Friday, December 08, 2006


Sometimes I just sits, Garden Pond, Amherst, NH, July 2006, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f4.6, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
My Aunt Maria asked me to read the life of Dr. Chalmers,
which, however, I did not promise to do.

Yesterday, Sunday, she was heard through the partition
shouting to my Aunt Jane, who is deaf, "Think of it!
He stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak,
and he wouldn't read the life of Chalmers."

-- from Thoreau's Journal (March 28, 1853)
I laughed out loud when I read this quote. It is a rare person who can stand and face the familial expectations, cultural norms, and (especially in today's age) the media's pitch. But there is no other way to find your authentic self. And very few others really have that as a goal for you. They want conformity. They have roles to be filled. They need cogs to be well greased.

Do you hear or feel or sense that inner voice? It doesn't care about what others expect. It wants you to want to begin the journey. To search for the woodland trail blazed years ago, but now overgrown by the intertwined vines of rules and expectations, and the thorny brambles of indoctrination and conformity.

And if you think you might see it -- notice some signposts from a deeply covered trail -- then resolve yourself to clear the path. First and foremost for yourself, and then as a service to others that may wish to follow.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

-- Thoreau, from the "Conclusion" to Walden

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dancing with the Wind

Dancing with the Wind, Sydney Harbor, Sydney, Australia, October 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/680 sec @ f5.0, ISO 95, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

It was a very windy day. Just take a look at the size of that sailboat, and its angle to the water. The crew have all hiked to the windward side, to counteract the heeling of the boat. Wind and waves were battering the many sailboats in the harbor -- it looked scarey to me, but clearly this was an exciting day for the sailors. One thing is for certain, these folks were fully engrossed in their task, and giving their all to avoid capsizing.
Divided You Suffer, United You Dance -- Osho

Do things with your whole heart, with as much intensity as you are capable of.

Anything done halfheartedly never brings joy to life. It only brings misery, anxiety, torture, and tension, because whenever you do anything halfheartedly you are dividing yourself into two parts, and that is one of the greatest calamities that has happened to human beings -- they are all split. The misery in the world is not surprising; it is a natural outcome of living halfheartedly, doing everything only with one part of our being while the other part is resisting, opposing, fighting.

And whatever you do with half of your being is going to bring you repentance, misery, and a feeling that perhaps the other part that was not participating was right -- because following this part, you have attained nothing but a miserable state. But I say to you: If you had followed the other part, the result would have been the same. It is not a question of which part you follow, it is a question of whether you go totally into it or not. To be total in your action brings joy. Even an ordinary, trivial action done with total intensity brings a glow to your being, a fulfillment, a fullness, a deep contentment. And anything done halfheartedly, however good the thing may be, is going to bring misery.

Misery does not come from your actions, neither does joy come from your actions. Joy comes when you are total. It does not matter what action you are involved in, misery is the outcome when you are partial. [...]

When your mind, when your heart, when your being is pulled in two directions simultaneously, you are creating hell. And when you are total, one, an organic that very organic unity, the flowers of heaven start blossoming in you.

People have remained concerned about their acts: Which act is right and which act is wrong? What is good and what is evil? My own understanding is that it is not a question of any particular act. The question is about your psychology.

When you are total, it is good; and when you are divided, it is evil. Divided you suffer; united, you dance, you sing, you celebrate.

What the heck does he really mean?

In the end, I think he means to trust your heart. Don't 'analyze', 'rationalize', or 'keep your options open'. Give all of yourself to whatever your endeavor. Remove self-doubt, break through the façade of indifference, and commit in spite of the risk.

Live as though today is the only day, and love as though you have found your true one, because indeed everyday and everyone should be just that. Give yourself entirely to the Now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Autumn Reflection

Autumn Reflection, Tucker Pond, Warner, NH, October 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/630 sec @ f4.5, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
The world is your mirror.

The good you find in others, is in you too.
The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.
After all, to recognize something you must know it.

The possibilities you see in others, are possible for you as well. The beauty you see around you, is your beauty. The world around you is a reflection, a mirror showing you the person you are.

To change your world, you must change yourself. To blame and complain will only make matters worse. Whatever you care about, is your responsibility. What you see in others, shows you yourself.

See the best in others, and you will be your best. Give to others, and you give to yourself. Appreciate beauty, and you will be beautiful. Admire creativity, and you will be creative.

Love, and you will be loved. Seek to understand, and you will be understood. Listen, and your voice will be heard. Teach, and you will learn.

