log (2005/01/14 to 2005/01/20)

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What's in the box?
Thursday, January 20, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

"He just makes me nervous. He's always looking at me."

"You've got your own stalker!"

"No, it's not like he follows me around or anything. It's more like, whenever he happens to be around, he's looking at me. I don't think I've ever seen the back of his head."

And she frowns and looks down at the floor of the café. She doesn't like having thought about seeing the back of his head. It's much too intimate.

So (completely unrelated to that piece of prose, which came from I have no idea where), there's this really cool organization that I joined recently. You can join too!

It's an organization with just two defining properties: first, anyone can become a member just by declaring themselves to be a member, and second, it has just two defining properties.

Simple, eh?

The reason I like it so much is that it probably has some really exotic members. Wherever in the universe there is intelligent life that does logic (and organizations) anything like we do, there are probably members of this organization. And the members of this organization are probably more like me than average, since they either thought of the organization themselves or communicate with someone that did, and since they took it seriously enough to join (rather than just rolling their eyes or puffing out their lips or waving their hind mandibles derisively).

Pretty neat, eh? You, too, can belong to an intergalactic organization!

It's a really busy week, and I don't have time to do anything more organized than just sit here and type more or less at random. I have lots of reader input, and some things in the "for the log" pile (well, some relatively new things, sitting on top of the huge heap of ancient moldering things), but they'll mostly have to wait until next time, except for these snippets selected hastily from the top layers.

A spammer writes;

Subject: Norton Antivirus for half a face price in your soft magazine !

Spinsanity has some odd news (they're so successful, they're closing up shop!).

From Bill, a Talking Points Memo item cleverly titled Editors of the Onion infiltrate CNN polling unit that points to CNN for our Headline o' the Week:

Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider

I mean, really...

Monday, January 17, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

So I did it! I went down into the Big Bad City yesterday, in to Manhattan and out to Brooklyn, to the Fire Lotus Temple (Zen Center of New York City), and did me some o' that zazen, and as an extremely cool and unexpected bonus got to hear a dharma talk by (and talk informally afterwards a bit with) a genuine Roshi.

I have lengthy detailed and incoherent personal notes, but it's late now and I'm sleepy.

The train went fine. As usual I had lots of reading matter and didn't need any of it, because I like to look out the window.

It turned out the four line wasn't running between Manhattan and Brooklyn yesterday due to construction, but the nice lady in the booth told me I should take the shuttle to Times Square and the two or the three from there, and that worked.

Found the Zen Center from the subway no problem, and walked around the block a couple of times until I felt it was close enough to time to ring the buzzer. Turns out if I'd waited another five minutes they would have had the welcome sign out and the door open.

The people were very nice, normal, ordinary (quite white-bread, with just a scattering of the less pale races represented); just about what you'd expect at a Unitarian church at the same time of week and day.

First there was the "liturgy", which involved lots of chanting and bowing and prostrating and stuff. That was a little weird *8) but no doubt useful for community-building and all.

Then us first-timers got some sitting instruction upstairs while everyone else did the first sitting session down in the zendo proper. We were instructed by the senior monastic, a lovely smiling shaven-headed woman who made us feel all warm and welcomed, and told us the various ways to sit and how to work with the breath and all. Which I mostly already knew from reading about stuff on the Web and having sat all by myself, but it's nice to have a smiling expert explain it in person.

Then we went back downstairs and sat with the others in the second sitting session. I sat half-lotus, had a great time, didn't fall asleep, didn't have to change positions, sneeze, fall over, or anything like that. When the bell rang twice (great bells they have) for the zazen being over, I could not only not feel my left foot, I couldn't move the toes either. But it came back quickly.

Then after we stood up for a bit (there were too many people there that day to do the usual kinhin walking meditation, so we just stood), John Daido Loori Roshi, the Abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery and the founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order that Fire Lotus is part of, came in. He was all in robes and had a little staff and everything, and there was more bowing and stuff. We all sat back down in zazen postures again.

He gave a dharma talk (and I really will restrain myself from describing that in any detail; maybe some other night) which everyone enjoyed; he spoke very informally and was amusing and friendly. The subject matter was pretty elementary; the sort of "we're all too dualistic, we should be more non-dualistic instead" kind of thing that might be used to ease in someone who's never thought about it before. (And some other stuff; anyway, maybe more on that some other day.)

Then there was some more chanting; this time of stuff that wasn't in the little chanting pamphlets that they'd passed out to us beginners. I worked out that it was the Four Great Vows, and I chanted along on the three that I was comfortable with (more on that later, too, maybe); the fourth one is still being investigated by our research department.

And then it was done.

Afterwards there was coffee and cookies and homemade bread upstairs (again very Unitarian), and Daido Roshi showed up in civvies, looking very different than he had in his robes, and people hugged him and shook hands and talked to him, and he took out a digital camera and took snapshots of the milling crowd. I stood around and failed to make small-talk a bit, and thanked the nice monastic for her instruction earlier, and then noticed that someone was over talking dharma with Roshi. So I went over too, and eventually that person went away and I got to talk to him (woo!).

"Is non-duality also delusion?" I asked.

He said that well you have delusion when you have cognition (or something roughly like that) and I chimed in (much too quickly, should have let him talk more) that non-duality was also a concept, after all, a word that we think means something.

Ah, he said (roughly), in that sense it's indeed also delusion.

Which seems altogether too simple, but there you are. I suppose I'm disappointed that he wasn't doing enigmatic odd things like in all them Zen Master stories, but in the long run it's probably better that Roshi is just an interesting old guy. (Rather thin, slightly stooped, shaven-headed, with big ears, vaguely Yoda-like except not small at all.)

And I bought lunch in Chinatown, and took more subways, and ate lunch on a bench in Central Park outside the Carousel, and called M with my cellphone at various points, and eventually took the train back home. And today my knees are sore.

It was fun! Apparently so much fun that I've written on and on about it even though (as noted above) it's late.

So now I'm going to bed.

Good Night!


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