Friday, April 29, 2011

Bluerass In My Soul


I was raised in eastern Kentucky and bluegrass music is in my blood. I can remember, when I was young, the old men at the courthouse on Saturday night with guitars, fiddles and banjoes singing hill music.

I like classical, some country, most rock and roll; but can’t stand rap – that is until now.

There is a show on FX network called Justified that I look forward to each week – it’s about Harlan County Kentucky, in the western part of the state: but it’s a little bit of Kentucky I can identify with. Each week at the beginning of the episode they play a theme that caught my attention.

I researched it on the net and found Bluegrass Rap by a group called Gangstagrass – and I like it.

I'm including a clip: If you like bluegrass you may like this.

This one is about West Va. coal mines: same in Kentucky mines.
Blue Grass RAP - I'm sold!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The Christians are coming and they are not very nice people.

Actually that’s a paraphrase of a George Carlin statement. And he was right.

The latest news is that a legislator in Louisiana proposed a law to criminalize abortion and would require a 15 year prison sentence for any woman undergoing the procedure or any doctor performing it.

Check out the article at Mother Jones: CLICK HERE

Let’s call it like it is. We tend to say the far right that is driving the Republican Party are the grass root conservatives seeking smaller government – This is not the case. These people are fundamentalist Christians and their agenda is to create an American Christian theocracy. They believe in a fundamental interpretation of the Bible – and they want a government that will enact and enforce their beliefs.

Here in Maine it was the Catholic Church of Portland that spearheaded a drive to defeat a Gay Marriage law that was offered to the people as a referendum. They actually took up collections in church to fund their campaign. They were joined by all the religious fanatics of other faiths, and with big money from outside were able to kill the bill.

Here in America we are being indoctrinated to fear Moslem fanatics; but, we should fear Christian fanatics – they are the biggest danger to our democracy.

The last time Christianity held sway in America
Witches were burned

Sunday, April 24, 2011



I’m a biker, not the Harley type, but a real biker; and have been all my life. I bought my first bike back in 1958 – a Triumph. Since then I have owned a slew of bikes – including one Harley that never ran right.

After I retired from the Navy my wife and I attended college. For the four years we lived in an old hunting camp with no water, no sewerage and no electricity: and our 650 Yamaha was our main source of transportation.

Three years ago, after returning from Alaska, I bought a Honda Shadow 750 – touted as my last bike:  It's a  sweet bike that gets 55 mph packing both my wife and me. It was due for a tune-up…set the valves and new plugs etc and I told my wife that I wasn’t about to pay $250 for someone else to do the work for me – I have always worked on my on ride.

So out I go and spend about $100.00 for metric tools including a special $40 special wrench that Honda said you need to do the job. Today was the day – a warm sunny day forecasted in Northwestern  Maine. I hit it at nine this morning – what I thought might be a two hour job turned into and all day marathon. Just in order to get to the valves I had to rip most of the bike down. Getting the cylinder heads out of the tight morass of hoses and wiring harnesses took me over two hours. Two trips down to VIP for an ultra thin spark plug socket they didn’t have, etc. and I'm getting pissed.   It's a pretty machine, but I won’t go into the lunacy of the placement of the bike motor parts and their inaccessibility.   I finally completed the job and started putting it back together.

Two screws left and I’m done; but the cylinder head bolt seemed to need one more turn.

Fuck it! The screw broke off. Now I’m screwed. Tomorrow I will rent a trailer and haul the bike to a repair shop. Best case scenario is they will be able to use and easy out and retrieve the broken screw – worst case scenario … $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

I use to have an old friend up in Rangeley that always commented “God damn I!” when he fucked up. Well God damn I!

There's coffee when the whiskeys gone
But there is whiskey for tonight
(song by Dave Mallet)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


(About as close to religion as I can come.)

I have been a practicing Buddhist since the 1970’s when I first read The Three Pillars of Zen by Roshi Philip Kapleau.  I have studied under a number of teachers (books) since then; my favorite is Steve Hagen’s Buddhism Plain and Simple.

