen center circuit, I found it difficult to remain there. I felt I was repeating the same things. Stagnant. But my decision to go it alone wasn’t clear–cut. It was very difficult to give up on all of my ambitions. I was forced out by an overbearing board member with her own ambitions. The break from the institution was both exhilarating and deadly. I didn’t know how to operate in the world. I’d never had my own place. I worked hard. I found a lot of support. The life I was to lead slowly became clear. All during this time I slowly digested all that I’d learned, and through this new vulnerability lost

layer after layer of identity, until I was very nearly lost. It was a synchronicity of events that revealed the way to continue, as from that vantage point it was quite invisible. Intuition works that way, in a symbolic unfolding of events. It does speak our language, but is so easily confused with egoistic yearnings that it’s best to distrust it, at least until the ego is vanquished. As all of the teaching is wrapped in the language of the institution (which I don’t use here) it takes a great deal of time to surmount it. For me it was another ten years, a process that’s still unfolding. I don’t think it has to be this way, but there are few who are successful at it. It’s one of the hurdles you can’t get over, for what will come of all your efforts? No credentials? No diploma? No special standing? Are you kidding! …and so it goes. Once you’ve made it personal the natural thing is to take up a serious practice, with or without others. I assure you at this point there will be no more loneliness, not once you’ve touched the realm of the Absolute. The first concern is procuring a cabin. There are many Tibetan groups who have ones to rent out, as long retreats are common to them. I’d stay out of public as much as possible. I was fortunate to have a stepfather with a large piece of undeveloped, forested land that I could build on. I have a small retreat cabin there made of hurricane Rita salvage. The wilderness retreat has its own challenges. I plan to do a time–lapse video to show this in great detail, but for now I’ll give you only a few things to consider. The

food must be carried in, must be easy to digest, and it must keep for months without refrigeration. I suggest 100 lbs rice; 25 lbs dried beans; some nutritional yeast, spirulina, or B–complex vitamins; several jars of peanut butter, rice vinegar, sesame oil; soy flour, and salt. I also recommend black tea and coffee, a great aid and comfort; and tea candles, unless you don’t mind sitting in the dark. You’ll need a dependable camp stove and enough fuel for all of the plan B’s. Try it out. Plan ahead. To give an idea of the daily routine, I soak a handful of dried beans overnight, and a cup of rice for the morning. After the first round I heat up the rice in plenty of water, with a few tablespoons of soy flour for protein. Cooking has to adapt to the practice schedule, like all else, so I bring the rice to a boil and shut off the stove, leaving it covered while I return to the mat. On the next walk I do this again. After the last round it only takes a few minutes to cook off what amounts to a rice porridge, or juk. The same process for lunch, only I bring the soaked beans to a boil a few times, then combine with a cup of dried rice, which I cook normally. The third break is tea only. No need to fill the stomach at this late hour You have to get this down, or you will suffer. You have to get used to doing things in stages. The laundry is the same. You will soon find that what little break time you have is consumed in keeping ahead of the chores. And what about heat? I’ve survived the single–digits wrapped in a heavy blanket, though Louisiana never stays frozen. If you have any further questions about

this, please send an email to: henry@thezenrevolution. com These long retreats are immense. They need a lot of time between in the real world, gathering resources, being around regular people, being pressed from all sides — it’s part of the process, the change of seasons. The timing is something personal. How could anyone know? I don’t know myself. I notice that I’ve become curious about the moon phases. I start to plan things before I’m really conscious of it. That’s how hard it is to discern the inner voice, but it gets easier.

nine. EVENT HORIZON

A few holes into the ethers... the variations of karma and phase three mechanics Sparkly bits of glitter still remain, the night long gone. I usually travel alone, but this time I’m taking you with me. Unfortunately, you can’t bring a decent camera to a show, so it must remain in the imagination. A friend of a friend brought over a prostitute. I could tell because she was too nice. I liked her. I’m sure it was all business to her, but actually I’m not sure. You can put on a hat and play a role, but you’re still a human being. She was pretty good. She made a lot of money, talked the price up, had him squirming I imagine. I wasn’t in the room with them, but heard his complaints after. I’m not one to judge. I have an obligation to remain unperturbed, but he was married, so I asked what he was doing. “Why don’t you go stare at some sand?”

“You put a high value on breeding.” “What about the Muslim extremists who go crazy and rape women?” “You only give me two choices? Either I’m a breeder or extremist? There are a lot of other things in the world.” That was as far as it went. He promised he would discuss this further with me when he wasn’t intoxicated. Later I realized that he wasn’t attacking me, but defending a voracious appetite. He was afraid what would happen if he didn’t appease his desire. He was from a wealthy family, so had never been pressed to do anything or forced to go without, so had no facility with this. He never got past the first phase of development, desire alone. He was now dangerous, to himself and others, and impossible to salvage. There were several other men bouncing around: a pair of twins from New Jersey, the kind of men who would always fare well — if there were a food shortage, they’d cut you open and have you on the grill — other fiends and lurkers; a ragged Mexican with a thundering voice who would yell at intervals whatever phrase was stuck in his head, “Baby I like it and O–M–G,” for the past few weeks. I’m at complete mercy to these currents, which are fairly easy to navigate. No one behaves badly in the group. We all depend on our standing in these ad hoc communities. All the dirty work’s done behind your

back. I get a little heat now and then because no one here practices Zen. My activities are regarded with suspicion, especially here in Hermosa, the Daytona Beach of Los Angeles. I told a friend about the incident, and he agreed that the man with the prostitute had problems, as he’s married with two small children, a dangerous game. “Do you see, striving for enlightenment is useful.” It’s the way of the West, of nearly the whole world. The sea of humanity will not be swayed. And that nights in the South Bay aren’t made for instructing wrongdoers. If the energy that drives my friend — the restlessness he suffers — is from a pure origin — does it need to be set right? And who is qualified to make that decision? In the same way that the Zen adept, when made aware of the underlying truths, is unable to return to dualistic thought, the primitive mind behaves in accordance with its own experience. If he could rise out of his own desire and be a respectable man, would he find peace? That’s the question. If you look at it honestly, you have to take the side of enlightenment, becoming aware of the connectedness of all things, acting appropriately for the situation. It’s not that there’s some defect, but to grapple with this is very difficult, and we’re apt to take the easy route, nearly to the point of animalistic behavior. I often hear from Zen students that they lack the discipline to keep a practice life. This is the second phase: discovering the dilemma, but unable to pull yourself out

of it. Because it’s difficult, and there are few examples — no one believes it’s possible. This is truly a quandary that we’ve been unable to resolve. We may have fumble–fingered the thing enough that the teaching lines die out entirely. I’m sure there isn’t a single Zen worthy alive today who doesn’t agree with me on this point.
“Long ago Shakyamuni Buddha abandoned his home and left his country. This is an excellent precedent for practicing the way. People of the present say you should practice what is easy to practice. These words are quite mistaken. They are not at all in accord with the Buddha way. If this alone is what you regard as practice, then even lying down will be wearisome. If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome. It is obvious that people who are fond of easy practice are not capable of the way. In fact, the dharma spread and is now present in the world because our great teacher Shakyamuni practiced with difficulty and pain for immeasurable eons and finally attained this dharma. If the original source is like this, how could the later streams be easy? Students who would like to study the way must not wish for easy practice. If you seek easy practice, you will for certain never reach the ground of truth or dig down to the place of treasure. Even teachers of old who had great capacity said that practice is difficult.” — Moon in a Dewdrop Guidelines for Studying the Way edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

On the beach at night, my escape! A sliver of a moon, the roar of the ocean the only sound, I walk for an endless time in the dark expanse near the surf. The city lights are softened by the mist, a silver glow like an island where the moon hangs, somewhere West. The noise near the pier draws me back to the Strand: a 70’s rock band. The 12–bar blues has certainly made the rounds. That’s what I feel like, a tired old blues song played to death. I don’t see it as an advantage necessarily. When you get to the point where you can’t repeat the same old lines anymore, you can’t bear the hypocrisy, you find yourself alone in the world. Truly unsatisfied, to the point of stopping everything entirely, you begin to hunger for something real, lasting. It’s not a question of discipline. This is phase three. What does it mean? If the ego is surmounted, how does the machine function? As awareness grows, the definition of self loses its rigid structure, in fact flows within the environment, encompassing all that occurs. How this plays out is an accurate measure of the quality of awareness: how free one is, what is still held; the amount of fear, complacency, immediacy. Of course the direction is to help all beings — the energy flows this way. The way this manifests is telling. A fundamentalist approach is akin to our prevailing business strategy, concerned only with making a profit, with hardly a thought toward the long term. The future be damned! Similarly, an adept can focus on minute things, engage the world as a servant, taking care of people’s burdens, waiting on them — and ground themselves this way, but it’s a small cycle. A small investment yields

a small return. You have to ask, “Is it really helping?” If you take away a person’s natural process of gaining wisdom, instead supplanting yourself, as a crutch… it doesn’t play well — shows a lack of trust, for the thing flows on its own. And I’m sure the recipient of your endeavors is waiting for the bill — nothing’s free. Should you intervene? Maybe you’re more important than me? If so, it requires a great deal of tenderness and respect, as if you were handling a wild animal. Someone unafraid, who’s truly developed both as a Zen adept and as a creative soul, leaves an indelible mark on the world. This is the ideal. Churning out leagues of Zen soldiers whose contact with society is measured, who are bent on becoming teachers themselves — while this is necessary for the transfer of dharma; I argue that we need countless other examples, as many as there are humans on this earth — an enlightened society. Is this is a paradox? To attain realization is to surmount the ego, which amounts to caring for all things. But how you define it, your expression of dharma, has to be worked out. It’s something personal. I rambled out on the street, past the dark library. People were out, walking their dogs, spilling out of lighted doorways, their TV’s on… in the cold, dim light it was almost like a theater, what must have been the third act. There were red wreaths on the doors, emergency lights flaring. The street ahead was blocked by a police car with lights flashing, with no one there. I passed through the barricade, only because it was a good shortcut. An

ambulance raced past with sirens blasting. A motorcycle had vaulted onto the curb. I found the policeman there and asked about it. “He’s going to be OK. He’s banged up, but he’ll be OK.” I walked through the scene where I’d passed with the truck only hours before. How quickly the tide turns! No guarantees. How we occupy ourselves is perpetually set against an impending doom. Whatever it is we accomplish, ultimately it has no meaning. This doesn’t pass easily through the gullet. We assume we’ll live forever, if not, our legacy. How else can we come to terms with our existence? If you want freedom in this life, the small matter of surmounting the ego is paramount. Otherwise, it’s all hypocrisy, fake — whatever you’ve worked out. It can’t be real because the thing doesn’t exist, ultimately. The path of helping others is a conundrum, really. To get caught up in details is laughable. Yet the wheel turns, energy is created and dispelled. There’s no choice. The creative aspect, the constant appearing has this quality. There is no other way than to allow it, to resonate along with it. Maybe the world doesn’t know about it — it doesn’t change anything. Across town to the Music Box in Hollywood, I watch an Icelandic vocalist, the opening act for Blonde Redhead. I realized the friends from my childhood, the icons who would appreciate her simple acoustic songs, were

dead. My dead friends, there were a lot of things missed. She was gorgeous, cute, small on the stage, alone. Everyone talked in the background. She sang to the house in spite of us, immaculate in her simplicity, but every song was the same. You have to take me down a dark road and lose me there. The venue was plush, ornate, covered with strange murals of frightened mice with large, black eyes, bards with hats with tiny figures dancing on them, the side balconies crowned with giant Victorian moldings arching forty feet above the platform. A perfect scene for the Hollywood crowd packed to the front to see Kazu. The hall echoed with dissonant sounds, the whole of us gathered for this virtually unknown band, a compelling mix of the ultra–sophisticated art music crowd. Nobody listens to this shit, yet the place was packed. The smoke bellowed over the balcony into the projector lights, which spilled onto the dark curtains. The tension mounted as the hall collected more and more people, erupted in cougar–skinned ladies flashing iPhones, their blue lights repeating through the hall. The pink haze glowered with promise as the wealthy began to arrive. They took the plush couches in front of me. They didn’t bother coming for the opening act — no need. The smoke had now risen to the stage in a swamp–like mist — the old jungle urges were caterwauling through me. Was I shouting? The noise increased along with the tension, blue lights cascading from every angle. A lone bass note resonated through the hall as

the curtains rose… *** cer: The opening quote to Henry Miller’s Tropic of Can-

“These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies — captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences and how to record truth truly.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1883)

ten. TRIBES

Thanksgiving... a bus ride... some time with Kye Soen and her children I left the Monterey house in a limo, dropped at 7th and Alameda, Skid Row. The street was oppressive, as usual, but inside the terminal a tribe formed instantly; a great mix of personalities, races, social strata makes for a rambling, broad love. I spent a lot of time with an old Korean woman who couldn’t speak English. I told her it was OK (can chan ah yo)… random. It was fun to see her in the crowd, because she was really happy to see me. I’m sure she could sense my delight in her, in all of the colorful people around me. I’ve noticed a change lately, maybe it’s the… pardon me, I’m being interrupted by a Christian. Let’s see: OK… Old Testament, yeah… God helping people… Israelites rebelling against God… killings, wars, oppression — punishment… God grew tired of wiping people out after the flood… New Testament… repentance, deliverance — restore the tribes, health,

answered prayers… OK got it. No, I took notes. Not just him, but everyone seemed to be radiant, happy — a great sense of humanity. Hard times bring it out. I’ve largely escaped the chopping block, so may have a slanted view, but I’ve enjoyed the economic downturn. I can see so much more on the faces around me. Going into difficulty is a powerful attunement. We get so caught up in our lives, what falls outside our immediate concerns is frozen. We are to a large degree closed. The driver had a copilot who talked loudly through the first four hours, then mysteriously quieted. What a talent! I couldn’t do a quarter of it If I were allowed dead air, drifting off into incomprehensible musings, and looming silences as vast as mount Fuji. There was all sorts of information passed back and forth, a feast of data: various meals at whatever hotels, the strong winds on certain highways; the hazards of the unions, trades; nitric acid and the soil of Humboldt county. After a very strange and inexplicable silence, which must’ve been a feeding, he launched into another amazing monologue that put me to sleep. Berkeley’s weather showed little regard for my plans, but turned from a dim, bleak, heaviness to patches of sunlight. The days passed quickly. I enjoyed the time with Kye Soen and her wonderful children. She had a new daughter since The Zen Revolution, now 18– months old. How immaculate the human mind in its essence, how sweet and pure. Though too young to speak,

she would go to other crying children to comfort them, hug them; a hand to the face. I spent a lot of time with her, holding her, playing music for her, watching TV, visiting the playground, having meals together. What a delight! She likes all kinds of music, but gets bored with too much atmosphere. Though she appreciates classical music, she prefers a good beat: Black Sabbath, Aphex Twin, The Cure — we went through it all. I loved the time with them, but had to return to Los Angles to produce this show, and other projects. I was both sad to go and thankful to Kye Soen for allowing me to adopt her family, that I’ve had these kinds of experiences. The little ones have a lot to teach, our origin, how our paths appear before us — and there isn’t anything as beautiful as an Asian child. Kye Soen is resolved to being what she is, a scholar. Though only in her mid–forties, she’s quietly resigned to the march of time — so much wiser than the woman I knew. But make no mistake, when I spend time with her I’m on the clock, not a moment to myself. I’m usually not able to leave whatever room she’s in, much less disappear for hours to do the work. All work stops at her door. Instead I’m flooded with duties, tasks; plans which usually involve long trips across town to a noodle house, which affords many side errands such as poking through musty thrift stores, picking out clothes for her children at various department stores — a vast, bottomless endeavor that can’t be accurately described without first being in a near–comatose state then forced to

jiggle about on cold linoleum while the most lonesome, sentimental muzac is piped through shit speakers — at each end of a section, the hunt begins anew. Who knew there were so many angles to a pair of jeans? These pits of Hell, like galaxies, revolve around black holes, so don’t think you’re going to keep fresh. You have to go dormant.
“When a warrior learns to stop the internal dialogue, everything becomes possible; the most far–fetched schemes become attainable.” – Carlos Castaneda (1925–1998)

