“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. ” ~ The Buddha

This image appeared on my Tumblr dash, and it really moved me. Just pause for a moment and consider: 100,000 people sitting quietly, praying for peace and an ease of the world’s suffering. I am not always a curmudgeon, nor am I always, eternally cynical, just most of the time. Perhaps the weather from the storm brings to mind the accompanying quote and song. Who knows?

 

100,000 Thai Theravada Monks in meditation for peace and in prayer to ease the suffering of the world (Dhammakaya Temple, Bangkok Thailand).

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris?
What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?”

~ The Buddha

Music by Lily Allison, “Birds and Ships”

Lyrics by Woody Guthrie:

The birds are singing in your eyes today.
Sweet flowers blossom in your smile.
The wind and sun are in the words you say.
Where can your lonesome lover be?

Birds may be singing in my eyes this day.
Sweet flowers may blossom when I smile.
But my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild
My sweetheart rides a ship on the sea.

Oh, my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild.
Where can my lonesome lover be?

“Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Oregon Coast 1 by russell.tomlin*

                   

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday night. Still hot and humid.

Oregon Coast: Huge Surf 11-6-09 by russell.tomlin

First let me say that I have no idea what is going on with my fonts. Everything on my WordPress is smaller. The fonts on my dashboard are smaller, and the internal header sizes that I’ve been using for months are now smaller than before. Please let me know if my pages look funny, or if the formatting seems off.

Now on to other things . . .

I need to preface what I am about to write with a short background story: When I was in charge of the computer labs while teaching in the English department at ODU, I had a run-in with a colleague who had been a bit shirty with the students who worked for me. I fired off a memo to this colleague, and did not listen to my own inner voice, which said, calm yourself first.

We had a tiff. We got over it, but I felt terrible. I learned a valuable lesson: retorts need time to bake properly and should always be allowed to simmer for a while. Or as the old Klingon proverb states: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

However, this is actually not about revenge; this is about justice.

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sea Foam Explodes on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin

I recently learned that an acquaintance has been making disparaging remarks about me, using my blog as fodder in a smear campaign. Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow blocking of IP addresses, or I would have taken the simplest route. Having said that, I must admit to being a bit peeved that my own words, my precious, precious words were being taken out of context and undergoing armchair psychoanalysis.

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . .

When I decided to begin this blog, I knew that I was putting myself out there, so to speak, that I was inviting strangers in to take a peek at my life, that I was willingly subjecting myself to possible derision. For these reasons, I have held back (no, really, I have) on certain topics and certain events. Not everything should be open for perusal by anyone who happens to stop by. I have shared information about my family, its workings, its quirks, yet I have respected the privacy of each family member.

On a few occasions, I have written posts that I have deemed too personal, and I have made these posts private.

Occasionally, I have gotten a troll, and Akismet has protected me from a boatload of spam. But there is no protection from a virtual stalker—the individual who has no problem in appropriating sections of my life whole cloth, and then making of that cloth whatever he or she deems appropriate.

This simply will not do. Aside from the blatant bad manners of it all, what has happened borders on defamation. Trust me when I say that I hold my character quite dear, as should we all, and I will not tolerate an assassination of my character or that of any member of my family. Let’s just say cease and desist is now part of my researched vocabulary.

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Big Surf Folds Over on the Oregon Coast 9-6-09 by russell.tomlin

But to be honest, what has me angrier than anything else is that I actually considered making my entire blog private for a bit, and I also considered the possibility of going on hiatus. I was going to allow myself to be cowed; I, who pride myself on my ability to reason intelligently, was going to allow this individual to affect my writing, nay to affect my life.

Nope. Sorry. I refuse to do so.

Nothing makes me angrier than when I get angry at myself, when I start to blame myself for things over which I have no control, and I certainly cannot, nor do I choose to control the actions of another person. Being the staunch believer in free will that I am, I must stand by my convictions, especially when I know that I have not acted inappropriately, that I have not broken any laws, that I have acted only in the best interests of those around me.

So, to be blunt, do with this what you will.

