Monday, September 15, 2003

A Community of Attention - Green Gulch Farm, a Zen Buddhist community and retreat center, embodies a deeply ecological and humane way of life.

"Communitas, communis - the Latin root for "community" means common or what is held in common, shared by many. At Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center, where I lived for three years, what is held in common is the place, the time together, and the teachings of Zen Buddhism. The community is mutually created by those who stay in this place for a period of time, whether for a few hundred years (as a redwood might) or a single day.
The focus of Zen practice is to develop attention or mindfulness in relation to all beings and all activity. Over and over again we ask: Where am I? What am I doing right now? What is guiding my actions? Most of our decisions reflect personal preferences and an orientation to ourselves as enduring entities. Buddhist practice, however, is the constant stripping away of false references to the self to reveal the larger patterns of interconnection and interdependence. One finds one's bearings through temporal and spatial reference points beyond the false sense of self. Thus the schedule and the landscape provide the structure of both community and practice.
A Zen practice center is distinct from other country retreat spots because of the shared intention to practice certain guidelines and teachings. Here community is sustained not just by external spatial and temporal reference points, but by cultivation of internal reference points for choices of action. The central Buddhist teachings naturally encourage an ecological awareness and thus serve as ethical criteria for community practices. "An ethical life is one that is mindful, mannerly, and has style." In Soto Zen tradition, the emphasis is very much on ethical or mindful acts in everyday practice. The simple, repetitive acts of eating, breathing, walking, and greeting others become opportunities for deepening a sense of interdependence and community. Each moment in place reflects myriad causes and conditions that all contribute to the particular experience of community at that instant for that person.
This being, that becomes;
   from the arising of this, that arises;
This not being, that becomes not;
   from the ceasing of this, that ceases.
see also The Joy of Community; an interview with M. Scott Peck - "Do organizations ever need to be ''exorcised''? The author of The Different Drum and The Road Less Traveled says yes - and that a ''technology of community'' could become the heart of a new global culture." From In Context Quarterly #29.
(Back issues and "Guides to global trends, challenges, and opportunities")

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Freakin' cosmic coincidence!
On a whim, to find out if the domain is free, I type into the location and find myself looking at this:

And the site's creator, this other "ben" (complete with l/c "b", like your's truly), writes the following with regards his "ethical projects":
"My ethical project is to be in the room to offer the alternative when the powers that be make the decision. That is all.

Now... what does that ridiculous statement mean? What force of belief does it have behind it? What will that "alternative view" look like?

Here are some random thoughts. Think of them as tiles creating a metaphorical mosaic of my ethical project.

On the whole my politics rather closely mirror that of the early American Jeffersonian thinkers.

I favor decentralization of power and direct democracy, when practical. I favor individualism over collectivism. I favor institutions that create opportunity for success and failure, as each is as important as the other. I believe decisions are made by those who show up.

I think creativity, ingenuity, and hard work should be rewarded and greed, mobaucracy, and mediocrity should be discouraged. I fear equally the oppression of the state, the private sector, and the mob. I favor progress over sustainability. I think it is more likely that we will colonize other planets than live sustainable on this one. I fear those who destroy out of laziness and greed.

I find organized religion to be a lie. I despise liars. I think there is nothing more dangerous and simultaneously more rewarding than the collective experience. I think playing baseball on artificial turf is just plain wrong. I find enforcing equality is merely a polite way of oppressing the spirit and tyrannizing the mind. I believe the act of creating by using resources to better the human condition is the most noble of all acts. I believe the hording or amassing is the most depraved of all acts. I believe in nobility and degeneracy.

I believe their will always be tyrants, despots, and thieves. And I believe they will always fail. I fear politicians with clean records, doctors who won't look you in the eye, and environmentalists that can't grow their own food. I think as long as we produce enough food, everyone should have enough to eat. I believe that knowledge will forever govern ignorance so we should study more than we do. I think humanity's greatest act to date is leaving this Earth for the moon. I feel our most destitute act is war. I believe in greatness and in destitution.

I believe in leaders. I believe in the ability for a man to rise above his circumstances and take us with him. I believe in frauds who stand on the shoulders of giants just long enough to fool us. I feel that all the thinking in the world won't plow a single field and all the plowing in the world won't quiet a single mind. I think the cosmic religious pursuit is the finest of all human instincts. I believe the human notion of morality is both a curse and blessing. I fear bullies, braggarts, and the overly ambitious.

I have always enjoyed Franklin's statement, "In all my born days, I have never heard of a good war or a bad peace..." but not as much as Patrick

Henry's, "Is life so dear or peace so sweat as to be purchased by the price of chains and slavery. For give me God for I know not what course others may take. But as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

Most of all, I think I would have enjoyed being a carpenter, but I'm quite sure I would have been a poor one.

If we let things get to us ... the being made to look foolish, the petty abuses and trivial exploitations ... we're likely to be spiteful in little things.

Here's what's on my mind: after having attended this study intensive with Prof. Herbert Guenther at Gampo Abbey (google is our friend, yes? *grin*) I came away with a very different appreciation of the 1st precept, "Do not kill". In depth, at a vajrayana level, this becomes something like, "Do not aggress against the life force."
If we are even minimally resentful or spiteful in our mundane activities, we sabotage little things ... but those little things aren't just the tendrils of the social (like a plant's rootlets), they're also the branches of synchronicity ... very subtle stuff, and very powerful ... but fragile, biological.

On responding to intuition; something I wrote for CityZen:
What Goes 'Round Comes 'Round ("Salience")
That little urge, the slight impetus, the idea of responding, that premonition of activity ... that's the fact of co-emergence and interdependent awareness: your world and you have signaled that your conscious intervention is being sought by something.
By what? For what, and with what reason? The "just-so" of what you do next is your contribution to the world. You'll encounter a certain internal resistance, a whole lot of tension or a vague reluctance ... the just-so of what you experience is the fact of your encountering your karma. Will you adjust your action in a principled manner? Will you just shrug it off?
Will you explore the obstacles? Will you be inquisitive about your internal process and the external dynamics that affect you so personally?
_Willing_ ... to be willing to respond, to be willingly present to the situation, to excercise will-power ... or not. If you've felt what the in-spiration of situation, then something has come 'round to you; what you make go 'round is up to you ... will you?

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