Showing posts from January, 2013

Those Still Wild Places

When you’ve lived in one place long enough you notice how it changes over time. You see the revitalization of some previously downtrodden neighborhoods even as others slip into decline. You see old farms paved over for the sake of car dealerships and strip malls, and vacated railroad rights-of-way transformed into linear parks or public transportation lines. Progress is like that, isn’t it? Some good things, some not so good things; it’s hard to say in balance where we’re headed (although climate change is a pretty good indicator). One thing is certain right here and now, however, wild places are disappearing and with them something that we don’t even yet know how to value. Every patch of woods that’s cut down in order to build up a subdivision of new homes is a loss of connection to the natural world. Every open space that’s filled up with some new development or other is a loss of spaciousness in our minds.
The effect of this so-called “march of progress” has been like a wound deep…

Dogen's 'Being-Time' - Part 2

This post is the second of two exploring Uji, that fascicle of Dogen’s Shobogenzo known to many as Being-Time. 'Being-Time' - Part 1 introduced Dogen’s primary thesis, that we are time, by thinking of “it” from an all-encompassing, cosmological perspective and then scaling back down to that of our human experience. This follow-up post will examine some of the examples Dogen uses to convey the nature of this reality that we are time. The following passage is a great place to start:
[Being-time] is the actualization of being. Heavenly beings like gods and celestials are being-time. All the things in the water and on land are being-time. The world of life and death and everything in them is being-time; it continually exists, actualizing itself in your present experience. Everything exists in the present within yourself.
Continuous existence is not like the rain blown by the wind east and west. Continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself. Consider this illustrat…

Dogen's 'Being-Time' - Part 1

From my first ponderings as a young child intrigued by the deep time of both the fossil record and the cosmos alike, to the graduate level coursework in Einstein’s theory of relativity that I managed to survive on my way to deciding against an advanced degree in physics, I’ve always been interested in the nature of space and time and the answers “out there” waiting to be found. Of course I now know that space and time are not two separate entities at all; rather, they are so inextricably linked as to only meaningfully be referred to as space-time. Ah, but I risk getting ahead of myself.

I suspect that Dogen Zenji, the 13th century monk so prominent in Japanese Zen, was likewise interested in what answers might be found “out there.” What else could have motivated him to embark upon a dangerous maritime journey to China in the hopes of assuaging his greatest doubt? In time, however, Dogen came to realize (as did this author) that all of our searching “out there” only leads…