Record-breaking cheese

This one’s from Trev Diesel who’s got a second blog » just for humor. Looks like his commenter Josh first called attention to it:

http://abum.com/files/Movies/970227884.wmv »

Yes, it stretches the definition of a “Maya Hee” webcam video (it’s more a Maya Hee medley), but if you watch it through to the very end (and it **is** worth it), you’ll see just how much *strength* some people get from this crazy song!

BTW, have you tried singing it yourself yet? It’s hard! There’s a seventh and a *ninth* at the beginning!

Snapshot

Sometimes when I let days go by between posts, it’s because I don’t know what to write about. Often this isn’t because my spiritual life is dry (though sometimes it is), but sometimes it’s because I don’t know where to begin.

Here’s as close a snapshot as what I can give you what’s been going on in my life the last month or so, the stuff I usually don’t blog about.

* Since I began studying Zen, I haven’t gone to church nearly as much, but I still attend my parish » and Catholic Campus Ministry » at ODU.
* I’ve become *very* aware of God’s presence again.
* Kundalini effects have been very strong. It feels good for the most part, but there are more headaches.
* I’ve been hanging out with evangelicals for the first time in ages, at a fledging post-modern or “post-Protestant »” church called Symphonic.
* You’ve got to love a church that doesn’t have a noun in its name. In Minnesota, there’s a church named “Bluer. »” (Maybe they should buy a heater!)
* I like it, though I really don’t know why I’m there!
* Among other things, it’s a good place to see Korean horror films ».
* I’ve been corresponding with a seeker who came across my site last month.
* He’s much more “awake” than I am. Yet he’s asking me questions, when I feel I should be asking him.
* The last time he emailed me, I got the email while watching one of my favorite TV shows. His name is the same as that of the main character on that show.
* My teacher is telling me that nothing is coincidence.
* I giggle *a lot* in meetings with my teacher.
* Had a great weekend catching up with two of my friends, although if any of you is thinking of seeing “Son of the Mask,” **don’t.**
* Brewing ginger ale again, and this time, I’ve got *whey.* (Thanks, Katherine!)
* I’m starting to believe that nothing is coincidence.
* Spent a lot of time Web-surfing. God is doing some very interesting things in a lot of places. Impressed by the potential of the “post-modern” movement.
* I feel amazed and blessed and dizzy by just being alive here on Februrary 21, 2005.

Time Travel

I sometimes think of meditation / contemplative prayer as a kind of time travel–leaving the hustle and madness of the 21st century, and going back to the origin, back to when God walked with man in the Garden of the heart. But of course, it’s not going “back” at all, but rather stopping time in a sense–not in the external world of course, but as we listen to God in the deep silence at the center of the soul, time stops internally. In that freedom from time, we meet God, who is eternal, outside of time.

So from the noise of our minds we go back to stillness, and from the noise of our wants, anxieties and ideas, we sink into that stillness, and there, just rest and “be still, and know God.”

It’s strange that practicing this rest for our souls is so difficult. Our bodies demand this deep rest, without thought, emotion, or worry. Any more than a few days without sleep can kill.

Similarly, our spirits suffer just as much without consciously resting in this stillness in which God calls us to meet him. But we can survive (so it seems) without it, so we ignore it.

Who says?

Just sharing an observation from my teacher tonight:

>Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except though me.” Buddha said, “In the heavens above, and the earth beneath, I alone am the Most-Honored One.” Krishna said, “I am the **me** in everyone.”

>This would all seem very confusing, until you realize that Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna didn’t say anything. The One Spirit spoke through them all, and does through all who realize the One.

Dandelion Wine

I finally posted my review of Dandelion Wine. It was much harder for me to write than I expected; it’s so difficult to find to words to speak further about what Bradbury has expressed so perfectly. Something else that makes it difficult is that Dandelion Wine brings up memories of insights and revelations long-lost in childhood. Not only does reading it require processing, but writing about it does, too.

I re-read Dandelion Wine this year, and I was struck by how much had gone completely past me before–for instance, how very *Buddhist* this picture of small-town Americana is, with its lessons on the impermanence and *dukkha* of the world, grasping as the cause of suffering, the freedom of non-attachment, and the courage required of compassion.

It even has a story in it about reincarnation–I never remembered that being there! It’s an amazing book. If it’s been a while since you’ve read it, treat yourself again.

I also posted a poem I wrote on Dandelion Wine, and the original AANVVV version of it as well. A few days ago, I posted my review of The Wisdom of the Enneagram along with mini-reviews of other Enneagram books and links to major Enneagram information sites

Dandelion Wine

the holy glimpse

All children start out as natural mystics. Unfortunately, most of us forget our childhood mysticism almost completely. But one person who does remember is Ray Bradbury, an American genius of the mystic heart. Bradbury is an unusually versatile writer—the eternal misplacement of his books on the science-fiction shelves obscures his range, which spans from drama, mystery, and horror, to whimsy and heart-whirling poetry. Yes, a significant portion of his output is sci-fi, but all of it is what I call “spi-fi”—spiritual fiction—whether set in outer space, small-town Illinois, or Los Angeles.

excerpt

Douglas opened one eye.

