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Archive for October, 2008

One of my Buddha photos is up on Lens Culture’s Buddha Project. There are so many amazing photos in this collection! Oh my. The project description:

Images of Buddha can remind us to take a breath, to look around, to feel calm and compassionate, to be here now. You can notice Buddha almost anywhere — laundromats, store windows, barbershops, farmers’ markets, souvenir stands, tucked away on someone’s night table.

The Buddha Project encourages people worldwide to participate by submitting photos of found Buddha, sacred Buddha, ancient Buddha, kitschy Buddha, handmade Buddha.

My Buddha is from a housewares/antiques store in the South End in Boston. I’ve been noticing Buddhas all over the place, the more I’m aware of them. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I live a short walk from Chinatown!

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photo copyright Jerome Yulsman

photo copyright Jerome Yulsman

Speaking of serendipity and the Beats in my last post, I saw a headline on the publication of the “lost” Kerouac-Burroughs collaboration the front page of the Phoenix today. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is a two-narrator account of Lucien Carr’s murder of David Kammerer, unable to be published during Carr’s lifetime.

Word is that the book, as a piece of literature, isn’t really all that great. As a document of its time, however, it encapsulates the spirit and time of 1944 Greenwich Village. I’m looking forward to reading it on November 1, when it comes out. From the excerpt published in the Phoenix:

After, I sat in the front room with a towel and a glass of cold orangeade, and I asked Phillip where he had gone last night with Ramsay Allen. He told me that after they had left Dennison’s, they started out for the Empire State Building.

“Why the Empire State Building?” I asked.

“We were thinking of jumping off. I don’t clearly remember.”

“Jumping off, hey?” I said.

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Gary Snyder is stalking me. First, this article in the New Yorker (link to PDF scan; article not available from New Yorker website. Oh, and page 2, a photo of Snyder and Allen Ginsberg was accidentally scanned upside-down. Let’s just pretend that was a bit of a dada touch.) and then, waiting for a friend in the Harvard Co-Op, I happened upon this book of Beat Generation photography which, naturally, featured a few shots of Snyder.

It’s interesting to notice once something (or someone) enters your world, how it/they kind of crop up everywhere for a while. I’ve long had a personal fascination with the Beat generation. Ok, that’s a bit of an understatement. I have a total obsession with Jack Kerouac. Previous to reading the New Yorker article, my familiarity with Gary Snyder was limited to his role as Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums; a book which greatly influenced my late-teens. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a Buddhist home, so it was only natural that reading a novel about Buddhism by my favorite author would send me on a bit of a spiritual quest in my adolescence.

(Incidentally, during this period, I once had a two hour conversation with some Mormon missionaries about Buddhism. That has nothing to do with much of anything, but I managed to get one of them thinking about how it’s all the same void, man, and that was good enough for me.)

Certainly Snyder, who is an ordained Zen monk, has a greater connection to Buddhism in America and Buddhism as explored by the Beats than Kerouac, and I really should take this serendipitous stalking as a sign to get more familiar with his work. I found this essay on Buddhist Anarchism, and though it was written in 1961, a lot of Snyder’s points still hold true.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies — Communist included — into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta” — hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

Substitute “War on Terror” for “Cold War” and this is still an all too accurate portrayal of modern life. Our current economic crisis was fueled by unbelievable greed. I’m not sure if anarchy is a better solution, but it certainly would be an improvement for government to keep in mind that we as humans are all interconnected – and that link extends to all human work, including banks and corporations. If one of us fails, we all may fail.

Anyhow, I digress. It’s interesting that Gary Snyder has popped up in my life, and I’m definitely interested in finding out more about what this Beat sage has to say.

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The world is in a deep financial crisis. I myself am having a personal banking crisis of near epic proportions. The political situation in the US is downright terrifying. But HEY! Giant squids. xkcd and the Discovery Channel here to remind you that everything is AWESOME. Seriously. (For a teeny bit of relevance, video does contain a brief shot of Buddhist monks!)

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Kat emailed me this post about detachment by Dadi Janki, and I think that there are a few good points here that not only apply to life, but to photography as well. Namely, the idea of a detached observer.

The most important effort you can make at this time is to remember the God. To do this, become detached and bodiless. You have to be detached whilst doing action, because only in this way can you become separate from everything. There is the exercise of three steps: 1. Be detached. 2. Become separate, and 3. Be an observer. You need to do this, because attachment to something or another will pull you again and again. Whether it’s something from the past or something that’s to happen in the future, you find the mind drawn when you’re attached. What do you have to pay attention to in the present? Become detached, separate and an observer.

It’s easier, for me, to put myself one step away from my environment by viewing it through the lens. It’s kind of a paradox that I’m simultaneously more aware of my surroundings and yet, not actively *part* of them. By observing, I am interacting with the world without becoming attached to it in any concrete way.

[ photo by Jamelah ]

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