Show her that you’re going dormant. No pretense allowed, it only consumes more energy. If you’re able to manage the currents here and find the faultless rapture at the core, a true man of the way — then go, and be a man. Standing at another bus terminal, Kye Soen and her children quiet from my pending absence. How to be close to the ones you love, yet free? We all learn, together. We’re all in different cities now. We see each other for brief moments that can hardly be recalled. What’s the value of these fractions of maternal rest? The return, the pattern… I can no longer keep away from these gatherings as stay immersed in them. Our small tribe lives only there, at the dinner table, running errands together, watching over the young ones. If this is all there is, then it must be understood, accepted. There is no Shangri–la, no utopian society, no place to rest. We

live on our feet. We think on our feet. We migrate, intermingle, do our work of sharing DNA, the most far flung roll of the dice, the most terrifying contrast of personalities, ridiculous! To find your life there, in the flim flam, the flotsam of a billion broken dreams, broken homes — for who is not at heart a nomad? It’s different on the outside of everyone’s tribes. You see the hint of it in their faces, but to make it into the inner circle? Years probably, countless failings, things left out in the rain, compromises — against reason. You have to give up on a person before you can trust them. They must be aware of your complete failure to operate cleanly within the constraints they uphold. You have to be proven less than them, in some way vanquished — for who is not a warrior? Developing the mind to handle these currents requires deep reflection, a process similar to that of writing, where the author disassociates from the interplay of events in order to record them, often encouraging all sorts of drama that would otherwise be avoided — to have the experience, to write about it. Living a one–dimensional life is all too apparent on the page. Conrad, for instance, one of the great writers of recent history, spent most of his time at sea. His work is filled with incredibly detailed accounts of this, but almost nothing about relationships. The study of meditation is an art of its own but requires the same fuel, the same ability to disassociate from the environment. A one–dimensional life yields a

shallow view, or worse, a dimensional one where the adept attempts to force others into their chimera. My favorite Zen monks are the old hands, not at shouldering the practice schedule, but at life; those that have already married and divorced, had ordinary jobs, or meager ones, the artists and drug addicts. Again this seeming contradiction between liberation and the soul defining itself. This is another illusion, attainment requiring a pure realm. Dharma loves the nomad, the warrior. It arises from suffering, not refuge. The skilled adept knows how to remain immersed in the wilderness of tribes without being overwhelmed, to use the experiences as a diving rod to sound out the fathomless void, to give it a soul, an expression — and, like the writer, goes farther in in order to reveal the matter at greater depth. The clouds are heavy in the sky as the bus hurtles south. In the increasing miles between me and my friends, my mind slowly releases all of the emotional weight, though the clouds appear to hinder the process somewhat. The same for the grassy fields. They pass with dark foreboding. A heavy sentiment seems bound to the cold, soggy earth. Some primal angst recorded there, that has always been there. The land speaks, the buildings speak, all the things in our environment absorb and reflect us, our story, which may explain my fondness for the abandoned field. The clouds overhead, do they hold our concerns? The bus seem to hold its own brand of misery, worked deep into the tarnished steel, the old carpet upholstery worn from numberless feet and hands — but it is here that things are made and

done, not in the unmarked place.
“On a somber spring evening around midnight, rain mixed with snow sprinkled on the bamboos in the garden. I wanted to ease my loneliness but it was quite impossible. My hand reached behind me for the Record of Eihei Dogen. Beneath the open window at my desk, I offered incense, lit a lamp, and quietly read. Body and mind dropping away is simply the upright truth. In one thousand postures, ten thousand appearances, a dragon toys with the jewel. His understanding beyond conditioned patterns cleans up the current corruptions; the ancient great master’s style reflects the image of India. I remember the old days when I lived at Entsu Monastery and my late teacher lectured on the True Dharma Eye. At that time there was an occasion to turn myself around, so I requested permission to read it, and studied it intimately. I keenly felt that until then I had depended merely on my own ability. After that I left my teacher and wandered all over. Between Dogen and myself what relationship is there? Everywhere I went I devotedly practiced the true dharma eye. Arriving at the depths and arriving at the vehicle — how many times? Inside this teaching, there’s never any shortcoming. Thus I thoroughly studied the master of all things. Now when I take the Record of Eihei Dogen and examine it, the tone does not harmonize well with usual beliefs. Nobody has asked whether it is a jewel or a pebble. For five hundred years it’s been covered with dust just because no one has had an eye for rec-

ognizing dharma. For whom was all his eloquence expounded? Longing for ancient times and grieving for the present, my heart is exhausted. One evening sitting by the lamp my tears wouldn’t stop, and soaked into the records of the ancient buddha Eihei. In the morning the old man next door came to my thatched hut. He asked me why the book was damp. I wanted to speak but didn’t as I was deeply embarrassed; my mind deeply distressed, it was impossible to give an explanation. I dropped my head for a while, then found some words. ‘Last night’s rain leaked in and drenched my bookcase.’” Translated by Daniel Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi Reading the Record of Eihei Dogen Ryokan ( 1758 – 1831)

Sunny skies in some winding place with tall redwoods, firs; guys in flannel with hands in their pockets; a tattoo parlor next to a church of science; a beautiful stream with a bike path beside it; hippies and skateboarders and artisan ice cream, yoga centers — Santa Cruz. A friend from here almost died from the beauty of this place, and heroin. He’s a Zen monk now on the East coast. He talked about it often, what looks to be an ideal place for one’s demise. These pockets of wealth placate one to the point of oblivion, if that’s your thing. Fortunately we were soon rolling, drifting through forested hills and meadows; beautiful, bright expanses with Eucalyptus groves and things left to go their own way, and

very few churches — no need. A beautiful Chinese woman climbed in next to me. We were only at the stop a few minutes, but enough time for the intermingling of humans. Doing our job, however unconsciously. The farm lands opened soon after, yielding field after field of hundreds of varieties of greens, small marshes, acre after acre of plowed ground, rows covered in green plastic, laborers with their backs bent, bringing in cases of artichokes. A statue of a giant artichoke nearby looked suspiciously like HST’s peyote bud. The immensity of these fields monotonous, exhausting; how many miles across this great nation? So much land, so many lives, scenes, so many things to take in; the mark of civilization — a string of valleys that feeds an entire nation; old wisdom supplanted by new technologies again and again, now enormous fields stretch with arrow precision to the horizon, the water carefully metered by robots — what an age we live in! Still the need for labor. Incongruous among the dormant machines, a tribe of immigrants bend to the rows. How long before these are replaced? As far as we’ve come, still we depend on the weather, the depth of the river. Not in our time, but thousands of years from now, will we still till the fields? Exit 281 falls just past a small field of sheep. The mountain ranges in the distance nearly hidden by clouds and fog, with thick bands of sunlight streaming down over a giant stage. We bustle through a squat, formless town with no visible markers. King City. The Chi-

nese woman exits to stretch her legs, her English broken, pleasant. Whatever madness lurks there, I do enjoy Confucian culture. I’ve adopted many of their customs, mostly from my stint as a Zen monk in Korea. The cultures are so different, really it requires complete immersion to fathom its intricacies. Large areas remain hidden, of course. The bus pulled in an hour late at 7th and Alameda, dropped me at the far end of Skid Row with a $1,200 dollar camera and a special forces bag full of dirty laundry. I ran 23 blocks up to Flower to catch the last subway of the night. There were no buses on 7th at that hour, and I didn’t have an hour to spare. I had trouble running the whole way, resorted to fast walking and running across intersections. I ambled past forty homeless people, all of them too high or desperate to figure me out. Every few blocks I’d look down the street the way I came, hoping to see a bus looming out of the street urine. Muttering about buses putting me in peril, I continued on, past the stinking end of the world, endless street after street, like escaping a sand trap. When I finally got to Grand and the zone began to fade, the smells recede, well dressed people began to shoot past, clutching each other as I wove through in near panic. If I didn’t make it I’d be forced to spend the night downtown. Under the black heart of the city, for a moment only, we sprang above ground near the Staples Center and there remained wedged between streets all the way to Watts. I had no idea if the next train was still running,

but couldn’t turn back. I suppose the city has good reason to shut down public transportation before the bars close. Maybe they should turn off the street lights as well, and release all the prisoners. Night, fear. I made it to the Marine stop, and walked the final three and a half miles to the house at Monterey, happy to be out in the cold night air.

eleven. QUADRISM

Pulled from the weeds of the holiday season... a few long walks on the strand On facebook with a friend, on the subject of impermanence, I realized we were unable to really communicate because his view didn’t allow for the non–entity. He’d come to the conclusion that he existed empirically, and all else was a dark foreboding of our imminent demise. His question had not yet turned inward, toward existence itself. It struck me that my view of impermanence made no sense to him. It wasn’t a religious difference. There’s an understanding between us, as he’s very much an atheist. Our conversation went like this: Me: Thank you to Hamid and Heela — another tribe in my life, wonderful people there, beautiful children, always warm and friendly, deeply connected at the root. The Atheist: I honestly never have any idea what you’re on about.

Me: well, it’s not predictable… The Atheist: The funny thing is, I get the impression that if I DID know what you were referring to, it would reveal itself to be immensely mundane, commonplace and otherwise boring. Let’s face it, nobody who puts the words “beautiful” and “children” together short of mockery is ever interesting… surely? Me: Thanksgiving holidays in the USA — a little sentimental, but I’m a fan of humanity I admit. You can hold me to it. I suppose your Utopian ideas didn’t work out? There’s a lot to be despised if you have a soapbox — a bit farther out, it’s all noise. The Atheist: Y’know… there was a time where I was a fan of life OTHER THAN humanity… and quite distinctly anti–human … but eventually I realized that people are just like every other living thing on this planet…… and it occurred to me that by all rights, I view all life as anathema. Well… sorta. I sorta pity my fellow sentients, and envy non–sentient life for its lack of capacity for suffering a self–aware existence. But the bodies and MO that nature has, via trial and error, provided us… I have nothing but contempt for them. Me: Beautiful man — good stuff.. The Atheist: … ? Was just trying to be informative… not poetic or anything. Not that I suppose it matters. My capability when it comes to rescuing living organisms from life itself tends to be sorely lacking compared to the pre–programmed tendency of living things to op-

pose that which might euthanise them. It is kinda bitter to have to witness all this and be powerless to stop it, but… at least it will solve itself eventually. This planet will eventually be incapable of supporting life any more, and there isn’t a hope in hell’s chance of whatever remains fulfilling the same purpose… so if life hasn’t died on its own before then, it sure will when that happens. Me: Not only a billion years in the future, but every moment — constant change. If you don’t attach, even one moment is plenty. This existential vibe belongs not only to the Atheist, but extends to all of us, for this life can’t be held or regulated, or even understood. A Polish friend who’d moved to America after surviving perestroika was surprised to find we suffered this affliction. He thought we had everything, that here there would be no more sadness — but to his dismay he found it was worse. I firmly believe this is just a phase. We aren’t sophisticated enough to operate cleanly within the boundaries of our mortality. We’re determined to escape the plain truth at every turn. This is called dualism in Buddhist terminology, something we’ve refined to a much greater depth, what I would call quadrism. I’m sure the new generation will take this further, but here we may outsmart ourselves. It does seem today’s youth have already become jaded. They’ve seen it all — the Osho method: to reach a state of non–attachment through desire. Maybe it goes to the same place — I’m sure it does, but I wouldn’t consider taking such a laborious route;

the path of despair — what for? My teacher would put it this way, “If you don’t want anything, you get everything.” What could be simpler? To add to the problem, we never resolve anything on our own, instead depend on others to reflect our accomplishments, our worthiness, our identity, leaving ourselves constantly in need. We seek out a partner to complete us, to make us whole. I suppose the partner you choose has the answer? You just have to decode it, right? I shut the infernal machine down and made it to the subway, back to Watts, the weather California mild. The doors opened, pulling me from a dream. Aviation Boulevard/ I–105 — the city in the distance set in golden light. The old fatigue set in. I fell asleep a dozen times. Each time I awoke, the dream vanished and I couldn’t remember where I’d been. It doesn’t mean the other world didn’t exist, just that it’s too ephemeral. Thankfully, there’s no facebook over there, yet. A friend recently told me that in Afghanistan, when a person dies, the closest family member washes the body before their burial. On the death of her mother, she went to wash the body, but the family stopped her because she was pregnant. Somehow this is wrong to them. Soon after she had a dream. She was in a hospital in Afghanistan. Her mother was there calling to her, “Why don’t you go ahead and wash me?” There, in the dream, the old custom was accomplished.

