Robert Adams writing about the loss of places of solitude and quiet: "developers have unbalanced the ecology and made much of the geography ugly . . . When I was fifteen . . . I was hired . . . to help take campers on horse pack trips through Rock Mountain National Park. The landscapes I saw . . . were for me formative . . . partly because of the hushed isolation in which we encountered them: it was unusual to meet anyone at all . . . for days at a time. Twenty years later . . . it had become unusual to follow a major trail for more than five or ten minutes . . . without meeting long lines of hikers . . . I discovered eventually that there was more privacy in City Park in the middle of Denver than in walking the high peaks . . . Admittedly not everything dies outright by crowding. What almost always perishes, though, is a loveliness that sustains our desire for life to go on and on."
And he writes in response to this: "Part of our disillusionment is a feeling common to many people at any time. Keats expressed it: 'To think is to be full of sorrow.'
Philosophers and writers have sometimes said we have to do without hope . . . On the evidence, however, hope is necessary to the survival of what makes us human. Without hope we lapse into ruthlessness or torpor; the exercise of nearly every virtue we treasure in people—love, reason, imagination—depends ultimately for its motivation on hope. We know that our actions come to little, but our identity a we want it defined is contingent on the survival of hope."
I was struck by what he says because I have had similar experiences, and experienced similar disillusionment and sorrow (as have many others right now with the amoral and spiritually bankrupt situation we find ourselves in politically and economically). And I know too the experience of being in a supposed place of solitude and quiet (for instance, last summer in Mount Rainier National Park) and finding more quiet in a little park in the middle of downtown St Petersburg. There are days when hope seems naive . . . but as he suggests, nonetheless necessary . . .
"Either you look at the universe as a very poor creation out of which no one can make anything or you look at your own life and your own part in the universe as infinitely rich, full of inexhaustible interest, opening out into infinite further possibilities of study and contemplation and interest and praise." Thomas Merton
One of yesterday's three photos. It reminds me of those in an exhibit at the Museum of Art here: The Open Road, Photography and the American Road Trip. The exhibit shows the work of many photographers who drove across the country making images of the (as Stephen Shore called his book) "Uncommon Places" that often go unseen because they are so ordinary and so often on view
that we don't even notice them.
This morning, I listened to some of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs from the 60s: "The Boxer" and "I Am a Rock" and my special favorite "America." They all came along when America was adrift and I in particular was adrift—lost really. There is a line in that song that resonated very strongly with me then and I have always remembered it with emotion: "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why." Anyone who has ever paid attention to the world around them, especially in times of great uncertainty and disappointment—and/or has lived through depression—can understand why that song line speaks so powerfully to such moments. "America" also has a line "they've all come to look for America." Aren't we today all doing that again?!!
Loori told many stories about Zen teachers, two of which say much the same thing: the Flower Garden Sutra "says that lands teach, beings teach, all things and all times teach." And the Amitabha Sutra says: "rivers, birds, trees and groves all invoke the Buddha and the teachings." Loori took these teachings to mean that to see, really see involves what he called "intimacy," which is 'seeing form with the whole body and mind, hearing sound with whole body and mind'." Which means being fully present, here and now. Loori was a photographer, and he taught that photography involves precisely this sort of intimacy, especially being fully present. As he also wrote,"The whole thing happens right here, in this very moment." So the image yesterday came from a moment on a beach; this morning's came when I was waiting for a bus downtown. Everything is a teacher; everything can awaken us to reality ("enlighten" us).
John Daido Loori wrote: "In the Flower Garland Sutra . . . In the the sutra's most resounding metaphor, the Diamond Net of Indra, all existence is seen as a vast net of gems that extends throughout the universe, not only in the three dimensions of space but in the fourth dimension of time as well. Each point of this huge net contains a multifaceted diamond which reflects every other diamond, as such essentially 'contains' every other diamond in the net."
Think of it this way: when one views a photograph, Indra's Net is being demonstrated: meditating on the photograph above, the tree, gull, water, rocks, air are all present, as are the various intensities of light entering the lens of the camera, which is being held by the photographer who has framed the image, a photographer with his history, perceptions, intuition, ideas and memories, who is sharing the air and light with the tree and gulls and rocks, and the viewer too is present with his/her own history, ideas, perceptions,, related not just to to what is perceived in the image, but to the air, earth, etc. of the viewer in that moment of time. Everything is related, interdependent on each and every being present. Everything arises together and is interdependent with everything else. Thought of this way, the Cartesian view of the separation of the subject and the object is seen to be a radical oversimplification of what is, in fact, as a Buddhist might put it, as a delusion.