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief” ~ The Buddha

Five Layers of Movement by russell.tomlin

These things I will not do:

  • Stop writing out of fear of being misconstrued or in an attempt to calm waters that cannot be quelled.
  • Stand idly by whilst a human being—correction, any human being—is being cowed into submission.
  • Cease in speaking the truth, the truth as I see it, the truth as I know it.
  • Allow myself to write out of anger, nor will I censor myself so that I do not cause offense. Reading blogs is an entirely optional activity, that is the beauty of the Internet: the big X in the upper right hand corner that closes the page, thus ending the discourse.
  • Allow anyone to speak ill of my family under any circumstances.
  • Allow anyone to harm my family under any circumstances.
  • Tolerate personal, private information being disseminated in attempts to smear my good name.
  • Fall prey to the machinations of another individual.
  • Presume to know that which I cannot know; assume that everyone operates under the Golden Rule; resume my petty, vindictive streak which I have worked so hard to overcome.

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons: Greed, anger, and delusion.” ~ Bodhidharma

Yachats 10-9-09 by russell.tomlin

These things I vow to do:

  • Continue to be true to myself with no attempts to soft-sell myself or my beliefs.
  • Write and post my blogs as I feel the need.
  • Be a bit more mindful of the dangers that lurk in virtual reality.
  • Continue to work in my own way for truth, justice, and the common good.
  • Share information that I think my reading audience might find interesting, entertaining, or helpful.
  • Be true to my wit, my character, and my personae—both the real and the creative.
  • Remind myself not to allow negative external forces over which I have no control to affect me adversely.
  • Remember my Shakespeare: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet I,v)
  • Kill them with kindness.

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

No Fear by russell.tomlin

I have at my disposal two of the greatest weapons ever given to human kind: my mind and the truth. I have no need to lie or to stretch the truth to suit my needs. I have no desire to become embroiled in an imbroglio not of my making.

I may not have the desire, but that does not mean that I do not remain an estimable force. Having said that, at the end of the day, what I feel now more than any other emotion is pity.

As that old misogynist Nietzsche said, “one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.”

Music by Meredith Brooks . . . “Bitch”

                   

Hard Night

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

~ Christian Wiman

*All images taken from Russell Tomlin’s photostream on Flickr. Many thanks.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi,

Detail of Hand Phra Atchana Calling the Earth to Witness

Pra Atchana: Calling the Earth to Witness (detail) 

“What the material world values does not shine in the same truth of the soul” ~ Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening” 

“You have been interested in our shadow” ~  Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening”

BuddhaSomewhere, the gods are laughing hysterically. Somewhere, Sisyphus has paused in his uphill struggle to push his boulder to the top, and he is grinning sheepishly. Somewhere, at some point in time, all of this became an ongoing comedy of errors.

I’m just curious: Who forgot to send us the memo?

Last night, just because it could and because it would be the worst possible timing, Corey’s truck died in the parking lot of the nearby shopping center. Oh, we knew that the truck was living on borrowed time, but we were hoping against hope that it would give us at least another month, time to get the van down from Ohio, time to get Corey on a boat, time to park it and let it rest until the repairs could be made.

Mais non. ‘Twas not to be.

Which leads me back to my original statement and the question that keeps going around and around inside my brain: exactly who did we piss off this badly, whose crappola list, who did we offend in this lifetime or a previous or next in order to keep getting served cold Haggis when a nice, healthy mango salad would do?

 “Look instead directly at the sun” ~ Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening”

Chiang Mai Orchids
Chiang Mai Orchids, Thailand

I hear from those of you out in the ether, and I know that we aren’t alone. I know now just how many of you are in the same dire straits that we are navigating. Believe me, it does help with perspective.

But exactly when is this merry-go-round going to stop? Trust me when I said that I am beyond nauseous from the circling and circling, never arriving, never achieving any kind of forward momentum, the kind that grown ups are supposed to be able to achieve.

Actually, a better metaphor might be that horrible cups and saucers ride. You know, the one in which the cups and saucers spin themselves, and then the whole ride spins? My father actually had to ask the man who was working the switches to stop the ride one time when we were at a local amusement park. I had turned this lovely shade of ecru and was shaking violently all over. Carnie said he’d never seen a reaction that bad.

My cousin thought that it was hilarious. She would. If I had been able to manage anything but dry heaves, I would have hurled on her, kind of how I feel like hurling at the world, leaving just this stain on the sidewalk of life to show that I had been there for a moment, but frankly, had had enough.

“We are born and live inside black water in a well. How could we know what an open field of sunlight is?” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”

Buddha in the ruins of Wat Mahathat
Buddha in the Ruins of Wat Mahathat

Internal playlist: Life right now reminds me of that Sting song: “I’m so happy. I can’t stop crying.” Laughing through my tears: “everybody’s got to leave the darkness sometime.”