The sun fell before I made it downtown. The sun was always falling. I had no emotion one way or the other. It doesn’t mean I was oblivious to it. The underground was packed, everyone stamping around, whistling, shoving hats at me. The train that finally showed was the wrong one, a half–dozen wrong buses at Hollywood/Highland. I guess I’m not going to the usual places. On the subway platform, a large middle–aged woman complained of pains. “I got robbed last night. He knocked me out, right at CVS. Now my wisdom tooth is loose… I just got out of the hospital.” The suffering raced through her eyes. Another one on the train, nearly threatening for what he got. I’d seen him before, remembered his pitch from last year, “No alcohol, no drugs, no coca, no mocha.” Does anyone carry spare change anymore? The street people are getting more and more desperate. I asked one of them about it — my suspicions confirmed. He gave me the vet angle, waiting for his check — and I did find a few quarters somewhere. On the way home two tiny cockroaches passed on the wall, hitched a ride with me. I’m sure they knew about the thanksgiving leftovers at the Monterey house. The city passed in silky blackness under a declining moon. Hamid and Heela, what I said about them on facebook was true enough — they are wonderful people and do have beautiful children. I spent a lot of time with them and other families over the holidays, there’s an unmistakable existential vibe among the parents. A lot of things lost along the way, a lot of compromises made,

and I don’t think anyone is truly satisfied. It doesn’t go the way you want. It isn’t a clean life. There must be all sorts of bargains made to get things to flow your way. When we were young our friends were the most important thing in the world. Maybe for you this was not the case? Maybe you don’t like people? I’ve met your type. You’ll have to write your own version — I’m interested. For the rest, for me, there was a change, several of them, where the need of the attentions of others both gradually and suddenly changed. Not my love for them, or intimacy with them, but my own need — gone as well any last vestige of loneliness. This doesn’t mean those around me made the same strides, of course. Like an old man I fell from the turmoil of the world, sweetly. It gave me an advantage. Everyone else, it seemed, still needed to be embraced, placated, and so these miserable arrangements, and the existential mood. Disconcerting, because it is here where all of us are wrought, inside these arrangements between dissatisfied partners. The end of loneliness is no easy answer, and perhaps doesn’t apply, for why go into a relationship if you’re at peace? This will be the farthest thing from your mind. I asked a Zen teacher about this. He assured me that it had not yet been resolved. In fact it was a sore point for him. I don’t want to go into details, but it appeared that, though spiritually he may have developed some acuity, emotionally he was fairly well chewed up. I’m sure there are wonderful marriages and radiant children in the world. I don’t mean to paint a bleak pic-

ture, but, c’mon, how many do you know? Could anything be more important? I believe the work of Zen in the West will be on this quaking ground of discontent — to bridge the worlds of absolute freedom and bonding with a partner to raise families. I know it’s impossible for us, but a child raised with this as a goal, or at least made aware of the two aspects… otherwise I fear it’s too difficult to work your way from the bottom. Like a drug addict, it’s all or nothing. I say this because I know of only a handful who’ve been able to do it — and a million in–betweens with all sorts of ideas about where they are, usually long–winded, fully programmed, still looking for something out there. Liberation doesn’t mean seeking refuge from the tumult, it’s that you don’t require anything external. This drives a partner mad. How to get the hooks into you? You can’t be manipulated, rather you decide to take care of something or someone because it’s correct for the situation. If you have a criminal type in your life, and I always seem to, this completely boggles their mind. There’s always a setup, a lure — but if nothing interests you… an interesting dynamic, practically unknown — living in resonance with the world, for the pleasure of it. Not constantly seeking things, because the beast has already been appeased. It’s not a discipline. There are no restrictions. It’s the active principal of meditation actualized in the flow of events. In formal meditation there’s a long process of training, like learning the scales of a piano, which does re-

quire a great amount of discipline. Once this has been mastered and you’re able to penetrate through to the Absolute, or more accurately, if your life brings you to that point, then the cessation of thought, then the accord with the universe; the great peace. So let’s look at the path of freedom — shall we? It’s not what you think. You can’t get there from where you are. Not in one piece. It requires a massive failure/blue screen that can’t be resolved. You can’t just shut the thing off. The timing has to be right, and it has to be real — the shutting down — meaning there’s no alternative. No one can do it because there’s always something on the agenda. That’s why so many who’ve try their hand at this don’t succeed. After the break, a long process of refining, a long burning in the fire of practice, and again the world… and only you will know when the soul is freed. Only you can describe it. The problem of pulling out, there’s always a part of you that remains. The soul can’t be simply abandoned.

twelve. A LOOK AT BLACK SWAN
AND MORE OF THE LOS ANGELES UNDERWORLD

Deeper into the dark recesses... things are lost along the way... it’s to be expected The waste, the amount of Sepulveda required to take care of all possibilities, couldn’t exist without the mass of people to allow for it. Tonight, beautiful, crisp air, couples walking slowly, waiting for each other; groups of women together, a cloud of concern; layers of bonding, from office mates to last vestiges. But here all is light, topical; a concern for each other’s day; the human species in its native habitat, outside an upscale movie theater in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Maybe this is the height of it, what we’ve been able to reach. It seems this place, this cinema, is made for joy and release. No judgment, no witness. No one here expects anything of you. The fountain pours rivulets of light, the music low, slow, desperate; the crowds have turned bleak, some-

thing sudden. The sidewalk crackles to life with three armed plain–clothes men, walkie–talkies reverberating in the background. A movie lets out and a mad stream of concerned families press out onto the cement, strangely animated, happy yet resigned. I go in early, the last few scenes. There was a disheveled feel to the room. It seemed everyone gave up on the film and left quietly, muttering, the credits out of focus, the music bland, hypnotic. Not a good sign. A last couple storms out, and I’m left alone in the red–carpeted hall. The lights, the fading music warm, little angels and violins and a descending piano. I wait for the music to resolve, instead it hangs, and rises again, and there remains in a sad wailing, like a funeral. I was the only one there for a long time. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place. The movie was really bad: flat, dull, pitched for a different audience than I. But Black Swan was sold out. This was an alternate. The next day, another attempt, the subway downtown, the stop, thirty feet above Marine, pressed me into the cloudy vapors with scattered, frightened birds and a grey blimp nosing higher. It was OK because it was Sunday and I was alone. I enjoyed it immensely, piercing through the overcast in an ugly train, surrounded by the roaring traffic of LA’s central aorta. It doesn’t mean much, I’m sure, but you really notice it, you miss it, when you’re on the outskirts. The density of it, the complexity, the mental power… all of the images, the angles that pass through me; the mood of the place my mood, one

of flat rooflines, soccer fields and ones gone to marsh grass, everywhere else paved, sealed in concrete, with colored glass and awnings, industrial grey, shades of brown. The train fills with Mexicans and blacks, nearly all withdrawn. They size you up, look for the weakness, how you reflect their scrutiny. It’s a dharma exchange, a communication. If we could measure it, map it, the extent of consciousness — how different it must be than what we’re able to perceive. Though I enjoy going to the theater, it’s the time on the train, on the street, that I’m after. It’s where all of the work is done. It seems peculiar, even to me, but everyone has their method. I’m cheating, drawing on the various things as they pass through me. Sometimes I go to the central library, walk through the building to 5th, and return, without looking at a single book. We don’t travel well together, have you noticed? It’s something like prison I imagine, being on lockdown with random people who have no interest in you, other that you move on, or die on the spot. The green line from South Bay connects to the blue line at Rosa Parks, the only way to get downtown without a punishing bus schedule, or driving for an hour, which doesn’t allow for writing. But I enjoy being pressed together with these characters, these magnificent creatures of the LA streets, unlike any other street culture in the world. It’s certainly tough here, perhaps deadly. Occasionally an officer will walk the cars with a shotgun, but usually it’s the worn and frayed homeless with their

bundles of aluminum cans. Most of the recycling in LA is sorted through by homeless armies, who know when the recycling bins are put out on whatever street. They go through everything. What’s left for the city to collect must be nearly useless. For some this day in the clouds is bleak. There are all sorts of torn and toothless staggering through the fog; the landscape we drift through desperately poor, given to industrial yards full of pipes and poles, piles of metal junk, old warehouses with layers of heavy graffiti and counter measures. Now that all the manufacturing has gone elsewhere, what will come of it? Miles of dead city not high or elaborate enough to convert to artist lofts. Corrugated tin, for instance, with no windows, and rows of indiscernible shops with Spanish signs; liquor stores with payday loans. If there were a Mexican part of town, it would certainly include this. A fat man watches from a rooftop near Grand. I suppose it’s a slow day. Finally the train makes it past the Staples center and down beneath Flower. I make it farther underground to catch the next train and it arrives instantly. I imagine some cities run like this, with a new train every few minutes. If they would do that here, around the clock, I would live so much more broadly. Instead I’m confined to a fairly small window of time, really only enough for one destination. The way LA’s laid out, there are a number of different scenes, and vast distances between them. I usually go downtown for walks, to Hollywood to see a movie, or hit a cafe on Franklin,

Melrose, or Sunset — each of these far from each other. The red line to North Hollywood is a good train, always bustling, with a younger crowd, a lot more Asians and foreigners. I get the Portuguese friends who talk loudly about how to buy snakes or pitchforks, I have no idea. The familiar blue of smartphones and babies and small children in strollers. A gay man wearing shades and jodhpurs walks dramatically toward me. He spins on a polished heel at the last moment thank God. I get out at Hollywood and Vine. My Portuguese friends are out first. They were real cool the way they stretched near the door. I suppose they had some training to do, some feat of dexterity far greater than mine. The long blocks down Sunset, a beautiful part of the city. There were a lot of ninjas out, flappity–spoked bicyclists, scummy art types with security passes around their necks — on to their important computer stations, their underground bunkers. An old crone outside the bank asks for quarters. Black Swan was sold out again. It’s doing well. I’d purchased tickets online this time — not to worry. The café was nearly deserted, warm and cozy. Shit coffee. I love the place. Making the rounds every week now to write the show is a certain privilege I enjoy. It’s why I live in the city, to remain abstract in the middle of everyone’s lives. I can rest here in the crest of the wave. A midget hands out flyers. I want to talk to him, to use him in a film project. I have to get a phone soon,

and business cards. I should be collecting people. I want to write a show about strangers. They would say things like, “I just don’t know…” I could film their legs walking, how they swing their arms, some idiosyncrasy. Every line would be something personal and abject; like Wings of Desire, detail and poetry — from the side of adoration. How much closer could I come to being a writer of truth, to revealing the bare essence as it unfolds? How much easier to record it if it’s in the stream of it, what Miller was after, though his was highly amplified — you can’t just stay in the stream unless you live a life of constant wonder. And HST — what he gave us. Talking to a schoolteacher recently, who was afraid that I was one of them, “Tell me you don’t love Hemmingway.” “He ruined literature.” “Oh thank God…” I enjoy the theater immensely, the quieted hive of people milling around the enormous marquee, the red carpeted hallways and staircases, the overdressed ladies wearing sunglasses. A Hefeweizen before the show, with lemon of course — the hall echoes with optimism, friendly chatter. “I was here until 2–o’–clock last night… and I opened… yeah.” She never made eye contact, like an Asian, but the smile was there, the secret eye absorbing my emanations, pulling me into her palate, her nostrils. I want to

be a feast for her, something gorgeous. There’s a buzz about this film. A crowd gathers long before the show, many of them sitting on the floor. A great deal of beautiful young women, so pretty with their dreams of the ballet, striding elegantly back and forth like it was a damned catwalk, or hunched inward like frightened children. Row C is good here. Kye Soen showed me this, so many things… for her, she had to always be in the absolute center chair, by number. The seating was really the important thing, and where we parked. Row C faces an aisle, so it’s very roomy. The next row of seats are ten feet in front, so a parade of people pass through. So many interesting lives flicker past; this human striving! A pretty blonde sits beside me: leather and carefully torn jeans, platinum hair, soft tones, holding her boyfriend’s knee, looking at her engagement ring, stroking her legs… the Portuguese! I thought surely they were headed for the dojo. A very handsome party to my left, all of them in black jeans, combat boots, too skinny and dyed black, tattoos and squirrely voices, magnetic as Hell. The show began with previews three months in advance, Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” in full THX theater sound. I’ve had a film play at a festival, know the feel of my own music blasting through this environment. Natalie Portman, she has the neck for it. What an expression: grace, beauty; her eyes luminous, dark;

searching NYC panic. There’s certainly a dark side to this, the ballet full of tragedy. “Now show me your black swan, Nina… all the discipline, for what? I never see you lose yourself.” Crushed blacks, it’s shot very close. “You’re scratching yourself again.” We never escape her neurosis, her fear — she’s not able to seduce Yevna, every scene deeper into her madness, multiplied by her mother’s failures. This must be the height of despair. “…because whatever Beth does comes from within, from some dark impulse.” Frightened bathroom escape. “Wait, where are you going?” ed. Impossible to love anymore, fragments, fragment“She’s after my role… she’s after me.” “Where is it? How do you find it?” The dark stage in quick edits — no time wasted. “This world is destroying you.” How does anyone face such terror, to the point of murder, mutilation, but how else this beauty? The black swan appears, the crowd erupts! She’s done it! She leaps to her death. “It was perfect. I felt it.”

“What?” “I felt it.” I go for a walk after, glad to be finally released from Nina’s torment. How large the dream, yet it passes unknown. To be chosen, recognized, don’t we all fall prey to this? To go beyond it means it has already been taken up and discarded. We aren’t allowed to cease striving. No one gets a free ride. We did not build these empires for the years to consume, but that we may stretch further, higher — to no end. The mannequins, all provocatively dressed, smile down on me, the streets glistening from the rain.
“The end of night is not a longing, but a demand.” — The Zen Revolution

The theme of Black Swan was to embody both sides completely. For Nina, too innocent, too protected to express herself fully, her power was revealing the fear. There was no way to emulate the dark voice without first succumbing to it, what for her was a violent process that proved deadly. How we approach this in our own lives, it must be the same, though most escape these extremes. We must live fully before we can give expression to it, certainly before we can master anything. It’s no easy task. There are some similarities between my life and that of Nina’s: the drive for artistic expression, against reason, to the point of deconstructing the psyche — only that she wasn’t ready for the process. Who is? Having

not yet defined herself, she had an untenable fear that couldn’t be surmounted. In my case, after many long retreats in the Zen tradition, there was no fear. Anxiety, yes, that’s what drives this series, and restlessness; an undying need to come out with it, to reveal it, and, yes, some amount of exhibitionism. These are the fine ingredients of Field of Weeds. On the way back, it’s sad to see how the homeless turn up. The rain drives them out, the desperate cases. I suppose they would choose to die if it were offered. Sometimes I can read it in their faces. What is noble about this? Aren’t we to be judged for our weakness, not our strength? I suppose nobility is only a façade, the impulse to live beyond the human, for we’ve already accomplished our objective. “Can you hit the mark? Can you carry a tune?” Not even that. “Can you run a mile? Can you digest a steak?” But we are somehow driven, the same impulse that pulled us from the primordial ooze. That’s our work: to pass the torch, to climb higher, farther… not all of us, but to the extent of our abilities to press the matter forward. Maybe you don’t think pursuing the arts is pressing the matter forward, but you can’t judge this unless you consider the homeless who suffer this rainy night. Is their expression of any value to you? That’s the more revealing question. ***

I really enjoyed Black Swan, but it’s a challenging film. If you love the arts, by all means see it. I think Aronofsky has captured something important, magnified to ridiculous proportions. How hard we push ourselves, to the end of life, and to what end? Don’t ask again, or I may abandon this project and simply stare intensely at things, what you must be doing now. It always hangs by a thread, the unknown artist’s life, these performances. Fortunately, this pen has a mind of its own.

thirteen. THIRD STREET BRIDGE

Venturing deep into the wild of Los Angeles, Hollywood, Skid Row I’m spending a lot of time with the homeless these days. Living in LA, if you go outside of your neighborhood, between places, you cross paths with them. I don’t mean to dwell on their misery; it’s the poetry of these regions. Since my rounds usually take me through Watts and Skid Row, I’ve become driven to record these environments. Out of the house after midnight, the fog had surrounded the South Bay nearly through the day. Someone lurches from the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, soon gone. I had all sorts of jobs to do, but spent half the day modding a shoulder bag, adding a concealed camera. I told everyone after. I wasn’t trying to escape my duties, but follow–through is important. I spent the whole evening working with the tiny camera, getting the workflow right so I wouldn’t be wasting time. It turned

out the only small camera I had access to shoots mpeg1, which is very primitive. When I get the money I’m moving up to HD. But I don’t think it matters. The footage I’m going to shoot with it doesn’t need a sharp focus. Tonight at the grocery store, the Russian rang me out. How deep his despair. How can one fall so far? We are beautiful not only for our greatness, but our lack. There’s something grand about it, the scope of it. I’m sure he’s trapped somewhere — and no one to comfort him. Why do we need so much? The life I have, is it one of privilege? Slowly the details will become known. I don’t want to describe myself too fully. You’ll have to trust me. I left the Russian to his horror and entered the fog. Night. No one out, anywhere. It must be 2 0’ Clock now. Tomorrow I’ll make another escape. *** Stuck in traffic, I see a row of trees on the sidewalk. I abandon the truck to walk there. My mind returns to its blissful state so easily. The pace has been so hectic, but my Buddhist heart remains. I walk softly, the cars jamming against me, like I’m going somewhere. All the way I’m buoyed behind a group of five women, clopping their heels. The tall one notices me, and all of them make it to the other side of the street. I cut across the greenbelt, a small strip of park, all that remains from the trolleys of the 20’s. I make it without capsizing, though my flipflops gouge at least a rick of peat moss. I gas the

beast and lurch toward Marine. After the Sunday Zen center ritual, I try the camera out in Hollywood. No one notices. It’s very easy to take the shots I want, though most of it is from the waist, shaky. I have to learn how to use it. But already it had grown too dark. Punks on the street; pink ladies walking sideways, leaning on poles. I catch a bit of them as they pass, “No… but you know me, I’m expressive.” The stream of it like a dream sequence: sirens, a motorcycle, an old man steps carefully past — no meaning. I’m no longer looking for it. A beautiful woman drifts by, effervescent, so many soft things, her own kind of poetry, so many concerns — a difficult work. I want to study her, record her. I make it across the street, but not with grace. I’ve really gotten to shambling between things, ducking into shady pockets like it was a damned living room. I don’t know why I’m so comfortable here. A Korean woman joins me at a table; they just know how to do it. She plays with a baby at the next table. They’re very open with children, great mothers if you plan on being born into this world again. I like it here, but really have no reason to return. I let her have the table and shuffle on. The sun was gone. Ladies were taking tiny steps and singing to themselves, draped over the Hollywood stars, sitting on them, adjusting their bra straps, looking at their watches. The men were busy projecting, mating, being freaks; their faces, moods! Tourists everywhere,

the street performers were out in full force: silver santas, golden statues, Marilyn Monroe on the subway grate with Zoro, pirates, iron men, avatars, Sponge Bob, fat Elvis, whore cops, a Cuban princess with a black Zoro, bikers, balloon twisters… at some point I closed down. Hollywood has its charm, but it hangs too long in the dream. That it turns garish is telling. Everyone looks exasperated with all of the projections, everyone clamoring for attention. The next day I could hardly rise, my skin prickly, numb, like I’d been poisoned. I made an appointment for a blood test and stumbled there. The vampires behind the window were busy sorting through the catacombs of file cabinets, but perked up when they saw my blood–filled carcass. The nurse’s eyes bulged from a recent feasting, “Yes… let’s see what you’ve got.” The needle went in silently, painlessly… Back at Monterey I get a call from Kye Soen, spreading her tendrils into my affairs. Her son was staying with friends in Studio City to get in the High School he wanted. He needed a better environment, a room of his own, an adult who cared about him. I’d been a part of his life since his earliest memory. His parents were divorced during his first year, and I began dating Kye Soen soon after. We’ve had a lot of good times together, and he came to my rescue more than once when his mother was out of her mind. I’m going to rent a small apartment near the subway early next year and look after him. She’s busy with college and raising a young daughter in Berkeley

for another year at least, and needs some relief. The subway pierced through Watts, the familiar crowds of dejected souls. Here there’s no question of taking care of someone else’s child. It would seem ridiculous. What are they after, these hordes? It doesn’t seem to be working for them. Not just dissatisfied, but tortured by the conditions they face. What hope rises from their lips, to find a partner, riches? There are countless lives spent in emotional turmoil, that were wrought from it so have no inclination to abandon it. It’s a primitive grasping that holds them to it, for life in its simple truth is quite profound. All of the troubles in the world are because of this, and that we hold to things so tightly, things that should be left alone — to force our own sense of order on the caterwauling, disorderly masses. The white haze hung like a dirty curtain over the desolate scenes. Downtown. The withdrawn and their musings, what the weather has to do with it both obvious and beyond our grasp. Is it our frailty against the clouds? A man in a wheelchair rolls in with a large basket of candy to sell. How long his day, scrambling for change? Does he have freedom within his constraints? Why do we exist, if only to suffer through this life? The choice isn’t ours. If so, if we cannot stop or control or fathom it, if the thing can’t be kept, why be overwrought? The train on the outbound rail rattles past so quickly that our train pulls toward it. Poetry. The spell is broken suddenly when a mother and child sit beside me, the young girl bouncing on her chair, exhilarated, filled with

joy. The sun burned through, maybe it was her. LA returned to her usual graces. The candy sellers were piling up on each other. It’s rare that I see anyone buy anything. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be so desperate. I suppose these poor, dejected souls have no other choice? I walked down 7th, a much brighter mood, some were even laughing. Here existence made sense, not something to suffer through, with your hand out, but delight, in companionship, in whatever small victory. There must be some line that many can’t cross, and there is no other place for them. Nature doesn’t reward failures. I start to feel it past Main, the bottom dropping out. People begin talking to themselves, magazine vendors hunched inside their boxes, people become amorphous, so can’t be described. The noise and heat did me some good, drew the poison out. I walk through all sorts of strange scenes on the way to 3rd, nearly all Mexican. The fashion district is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. The homeless here are hard wired — they see you coming long before you see them. A small woman with a very large cup stands before a whole street of head shops, past these I cross into Little Tokyo. There are many people in wheelchairs sitting on the street, staring at nothing. How do they eat? Where do they go? I pass a shopping center soon after — the dumpsters here must be full of treasures. Still farther on the lone and lonely homeless are propped against a fence or brick wall, waiting for night. The angel’s wings reach even here. They are

scratched onto doors, painted on the sidewalk. What dream, that some creature with wings has any interest in our affairs? How arrogant! I’m sure the angels are busy enough with their own. Who comes up with this? It’s obvious we’re doomed to a nonsensical string of events that ultimately come to nothing; the hidden meaning of helping others — that happiness can be realized only by giving freely, that the energy flows outward — the real meaning of the angel’s wings. Sadly, we’re unable to penetrate this without great sacrifice. If it were otherwise I would surely tell you. A small man pees gallons against the wall. It was then I realized I’d entered Skid Row. It looked like some were praying, so quiet. Some of them stood like statues; some looked almost normal, so well–dressed they appeared to be just passing through, but they all had the same unmistakable look in their eyes, anger or something more refined: the end of hope — something like the silk that forms as things decay. What is it called? A stretcher appeared on the next block, the paramedics, cleaning up, taking away a carcass. I work my way down to 7th, past the Midnight Mission and a man with his pigeons, a handsome young man with sad eyes… what to do? The police were heavy through here, some of them shouting, laughing. If this truly is the end of the world, why would they bother? Maybe it isn’t an end, just another layer of humanity, so foreign that it seems depraved, but what do we know? Who do you know that lives fully, like an angel?

The madness fades, past wedding gowns and suitcases and half–mannequins wearing blue jeans — no need for a torso here, but there are many sad faces through the financial district as well — a different kind of sadness. Underneath Flower, the platform was already crowded, though a train had just pulled away. I melted into the seat like an amoeba, my legs pounding from the miles of concrete. The same candy lady as before, her box still full, another one followed a stop behind. No one’s buying. It’s a dark place, there’s no way to get around it, but there’s a truth in the simplicity of it: survival in its crudest form, whatever can be salvaged, and staring blankly, waiting, shuffling between streets to kill time, clinging to a familiar spot. Watts has its own flavor, its own brand of misery. It’s impossible for me to fathom their suffering. I can only observe, and pass through them. Like this work, which remains unknown; like a ripple in a pond, it has an element of beauty, and destroys itself. What other act is available to us? What can we do against the backdrop of eternal quiescence, other than to give voice to it?

fourteen. THE FIELD

The swordmaster returns, with gifts... darkness is named, revealed in the winding streets... the Gill Tract of Albany I strive to leave the communication unvarnished, wild and unkempt, practically unedited — to give nature its magic and resonance, not something manufactured to cleverly promote my entity as something apart from it, nor to live in this wild place. It appears here because of my intent to convey the deep truth, one that will ultimately leave you disheveled, alone, completely at the mercy of the elements — because we have made walls and barriers, and cannot truly know ourselves. As you will see, this is necessary, for now. One day we will live without barriers, but this is not a world that can be described or imagined. We have to work from the bare ground, the everyday suffering and turmoil that describes us. ***

The whole thing began back in 2000 with a pile of notebooks from Korea and the desert that would become The Zen Revolution. I bought an old laptop to begin editing the manuscript, and there encountered the beast that was Windows 95. I began reading manuals, learning programs, editing the material almost as an afterthought. I had no luck with being a writer: finding an agent, getting anyone to look at the manuscript — I suppose no one does at first, but having no reaction or feedback, and believing fully in the quality of my work, I reached the only possible conclusion: people weren’t reading anymore. The book went on a shelf, for years, and I built a series of workstations, through all the major revisions of software and hardware — to learn how to edit video. It’s really come into its own. I’m excited for what the next generation will bring with the tools we have available. What a world… I’m sitting in an IMAX theater in Los Angeles a few minutes before Tron Legacy. The sound system is the best I’ve heard: electronic music, the rise of humanity, the thing being built, musically. Despite the mixed reviews, I lovd the film, but no time to waste, the next moment a flight to Berkeley. So many people traveling for the holidays, the corridors thrumming with beautiful human noise: silly dramas, jumping children, security checkpoints that change on impulse. I can remember not too long ago when I was boiling inside with whatever pointless thing: frustration, dwelling on my shortcomings, those of others. Knowing

this state so well, I easily recognize it, see it constantly, understand that most are caught under their own spell, drugged by it — I can’t find fault with them, not anymore. We aren’t ready to go beyond form, to become liberated. If you are not ready, there’s no rush. Stay in the dream a while longer. For those who are no longer amused, not satisfied with the human situation… there’s no escaping it, of course, but wanting to escape isn’t the way to go. The grasping, rejecting, judging remain, no matter how far. It’s truly an end of its own, this freedom, an orchestration. You’ll only know how the notes are struck when the madness recedes of its own and the drug loses its hold; the thousand entanglements fall away, in their place the great peace. You may ask, “Isn’t this an escape?” How to explain? The first real breakthrough I had depended on holding no concerns and being in harmony with all beings. This is the way of the Mahayana, the great vehicle. The whole must be taken in at once and thoroughly accepted, all facets of reality given proper respect, for this is the field of mind. *** I fly north to spend the holidays with Kye Soen and her children. A man can’t always take the low road. Up in the affluent clouds the turbulence is fierce, the peanuts few. There was a great and steady rain blowing through Los Angeles county, something unusual for all the years I’ve spent there. The 737 slices through gusts of it like a cheese knife. Apparently there’s a range of atmospheric

conditions this beast can handle, but it’s strange and certainly troubling to watch it unfold. Back in North Berkeley, the first thing I notice is a large fenced off field that fronts the housing unit. The Gill Tract, it’s a ten–acre block once famous for Edward Gill’s roses, now run by the Albany Unified School District and UC Berkeley as an educational farm. The first time I saw the corn, I wanted inside the fence — to record it. I never made it in. It’s surrounded by a hurricane fence seven feet high, forested on one corner with a small stream running through it. Signs everywhere warn against trespassing. The treasures inside out of reach, this modern world, how many boundaries, borders, fences, walls? Do we respect them, stay within their confines? Yes. And so our world is confined to the public spaces and easements between them: thoroughfares, sidewalks, the open door of a neighbor or friend. But I was not raised this way. I grew up in an impenetrable wilderness. There were fences, barbed–wire, easily crossed, and vast distances of unbroken forests and fields left to go wild, and no one, not even a single friend, to hinder me. As a result, or consequence, I hardly tolerate the way things are. As I make my way around the fence, hounded by traffic and glaring windows, searching for the smallest opening, I’m left with no recourse other than to observe the trembling mudholes through the wire, look upon the pale yellow flowers as they move gently in the breeze. The muddy furrows of the cut–down field will not de-

stroy my city shoes, the cold ground will not find me embracing it — instead the sterile cage, and me pacing, knowing what it’s like to have it firsthand. But without the proper credentials… Everything is parceled off, the satellite images of Google Earth show it in fine detail. If you zoom in to any area, what you see is not a free–flowing wilderness, but a patchwork, a mosaic of fields. We’ve changed the terrain substantially from what it was. There’s no way to pass freely through the fields, to know them. Our understanding of the world, and by extension ourselves, is from outside the fence, the gate, the latch — all of it cordoned off. In our inexorable move toward the cities, the hive, we’ve all become prisoners. There is no freedom, the restrictions we face cauterizing; there’s no point that we aren’t confounded by them. We can only enjoy the amount of land we can pay for, and whatever public space left to us. I’m not saying we should do things differently, but that our world is one of constraint, sacrifice — to learn discipline is to learn to breathe. The dance, the drill… the child cries because it has found one of these barriers, obstacles, limitations. How many tears? This is how we live, from within the confines of our property, never knowing an open expanse. Do you think this is a metaphor? If I should perish outside this chain–link fence, at least I was prevented from stepping on this protected land that beckons so sweetly. But our world has changed. Already it has gone internal. Why venture out of our

rooms? It reminds me of the wikileaks controversy. Kye Soen asked, “Why was someone able to access those files?” “He was young, so knew everything about computers. Probably the ones in charge were older, had no idea what the flashing lights were about. ‘What’s that?’ ‘Oh, I’m just defragging the page file — strictly maintenance. Don’t you know how delicate these PATA’s are? Isn’t anybody concerned about security around here?’” The conversation over dinner turned to what must be, the underpinnings, and how a writer has two souls, that the writer’s voice is something separate from the known. She didn’t believe me, had no way to grasp what I was driving at. “It’s not me, it’s almost like automatic writing. The words often appear that I’m to use and remain there like an imprint until I record them. Sometimes I refuse because it seems pointless or mundane, but the imprint does not relent until it is done. It began… the first time I noticed it was after a 90-day Zen retreat in the early 90’s. I suddenly realized that the thoughts coursing through me, what I’d always thought personal, was actually something I was picking up from my neighbor! His firing neurons were somehow registering as my own. We think what appears in our minds is our own creation, but this is a ridiculous notion — completely false. These days I’m in a secure, safe place, so there’s no danger of

interference. Even so, I’m very careful about engaging with others, their propaganda. The stream that is my writing voice, I know it well — I’m very friendly with it, but I don’t claim that it’s me anymore than I would take credit for the wheel, or space travel.” Across the bay in a busy subway, a different scene than LA by leagues. Here society embraces the train, the only sensible way to commute to the city. Everyone is dressed in rugged clothes: goose down vests, slickers, windbreakers. The foreigners mesh seamlessly, overlap in waves of complexity only possible in a city of such magnitude, importance. Walking among the towering buildings is to enter the church of the Republic. It must be true, for I’m not the only one with a sense of awe. The train rises in a gentle grade above the city streets, the light muted through heavy clouds. Past Macarthur a snarl of freeway overpasses; the veins of the city more complex here than any place I’ve seen — or maybe it’s that I’m new to this network. Back underground, my face reflects back at me distorted from the smudged glass, concerned, concentrating on these details, and that it’s a long way to the Bay. San Francisco was all rain and fog — who knew? I waited under the street with some Chinese friends, who were very patient, but eventually grew weary of watching the steady downpour and made it down the passageway to an unknown end. A man worked at the base of the escalator, planted to his shoulders in the maw of the machinery. I wait until the rain lets up, then emerge

