See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Ratzaz Diaries!

It's been a hell of a last few weeks, but things have gotten better since I wrote last. I think I share the common perception that just when things are going well, something has to go wrong. On October 9, I went from my previous job, which was always in my mind intended to be provisional, to one which may offer a little more stability, and everything seemed to be firmly if slowly on the upswing. Then, on the evening of October 16, coming home from the first day of the second week of the new job, I had a head-on collision in my 1993 Le Baron a block and a half from my house that left all the drivers and passengers uninjured but totalled my car.

I don't know about you, but shopping for used cars under time pressure is not my favorite activity. Anyway, as I write, I have a car (albeit a high-mileage one) that I like even better than the last one, this one a 1995 Buick Regal 2-dr. with a 3800 engine; the only thing that doesn't work properly so far is the horn, which is just frustrating for someone with my temperament. I'm gonna have to get that fixed before someone runs over me or I blow a gasket trying to shout at some driver who can't hear me. Or then I could give up the shouting, but that's a big order.

So for the first time in two weeks I have the calm and the opportunity to sit down and realize that as of last Monday, October 23, this blog is a year old. Although I write with the realization that I have no proper back-up of this site and the whole year's worth of writing could vanish into cyberspace at any moment, I look back and realize that I've changed over the last year. Firmly esconced in middle age, it often seems that not much changes in a year, but this blog enables me to see that that's not true. It's not so much that jobs, cars, and situations change -- I've always been unstable in that regard -- but that my points of view have. A year ago, I started this blog mostly to relieve the pressure of working in an environment that was driving me crazy, with people I cared about but who couldn't have been further from my perspective on the world, most notably a general manager whose frustration with the inadequacy of his own life had driven him full-blown into Faux News delusion and a passionate hatred of the people in his world who mirrored his own defects. I eventually left there in January and spent a much-needed six months stewing in my own juices and eventually finding some of the enviromental factors I'd been needing, such as my involvment with the Atlanta Soto Zen Center and some very special people, in and out of the Zen world.

I now live in a much larger world than I did a year ago, which relieves a lot of the pressure. There are definitely some people I need to thank, in no order: the people at the ASZC, especially Abbott Michael Elliston, Terry Sutton and Cherry Zimmer; my friend Kate Morrissey, whose MySpace banner now proudly graces the bottom of this page (down there by the hit counter), whose music and friendship has come to mean a lot to me in the last couple of months; my friends Joe Khoury and Kelly Butler from the last job; Nashville Buddhists Jennye Greene, Lisa Ernst and Rachel, whose inspiration prevents me from abandoning all hope of Sangha; my father and my aunts Mary and Mozelle, who all in their very different ways lead me to appreciate the value of the generation Tom Brokaw termed America's greatest, whose absolute steadfastness will never be equalled by us; and my friends through the years, Joe and Stephanie, Tom and Peggy who continue to be there. Then there's the reappearance from the distant past of my friend Jim Lydecker, whose ongoing inquisition into the world during years when I lay dormant both inspires me and lets me abbreviate my research. All of these people have aided in making this year one of growth and, yes, relative enlightenment.

A year ago, I was mostly lashing out at forces I saw as oppressive, particularly the evil empire hidden within the depths of the Bush administration. My perspective has grown, influenced by two factors. The first and obvious one is the sane counsel of my Buddhist teachers (and before I omit him, Brad Warner's persistent sanity in the face of bullshit from every side keeps me grounded, even when I cringe when he mentions politics, which he shouldn't. Ever.). The second is my friend Jim's already-digested summaries of the body of research and prediction which gets lumped together under the sobriquet of Peak Oil). Jim probably thinks I'm ignoring the mass of data and opinion he keeps sending me, which I'm not; I'm just not sure what to say. I'm not going to take the time here to discuss the whole Peak Oil thing, which I've been trying to figure out how to blog for a couple of months because the start-up is huge. To over-digest, man's running out of fossil fuels is sooner than we think and inevitable; and with renewable resources able to support only about 1/17 of the world's current population, the coming disaster is of unprecedented proportion. After reviewing this research, it seems inevitable to me that during our lifetimes, human culture will begin a spiral downward, back into the stone age. If man lives he won't be recognizable as the animal he is now. And with the earth's resources gone, there will never be another intelligent species, ever. We're all there will ever be, and we're blowing it.

My reaction to all this is not Jim's or Kate's -- save the Earth! -- because it just seems to me it's too late. It's gonna happen. We've seen the peak of the curve, and it's our decendents we've doomed to a hellish existence. I guess I take this more calmly than most, having resolved personally to have none. With me it just makes me appreciate the fact of when and how I've lived. Do you really understand how much luxury it takes to be able to do zazen? Our ancestors and now seemingly our decendants have and will spent time fighting other predators in the forest; meditation was not an option or an issue. Seen from that perspective, the Buddha's search for truth is not a universal human endeavor but the indulgence of a spoiled prince. Or conversely, what luxurious lives we have, to be able to squander the same in drug addiction or steak dinners, or oh yeah, the internet.

From a Zen perspective, the only moment is the present one, and history is just a story we tell. Yet it is humbling that to see that in the story of humanity, we are not the protagonists but the spoiled offspring of the same. Our duty to our predecessors is not to save the world; it's too late. The cause of the world's demise is not the Bush administration; although they, at the helm of the world-destroying war machine, are the sword of Shiva, they are only tools of the greed encrusted in the unconscious corporations. And even those vast monoliths of wealth and death are but the embodiment of the same instincts for power, aggression, competition, survival and indulgence which in themselves raised humankind from the jungle to the boardroom.

I am saying that our destruction was always implicit in our ascendance; it is all living-and-dying. There is nothing we can be but what we are. But we can sit silently for a moment to appreciate that fact, and we can use our time wisely. And as I continue to write this blog, now that I have time and peace again (due to the same factors as above), I hope to continue to do that. And just remember, as long as YouTube lives, you can always go the blog entry previous to this and watch Bettie Page dance. That dance may well be the peak of all our endeavors.

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