Should God have been allowed to create Zen?

Once men (substitute “people,” ed.) have adopted the visual dynamic of the phonetic alphabet, they begin to lose the tribal man’s (substitute “people’s”) obsession with cosmic order and ritual as recurrent in the physical organs and their social extension.

Marshal McLuhan,  Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man 

There are questions which have no answers . . . and answers in search of a question.!? The first question I have is “What is an answer?”


Someone asked, “Why it does not matter what zen is?” —if you have to care about what the thing zen is,  then you care, or don’t care, about the thing zen is not.

I made this image during the early 1970s, these would be my neighbors on Belmont St. around the corner from Friendly’s Ice Cream on Highland Ave  in Somerville. It was all triple decker houses, often the “working-class family that owned it would live on one floor, or maybe two, and rent out the rest and some renters had been there for generations.


A family friend, Tomoko, invited us to join her for kodan—traditional Japanese story telling—in Ryokogu, we met at the JR station next to the Tokyo-Edo Museum, went inside for 90 minutes and walked over to the kodan venue.


In real life there was a human voice  but you can only imagine it in the photograph, but  as he tells the story the sound is important especially for me because I do not understand  spoken Japanese.  Still even without knowing Japanese I could hear sounds which were consistent, repeated timed, and pleasingly arranged— a performance.


The audience was sometimes laughing, my sister who was  enjoying it immensely was loudly laughing  and my son was laughing at the same time  with the audience—it felt good to watch my son understand Japanese.

On New Year’s eve, my wife  and  I used FB  to have an streaming conversation with my son who was  visiting my sister, she lives in a suburb of Tokyo. I left them alone for awhile, standing outside the door (unbounded), listening to  the three of  them talking in Japanese.


Koda!! I knew nothing about what he was saying, it did not matter, the sound and expressions were a pleasing enough experience.


In the early morning at Sensoji, people bring their dogs, others come to take photographs of people taking  photographs of their dogs.

I used to live in a smaller midwest city, within walking distance to the city art museum which was on one side of  the newly built interstate which also served to  separate the  city residents by race. The museum was free to enter anytime and browse  for as long as it was open.


There was a painting, BIG, about six feet or  taller —or making I was younger then— from the 19th century of a well dressed couple walking up stairs leading to what appears to be classical gothic architecture, maybe a cathedral — all this if my memory is correct as it was about 53 years ago — and in their trail, on the steps, lay  a burning cigar. The title of  the painting was “The tourists.”


I make photographs of my shadow, including my hand holding  the camera, then take one half of the image. duplicate its,  flop it, and put it together  as a symetrical image. A German philosopher  suggested that each us has an “empirical self” and an “ideal self, ” they are different, the empirical self is what we do, and the ideal self is what we think should have done. These are different, and that failure of  an individual to integrate these resulted in psychological conflicts.


I figured if I make  the image of my shado, one side was the “empirical me”  the other side  the “ideal me,” and when I take one half,  duplicate it  and then put the two together, voila!!   this would be an“ integrated me.”  Only thin is I would not know if it was an integrated “empirical me” or “ideal me.”


I feel like an outsider whenever I visit San Francisco, maybe that is just a reflection of my inability to interact meaningfully with people or their expression as a city, just outside standing at your door.


The Buddha said, “Subhuti, if someone should claim, “the Tathagata teaches a dharma,” such a claim would be untrue.? Such a view of me would be a misconception.*

An inability to differentiate a reflection from a reality was too easy of an excuse.


In the teaching of a dharma, Subhuti, in the “teaching of a dharma” there is no such dharma to be found as the “teaching of the dharma.”*


Beings,  Subhuti, ‘beings’  are all spoken of by the Tathagata, Subhuti, as no beings. . .


Thus they are called “beings”.*


Know beings,  so I think “if you made as many mistakes as I did in my life, you would _______ . . .”  then it was only the journey to be realized that you did and just did not tell me or I was too _________ to hear it when you did.


Wading through time, does my thinking just serve to protect me from my experience? Knowing by sense or reason?
Noing by reason or sense ?

Hope makes it too easy to forget and too hard to remember.


All I ever have is redemption photographs and maybe some anticipation for tonight’s dream and  who would allow God to do any thing any way.


“Out of context” quotations from The Diamond Sutra are from the Red Pine translation. There is no intent to insult buddha, to proselytize or even suggest I would not no what I am talking about.

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