-- Unknown author
Surely, this is overly simplified, perhaps even a bit Pollyanna, right? If there is injustice, inequality, and despair in the world, then what the world needs are acts of altruism, assistance, and activism, not self-indulgent naval gazing. Right?

I don't know. I find these to be powerful words, that strike in me a resonant chord of truth.

These ideas do not work well in the world of "them" and "us". If our goal is to manipulate, cajole, conquer, or exploit, then I don't recommend this be adopted as your manifesto. And of course, that is the point.

This reflects the great insights of all of the religious and mythic traditions of the world: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In any language, from many cultures, the so-called Golden Rule. And why is that wisdom universal? In our work-a-day world, because it is the only concept that will "scale". At the level of truth, because it reflects the inherent wholeness and oneness of the world.

We reflect others in our mirror, because that is the mirror of awareness. Awaken to that ultimate truth. You, and only you, hold that power deep inside.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunset at sea

Sunset at sea, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/361 sec @ f4.7, ISO 102, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
You are the endless sea
In whom all the worlds like waves
Naturally rise and fall.

You have nothing to win,
Nothing to lose.
You are pure awareness,
Nothing less.

You and the world are one.

So who are you to think
You can hold on to it,
Or let it go?

How could you!

-- Ashtavakra Gita 15: 11-12

"... You have nothing to win, nothing to lose ..."

Can you even imagine such a concept? You do not need to compete with your neighbor. No need to grab your piece of the pie before its all gone. Fear need not be the motivating emotion, and it can be replaced by compassion and acceptance.

"... You and the world are one ..."

Why would you compete with yourself? Why would you want to take what is already yours? You must see the truth of this. We are not separate individuals, nor are we separate from our environment. We are an integral part of the flow that is life itself.

These really are not "concepts", since conceptual thinking (and words themselves) imply the world of duality. Try to experience these realities, by living your life as if they are true. See if they don't resonate with something deep inside of you. What's the worst that could happen? You would be living more "gently" with your neighbors, and with the world itself.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Heart light

Loi Krathong Festival, Anantara Resort, Chiang Saen, Thailand, November 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/15 sec @ f3.6, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
Turn on your heartlight
Let it shine whereever you go
Let it make a happy glow
For all the world to see

-- from the song Heartlight, written by Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager
I was lucky enought to visit Thailand a while ago. And lucky enough to have headed to the northern area, up near the border with Laos and Burma (now Union of Myanmar). And luckiest still to have been there in November, when Thais hold their "Loi Krathong" festival. Here is a brief explanation:

As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual called Loi Krathong - the 'festival of lights". This is one of the Kingdom's oldest and best-preserved traditions.

In the Northern Thai provinces that were once part of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, the Yi-peng Northern Lantern Festival is still being celebrated. Tubular lanterns, resembling hot air balloons, are lit and released into the night sky as an offering the Lord Buddha. As hundreds of illuminated lanterns drift into infinity, this conjures the same sense of wistful closure as the krathong float downstream.

I had the pleasure of participating in both types of ceremonies, but I must say that the the one pictured in the photo (a close up of the light-weight "balloon" as it lifts itself from its own heat) was most impressive. Throughout the week, different communities would celebrate on different nights, so if you were paying attention, you would see hundreds of flickering lights rising up into the starry sky, each time from a different location. Really beautiful and really moving.

I like to think of it as an expression of compassion offered from one community to all those who can see the slow-dancing heart lights, floating so gently, so peacefully, ever higher. Once released, this compassion will just follow the flow of the evening breeze, and we cannot be sure where it will go, and who will be affected by it.
"Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people."

-- Mother Teresa

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Watching the wheels go round

St. Ignatius of Loyola Dome, Rome, Italy, September 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/5 sec @ f2.8, ISO 400, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

This is a spectacular dome, in a rather inconspicuous church in Rome. But when I look at it in this photo (compressed into two dimensions), I see a wheel. A beautiful wheel, but a wheel nonetheless. Perhaps that was becuase I was looking through my library for a photo to go with the song below.

You've probably heard John Lennon singing "Watching The Wheels", but have you ever really focused on the lyrics. They are amazing.

Have you ever considered stepping off the merry-go-round (of work, of consumerism, of the media), and just watch the wheels go 'round? Check out the lyrics below and consider reflecting on them during some quiet time:
Watching The Wheels
John Lennon

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

People asking questions lost in confusion
Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and look at me as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sun, moon, shadow, and time

Moonscape, Keoneheehee Trail, Haleakala volcano, Maui, Hawaii, February 2004, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f5.0, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
The shadow by my finger cast
Divides the future from the past.
Behind its unreturning line,
The vanished hour, no longer thine.

