Mar 27, 2009
In Dharma seminar last month we studied Hamlet. We had all read the play years ago, but reading it again together turned out to be an emotional experience. We commiserated with poor Hamlet's pained and honest subjectivity as he looks with anguish at his own confusion. We could see ourselves in him: just as we are sometimes too smart for our own good, and turn that intelligence into merciless self-critique, so is Hamlet scathing in his self-assessment. We suffered too with Hamlet's agonizing compulsion to act - we too sometimes become paralyzed, not knowing how or when or what to do, even though we know we have to do something. We sympathized with Hamlet's grief. Most of us had missed this when we first read the play, but now, after suffering many losses ourselves, we could see how painful it is for Hamlet to have no one to share his grief with.
Jan 22, 2009
lum today. Covered with, coated in, saturated by sorrow. I'm surprised this has been so sad for me. What's so sad? I miss Alan, yes of course, and it's bad, but somehow grief is always - and in this case too - more than this. It evokes life's strangeness. Its basic fleeting ungraspability. We have no idea, I have no idea, what is going on, and a death like this makes that clear, destroys any illusion of life's making any solid sense. All the reasons for the sadness, understandable enough, don't actually explain it.
Jan 15, 2009
This is not a speech I ever wanted to give. Alan and I spent our lives contemplating death, and we both felt that that we die is the essential fact of life, of religious life. We taught about this together, and often discussed it privately. I always insisted that he should be the one to speak at my funeral because I did not want to job of speaking at his. But though he always had more to say than I did, he was quite definite that in the end I would speak, and he would be silent. I am deeply sorry that he was right about this point.
Aug 14, 2008
Abbot’s Journal Vol 65 August 14, 2008 Tassajara I’ve been tired last several days here – tired also at home before coming down. Both there and here staying up late reading, sleeping later there, getting up earlier here. Not, it seems, a physical fatigue. Maybe emotional. Still, I am managing to swim my 75 laps in the pool every day, though I’ve been tired beforehand and afterward. As if still worn out from the book tour (though it is now several weeks ago) or from the effort of solitude and writing and thinking at home. Anyway, don’t really know why. It’s not so bad. Just have to go a bit more slowly, do a bit less. And the heat; yesterday in zazen sat just feeling the sensation of the air’s temperature on the body; it’s as if with the strong heat there’s a weight – but it’s not precisely a weight – pressing on the body. An unmistakable, startling sensation.
Aug 08, 2008
Judith Butler’s “The Psychic Life of Power” is very strange. “Theory” is a funny, fractured way of looking at life. The idea must be “think your way through to a completely unexpected view of what’s going on.” As Foucault, Derrida, etc did. It looks like this is going on, everyone always thought so, took it completely for granted, everyone agrees, but it’s not this at all, it never actually was, it’s that. (Though in reality it might actually be this and that, and a million other things). And I’ve noticed this too – for example, that the oppressor is actually more oppressed by the oppressive relationship than the oppressed, who, in Butler’s terms (following Hegel) becomes the actual body of the oppressor, while the oppressor gives up a body, loses a body.
Jul 28, 2008
On the road almost the whole of July traveling round the country with my new book (I ought to say “our new book” since it feels like it was written in collaboration with Everyday Zen practitioners, whose insights and questions constitute my practice and understanding these days; in fact the book is dedicated to them, to you).
Jun 10, 2008
Went over in the morning yesterday early, to be there when the crematorium guys arrived to take away Michael’s body, which had not yet begun to smell bad. They were very skillful and quiet and respectful, as we were all silent, weeping, hugging one another. They used a gurney with retractable wheels. It can be cranked up very high, to easily slide the body off the hospital bed (after it’s covered with plastic sheets, all carefully wrapped), which is at the same level. Then wheeled out, and the gurney slides right onto a special ramp for it in the hearse, you crank down the front wheels so the gurney slots in, then fold down the back wheels to slide it all the way in securely. So there’s no lifting, no bending, no transferring of the body at all. Big black shiny car driving slowly away, very sad. Having the body there, though lifeless, was yet comforting; now just absence.
Jun 03, 2008
There’s a series of ads on the radio – one of the sponsors for the Giants’ games. Young guy is driving and thinks to stop at a convenience store (the sponsor). He reports his interior monologue as he’s deciding whether or not to stop – it has to do with, comically, “what does he really want, who is he really, what is he is thinking, what is thinking, who is thinking etc etc” and the joke is that he has such profound thoughts in relation to simply stopping at the store for a bag of chips and a coke. The ads are not all that great but the concept is profound...