at Market Street into a dazzling cityscape. No time to enjoy the soaring structures, I catch the 21 Hayes, to meet an old friend, the swordmaster; a wonderful ally and brother, one of the few I’ve met who knows the terrain, who’s ahead of me. Of course no one understands him. He gives me poetry and gifts, and talks to me until my limbs are shaking. I stop listening and let him do his work. Many teachings are transferred to me in the course of an hour. He’s very efficient. Both of us are deeply involved in the propagation of dharma, we recognize it in each other. Seeing each other, we are both negated and confirmed. It can’t be, yet there it is, again — the God among men, the magic gate thrown, the wild unknowable thing encountered… both of us empty, we operate in the world only through intent, for all beings, otherwise we would vanish on the spot, like RDX. I would introduce you, but things have to align for him, like a mandala, and it’s far too hot for your bones I’m sure. On my return the energy courses through me, churns my entrails, my bowels, leaving me incapable of speech, movement. He always does this to me. It’s like the writing process magnified to such a degree that the self loses hold. I finally move, with difficulty, sit in a dark subway tunnel waiting for my train somehow pulsing, beating just like a human. The train makes it through the tunnel in a rapid succession of events, a blur of lights racing past. Whatever this is can’t be called a place. We exist as a tribe launched through blackness, a scream-

ing tunnel, invisible, impossible to know. Beneath the ocean, encased in a concrete shell, we burst into daylight, into a network of shipping containers, intertwining streets, sidewalks, brick walls, clapboard. Our world expresses our inner confinement, reflects in concrete and steel the story of our race, how our consciousness flows, our anger and ambition, our frivolous nature, and above all our fear. We know we are weak, we know our hunger, so a latch on every door, steel bars, reinforced glass, security cameras, razor wire, armed guards, black and white ninjas, scarecrows, fighter jets, polished nails, sunglasses, diamond studded wristbands, background music, quarantine. As I wait for Kye Soen to pick me up I watch a dozen people before me shoveled into cars, warmth and light emanating from inside. I imagine stepping into one of them at random, of living a different life, leaving all of my things behind; how an old man amuses himself under the sycamore trees, but what would they do with me? Truly there is no place for me other that what I’ve hewn from the landscape that I must ceaselessly work, like a trail through the jungle. Having no place in the world is a feat of engineering. All of this is more complicated that I’m able to convey. This is only poetry. If the bright emanation that appears through limitless worlds could be adequately described, there would be no more trouble in the world. If the trouble were removed now, we would collapse into our own mire as if we’d lost our bones. We will sur-

mount it. People now, here, have accomplished it; maybe someone you know. But it is something rare, only won through great endurance and sacrifice. Few are able or willing to run the gauntlet, and so the miserable state of the world today. Not to dwell on our shortcomings, but we must accept them, our place. We’ve hardly risen from the mud, yet we expect to live as Gods! Communism depends on the intrinsic goodness of humanity, that it will prevail. The Republic realizes this is false, that people are corrupt, so allows them the illusion of freedom while monitoring them with careful scrutiny; life under a microscope, a hint now of what it will be. Why must we bear this? Are we all criminals?

fifteen. THE ILLUSION OF GRACE

To unravel the myth of persona and dig up some of its inherent problems I ‘ve unhooked from the play of events through concentrated effort, but I did not expect this. I had no idea what liberation meant, how it felt — and now the daunting task of illustrating it. There’s a constant hustle to this work. The train blasts through the tunnel. I can tell we’re deep because the pressure changes. Not to worry, the engineers put a lot of time into this. We drift under the bay to Embarcadero with mechanical ease, the train spacious, carpeted. Christmas Eve, the subway nearly empty. I send the day alone, with the camera, the same process as writing, though much less heat. My nose takes me to Haight Street, down another node of desperation, more colorful than Skid Row but the same malaise. There are a lot of homeless in San Francisco, a lot of them in pretty good shape, a lot of good old-fashioned drunks and the

more common drug addicts. The camera has me trigger happy. Whenever something moves I want to pull focus, dial in the light. When I write I’m in a tunnel, tuned to the shit frequency waiting for the signal to continue. It doesn’t work if the hopper’s empty. I have to continually fill it, with anything, life. When the reserve runs low, when there’s not enough heat to catalyze it, there’s no use picking up the pen. I’ve know a few men, great for their own reasons — one a Zen master, one a public figure — through the entire arc of their lives. I was fortunate to witness the devolution of their psyches. The old man is nothing like the one in his prime. Vitality is lost long before the road ends, and what is left is only a husk. The personality is organic. Like a fruit, it has its moment of perfection and quietly rots. The season, the tide; the land glowers with a whole range of emanations, now all kindness and harmony, street thugs and criminals. I can’t count how many I’ve encountered lately. Not that I seek them out, but that’s where the beauty is, for me. I’m forever driven to the abandoned areas in cities that are large enough, old enough that the built up core, what was once manufacturing or some other waning industry, collapses, leaving a hollowed-out desperation that gets repurposed as an art district. Whatever founders made the metropolis have long gone, and with them the dreams that held their companies there, disintegrated into the empty bones of days past, gone to more profitable spaces. The

Blade Runner effect. It’s not only how you build complexity in an urban environment, but in people as well. The broken soul is the poet, show me one who is not. But downtown is not a place to dwell. There is no place. The curtain falls and the rats and vagrants emerge, the true dharma of the street revealed: booming voices with their pleas, bizarre statements, threats cascading like the notes of a minor key, all of them out of tune. The thundering bass is the city bus, the violin the wail of the siren and honking horns of those in a hurry to leave the show early. Unlike the wilderness, you have to enjoy it at a fast pace, or risk becoming part of the production, this modern relapse. Where do you go? We all have our archetypes, themes. I always go to the sordid places, by instinct. Kye Soen brings me to Macy’s, where I’m left to pace the floor under the halogens, through clouds of heavy perfume; the steely chatter of gazelles as they leap from aisle to aisle, the clatter of hooves and hangers. In UC Berkeley housing, I take several blocks looking for a café, the second time I’ve done this, in different directions. No luck. The place is run by savages! You can get a good coffee here, but only on a particular street that branches off from another in a direction I wouldn’t normally go. My own instincts here prevent me from this simple convenience. I come back with a dry mouth, bleary eyes. ***

Security checkpoint. Since I’m not a criminal I eventually pass through, sit in an overly–heated chair behind the A–line. Again I’m struck by the different strain of citizens here than the bus depot, like two separate streams that run oblivious to each other. In the seat next to mine a blackberry left behind. A few minutes later a woman comes to collect it, who was surprised that it was still there. If it had been a bus, the thing would’ve sprang into someone’s pocket instantaneously, who would then boast to everyone about the prize they’d found. It’s a privilege to know both, to encounter these alternating currents with hardly a thought to my own welfare, or how I’m being perceived, but I’m not immune to their pressings: the noise and dust and turmoil. You don’t think of the risk until the 737 guns it at the end of a mile of asphalt. How long it takes before the beast is airborne! The back of the cabin is full of fumes. Blasted back into my seat, we drill straight across the bay into the God-fearing blackness of our inevitable end, then the thing rolls its belly and I can see nothing but cabin lights reflected on the glass. The jets vibrate through the floor, driving us to what incredible height, velocity only the captain knows. There were dips, shimmies, sideways lurches, drops, but the beast was remarkably stable. The madness waited on the ground at LAX. Though only 7PM, the info desk was shut down, and no one on the floor knew how to catch the 232 down PCH except a maintenance guy in a yellow vest who had me going

down a bus lane to save time. I eventually staggered to the other side of the airport dragging my luggage, where I was informed there was no 232. I had to pack it down to area 6 to catch the shuttle to lot C. I stood under a sign that posted which shuttles were arriving. Unfortunately, it was dead wrong. Whenever a C bus was due, it was simply wiped from the board, or steamed past on the other side of the street. I asked several bus drivers about it, who assured me I was standing in the right place. Los Angeles is a dirtbag city if you’re on foot. It’s hard to detune, the long fit of activity a blur of some kind of shut-down mode that travelling seems to induce. I can’t recall much of it. I remember saying goodbye to Kye Soen. It wasn’t like a Zen master disappearing silently by night, but a complicated shaking of limbs, promises and last minute details. I was happy to be away from all the uncomfortable things she secretly carries, secret to her anyway. We exist together for a short time, move together, but how different our worlds! Outwardly it seems we are the same, the illusion of grace. There’s nothing complicated about transcending the self. It’s old technology, well proven. No one can do it because there’s no reason to take apart what has been so carefully wound, like a tourniquet. Only someone who’s untied the knots, and does so continuously, would be aware of this. When I’m around her, most people, I sense all the suffering tightly bound to her, to them, and it pains me. Here is the face of the devil, the real one.

I’ve weathered through so many years beside nearly catastrophic failures, and with all my insight and lifelong devotion to dharma I haven’t been able to staunch the flow. They’re coming apart before my eyes, the illusion of self broken into myriad aspects, which they count and worry over as if they were their own children. Surviving your own ignorance, suffering through it, is remarkable in a way, but why not strive to become liberated from it? Not only I, but everyone you meet will thank you, throw flowers at your feet. *** My mother has a pond on the back of her land, which is never full enough, according to her. As the water evaporates through the summer, her worries increase to a frenzy. It’s a great concern for her. As for me, it never occurred to me to judge the pond. It seems to operate correctly, within the laws of nature. I spoke to her about it. “The pond has its own way. It’s OK for it to be low.” I don’t know if this had any effect, but I assume that it didn’t. It’s rare that a mind realizes its weaknesses, its hindrances, and corrects its behavior, especially for the older ones whose habits are so deeply ingrained. What is it about our world that it must be painted over in vivid colors, when truth alone, in its bare essence, is limitless and profound? It’s not art that is at fault. The artist isn’t trying to exist in some heightened state. Art is observation, communication, wisdom. It’s

the schoolyard dream that dooms us all, the longing to be something we are not — to the extent, the degree. If we could lean, instead, toward the pursuit of knowledge, understanding — toward a greater harmony, a deeper continuity between the thought and intent and the play of things… which is why I stay out of relationships, why, I’m sure, all saints are singular. Because everyone is so complicated, so many things needed to keep their illusions aloft — a colossal waste of time and energy. It‘s like taking daVinci and putting him to work in the sewer. The more I see the beauty of existence, the less inclined I am to filter it through whatever colored glass. It has to be authentic or it infuriates us, whether we give voice to it or not. A great friend of mine, the very elegant and well–spoken Nick Perl, just posted this on facebook: NP: WARNING WARNING!!! New Agers are serial killers waiting to happen. Do not trust anyone that is manically happy on wheatgrass and Reiki, they can snap at any moment and go on a killing spree…. seriously. Repression anyone? A few responses: * I have meet some angry “new–age–peace–love– pink–cloud–around–the–head” … scaaaarry!!! * I thought new age was dead? I’m not up on all the fairies and what not. * I call them “uptight liberals” — I love Berkeley but it’s full of ‘em — why I had to cut.

Today we hate everyone, especially the good guys, because it’s all fake. Layers after layers of deceit we hide even from ourselves, but to anyone who cares to look at it plainly, who isn’t following the program, it’s blatantly obvious.

sixteen. HOW TO SAVE THE GIRL

I venture deep into the Inland Empire... a brief look at suburbia The elevator to the platform stinks of musk and perfume. I think someone’s been living in it. It strikes me as a good idea. They shut down the subway after 12, no one would know. It sure beats sleeping in a storefront or bathroom. There are many instances where my life as an artist crosses lines with the homeless, but I’m too productive to sit around all day. What does it mean to be an artist? Does becoming an artist mean you’ve stepped out of the stream, faced down the fear? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s authentic until the artist has thrown in the towel at least a million times. I don’t know what fear or stream could bother one past a certain point. The train stalls at Aviation, pulling me from my thoughts, which were heavily bent toward figuring out

what happened to all of my pens. I’d not yet exhausted one, yet all of them were gone, this one nearly useless. There’s a certain pressure you feel, the clamor of those with needs, frustrations, who want what you’ve got — even if you’re sleeping on someone’s couch. I was nearly to Watts, late as it was. I wouldn’t have a chance to find another pen until Fontana, but I was exhausted anyway. Maybe I’d enjoy the downtime, read, talk out loud, work with the camera... I’m not much of a pedestrian. As I struggle to write with the last bit of ink, a homeless man begins playing guitar, Feliz Navidad, introducing a shit storm of society coming apart — this New Year’s eve on the train… I keep my head down, but without a pen I’ve become newly vulnerable. I was surprised when I finally made it to the kiosk. The man behind the window was pleasant, gentle. Did he have some kind of one–way glass? I don’t see how anyone could watch the shitty parade, the beaten–down remnants of the American dream, without throwing up a little inside. I guess he had his guarantee of a fat steak every week and whatever it was keeping him off the streets, his little hat and uniform. Good for him. I finally sat down, watched the stream of humanity packing into Union Station. I can’t say there was a feeling of hope in the air, but something. Maybe they were keyed up, for the change. I’m sure if you asked anyone they would say they didn’t care, but a brand new year? Things were clicking into place, famous people falling off the map, new ones appearing through mysterious means. These are turbulent times. The new year promises like none

before to invigorate our tired old ways — though we’re certainly dragging our heels. A few pointers: Women — stop hissing like snakes. Men — learn how to be the snake. Snakes — you’re on your own. We could use a little more survival training, to allay the fear — more bags of rice under the bed, more kimchi, more spices in general, more wild animals and the wilderness they require; more fence cutters, blowtorches, off–road vehicles, search lights, underwater gear; more hand weapons and plowshares that we can beat into weapons; more recipes that use less than five ingredients; more warehouse lofts, mom and pop stores; more thunderstorms that leave everyone quiet; more lines that move, lights that change, antacids that work, water we can drink, films that don’t stink, that aren’t made by corporations; books… can they be saved?… forget the books — more Chinese in our schools, more Koreans, Afghanis, less people who look like they’ve spent their entire lives in small rooms; more exchange students, especially the handsome ones — we could use a refresh here at Union Station. The line lurches forward, then snaps shut. You’ll be happy to know there was no privileged class. We all stand and wait. A man tries to sell me a sleeve of silver coins. I get through the line to pace back and forth past the entrance tunnel to numerous tracks. No trains anywhere, no number that matches anything on my ticket.

