Monthly Archives: September 2015

Jack Gilbert

“The Lost Hotels of Paris”
by Jack Gilbert

The Lord gives everything and charges
By taking it back. What a bargain.
Like being young for a while. We are
Allowed to visit hearts of women,
To go into their bodies so we feel
No longer alone. We are permitted
Romantic love with its bounty and half-life
Of two years. It is right to mourn
For the small hotels of Paris that used to be
When we used to be. My mansard looking
Down on Notre Dame every morning is gone,
And me listening to the bell at night.
Venice is no more. The best Greek islands
Have drowned in acceleration. But it’s the having
Not the keeping that is the treasure.
Ginsberg came to my house one afternoon
And said he was giving up poetry
Because it told lies, that language distorts.
I agreed, but asked what we have
That gets it right even that much.
We look up at the stars and they are
Not there. We see the memory
Of when they were, once upon a time.
And that too is more than enough.

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Brian Sewell

Brian Sewell…..

On David Hockney

“ Half these pictures are fit only for the railings of Green Park. “

“Hockney is not another Turner expressing, in high seriousness, his debt to the old master; Hockney is not another Picasso teasing Velázquez and Delacroix with not quite enough wit; here Hockney is a vulgar prankster, trivialising not only a painting that he is incapable of understanding and could never execute, but in involving him in the various parodies, demeaning Picasso too.”

On Damien Hirst

“Were Hirst’s canvases the work of a late teenager, we might take the random lines around the skulls as a clever allusion to the measuring-points of a sculptor of Canova’s generation, or as an illusion of cracked glass, and forgive the ugly clumsiness of inexperienced execution; but Hirst is nearing his half-century and should have a far higher level of skill than this rough daubing, with which he degrades his master, Bacon.”

On Banksy

“Any fool who can put paint on canvas or turn a cardboard box into a sculpture is lauded. Banksy should have been put down at birth. It’s no good as art, drawing or painting. His work has no virtue. It’s merely the sheer scale of his impudence that has given him so much publicity.”

On Banksy and Bristol

The public doesn’t know good from bad. For this city to be guided by the opinion of people who don’t know anything about art is lunacy. It doesn’t matter if they [the public] like it.”

On Tracey Emin

“The sane man must ask whether he should give any of this pretentious stuff the time of day in aesthetic terms when it seems that this self-regarding exhibitionist is ignorant, inarticulate, talentless, loutish and now very rich.”

On female artists

“There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50% or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”

Brain Sewell

Han Shan

“A thatched hut, the place where a rustic lives

In front of his gate, horses and carts are few

The woods are secluded and dark – especially suited for birds to collect

The valley streams, wide and broad –from the beginning meant to hold fish

Mountain fruits, hand in hand my son and I pick

Marshy fields, together with my wife I plow

And in our house what do I find?

Nothing more than a bed full of books”

 

“Don’t you know the poems of Han-shan?

They’re better for you than scripture-reading.

Cut them out and paste them on a screen,

Then you can gaze at them from time to time.”

 

” Han-Shan has his critics too:

‘Your poems, there’s nothing in them!’

I think of men of ancient times,

Poor, humble, but not ashamed.

Let him laugh at me and say:

‘It’s all foolishness, your work!’

Let him go on as he is,

All his life lost making money.”

 

 

 

 

 

Zazen

Zazen

Meiho (1277-1350)

Zen-sitting is the way of perfect tranquility: inwardly not a shadow of perception, outwardly not a shade of difference between phenomena. Identified with yourself, you no longer think, nor do you seek enlightenment of the mind or disburdenment of illusion. You are a flying bird with no mind to twitter, a mountain unconscious of the others rising around it.

Zen-sitting has nothing to do with the doctrine of “teaching, practice, and elucidation” or with the exercise of “commandments, contemplation, and wisdom.” You are like a fish with no particular design of remaining in the sea. Nor do you bother with sutras or ideas. To control and pacify the mind is the concern of lesser practitioners. Still less can you hold an idea of Buddha and Dharma. If you attempt to do so, if you train improperly, you are like one who, intending to voyage west, moves east. You must not stray.

Also you must guard yourself against the easy conceptions of good and evil: your sole concern should be to examine yourself continually, asking who is above either. You should remember too that the unsullied essence of life has nothing to do with whether one is priest or layperson, man or woman. Your Buddha-nature, consummate as the full moon, is represented by your position as you sit in Zen. The exquisite Way of Buddhas is not the One or Two, being or non-being. What diverisifes it is the limitations of its students, who can be divided into three classes—superior, average, inferior.

The superior student is unaware of the coming into the world of Buddhas or of the transmission of the non-transmittable by them: they eat when hungry, sleep when sleepy. Nor do they regard the world as themselves. Neither are they attached to enlightenment or illusion. Taking things as they come, they sit in the proper manner, making no idle distinctions.

The average student discards all business and ignores the external, giving himself or herself over to self-examination with every breath. She may probe into a koan, which she puts mentally on the tip of her nose, finding in this way that her “original face” is beyond life and death, and that the Buddha-nature of all is not dependent on the discriminating intellect but is the unconscious consciousness, the incomprehensible understanding: in short, that it is clear and distinct for all ages and is alone apparent in its entirety throughout the universe.