And everything, absolutely everything, was there.

The world, like a great iris of an even more gigantic eye, which has also just opened and stretched out to encompass everything, stared back at him.

And he knew what it was that had leaped upon him to stay and would not run away now.

I’m alive, he thought. . . .

The grass whispered under his body. He put his arm down, feeling the sheath of fuzz on it, and far away below, his toes creaking in his shoes. The wind sighed over his shelled ears. The world slipped bright over the glassy round of his eyeballs like images sparked in a crystal sphere. Flowers were suns and starry spots of sky strewn through the woodland. Birds flickered like skipped stones across the vast inverted pond of heaven. His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire. Insects shocked the air with electric clearness. Ten thousand individual hairs grew a millionth of an inch on his head. He heard the twin hearts beating in each ear, the third heart beating in his throat, the two hearts throbbing his wrists, the real heart pounding his chest. The million pores on his body opened. . . .

“Tom!” Then quieter. “Tom . . . does everyone in the world . . . know he’s alive?”

“Sure. Heck, yes!”

“I sure hope they do,” whispered Douglas. “Oh, I sure hope they know.”

Dandelion Wine is set in Green Town, Illinois, (a pseudonym for Waukegan) in the summer of 1928. It’s episodic, a novel woven from short stories of the magic and tragedy of life seen through the eyes of Bradbury’s alter ego, Douglas Spaulding.

Douglas is a normal twelve-year-old who finds himself suddenly jolted into the awareness of life itself, the experience of truly being alive. (See excerpt.) Douglas is amazed to actually be awake to Reality, and flabbergasted that he had been asleep till then.

The entire world is fresh and new, and Douglas resolves to never go back to sleepwalking through life, but to hold on to this sacred awareness forever. He begins writing a spiritual journal, divided into two sections, Rites and Ceremonies, and Discoveries and Revelations, thus inviting the summer to begin its majestic unfolding.

holding on

There’s only one problem, one which everyone who knows this experience can identify with, which is that all experiences, even these holy glimpses, are transitory. Yet their beauty invariably makes us who experience them to want to hold on. We become “seekers”, wanting to live in the Kingdom of heaven, even though the wanting itself lowers the curtain.

This tricky thing of holding on permeates Dandelion Wine. The problem is not of recording moments and returning to them—the past is honored throughout. For instance, one wonderful character is Colonel Freeleigh, an old man who becomes a living time machine for Douglas and his friends, who takes them to his memories of the Civil War or of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Bradbury repeatedly uses the image of bottling the wonder of a moment, a day, or a place, by capturing its air or pressing wine to be bottled and aged. Bottling dandelion wine is a yearly tradition for Douglas’ family:

The wine was summer caught and stoppered. And now that Douglas knew, he really knew he was alive, and moved turning through the world to touch and see it all, it was only right and proper that some of his new knowledge, some of this special vintage day would be sealed away for opening on a January day with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks…

Rather, the problem is what the Buddha called tanha—grasping to find happiness or identity itself. One of Douglas’ neighbors decides to create a Happiness Machine, and ends up destroying it for the grief it causes.

impermanence and suffering

From its beginning of unbridled hope, the summer immerses Douglas in increasing levels of disappointment and pain. At first, some of the hurts are almost trivial, such as the final ride of the town’s beloved trolley, but they increase quickly. Just as the Buddha experienced the whole world of suffering from four tragic sights in one day, Douglas experiences the whole world of suffering from the events of one summer.

His best friend moves away, leaving him feeling like part of him has been torn away. Douglas is left with only his younger brother to share his thoughts with, and begs him never to leave:

“You can depend on me, Doug”, said Tom.

“It’s not you I worry about,” said Douglas. “It’s the way God runs the world.”

Tom thought about this for a moment.

“He’s all right, Doug,” said Tom. “He tries.”

Life forces Douglas to grow up quickly. He witnesses a deadly hit-and-run accident, and takes on the burden of keeping it secret to avoid sending the drivers to jail. A serial killer terrorizes Green Town, and Douglas is there when he claims another victim. The awareness of death and suffering becomes inescapable. Over the course of the summer, most of the old people he has come to know and love pass on.

the freedom of non-attachment

Douglas is learning a lesson that so many of us never learn—that nothing lasts, and because of our desperate attempts to hold on to changing things and people, we suffer. There’s an interplay of youth and age taking turns teaching the importance of not holding on and accepting change.

For instance, Tom, just two years younger than Douglas, is largely still in a stage of innocence. He has never lost his essential trust, and accepts everything as it comes, good and bad, with peace and joy. Tom acts a spiritual director for his older brother.

Another case: Neighborhood children torment old Mrs. Bentley by telling her they don’t believe she was ever young, or that the little girl in her photographs was ever her. She finally sees that she’s wasted decades reliving memories of her youth, and sets herself free by burning all her keepsakes and “admitting” to the kids that she never had a past.

Another old woman and a young man recognize each other from a previous life, where he had been too old, and she too young. As she senses her death approaching, she gives him instructions so they can sync up in their next life:

You must promise me not to live to be too old, William. If it is at all convenient, die before you are fifty. . . . I advise you this simply because there is no telling when another Helen Loomis might be born.