As you might have noticed, my Buddhist beliefs do not align with any particular Buddhist sect; and this, I think, is probably as the Buddha would have intended. Most Buddhist sects will insist that the only way to be a Buddhist (to find enlightenment) is to have a teacher, meditate, practice the Darms (Buddhist teachings) and belong to a Sangha (Buddhist community/ church.)
Buddhism and the Sangha  

I have read, in many Buddhist magazines, that enlightenment is only possible through the trinity of meditation, the Darma and the Sangha.   This, of course, has been promulgated by teachers who are, or were involved in Sanghis; and who also state “you must trust your teacher.” 

I visited my first Sangha a few months ago.   I experienced all the robes and the gongs and the ceremony.  Everyone seemed to be focused on who could endure the most discomfort by sitting the longest in meditation  – who could count the highest before the squirrel ran through their mind (attention deficit), and who could honestly avow that it was all being done for nothing – with no expectation but to emulate the Buddha.

It was unstated that if you must ask why am I doing this?   The answer was - there is no reason – and if you had to ask you didn't get it.

I have no problem with people who feel they benefit by guidance from direct transmission, and for those whom the religious overtones of the Sangha make a connection.  I do, however, take exception with the idea there is only one way. 

I could make the analogy that all the members at the Possum Lodge (the Red Green Show) must play dead whenever they hear a loud noise in order to immolate the passivity of the possum (Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati - when all else fails play dead.)  And why would you want to do that?  If you have to ask you obviously haven’t obtained the possum truth. 
I believe the Buddha’s message was that you do not need Gods, or religions (Sanghas,) or ceremonies; you do not even need the Buddha (What should we do if we meet the Buddha?...Kill him.) .

 He taught that each person has the ability of the Buddha. What part, if any, of his story is true is not important – his life is an analogy of teaching.   You pass through here for a short time – a mere point in the space time continuum. You can not control your life – yesterday and tomorrow are illusions – you can only try to live fully and consciously in the NOW before it’s gone. 

The Buddha sent his teachers out, not to form churches as the necessary path to enlightenment, but to inform the masses that their quality of life, regardless of their situation, could be improved if they would release their stress and live in the moment – that they must accept the things they can not change and change things that need changing, and learn to be satisfied with their lot. 

How marvelous,
How Wonderful:
I chop wood,
I carry water.

Before enlightenment,
I chop wood,
I carry water.

After enlightenment,
I chop wood
I carry water.

Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths to explain that there is no happily ever after, and that the monkey that constantly runs through our mind is a major reason that out life wheel is out of kilter; that in order to bring our life back into balance we must be able to accept our hardships and focus our minds in order to cage the monkey.  

This is where I take exception to the idea that there is no objective to be desired from meditation.   In meditation there is no one blinding instant that we suddenly realize we are brighter then we were thirty seconds before.  However, it is only through the practice of meditation that we can discipline our mine; and, only by disciplining our mind can we cage the monkey that is a major cause of distraction to living in the NOW.    We can only achieve and maintain mindfulness through the continued practice of meditation.

After presenting us with this realization, the Buddha offered us the Eight Fold Path as his suggestion for living a wholesome life of fulfillment. 

The Buddha stressed that we should believe no one – not even himself.   That we should accept no doctrine on faith; follow no guiding principles, except those that we personally find valid.   


Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well.
After a near death experience I came as near to enlightenment as possible.   There was a dawning that I was alive in the moment.  Everything that I saw, felt, tasted and experienced was magnified and grandiose: colors appeared more vivid, smells were exotic and the feel of rain, or snow or cold on my body was exhilarating. 

Unfortunately this last for a month or six weeks, or three months at the most, but gradually my life morphs back into the distracted existence where concerns, worries, prejudices and other distractions send me blindly through an existence of reaction and consequence.  It takes a conscious effort through attention and meditation to remain conscious of how wonderful and fragile life is.

