April 14, 2018: War, murder, and life

Maribel Barajas Cortes, 25, a Green Party candidate in Mexico, was murdered. Since last fall, 60 candidates in Mexico have been murdered.

The United States launched missiles at Syria yesterday, supposedly about the chemical weapons blamed on Syria’s president. Britain and France also sent weapons. Russia threatens to destroy the aircraft carrier from which the missiles were sent. People in the U.S. are organizing demonstrations:

A poll on my facebook page asks “Which would you rather die of? Climate change or World War III?”

Republicans in Congress are retiring in large numbers. Maybe they hope not to be there for the impeachment vote. Unauthorized missile attacks is said to be an impeachable offense.

It’s mid-April, snow is coming down, and friends in Nebraska and South Dakota are in blizzards, some with power out. Climate change is really here. How many cities and countries now face water shortages? Floods? Hunger?

And the condition of the nation, of the world, of civilization is being exposed, even as the corruption of the current U.S. administration is being exposed.

Thich Nhat Hanh, via Maia Duerr:

In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many.

Genjo Conway:

Hearing there are bombs in the air
I vow with all beings
To breathe them into my own body
And stop these madmen before it’s too late

There’s a temptation to cling as long as possible to the appearance of normalcy. But nothing is normal, unless lies, death, toxic food, rampant murder, extreme poverty with extreme wealth, and the destruction of the living world are what you call normal. I choose not to call them normal, but pathological. The veneer of civilization is coming undone. The brutality behind it already started appearing as refugees were refused everywhere, and with the violence at Standing Rock and in Gaza, and as the appearance of a safety net is destroyed in the U.S. – enough.

April 14, 2018 pm: The arrogance of youth and health

I’m preparing to teach a class at the Northfield Buddhist Center. It’s an Introduction to Zen series, and this class is called “What’s it good for?” I actually didn’t know what I was going to say. I went looking in books. (Sure, the answer is there inside me. But it’s nice to have company, companions, and it’s nice to ask for help sometimes.)

First I found Sawaki Roshi (my Dharma great-grandfather) sayi”transform your life from a half-baked, incomplete way to a genuine way.” And some more.

Then in Living by Vow, by my own teacher, I found a bookmark that took me to his story of when he was physically unable to sit zazen. in the way he had been doing for years. He says “My previous practice had been an attempt to satisfy a need for status and benefit. I wanted to live a better life than ordinary people.” Unable to do it because of his physical condition, he became perplexed and depressed. He was stuck. Then, one day, he sat down on a cushion for no reason. “I didn’t sit because of the Buddha’s teaching. I didn’t need a reason to sit; I just sat. … Finally I felt free of my understanding…free to be myself and nothing more.”

I’m still sitting with the arrogance of youth and health. Still living, acting, practicing in that way – wouldn’t have noticed it. I won’t say that he was fortunate to have a back injury in his 20’s, and I always think that I am fortunate to be vigorous and healthy in my 60’s. But the arrogance! May I soon be free of the arrogance of youth and health.


Journal 2018-04-07

This note on what settler privilege means – yes, that includes me – and then some more good thoughts. Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible—literally!—without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.”

Journal 2018-04-06 John Trudell on European tribes and what happened

How to forgive myself and my ancestors for becoming the colonizers – because we were the colonized. He describes how captured people first submitted their bodies, then submitted their minds and beliefs – and then all is lost.

American Jews are harshly criticizing Israel. Finally.

“Right to exist” is questioned. Well it should be. One nomadic pastoral people, Jews, millennia ago, decided to settle down on land occupied by another pastoral people, Palestinians whatever they called them then. I believe God told them to do it. They claimed ownership of the land.

Nobody owns the land.

This is the first and fundamental mistake.

Like Europeans entering the Americas, claiming it because the inhabitants knew better than to objectify and “own” it – it’s not exactly the same but worth mentioning. The Doctrine of Discovery is closer – Christians have the right to kill and dispossess everybody else… Jews, the Chosen People, have that right.

Like Europeans enclosing the commons, so a person could not live off the land as they had done for generations, – but here it’s by race, not only by class.

May this awakening continue. May American Jews remember what Judaism really means, and may they remember that we are wanderers on the face of the earth.

And the Keystone pipeline refuses to behave properly. I thought, “Is it possible that the earth herself is rising up?”

Trees talk to each other and support each other. Forester Suzanne Simard. I look forward to the day she gets the Nobel Prize, because she already deserves it. EVERYONE IS A SENTIENT BEING!

Patagonia is suing the Trump administration for undoing monument protection for several lands. There has never been a legal case on this before. I was just encouraged. And I’ll look into buying from Patagonia, the next time I actually buy new stuff.

Journal 2018-04-05

This morning, chanting the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, I brought my mind back from wandering to give full attention to what I was doing. Making sounds that are meant to produce magical effects, which translate to words praising Avalokiteshvara, the great being of compassion.

Suddenly it became real. With full attention, it became clear that my chanting was addressing the very source of the universe, the locus of all causes and conditions. Suddenly I was certain that there is nothing else I need to do. I can’t tell you what that means, I need to find out.


Happening now in climate change:

Land care, agriculture, sentient earth, and the like.

Wetlands in reducing nitrogen pollution:

“Microbial farming”

Action – environment

Here are some groups – and approaches – that I think are effective.

  • Community Rights organizing – the explanation is right there on the website.
  • Indigenous environmental action – Standing Rock, Honor the Earth, and others. Complicated because the communities are so challenged, but the vision of a whole culture, spirituality included, defending itself against colonization and genocide – it’s inspiring. I think Standing Rock changed the nation. (My European ancestors were colonized 1000 years before the North American peoples; we’ve forgotten too much about how to live.)
  • Climate Disobedience Center has my respect. Tim deChristopher is the most famous of them. They actually do material things to interrupt environmental destruction – like turning valves on pipelines. Mostly, I think they’re committed and serious; I respect them greatly.
  • Science and Environmental Health Network, and Women’s Congress for Future Generations – I’m watching them closely and participating a little.
  • Our Children’s Trust – suing the government on behalf of their own future.
  • And of course this work, Mountains and Waters Alliance. Change culture, change consciousness, AND work together with the other conscious beings of the planet.

Those are all environmental groups. I’ve chosen to focus on climate change even though I don’t ignore the rest. I always choose to work with the cause.


Spirituality   – a new blog by Dharma sister Laurel Carrington, which includes personal reflections and some lovely explanations of Buddhist teachings.

Impermanent Sangha – retreats in nature, Ecodharma retreats.

Sanshin Zen Community – my teacher’s sangha in Indiana.


How to Live (including anthropology, archaeology, fiction, and whatnot)

Ancient communities combined farming with wild food gathering

David Abram – Alliance for Wild Ethics


“Against the Grain – A deep History of the Earliest States”

Sarahasia – Attempts to explain the origins of human violence. I was not pleased with their assumption that we all share the opinion that Muslims are particularly violent. Still interested.

Leonard Schlain – The Alphabet Versus the Goddess – neuroscientist looks at how writing contributes to human violence, including historical coincidences and discussion of brain function.

‘Hills, Valleys, and States: An Introduction to Zomia’ – James C. Scott – with an excerpt here:  Locally Reliant Living for Challenging Times:

A half-hour online TV series exploring things people are actually doing for more resilient communities.

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