Zen Abbot's Journal Vol 53 Feb 4, 2006

by Norman Fischer | February 04, 2006 at 7:28 PM

From Zen Abbot's Journal Vol 53 Feb 4, 2006 Charlotte's Way, Muir Beach

Reading and writing, speaking and listening as modes of absorption. Sitting practice: another mode. In all these cases the mind/heart is still, and there's great pleasure in the stillness, full engagement within it. There can be this sort of absorption in movement too, in physical work if you pay attention to it, in exercise, in exertion. Then, by contrast, there are the million picky details of post modern life. For example, on Sunday I left my umbrella at the Headlands after the sitting, which meant emails etc to find out where it was and the possibility of having to drive there to get it. And during the talk at sitting I forgot to turn on the mic, so my talk was not recorded (so that now must go online to research mics that do not need to be turned on). Today ordering business cards that had many mistakes in them so had to be redone several times, several faxes, emails, trips to the printer. Mailing a letter, postage went up and I didn't know it, letter come back, must go out again after I buy more stamps. One wants a flow and rhythm in life (like rhythm of breathing) and is unhappy insofar as the rhythm's too choppy (but, in time, all rhythms resolve into regularity of some sort, and choppy gets incorporated into that rhythm).

Feb 6. 06 Charlotte's Way, Muir Beach

Slowly reading George Lakoff's classic book "Metaphors We Live By." George's cheerful sense of "Well, it turns out that..." as if things could be just, well, figured out, and then that would be that. As he goes on building up his concept of metaphor it turns out that language is, well, almost always metaphorical, every noun, every verb, a metaphor. We're always, in thinking and in language, figuring out one thing in terms of another, which it isn't.

Wanted to read and think about metaphor for the Odyssey project, which I'm beginning again. Starting by re-writing the introduction, using Ruth's (Ozeki, novelist) suggestions and saying a lot more about the spiritual uses of metaphor in general, and about the Odyssey as spiritual metaphor, in particular.

Big strong wind in bright luminous sky today — also big wind last night. The windows rattle. 

Feb 13. 06 Charlotte's Way, Muir Beach

I am enjoying these long lazy days of writing and not too many appointments — or anyway am trying to ignore the appointments, emails etc. The weather has been sunny and mild. Sitting out here in the study I feel lost in time. Yesterday I gave the talk at Green Gulch and had planned to come home and exercise and work on writing but was too tired out so I loafed reading and then watching a documentary on TV on Martin Luther King. One remembers his courage and his great triumphs, but the documentary reminded me how he'd floundered in the last years of his life, when the clarity of the moral issues in the South was no longer in play, and he was dealing with the more subtle and complex issues of racism in the North, where he wasn't known, wasn't necessarily welcomed by the black community, wasn't familiar with the people and the attitudes. Most extraordinary was his final speech, given the evening he was shot in Memphis, in which he says, with tremendous passion, "Longevity has its place; but I don't care about that anymore. For I have been to the Promised Land. I have climbed to the top of the Mountain and I have seen the other side. And I may not get there with you but I know we will get there one day," The sense, in the footage, of the tremendous power of these words, to him as he uttered them, and to his listeners. It was as if the words had liberated him from the frustration and exhaustion of his struggles. And in fact his friends reported that he'd been for the first time in a long while light-hearted and happy after the speech, fooling around, they'd even had a silly pillow fight just moments before he'd gone out onto the motel balcony to be killed. Struck me that the metaphor of the mountain, of the promised land, etc, and the evoking through those metaphors of the biblical reality, which was an imaginative fact for King as well as his listeners (the speech had been given in a church), might have effected a spiritual transformation in King. The power of metaphor to effect an inner change beyond what we think is rationally or psychologically possible. "It is as though the ability to comprehend experience through metaphor were a sense, like seeing, or touching, or hearing..." Lakoff, p 239.


Norman Fischer