Running After My Hat header image 2

Counter-Existence

January 10th, 2014 · 2 Comments

[original] [updated]

[Images: Original (as far as I can determine) on the left; as often circulated/reposted on social-media sites, on the right. (Click either for a larger version.) While both carry meanings I appreciate, it’s interesting — if unsurprising — that the original seems to have made much less of an impression on people.]

From whiskey river:

Wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “I do not exist now, I have never existed previously, and I will never exist in the future.” When your mind is calm in the morning hours when you awaken, you say something like this, you will get a beautiful warm good feeling. You will feel wonderful, for it relieves you of the responsibility of taking care of yourself to an extent. You will still take care of yourself, but it’ll be completely different. You will brush your teeth, you will take a shower, you will go to work, you will eat breakfast. Yet when you feel that you do not exist, you are totally free from the reactions to the things that are going on. There is no one to react any longer. Therefore, everything that appears to be done by you, will be done in a wonderful way, all the time knowing that you are not the doer.

I know the teaching sounds absurd to most people. Yet this is the teaching that has been propagated by rishis, sages, since the beginning of time. This is it. This is your opportunity to awaken. Why not use it? Do not let another moment go by where you’re sitting there and believing and thinking something is wrong somewhere.

(Robert Adams [quoted at various sites around the Web — no specific source as far as I can tell])

and:

To the Hand

What the eye sees is a dream of sight
what it wakes to
is a dream of sight

and in the dream
for every real lock
there is only one real key
and it’s in some other dream
now invisible

it’s the key to the one real door
it opens the river and the sky both at once
it’s already in the downward river
with my hand on it
my real hand

and I am saying to the hand
turn

open the river

(W. S. Merwin [source])

and:

Staying very still in the darkness, I became less and less convinced of the fact that I actually existed.

(Haruki Murakami [source])

Not from whiskey river:

In eastern philosophy, Anicca (Sanskrit anitya) or “impermanence” describes existence. It refers to the fact that all conditioned things (sankhara) are in a constant state of flux. In reality there is no thing that ultimately ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. Imagine a leaf that falls to the ground and decomposes. While the appearance and relative existence of the leaf ceases, the components that formed the leaf become particulate material that goes on to form new plants. Buddhism teaches a middle way, avoiding the extreme views of eternalism and nihilism. The middle way recognizes there are vast differences between the way things are perceived to exist and the way things really exist. The differences are reconciled in the concept of Shunyata by addressing the existing object’s served purpose for the subject’s identity in being. What exists is in non-existence, because the subject changes.

(Wikipedia [source])

…and:

Monastery Nights

I like to think about the monastery
as I’m falling asleep, so that it comes
and goes in my mind like a screen saver.
I conjure the lake of the zendo,
rows of dark boats still unless
someone coughs or otherwise
ripples the calm.
I can hear the four AM slipperiness
of sleeping bags as people turn over
in their bunks. The ancient bells.

When I was first falling in love with Zen,
I burned incense called Kyonishiki,
“Kyoto Autumn Leaves,”
made by the Shoyeido Incense Company,
Kyoto, Japan. To me it smelled like
earnestness and ether, and I tried to imagine
a consciousness ignorant of me.
I just now lit a stick of it. I had to run downstairs
for some rice to hold it upright in its bowl,
which had been empty for a while,
a raku bowl with two fingerprints
in the clay. It calls up the monastery gate,
the massive door demanding I recommit myself
in the moments of both its opening
and its closing, its weight now mine,
I wanted to know what I was,
and thought I could find the truth
where the floor hurts the knee.

I understand no one I consider to be religious.
I have no idea what’s meant when someone says
they’ve been intimate with a higher power.
I seem to have been born without a god receptor.
I have fervor but seem to lack
even the basic instincts of the many seekers,
mostly men, I knew in the monastery,
sitting zazen all night,
wearing their robes to near-rags
boy-stitched back together with unmatched thread,
smoothed over their laps and tucked under,
unmoving in the long silence,
the field of grain ripening, heavy tasseled,
field of sentient beings turned toward candles,
flowers, the Buddha gleaming
like a vivid little sports car from his niche.

What is the mind that precedes
any sense we could possibly have
of ourselves, the mind of self-ignorance?
I thought that the divestiture of self
could be likened to the divestiture
of words, but I was wrong.
It’s not the same work.
One’s a transparency
and one’s an emptiness.

Kyonishiki…. Today I’m painting what Mom
calls no-colors, grays and browns,
evergreens: what’s left of the woods
when autumn’s come and gone.
And though he died, Dad’s here,
still forgetting he’s no longer
married to Annie,
that his own mother is dead,
that he no longer owns a car.
I told them not to make any trouble
or I’d send them both home.
Surprise half inch of snow.
What good are words?

And what about birches in moonlight,
Russell handing me the year’s
first chanterelle—
Shouldn’t God feel like that?

I aspire to “a self-forgetful,
perfectly useless concentration,”
as Elizabeth Bishop put it.
So who shall I say I am?
I’m a prism, an expressive temporary
sentience, a pinecone falling.
I can hear my teacher saying, No.
That misses it.
Buddha goes on sitting through the century,
leaving me alone in the front hall,
which has just been cleaned and smells of pine.

(Chase Twichell [source])

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Tags: Art & Photography · Poetry · Ruminations · The Online World · whiskey river Fridays · Writing

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 marta // Jan 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    I’m forever impressed that you keep finding great things to write about. Although more impressive is how your continued willingness to share these things. The Internet is ever expanding, isn’t it? So lots of great things is probably expected really. The wonders are out there for those who look.

    I’ve just been too tired to look that far. So, thank you for being here and bringing those bits a little closer for us lazier souls.

    I especially like the Murakami line. And I understand the Twichell line about possibly being born without a god receptor. I feel like that quite a bit. Though I am okay with that.

  • 2 John // Jan 16, 2014 at 6:15 am

    I wish I knew what I’m still doing with RAMH. So much stuff I would have once posted here now goes on Facebook; this seems to have something to do with knowing — knowing — that somebody will at least see it there, at least part of it. And the odds of its getting passed to someone outside my own artificially small circle of FB friends are greater… I don’t know. Maybe I should expand the size of the “Share/Save” widget at the foot of each entry here.

    As for these Friday posts-full-o’-quotes, they probably just come from stubbornness. Stubbornness, most obviously, in refusing to nuke the last thing which I, at least, always consistently liked about this place. And stubbornness, less obviously but more importantly, in not giving up the ghost on what one might call “liberal arts” content: content for my (and/or its) own sake, with little of practical or promotional value.

    A few days ago, I submitted a story to an online lit. journal. Their electronic submission form asks writers to include cover-letter-type notes. “Tell us something about yourself,” it said. I tossed in a couple of canned factoids, and then added: I’ve got a sporadically maintained blog, Running After My Hat, which you can find at http://johnesimpson.com. After I clicked the Submit button, I thought to myself, Huh. What would they make of this place on the odd off-chance that they follow that link?

    Sigh. Maybe some things are just worth doing, over and over, even if we can’t figure out — let alone explain — why.

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