Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Twitter Etiquette

1.     Tweet no more than twice a day and no less than once a week; if you tweet more than twice a day (unless you’re “politically active” during a “highly political moment” you’re being narcissistic and at the same time needy) and if you tweet less than once a week, people forget you exist, and the longer you refrain from tweeting, as in Back to the Future, the less “there” you are socially: to others your body begins to slough away, your tweets go dark, and not even the memory of you remains to your friends and acquaintances and people you don’t really know though they are your family, while you sit in your room, ghostlike and twitterless, watching all life interact in 140 characters or less.

2.     Follow back, in a 48-hour period, anyone who follows you, except in the following situations: a) if the person who follows you is outside your “field” of expertise; this “field” is, of course, a subjective interpretation, and you must be consistent (if you’re an architect and you don’t follow back a painter, this is fine, but if you then follow a photographer, you’re hurting people’s feelings), b) if they seem to be, from a glance at their tweets, an asshole, c) they are a weightlifting, freestyle waterskier, who performed in the seventies and have written a memoir.

3.     Randomly “like” a tweet of some obscure follower who you’ve noticed never gets any “likes.” This will do two things: 1) you’ll positively affect the universe, not necessarily building this other tweeter’s self-esteem, but definitely growing compassion and understanding through your “like,” which the “other” tweeter will, not necessarily consciously comprehend, but definitely feel, and 2) you guarantee yourself a “like” at some point unless this tweeter is a 2b.   

4.     If someone “likes” one of your tweets, you have a period of one week to like one of their tweets. The week period is an unspoken agreement, in which you’re allowed to really consider if any of their tweets are worth liking, and if at the end of a one week period, you haven’t found any tweet worth liking, you can’t retroactively like a tweet, you just have to, sadly, like the next one they tweet, even if it may suck. The consequence of not reciprocating the original “like” will mean that that person will not like something of yours, and we all must understand that social life revolves around being liked, being likable, and not “liking” means you’re not “likable.”  Pretty simple.    

5.     Never get involved in a “conversation” on Twitter – to others in the universe, this looks like you don’t actually care about anything except yourself, your own thoughts and emotions, your own words, your own subjective interpretation of reality, when, just look, there are all these other tweets revealing reality right in front of you! You’re missing it!

6.     Silence on Twitter, as in life, isn’t acceptable – having opinions, making those opinions known, understanding and categorizing the world or oneself, making certain to always be indicating the type of person you are in every tweet, making certain, if you’re neurotic, to display your understanding of your neurosis in a playful way is a good idea; if you’re political, don’t be afraid to be political, but be afraid to be overly political; make it clear, on Twitter, that you’re a person who eats food, lives in weather, associates with others, and has a physical body, has a voice, is always moving, always thinking, never stopping, gaining knowledge, wanting more, being playful, being serious, a real, authentic thinker, considerer, articulater. Articulating all this must come from a place motivated to display exactly who you are, which is Twitter’s, and everyone’s, greatest goal, to know, and therefore to articulate, exactly what we are. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Trungpa on Hopelessness

"From this chair, I see lots of faces without bodies, serious faces. Some are wearing glasses, some are not wearing glasses. Some have long hair, some have short hair. But in all cases, it’s a long face, made out of a skull wall. These faces – if I had a big mirror behind me, you could see yourselves – are so honest, earnest. Every one of you is a true believer. Every bit of even the glasses you are wearing is a true believer. It is very cute and nice and lovable. It’s beautiful – I’m not mocking you at all. I appreciate your patience. You had to wait a long time and it’s late, and now there are all kinds of other things. You’re hungry. Probably you had planned to eat after the talk. Probably you are not used to sitting on the floor and would like a nice comfortable chair. All kinds of things go into making up that earnestness. But there is one thing we haven’t touched upon yet, which is that the whole thing is completely hopeless…There’s no hope, absolutely none whatsoever, to be saved…There is no hope. We are going to be drawn into, and drowned in, a deep pool of shit, an ocean of shit, that is bubbling, gray in color, smelly at the same time. We are drowning all the time. This is true; and the situation is hopeless, absolutely hopeless…We haven’t fundamentally faced ourselves and the notion of hopelessness…We still believe everything might be okay. That is actually our problem. Nobody has given up hope of attaining enlightenment. Nobody has given up hope of getting out of suffering. That is the fundamental spiritual problem we have."

