A breath with infinite gratitude

There are those who pride themselves on being ‘activists,’ some believing that their actions are more significant than what other people do. But who judges the value of an act?

The old Bulgarian cobbler – some say he is one of only seven Tzaddiks left on earth – stitches a new sole to a grizzled boot. He is so present, and so deep in merry silence, he doesn’t realize how he sews heaven to earth, allowing us to survive another day.

The pole star seems to rest in stillness all night. Yet it streaks at inconceivable speed through the heavens.

A tiny emerald moth alights on the lupine in a mountain meadow, folding its wings in repose. This faint pulse sends out a thread of causation that will finally bring a tempest to the other side of the planet.

The child falls and scrapes her knee. The mother who treats her wound, not only with ointment but with immeasurable tenderness, lightens the burden of all who suffer, though we never know quite why we sigh, and feel such nameless elevation.

If you take – no, receive – a breath with infinite gratitude – for we are not capable of doing infinite works, but we are capable of being infinitely grateful – this breath may feel like the faintest caress on your breastbone. But can you be sure it isn’t a mighty wind from the Creator, sweeping the world, renewing mountains, forests, and rivers, restoring the Spirit to every heart that beats?

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “Drink your tea slowly, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves.”

~ Fred LaMotte

Vanaprastha

If a man carries too many worldly burdens, his body will soon wear out. If he worries about too many worldly problems, his mind will soon collapse. To be so occupied with material things is a dangerous way to live, a foolish waste of energy. A man ought to simplify his needs and use his strength to attain spiritual goals. Nobody ever ruined his mind or body by exercising self-restraint.

– Han Shan, Journey to Dreamland

No words

The purpose of a fish trap is to trap fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.

The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.

The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.

Where can I find a man who has forgotten the words? He is the one I would like to talk to.

– Chuang-tzu

The Singularity

Four hundred years ago, almost no one on Earth had tasted coffee. It was too difficult to move things a few thousand miles.

A hundred years ago, if you wanted a cold drink in the summer or needed to ice an injured knee, you were largely out of luck. It took millions of years of cultural and technical evolution to get to the point where people had a freezer in their house.

The industrial revolution was mighty indeed. It paved the Earth, created the middle class and changed everything. And it was a powerhouse for generations, incrementally changing what hadn’t been changed yet.

The TV revolution followed, introducing mass marketing as a force that could change our culture.

Then, the 60s brought the computer revolution, which involved large devices capable of sorting, calculating and processing things that were previously unsorted.

We’re living right now in the connection revolution, one powered by the internet, in which people connect to people, computers connect to computers and our culture changes ever faster, daily.

The next two revolutions are right around the corner:

The biology revolution, which has had some fits and starts, will transform our bodies and our planet. Once computers are able to see, understand and modify living things, the same acceleration of the last three revolutions will kick in.

And the AI revolution, in which we engage with computers as much as with each other, is showing itself now too.

Faster, ever faster. Moore’s law ratchets technology, technology changes the culture, the culture changes the economy and it continues.

Revolutions are impossible, until they’re not, and then they seem totally normal.

Iced coffee, anyone?

~ Seth Godin

Behold

In his final sermon
Buddha didn’t speak.
He just held up
a tiny flower until
someone smiled.
Jesus didn’t preach
any religion at all.
He said, “Behold
the lilies of the field!”
That was enough
for anyone whose
eye was open.
Dante saw the whole
empyrean, hosts
and hosts of angels,
in the petals of a rose.
Wonder in silence
beyond thought,
your breath a stream
of unborn stars.
Friend, all that stands
between you and
this world of miracles
is your mind.

~ Fred LaMotte

Loving the unlovable

Jesus told us to love our enemy. “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This teaching helps us know how to look at the person we consider to be the cause of our suffering.

If we practice looking deeply into his situation and the causes of how he came to be the way he is now, and if we visualize ourselves as being born in his condition, we may see that we could have become exactly like him.

When we do that, compassion arises in us naturally, and we see that the other person is to be helped and not punished. In that moment, our anger transforms itself into the energy of compassion.

Suddenly, the one we have been calling our enemy becomes our brother or sister. This is the true teaching of Jesus.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

Big Sur

“Paradise or no paradise, I have the very definite impression that the people of this [Big Sur] vicinity are striving to live up to the grandeur and nobility which is such an integral part of this setting. They behave as if it were a privilege to live here, as if it were by an act of grace they found themselves here. The place itself is so overwhelmingly bigger, greater, than anyone could hope to make it that it engenders a humility and reverence not frequently met with in Americans. There being nothing to improve on in the surroundings, the tendency is to set about improving oneself.”

~ Henry Miller

Urge, splurge, purge

A system that depends on growth can survive only if we progressively lose our ability to make reasoned decisions. After our needs, then strong desires, then faint desires have been met, we must keep buying goods and services we neither need nor want, induced by marketing to abandon our discriminating faculties and succumb instead to impulse.

You can now buy a selfie toaster, that burns an image of your own face onto your bread — the Turin Shroud of toast. You can buy beer for dogs and wine for cats; a toilet roll holder that sends a message to your phone when the paper is running out; a $30 branded brick; a hairbrush that informs you whether or not you are brushing your hair correctly. Panasonic intends to produce a mobile fridge that, in response to a voice command, will deliver beers to your chair.

Urge, splurge, purge: we are sucked into a cycle of compulsion followed by consumption, followed by the periodic detoxing of ourselves or our homes, like Romans making themselves sick after eating, so that we can cram more in. Continued economic growth depends on continued disposal: unless we rapidly junk the goods we buy, it fails. The growth economy and the throwaway society cannot be separated. Environmental destruction is not a by-product of this system. It is a necessary element.

The environmental crisis is an inevitable result not just of neoliberalism — the most extreme variety of capitalism — but of capitalism itself. Even the social democratic (Keynesian) kind depends on perpetual growth on a finite planet: a formula for eventual collapse. But the peculiar contribution of neoliberalism is to deny that action is necessary; to insist that the system, like Greenspan’s financial markets, is inherently self-regulating. The myth of the self-regulating market accelerates the destruction of the self-regulating Earth.

[…] There is no environmental rescue plan: to admit the need for one would be to admit that the economic system is based on a series of delusions. The environmental crisis demands a new ethics, politics and economics.”

– George Monbiot

Creative intention

People talk about creation as a remote fact of history, as if it were something that was attended to a long time ago, and finished at the time.

But creation was not an act; it is a process; and it is going on today as much as it ever was. And Nature is not in a hurry.

~ John Muir