remembering


Dazu-Sleeping-BuddhaOLD NOTEBOOKS: In the midst of my contemplation of this Chinese Buddha, along comes an image that becomes a memory; it’s all these objects of reverence and holy things that seem to clutter this central object of focus, the continous chanting by Buddhists from all countries and dressed in different kinds of costumes with bells and accessories, and accouterments… and my own sense of reverence.

When I was a young guy I stayed with an Anglican priest in a Victorian vicarage until I could find my own place. It was my first job, supply teacher in a rough high school in East London, just before Christmas and I hadn’t really thought about it, coming from the far North East, a heritage of strong whisky, fishing boats in the North Sea and gales. Christmas wasn’t meaningful there.

By comparison, everything in London seemed soft and gentle, small wrapped gifts from everyone and I was opening them in my room, when the Church bells suddenly start ringing, it was a collosal din coming from above my room. Did they have bell-pullers? I didn’t see anything to indicate that, and the Father came in dressed in a black cassock, wide-eyed and important and apologised for not telling me about it but it was a cassette tape player and could I come and see – shouting the instructions above the huge noise, and could I please check on these cables reaching up through the ceiling to the huge speakers in the bell tower, carefully placing the cassette player on the small carved clerical table and the wound copper cables stretching dangerously upwards. And I understood I was to watch them for a while to see they didn’t come loose then come downstairs to the service and he’d indicate with a nod when to run up and switch off the cassettte player.

Everyone who came to see the Father just assumed I was a trainee priest and smiling all the time, I felt inspired about being a ‘believer’, but what in? Didn’t seem to matter it was just a sort of space I was occupying at the time; really nice (compared with the storms and savage battle history I’d recently escaped from, best kept quiet about). Aspiring towards the state of being goodhearted, without knowing what exactly I was doing and hadn’t yet discovered what the question was, Looking but not ever finding the opportunity to discuss this kind of thing with the very tall young curate who was always in a hurry; dashing around washing the dishes in this Victorian kitchen with huge taps; abundant generosity with his smiles although kinda narrow in his views.

I happened to show him a leaflet the Hare Krishna guys gave me , dancing in the street with a drum. And the curate said: Oh dear, God on a bad day , and gave it back to me. So I thought about that answer for a long time and it really sounded not bad considering it was not exactly accompanied with any kind of intelligent question. But it did inspire the thought; what might God be like on a good day? So that must have been the question I really wanted to ask this curate, I thought later up in my room, the shape of a large cross that used to hang there where my bed was, and had left the original pattern of the beautiful old Victorian wallpaper in the faded room… it was shortly after that I left for Asia.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”. [Albert Einstein]

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25 thoughts on “remembering

  1. it’s all these objects of reverence and holy things that seem to clutter this central object of focus,

    The earliest Buddhists didn’t allow images of the Buddha or worship of relics.

    When I was in Ajanta Caves in 1989 a guide with a light took my girlfriend and I around one of the caves, explaining each painting in turn as we passed. When we got to the Buddha image at the head of the cave – probably one of the earliest in existence – I was overwhelmed with sudden awe and reverence. Both of us gasped and spontaneously dropped to our knees – something completely unprecedented. I later learned that many others, including Japanese author Yukio Mishima, have had the same experience before that carving.

    The insight I later overlayed on it was that the earliest Buddhists were right in banning images. Not only do they tend to deify and idolise the Buddha – putting his awakening beyond mere human aspiration – but they encourage us to look outside ourselves for the answer.

    Oh dear, God on a bad day

    And Tom Waits told us who that is.

    (“Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil there’s just God when he’s drunk”)

    • Wow, Tom Waites’ words on the subject. I’m now listening to few of his other recordings that come up at the end of the video. There ain’t no Devil there’s just God when he’s drunk, brilliant observation. Really cheered me up this morning. Thanks. People get too much into the accoutrements of worship to the extent they can’t see anything but the story of it. The Book of Revelations should throw you on your knees immediately. So good to hear from you again, thanks…

      • All is myth. Everything down to Higgs field must be I feel. Someone just last week told me that exact line about the Devil last week responding to an essay of my own. That is a synchronicity. I took from all creeds what felt right and left the rest. I am not anything, but that. What other image can be there but I? I follow none, but I resonate greatly with Zen and Taoist teaching because it helps to develop that most important tool, the intuition. If you don’t have a good one, now just passes you by. But oh to be aware in the moment and feel it singing. That is how Tom’s song makes me feel. Very thankful for this interaction. Peace.

    • There’s a sort of randomness about it all, just disconnected pages, some handwritten, observations and things that touch the heart, but without a medium like the blog – weblog, would have never come to light. Thanks, I’m aware there’s this powerful door, now searching for more…

  2. Thanks for sharing this inspiring piece. I like how you reflect on the inner process, especially the following sentences:
    “Aspiring towards the state of being goodhearted, without knowing what exactly I was doing and hadn’t yet discovered what the question was, ”
    and
    “But it did inspire the thought; what might God be like on a good day? So that must have been the question I really wanted to ask this curate,”

    • Thanks Karin, it’s been (it is) a stormy time of arbitrary thoughts at times as I try to come to terms with the health condition, everything coloured by the powerful meds I’m taking. It came to me that if I should think well of myself, my body, like the child I once was then I would become open to everything in a better way; what might God be like on a good day? The curate was rather abrupt and could have stepped out of a Harry Potter movie. But there’s been a few moments of insight going through these old papers, some of them so old and brown, blue biro pen cursive scribbles, etched into the paper, hard to read, or fountain pen ink almost faded away, and a word or a thought, a memory or something comes out of it.
      So I think I’ll go on with it in this way for a while. Thanks for dropping in.
      T

  3. Beautifully written T. I can relate to the vulnerability and slight dazedness of being an observer in a place that is out of our element.
    London was soft and gentle and so darn civilized and gentile. I remember thinking that everyone was acting and noone was really real.

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