Or maybe Rocky Horror’s “Time Warp” would be more appropriate:

“It’s astounding, time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely, not for very much longer
I’ve got to keep control . . .”

Visions of torn fish nets and too much lipstick: “And nothing can ever be the same . . .”
Time warp would be a perfectly logical explanation for what’s happening. At least it makes more sense than the real explanation: There is no explanation.

“Don’t insist on going where you want to go.  Ask the way to the spring.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”

Wooden San Jao Thi
Wooden Spirit House

Moving along . . .

Did you know that in Thai culture, claiming to be haunted by a ghost is perfectly acceptable?

No, I’m not digressing. I beg the court’s indulgence whilst I attempt to make connections . . .

In Thailand, if I were to tell my landlord that my apartment has the spirit of a dead person, I would not be recommended for psychiatric counseling. On the contrary, spirits abound in Thai culture.

Spirit houses, or San Phra Phum (Abode of the Land Guardian Angel) are incorporated into most Thai homes so that the spirits can be left offerings for their well-being. It is believed that most homes have their own household spirits.

Fortune tellers, contrary to being frowned upon as in Western culture, are highly respected and consulted for most major decisions.

I find that to be a very logical way of looking at things. For example, let’s just say that Corey and I accidentally insulted the spirit of someone’s departed great aunt Mei by stepping on her threshhold (big no, no). Great aunt Mei would hang about for a bit to remind us of the error of our ways until we could perform the necessary rituals for her to rest in peace.

Quit looking at me that way. I’m serious.

“Your living pieces will form a harmony.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”

Thais, almost 95 perMoon and Buddha image at dusk Wat Mahathatcent of whom are Buddhists, also believe in animism, or spirit worship. Animist spirits stem from the belief that it is not just humans and animals that have souls but also plants, rocks, geographic features, rivers and even natural phenomena such as thunder. These spirits can have an effect on the well-being of those around them. I am not feeling the least bit cynical about such statements.

My own acceptance can be attributed to my personal beliefs in pantheism, that god is in all things.

I found the following passage on Teaching the Ghost: The Thai Supernatural very illuminating:

The greatest fear of an average Thai is of a break down of the social order and the resulting chaos. This explains why the system of hierarchy is so entrenched there and why an average Thai is so ready to unquestioningly follow a superior . . . in 700 years Thailand has never had a civil war. The Thai fear of chaos is personified in their spirits. Thais pay respects even to spirits that are dangerous, not because they have any love for them but because they leave people alone if they are respected. These can be the spirits of women who died in childbirth, malevolent nature spirits, ghosts or, most dangerous of all, the ghosts of people who have just been let out of hell but who have not been reborn in the human world yet. They have something of a chip on their shoulders. One thing that all these spirits have in common, besides their malevolent nature, is that they are part of no social hierarchy. Their world is everything that Thais fear—a world of chaos with no social order. If not respected they can unleash their violent natures and their social chaos on humans.

My point? Somewhere, somehow, we have—to mix my cultural metaphors—opened Pandora’s box and unleashed a very chaotic spirit that wants appeasement. Certainement. It is the only thing that makes any sense at this point.

Somewhere, lurking about us, is a spirit who is lambasting us with chaos. Unfortunately, not having been made aware of this, we have failed to proffer the proper respect, our inconsideration in trampling on a door sill rather than stepping over it.

“There is a moving palace that floats in the air with balconies and clear water flowing through, infinity, everywhere.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”

Karma. Joss. Fate. Nirvana. Infinity. Big concepts. Big questions.

spirit_house_RatanaHere are a few interesting things to consider if you are planning to build or place your own spirit house to appease the spirits that dwell on your land:

  • Erect your spirit house in front of a tree.
  • Do not place a spirit house to the left side of a door.
  • A spirit house pointing towards the North or North-East is considered especially lucky.
  • Your spirit house should not face towards a road or toilet.
  • A spirit house should not be located within the shadow of the main property.

Remember, the spirit house is intended to honor and placate the spirits by providing an appealing shelter for the spirits, which admittedly, can be finicky and interferring, not necessarily good or evil. Traditional offerings to the spirits include edible and non-edible items such as rice, candles, flowers and incense.

My mother has two marble Buddhas in her house. My mother is the least Buddhist person I know. However, these small figurines have been in her home for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it is time for a spirit house and some prayer bells in our own environs.

More Rumi:

Thai prayer bells
Thai Prayer Bells

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Translation by Coleman Barks

More later. Peace.