Trungpa on Boredom

"Boredom has many aspects: there is the sense that nothing is happening, that something might happen, or even that what we would like to happen might replace that which is not happening. Or, one might appreciate boredom as a delight. The practice of meditation could be described as relating with cool boredom, refreshing boredom, boredom like a mountain stream. It refreshes because we do not have to do anything or expect anything... As we realize that nothing is happening, strangely we begin to realize that something dignified is happening. There is no room for frivolity, no room for speed. We just breathe and are there." 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Some thoughts on Buddhism and Psychedelics

"The goal, cannot be stressed too often, is not religious experiences: it is the religious life. And with respect to the latter, psychedelic theophanies can abhort a quest as readily as, perhaps more readily than, they further it."
-- Huston Smith Forgotten Truth

RF: There is a story about a Buddhist master who was asked if you could use drugs to attain enlightenment. He said, "I sure hope so." And when Zen Master Soeng Sahn was asked what he thought about using drugs to help in the quest for self knowledge he said: "Yes, there there are special medicines, which, if taken with the proper attitude, can facilitate self-realization." Then he added: "But if you have the proper attitude, you can take anything - take a walk, or a bath. "

Could you say more about sadhana? What is the right attitude? What are those qualities of mind and action that are basic to the Buddhist path?

JK: Okay, I am thinking if there is some linking question that comes in between these two. There is really. I will mention it briefly and then I will go into the development of sadhana.

First of all, I have the utmost respect for the power of psychedelics. They are enormously powerful. They have inspired and opened and awakened possibilities in a lot of people in really deep ways. They have provided transformative experiences. In taking a tempered view of them it does not mean that I do not have a lot of respect for them, and for the work that researchers like Stan Grof and others have done.

My sense from my own Buddhist practice and from the tradition as a teacher for many years is that people underestimate the depth of change that is required to transform oneself in a spiritual practice. It requires a very great perspective called "a long enduring mind" by one Zen master - which means it can be days, weeks, months, years, and lifetimes. The propensities or conditioned habits which we have are so powerfully and deeply ingrained that even enormously compelling visions do not change them very much. Therefore, the system of liberation taught by the Buddha, and other great masters, draws on several different aspects or elements of life to help empower such a deep transformation. The Buddha said at one point, "Not good deeds, nor good karma, nor merit, nor rapture, nor visions, nor concentration, nor insight. None of these are the reasons I teach; but the sure heart's release, this and this alone." The possibility of human liberation is the center of his teachings. The liberation from greed, hatred, delusion, and the liberation from the sense of separateness and selfishness. This is a very compelling possibility for humans and it is quite profound.

To come to this level of illumination, first one has to discover the power of those forces in the heart and mind that bind us. In the beginning it may sound like the forces of greed, hatred, and delusion are a little dislike of this and wanting of that, and not being so clear about things, being confused, or not seeing so deeply. But when you have undertaken a deep spiritual practice of whatever kind, and I will include psychedelic experiences as part of that, you begin to realize that what is meant is Greed with a capital "G," the most primal kinds of grasping; and Hatred meaning Hitler and Attila the Hun in the mind; and Delusion meaning the deepest dark night. The forces are tremendously powerful.


Even among the relatively conscious explorers of contemporary psychedelics, addiction and attachment has sometimes been a problem. Even more critical is the overly positive message about both the spiritual and the casual use of these drugs that has been adopted by quite a few people who could not handle them well at all. As many of us who have used psychedelics have discovered, it is not an easy path. What matters from the point of view of this precept is to make their use non-habitual (which means occasional). If one uses these substances, whether it is a glass of wine, a joint of marijuana, LSD, or mushrooms, this precept says to make that a conscious and careful part of your life. Without these precepts, if one even begins the journey, they will get lost or go off the track. You can not complete the journey until you get the basics right. This is really a very simple message...

