23 October 2010

Energy matters

I'm back to the blog after a busy spring and summer. Much of the time taken from blogging (and from working on Turning Words) went into changes to our homestead, or its connections with the local (Manitoulin Island) community. Meanwhile a bad back and other physical challenges cut deeply into my energy. I'm dealing with that by deliberately changing my habits, so that i move more deliberately … and the same goes for our use of electrical energy, as we adjust to our newly installed solar energy system. It's a kind of ‘mindfulness.’ The details are more relevant elsewhere (such as the Resilient Manitoulin blog), but it's all part of ‘settling our whole being into interpenetrating reality’ – as Shohaku Okumura puts it in his recent book, Realizing Genjokoan: The key to Dogen's Shobogenzo (p. 90).

I didn't do much reading this summer, but Okumura's book was certainly a highlight. He is a lifelong practitioner and scholar of Dogen's work, and the more personal side of this book struck a chord with me as well, because Okumura (who is a few years younger than me) also takes note of his declining energy levels. I can't call myself a Buddhist because i was never taken on by a ‘live’ Buddhist teacher, but immersion in Dogen's way of reading, thinking and nonthinking is deeply affecting what i can say about intimacy, intimologies, interpenetrating reality.

Back to work on (play with) Turning Words. While i still have some energy left, right?

18 June 2010

Mission improbable

For the past two months i've been subject to an infection which severely sapped my energy. Now once again i have the audacity to think that i might write something down worth reading up. Is this really the case? How would i know?

The Prophet knows he has been singled out by God to deliver a message to mankind. The artist knows that she presents us with a vision the like of which no human eye has seen. Is there any difference?

What will happen if he or she begins to question or doubt the value of such a unique mission? They will either save us from wasting our time and attention, or deprive us of a life-changing experience. Or perhaps they will take their chances, and ours.

25 March 2010

Arts and Entertainment

As reassurance is the food of anxiety, entertainment is the food of depression.
— Gregory Bateson (Bateson and Bateson 1987, 132)

Entertainment is comfort food for the mind: a steady diet of it will turn you into a fathead. Genuine art, on the other hand, tends to push you beyond the comfort zone.

But of course the difference is not absolute. All art is entertaining to some degree, and all entertainment is to some degree artistic. Genuine artists may be good entertainers, and something intended to entertain you may open your eyes, even when you are content with being entertained. It all depends on the quality of attention you bring to it at the critical moment.

27 February 2010


Buddhists speak of ‘eight difficult births’ – if you are born in these places, ‘it is difficult to come to practice of the Way’. One is the realm of hungry ghosts, who (rather like giant acquisitive corporations) are defined by their insatiability. Another is ‘in Utturakuru, the continent north of Mt. Sumeru in Buddhist cosmology where everyone is always being entertained’ (Leighton and Okumura 1996, 57).

Entertainment is whatever passes the time instead of living the time.

18 February 2010

Sleep again

Sometimes you can get to sleep by pretending to be asleep. But you can never wake up by pretending to be awake.

04 February 2010

Rehabilitating Information

That's the title of a paper i've just had published by the open access journal Entropy. Yesterday i updated my gnoxic home page to reflect some of the recent work that i've been doing instead of posting here.

While working on all this, it's occurred to me that humanity suffers from a global attention deficit disorder.

The cure won't be found at the end of any path or any rainbow; it's not something lost or hidden somewhere else; it's a matter of raising the quality, breadth and depth of our attention right here and now. What is the path right in front of us?

As Dogen said: a dream within a dream.

(You can be sure that whatever you write about it will be misread.)

07 January 2010

Why sleep?

The last time i checked, scientists were still debating the question of why we sleep – what's the adaptive value, benefit, need or purpose of it?

I think all this debate is pointless, because the point of sleeping couldn't be more obvious: We sleep so that we can wake up.

But if we did reach a consensus on this, somebody would be sure to ask: What's the point of waking? Perhaps it takes an insomniac to ask that question … but again, the answer is obvious.

We need long periods of active wakefulness in order to sleep more soundly.