Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

holy fools ~

I used to practically sleep w/ my Tarot cards. Yup — one of those :). I actually taught Tarot for several years — along w/ several other arcane disciplines. But Tarot, beloved of Jung and several other honest-to-gosh scientists, has always been my favourite divination tool. Except I wouldn’t call it that — I’d call it accessing whatever it is inside the human heart that looks within.

The Fool — Le Mat, my first deck calls him — is one of my favourite cards. Part of the Major Arcana (the ones most folks think of when they think of Tarot), he is without number, without place, without guile. He carries over his shoulder all his possessions. And he is off on a journey — hero’s quest, or the Foolish Brother of the  fairy tales, or perhaps self-realisation. Any, all, none.

There are wise fools in most cultures, and almost all religious traditions. There are jesters at mediæval courts, foolish animals in various folk traditions, and comic Buddha dancers in the annual Chinese lion dance. They remind me that wisdom isn’t always apparent to the material culture we live in. Sometimes it even looks like craziness.

This past spring the Buddhist journal Tricycle ran an essay commemorating the passing of Mark Rogosin. The essay, 13 Ways of Looking at a Madman, by Clark Strand, details the life in Woodstock of a man who lived his Buddhist faith every day. Suffered through cold w/out heat; relinquished his material goods; served as all holy fools do ~ to remind us that the Way is very difficult, but anyone can start the journey.

I’m no fool, unfortunately. At least I think this some days. :) Rogosin’s kind of ‘holy innocence, Strand calls it, is beyond me. I like my coffee — unavailable locally, although I do buy from a seed-to-cup business downtown. I wanted to be able to help my sons go to college, because of what I believe knowledge can do to open you. So I have a job, and I tell myself that I try, in as many ways as possible, to incorporate ethical behaviour into my everyday life.

But when I read about someone like Rogosin, I feel more than a little shamefaced. I resolve, once again, to try harder. And perhaps that’s their most generous gift, our holy fools: the inspiration for each of us to remember how hard it is to live in true alignment w/ our varied faiths. Rest in peace, Mark Rogosin, and know that even in death you are still giving to others ~

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/13-ways-looking-madman

voting, anger, and finding balance ~

Voting is, to me, the ultimate American right. When I turned 18, you still couldn’t vote until you were 21. And like most of my peers, I wondered about the fairness of a country where you could be drafted to die for your country, but you couldn’t vote for (or against) the American leaders who sent you there.

So when the 26th Amendment was ratified and made law, the very next day (really) I went downtown and registered to vote. I’ve missed very few elections — local, state or national — since. It is the definition for me of American citizenship. And whining rights, of course :). If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

But there’s a large conservative organisation that just a few days ago ran almost a hate piece against impoverished American citizens being registered to vote. The American Thinker — a right-wing organisation with beautifully misleading headlines, for articles rife with misleading information — published the following statement September 1st:

Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.  It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country…

Because, the article continues, everyone knows that “those who burden society” (another direct quote) only want to take other people’s money. They’re all not working NOT because corporations outsourced American jobs, and are sitting on the largest cash reserves (and in many cases profits) in decades, but because they don’t want to, I guess. If you read through the website, the depth of its classism, racism and downright wrongheadedness is breathtaking…

Buddhists aren’t supposed to judge. And I try sooo hard not to. I know — sure doesn’t seem that way, huh? :) But I also believe — even more firmly than I believe that judging is counter-productive and against Buddhist teachings — that blaming victims is morally reprehensible. Not only does the American Thinker blame those who have lost jobs and are availing themselves of social services they PAID for, the organization also demonises them. Likening them to criminals. Saying they’re ‘non-productive’ as if that is a) true, and b) the worst thing in the world.

Worse yet, the American Thinker presumes to go up against the Constitution and say who should and should not be allowed to vote. Can we say ‘poll tax’…? Let’s go back to those splendid days when only those who owned property (can we say ‘slaves’?) could vote. When pesky poor people, who might not agree w/ repealing tax cuts for low-income people, couldn’t vote out the people who advocate against lower and middle income families. Oh wait! On second thought, the right to vote is expressly guaranteed to all American citizens. Just, apparently, not the right to register to do so…

I find myself laughing at my own anger, a sure-fire way to defuse it, reminding me that Engaged Buddhism isn’t about anger, but changing things we can change, and letting go those we can’t. So instead of remaining angry, I’m spreading the word. There are people around who would love it if lower income Americans disappeared. And the first step towards making them less visible? Make sure they don’t vote.

 

 

September 1st ~

We must love one another or die…

~ September 1, 1939 by W. H. Auden

He’s an unlikely mentor for a middle-aged female writer & teacher, this fiercely cynical, battered gay British poet. Yet every September 1st, I take out this poem and read it — often to my classes, as well. No one better captures the despair that washes over so many of us when we look around at today’s politics, today’s horrifically polarised and darkly self-centred world.

And yet, at the centre of his work, there is this stubborn spark of hope, a heart that still believes in possibility. It’s this, I think, that draws me to him. That, and the always fresh craftsmanship of a consummate word-smith. But poetry is more than craft — it’s also a kind of magic that translates our own Byzantine hearts into something we can (almost) understand.

So today, I offer this poem that always comforts my beginner’s heart. Enjoy.

 

love and war and faithful friends ~

War, my father once told me, never changes. It’s the same for every generation of men (and now women) who fight it for those of us who remain here, waiting.

He told me this when he was about my husband’s age now. He told me that the men at the VFW — the veterans of my husband’s war, Vietnam — saw Daddy only as an old man, w/ his big belly and his receding, greying hair. They didn’t see the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the multiple Purple Hearts or all they cost him.

My father was lucky. He came home with only a big divot out of one leg, bad memories, and a fistful of medals for valour. My husband also came home with no limbs missing, no horrific external injuries. But neither man was ever the same. This my father knew.

I don’t know what to say to the several Oklahoma families who lost sons this past month. Only how very sorry I am. How much I hate war, and wish that there would never be another one. So instead, as we near the anniversary of the ostensible reason for these most recent wars, I offer this image, honouring both a lost soldier and his most faithful mourner. Sometimes grief is as pure and searing as flame. This image reminds me of those griefs ~

 

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