Tai Chi, Tonglen and Mr. Fixit

Things are good here. Just sharing a few tidbits from the past week…

My son had minor surgery this week and on Thursday we brought over about 20 lbs of Trini-style homemade soup at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for a shared lunch – plus significant leftovers. My contribution to that project was making sure it was safely transported from our perch in the NW GTA to their place near the lakeshore.

Good news: Fixed our 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s key fob issue by inserting a tiny square of three postit notes over the nipple that presses against the +ve face of the cell to make sure that it is firmly seated in its cradle.

“Bad” news: That $200 control panel I installed last year on our, then 3-year-old, Kenmore dishwasher already shows a crack in the plastic over the Start button.

I know, in the grand, global scale, the bad news hardly qualifies as bad, or even as news! Now, if we both had worked for Sears Canada…

My Tai Chi routine, which I modify by replacing “breathing in the Chi” with Tibetan Buddhist Tonglen meditation (breathing in suffering, breathing out healing) has a calming effect. I’ve already noticed a tiny, but significant, shift in the direction of a more, gentle peaceful world. Those Doomsday Clock scientists are clearly out of touch. 😜

Buddhism and Political Action

 

Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

Henry Thoreau

Perhaps some Buddhists who read this can help me by critiquing my concern that I personally need to continue to act to improve the world, despite Daoism’s prescription that we should not, and cannot, act to change our world for the better. Comments are welcome.

Continue reading “Buddhism and Political Action”

Haiku Tribute to Robert Pirsig

Inspired by Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, near the end of Chapter One.

Unlike yours truly who, in 1966, recklessly delegated my cycle maintenance, Pirsig worked on his own bike with devotion and found great peace of mind in doing it. Unlike many in his time, he did not shun technology per se, though he knew it was being misused. For him, Buddha resides everywhere for those who pay attention and paying attention to doing a good job of anything requires an enlightened peace of mind.

Persig’s book has been called “the most read philosophy book ever.” Perhaps this is true if we insist on a cover-to-cover read. I enjoyed it very much when I read it for the first time in 2015, studying it intensely. Touching and engaging (as is Persig’s life story) Zen is a work of genius when one considers the dryness and difficulty of traditional philosophy texts.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

From Robert M. Pirsig’s wonderful 1974 book, the most read book on philosophy ever, this quote on how Aristotle, who had little respect for the great Sophists, started us on our sad path to alienation from the natural world, via the awesome engine of technology:

And the bones of the Sophists long ago turned to dust and what they said turned to dust with them and the dust was buried under the rubble of declining Athens through its fall and Macedonia through its decline and fall. Through the decline and death of ancient Rome and Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire and the modern states – buried so deep and with such ceremoniousness and such unction that only a madman centuries later could discover the clues needed to uncover them, and see with horror what had been done….

Pirsig, born in 1928, is still alive. Listening to this CBC podcast led me, belatedly, to him. His book is about how he challenged the university system on its perverted rationality in a single-minded, fanatical battle that drove him into isolation from his work and family. He was eventually committed to a mental institution where he was subjected to severe electroshock “therapy.” He eventually faked his “reform” in order to be released from the institution and later, in 1968, took a motorcycle trip with his teenage son, Chris, and two of his adult friends. The therapy had destroyed many of his memories. Calling his former, insane, self Phaedrus, he rebuilt Phaedrus’ thinking through these and other fragments: his notes, the memories of former friends and colleagues and his interaction on this trip with his alienated, troubled son, Chris.  He also read and reread philosophers, Greek mythology and history in the rebuilding process. This book is helping me in many ways. It adds new dimension and personal insight into how we got into the dangerous political/technological/moral/philosophical place in which we now, tenuously, live. It offers a process by which we just might get out of it. It helps to clarify, support, grow and even, perhaps, mellow my thinking on human issues and philosophical perspective. It may turn out to be the most important book I have ever read. I don’t think I’m giving too much away in giving you one more, very short, quote:

The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.

Below is a concept diagram that I have done that is my way of working on understanding and remembering Pirsig’s book. I have written many more notes. Simply reading something like this book doesn’t work for me.

A concept diagram to help my understanding
A concept diagram to help my understanding