Bob Schwartz

Category: Travel

The Buddha on 66

The Buddha on 66

The Buddha said to Todd and Buzz
The route is wide and useful
Now a bit neglected
All things die
Even highways
Lend me your Vette
Then walk down the road
To the Blue Swallow Motel
Sleep if you must
But be sure
To wake up

Note: The route is Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Once the great American highway, it has been somewhat passed over by the Interstate, but not surpassed. Some motels and other businesses catering to travelers are gone. The Blue Swallow Motel remains, and is not mere nostalgia. It is a place that allows the past to be present, not because the past is better but because it is different. Todd and Buzz are also past, heroes of a 1960s TV show Route 66, in which they drove around the country in their Corvette, having dramatic adventures. The Buddha is the Buddha, never in Tucumcari, never drove a Corvette, though the route is the way.

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Abbeville, Louisiana and the Flood

City of Abbeville

Abbeville, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana is something more than special.

Here’s the bridge across the Vermilion River. That’s St. Mary Magdalen Church on the right.

Abbeville

Here’s Magdalen Square.

Magdalen Square

Here’s what Abbevile looked like on Saturday, August 13, during the flood.

Vermillion River 081316

This is a link to Vermilion Today, online home of the Abbeville Meridional newspaper, if you want to learn what’s going on after the flood.

This is a link to the Red Cross, if you’d like to donate something for the special people of Louisiana, who are suffering through perhaps the worst U.S. natural disaster in the past four years.

Finally, here’s a picture taken last December at the church. To lift your spirits. And open your hearts.

Abbeville Church 7 Select

Outsmarting a Coffee Machine

Zen Tea

When I arrive at my hotel room, I find a very modern coffee machine. Very smart. It tells me to place the coffee pod in its holder. Close the lid. Another lid opens to accept water. Pour in water and close that lid. Place the cup on the pedestal, which it then knows is in place. Press the brew button. And in a matter of seconds, hot coffee.

But what if I just want hot water? Then I have to outsmart it. When it directs me to place the coffee pod in its holder, I don’t. I just pretend. I put the water in the tank, put the cup in place, and proceed as if what I want, what I am expecting, is a cup of coffee. What it gives me instead, what I want instead, is simply a cup of hot water. Which I can then use for any of the things you can do with hot water. Such as making a cup of tea with a teabag.

The machine is smart. Or I am smart. The machine is stupid. Or I am stupid.

Have a cup of tea.

 

Zhaozhou’s Cup of Tea
(Koan 233 of Zen Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koans)

MAIN CASE

Zhaozhou asked a newly arrived monk, “Have you been here before?”

The monk said, “Yes, I have been here.”

Zhaozhou said, “Have a cup of tea.”

Later he asked another monk, “Have you been here before?”

The monk said, “No, I haven’t been here.”

Zhaozhou said, “Have a cup of tea.”

The monastery director then asked Zhaozhou, “Aside from the one who has been here, why did you say ‘Have a cup of tea’ to the one who had not been here?”

Zhaozhou said, “Director.”

The director responded, “Yes?”

Zhaozhou said, “Have a cup of tea.”

COMMENTARY

In the real truth, there is no other thing that is present. In worldly truth, the ten thousand things are always present. We should clearly understand that real truth and worldly truth are nondual and that this, in and of itself, is the highest meaning of the holy truths.

The monastery director was lost in the differences between the two monks, so Zhaozhou moved in all directions at once to help him see it. If you go to the words to understand this, you will miss it. If, however, you see into it directly, it will be like the bottom falling out of a bucket. Nothing remains. How do you see into it directly? Have a cup of tea.

Art: Chris Roberts-Antieau

Gathering-Stars

There’s a lot of art in the world. A lot in New Orleans. A lot on Royal Street in New Orleans. But nothing in the world, in New Orleans, or on Royal Street, like the art of Chris Roberts-Antieau.

TrueStoriesVeryBraveDogs

Having just discovered her work, I would say much more. But instead I’ll just say that she works in fabric. That she does what artists should do: delight you, inspire you, deliver the combination of joy and thoughtfulness that can be mistaken for mere craft or whimsy but is nothing less than art.

The-Funeral-Of-James-Brown

Only a few examples are shown here, but just visit the website of the Antieau Gallery. Visit the gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans (as if you need an excuse to visit New Orleans). See her work at various museums or at the homes of folks such as Oprah Winfrey or Bill Clinton, if you happen to be visiting them. You will be delighted you did.

unlimited_potential_of_the_mind_new

Notes on Interstellar

Interstellar

1

Christopher Nolan’s movie Interstellar is more interesting than it is imperfect. See it if you like space movies, sci-fi movies, intellectually curious movies, spectacular movies, etc.

It is filled with wonders. It is like the car trunk stuffed with luggage for a vacation, so much colorful and significant luggage creatively crammed in that when you open it on arrival you say: Wow, I wonder how we ever got all that stuff in there?

No spoilers here, but a couple of things.

Look for all the tiny (and not so tiny) echoes of space and sci-fi movies past. Star Wars, Close Encounters, etc., but most of all 2001. Why not? Right now, “they” are probably having a good 5th dimensional laugh watching Stanley Kubrick’s proto-human apes tossing that bone.

Interstellar has the most subtly cool robots ever. TARS doesn’t sing like HAL, but he has moves like Jagger and is great with the snappy patter.

2

The movie is much about cosmology—the origin and nature of existence. Cosmology is the domain of all kinds of people, including religionists and philosophers. But in greater part, we have handed over many of those considerations, as in this movie, to theoretical physicists—Einstein, Hawking, etc. I am a big fan of cosmology.

It is not a spoiler to mention that plenty of people, including some in this movie, believe that the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked. Which raises this way-out-there question: What if the moon landing was real but all the cosmological theoretical physics is faked? Going back before Einstein, theoretical physics spends much of its time (as we understand it) looking for physical proof of those theories. What if all the theory is so utterly astounding and enlightening that when the evidence failed to support it, all the scientists engaged in the study conspired to make it seem as if those theories are supported?

Faking the moon landing mission has never been put entirely to rest because, in fact, only three people experienced it first-hand. Everyone else was second-hand or more distanced from the actuality. But the basic elements of it are well within our understanding: astronauts, rocket, spaceship, lunar lander, moon, television pictures. The cosmological speculation and supporting discoveries are so far beyond anything that most of us can fully—or slightly—grasp that we could easily be fooled into taking it for “reality.”

By the way, for those wondering about the earnestness of all that, be assured that I am just playing. Or am I?

3

We don’t have to be space pilots to experience cosmology, or be theoretical physicists or movie directors to think about it. Cosmology is ordinary. Interstellar and other movies and thousands of works of art and literature point to this. Everybody is a cosmologist, like it or not.

Cosmology is an excellent topic that does not necessarily require specialized knowledge. You may not know a worm hole from a black hole. But you already know a ton about time, space, being, and gravity. You just have to know how to know and that you know.

This is from an essay almost 800 years old. No more or less spectacular than Interstellar, it is no more or less a non-theoretical description:

Do not think that time merely flies away. Do not see flying away as the only function of time. If time merely flies away, you would be separated from time. The reason you do not clearly understand the time being is that you think of time only as passing.

In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being….

You may suppose that time is only passing away, and not understand that time never arrives. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not depend on its own arrival.

People only see time’s coming and going, and do not thoroughly understand that the time being abides in each moment. Then, when can they penetrate the barrier? Even if people recognized the time being in each moment, who could give expression to this recognition? Even if they could give expression to this recognition for a long time, who could stop looking for the realization of the original face? According to an ordinary person’s view of the time being, even enlightenment and nirvana as the time being would be merely aspects of coming and going….

Mountains are time. Oceans are time. If they were not time, there would be no mountains or oceans. Do not think that mountains and oceans here and now are not time. If time is annihilated, mountains and oceans are annihilated. As time is not annihilated, mountains and oceans are not annihilated.

Dogen
The Time Being (1240)
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye

The Magi

Journey of the Magi
The magi are for everyone, whatever your beliefs.

These three figures in the Christmas tradition appear in only one of the four Christian gospels, and even that role in Matthew is sketchy. They are foreigners bringing gifts for the infant Jesus and they return home by a different route to evade Herod. That’s it.

