Modern Gear: an Appreciation

I’m lately outfitting for a trip. I was given a generous gift a couple years ago with the stipulation it be used for a trip to Ireland, which I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was wee mite. This will be my first visit; I’m renting a car and spending a month wandering and mainly camping. I haven’t been this excited to go somewhere probably since I went to Australia for college. While looking for travel guides for that trip, I came across Lonely Planet’s “Trekking in New Zealand.” This was about 1990. Trekking in New Zealand meant backpacking, I learned. The hook sunk deep.

Despite growing up in Colorado, I’d never once backpacked. I don’t actually remember ever putting on a pack at all – not even for school, though I seem to remember some flimsy canvas jobs from Sears that mainly just carried toys to your friend’s house: GI Joes, silver six shooters, firecrackers, a lego spaceship you’d designed that week, artfully painted metal toy soldiers from England you bought with your lawnmowing money at Southglen Mall, walkie talkies so you could coordinate your defense from the enemy, with your friend hiding in a bush in the back yard, you in the front.

My family camped regularly, but not even every year. You’d go with a friend’s family sometimes, a church group, or to Chief Ouray, the YMCA summer camp. You’d pitch the tent in the yard in the summer as a kid, and later camp at the reservoir with your girlfriend, first learning how mostly terrible camping sex is. I hunted, but that didn’t involve overnights in the field.

My dad was a skilled hunter, who’d fed his family as a young kid during World War II by hunting in the woods that surrounded their rural Massachusetts farmhouse. He was restless, a purpose-driven person. Camp life didn’t suit him. If you were in nature, you had to be trying to kill something to eat, so we fished but he was a terrible fisherman. His antsy vibrations spooked them through the line, so calm-ish kid that I was, I caught most of the fish, which cooked on a Coleman stove I generally found disgusting as food. Later in life he went on hunts but didn’t take ammo. He’d grown tired of killing, but had to have that pretense of purpose. He’d track and draw a bead on a beast, gently pull the trigger, then, click. He was such an impeccable marksman he’d know if he’d bagged it. I wished for him that, like my uncle who’s also a great hunter, he could find a similar joy in photography, maybe. Something. All the guns! Jesus.
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How Zen Ended in America, part 4: Why?

I’ve pretty much flogged the ‘how’ to death at this point, but I’ve not really drilled down into the why. Why did all these dedicated, self-enlightened Zen heroes capitulate to such dreadful ideologies, ignore reams of wise teachings from the traditions they are supposed to represent, abandon the true spirit of Zen, turn on their nation, and plain lose all common sense if not human decency?

We’re talking about a lot of individuals here, so generalizations are dangerous. They spoke with one authoritative voice however, these Zen Masters, in inherited rhetoric they didn’t invent, thereby inviting broad assumptions and shared opprobrium. Beyond this relatively tiny radical conspiracy, we see entire swathes of the US and European populace equally bamboozled. Much of this can be credited to the all out assault on truth and sanity by the main stream media, and the self-interested corporate lackies who mostly appear to run the country – this includes a spectrum running from manic sanpaku-eyed Ocasio-Cortez to Mitch McConnell (although at this point I much prefer the latter, who can at least string three words together without saying “um” or “like” and isn’t auditioning for the role of Mall Girl Mao.)

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The eyes have it.

Maybe it started with Jay Leno and the like sending interns out onto Hollywood Blvd. to interview passersby that many of us first began to glimpse how stunningly ill-informed and incurious the average modern American was developing into, especially those under 30. Now on YouTube, dozens of heroic citizen journalists brave assault while vainly attempting to get straight answers out of pussy-hatted and black-masked mobs carrying mass-produced Soros signage at marches and protests, escalating violence day by day, with prime time MSM anchors running cover. What pours out of these “activists” mouths is usually an unbelievable stream of disconnected, predigested disinformation, programming, and sound bites. They rarely know who even the Vice President is, much less branches of government; forget about what’s actually in the Bill of Rights. “America was never great!” they scream with twisted glee.

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How Zen Ended in America, Part 3: Poisoning the Chalice

There’s a famous Zen anecdote, told in many variations. Basically a Zen master hosts a scholar for tea. The scholar blathers on, so when the priest pours the tea, he just keeps pouring until it spills all over and the scholar yelps. The Zennist sagely says something along the lines of, respect the emptiness of the cup; allow fresh things in. “It’s the space that provides the vase its function,” said Lao Tse, from whom much of the Zen spirit derives. The leaders of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association would do well to brush up on their Tao Te Ching, since they are systematically violating nearly every principle in it, as well as those in Soto Zen founder Dogen’s teachings. They do indeed instruct people to empty their mental cups in countless hours of mind-erasing ritualized Buddhist activity – which they then they proceed to cram with toxic programming concocted by some of the most murderous, spiritually disordered fiends in human history. Begging the question, who’s side are they really on?
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How Zen Ended in America, Part 2: Looking for Gold

Of course I want to get beyond stony critique, to veins of reassuring, golden insight. But first you have to get the lay of the land, and analyze the nature of the mountain, inside and out. Smash some rocks. I take a walk most days on some nearby trails which run along (in some cases) 300 year old irrigation ditches, often recording discourses on my iPhone that I never listen to after, but find a compelling way to engage Logos: God’s wisdom through venting of the literal word. Walking and talking. A lot to say about that, but I’ll save it, and press on.

