Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Post #1000: Cookies, the Universe, and Everything

Zen Master Seung Sahn said, "In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same."

Hello, and thank you for visiting Notes From a Burning House.

This is post #1000 and as you see the blog has a new look, which we hope is enjoyable and easy on your eyes. This is the first time we've changed the look of the blog since moving it to Blogger in 2006. (The blog originated on Friendster and lived on MySpace for a while.)

Earlier this month, we invited readers to suggest topics for this arbitrary milestone. In response to some of these requests, above is a picture of the author with his two sons -- a picture we assume will pass the family censors. Enjoy. The image was taken last week, on our way to see a parade in downtown Deming.

We have readers, so we keep writing here. Sometimes the blog is just plain silly, a testimony to humor as a way of managing the pain of being alive on this rock that spins interminably around the sun.

The blog examines this predicament through different kinds of lenses. There is the lens of contemplative Zen practice, the lens of Shakyamuni Buddha's teaching, and the unique lens of Zen Master Seung Sahn's teaching. There is also the lens of political economics, with many posts about events at home, in this community, or the greater communities of our nation and the nations on this planet.

It may appear that this blog addresses lots of different subjects. We could, however, identify one recurring metaphor as the broad subject of this blog: conflagration. It is present in the title of this blog, begun as an exercise in writing creatively to describe turbulent emotions in process. That's the origin of Notes From a Burning House. Those familiar with the writing of Antonin Artaud may be reminded of his image of the theatre artist as someone being burned at the stake and signaling to us through the flames.

The metaphor of conflagration -- as a process that transforms material and relationships between different materials in ways that are sometimes unpredictable -- prevails here at the Burning House. It is applied to the crisis of self, the problem of "I" in embracing a life of intimacy and clarity. It is applied to current events, viewed as history in process, a wildfire seemingly uncontained. It is a metaphor for the United States, a waning superpower despite its military aggression, whose political system is descending into madness while its economic system breaks down as steadily, and dangerously, as the gas-line infrastructure that periodically blows up U.S. neighborhoods. It is a metaphor for human society globally, unprepared for the end of the Oil Age and the system-wide ecological turbulence caused, in part, by human activities of production and exploitation. (The latter is what John Bellamy Foster refers to as metabolic rift.) It has been applied to revolutions, smaller social movements, and coups d'etat.

We zoom in on particulars, we zoom out looking for the widest perspective possible. What we find is material being transformed from one form into another, combining with itself in new variations, like Zen Master Seung Sahn's famous cookie dough metaphor, quoted above.

And yet, though form is of emptiness, emptiness is also form. When your correspondent found a dead bird in the front yard recently, work stopped, a hole was dug out by the clothesline, and the nameless bird got a few minutes of attention and compassion. The one who has seen past self may still wonder at the passing of the final gate. The one who has seen past time may still smile as a memory passes. The one who has seen past space may still participate -- compassionately -- in the dream.

So in that picture above, do you see three people, one person, or no-person at all?

We are signaling through the flames, passing notes from our burning house. Still here. Welcoming comments, suggestions, questions, whatever. Some of these posts are more formal than others, but the writing is just an offering, a practice. All free. Just to share, in hopes it is useful to someone.

Thanks for reading.


Ji Hyang said...

thank you--how beautifully you've tied in so many of our requests for the thousandth post, and brought in something new, vitally alive at the same time.

Kelly said...

Congratulations on reaching 1000 posts - I really like the new look. Thank you for providing the photo! It's my first glimpse of child #2 and he's already such a big boy!

We might not always agree on issues, Algernon, but you always keep me thinking! That's a good thing!

Here's to many more posts.

Nathan said...

Enjoying the new blog look! And an excellent 1000th post.

I'm nearly at 700 posts myself - how did that happen?


Algernon said...

Lucca is completing his seventh month in this world, and very much his own person. Exceedingly happy, voraciously curious about the world, and already far more interested in food than nursing.

quid said...

I loved the 1,000th... so many questions. Clearly though, there are three "boys" in the photo. And definitely familial ties.

Congrats on 1000!


matts said...
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