-Jack Kornfield from Zig Zag Zen: Psychedelics and Buddhism

A response in Hardcore Zen:

Recently, I was deeply disappointed to find a putrid little book called Zig Zag Zen taking up a big hunk of shelf space allotted to Buddhism in the local Supermarket `n' Bookstore. As Zig Zag Zen postulates in its first chapter, the boneheaded notion that getting bombed out of your gourd is the way to find reality is a pretty easy conclusion to jump to. But that notion is as sensible as thinking you can take off the weight gained from twenty years of shoveling nothing but Oreos, Pringles, and Big Macs down your gullet by swallowing a few miracle diet pills. 

-Brad Warner

My own thoughts on Buddhism and Psychedelics are similar to the quote above all of this, and can maybe be better summed up by Robert Aitken: "The things of this world are not drugs in themselves. They become drugs by our use of them." What this means, essentially, is that anything can be a drug and anything can be an opportunity for openness and seeing clearly. Psychedelics can be great catalysts for such opening, but they can also be drugs. Most likely most importantly, though, is that psychedelics are not necessarily different from taking a walk (though of course they seem wildly different because of our discrimination, our judgment, so so seem so, so special and unique, when a walk can be just the same, with the right mind). In other words, if everything is approached with care and as an opportunity for clarity and insight, then there is no need for any "drug" to experience such a thing. That's the meaning of practice, and that's where "drugs" can be a hindrance, an obstacle: we can't do drugs all the time (or, we can, but then we're just doing drugs all the time, escaping, rather than freeing); we have to return, and be, ordinary reality, and it has to be in and as ordinary reality where we find the non-ordinary, which is also completely ordinary. I view psychedelics as just another part of the larger experience leading to open, spontaneous mind, a thing that can point, a thing that can reveal (neurosis and fears and etc) and so helpful in the pointing, but like the zen thing goes, just a finger, not the moon, and thus, only a very minor part of larger practice.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

A very short new writing thing, "How to be a Buddhist in 12 easy, randomized steps" is up on Bumf here.

Also on my birthday I learned that this story in the Missouri Review will be in the next volume of the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

Otherwise summer is in my bones and flesh and we are crawling around in each other, so bye for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The day bloomed outward
from the bedclothes of the sun
like a detonation, like
the lifetime's work of the eye,
little red likelihood, and
then things were more visible,
how the houses came to be
built on a hill at the end
of the boulevard we were driving
down when you said "Somebody
thought about this road" as if
the grand design of mercurial
American wealth promised
into the landscape was thinking
and of course it is, the way
holding out your imbricated
fingers - "here is the church,
here is the steeple" - is
thinking, a lifetime of exchange-
values is thinking,
architecture is thinking for us,
mnemonic devices such as
Every Good Boy Deserves Favor
are thinking for us, the radio
is remembering only for us,
it has nothing else in mind,
nothing is nothing if not thinking,
we are driving east into the history
of thought along the Embarcadero
which is suddenly named Galvez,
even the road is having second
thoughts, we talk about our mutual
friend whose wife thinks
that if you stare at objects
hard enough you can see
their particles swarming lucently
like moths around a lightbulb,
how every lightbulb is a thought,
each cartoon bubble moored
invisibly to our heads is a thought
but what fills it is thinking,
"The world is too much with us"
is thinking, work is work
but surviving to write book
after book about it is thinking,
"I am nothing but must be
everything" is pure thinking:
the brain in flames like a permanent
seizure, like a tree filled
with bright birds burning
near the edge of the gated city
when the sun has not set
exactly but landed in plain sight,
it turns out to be a dull sphere
about sixty feet across cast
from iron and a few of the heavier
elements, it was originally designed
by Michelangelo to fit inside
the Sistine Chapel, circling
perpetually over the nave,
lighting everything evenly that
objects would be more visible,
such was his thinking, such was
his lifetime of work which
you would have done for free,
for the fire in the brain's fold -
you will not eclipse yourself
with the old fury when you're old,
nothing stolen, nothing
borrowed, nothing sold

                 -Joshua Clover

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some sentences about some books that I've read this year

Understudies by Ravi Mangla - reads like a more generous and less sprawly Mary Robison, which just means it's really funny w/out being impressed by itself.  Adults who have never learned how to be adults and crave watching others in order to know how to be themselves, a learning we all do forever.

Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan by Kazuaki Tanahashi- biography of Ryokan, but am convinced that this is actually a handbook for leaving society in order to be a wandering zen monk and live in mountain hermitages.  Some interesting discussions of Ryokan's calligraphy and why it's so good and spontaneous and raw, same as his poetry.

Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish - feel like the word "beautiful" is pretty much the only thing to say about these stories, even the dark or fearful ones, especially those ones.  All the stories here are seen through to their beautiful existences, the beautiful fact of their often horrible occurrence.

Hill William by Scott McClanahan - a reminder that we were all ten once and being ten meant being slightly insane and free and loving and stupid and wanting everything to be just perfectly everything, except in what I imagine to be a shitty "mountain town" like the one I lived in in east Tennessee for a year and had to escape from.

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard - a guy sick with himself and sick with society, culture, people, so sickened to the point of almost catatonia, almost unable to interact, even with himself, as though his sick thoughts are their own prison, and they are, until these little openings happen and his understanding of his sickness reveals his love of others.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Social Media as Evidence Against Buddhism

Twitter = clear evidence that people’s deeply unconscious belief that unceasingly expressing things they think/feel somehow makes (not just the things thought or felt) but themselves more real, and the information, from other Twitter users, is that yes, this is true, the things one thinks and feels are, in actuality, the only real things, and these are the only things that make one a person, a being living on this planet, and expressing these things in 140 character segments is the closest we’ll all ever come to reality.

Facebook = the idea that the self, not only not unreal, is displayable and explainable for everyone, and that every FB user indicates a self that is static and unchanging, and that this self in FB is maybe even more real the self not in FB, the self living out in the world, which might mean that our better selves are all in FB and that FB is here to show us our true and better self. 

Pinterest = the notion that craving and wanting are somehow dangerous is disproven by the joy of collectively sharing one’s wants, and that material things, even just pictures of material things, even just looking at pictures of material things actually bring happiness to everyone by allowing everyone to understand that their wants are not strange, are acceptable, and that we should find as many things to want as possible. 

Instagram = epitomized by the selfie, is yet another proof that selves exist, are displayable, and that our best selves are often inside screens.  More importantly though, Instagram, unlike FB, eliminates needless language, the baggage of FB, and by focusing only on photos, on selfies, we understand that our bodies are our self, and that these bodies will last, thankfully, in either this world or another, forever.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Union Pacific
by Joshua Clover

That about which the Buddhists teach
That the certain life belongs to the uncertain,
That life in which nothing belongs to us for even
The length of a century, which is nothing: Om.
The life in which all streets are named for thieves,
Trees and thieves, the life in which the thief-and-tree
Is the sign of the West, the life in which there are
Seven spheres extending out to heaven from the Union
Pacific switching yard in Wyoming near midsummer,
The heaven we are not allowed to see in this life: Om.
The life which spent a third of a century maneuvering me,
Solitary, rouged in the fine dust of the Chimney Rock Ranch,
To the end of Ivinson Street in Laramie near the
Continental Divide where the railroad companies planted
Their feet in a bracework of steel and cracked open
The West the way a bear, a holy animal (first thought
Only thought) might crack open a Buddhist,
By skull and by ribcage, the white containments: Om.
From the Buddhists we learn that a holy man may own
Half a wooden bowl and replace it every seven years,
About seven bowls a century, about how long the life
Of the great railroads lasted, the Life of Seven bowls
In which you couldn’t see the forest for the thieves: Om.
Yesterday, I watched a pair of children taking off
The red Chimney Rock dust in a stone bowl
Rifted by a petty cataract of water, one basin
for the two of them, just the right amount, they were flying
From rock to rock, they were almost oblivious
To the story of the West, it was the Fourth of July,
It seemed possible they could be damaged,
The parents were watching too, through a camera,
From the corner of an eye, view within a view,
The second thought which cradles the first thought
Like a bowl inside a bowl, four times more
Than I am allowed even here, in the other life

