I’ve Made a Book

2 1/2 years ago, I had a show of a bunch of paintings. Since that time, I’ve imagined a tidy little catalog to reflect that show’s concept and memorialize the work. I pulled it together this week, and it came out more or less as I imagined: a small victory over the forces of inertia and distraction.

You can view it free here electronically, or even buy a copy if so inspired. There is no “back” cover…

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W(h)ither Empire

I finally got to see the movie Black 47. I’d wanted to see it in the theater last year, but it showed on one art house screen hardly bigger than my TV for a few days, and I didn’t make it. I was at the library two blocks from my house last week seeing if they had any guidebooks for Ireland I could check out, planning for my upcoming trip. They didn’t, but they did have this movie. Just watched, it’s now among my top 10.

A good portion of it is in the Irish language, which I’ve half aspired to learn for about 30 years. I got the Rosetta Stone package and I’m working on it, but even citizens of Eiré, who are forced to learn it, aren’t typically very fluent. Assertively nationalist, which is to say just appreciative of Irish culture, Black 47 is about as poetically condensed an indictment of British imperialism as anything ever crafted – a thinking man’s Braveheart. It gets all the complexity, and how even the perpetrators are in the end usually victims themselves. That we all don’t wake up every day celebrating that we aren’t starving is some kind of miracle, or curse. I’ve been ranting about Zen Buddhism losing the plot in this respect; they get one part right, in that there is and has been injustice (congratulations!), but they get the whole larger picture wrong, in their victim-identitarian Marxist possession. I’ve started two books, one about religious persecution of Catholics by the Brits, and the other about the Irish revolution spanning the turn of the last century. In the latter, I see so many parallels to today. So many young people thinking the answer was free love, magic, Marx, and endless rebellion against Bad Dad…
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Eros/Ethnos/Logos. Myself, I’d maybe stick Christos in there before Logos, or somewhere/everywhere, because the entire Christian contribution to civilization is this idea of Christos: an embodied-transcendent translator, transmitter, or transistor of Logos.

Over the last few years I’ve watched my heart-mind turn away from the east, back to the west. It’s like, when shit got real and I found myself in a communist brainwashing cult that called itself Buddhist, the fat got cut away, or burned off. A few years ago, in an earlier symptom of this turning, I lost all interest in the I Ching, and gained an interest in Tarot, quite conscious about needing to turn even the deeper archetypes of my mind or soul back toward Europe. I know that any interest in Tarot cards sounds super gay, and maybe it is (I’m over that, too, for now.) But I was and am fascinated by these systems of (potentially) minor personal revelations, and both I Ching and Tarot present ennobling models for individuals and for a society infused with spirit. Trying to “cast” the future is of course totally retarded. Paying someone else to read your cards is a sham about 90% of the time (I paid one guy once and he was amazing, so I can’t say 100%). Used as meditations on how the universe, society, and self functions, such tools claim to, and just might, be useful. Jung thought so. And hippies.

I just wrote a book about hippies. I have this total love/hate thing with hippies, and boomers, generally. I’m glad my parents weren’t boomers, and its not that: parental rebellion. It’s more like sibling rivalry. Gen X – the perpetually put-upon little brothers and sisters, now adult generational middle children. And we’re annoyed by all of them. Maybe its that neither elder nor younger have any real sense of tragedy, and they’ve practically destroyed comedy. And art. Boomers often failed to think clearly or long term. Like I’ve been talking about in the zen-o-sphere. This is real: boomers who clearly don’t have their shit together out protesting Cheeto Hitler with pink-haired gender-confused kids, probably so disordered because they had foolish or asleep boomer parents, or maybe just grew up in a boomer culture bent on twisting them in knots and exploiting them for cash and cheap power. Infinite causes and conditions, but there are trends.
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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: A Melodrama in Five Parts

This was originally a series of 5 separate posts, which I’ve combined for ease of access. I’ve noticed based on stats that 90% of readers didn’t make it past the first post; while it pretty well makes my overall point, there are nuances and expansions in subsequent posts that of course I felt worth explicating, or I wouldn’t have written them. Maybe with them all in one place, a few people might find the patience to at least scan through the rest. I know we all struggle to read more than 140 characters at a time these days, but hopefully the pseudo-essay format still serves for something, or someone. – T.O.

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’d steer a wide berth around 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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