September 4th, 2006

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Labor Week!

It is to consider what our country would be like with a Labor Week.   Imagine that as you do absolutely nothing but sit with your feet up today.   You might be drinking lemonade, but here it is hot chocolate.     Enjoy!


A One-Day Respite

Published: September 4, 2006

Labor Day is a perfectly nice holiday, as good as a Monday off ever gets. But a Monday off is really just a wrinkle in time. By the time you sleep late and have a leisurely cup of coffee, the holiday is half over, and Tuesday — and a whole new season — is looming ahead. What we really need is Labor Week, a seven-day antidote to the very American habit of overworking. Not just another week of August, which we managed to fill up with work this year anyway. We’re thinking of a week with no news and nothing newsworthy, a week of national, collective pause in which the gears of ordinary life fall silent.

All the studies say that no one works harder than Americans do. It is both the natural response to the land of opportunity and the cost of living in such a material culture. For most of us, it’s easier just to go on working, caught up in the familiar day-to-day rhythms, than it is to take a real vacation. The routine of work becomes the bedrock of our lives, the substance of who we are. Perhaps that’s the real logic of a one-day holiday like Labor Day. For that one day you float suspended while life churns onward, ready to catch you up again. If we all shared a national Labor Week, there would be losses, people who decided never to go back to work again. There is not much attrition from Labor Day.

So August was busier than you meant it to be, and September is already overbooked and spilling into October. It’s not too early to buy plane tickets home for Thanksgiving, and whose turn is it to have Christmas anyway? Meanwhile, there is today, Labor Day. It isn’t much — except, of course, that it’s everything. Perhaps this will be the Monday that refuses to admit the existence of Tuesday.

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success by Michael Jordan -

"I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot...and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Michael Jordan
Professional Basketball Player

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Non-Labor Day!

I perused the September Shambhala Sun while Bella perched on the couch above my right shoulder, and Tiger curled up against my left leg.  They both purred, serenading me in stereo. 

32 years ago, on Labor Day, I was hoping Jeff would be born.   We played games and cards to pass the time with my mother and Steve's.  Now, Jeff will be 32 tomorrow, and married within the week.  

This Shambhala Sun is on politics, since Buddhism is about embracing everything that is going on, without judging or turning away, and it appears politics is here to stay.

The cover has George Washington sitting cross-legged, meditating.

Jane Hirshfield suggests checking out this web-site, which offers the following words of Jaan Kaplinski and some of his amazing philosophy and poems.  


     I do not define myself. Defining a human being  - this is what the Inquisition did. Definition IS inquisition.  I have the feeling - perhaps I am not right - that in the Far East you hadn't to define yourself. You had to fulfill your duties, but in your heart you were free, what you had in your heart was free as light, as darkness, as wind that comes and goes. This is my freedom. The freedom of somebody who loves to observe and to photograph floating clouds and little fish swimming in our pond.

    Two years ago, in spring I met two cranes close to my country home. They had spring in their hearts, making movements of dance. I greeted them with a Buddhist bow. They didn't fly away. One of them answered to my greeting with a similar bow.I made some dance movements, swaying my hands as wings. They answered. I was really happy. I had the feeling that Nature had accepted me as one of its lost sons. When Kazuko Shiraishi called me once from Japan, telling me she was writing an essay on my poetry, I had a similar feeling. Is it Asia that has accepted me, answered to my bow?

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The Big Bang -

In Shambhala Sun, a mother, Anne Cushman, talks about her young son Skye, and how his many questions keep her thinking.   "As the Zen masters say, look not for answers but at the nature of questioning mind itself."   She ends the article with this prayer her son says one night at dinner.   "Thank-you to the beautiful earth for making all this food.  Thank-you to the rain for helping to grow it.  Thank you to all the great people we love.  And thank you to the Big Bang for making it all happen."

     I think we can all agree to that!
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Impermanence -

Erik Hansen writes a tribute in Shambhala Sun a to his late Zen teacher, Dr. Edward Wortz, who instructed him in listening meditation.  "Sit still, relaxed and alert, and listen to whatever sounds appear in your environment.  Listen with "bare attention"; that is, without adding any thoughts, labels or judgments to the sounds.  Listen, in Ed's words, as "sounds come into existence, stay for varying lengths of time, and then vanish ... as does all experience."

Ah, yes, this we know, and, still, it is hard to absorb. 

The moon is wondrous tonight.  Take a gander.  It moves broadly across the sky.    Can you hear it?

Ed Wortz would also gong a wonderful iron meditation bowl, and instruct people to listen to the sound decay: "Now, listen!  Exactly where the sound was - listen to the no-sound."

I think of how we look for the green flash when the sun sets into the sea.   Do we listen, in the same way, for the place where the vibration is clasped, to a chest, too huge for us to perceive?

Charles Johnson writes about historical change.  He quotes Arnold J. Toynbee in A Study of History.

    "The painfully perturbing dissolution of familiar forms, which suggests to weaker spirits that the ultimate reality is nothing but a chaos, may reveal to a steadier and more spiritual vision the truth that the flickering film of the phenomenal world is an illusion which cannot obscure the eternal unity that lies behind it."

    "The music that the rhythm of Yin and Yang beats out is the song of creation; and we shall not be misled into fancying ourselves mistaken because, as we give ear, we can catch the note of creation alternating with the note of destruction .... If we listen well we shall perceive that, when the two notes collide, they produce not a discord but a harmony.  Creation would not be creative if it did not swallow up all things in itself, including its own opposite."

The Dalai Lama has this to say.   "Once people get to deeper levels, they ask, "What is the ultimate reality of nature?"  So I usually describe Buddhism as a combination of science, philosophy, and religion."       

    It works for me.    Happy enjoying of the moon tonight, the moon, the symbol of enlightenment.