Category Archives: Falls Between the Cracks

Bigger Than We Can Think

This morning on returning to my room after meditation and morning service I thought to myself, Yes, all my brain and body molecules have now arrived in the UK. And appear to be arranged as they should be. What a relief. Traveling internationally can seriously disrupt ones functioning that’s on subtle and not so subtle levels.
Then later in the morning, with perfect timing, a beautiful hardback book arrived in the post. Not one I’d ordered so it’s something of a mystery as to who sent it to me. (I’ve a good idea though). I opened the book at random, titled The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, and read this:

Subheading The Embodied Brain, The Organization of the Brain.
The brain is a complex system of interconnected parts. At its most basic level, the skull-based portion of the nervous system consists of over one hundred billion “neurons” and trillions of supportive “glia” cells. Collectively, these neurons are over two million miles long. Each neuron has an average of ten thousand connections that directly link it to other neurons. Thus there are thought to be about one million billion of these connections, making it “the most complex structure, natural or artificial, on earth.

The brain is a wonder to behold. Complex beyond our imaginings yet infinitely ‘plastic’ in that the wiring can be changed, re routed around damaged areas, mentally spoken to in such a way that faulty wiring can be corrected. And that is just for starters.  So nothing much ‘hard wired’ up top, contrary to how the brain has been conceived until relatively recently.

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In The Morning – Light Shines

Mt. Shasta, Northern California in late December.
Mt. Shasta, Northern California in late December.

One of the monks took this photograph of Mt. Shasta this morning. I’ll call him an ‘associate photographer’ for Jade – there are others of course. This image really struck a note with me and so here it is for readers and viewers to enjoy. Last year the mountain had only a light dusting of snow and this year it’s fully iced. I’m thinking in cake terms as we are heading into cake decorating tomorrow. Something I always loved to do with Rev. Master Jiyu presiding over the holiday treat making.

The longest night passed without comment this year. Over on Warp and Weft Knitting there is this post, Lightly Held, on the Longest Night and wanted to draw your attention to it. If you are a knitter, there is much on this site to appreciate. And if not there is much you will appreciate especially the light touch and humour behind the whole blog. Keep on blogging. In the morning light shines, unrelentingly.

Thanks you people for returning again and again. Please do subscribe to receive blog posts directly via email. If you have trouble doing that leave a comment and I’ll write back. I’ve not sorted out the contact form and there is little chance of doing that before the end of the year. Oh, and please do leave comments. Reading them and responding is all part of the blog which I continue to enjoy writing and photographing for.

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Timely Rain and The Buddha’s Influence

Late afternoon light on Lake Siskiyou.
Late afternoon light on Lake Siskiyou.

A late afternoon saunter with a fellow monastic walking companion. A lake-side saunter. Wonderful! The sound of water lapping gently on the shores of Lake Siskiyou! Double wonderful! Double wonderful because the lake has been not much more than a muddy puddle for several years. Now, water to the shore-line telling of the recent heavy rains. All is well with the world, very well. To have the lake restored to its  deep watery glory is a boon beyond measure.

At times of drought in the almost long forgotten past in the East Buddhists priests performed a ceremony invoking the name of the Dragon King, who controls water, politely yet insistently asking for rain. We have records of such a ceremony and when push comes to shove, we use them. Does rain fall as a result of performing this ceremony? I’m not saying. Eventually rain does come whether due to the Dragon King’s good grace or not would be difficult to say.  We Westerners can get overly squeamish around religious ceremonies at the best of times, praying for rain might just tip the balance, for some. So I encourage an attitude of creative doubt in this regard. In other words, best to keep an open mind.

Back in September we had been under threat from forest fires, we desperately needed rain. One night it rained. I remember hearing water dripping from the guttering outside of my room. I could smell the dampness coming in through my window. Next morning I was celebrant for morning service. It is our custom to say a few words as we offer incense at the start of the ceremony. I said thank you for the timely rain. Had I been asking for help from the watery dragons? Not at all.

What I can say is that sincere Buddhist practice, sustained over time has unseen and unknowable consequences. I’m content to not know and be grateful for what ever comes.

But you know, the idea of good-natured and generous dragons has a certain appeal. This post is for all those who are thirsty, for water or anything else.

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Short film in the making

A 2nd year short film project has captured my imagination. The film is called The Priest and the chap behind it is Mathew Herbertz. Here is a brief idea of what the film is about.

In a world where organized religion has become violently persecuted, an aged priest, Father McNalley, searches for a safe place to start a new church. After a long journey, the priest collapses on the doorstep of a family farm. The family takes the priest in for the night without knowing his true identity. Father McNalley must decide whether or not he should trust the family enough to let them know who he really is. Will the family help the old man continue his ministry or will they hold his faith against him?

Today is day one of Mathews fundraiser on Kickstarter. I particularly like that he has posted a short video saying thank you for pledges so far – his dog features in the video and does a great yawn too!

It’s rare for me to publicize something like this. I’m not soliciting funds or support although if anybody is moved to do so that’s great. It is more the wish on my part to support this young man just starting out on his film making life and the thoughtful subject he is tackling. Non of us know just how long Buddhism will be able to be practice peaceable here in the West.

Good fortune Mathew and crew. I hope this short post helps spread the word for you and this project.

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Age Does Not Define

In 1975 four sisters stood together poised and elegant, youthful. Each year they came back together to poise in front of a large format camera (nothing digital about these black and whites). Now forty years later this remarkable set of documentary photographs have been gathered together into a book.

These images talk of that which is ageless while at the same time tell of human life and of our mortality. Spell binding to view. When exhibited in Spain viewers openly wept apparently.

Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it. We detect more sorrow, perhaps, in the eyes, more weight in the once-fresh brows. But the more we study the images, the more we see that aging does not define these women. Even as the images tell us, in no uncertain terms, that this is what it looks like to grow old, this is the irrefutable truth, we also learn: This is what endurance looks like.

Forty Portraits in Forty Years.

Thanks to Julius for the link. I’ve scrolled through these images many times.

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