Before it lies the unknown hour,
In darkness and beyond thine power.
One hour alone is in thine hands,
The now on which the shadow stands.

-- A poem inscribed on a sundial at Wellesley College

We were up there, with a gaggle of other caffeine-starved tourists, to watch the sun emerge ever so slowly from the moonless starry darkness, through imaginary caverns carved in the thin air of 10,000 ft with blackened hues of violet, indigo, and crimson.

Waiting, as time passed achingly slowly in this cold, windswept, but revered "house of the Sun", which is the translation of Haleakala. Muted whispers mix with chattering shivers as we wait to see the star of the show make his entrance, toying with his audience for greater effect.

Slowly, the footlights brighten, as a hush falls over the crowd. This morning there are but a few clouds, and so the star, now having ruffled the curtain a bit, burst forth onto the stage in an instant.

Almost too fast for our eyes to adjust, time seems to race ahead, surely at a different speed than just moments ago. Don't blink -- or you will miss it. Don't blink, and you may go blind. This is the closest I hope to ever get to witnessing a distant thermonuclear explosion -- which, of course, is exactly what it is.

And what of that sundial poem? Only this. Time is but a mental concept to place our lives and our world in a seemingly continuous stream of events. Did you know that your view of time, and my view of time are not necessarily the same, and are not linked to some abstract and absolute watchmaker or his timepiece?

Time is but a part of the space-time fabric of our universe, and each of us only understand time relatively. If you were to journey toward this distant star at any appreciable speed, strange things would happen to you and your clock (from my perspective), but everything about you would appear the same to you. To me, your clock would slow down (and to you, it would stay the same, and instead, my clock would speed up). Also, your mass and size would change (from my perspective) -- you would get heavier and wider -- more so the faster you traveled.

These are not imaginary, metaphysical constructs. If my twin brother returned from such a journey, he would indeed be younger than I. He would have aged less than I, according to my clock. And I would be older than he, according to his clock.

So what about that poem again? The only time that matters -- the only time where life exists -- is this moment. Each moment is fresh, open to your conscious appreciation. Past moments do not exist, except in your mind. Future moments do not exist, except in your mind. When you quiet your mind, you realize that any time we spend haunted by our past, or worried for our future, exists only Now, in this moment, in our mind.

It illustrates the importance of this moment. You choose how you will live your life in the here and now. You can either use your mind to reminisce (or be haunted) by the past, or you can dream (or worry) about the future. Or you experience the creative moment that is unveiling its glory at this very instant. When you are mindful of this reality, rather than the fiction of the continuum of time, you will experience the essence of life -- its richness, its beauty, the harmony, the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things, because in reality they are all one, born anew each moment.
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

-- Seng-Tsan, “Verses On The Faith Mind”
In essence, you have billions of lives to live, each moment to moment. If you are dissatisfied with your current self, not to worry, for it dies in this instant -- to be reborn in the next. There is only one moment, each moment, to live this new life. How glorious will your next sunrise be?

Friday, December 01, 2006

What is the essence of Buddhism?

Daddy Longlegs, Amherst, NH, October 2006, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f2.8, ISO 160, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I hadn't realized how long it had been since I last posted. What a strange process -- devoted to daily posts one day, and then just drop it like a ton of bricks the next. Don't ask me to explain -- I cannot.

So to ease back into my blogging routine, I thought maybe I could augment my words and thoughts with selected quotes. Or just use them outright. We'll see how it goes.

My arachnid friend, looking at me from a dew-covered hosta, asks ...

What is the essence of Buddhism?
"Respect all forms of life, and then compassion and affection toward all sentient beings, with the understanding that everything is interdependent - so my happiness and suffering, my well-being, very much have to do with others."
-- Dalai Lama
Probably a smart philosophy for each of us, and is certainly appreciated by the little guy with really long legs. And also consider:
"In general the teaching of the Buddha is very vast and profound, it is not so simple as to grasp it in one time. If we had to summarize the complete teaching of Buddha we would see that all is included in two main points, that is:
• cause no harm to any sentient beings,
• always try to benefit all sentient beings; or, if we are not able to benefit others we should at least avoid all harmful thoughts and actions."

-- His Holiness Trijang Dorje Chang.