Buddha sought the meaning of life by experiencing religious dogmas and seeking learned teachers.   He performed strict regiments of austerity and self discipline rejecting all pleasures of life while seeking some magical moment where he could experience an awakening beyond the mere conditions of human existence.  But when he was near death and at his lowest ebb, he perceived the beauty of a young girl; the wonderful taste of rice and the refreshment of cool water.   This was his awakening.   The meaning of life is – that for the moment we exist – and during this moment life is wonderful if we will only pay attention, and NOW IS ENOUGH.   Beyond this there is no meaning of life.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Buddhism Simplified


The analogy of what our life can be is a wheel spinning in perfect balance. When we randomly add weights to the circumference of the wheel (desires, concerns, dogma, pain, obsessions) then the wheel begins to run out of kilter. Our life becomes  tense and our health suffers; our relationships suffer. We are not happy – we do not feel fulfilled.

There are no Thou Shall and Thou Shall Not’s in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddha made no threat of hell and no promise of life after death. We must remember that the Buddhist texts (like the Bible) were not written until five hundred years after his death; and were written for a religious Asian population, who considered an ox drawn cart to be cutting technology. When you distill down to the very basics of the philosophy you will find that the Buddha only recommended a path to a fulfilled life in the present. This path is as valid today as it was in his lifetime.

The very basis of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths. This is where the Buddha addresses the root causes of a discontented life.

The 4 Noble Truths

1. Our lives are often out of balance because of self-induced stress.

2. Stress arises from our own dissatisfaction: from unquenchable desires, from our resistance to change and from the realization of our own mortality.

3. When we are capable of realizing the origin of our dissatisfaction we can bring our life back into balance

4. We may not be able to end our problems, but we can end our dissatisfaction and embark on a wholesome lifestyle by following the Eight Fold Path.

The Eight Fold Path is not an edict but a formula for wholesome living.

The Eight Fold Path
1. Right View: Focus on the NOW without concern for the past or the future. Look at the world as it really exists. Put aside all beliefs, dogmas and expectations of others. Rely on logic and your own judgment. Accept only what you see as real.

2. Right Intentions: Consciously move toward a life of enlightenment (contentment in the NOW) and insure your actions hurt no one. Realize that material objects are impermanent and should not become of major important in your life. Never allow a dissatisfaction to become an obsession. Accept the circumstances you cannot change and change the things that you are capable of changing

3. Right Speech: Speak the truth, but never speak to injure.

4. Right Actions: Apply yourself totally to the present moment. Focus only on the endeavor at hand. Harm no one. Act in harmony with the environment and with all sentient beings.

5. Right Livelihood: Seek a profession that is fulfilling and causes no harm.

6. Right Effort: Meditate. Keep your mind clear of distractions. Accept your present condition. Free yourself of dogma and religious and political cant. Show compassion for all living things. Work diligently.

7. Right Mindfulness: Cherish this moment. Recognize and put aside all prejudice. Accept that pain is sometimes a natural part of living. Be aware of the impermanents of all things.

8. Right Meditation: When random thoughts obstruct your focus on the NOW you are experiencing a monkey mind. The practice of meditation can discipline you mind and sharpen you focus. Zazen is my meditation of choice.

Can Buddhist practice solve all your problems?

A ZEN story:

A farmer approaches the Buddha who is sitting by the roadside.
Farmer: “Oh great teacher I have come to you for advice.
Buddha: “What is your need?”
Farmer: “I have many troubles. My farm is rocky and the ground is hard; I can barely raise enough to feed my family. When I am away my wife is with other men. My children do not respect me and my dog hates me. We have had too little rain this year and I have lost my rice crop; and, on top of all of this I am growing sore and stiff with age. Tell me great teacher, what can I do to be rid of my troubles?
Buddha: “Nothing.”
Farmer: “Nothing? What kind of advice is that?
Buddha: “We all have 67 troubles. If you solve one on the top another will take its place on the bottom. You will still have 67 troubles.

Yet, another ZEN story:

A man joins a monastery known to be very strict. The monks in this monastery are allowed to speak only two words every ten years. After ten years the monk comes before the abbot. “What have you got to say?” says the abbot. “Bed hard,” says the monk. Ten years later the monk again comes before the abbot. “What have you to say?” ask the abbot. “Food stinks,” replies the monk. Ten years late the monk again meets with the abbot. “What have you to say?” ask the abbot. “I quit!” replies the monk. “Well, I’m not surprised,” replies the abbot. “All you ever do is complain.”

You put your right foot out
You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

The next blog will recap and bring to closure Buddhism as a lifestyle.