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I was walking to teach a class on a Wednesday, I think, and it was raining, and whenever it’s raining, I have the half-sarcastic thought that I’m “in nature.”  Like, somehow, the fact that it is raining, reminds me that I’m outside, and that while I’m sort of moving from building to building, man-made edifice to man-made edifice, that somehow, this is all capital-n Nature, that all – even those massive garbage islands in the ocean – are somehow contained within a pure and undefiled state of existence, that we might call capital-N Nature, not just trees and animals and etc.  And it was raining pretty hard, too, which I like, especially while being under an umbrella, because an umbrella is a kind physical embodiment of what I feel is my almost-constant self-conscious cloaking mechanism that I use against the larger world: averted eyes, a mainly blank facial expression, an often confused, far off look, as though I were contemplating the fleetingness of life by watching distant clouds slowly morph and distinegrate, but what I’m really doing is trying to avoid human interaction because, you know, I don’t know what to say to you.  But I sometimes do stare at clouds as though they’re little individual selves curiously becoming nothing right before me, and you’d be surprised at how just thinking that thought alone would make people averse to your presence: it’s impossible to explain, but completely empirically true.  Anyway, on the way to my next class, rain raining pretty hard, three people (a guy and two girls, I think), were under one enormous umbrella, each with a cell phone of some kind held out at arm’s length, photographing themselves in the rain.  I felt momentarily endeared to them, these people capturing this moment.  They were smiling and laughing and kind of pushing each out from under the umbrella, into the rain.  One of the girls took a picture of herself catching rain on her tongue.  It was nice enough, a moment of people being people, though they did check their pictures immediately after taking them, which seemed suspect somehow, but I was willing to just observe, detached and calm.  After this though, I started observing beyond my little bubble-of-self contained by my umbrella, and I saw other people doing similar things.  There were people walking to class, holding a phone out, taking a picture as the rain came down.  There were people under trees, pretending to get some cover.  There was one kid, I’m not kidding here, who, after running from his car, umbrella-less, and was completely soaked, quickly snapped what appeared to be an annoyed-looking selfie, then went into the building where his class was being held, kind of stamping along, mad at all of life. There were other people like mock running.  I saw a group waiting at the entrance of one building and then, one by one, sprint to a tree another tree another building and finally the entrance of their destination, and at the same time they were running, they were taking pictures: as though they were participating in an athletic event of some kind.  There were, of course, some other people, just hurriedly walking, but I could almost intuitively sense them thumbing their phones in their pockets, waiting for a moment to prove: rain, and they were in it, had experienced it.  What an experience, rain.  What an experience, me, doing something, anything. 

