Review: The Lost Symbol

October 11th, 2009 by soundofrain

Buy this book at Amazon.comYeah, I know. Dan Brown is the crappiest and trendiest of all crappy trendiness, and I ought to be ashamed to admit that I even picked the book up and looked at it.

If you, like 10 billion other people on the planet, read The Da Vinci Code, you won’t be surprised to learn that his latest book, six years in the making, is every bit as awful – and yet captivating. A friend of mine pointed out that one of the secrets to Dan Brown’s success as a writer is that he makes stupid people feel smart, by telling them all this great stuff; and he makes smart people feel smart, because they get to pick apart his writing, his factual errors, and his lack of originality. Everybody wins.

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Resolving my father issues

October 4th, 2009 by soundofrain

St.-George-and-the-Dragon-statue-etchingMy stepmother died last Friday. No condolences are needed; there was no love between us. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. I do feel for her family – she had children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, who all loved her very much – and of course for my father. They were everything to each other, and did everything together. He’s in his late seventies, and now he’s alone. I know this has hit him hard.

I flew to the Midwest last Sunday, not wanting to go but unable to get out of it, and as it turns out I’m glad I did. In grief, a person will say things they wouldn’t say at any other time. We don’t really talk about anything in my family – at least, we never have before. Read the rest of this entry »

LOLs for the rest of the animal kingdom

September 24th, 2009 by soundofrain

My posts have been so serious lately. Time to lighten up.








Killing the sangha

September 23rd, 2009 by soundofrain

standoutI stopped going to the zendo after my last post, and my Thursday depressions instantly ceased. I felt better for the next few weeks than I had in many months.

It saddens and disappoints me that this sangha didn’t work out for me, but once the depression lifted, I realized that of course I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was intimidated in the beginning, and I never got through that. I’m sure my discomfort was evident to anyone who looked at me. It’s not anyone’s job, as far as I know, to help people who seem to be struggling; maybe that’s not the case in other sanghas. I would’ve liked it if someone had at least tried. These are not bad or insincere people by any means. No community is perfect, and I didn’t expect this one to be. We just never reached each other.

Though I could wish I had quit a bit sooner, I am glad I didn’t give up on them right away. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much effort to put into something. Read the rest of this entry »

The least of the Three Treasures

July 26th, 2009 by soundofrain

1118619_jewellery_boxWhen you become a Buddhist, you “take refuge” in the Three Treasures: the Buddha, which is the Buddha, of course, but also Buddha-nature that’s in all of us; the dharma, which means your responsibilities, the stuff you have to do; and the sangha, which is the community of people practicing with you. It’s the sangha I have trouble with.

The sangha at this zendo were never very warm and welcoming, which I found reassuring at first. I was nervous enough about the whole thing and it was good not to feel like I had 100 or so brand new best friends, like it’s a cult or something. I assumed that we’d get to know one another and I’d eventually find some friends there.

And when that didn’t happen, I thought maybe I needed to keep going for a while before they trusted me. Even in the first few months I saw how many people show up just a few times, then disappear. It’s a tough discipline and doesn’t necessarily show any results right away, maybe not for years.

I tried to be friendly, but something just wasn’t working. Apart from the core group who were almost always there, I found it hard to tell who was brand new and who was a regular. A lot of people there don’t speak English very well, and were even more shy than I am. And I’m never quite sure what I’m allowed to talk about.

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A brief word about karma

July 9th, 2009 by soundofrain

Couldn't think of a way to illustrate this. So here's a Canada goose.I’m feeling much better, thanks. I love it that I have a way to take care of myself that doesn’t involve taking drugs.

I wanted to say a few words about karma, because it is a concept that comes up in Buddhism that is misunderstood by almost everybody. The word “karma” only means action or doing. There’s no connotation of cause and effect or cosmic retribution involved. It exacts no judgment on the choices we make. My being raped was my karma, as it was his to be the rapist, and my father’s to be an asshole about it. There’s no karmic responsibility or punishment, no great bureaucracy of karma meting out rewards for good behavior, in this life or the next. Karma isn’t something to believe in; it’s just a descriptive word for action. Read the rest of this entry »

The ghost of a flashback

July 5th, 2009 by soundofrain

top of chain link fenceLately I’ve been plagued by a repeating image. More than an image, it’s a whole-body sense thing. It’s a man hitting me with a stick.

It’s actually been with me for years, it just took me this long to realize it. Doing zazen, as I’ve said, means all kinds of day-to-day junk precipitates out (thank you, high school chemistry) and lets me see clearly what I’m really thinking. It was during zazen that I really started to see this little film clip, and afterwards I realized that it’s popping up quite often lately. It plays many times a day. Read the rest of this entry »

The fear of death

June 16th, 2009 by soundofrain

Niagara Falls is shunyata.We all fear death. Most people don’t even allow themselves to think about it, it’s so awful, even though it’s the one thing we are all guaranteed (even taxes are optional, after all). It’s this huge, dark, unknown thing, toward which we begin hurtling as soon as we’re born. Some people strongly believe that there’s an afterlife, heaven or another lifetime, or just floating around in cosmic bliss, but it seems to me that this is simply a way to stave off the great fear. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, not really. Not, anyway, to my satisfaction. It’s occurred to me that even science will probably never be able to tell us what lies on the other side of that wall.

Some people think we should be using science and medicine to prolong our lives for thousands of years, even make us immortal. That hunger for more experience, more books, more food, is what the mind does, and when you’ve been taught your whole life that that craving, a big part of the sensation of being alive, is your real self, of course you’re terrified of letting it go. Especially when no one can really promise you that anything better will happen at the end than that you will simply go out like a candle.

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Motherless day

May 10th, 2009 by soundofrain

white-carnation1One of my earliest memories, one of my only memories of my mother, and the sweetest memory I have:

I am four years old. My mother and my aunt are in the kitchen, talking grownup talk. I am playing with my younger cousin, John, who is still in diapers. He is throwing a ball down the basement stairs, and I am running down and fetching it, like a dog, over and over.

It’s fun. I’m out of breath. Our basement is scary, but safe because the stairs lead off of the kitchen, where my mother and my aunt are talking, and I can hear their voices. I’m thumping all the way down, thumping all the way back up. The carpet on the stairs is thin, like felt, over the wooden steps. We all had bruises on our shins, all the time we lived in that house, from those stairs.

And they’re slippery. My cousin laughs and throws the ball. I run after it, and halfway down I slip and fall, and bump my head.

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Too much information

May 6th, 2009 by soundofrain

black-gloves-59941_7751_optIs there any such thing, in a blog? I suppose it depends on what kind of blog we’re talking about.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of blog I want this to be. I’ve just spent the better part of the past week reading a friend’s blog, completely unable to stop reading the next entry, and the next entry, and the next… She’s having a very interesting life, is brutally honest, and knows how to tell a story – the best combination in the world. And I got to thinking, I need to tell more of those kinds of stories here. Read the rest of this entry »