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Friday, August 7, 2015


brice marden
han shan series
Things are changing so fast within, it makes me wonder what is going on. I have my friends I like to see, and do see them, and find the circle shrinking. Not because of people dying out, rather that I am drawing inward at a noticeable rate. Like when I'm used to driving fifty and then am going eighty. It takes more focus. The purpose behind the change from urban living to country road was to move inward, solitude however I define it. I saw my house a monastic retreat, a monastery of one following no religion, the still point of my interior journey to the heart of things invisible. I could not lock myself down in a belief system evolved over centuries and millennia of filtering through the male ego. I mythologized self an American Han Shan living outside the world on Cold Mountain. The likeness was thin, though the spirit close. Han Shan's Cold Mountain has accompanied my time in the mountains like he and I lived parallel lives in different times, different parts of the world, he in the mountains of southern China, I in the mountains of Southern Appalachia, America. It is here that I chose to live out my life in the world, not of it.
han shan
Talking about food won't make you full,
Babbling of clothes won't keep out the cold.
A bowl of rice is what fills the belly;
It takes a suit of clothing to make you warm.
And yet, without stopping to consider this,
You complain that Buddha is hard to find.
Turn your mind within! There he is!
Why look for him abroad?
                         ----Han Shan
                           tr Burton Watson
han shan
Han Shan has been my companion in these hills. Many others too, Robert Bly, John Berryman, Henry Miller, Tu Fu, a long list of good reading, Julio Cortazar, Naguib Mahfouz. I have a way of seeing other people's stories, poems in relation to mind, heart and spirit. I like my scriptures to have all three. Poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, histories, I read in the same spirit as reading scriptures. I say, why do a select number of books about God take precedence over a story of someone's life, the poetry of Nirala, Rumi, Hafiz, Rilke, Yeats? Possibly that a scripture is something one can read many times and see new meaning every time as one advances along one's path. The Gospel of John is about as incredible as scripture gets, and the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist Sutras, discourses of masters who have reached enlightenment. What I mean by mixing poetry and fiction and stories of people's lives with scripture is the subject of all the scriptures is the human heart. The people I know, I know by their hearts. Since letting go of desires, I have unfolded to know the people I know by their hearts.
brice marden
han shan series
It's not like I see good and evil in somebody's heart. Not at all. The heart is where the other is coming from. I don't mean heart like purity or perfection, but heart as in where we're coming from on the inside. Everyone else is coming from the same place in themselves. Some may have the energies blocked off and don't flow so well emotionally. I see what we call good in everybody's heart. I see the heart of everyone I know is where the real individual is. That's who I like to connect with in people I know. Somebody whose heart is not open is of no interest to me. I like to know real people, people who live their lives as themselves without masks. My friend Lucas, retired English professor, once said, "When I see a guy with his ballcap on backwards, I know he has nothing to say that I want to hear." When I need a good laugh, I don't need to rent a Marx Bros movie. Only need to remember Lucas saying that. I have laughed over this sentence a thousand times, at least. I think it every time I see a backwards hat. It comes to mind and I laugh sometimes out loud. I know he knows what he is saying. He's talking from experience.
My experience with ballcaps backward is mountain boys who drive pickups, work construction jobs, a style of a given generation, the tattoo generation that listens to heavy metal. Them and guys in punk bands are the hat-on-backwards people of my experience. I think they're cool people. It is as in-yer-face an anti-intellectual statement as The Sex Pistols. It's a style, like long hair is a style, short hair is a style, hat forward is a style, hat backward a style, brim straight across a style, brim bent in a curve a style. Milly Richardson wears ragged old tshirts with holes in them. It's her style. Ross, her brother, wears cammo pants all the time. It's his style. Justin wears a tshirt, the image a deer head with big rack. It says, White Tail Hunter. It is truly Justin's style. Kid Rock is Justin's style. If I looked askance at Milly's ratty tshirts I'd take her for nobody home. But when I know Milly and Justin by their hearts, who they are, I see full human beings, the whole person present, people I'm happy to have the opportunity to know.
brice marden
han shan series

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