So anyway, I kept walking.  On the campus where I work, there’s a big flight of concrete stairs, outdoors, leading from a lower part of campus to a higher part of campus, and some people were jumping down the stairs to a large puddle.  I was about to go up the stairs, but I waited and observed.  Some students were like taking a picture of themselves as they leapt off a high step to a landing where two sets of stairs met at a right angle, and a largish puddle had formed.  They were basically jumping into this puddle and trying to catch the effect of the water splashing them as they took a picture.  It seemed pretty complicated, slightly creative, and generally confusing, especially with the addition of the picture-taking, but it was, again, another individual experiencing another experience that needed not be experienced but only recorded so that they could know they had experienced it.  So, on one such jump, some student jumping from a high up step onto the landing with the puddle, this student tripped as he landed in the puddle.  He took this huge leap, from very high up, his body way off the ground, and as he landed, he tripped badly, dropped his phone which went skittering off the steps and into some bushes, and then what I saw happening before it even occurred was that this kid was now falling out of control down the next flight of steps, and the kid’s body pounded into a group of seven to nine high school students (who take Freshmen classes on our campus and are easily delineated by their diminutive stature and higher voices and who were all walking up this flight of steps) and in order to steady himself, the jumping-now-falling kid was waving his arms around wildly and he seriously tagged this one girl real good right in the chin (I actually saw her head lurch backward and heard that distinctive smacking thwap of a punch) and this sent her tumbling backward down the steps into her now retreating group of friends, all of this occurring slow-motion-y, her body backward down the steps on her butts, now covered in water.  My mouth, I kid you not, was open.  Not all of high school kids fell, most of them just kind of retreated back down the steps, and helped the girl who got accidentally pegged in the face with a fist not fall so hard.  After this occurred and both groups stopped what they were doing, and after this leaping student briefly checked on the group of high school kids, he went hunting in the bushes for his lost phone.  I could hear him saying things like, No way.  No no.  Not today.  One of his more concerned friends was asking the girl, who basically got punched, if she was alright, and it turned out she hadn’t been hit in the chin like I thought, but had been hit in the eye.  Her friends, after pulling her to her feet, gathered around, assessing the wound, and they variously said things like, Oh yeah, that’s bad, and, It’s black already, etc.  Through tears, while the other student searched for his phone, she said she was fine, and as the high school kids walked away, I observed them each taking a photo of her face, and then she pulled her phone out and took several selfies to see the damage that’d been done.  I walked up the steps with an atypical sense of care, and really tried to listen to the rain. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

some types of tweets

in celebration of new thing about Twitter and the Universe now up at New World Writing, here are some types of tweets: 

observationally neutral tweet depicting "absurd/hilarious" situation

self-promo tweet

self-promo tweet via seeming to promo some other thing causing self-promo-ing to seem worse

self-deprecating tweet about current "situation/emotional state," meant to be funny, but often sad

how drunk someone was tweet

drug "experience" tweet

serious "political" tweet linking to article about race/gender/class

the sharing recipe tweet

creative/imagistic tweet about utopian/dystopian future caused by "technology"

tweet wishing tweeter could say something "insane" in a "normal" situation

the quoting a famous person tweet

regretting food choice tweet

the tweet created out of boredom that seems determined to be as strange as possible

philosophical tweet about "existence" meant to be some end understanding of some aspect of life

"unexpected/cute/hilarious" thing tweeter's toddler recently said/did tweet

the cryptically angry tweet in which tweeter vaguely accuses a group of people and labels them "unkind/ungenerous/etc"

the haiku tweet

the live-tweet as unintentional code for needing social interaction tweet

the "i-predicted-right" tweet concerning sports

the making fun of athlete tweet by pointing out some repetitive behavior: "does Kobe always have to/does Nadal really need to"

the string of tweets that appear really quickly and are well composed that show the tweeter was really revising all these tweets for a while

Friday, November 15, 2013

Life in this moment is fresh, raw and new. But when we think about this essential fact as an idea in our heads, we get stuck, wondering about what we can understand and what we can force into our categories. When we think about “the freshness of life”, it isn’t fresh anymore, it isn’t alive. Freshness of life means opening the hand of thought. Only when we do so can life be fresh. Zazen is this “opening this hand of thought”. It is the posture of letting go…

Some people begin with the practice of shikantaza and then give it up quickly because it does not give them that feeling of fullness or because it bores them….

People who try to get one big satori do not accept that they must live their life with all of its freshness and vigor. Even in strictly biological terms, we can only live by taking this breath in this moment. Living means breathing this breath right now. When it is a matter of living this fresh life, it is of course not enough to simply think about your life in your head. Instead we have got to accept it as the vigorous life that it is. Only like this will we discover an attitude and posture which is fresh and vigorous.

-from To All Who Are Still Dissatisfied with Your Zazen

also: a great read about sexual predation in a Zen sangha, here.