Monday, December 1, 2014

REPOST: another potpourri post -- the one under the bodhi tree

I usually foist cat videos upon you at the end of posts, a casual ta-da, my te-deum wannabees. Here's one to begin with, for a change.

It's been a big day for Dobby, RuntChild of Marmy Fluffy Butt, and Friend to All. We discovered yesterday that he had his first health issue in four years of life: dread dandruff around the base of his straightforward, stumpy tail.

"Hark! I'm on it," I yelled, or something like that.

The ensuing stream of information from my astute googling of "dread dandruff, base of stumpy tail" mostly consisted of attempts to sell pet products, from dandruff-control shampoo to very expensive food and supplements. I finally hit on some non-commercial sites that all recommended beginning with a Washing of the Cat before spending big bucks on vets, all-salmon diets, and cat whisperers.

 I shared this with Fred, who snickered.

We don't bathe our cats unless there is a compelling reason having to do, usually, with Kling-ons of the Poo Variety, or after unfortunate encounters with, say, a skunk. Our cats are now all indoor pets and don't encounter much in the way of Stink Inducers. They just don't require bathing. I brush each adult cat daily, and grab Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten whenever I can. 

Dobby happens to have a grooming fixation. You don't even have to make a brushing motion to brush him, just hold the darned thing at an angle and he proceeds to brush himself across the bristles, purring in an insane manner.  One of my first thoughts upon finding the flecks of crusty leavings was that we were going to end up on an episode of Intervention.  He must be grooming in secret.  He probably has a stash of secret brushes and hair product.  When he yowls at me about needing a few moments to himself among the  litter boxes, he's really meeting his over-coiffed feral friends by the back door, trading mousse.

Yeah, well, anyway. I got the message: Fred was not going to be much help in the quelling of this never-before-bathed cat. It's not that he is mean or anything, it's just that when he has his Mission Face on, the animal that is his beloved pet becomes an abstracted goal. The last time he cornered Marmy (in my office), he scared her so badly that she lost control of her precious bowels. In. my. office.

So I decided to give Dobby a good wash this morning, while The Manor slept.  Let the success or failure of the undertaking lie on mine own shouders, alone.  {put-upon-sigh}

It went really well. I whispered sweet nothings to his twitching ears and wild eyes, and Dobby kept his considerable cool. I think I was even efficient. And now that the cat is happy and dry again, there is nary a sign of the dread dandruff.

None of which has anything to do with this video.
Nope.
This was recorded during the last minutes of the Pre-Bath Era.  Buddy had been following Dobby around in a worshipful fashion, as The Dobster had somehow regained control of the Gang of Three.  Dobby feels called to entertain the huge kitten -- in this instance, with flicks of his small, dandruff-afflicted tail.

We can only hope the rest of this potpourri post will be as tight as its introduction.

video

One of the functions of my Potpourri Series posts, in gustatory terms, is to be a palate cleanser. They're usually pleasant little amusements of the bouche, cutting through the unctuous as well as the outright greasy -- and the saccharine, the cloying saccharine.

My favorites are the traditional fruit sorbets. Maybe a shot of Calvados.

If you need to make a run to the grocery store before continuing, go on! We'll hold your place and promise not to say or do anything meaningful until you get back.

{whistle::whistle}

Ready? Okay, then.

In the course of speaking with folks these past few weeks, I've not worked very hard at subterfuge. Feeling disgusted with my life and what I've done, and not done, with it, I've steadfastly broadcast that disgust.

Or, if not feeling so explicit, I've challenged my inclination to annotate the truth when I happen to write it. By detailing myself to death, I have the delusion of being more accessible. Yes, I know, your experience doesn't bear this out!

I wrote the following about all that roughly two weeks ago, and didn't know what to do with it. But you know what the primary thought behind a Potpourri Post is? Why, none other than "whose blog is it, anyway?"! So, read it, don't read it, I don't care. It just had to be written, and now, it has to be published -- much in the way people must publish legal notices.

