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I Think You May Be Missing the Point

Some years ago I was cycling through a SE Asian country with a small group and stopped at a rural monastery. A local guide we were riding with told us that the temple there was well-known for a Buddhist monk that many years before had died but whose body had not decomposed after death. In fact, he looked just as fresh as the day he died, and the flower petals that had been sprinkled upon his body at death had likewise remained fresh and fragrant to the present.

Intrigued, we asked if it were possible to see the body of the deceased monk.

“Of course,” the guide replied, and led us to a temple structure where we removed our shoes before entering.

Inside, the walls were adorned with beautiful carvings and paintings. At the back sat an elderly monk, meditating in lotus position. He was as still as death, and yet his eyes seemed to penetrate us when we crossed the beam of their gaze. In the center on the small temple was a glass case on a dais, and within rested the deceased monk.

Stealing up to the case with some awkward reverence and nervousness, the group looked in on the body silently. Fresh flower petals indeed garnished the orange-garbed monk’s corpse as he lay still on his back, hands folded over his belly.

After a time, each of us slipped back outside and replaced our shoes in silence. After a time, a few began to speak.

“Do you think it was real?”

“He did look good for so long dead…”

“Could those flowers really be..?”

Seeing the local guide nearby, I drew him aside and spoke.

“Hey… that monk is as dead as any other. Well-preserved, maybe, but dead just the same… he doesn’t look as fresh as the day he died.”

“Yes,” the guide said, motioning for me to speak quietly. “Of course. And the flowers are replaced daily.”

“Then, why..?” I asked.

“It is not easy to see through delusion,” he replied. “But a good joke is still the best way.”

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This Dance of Life

 

Though the health benefits of gyrating along with others have been well-documented,

I went to a college where, at the time, “most forms of social dancing” were prohibited;

Perhaps for the reason that one of the greatest dangers of dancing

Is that it makes it very difficult to think.

And thinking, of course,

Is a great security.

 

If your students stop thinking for a hot minute,

It’s very likely they will instead begin to experience,

And in real time,

For themselves.

And if they’re out there dancing with life 

Instead of securing themselves against it,

There comes a very real threat to the security of something else.

 

 

Fiddler Jones by Edgar Lee Masters

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill–only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle–
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

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Reflections on the Mental Image

“The digitized picture has broken the relationship between the picture and reality once and for all. We are entering an era when no one will be able to say whether a picture is true or false. They are all becoming beautiful and extraordinary, and with each passing day they belong increasingly to the world of advertising. Their beauty, like their truth, is slipping away from us. Soon they will really end up making us blind.”

– Wim Wenders, director of Until the End of the World

 

As a studio art major in an American college, I had a professor of photography and film who told me there was a time when Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa existed in only one place, and you had to travel a great distance to view it. 

That one place was The Louvre in Paris.

Now, he said, the Mona Lisa exists everywhere, and all at once.

(Well, actually “now” was back then in 1998. He was referring to photographs and printed versions of the Mona Lisa at the time, when the internet was still just emerging, public content-wise. But I think his statement is only more true today.)

 

 

What is the difference between looking at an image of the Mona Lisa and traveling to the Louvre to see the real thing?

It’s not that one is wrong and the other is right.

But what is the difference?

 

And what are the possibilities or consequences of technology advancing further and further into the virtual?

 

What is the difference between pornography and a flesh-and-blood human relationship?

What is the difference between buying into a brand and creating your own?

What is the difference between accepting what you were taught and questioning the nature of reality?

 

Worthy questions to ask in one’s lifetime!

 

 

 

 

 

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E-Koans

 

If you don’t attend a monastery,

And have no access to a master,

Thereby no koans to test your attainment…

 

…Try Quora, grasshoppah!

 

Here are some lovely Quoans:

 

Are humans and animals the same?

What does it mean to dream about someone asking for help?

and

What does trivago mean?

 

My own answers to Quorites are here.

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Graduation Day

skeleton at graduation

The universe lovingly tears away

Those things we most affectionately cling to:

A job, a friend, money, a spouse, good looks, a child

To see how we might respond.

 

The lesson is presented again and again

Through the course of one lifetime;

Until we finally understand (even at the moment of bodily death)

That only by losing everything do we gain everything.