Some people in the Buddhist world like to talk of "noble silence," or, even, "Noble Silence." Silence is neither noble nor ignoble; it's silence. If we try to make it more than it is, we make it less than it is, by imposing our small story on it, so that we experience not the silence, but our ideas about the silence.
When we turn life into a story with ourself as the protagonist, we poison everything we have. We find someone we love, and we poison the relationship by thinking, “This should make me happy.” We find we have a talent, and we poison our practice and enjoyment of it by thinking, “I could have a career.” The only happiness is in giving, not getting. The only freedom is freedom from ego.
Today is the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, and one of the great Zen poets of the West.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
On Friday evening, with authorization from Portland's new Mayor Ted Wheeler (a pile of money masquerading as a man), the gun thugs known as the Portland police attacked a peaceful protest with gas and explosives.
Yesterday, 100,000 people — women, men, children and babies — took part in the Women's March in Portland. Aside from a depressing whiteness, and the sight of white people taking selfies with cops, it was an inspiring event that will most likely make no difference to anything.
I took some pictures. See my Instagram for more.
Robert E. Howard was born in Texas 101 years ago today, and he killed himself there 30 years later. He never had a book published in his lifetime, but he let loose an avalanche of stories as varied as they are brilliant.
In the 1970s, the book with the Frank Frazetta cover shown above was displayed in the window of a bookshop in a Glasgow slum. A little boy looked in the window, saw it, and realized that there might be other stories than the ones he had been told, other worlds than the one he had been born into. So he went into the store and got the book.
More than 40 years later I’m rereading that book, and all the others Howard wrote about Conan, the barbarian from Cimmeria, on a Kindle. A wounded young man in Texas could have had no idea what he was starting.
As I prepare to move back to Scotland, it strikes me as funny that some of the books I'll be packing to take with me are the same ones I packed for the move to the U.S. 22 years ago.
This photo was taken last night, outside my apartment in far East Portland. Though it hasn't snowed in a week, it hasn't thawed either, and the city doesn't bother about the poorer neighborhoods, so there's still a foot of snow, and the roads are icy. And so, as you can see from the dumpsters, there has been no trash or recycling pickup since the freeze. My kitchen currently has half a dozen bags of recycling piled up.
A friend who also lives in Portland wrote to tell me about a conversation she had with her 18-year-old son: