prison term for miscarriage

A friend sent this along in email:
Last week, a young woman in El Salvador who goes by the alias name of 'Guadalupe,' had very high hopes, and was all but assured she would receive a pardon from her 30-year sentence. She had already served seven years, starting in her teens. Her alleged crime? Fetal homicide. She miscarried, and was charged with murder.
Even without fleshing out the Daily Kos entry, the medieval nightmarishness of the story is compelling.

nameless snowstorm gains intensity

Juno, "queen of the gods," goddess of marriage and children, a protectress with an incestuous marriage... and now, perhaps, a storm worth noting.

Turn up the volume!

The weather service seems to have anointed an incipient snowstorm with a name: "Juno." Heretofore, to my knowledge, only hurricane/typhoons were named. The weather service label has not yet made it into the news stories, but I suspect it may as the storm actually does its thing. The storm is said to be due, in all its celestial fury, tomorrow.

There's no denying the sex-appeal of a storm with a name ... a bit of twinkly, focal sparkle in the midst of what must be a rather drab tableau of scientific observation and (hopefully) educated guesstimates. In times to come, perhaps people will remember "Juno" as they remember Hurricane Katrina ....
....Cecil B. DeMille, the director who brought us Hollywood blockbusters like "The Ten Commandments," presents .... !!!!! .... Juno... a fabled reality before it even arrives.

Does naming things help or hinder? Perhaps, tentatively, it helps, but over time its secondary nature cloys and drags the mind down into a quicksand of uncertainty. Is the snow more or less white when it has a name. Is sorrow or joy more or less potent with their name-anointed liturgies?

It's not just Buddhists who square off against such questions. And it's no joke trying to shovel your way out of this quicksand.

curious Reuters photo

A man rides his horse through flames during the "Luminarias" annual religious celebration, on the night before Saint Anthony's, patron of animals, in the village of San Bartolome de los Pinares, Spain, January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Besides its arresting nature, what wonders me about this photo is the horse's ears. I am used to seeing determination and fear in a horse with its ears flattened, curiosity and kool with its ears erect. Oh well, another thing I have probably got wrong.

pick your lineage

It was in the late 1960's or early 1970's that I first read books by John Blofeld, a man who wrote a number of books about Buddhism and other Asian religious thought. At the time, I was fresh as a daisy to Buddhism and ingested books with the desperation of a student trying to catch up with other students in a class I barely understood.

Something in one of his books made me send him a letter. Couched, no doubt, in admiration for his work (I might not know Buddhism, but I knew writers), I was secretly hoping I might hear from him in return ... but fairly sure I never would: What does a man of accomplishment care for a nobody of no accomplishment?

To my surprise, he wrote back. It was before the Internet, in the time of typewriters and handwriting. And so began a number of years in which I grew less shy about asking my novice questions. He never criticized or played lord of the manor, but he was not above poking and goading my adoration. He was also honest. "I don't like so-and-so," he wrote more or less of one Buddhist writer. "He's too cold." The statement struck me as very daring: This was a time as well when if something were written in a book it was true with a truth beyond mortals such as me.

With time, the correspondence dwindled ... perhaps after he died in Thailand in 1987. Somewhere around this over-stuffed house, the letters are saved as if to preserve the wonder that they brought to my life at that time ... much as I saved the letters of a Zen monk who did me the same epistolary kindness.

I thought of John today when I got an email from a woman who used to read this blog and with whom I have had occasional personal correspondence. She wrote to say she read my blog every day (flattering that it should be read at all), but that it occurred to her that such a daily ritual was really an attachment which she intended to put a stop to: No more reading the blog. I wrote back to say I thought it was an excellent idea and wish her well in her travels.

Her note made me think of Blofeld and of whatever my Buddhist 'lineage' might be. Surely it's not monastic and yet I was interested to think that this is the way lineage may really work ... someone purportedly better versed lending an ear to the one less versed or uncertain. John and I parted ways and the email writer and I now seem to have parted ways and yet "parting ways" is an overstatement and largely an untruth. The connection, though no longer connected, is, in fact, connected. Not in any oooooeeeeeoooo sense, just in truthful, common-sensical fact.

It's pretty straightforward and hardly requires the official seal of any organization or religion. I choose my lineage, you choose yours and maybe we can lend each other a hand ... even if we never meet. It's as if there were no strands, only a rope that balks and bucks when the oily word "connected" is supplied.

Drama and Dharma

“ What is drama and what is dharma?
I guess you could say that drama is illusion that acts like truth and dharma is truth itself- the way things are, the basic state of reality that does not change from day to day according to fashion or our mood or agenda. To change dharma into drama, all we need are the elements of any good play: emotion, conflict, and action – a sense that something urgent and meaningful is happening to the characters involved.”
  • "Rebel buddha on the road to freedom", dzogchen ponlop, p. 2

The dramas in our lives can happen on both an big and small scale.
They often start out with “facts”, then concepts, emotions and “truths” gets added to the storyline and we are really getting ourselves ready for the big stage.
The thing is also that the more time we spend in this storyline, the more hooked we get by it and we begin to think about it as “The TRUTH”, rather than just another imaginery play.
The important things to remember is that we can, at any time, realize that we are in a play and look out over the theatre to see the real truth, that these stages of life are just that, stages.
And, also, that it is all good practice, because without the theatre, the storyline and the stage, we can never realize our starpotential, that yes, YOU are a star.
Deal with it, kiddo.

Thank you for your practice.


Dosho Port Receives Inka Shomei

I am honored to be able to announce that on the evening of January 23rd, 2015, in the ancient and ever renewed ceremony of Inka Shomei I passed on the Dharma as I received it from John Tarrant, who himself received it from Robert Aitken, who in turn received it from Koun Yamada, in continuing [Read More...]

THE GREAT WAY OF LIBERAL RELIGION A Meditation on Francis David, George Biandrata, and King John Sigismund

THE GREAT WAY OF LIBERAL RELIGION A Meditation on Francis David, George Biandrata, & King John Sigismund James Ishmael Ford First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode Island Text In this world there have always been many opinions about faith and salvation. You need not think alike to love alike. There must be knowledge in faith also. [Read More...]

magical and mysterious

Strange to think how one event or person or word can infuse a life with a sudden, nudging magic whereas another passes by without notice. In one case there is mystery and layered meaning and in another there is nothing to write home about.

A small nudge in my life was a poem by "anonymous" submitted many years ago in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes:
The baby is
As soft and sweet
As if she were
How many magical nudges and mysteries have I missed while seeking -- sometimes desperately -- for magic and mystery?

keys to the kingdom

In the process of gathering information for a puff piece on home break-ins, I once asked a police captain how he personally protected his house when he wasn't around in the evening. 

He thought a moment and then said approximately, "Well, I put a couple of lights on, turn on the radio and leave the front door unlocked." Why would he leave the front door unlocked? "If someone is going to break into your house, they're going to break in. Look at all the windows. Why pay to have the door fixed into the bargain?"

Strange to think how anyone might assume that locking a door would protect and preserve when the fragility of windows is as plain as the nose on your face. True, it might slow things down, but not by much.

How reassuring the keys to life can seem. A religion, a philosophy, a belief -- they all have a reassuring and tentative protection and nourishment. The good stuff is defended and fertilized. The bad stuff is kept knowingly at bay, if not exactly vanquished.

The problem is, of course, that keys that provide a keep-out protection also imply an opening and ingress. The doors may be well and truly locked, but the windows remain. The keys to heaven are invariably the keys to hell as well.

I do not think anyone should go into a depressing funk about any of this, sit stock still as a means of falling into neither the trap of heaven nor the trap of hell. I just think it is worth noticing as a means of assessing the usefulness and perhaps truth of the keys anyone might choose.

How many literal keys does anyone own? Lots, I imagine. Something for the car, something for the house, something for the desk drawer, etc. The key ring jingles reassuringly in the pocket or pocketbook. And likewise how many mental keys are stored and jingle ... and wear holes in the pocket of the mind and heart?

Keep it locked up safe.

Unlock it when the coast is clear and the need arises.

No one's getting my flat-screen TV! No one's gonna disturb my equanimity!

But the walls that keep out likewise hem in. Wasn't it outside the protective wall of his well-appointed palace that the Buddha encountered what was fruitful in his life? I don't know, but I choose to see it that way.

But nor yet was unlocking the palace gate exactly complete, whether literally or metaphorically. The man or woman who unlocks is the same man or woman who locks. Safety and protection, danger and vulnerability are a package deal.

So where is the key to this conundrum ... the perfect safety and bliss? When all the perfect keys work imperfectly, is there a perfection of some sort, some "enlightenment" or "Nirvana" or "heaven" in which life is nothing but a bowl of Twinkies? Where's the key?

As I get older, the literal keys that I have become fewer and fewer. My control and assurance wanes with them. My ideas about safety and protection lose their savor. It's spooky and lonely on occasion, but it also has a strange correctness to it.

Turn on a couple of lights, leave your radio on and the front door unlocked ... and enjoy your night on the town.

The Unmerciful Servant: One of Jesus’ Parables as Remembered by Kids

Thanks to the good folk at the First Baptist Church of Marble Falls for this gem.