The inferior student must disconnect himself or herself from all this is external, thus liberating himself from the duality of good and evil. The mind, just as it is, is the origin of all Buddhas. In zazen his legs are crossed so that his Buddha-nature will not be led off by evil thoughts, his hands are linked so that they will not take up sutras or implements, his mouth is shut so that he refrains from preaching a word of dharma or uttering blasphemies, his eyes are half shut so that he does not distinguish between objects, his ear are closed to the world so that he will not hear talk of vice and virtue, his nose is as if dead so that he will not smell good or bad.

Since his body has nothing on which to lean, he is indifferent to his likes and dislikes. He negates neither being nor non-being. He sits like Buddha on the pedestal, and though distorted ideas may arise from him, they do so idly and are ephemeral, constituting no sin, like reflections in a mirror, leaving no trace.

The five, the eight, the two hundred and fifty commandments, the three thousand monastic regulations, the eight hundred duties of the Bodhisattva, the Buddha-naure and the Bodhisattvahood, and the Wheel of Dharma—all are comprised in Zen-sitting and emerge from it.

Of all good works, zazen comes first, for the merit of only one step into it surpasses that of erecting a thousand temples. Even a moment of sitting will enable you to free yourself from life and death, and your Buddha-nature will appear of itself. Then all you do, perceive, or think becomes part of the miraculous Tathagata-suchness (true nature).

Let it be thus remembered that newcomers and advanced students, learned and ignorant, all without exception should practice zazen.

Meiho (1277-1350)

Excerpted from Zen: Poems, Prayers, Sermons, Anecdotes, Interviews edited by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto 1965

Satish Kumar

The Power of Arts and Crafts

Artists and artisans are alchemists. They transform base material into objects of beauty, utility and delight. Whether the alchemists of old turning base metal into gold is a literal truth or a metaphor is still debated, but there is no doubt whatsoever about the transformative power of artists and artisans.For millennia, potters have taken a lump of ordinary clay and revealed its extraordinary ability to be a pot of pure visual pleasure as well as a vessel to fulfil everyday functions of holding water and wine, food and flowers.Similarly, painters take pigments of red, blue and yellow of no great distinction, and put them on a pot or paper, on a wall or a canvas, and we witness the emergence of a great work, be it folk art or fine art.Materials used by the vast number of potters, painters, sculptors and basket makers are often inexpensive, natural and locally available.It is the power of patience and practice, the power of imagination and endurance, the power of our own hands, feet and voice, the power of the human spirit that transforms willow wands into baskets, stone into sculptures, wood into wardrobes, sounds into songs and words into poems. The joy of it all is that we are all potential alchemists. We are all capable of becoming artists and artisans.As the maker transforms clay into a pot, the clay transforms the maker into a potter. The capacity of clay to transform ordinary and unformed humans into evolved and self-realised sages like Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie is unquestionable. If there was no clay there would be no Cardew, if there was no paper or colour purple there would be no Picasso, if there were no flowers there would be no Vincent Van Gogh or Georgia O’Keeffe. As the artist is an alchemist transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, so too does the material bring about the metamorphosis of the maker.I have used the terms ‘artists’ and ‘artisans’ together, as I have used ‘folk art’ and ‘fine art’, because all artisans are artists, as all artists are skilled in their crafts. The distinction between arts and crafts is divisive and derogatory. Arts and crafts are identical twins: they belong together. Henry Moore was no less a craftsperson than Lucie Rie, and Lucie Rie was no less an artist than Henry Moore.Being an artist or an artisan is not a hobby: it is a livelihood. Moreover, a craft economy is a truly sustainable and resilient economy; indeed, a peace economy. The sooner we embrace the arts and crafts as an integral part of our daily lives, the sooner we will be able to address the economic, environmental and spiritual issues of our time. The industrial economy is a growth economy – never enough and never satisfied – whereas the craft economy is a dancing economy – always active and always joyful.The way to a fulfilled life is through the arts and crafts. They lead us out of consumerism. The practice of arts and crafts is a spiritual practice through which we honour the material world, and while we do that we develop a sense of beauty and generosity in our lives.

Diane K Osbon

“ What is the meaning of life? “ Joseph Campbell was often asked, and he would respond, “ There is no meaning. We bring meaning to it.” Like Carl Jung, he saw the approach of old age, not as a mere diminution of life, but as a time for blooming. If we have filled up the beaker of life and allowed to catch fire everything that needs to be consumed, then the quiet of old age is welcome. If too much life remains unlived, we approach the threshold of old age with unsatisfied demands that turn our glances backward. As Jung said, “ An old man who cannot bid farewell to life appears as feeble and sickly as a young man who is unable to embrace it.” Joseph says that we can choose to live in rapture, that is not’ out there ‘ in some other place or person, that we don’t have to go somewhere or have something or someone. “ It is here, It is here. It is here.” A shift in consciousness is all it takes

Diane K Osbon

Gregg Levoy

“ Obstacles are never opposed to the path. They are the path.  Meditation teachers are always telling students that if they are distracted while meditating, that is the meditation. If you’re trying to be real quiet and still and suddenly the dog starts barking, the instruction they usually give the student is that is now ‘the dog bark meditation.’  That is now the ‘dealing with your alcohol meditation,’ that’s now ‘the screaming children in the background meditation.’  I think that’s wise advice that I try to apply to my own life. “