Translations and interpretations of what they brought vary, and even less clear is exactly who these foreigners were supposed to be in the story. They may be kings, wise men, astrologers or, as some have it, Zoroastrian priests from Persia.

This is why the particulars don’t matter much at all: the story is so basic and illuminating that it has captured the imagination of millions in its various retellings. Christian faithful have one view of it, and the more literal vision is that of concrete history. But for those who lean away from that, there is much to be gotten out of this compelling story:

  • Some people of discernment—in terms of wisdom, astrology or otherwise—had a sense that something special was going on outside of their ordinary sphere. Maybe they saw a light.
  • They travelled a long way to discover what was going on, and having found out, expressed their gratitude humbly and generously.

Again, that’s it. Some may want to think about theology. Others may want to think about other sorts of lights they’ve glimpsed, journeys they’ve made or haven’t made, and about possibilities. Christmas or just winter solstice and New Year, there is no better time to think about possibilities and all the rest.

T.S. Eliot wrote a brief but cinematic poem about the magi. It is written from a believer’s perspective, as the magi suffer twice, once on the journey, once again when they return home and find themselves so spiritually transformed by the experience that they feel like strangers in their own land. This is certainly a Christian view of the holiday, but non-Christians may just as well consider the more general phenomenon of all sorts of enlightenment, sitting between the way you have been and the way you discover you could be or already are. The magi say they would be glad of another death like that.

The Journey of the Magi
T.S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Bandon by the Sea and Living Forever

Continuum Center
This is about a beach town and the possibility of living forever.

Bandon is a small beach town (about 3,000 people) on the southern coast of Oregon. It is special because of its beauty and spirit, including extraordinary rock outcroppings and stacks of bleached drift logs that hover in the sun and occasional fog. It is also special because few know about it. It is far enough from anywhere—248 miles south of Portland, 465 north of San Francisco—that there are other tourist stops better known and, to some, more exciting.

Bandon 4

The New Age is an ignored topic that deserves more than this brief discussion. In the 1970s, the movement toward a new consciousness coalesced around the concept of a New Age, a new era of human enlightenment and evolution that would move us forward, leaving some of the darkest aspects of our sometimes-sorry history behind. This included not only spirituality and religion, but psychology, art, music, mythology, earth, food, sex—anything that could help transform us and the way we live. By name, “New Age” has fallen into disuse; but as a matter of fact, many of the ideas and expressions are now part of our cultural fabric.

In 1979, philanthropist Hugh Harrison visited the Continuum Exhibit at JFK University in California. The exhibit showcased the Immortality Principle, the possibility of consciousness continuing after death. He was impressed and put the exhibit on tour, and also established a home for it in Bandon, in a building on Main Street called the Continuum Center. It was a splendid multimedia exhibit, state of the art for its time.

Continuum Book
One of faces of the New Age movement that is powerful though sometimes mocked is its music. New Age music was once a common category, though it has fallen into disuse. No good cultural development goes untortured. New Age music at its start and at its best is an attempt to coax, drag, push, pull and otherwise move your consciousness by the ear. In less talented hands it has been oversimplified and underpowered, but no different than with any other musical genre.

When I walked into the Continuum Center in Bandon years ago, I saw the oversized graphics and read about a vision of consciousness. But the very first thing I noticed was the music playing. It was, it turned out, the sublime Angel’s Flight by Shadowfax, and it was the first New Age music I had ever heard. The pictures and text of that visit are a little indistinct in memory, but that song isn’t, maybe because I’ve listened to it a few hundred times since.

A recent visit to Bandon, for the first time in a long time, revealed that not much had changed, a good thing. Maybe it was not a surprise that the Continuum Center as an exhibit is gone. But the building is still there, transformed into a small shopping plaza, but as you’ll see above, the name remains. Spirit abides.

So if any of this is interesting, here’s what to do. Listen to Angel’ Flight and other transportive music by Shadowfax and other worthy New Age artists. Learn a little more about the possibilities of consciousness and change, if you aren’t already doing so. Does consciousness survive death? Who knows, but what a beautiful question.

Last but not least, if your travels take you to the Pacific coast, visit Bandon. Unlike the Continuum Center exhibit, which lasted a few years, the beach and rocks and waves go on and on and on, waiting for you. They will wait forever.