I was thinking (and talking to myself) today about dilemmas, having found myself in several lately. Di-Lemma: two sides. There’s a concept in both ancient Greek philosophy (Aristotle, I think) and Buddhism (Nagarjuna, I think) of the Tetra-Lemma – looking at a proposition from four angles: as true, as false, as neither true nor false, or both true and false. I actually first learned of this idea many years ago in a little book by one of America’s first Zen fanatics, artist/eccentric Paul Reps. He related visiting a Japanese primary school – his books are full of ink paintings, poems, and short anecdotal tales about his travels around the world seeking simple goodness and wisdom. The school had the children use a square pillow with sides marked with these positions as a physical aid to internalize this logical/analytical system. Sounds nifty, right?

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Paul Reps

We recognize that black-and-white, binary thinking, can get us into trouble, potentially giving rise to fundamentalisms at every dialectical juncture: relational, political, religious, aesthetic, philosophical, sexual. However, some things are black or white. Some things are true, and some are false. In a pressing current example, the life of each human being on earth depends on there actually being only two genders; exceedingly rare exceptions merely prove nature’s golden rule, one’s feelings/psychological disorders notwithstanding (respectfully). The corporate-globalist-left’s systemic and sustained attack on this baseline reality tells us plenty. Recognizing and mapping watersheds may save your life. All the water may indeed end up in the sea, but how it gets there may mean the difference between genocide and civil society. I honestly think these points might best be made in comedy – treacle to help bitter medicine go down. But I’m not a comedian (I don’t know what I am) so I’m going to continue to plod my way through these ideas, and just lay out how I’m finding myself thinking about these things.

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How Zen Ended in America, Part 1: Jumping the Shark

As mentioned in my last post and evident in the paucity of content I’ve produced here in recent months, I’ve been somewhat pulled in, and busy with other tasks – namely a book and museum exhibit on psychedelic posters, set for January. But I continue to feel pressed to externalize a few more thoughts about the collapse of the Soto Zen experiment in America, the catastrophic failures of its major proponents, leaders, and practitioners, and some reasons why I think this might have happened. The title of this piece is floated more as a proposition than as an assured dictum. Still, I think it’s a sound premise, with ample evidence to back it up.

First of all, I would especially dissuade any young person from getting involved in it, at all. That itself says a lot. I think to gain its real benefits, it should be probably best be started in ones 20s. I’m not the only one to say so. A few years ago, I was leading Zen meditation on a college campus, and have spoken to Zen groups at colleges more recently than that and spanning decades now, so I clearly didn’t always feel this way. What’s shifted? As documented elsewhere on this site, I resigned as a “Zen priest” last year, essentially in protest of the radical leftist takeover of the entire Soto Zen establishment, as evidenced in this “repentance statement” issued by its most senior leadership, and in many other instances I won’t bother to list. Suffice it to say, the proof is extensive and damning (pick up any Buddhist magazine, for instance. They all beat the same warped “social justice” drum.) You may say, so what? Who cares? Live and let live (or you might say they’re right, in which case I have no more time for you.) As someone who was so involved for so many years, I feel a responsibility to at least digest my own experience, sharing it publicly as record in hopes it might help even one person avoid a pitfall, and support those who might likewise have struggled. I know they are out there – I’ve heard from them. Also, this all has to be understood in a broad historical context, as an epochal event or shift, as the head of the SZBA even acknowledged with pride in the linked article. Not many people are equipped to provide this critical context, and few that do seem to have the interest or courage to speak up. This magazine article about the statement was the final nail for me; I knew before that point I would split from my own “Zen Master,” but honored the seriousness of my commitment by waiting to see if there were other options; any hope to remain within the tradition’s frameworks in this country. This statement was a definitive negatory.

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Art and Zen are Dead. Long Live Art and Zen.

The worlds of both contemporary art and American Zen seem deeply and equally screwed. Having devoted considerable energy to both over decades, this has been a distressing reality to keep waking up to. I keep thinking I’ve hit the bottom of it, then some new demonic or moronic manifestation rears its ugly head and another stage of grief or wonder kicks in. And, the opportunities of new problems to solve, and thoughts to think.

So, I work to understand, and work to counteract. But since both seem so fundamentally broken at a systemic level, I’m left concentrating quite close in. I’ve pulled back, withdrawn, and I work, think, write, talk, and pray. That’s the cycle – out, then in. I’ve written a 400 page book that is just off to the printers in China, due out in January, 2020. It’s ostensibly about psychedelic rock posters, but for me, it was also a deep inquiry and meditation on the rise of 1960s “counterculture” – particularly its darker, frustrating legacies in which I feel we’re all well and truly mired. I just watched a Denver city council woman state (like an even more radical Ocasio-Cortez, as if we thought that were possible) that our civilization is a complete failure that must be destroyed, “and I am excited to usher it in, by any means necessary.” That is of course code for, “excited by the chance to bash whitey’s head in.” As if white people even existed. Yet another lie of the left, invented about five minutes ago. They just shamelessly lie about everything, these people, it’s amazing, and it’s all mainstreamed.

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Debtfair is Communism

Note: I originally posted this in November last year, but received such holy hell, threats, and coercive demands that I did in fact take this post down. That’s never sat right with me, so after taking a break to concentrate on a book and life in general, I am reposting it. The soul makes it own demands.

Earlier this year, I resigned as a Soto Zen priest essentially because the religion has been totally hijacked by hypocritical social justice warriors, patronizing race-baiters, and Marxist ideologues. One of the named authors of the “Repentance Statement” issued by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association that constituted my final straw, and one of that organizations most prominent leaders, is Zen teacher Norman Fischer: former Abbott of San Francisco Zen Center, founder of Everyday Zen, and a kind, charismatic person. Norman was previously one of the guiding teachers of the Zen group I co-founded and now direct essentially by myself (supported merely by our regular attendees), though I have met him personally only a handful of times.

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