I was told to stand near the kiosk and wait for the track to be announced. There’s a lot of down time waiting for a train. I can’t imagine what it was like before, but I wouldn’t be drifting around as much. The train was delayed, the payphones broken — no way to contact my friends and tell them not to wait, so I let it go. A beautiful young woman walked past, through what I imagine must be a life of gentle ease and overflowing compliments, until I realize she requires a mate. No one stays in the dream. Even the beautiful, delicate ones have to enter the shit stream, eat the cheese, wear the crown. The noise begins to pick up on the floor. There needs to be some kind of train or bus or schedule, or else start handing out raw meat. There was a burst in the perimeter. Like an amoeba the crowd oozed down the corridor, growing by the second as more and more struggled to see what it was about. Yes, the Southwest Chief had arrived. It was reckless and I had a tough time riding it through, the train more than an hour late. No one knows how to handle it. Travelling these days, you get shaken loose all the time. I’m getting the hang of it, but I wasn’t to ride the train all day. I had only two stops before entering suburbia. When I finally got through the fog, my friends waiting patiently, I was removed from my leather–clad dreams of the open road, put into a new space they were struggling to adapt to. A dog barked in the neighbor’s yard. The place had carpet. I slept in a room with no light.

Welcome to the suburbs: kid’s toys everywhere — two young boys in the house, domestic things, a continuous dialogue I take part in, but not with a sense of urgency. My friend was happy in her marriage, raising her children a great source of joy, but there was a war going on inside — a long, complicated story that requires a show of its own, and how to intercede? Truly a battle is won or lost every day, and no one’s keeping score. The whole bloody thing must be done with. You have to surrender. The rhythm is muted. Everyone has their comfortable nest. The grass is clean along the sidewalks. There’s no graffiti, no sign of despair or unrest. This must be the core of the empire, the part that works, for no one could survive here without playing major in the system, and they all seem to be bearing it OK. It’s not a life I would choose. I don’t really get it, the business of owning a home, here. Fast food, the mall, TV — it all seems so empty. As I say this there’s the tinkle of wind chimes, children’s voices. I suppose for them it’s all magical, full of promise. Maybe that’s the game here, to never grow up. We can’t have everyone wandering the streets, the fields, living on other’s couches, on foot, seeing the world in a microcosm, whatever landscape is at hand; to walk here is to go from one place to the next. There’s little contact with other people. Do not attempt it or they’ll know you’re not one of them. You’re supposed to stay in your car mostly, to wear clean shoes, and stand peacefully in line. Yes, I can do it, but what for? I don’t want to go deep on you, but how could this be enough,

for anyone? I suppose I could close down and accept it. Let me try… “Another day in the cubicle. Maybe I’ll order a pizza so I won’t have to strain myself. Tomorrow I’ll go buy some new tennis shoes… this isn’t working.” As I pass through this place I’m confounded by the objects around me. What do they suggest? The sidewalks are very wide and perfect, but there’s no one on them; the landscape green and alive, but monotonous, bland. We don’t know how to do this, to plant things with some sort of purpose, artistry. It would be better to fling wild seed everywhere, but who has the courage? The dog barks constantly, straining against a leash — I can tell from the sound of his voice. As I make my way down the fake streets of South Ridge, I can’t help but feeling oppressed by the colossal tide of pre–manufactured dreams, all of it in beige stucco, fake shutters. I’m sure you don’t need further details. There are moments: the low, grassy mountains with boulders thrust out like a Grecian Isle, the strange section of Birds of Paradise thrown in to the abysmal landscaping. As I struggle to record this, two guys ride by on horses. I pass through what looks to be a park, but it’s really the land under high–tension wires, a suburban fire–lane. In the Louisiana pine forests these are cut between most 40–acre tracts, a network of trails running on forever through manufactured forests of pulpwood. Everything modern is banal. Here, on the streets of suburbia, it can’t be denied. I’ve never operated within this environment, so I

can’t give you anything authentic. This peaceful place that isn’t a farm community or forest, that doesn’t manufacture anything or aspire to. It’s a settlement of houses alone, and their bastard children town houses, condos, and apartments. There’s a certain paradise here, but along with it a terror, a forfeit of whatever promise of greatness. Not the American dream, surely, to drift through an entire life with no real demarcation, no contribution to society. To exist in this bardo of suburbia is to quietly expire. You’ve already signed the papers. A realtor comes over, just being friendly, skimming information, hunting for the scent of carrion, the foreclosure, the short sale. It’s all money to her. She was real happy to hear I was a Zen guy, non–threatening, not playing the market, “Isn’t that nice?” The streets are clean, the air is clean. Welcome to Fontana. A motorcycle cop hands out a ticket, allays another dangerous motorist. A beautiful young woman at the café — I think these suffer more here. She picks up on my vibe, that I’m an outsider, and nearly clambers over the counter to get at me. I can’t save her anymore than the dog on a chain. “You have to break out on your own. Start plotting. Get a savings account. You’ll need about five grand for a cushion. Figure out how to get at what you want — a university, a plot of land in the Philippines, a Zen master you admire. Don’t tell anyone about it. You have to go rogue.”

She smoothes out her apron and recedes back into the white noise. Ah well, it was worth a shot. Back to the cold isolation of the perfect sidewalk, I make my way back up the hill to finish putting together IKEA furniture, mounting plasmas, picture frames, door chains… and it occurs to me suddenly that what I’d uncovered here was far more significant than I’d thought, the much maligned socialism. It used to be the Russians, now the enemy is the Democrats. Forget them. The real socialists are the architects of corporate housing, we ourselves. The Southwest Chief was more than three hours behind schedule. I suppose this is what it means to travel, really, to be stuck in a drafty corridor with an empty stomach as crowds form and disperse. Stop motion. Another hour is eaten away. The station at Riverside is a row of benches on the tracks. No way to get out of the weather. I resort to pacing, checking in at the security station. The guards laugh at me, whatever I ask. I suppose it’s funny, the hopeless time lost, being devalued, thrown to the elements, no voice, no rights. Well, the right to spend all day travelling a few miles, to use the payphone, to listen to the honking loudspeakers. If I were running the station, I’d give everyone friendly reminders every few minutes. “Welcome to the free world. Look at our marvelous service provided by our perfect government. Enjoy the stimulation and fresh air of our open platform. If you want to get to work on time, we suggest you leave four hours early. Expect delays. Do not try to walk, as our

security personnel are trained to intercept stragglers. Please enjoy your stay at the cement waiting slab.”

seventeen. THE ORGASMATRON

A world created out of the random events of my life... and who am I? My name is Field of Weeds As I welcome in this new year of sidewalks and angry cars, there is a sudden quiet — the sound of birds, someone drilling through a wall. Good idea. I walk peacefully down the greenbelt and there slowly make my way to the market. The fog has not yet burned off. People are pressing through it, in a hurry, some of them stretching, bending. What’s the hustle about? The Farmer’s Market, who’s fresh produce draws a particular crowd, mostly the aji ma, the middle–aged housewife, and domesticated men who seem to have sprouted teats, old couples grabbing after things. Superimposed from the past, they seem to live there still. What is it about the produce displayed on folding tables that’s better than the grocery? Am I going to get a good deal? I can’t tell if the prices are different, but I did enjoy the humanity of buying a pile of greens with

weeds mixed in, how it affected the lady I bought them from. It went straight to her heart. I don’t know why. On facebook this week another round of dialog on the sexual abuse of women in a prevailing Zen lineage. Nearly every male in the world gets a stiff cock now and then. How to deal with it? Maybe it’s the future described in Woody Allen’s Sleeper, where everyone has sex at the drop of a hat, uses a machine if nothing else — the orgasmatron or the orgasmic orb. People do like to have sex and whatever else. Can we be OK with that? I suspect if we had a healthy sexual life there wouldn’t be these dark undercurrents. The problem comes with ownership, attachment. People bond through sex. It’s not hard to attract a mate, we’re programmed for it, but it’s not very mature to attempt to capture or manipulate people this way. Only a moment. There’s a lot more on the table than primal urges. If you play with this and you’re hurt by it, figure it out. What about spiritual teachers? That’s like taking heroin, are you serious? You want to snare one of those? Who the hell are you? If you’re not grabbing for power, why not take the low end? There’s plenty of quality people who haven’t made it. If you’re a spiritual leader and you’re seducing people, what the hell are you doing? Give back the robes, put on some blue jeans, some nice cologne. I don’t know. One of the reasons I quit the hierarchy was because I didn’t want to break the rules. I knew I wasn’t finished with relationships. Everyone I know on the inside struggled with this, did various things

to alleviate the pressure. I didn’t want to play both ends. I either wanted to be a Zen monk, and celibate, or not. Now, thanks to a lot more time in the world and a bit of seasoning, I wouldn’t have any problem living as a monk, I live as one anyway, so I don’t have a lot of respect for the players wearing the cloth. There are plenty of good ones, but just shaving the head and changing clothes doesn’t mean shit. You can tell what people are about, the way they talk. Most people are concerned about what everyone else is doing, fighting with someone, going over some detail, someone else’s business — in other words, external. I can tell right away, and operate with them in that space, but don’t go into it with them. It’s my business to remain unperturbed. I don’t date for the same reason. I can’t say that I’ll never have another relationship, but it would have to be someone very far along — and to be honest it doesn’t matter past a certain point. I’m sure it would be the same to her. The mind changes, no longer falls into loneliness or conflict. If they haven’t faced the Absolute, they think it’s impossible to live without being in a relationship. Why enter the practice stream at all if the partner has the answer? Or, to draw a more accurate picture, why not do a few retreats, figure out how hard it is, then spend the rest of your life trying to convince everyone that you can do it from home, or, my favorite, that you don’t have to do anything? And it follows that, if you don’t have to exert yourself, why should the teachers? They’re already

enlightened as well, right? What they need is more domestic stuff so they can be more like you. Jesus with an apron — I like it… A famous old Zen master, when asked about the meaning of renunciation, said, “Not caring about fame or infamy,” meaning wanting to be liked, not wanting to be disliked. If that’s true, the basic mechanism of relationship is removed. We don’t know anything about operating from the Absolute because there are so few examples. Since we don’t know what it is exactly, it’s hard to tell who knows what. We depend on the hierarchy, which I don’t have a lot of respect for these days, but not because someone gets a stiff cock. Who cares? It does seem the whole thing is a charade, however. Bunch of freaks… I’m on the rail again, local, going across town to see the old man at the Zen center, making the rounds. I have to get away from the workstation now and then, offline. The subway soothes me with its gentle swaying, the screaming wheels through Firestone, Florence, Slauson. I enjoy the people struggling to survive alongside the birds and insects, the grass and trees, the heavy clouds. My eyes begin to flare before I make it downtown, probably a toxic reaction to the massive amount of vitamins and immune system boosters coursing through my veins. I had no peripheral vision, the damned flickering heat nearly to blindness, but I ate something and walked a few dozen blocks and got through it. It’s strange to be on foot down Broadway with limited vision. There’s always

something weird jumping out at you. A bizarre woman came up to me and said, “I see that look on your face. If you see something, call the police.” How did she know? There were Christians broadcasting the holy word, in Spanish. I could tell because of the Hallelujahs. The light was murky as it was, so things sort of blended into the haze. Even with this visual impairment, I noticed all the cheap clothing on sale and the threadbare condition of the streets. Some day they’re going to have to demolish the whole thing. I don’t know what they’ve got planned, but if it is in the cards, I’m pretty good with the sledgehammer, and I do work holidays and weekends. If you’re going to have a vision blackout, you might as well do it on the streets of LA. It may look dangerous, but there aren’t any snakes or bear traps, and most of the natives are busy talking to themselves. The thing fell apart when a tall woman stepped on the bus in incredibly tall heels. French. She sat behind me with her friend dressed like a cat. I noticed something peculiar right away. They weren’t hissing. Whatever’s going on with women hissing appears to be regional, or that these two didn’t have the gene. Instead, they chewed gum loudly. The rhetoric is high, the hyperbole — I certainly play with this, but my intent is both to entertain, and disarm the guards, to undermine the propaganda, the accepted views of our day. It’s all for efficiency. If you think about it, there are few prime years given to us, these often encumbered with the struggle to maintain appearances, a semblance of order, status, achievement points. I like

to drop off a cliff right away, to free myself. The free–fall state has none of these hindrances. Everything becomes startlingly clear. As I’m falling I notice a wild strawberry. Have you heard this case? It’s a famous Zen koan. I mention it to Kye Soen whenever she attempts to encumber me with too many tasks, which is her natural way of getting things done. “Please, let me get that strawberry.” We are learning, still, how to exist together. I know she will never change, that she’ll always be quick to anger, to panic when something new is introduced, usually an innocuous detail, for how often are we really threatened? Kye Soen is the type who descends into a fearful state from which all things are seen as terrible adversity, and she lashes out! She’s in such a hurry to move quickly through the trauma she herself creates that she can’t make sense of simple details. It’s really difficult to work with her under duress. I don’t carry much fear. Fear is for people with something to defend. This week I’ve spent a lot of time with her, as we’re setting up an apartment in North Hollywood that I’m to share with her son, 14, who’s struggling to get through high school there, with both parents in different cities. His father is an emergency room doctor and college professor in Santa Cruz, whose never been part of his life. Kye Soen, the eternal scholar, is at UC Berkeley. The boy grew up in Los Angeles, could not part with all of his friends. Since I come from a wilderness environment, with no friends accessible, I see this as important. I’ve known him since he was three. I suppose I’m

an important male figure in his life. Isn’t it strange how things work out? So I’m going to watch over him for the next year or so, the crucial years, and commute to work in the South Bay, and hold off on the next solo retreat until there’s a window. That’s one of the aspects of being a Zen adept, that you’re free to engage when appropriate, to be of use to those in need. I hear the sentiment from a lot of practitioners, that they’re unable to sit long retreats because of family and career. That’s like wanting to be an engineer, but no math. The whole thing is the practice form, the arrangement of your life so that there are long periods of deep meditation, the ability to go off on your own when it’s time, to be directly influenced by the play of events, not shielded behind some demanding lifestyle or unnecessary obligations. If you decide to raise a family, then your mandala will reflect this. Zen master Seung Sahn said, “Getting enlightenment is very easy. Keeping enlightenment is very difficult.” If you want to dwell in it, to live the life of a sage, to ring like a tuning fork this whirling poem of existence, maybe you should put it on top of your list. There’s always a struggle, this human life. I’ve managed to carve a path through it because I’m very skillful with most things. Not at math, or memorizing data, but building things, art, design. Because of this, I can always generate income, usually as a carpenter. I can do hard labor all day, whatever is required. I’m not saying this is ideal, but I would never have made it through otherwise, I wouldn’t have had all the wonderful experiences, worn through the bindings. I can’t speak for anyone

else’s process, but I know from my own example and through observing others’ struggle to break through, that it didn’t loosen up until 20 years had passed, the robes long gone, a dozen long retreats behind me, until I was unknown, forgotten — no one in the lineage knew that I’d returned. I forgot all the practice forms, substituted my own. Even my old habits were impossible to recall. And there it was as plain as daylight, my mind as easily absorbed as not — all of the experiences noted in The Zen Revolution, all of this occurred only after I’d completely surrendered. Of course everyone I know is attempting to go through the front door and sit on the golden throne directly. No one can do it. Man is it difficult. The point is, don’t assume because of your superior breeding or superhuman abilities that you won’t require going to the end of the earth to accomplish this task. It requires the whole life, exactly all of it. You can’t hold back even one percent, so I find it amusing after all these years of specialization, to the point of finishing this work, that I’m put to the task of caring for a teenage boy. Sure I can “make this my practice,” anything, but I’ve already done the work. That’s like asking an engineer if he knows how to do math.

eighteen. THE TRAIN TO NOHO

More wisdom from Kye Soen’s wilderness... a few nights on the train Under the black heart of the city with Kye Soen, a new life emerges from the quaking ground. Some bastard of evolution, this — how can it be? Run for your lives! Run! Ha ha… Only with violence, as I’d hardly disconnected from the last dialogue before boarding the subway for another day of peril, this one beginning at 6AM. The sky has been pink for a week now. I don’t know what it means. I enjoy the people out, the inner–city mix of races, social strata. People stand over me but it’s accepted here, so I don’t feel dominated. Still, I would stand on something higher than them if it was available. The sweet morning air gives way to our pressing madness. How many blue–collar heroes are left here? Whatever warriors have made it through the downturn are now legends, gladiators. You can hear the crowd behind them, wild.

