James Martini archive

Date : September 2011 (6)

Shaving the Buddha

Categories: Buddhism
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Published on: September 17, 2011

I like shaving. A lot.

This might be surprising to friends and family because I frequently sport a day or two’s growth. You’d expect that as my favorite grooming activity I’d do it as frequently as possible but there’s a cap on how often you can reasonably pick up a razor without going after other parts of your anatomy.

Quite a lot of meditation is wrapped up in focus and, at least in some traditions, mindfullness. There are entire traditions based almost entirely in simply paying attention to what is going on, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and being focused on what is as opposed to what was or might be.

I don’t think there is any other activity that so absolutely focuses the mind as drawing a piece of incredibly sharp metal across your throat. When sitting my mind wanders and drifts. When shaving there is only the blade. Lack of attention or attempting to hurry is rewarded with immediate correction. When I think about it, I’ve picked up a razor and put it to my throat far more times than I’ve sat on a cushion and attempted to train my wandering mind which is probably why, in those few moments, I have what I struggle for the rest of the day: presence and patience.

For one minute, a few times a week, everything falls away and I’m absolutely connected to what is happening. I’m not worried, I’m not afraid, all the mental static goes silent. A tool designed to divide what is one instead unites what is divided.

I’m not sure I could be prouder

Categories: Journal
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Published on: September 10, 2011

Emily has decided that she wants to sing “Still Alive” from Portal for the talent show at the end of the school year. I’ve already found a karaoke version and she’s upstairs singing.

Starting Achievements

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Published on: September 9, 2011

Starter Diet (no fast food for a week):
Started: 9/9/2011
Days Completed: 1
Stay Away for Seven Days (no soda for a week):
Started: 9/9/2011
Days Completed: 1
Grasshopper (30min meditation a day for a week):
Started: 9/9/2011
Days Completed: 0
Nablopomo
Started: 9/9/2011
Days Completed: 1
Twitter Shitter
Started: 9/9/2011
Days Completed: 1

Is Buddhism Really That Depressing?

Categories: Buddhism
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Published on: September 9, 2011

I’ve been reading What Makes Me Not a Buddhist and although it’s a short book I find that it’s going very slowly. Not because the content is particularly challenging, the first couple chapters are essentially a rehash of the story of Siddhartha Gautama, but because on the surface it appears to paint a very drab and pessimistic picture of life, the universe and everything. This has to be confusing for the outsider because the general public image of Buddhism here in the west is that of smiling monks in maroon and saffron robes.

I think that things generally go awry when discussing two basic principles of Buddhism: suffering and emptiness.

Nihilists
These men are not Buddhists

I want to /facepalm every time I hear the phrase “life is suffering” uttered or written in reference to Buddhism because it is so pernicious a misstatement and so counter to our everyday experience of life. It’s no wonder that people unfamiliar with Buddhism reject it as some strange nihilistic philosophy. How can anyone accept a philosophy with the statement “life is suffering” as one of its basic principles when life so obviously can be pleasant, joyful, beautiful and even ecstatic?

Part of the problem is that the original word, tanha, doesn’t mean specifically physical suffering although that is part of it’s meaning. It also means unsatisfactory, unfulfilling, and incomplete so when we say that all emotions and pleasures are suffering it makes absolutely no sense to the casual listener and we sound like a bunch of pretentious emo douchebags.

Life is unsatisfactory and incomplete. We and yearn and ache and shop looking to find that sustaining joy or pleasure and always come up short. We know deep down that the new clothes will fade and go out of style, we know that the new car will break down and, in our honest moments, we know that we will age, sicken and die. We pursue pleasure and flee from discomfort. Our now isn’t perfect so we feel nostalgia for the past and look to the future, to the horizon, never mindful of where we are and what we are doing. Certainly everything has within it the seed of dissatisfaction but honestly, all life is suffering?

Emptiness is another phrase westerners run across with respect to Buddhism that seems to get thrown around and misunderstood. I’m not going to get into it right now but say what you like about the tenets of Buddhism, at least it’s an ethos.

The Things That Just Pop Into My Head

Categories: Halloween
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Published on: September 2, 2011

It’s a Raymond Chandler evening
at the end of someone’s day
and I’m standing in my pocket
and I’m slowly turning grey

I remember what I told you
but I can’t remember why
and the yellow leaves are falling
in a spiral from the sky

There’s a body on the railings
that I can’t identify
and I’d like to reassure you
but I’m not that kind of guy.

It’s a Raymond Chandler evening
and the pavements are all wet
and I’m lurking in the shadows
because it hasn’t happened…

…yet.

Robyn Hitchcock via James O’Barr

LOL: Resistance Is Futile

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: September 2, 2011

I was weak. I thought League of Legends looked pretty cool but didn’t want to pick up another game habit with SWTOR just around the corner. Unfortunately I got to talking about it with a friend who was looking for someone to play with rather than grouping with random psychopaths. So I thought, well it’s free, I’ll check it out just to see what all the hype is about ignoring the first rule of dealing with a dealer: you never accept the first one for free.

I’ve got things I need to do. There are the regular chores, my reading list, writing in this thing, guild related work, the gym, EVE… well, you get the idea. I absolutely cannot add another addictive game into the mix which is why I’m uninstalling League of Legends.

 

 

Just as soon as I’m done with this next match…

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