I needed something to happen, but had no clue how to shepherd that need.  And so I hurt my back this morning, at roughly 4 AM.  As a happening, that will have to do, and what it has done in only six small hours is interesting.


There's been an increase in my ability to focus but a marked decrease in my tendency to edit myself to shreds.  i'm ashamed, i'm so ashamed.


Which means that you, Dear Reader, may be the loser in this unbalanced equation. Oh, stop rolling your eyes.


I appreciate those of you willing to wait around as I cycle through the Crap of Life, being careful to jot down every bewildering, self-aggrandizing detail.  Maybe you feel relief at being invited to someone else's train wreck?  [That's okay.  If I can serve as Object Lesson so that you may avoid some catastrophe or other, why, Hallelujah and I'm glad to be of use.  If you just get off on my misfortune, well, may the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose.]  i'm ashamed, i'm so ashamed.


One of this blog's functions is to siphon off the incredible head of self-pity I manage to work up in the course of ordinary time.  Disguising my dedicated victimhood as justifiable anger fools no one;  Passing it off as a transitory reaction to a transitory situation is fundamentally dishonest.


So don't worry, Dear Reader, I am taking myself to task.


This hasn't been a Pity Party, here, of late.  No, this has been a Clemency Hearing for an Angry, Self-Referential, Wannabe Dadaist -- anything any pretense any snobbery any available snoot or snark, just so I don't seem a run-of-the-mill sorry-for-myself Loser.


It's a straight-jacket, it's solitary confinement.
i'm ashamed, i'm so ashamed.


Withdraw sense!
Violate expectations!
Question convention!
Do these prison duds make my butt look big?

That's right, I know I am in a prison, and I know it is of my own making.

A lucid moment, then? Sure, for a few more paragraphs. There is a certain sense to then writing about the robes of Buddha.

Right?

Ha! All I remember is doing some housekeeping in the middle of the night, and spending a serene few minutes oiling and sprucing up one of my Buddha statues. As I reviewed that litany of "i'm so ashamed," my mind reached for the comfort of a Jesus, a Buddha. [It may also be that Steve Jobs' life and death were preying on my tired brain.]

I went back to the computer that dawn and finished writing that unpublishable post, this way:

Anyway, the Board of Pardons and Paroles tells me to "[p]lease leave, if you don't mind," and The Warden bakes me sheet cake after sheet cake decorated with Pithy Sayings like "We left the doors unlocked" and "Here's a VISA Gift Card and the keys to my car."


Still I persist, defiant, defending meaninglessness with shrill, more-better words, all the while dressed in this silly orange jumpsuit.  What do I have to do to escape the Bad Fashion inextricably associated with my Bad Karma?  Awake the Buddha within?


I am not wasting my life by stewing in anger.
I don't subject the people (and critters) I love to oxygen-depleting roars of frustration.
Never, ever have I wished ill on another person.


Well, not unless you've been listening closely or paying attention.


I tend to leave out an important part of my story.  The playing the hand that's been dealt part.  The no one is responsible for my happiness but me part.  The this is my one shot part.


But back to the crux of the matter:  looking good while suffering, the Buddha art of dressing.  See, Buddha was Buddha because no body could be as oblivious as Buddha. Buddha is always good for a smile!


The only answer to "What did Buddha wear?" is that he wore traditional mendicant clothing, which was usually a rectangle of recycled, pieced-together cloth that was then washed and dyed with vegetable matter, ending up a color most often labelled as "earthy," which in turn has elicited "ochre" and "saffron."  The one calls up a little low brow, the other wiggles a little high brow, but who may say that another is attached?


Anyway, that is what Siddhartha Gautama chose to wear in his seeking life, both before and after he sat under the Bodhi tree.


Of course, at the end of the day, even if all is as it is, there are still people who cannot sleep for worry. These are the people who create need -- in this case, the need for a tradition based on established rules that no one had yet bothered to tease out.


Worried people are pure trouble.  Take, for example, the most obvious of admonitions for this, or any instance, of robing discussion:  "To make a Zen Buddhist robe, one should be a Zen Buddhist monk."