As for me, I shuffle behind a couple of Asian kids scribbling in a notebook. I look at the pretty girl with her boyfriend more than once, she’s radiant. I hope it goes well for her. The subway fills to the brim, until the brakes are moaning. They must be made of titanium. I stare so intently out the window that my friend is drawn to it, but I was only trying to work this out. I look again, on his insistence. He was right. It was lovely through the singed glass, all the soft colors of morning. Another train, a different scene: morbid. It so easily falls to this. A nicely dressed lady sits beside me with an enormous purse, pointy shoes. Is this a funeral? The sun burns into my retinas — UV rays, vitamin D — how long will I live? There doesn’t appear to be any murderers on board. It’s so quiet, cold. The man beside me reads a book. Remarkable. It must be pornography. He holds it out at arm’s length as if it’s suspect. Maybe it’s one of my essays. I should write another book just so I can leave copies in random places. I’m going to scout out a few release points: the park, the subway entrance. I’ll describe the scene that it’s in, the person that picks it up, start a dialog — turn the place into a totem, an archetype. The cover will be a photo of the place, with the book in it! The train to downtown takes some time, enough that the people onboard begin to know each other, their scent. If there were something we had to do together, if we were put to the task, we would already know things, fall into a pattern, organize. We are extraordinary. The

lady with the bag gets out, so we’ve lost a porter. I suppose I could carry more. The sun rises too high for my tastes. What can be done about it? I move to the other side. *** It wasn’t until the papers went through that I began to notice the strange conditions that I’d faced. I can’t say they were hardships, but I certainly paid for the freedoms I enjoyed. It was a very good strengthening phase, a constant test of adaptation. If you don’t own the place you don’t have the privilege of following your own way, or turning off the tap. You’re always entertaining, whoever appears, and since everyone knows you’re sleeping on the couch it’s doubly hard, or it used to be. I’ve had so many difficulties with this, until these last few retreats. Now I’m happy anywhere, and genuinely love all the strange cats that pass through the Monterey house. A good time to leave. But it wasn’t about me, really. I was moving to see Kye Soen’s oldest through high school, as he was accepted in the gifted program in North Hollywood, and all his friends were there. Kye Soen was at UC Berkeley, so we pitched in together for him. I’m very happy to be spending time with the boy. He has a wonderful, fresh mind, very smart and vulnerable. There’s so much to learn! I hope I can clear some obstacles for him and give him the sublime nurturing and care he deserves, teach him how to drive a truck and all. I don’t know about women.

Moving from the South Bay to NOHO, money was moved from the back of the pile and placed near the front, which took some adapting to, but it wasn’t hard because I was doing it for the boy. That was another change. I was no longer holding my own against the shit storm, but carving out enough space for two. I’d also be commuting three or four hours a day on the subway. The move was a massive change of personal freedoms, a rewire unlike any I’d experienced. It was time. I’d spent too long adapting to the flow of the Monterey house. I could tell because disconnecting was somewhat jarring. Always the struggle to write, to record these things flowing through me, now a river of time for this, and a quiet environment. Time had shifted, my own time. I was the rabbit who wanted to return to the cage, at least today. Fortunately, I don’t follow my emotion. But the South Bay had had its fill of my and thrust me out on the cold pavement, on through the banana trees, all the way across the mountain, past Universal City to the end of the line. It was quiet there, the people friendly. My first commute I nearly fell asleep before the first stop. The move was exhausting, the smell of fear and death and pancakes. The mountain opened its bowels and we shot through like a cold bolt of lead. Inside, wood–like statues froze in the speed–waves, a vibrating pulse, a rising noise floor — a heightened state. The drug of sleep began to wear off not long before 7th and Metro, the black heart of LA. You could feel the trembling. Here there’s enough density to fuse the signal —

to its own entity. These are the only places where I feel this. Interestingly, the most bleak and forbidding. I watch a young couple playing with each other in the parking lot, of course they were in harmony: pulling arms, testing each other’s strength, my lesson for the day. We have to know each other. I’d just went through another of these with Kye Soen, just a moment with her where I realized the other side of this, that people are just what they are. Someone saw us together and thought we should get married. We are very synchronized after all the years, harmonious in the sense that we are very comfortable together. I tried to explain where he’d gone wrong, but you can’t explain things to people. They have to figure it out themselves. You can paint the scene, illustrate it, but they have to discover it. So, when the inevitable lecture began, what Kye Soen delights in, a chiding, insulting barrage of ubiquitous information, as if I’m incapable of grasping the thing and seeing what it is, at once, the man changed his mind. “Oh, I see. You’re not the right type for her.” I carried this for some time, a question I couldn’t crack. Who would be the right person for her? Someone more domineering? I felt inadequate, not able to correct the flow of hate, not enough man for her. Then I spent some time in the car with her new partner, who pleaded with me like a lost boy in the wilderness. No one changes, for anyone. They’re always the same snarl of plumbing, the same arrogance, and it’s not your job to straighten everyone out. There’s too much of that al-

ready. It’s not productive. How long did it take you to figure out this life? Are you prepared to stop the machine, to rewire the synapses? Hell no! If you decide to change anything, there must’ve been a cataclysm. To that end, isn’t that what the Bible’s getting at, the hard work of the evolution of the soul? If you really want to affect change without resorting to the end times, crucifixions, and plagues, you have to do the hard work of self–realization. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. From the point of view of the Absolute, it hardly matters. Leave everything as it is, the world will manage without your second–guessing, micro–managing. You should take a page from the big Lebowski, knock out that waistband, get a pair of furry slippers… am I taking this too far? For all of Kye Soen’s unbridled fury, she’s got her place. A badger is really good at being a badger, and there’s no one better at it than her. In fact, if we’re ever running low on badgers… so I let her be what she is. If she would only allow me the same, but how am I to put this together? If someone has a defect, should they be thrown out? She certainly doesn’t want to hear about being a white American from the South. The night was full of swan songs, sad musings on the faces on passing trains, empty escalators pressing stair treads beneath the floor, flickering lights that come back to life when it’s time. I caught another train, watched the car lights down on the 110. The door opened at LAX to a flood of deranged people. If I had the courage to

film it. A fight broke out in the seat in front of me, but it was only men being men. They worked it out. Everyone got real busy with their cellphones after that. Man were they piling in. You’ve got to take the night train to Watts sometimes. It’s really marvelous! I don’t know why I love them so much — to Rosa Parks. “Kiwi/Strawberry two for a dollar.” “That’s a good deal.” The lights were flashing there, the ones overhead growling, so old. I saw the train in the distance so small it reminded me of Riverside, so I mistrusted it. Some of those lights look like a train, you think they’re moving, you swear it’s getting brighter. I don’t know why everything flickers so much. It wasn’t a train — probably someone’s porch light. I got tired of staring at it and watching other trains receding down the line. The rest was a shuffle from light pole to… “DVD’s, CD’s, Movies, Music…” Crying babies, poor ladies who need change, who take all that I have. The night is here, with the people on the train. The only way to fathom the depths of despair is to plunge through the heart of it. “Who’s running this mutha fucka?” Dr. Dre on a broke radio. We haven’t got anywhere near the core with all of this, but allow me to illustrate this world — that you can discover it on your own. If I’ve learned anything from

Kye Soen, it’s to leave the damned thing where it is. I owe her so much, for the river that courses through me has been averted. Impossible! I can say with certainty, friends, that everything is in the right place.

nineteen. E.O.C.

The devolution of society is entertained briefly... the ground of rebellion... a hustle on the blue line A very nice guy, dirt poor, talked to me about what I was writing. I told him how podcasts work, my circle of influence, my signature carpentry — all of this. He was missing a few teeth, and didn’t have on the right clothes for an interview, where he was headed. “Have a wonderful, wonderful…” and he was gone. There’s a lot of hustling in the world. I guess that means everyone. Too bad we can’t all be born into money. What kind of world would that be? The end of civilization? I push the button for the crossing light a hair too late, so I didn’t get the little man telling me it’s OK to cross. I wait patiently for the next and my bus passes. If you miss an LA bus you’re damned sorry, let me tell you that. But you’ve got time to work that out. At 18th and Sepulveda a couple get on wearing

backpacks, the whole setup. LA’s that kind of city. I never thought about it, but you could camp for the night in a million places. You’d have to keep moving. A boy outside on a skateboard pleads with the bus driver to let him in. He’d been running for blocks. She didn’t bother to respond. I’m sure there was a cold bench somewhere where he could suck it up. Right now I’m taking three trains and a bus. Survival mode. Maybe I’ll try to find work in North Hollywood, but it’s not exactly raining jobs. It does take the wind out of you sometimes, living this way. It’s how I adapted after being a Zen monk. Now the work is the important thing, what I’m recording here. Before I worked to support Zen practice, now it’s to put me in the right place where I can produce some quality work. Maybe it doesn’t pay off. If I had plenty of money, would I be pressing this hard, going so far into the scenes I pass through? Can you write a compelling story of luxury and ease, that gets down to the crazy depths? I’m sure you could do it, right? For myself, I can only imagine what it would be like of course, but I’m suspicious of what it would do to my character, and you probably wouldn’t hear much from me. Our story is our struggle. Without it there is no plot, no victory. But if you think about it, the end of struggle is what we’re after. There’s a group of mentally handicapped that always get on in Manhattan Beach, by far the happiest bunch. Have we grown too smart for our own good? Our tracks are erased as soon as they’re set. Forget wanting to be

some other kind of human, wanting things to be different. Maybe a bit of devolution could do some good, but I wouldn’t change a single hair on a single head. The freak show begins near Watts, friends with much lower requirements than mine, who don’t mind asking for a handout. I was lost in thought for a moment and I got hit with the deaf person selling pens. He moved to fast for me to hand them back, so I had to hold his deaf pens for awhile. If it’s true, why take it to the subway? You have to have your facilities to be homeless. The whole thing smells wrong. Of course he could be deaf, and I’m sure he needs the money. A sad contact, a sad exchange. The signal was jammed for most of the way with a comedian talking loudly behind me, some kind of mental tap, someone begging for attention. “The Golden Globes, did you hear that? Ricky Gervais said that everybody in Scientology was a homosexual.” It was a relief when I finally got on another train. Somehow it went the wrong way, so I got some down time at Union Station. I was churning with lost time, but there was a point where I passed where I was before and my hope was renewed. There were no carcasses to delay our progress, not tonight, but the thing is run by jackals. What we need is Bruce Willis to stand up to the broke machines, the slow stoplights, the double no –U– turns. He’d burn down the signs! Instead we have this half–working, frustrating transit. I open a new bank account and they inform me a few days later that they’re holding the money for 15

days. I guess it makes sense to someone. Kye Soen assures me it’s because I’m not listening. How often I’m put into peril these days, and I have detractors. It’s a good thing we’re civilized. I go to the bank to see what can be done and it’s closed, so I’m on the rail. A new route today, down Vermont. The hustle quotient is high. The tension settles over me like a blanket of fire. Underneath all of the snapping, crackling, I’m completely at ease. The day is full of sparkly things going red. A lady stands over me in a pretty green blouse with tiny mirrors sewed in. Under all these witnesses I appear to flutter madly. I have to watch the stops, as my sense of direction is crap. I get by on landmarks and logic, which is often backwards. As the woman turns to leave, her silhouette is animated with a preternatural awareness of her limbs, her movements dripping with it, like a demon possession, a zombie with a million eyes. The girl that followed her out was just a girl, no hyper–awareness, no puppet–like movements. An extremely large woman came in after and communicated with the driver. They know each other. How much cement and steel hold the train above the city lights just for the small number of us, comparatively? Who made the decision? In all the time I’ve spent on the subway, I’ve seen few suits, none of them crisp. It’s definitely the low end of society. As much as I’m confounded by the inefficiency of the system, it’s remarkable that we have the luxury, we meaning the sad lot I’m thrown in with these days. I walk under Vermont to the subway, my brain frozen. All of my life is traveling now,

handling problems, waiting. I could use a cup of coffee. The path to success for those with some ability or unrelenting drive — this is something new for human society. You can exist without using your skill as a hunter or farmer. Now we are hyper–specialized for the production of money, and no one understands anyone else’s abilities. A rocket scientist? A factory worker? A taxi driver? I don’t know any of these. None of the peculiarities can be accurately conveyed. We all live in sterile cages. The loneliness that devours us! It is the cancer that eats away at our delicate humanity, surely a dark force for most of us. We can live in darkness, celebrate it, fuse with it. I guess that’s what is required, to externalize it, to work with it symbolically, as in a dream. But a lot of people I know are lost in the process, identify with it. These are the ones you can easily name, the stereotypes: stoner, goth, skater, thug. Can these living souls be defined by their external processes? Doesn’t any of these have the same range of emotion, needs, desires, as anyone? We are constantly judged by those unqualified to judge us, never understood for accepted for what we are, or given the benefit of the doubt. The degree of alienation is insurmountable. It becomes a quest for money, prestige. Maybe people will see you as important, as more than the image you portray — but you merely pass from archetype to archetype, and no one cares which one. To truly be what you are is the intent behind all these movements, but the self can’t be defined.

