- Mountains And Waters
One World in Dialogue and Zen Peacemakers invite us to a 24-hour worldwide meditation vigil on December 7 and 8. I will participate for what time I can; I invite you also.
It’s so much easier and more pleasant to just go on as if nothing were different. The weather is a little weird. There are a lot of wildfires, and the storms are fierce. Why on earth did [fill in your choice of country] elect a [crazy, extremist, fascist, narcissist,….] for [president, prime minister]? Oh, I don’t know. People are funny.
I propose that those things in the news are part of something bigger, and it’s most accurately called collapse. That’s a strong word. Here I’m following Professor Jem Bendell, of Positive Deep Adaptation, who says that when the house is burning down, it’s no longer time to work on fire prevention strategies. I recommend his talk about this.
Bendell divides collapse into categories, and thinks some are inevitable while others aren’t. We don’t need unanimous agreement to take useful action. My summary below is an attempt to stay brief while including links for further information.
Social: In the United States, grade schools have “active shooter drills” the way we used to do tornado drills, because there are shooters in schools – unthinkable before the 1999 Columbine massacre. Churches are targets too. Polarization is strong: read the comments on any mildly controversial news article – say, something about indigenous rights in Canada – and see the hate. This is a beginning of social collapse. When it gets worse, people flee. About that, Warsan Shire offers (a fragment of a poem):
Meanwhile indigenous people everywhere point out that this has been their reality for generations. To some of us, it’s collapse. To others, normal life since the arrival of the colonizers.
Political: Right now, United States people are polarized over impeachment, Democrats argue about progressive versus centrist candidates, and the Left argues with itself about nonviolence versus armed struggle. (I wonder what the Right argues about.) People protesting in Hong Kong just to keep their civil liberties have been shot and jailed. Evo Morales stepped down in Bolivia and a right-wing senator took charge, peaceful protestors being shot in the streets. A series of world governments have been been taken over by isolationist or fascist leaders, many through illegal or fraudulent elections, many openly encouraging hate toward some minority and/or openly destroying the environment (United States; Bolivia; Brazil; United Kingdom, and lots of small powerless countries…) The government of my country has been involved in overthrowing smaller governments of all kinds, whenever economic interests suggest it. (No link, over 100 years of stories, ask me.)
Economic: The top three people in the United States, the top eight in the world, hold most of everything, while the poor are desperate. Real wages in the U.S. haven’t risen in years, though the economy is considered strong and expenses have gone up considerably.
Climate and environmental collapse: Fires and floods are dramatic and visible. Droughts, the warming of the ocean, the death of species, the loss of nutrients in everyday foods are less obvious but very real. This is why we have refugees, and why more people are sick, and it contributes to violence at many levels. Finally people are talking about it. Greta Thunberg is a heroine to the same people who have ridiculed and denied climate change for decades now, but people who take action are still tear gassed, imprisoned, labeled terrorists – and in much of the world simply murdered. Big Oil and Big Coal have been caught covering up advance knowledge decades ago – just like Big Tobacco.
I don’t like writing about this. Usually I write about the dream, the vision, the cultural and spiritual change that we need to become whole again. I just feel the need to mention the problem; the spiritual change is not just for fun, not entertainment, it’s necessary. Today I’m particularly excited after a conversation with Courtney Work, an anthropologist who studies indigenous people in Southeast Asia, whose stories have given me a feeling for a life full of the sacred, embraced by mountains and forests and all living beings, a way that people have actually lived. Because she too sees that way of life as a the way of healing, we can talk.
The schedule will be much simpler this year, because I’m taking time off to write a book. I can’t leave my paid work, but I can cut back on making flyers and sending out notices. On the other hand, giving talks or having deep conversations will be helpful. So here are planned events, and below are some informal ways to connect. (Most are not posted on the website yet. Feel free to email Shodo for information.) And partial participation is nearly always possible.
January 4, Atlanta: One-day retreat with Red Clay Sangha, Saturday noon to 8 pm, and Sunday morning talk.
January 10-11, Atlanta: Two-day sesshin with Midtown Atlanta Zen, Friday and Saturday.
March or April: Introduction to Zen, a 2-day retreat with a Saturday morning option. Will be scheduled based on the first three inquiries; please email Shodo to help mobilize this.
June 25-30, sesshin at Hokyoji (SE Minnesota), co-led with two other teachers. Very beautiful place, great food, and the increased cost supports the oldest Zen retreat center in the Midwest.
July or August, Land Care Retreat will be scheduled later. A weekend.
September 25-29, sesshin at the farm.
November 30-December 8, Rohatsu sesshin, at the farm. The traditional week-long sesshin honoring Buddha’s enlightenment, deep in winter and snow with fire heat.
The farm events will be posted on the website later.
There will still be potlucks, mostly the 3rd Sunday evening. They’ll be organized by email, so let me know if you want to get reminders. In addition, if you are interested in hosting a potluck at your house, talk with me. I’m happy to support you, including sharing the planned talk or video. The next three: talk by Courtney Work at Northfield Buddhist Center, talk by Beth Goldring at Northfield Buddhist Center, and interview of Joanna Macy by Jem Bendell.
If you’d like to come to work days, email me to get on the list (for instance maple syrup in late winter) and I’ll let you know – or contact me and set up a time. If you want an email when there’s a project, tell me now and I’ll put you on the list.
A tiny fundraiser: We were given some quilts from Sanshinji – my teacher’s temple – and they have become mats
in the meditation hall. Now we could use some more cushions. Want to donate? We can buy 8 zafu covers for $240 from these people, and stuff them with old socks as I always do. If donations are more, we can buy whole cushions at a discounted rate. (You can also donate an actual zafu, if you have extra.) We chose the supplier because of environmental and labor standards.
What else can I say? Winter is here. It took me only 2 hours to shovel the driveway and walk, clean the wood stove, throw ashes on the hilly part of the drive, and and start the next fire.
Please be safe and well as the seasons change. Please hold your heart open to the whole world.
Love to you all,