And finally, there is Great-Grandma, who announces her death to her family like a Zen master to his disciples. She compares shedding the body to a snake shedding its skin and the body shedding its cells. She sees her true self as a boundless being that includes all she loves:

Important thing is not the me that’s lying here, but the me that’s sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that’s downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count.

For Douglas, this is the straw that breaks him. He can deal with all the death he’s encountered so far, but not the loss of his own loved ones. A few days later, faced with the undeniable fact of his own mortality, the young mystic himself has lost the will to live, and lies dying of a mysterious fever in his bedroom.

the practice of awakening

I will not discuss how Douglas is saved (read the book!), but I want to point out the change in his purpose from his revelation at the beginning of summer to its conclusion. Spiritual experiences such as Douglas’ at the beginning of the book are not rare. Yet most people’s minds are so full of noise, that they cannot make an impact, like the grain choked by the weeds in Jesus’ parable. Worldly concerns never give them a chance to grow, and so we live life as though nothing ever happened, as though we were not touched by God, and did not glimpse for a sacred moment the overwhelming divine Presence in all things. We don’t hear the alarm, and never rouse from the slumber we mistakenly call life.

Others, though, see this for what it truly is—actually seeing the nature of things, the meaning of life itself, God within all. We are amazed by the beauty and wonder of life, and overflow with unbearable love. Our spirits open up.

There is only one thing left: Our own ego’s desire to hold on—for this to be the once-and-for-all transformation, “Big E” Enlightenment, theosis, union with God. The flipside of this attachment is aversion, an unwillingness to accept life as constant change, full of sorrow as well as joy, and love it all anyway.

When Douglas renews his commitment to life, he does so unconditionally. He goes to work as a spiritual warrior, eager to do whatever he can to bring more love and beauty into the world, not shy of the difficulties and pain. He relishes living for its own sake, not for the joys that come from it. The light-hearted final story presents the Spaulding kitchen as the field of battle between light and darkness. It’s a charmer.

Dandelion Wine is an amazing book. It’s a genre apart, blurring distinctions between novel, short story, prose, and poetry. It should be read slowly, savoring the words in the heart as Douglas savors a taste of dandelion wine in his mouth. This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in high school. But I’ve never really seen it till now. A year ago, in his Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment, Jed McKenna made the assertion that Moby-Dick was an epic on awakening by an unrecognized spiritual master. Perhaps it is; I’ll have to read it again, sometime. But I know without a doubt that Dandelion Wine is. Simply put, this one of the greatest books ever written. Let it touch you.

Related pages and posts:

Mystery Solved

I solved some mysteries today–not only the “Legolas search,” but also why my bandwidth usage has been so high. According to my statistics, practically the whole world visits my site every day, but my email says otherwise. The problem turned out to be that some people liked the images I have on some of my movie pages so much, they “hotlinked” to them, instead of just copying them. Linking to an image might feel more ethical than copying it, but it’s much more insidious. While the Web works by people linking to **pages**, linking to images is a very subtle form of theft that drains bandwith without visits. None of those images were mine, anyway, they belong to their respective studios as noted, and can be included in other sites as “fair use” as they were here.

The bandwidth drain wasn’t critical, but it might become so if I choose to publicize my site. I decided to cut all the hotlinks now with a .htaccess file. Hey, you like the pretty picture? Just right-click and take it, OK? (Unless it’s a personal picture, or something I’ve obviously taken pains to customize–then ask, please!)

Thinkingfeeling

Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the *jnana* path or the *bhakti* path–the way of knowledge or of devotion, the mind or the heart. On the enneagram, I’m almost an even split between the rational, analytical **five** and the bohemian, emotional **four.** It’s not that I feel split within myself, but I see that this *thinkingfeeling* tends to be divided in most spheres of life.

When I was in school considering my future career, I was torn between the arts and the sciences. I had never fit into a clique–I was too geeky for the bohemians, and too artsy for the nerds. I’m often intolerant of shoddy research and people who simply don’t investigate things. And I’m amazed by people who are oblivious to God and to wonder.

In spiritual practice, there are similar divisions–simply because there is a path for everyone, and most people identify more with the mind or the heart. Most religions tend to favor the heart. Think Christian praise and contemplation, Hindu *kirtans,* Sufi *zikr* dancing, and even some Buddhist chants. But Zen is a rather “heady” way, as is Self-inquiry, and St. Loyola made even contemplation seem rather matter-of-fact.

It doesn’t matter. Either the heart or the mind can be the bridge to the Spirit, as long as the Spirit is allowed to do what It will. When I stopped wondering about wonder… this came:

>i open my eyes
and You . . . are there.
i close my eyes
and You . . . are here.

>all i need to feel
is to stop . . . *feel.*
You . . . *there*
You . . . *here.*

>”Ever desiring,
one beholds the manifestations.
Ever desireless,
one drowns in the mystery.”

>breathing water so sweet,
why should i want to live?

Score one for bhakti? Oh, but then I went to a computer and posted it on the Internet. Feelingthinking.