See what I mean?


The story I prefer about how the first codification of the traditional three-piece Buddhist robe came about goes like this:


After his enlightenment, he began to teach and many of those who heard his teachings – mendicants, former teachers, householders, even his own family and royalty – left their pursuits and followed him forming the Sangha of monks and, later, nuns. Their clothing was not codified, and various sutras refer to a variety in dress, some of it fairly fantastic. Tradition has it that those who ordained with the Buddha, as well as the Buddha himself, primarily wore the mendicant clothing of that time, essentially the same worn in India today; they all wore some version of a simple, serviceable, Kashaya robe.


This caused a problem for a Buddhist king named Bimbasara, who wanted to pay homage to Buddhist monks but was having trouble picking them out of the crowd. One day, he complained and asked the Buddha to make a distinctive robe for his monks. They were walking by a rice field in Magadha at the time, and Buddha asked Ananda, his personal attendant, to design a robe based on the orderly, staggered pattern of rows of the rice padi fields.


The progression then becomes predictably sorrowful: how to distinguish among monks by depth of study, power, wealth, or breeding; how to work in the fields with such billows; how to stay warm; and the enduring problem of symbols -- how to use them as distinguishing marks, in a world where they still matter and your indifference to that is completely feigned?


The bars of my prison are insubstantial.  The work I do, in words, the work that really makes me sweat, barely keeps enough stiff steel in those things to support the hint of a plaster ceiling.  Even the most malignant of talk, the nastiest of recollections, weeping sores and raw bloody hurt, over and over and over -- slithering in thick salve -- can't link those syllables into any kind of meaningful chain.


I used to think that the Buddhas and the Jesuses of this world were, above all, supremely abstracted men. They attracted adulation because of the blank canvas that being vague afforded.  They were safe, safe and dangerous. They were walking permission, benevolent, tall and broad and big!  Letting everyone pause that extra special, most needed second, that little empty moment where we can hear what's right and bask in it.  Darned if they don't expect us, though, to then stroll the stroll.


I'm wrong, of course.  In the middle of all that placidity and reality that bends and drapes, are Fudo Myoo, Angry Buddha, Acala -- flaming sword and rope.


Acala Vidyârâja is one of the Vidyârâjas (Myôôs) class of deities, and a very wrathful deity. He is portrayed holding a sword in his right hand and a coiled rope in his left hand. With this sword of wisdom, Acala cuts through deluded and ignorant minds and with the rope he binds those who are ruled by their violent passions and emotions. He leads them onto the correct path of self control. Acala is also portrayed surrounded by flames, flames which consume the evil and the defilements of this world. He sits on a flat rock which symbolizes the unshakeable peace and bliss which he bestows to the minds and the bodies of his devotees.


Acala transmits the teachings and the injunctions of Mahâvairocana to all living beings and whether they agree to accept or to reject these injunctions is up to them, Acala's blue/black body and fierce face symbolize the force of his will to draw all beings to follow the teachings of the Buddha. Nevertheless, Acala's nature is essentially one of compassion and he has vowed to be of service to all beings for eternity. 


And Angry Jesus, we shiver with delight at Angry Jesus!  Sure, there's the old toss the money-lenders from the temple, and he heats up the Queen's English over scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites"!  My favorite pissed-off Jesus, though?  That'd be The Case of The Withered Hand.  [The business about the Sabbath is a smokescreen.]


"Jesus looked around at them with anger, for he was deeply grieved that they had closed their hearts so."


That's where I think compassion comes from -- that space between active anger and paralyzing grief.


It was at this point that a good sleep happened along, and I escaped pain and prison in the camouflage of snooze. The truth may well set me free but I will opt for sleep every time.

Dobby is strutting his stuff, proud of his new sheen, and enjoying the dandruff-free life of a care-free cat. Me? I'm still ashamed of myself, still fighting when being would be easier. Back to not sleeping but -- thank goodness -- resisting the urge to write.

Be good to yourself, Gentle Reader.

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