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Thursday, July 27, 2006

World at War: Faith and Clarity

Warp Spasm writes in his latest post: As the world continues to crumble around us I am feeling an incredible sense of impotence. I waiver between rage and resignation. If I could I'd grab all these so-called world leaders by the lapels and shake the living shit out of them. How can they continue down the road to ruin? Why aren't people everywhere rioting over their lack of influence and power? Impotence?

It seems to me, they are. That's what's going on in the Middle East, and in parts of Europe and Asia, and almost everywhere but here; the riots here have been supressed by something that seems like a drug released into the air (it's not literally, but it may as well be). The world is at war, and it's not a war between Christianity and Islam, or capitalism and terrorism, or any of those lies. It's a war between ignorance and ignorance; but in this case, part of the ignorance, the ignorance of the suppressed, the tortured and the starved, is understandable. Familiarity with Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows us why most people in this modern world have no time to develop "higher values," which we often forget, can easily be a bourgeois affectation. The willful ignorance of the oppressors, which in this case is the Bush cabal and its puppets, is not so easy to forgive. It's still ignorance -- the mistaken belief that the their heinous acts and execreble lives can be of true benefit to them, as they artificially set themselves apart from humanity and existence -- but it's impossible to forgive. This willful ignorance is the closest I can get myself to believe in damnation.

...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. - William Butler Yeats.

Often these days, I feel like I'm walking around in a sci-fi movie. Often it seems to me that humanity is divided into two subspecies: those who can see their hands in front of their faces, and those who can't. The division crosses all lines of education, age, culture and intelligence. There are old people, poor people, even people who I wouldn't considered stupid at other times, who can see the current world situation for what it is. Some of my good friends, including the educated ones and the ones who have no reason to love the oppressors, can't. There seems no rhyme or reason to it.

I would like to thank my Buddhist practice as renewed in the last couple of years for my particular ability to see -- and in this case it's pretty much a lifting of the veil -- but I can't. As loathe as I am to speak of the particular benefits of Zen practice, it's obvious to me at this point that clarity is the chief one, at least for me. But of course it doesn't take zazen to see the Bush Cabal for what it is, most of those who see it have never sat cross-legged. One of my best friends, a sober alcoholic for thirty years, once remarked to me that for a lot of people who stick with AA, it's an excuse to remain sober. Perhaps for me zazen is an excuse to see clearly.

When I say clarity, I don't mean everything is clear all the time, or that there is some new hidden depth to the world that wasn't seen before. Things are just seen as they are. I'm gonna stop trying to talk about it, here, for now. It just can't be done.

The last sesshin I attended in Atlanta was taught/led by one of the students in the absence of the abbot, and he listed the theme for the weekend as "Faith." I'm sure this was a consciously-perceived dissonance for Steven, as he was quite aware that running from blind faith and the ignorance fostered by religion brings most, or a lot of, people to Zen in the first place. But there is a kind of faith in the consistent practice of zazen -- faith in the process, not in the goal. This faith is more of an empirical finding, backed up as the experiment leads to confirm the original induction. As long as the process works, we must be willing to follow the process wherever it leads us; I have no idea what perceptions I may have tomorrow, but I have must have faith in my willingness to be true to them. Ultimately, I think, the journey leads us right back to where we sit, and the destination is the same as where we start, and not. Enough of this babble; it reduces the experience.

You can read Warp Spasm's quote in context at his blog by following the link in the column to the right. If anyone empathizes with his rage, and mine, validate yourself by reading this article titled "Peace Prize Winner Could Kill Bush," also in a link to the right. Also, the movie I was trying to remember was "They Live," with Roddy Piper. Only people with special sunglasses can see the aliens. Get it?

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