I’ve always felt this way, refused to take any role seriously. It’s not a path to riches. It’s very specialized. Everyone will still peg you to their own satisfaction. I don’t know why this matters, to anyone, but we don’t like to be observed. We take it personally, however unqualified the source. Peer pressure — the ground of rebellion. Someone, maybe a group, has classified you in some way. You’re no longer a living thing to them. Who wants to be alive? I hear a crash and bang — is it the sound of your retreat? Go back then. To be accepted for what you are doesn’t happen externally — whole lives are lost to this. Once you resolve your own existence, once and for all, you’re able to resolve everyone else’s — you can see their truth, beyond the stereotype. It doesn’t mean anyone will reciprocate. You’ll still have to filter what people say to you through their tendency to label, compartmentalize. Funky vision, but if you love them you allow the failing. Who cares? But the world is ruled by its insecurity. The modern condition creates itself. We have no place. I pass a handsome couple on the platform. The woman looks at me in desperation, so intently that her boyfriend notices. As I read the story, she was frustrated with him, looking for a way out. He was aware of this, defensive, angry. A kid gets up in front of me and asks for money to buy a drum for a trip to Washington. The people in front gave him a few quarters, but thought twice about it. “That kid ain’t goin’ to no Washington D.C. Look,

that’s his mother back there.” She heard the grumbling and sat beside me. She was dressed like a gypsy, pretty. Shit, everyone’s got to hustle. It really upset everyone, but the kid was good — a fact that escaped them. If I’d had any amount of change he would’ve had it, no question. They got in an argument that lasted nearly all the way to Rosa Parks. “My boy will get up and speak his mind. He will not be a street thug.” “Why isn’t he in school?” “He’s home schooled. He’s getting a good education.” While this was going on, a poor Mexican walked the aisle with a box of candy for sale. All that indignation was making them hungry. Everyone seemed revived from the outburst. The enemy had been found, named, expelled. Liberated from the beast, I was soon liberated from them — quick alliances that form and dissolve, and reappear. When I got to the green line, the boy was in the car again, with his dad. He didn’t mention Washington D.C. The train is a refuge, no question. I don’t understand its importance. I don’t share this with anyone — well, with you. How could this be in any way soothing? We are pressed together here. No choice. All of the faces carry such turmoil. The communications are forced, humans encountering each other in the wild. My observations you already know, but I would add here that most of

our encounters are positive, supportive. We are great, noble creatures, like dogs. The lights on the street flash through the glass in complex patterns. Humans. The overall experience is haphazard, no sense to it. Tonight I learn the sobering fact that trains no longer care if they are red or purple. It’s a gamble. Try it out — you may end up in Koreatown. Why would a train say it’s red when really it is purple? I guess it makes sense to someone. Maybe it’s funny. Who cares if I or anyone wastes an hour down below? People wait in droves, like cattle. Yeah, there’s a train coming. Some time there will be a train.

twenty. THE UPRISING

A change of seasons... the trickle of blood... the universal sound The lights cycle quickly at Northrop Grumman, for the important people in nondescript cars. Everyone is vulnerable. How to stay ahead? The software companies do it by changing the formula for every iteration. No choice. You’ve got to upgrade to the new version every season — everything has changed. I’m constantly refreshing my own content. I’d like to make a living at this, but I’m not going to do it for the money. It has to be uncontrolled, or else why write the revolution? The only control or filter I apply is structural: moving paragraphs together that continue the thought, dropping repetitive things, changing a word here or there. I have no concept of audience, marketing trends — although I do push through social media. I feel the work only marginally, subconsciously. It works itself out before I understand what it is, as if appearing from a mist. It looks

like it will develop into my own brand of micro–doc. The video shorts and these 2,000 word essays will probably merge, or a new show will branch from it. These first 21 essays are sketches only, toward a new expression. After the last of these I want to combine essays with experimental video, something crazy, compelling, ten minutes — the same thing, only condensed, maybe a long essay now and then, to feed the wolves. I want to descend further, out of the hyperbole and concrete, down to the subconscious. I want to write the way a child draws, with no reservation or control, completely wild. *** I’m being watched. It draws them. The old man stoops nearly to the floor. An imaginary fire, bones and animal skins, the river courses underfoot, steel rails; the light through the trees “exit to street.” What do we know? A trickle of blood remains on the seat in front of me. It draws a woman with a straw hat, who turns her bug eyes to the door, suspicious. Her long nails ring on the handrail. Another leap through black spaces lit by blue fluorescents and we drift under the bridges. I’m not able to stay adrift for long. No place on the green, everyone taking two seats. I took one anyway, half out in the aisle. Micro code. No location. Writing the ground. The story exists only momentarily. It comes out from the page, remains there briefly. Can you remember even the last sentence? What’s to tell? The thrumming sound of the black–line state as I pass over Raytheon. A woman

crinkles a plastic bag like she’s trapped in it, eating her way out — another crime of these toxic things that never erode. We fly over a slow moving soccer game and one of several fields of weeds. If they would only open the razor wire. We never have a chance. Every street, every sidewalk has a purpose, all the street lights hang in gentle arches. My eyes fall closed, my mind vibrating coarsely. “Excuse me, are you a writer?” How does she know? I’m exhausted from the weekend, a marathon whirlwind of work in Rancho Mirage remodeling the home of a wealthy client, his plasma screens flickering scenes of the Egyptian uprising in every room. It was tremendous! How long the people have been enslaved. How many repercussions? You can’t grow good quality humans in a dog pen. We are our own demise — and what for? Who benefits? More importantly, are there any heroes anymore? We were not raised in an age of heroes. What few there were we’re gunned down. I didn’t know any growing up, had no role models to emulate — maybe the astronauts, more likely the fake ones in science fiction novels. We live in fiction. Movie stars are our royalty. Kye Soen’s oldest, now 14, lives almost entirely inside an Xbox 360. He doesn’t want to talk to the people on the outside. We are far too one–dimensional and probably disappointing. Maybe it’s better. A revolution only happens once in a lifetime. Otherwise it’s all flashing lights, “registration please,” punching the clock, candy for sale…

somebody sings a few bars of an old song, then switches on a radio and sings along with it. He’s good. Sunflower seeds from the guy in front. “I’ll give you some.” What a crazy, vibrant chord. My nerves are shimmering. Everyone is gentle tonight — this dream — this blue state. The train moves on impervious, but the pulse through the floor, the beat, the moaning… what is life? “Good to meet you.” My hands are in bad shape from the rat tunnel I’ve been crawling through, my tiny heart still racing. I would live some other way, but I need the freedom to sit long retreats, to leave town, to be pressed to the ground. I wasn’t given a break, so I don’t believe in them, and I don’t admire those that ride on the sore backs of others. My choice. This state of fatigue and adrenaline, I sleep in increments. Dreams boil to the surface, all the small worries magnified, all the fake conversations, overwrought emotions. I’m always glad to pull away. Here I’m a man. Here I’m invincible. *** The sweet humming of a train descending underground. We all leap out as if escaping our dreams. A laughing lady passes me, surely freed from some pleasant node. How much is real anymore? How many of us on the platform observe the fine details here, like an exquisite painting? As I struggle to break my gaze from the handicap sign, a young woman with a strange accent ducks into the train, my guess at a red–line train to

NOHO. “I’m from Texas. We don’t have stuff like this. Hell yeah.” And so I feel again the sting of my superior existence to those less fortunate than I. All the people in Burma, Egypt, whose lives are eaten up in the struggle for basic freedoms, necessities. How can we rise above our constraints when it’s all we’ve known? Doesn’t the rabbit want to return to its cage? It must be the image we portray, those of us in their eyes privileged. If it’s any consolation, I’m doing what I can to give back, to use any advantage I have to illustrate the madness of intersecting timelines, coursing emotions, thoughts, projections; lives embroiled in them; lives in fragments; symbolic lives embedded in archetypes, stereotypes; pulled from the mold as nearly exact replicas of the father, the grandfather — how we think, work, process. Be thankful that we don’t have to join a revolution in this life, to waste our lives rebuilding the frame so our children can grow a different way. How much do we already sacrifice for this? Whatever living we manage to eke out, there’s a greater existential quandary we face, all of us. This is my ground, so of course I mean to reveal it, but there’s more to life than feeding the stomach. Whether or not you agree with this, the question remains. Here is where the real revolution takes place, where you stand up, as an individual, and take command of your affairs. It has to happen this way, for inside each of us is the answer to

the rancor, the unrest. The uprising may be a black mark on our history, but what is history compared to the well– being of a single man, woman, or child? In the same way we must revolt against the institution — our tendency to follow the words of others, their dreams, rather than make our own. What good is the arc of a movement, its popularity, if it doesn’t liberate you even from its own devices? The mark of a good teacher is one who pushes you away, in some respects, who helps you to find your own way. It’s a subterranean process, as much heat and pressure. The revolution begins there, in discovering the enormity of it, releasing hold on the surface peculiarities. Who is so arrogant as to offer advice, to channel your attention elsewhere? And whatever arrangement of things, rituals, mental constraints… I feel that I’ve been shouting, finally, my mouth open constantly to the roar that escapes me. It is the sound of 10,000 leagues. I do not choose to exist here. I am here, so I take care of the things around me. Sometimes I forget, disappear. The man beside me folds his newspaper, impervious. Is he here with me, or lost to streams of imagery? If we were in a dream I would talk to him through the page, rewrite the story as he reads it: a love story, a tragedy, a thousand tragedies; a wake, a single note from the orchestra for which they’ve studied their entire lives. The conductor is astonished, faints on the spot. The note widens. Everyone hears it now, the universal sound, every mouth stretched to its limits, every ear turned inward, every face full of tears. There is no end of crying now, no more sadness, intimacy — no lack! All

heads turn down, as if in prayer. Everything is God. All the weapons, placards, burning flags — all of it on the ground, trampled. There are no more words. My friend folds his newspaper, rubs his eyes. The door closes on metro station.

twenty-one. A CAUSTIC REACTION

A meeting with an old friend... detractors... being ejected clean from the husk I can’t believe I’ve written this, yet it continues on and stronger. Am I any more in control of this pen? It signals to me that it’s time to change. I resist. I try to resist. Shouldn’t I respect my audience, continue building this empire? The answer is withheld, only the sound of a door closing. I just began communicating with a man I met on a retreat at Southern Dharma, before I moved to Providence Zen Center. It was my first retreat, what convinced me to move to a residential Zen center and begin a string of long retreats. Although I hardly remember him, I recall he was very nice, shared his home with me on my way north and found me after all these years — really a gentleman from a moment in time I can hardly piece together, before the training began. What dreams I held then were all proven wrong. Naive, but very fresh,

enthusiastic. It would be hard to reconstruct what I was. For this reason it was very difficult to write The Zen Revolution. I prefer the work I do now, the life I have now, the practice, understanding, clarity. I would prefer not to exist rather than go through all I’ve gone through to get where I am today. So it is with a tinge of remorse that I recount the old days with this Southern gentleman, who asks that I fill him in on all the details since. The revolution isn’t enough, he wants details. Is there another way to tell the story? How narcissistic can I be? Another version of my life? Do I get the girl at the end? The treasure I was after? Was there a magical potion to be found? Are unicorns real? Do we live forever? Are your eyes still green? What do you do to survive? Were you a writer then? Do you have any savings? What was Korea like? Do you get lonely? Do you still dream? What is your fetish? Have you ever been arrested? What do you listen to? Have you ever painted your fingernails? Was it your girlfriend? That bitch. I guess you weren’t emasculated... you enjoyed it? Why? ...because it was strange? What kind of quality is that? You like the oddity? Isn’t that the same thing? *** After the interview I flowed into a fiberglass molded seat like a thing of jelly. I understand his curiosity, so allow the probing. All of you. What else? You want to control my limbs? Pick out my clothes? Live my life for me? Go ahead. I’m sure you’re right. Under the glare of your scrutiny I secretly change the channel. Sorry. It was

only a fragment anyway. I never existed. For instance, someone remembers me from the old days at big dog radio, a role I played for a few years. It put me on the spot, his expectations. Where had I gone from there? I didn’t figure into his dream. “What was this Zen thing all about?” But the moment in time that identified me to him was such a small thing when I was famous, a rock God lording over the rednecks... maybe a man doesn’t aspire to lording over a dirtbag town, whatever perks. For me it was a downward spiral into the maw of preternatural bliss. The cacophony on the surface became like the clattering of hooves, the ramming of horns; bellows, snorts; the smoke of civilization. “Would you like a cup of milk?” For me, I found the important part and abandoned the rest. For him, I was a dropout, a teenage success gone to withering. But I’ve hardly moved. Whatever it was that fueled the rising is still boiling in me. It required a larger vocabulary, a world of experience. It is my master, this thing that speaks through me. It doesn’t care for my schoolboy fantasies or passing fame. I write in the dark. Though I destroy what I create, throw it to the ground, it can’t be stopped. I’m powerless against it. No fame or infamy. Though nothing reflects back at me from this dim well, at times I doubt even that I exist, or that I exist empirically, it hardly concerns me. What’s important is that I continue this work — however long, whatever angle, until I am, until he is, fully satisfied. “You’re a writer now? Have you been published?”

“Forget it. Five copies only. One for the priest, so he can wipe his ass.” What I’m doing isn’t important. I should’ve remained in the abandoned fields of my youth. Indeed, I’ve never left them. What would it matter if I moved a tree branch? My voice is stifled by the rustling of swamp grass. The crows find their way across the barbed wire. How far will they take me? *** Back underground to a stalled train, the thing chasing me down, to stand with my back against a pillar, to let it catch up to me. What is it, old friend? Did I do something wrong? The bundle of concerns crests and breaks against the wall, now indecipherable, but clearly I see the poor mutterings of those who haven’t found their place, who’ve squandered their lives down dead alleys, who’ve turned bitter. Easy to do, to miss the sweet life spilling out everywhere. The need gets ahead of itself. Constantly scheming... it’s been that way forever. The true voice is there, but you can’t discern it, not until the noise has abated — a real conundrum for my old friends, who constantly create more strife. Truly there’s no hope for them, but you can’t say that. Whatever twisted logic they’ve worked out stands. By the time it gets to you it’s been cooked to a fine patina. There’s no tempering the sauce. My old man was constantly in a rage over nothing. Whatever he’d worked out the kids were all just looking for something to do, trying to escape the leers, the indignation — a pointless exercise. The law is broken

time and again for convenience. It’s the police who bear the burden. Are we governable, knowing that nearly everyone is frustrated, driven, full of rage because of their own blundering swath? Why are people so different when you get to know them, when you finally pry apart the veneer and see the primitive workings? Because the dream can’t be made real, and what is real is avoided at all costs. In my case, I was fortunate to have a caustic reaction naturally occurring around me that rose to the point that I was ejected clean from the husk. It wasn’t the practice alone that cured me of my afflictions, but the afflictions themselves. Attempting to attain liberation through practice or faith, how many can accomplish it? Instead we have a lot of people crowding the scene who are after the title, so the landscape we have today. The whole business of attaining the formless realm is subverted by all too human needs, rather we have a placard with someone’s name on it, who cares which one? And a cheap vase with flowers. A lot of quality people on the path refuse to participate in the stampede. After a lifelong practice in obscurity, they are the real jewels of dharma — effectively suppressed by the king of the hill players. Who understands this? I don’t think we’re ready for it. In reality it is the final movement on the stage, for there can’t be anything after. That’s the question you should ask yourself, are you ready to end this affair? The brakes squeal, the passengers fling forward,

then back. No one questions it. Two old friends talk through the crowd, what the children are eating. “I’m a fish person.” A man outside easily outpaces us on a bicycle. I get out at Wilshire to get a coffee. Long sitting tonight at the Zen center.

H. Grevemberg, author of The Zen Revolution, born on October 19, 1965 in Sulphur, Louisiana, was raised in a remote forested area to the north. He began practicing Zen in earnest at the age of twentyone. A resident of various Zen centers for ten years, he passed the kyoruk, a very difficult trial required of novice monks in Korea, and was ordained in both the Chogye and Kwan Um orders. He served as a Zen monk for two years, several more as a senior dharma teacher, before venturing out on his own. He now works as a writer/filmmaker in Los Angeles inbetween long winter retreats, both the 90-day kyolche and 100-day solo of the Korean tradition. At the time of this writing he’d just finished his fourteenth at his own retreat cabin in rural Louisiana.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful