Attention

There’s an old Zen story: a student said to Master Ichu, ‘Please write for me something of great wisdom.’

Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: ‘Attention.’
The student said, ‘Is that all?’

The master wrote, ‘Attention. Attention.’
The student became irritable. ‘That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.’

In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, ‘Attention. Attention. Attention.’
In frustration, the student demanded, ‘What does this word attention mean?’

Master Ichu replied, ‘Attention means attention.’
Source: Charlotte Joko Beck. 1993. Nothing special: Living Zen. New York: HarperCollins. 168.

Is Donald Trump to blame for who he is?

The first few weeks of Trump’s presidency have left many people feeling raw and angry. He has been brash, crude, totally un-statesman-like in his approach to anything outside his own rather narrow world–and often within that world as well. As the police-woman said, “I’ll dress like a lady when he acts like a president.”

But if we look at it logically, Trump is not to blame for who he is, and is perhaps more deserving of compassion and understanding than of hatred. I do not mean that his actions should be condoned and that there should be no legal battle against his ludicrous bans. Rather, there should perhaps be a shift in the slightly hysterical way in which people and the media have portrayed and lampooned him–a portrayal and lampooning that allows him to recreate himself afresh, perhaps against his will.

Trump is a megalomaniac, out of touch with global realities. Is this his fault? No, if we go with Sam Harris’ arguments that I had presented some posts ago. Trump is profoundly unlucky to have the genes of a megalomaniac, to therefore have the mind of a megalomaniac, to have been in environments that nourished and did not question this tendency. He is profoundly unlucky to be unable to empathize, to look only at the short term and not at the long term. He therefore deserves our sympathy. Unfortunately he is the most powerful man in the world and can cause immense damage. But there is no “Trump” in there, any more than for anyone else. There are neurons firing and emotional patterns swirling, just like for the rest of us. What a pity he is so powerful.

So–what do we do? Just let him continue on the rampage? Absolutely not: that would be to confuse, as Sam Harris puts it, choicelessness with fatalism. He should be confronted in the strongest possible terms. But: he should be confronted with understanding, and with an understanding of all the people who voted him into power (and they didn’t have any “choice” about the matter too, by the way). He cannot be confronted on his own terms–brash and megalomaniacal and hysterical. That would be merely adding fuel to the flames.

I feel the traditions of non-duality have much to teach us and our institutions–the media, political structures. Of course they must primarily shine a light into our own minds. That is the only valid beginning.

As refreshing as a mug of beer :-)

Isn’t it wonderful that you have never made a choice in your life? There is nothing to regret, nothing to feel guilty about. Nothing could ever have been any different, nothing could ever have been any other way. Isn’t that a relief? Nothing matters. There is nowhere to go. There is nothing that has to be done. There is no meaning and no morality.
There is no help and no hope. You can let it all go, you can release all the tension. You can begin to enjoy the wonder of hopelessness and the gift of meaninglessness. You can begin to enjoy your complete helplessness.
In liberation it is seen that nothing has any meaning, it is simply what it is. The story does not stop. The story continues but now it is seen that it is just a story. All the passions of your apparent life are just stuff happening. The conflicts, the loves, the struggles for control and power, the victories and defeats are simply phenomena arising in one-
ness and falling away again with no meaning at all.

Richard Sylvester

Liberation as loss

The most common misconception about liberation is that it is something an individual can gain. But liberation is a loss—the loss of the sense that there ever was a separate individual who could choose to do something to bring about liberation.
When it is seen that there is no separation, the sense of vulnerability and fear that attaches to the individual falls away and what is left is the wonder of life just happening. Instead of meaning there is a squirrel motionless on a grey tree trunk, legs splayed, head up, looking straight at you. Instead of purpose there is the astonishing texture of cat’s
fur or the incredible way an ant crawls over a twig. The loss of hope is no loss when it is replaced by the moorhens bobbing on the lake.

When the sensation that I am in control of my life and must make it happen ends, then life is simply lived and relaxation takes place. There is a sense of ease with whatever is the case and an end to grasping for what might be.

Richard Sylvester

A WORD ON STATISTICS

A WORD ON STATISTICS

by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)

Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
fifty-two.

Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.

Ready to help,
if it doesn’t take long:
forty-nine.

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four — well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:
eighteen.

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:
four-and-forty.

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
seventy-seven.

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

Cruel
when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know,
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

Getting nothing out of life except things:
thirty
(though I would like to be wrong).

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.

Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:
three.

Worthy of empathy:
ninety-nine.

Mortal:
one hundred out of one hundred –
a figure that has never varied yet.

***

This lovely little poem assess our inner states so perfectly and lightly.