Discontent and its civilizations

Rice dumplings are given as gifts during The Dragon Boat Festival, in memory of the suicide of man who was a respected poet and government minister.
Gifts for The Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) by Janney

Its pretty amazing that human beings take time away from killing each other, from stealing from each other, from fighting each other, and etc., to spend enough time in some “social order” to produce the basic things necessary for survival, not just for themselves but for a civilization to exist — procreation, food, shelter—the basic things necessary for survival of a civilization.

Or you could say while most people are good, people “naturally live in order,” but it’s too bad that some people are bad and we need to protect ourselves from those few bad people.

And then others say people are naturally bad and to achieve order an authoritarian structure of enforcement is necessary.

How to protect the good people from the bad people so everything runs smoothly, so the basic stuff gets done. i.e what is “social order.” How to together it and how to maintain it?

Laws are the legitimate rules which are enforced, “if or when necessary” by any means necessary. What happens when the laws are bad, or maybe just not good, and enforcing the law becomes worse than the crimes of which the subjects are accused.

Imagine how different it was for a “traditional society” with few family members, all clearly and definitely stratified by their age and family differences, a place where everyone knew how to be, as compared to a modern society where individuals are in multiple overlapping groups, taking different roles in different groups and sometimes called upon to personally invent new roles.

After 400,000 years humans have have created and destroyed gazillions of different groups, all increasingly more diverse and more complicated. The thing that is “social order” is culture —where there are human beings behaving together there develops, like a field—like a gravitional field from which emerges a constantly changing structure of astronomical behaviour — a constantly changing structure of human behaviour.

Most people “know how to behave,” much of that “knowledge”we never even think about, or sometimes we think about it too much (worry), but mostly we do it naturally as if its human nature . . .?? but what is “human nature” . . .

Does human nature need to be consistent over 400,000 years? Even over my 75 years I have witnessed radical social behavior changes, changes which occurred fast enough that most people do not know there has been a change, it just ay things are , mostly we think our feelings, and responses are the same as people before us. In our everyday life we sort out the “natural” from the “changeable” but sometimes in different ways.

There are different levels to see it, no one 1500 years ago felt excited “riding a motorcycle” but use a more comprehensive abstract term and say “a thrill, ” and categorize it as a “basic human nature” even though it is expressed differently empirically right in front of our eyes—and you are fitting a higher level categorical abstraction to express a basic human nature.

One part of a person adapts to society, another part does not, its not the exact same part from person to person, but there is enough commonality to establish a set of standards to enable a social order —where each individual, in varying degrees and in a varying balance, is a divided self.
It was 18th century German philosophers/social scientists who saw modern society and suggested that culture, the force that enabled human survival by generating commonness in behaviour, also separated and repressed the individual from his/her real self—alienation.

Ki-seto shuki (guinomi and tokkuri) by father and son Kagami Shukai and Kagami Masakane. In Japan there is Kyoto style pottery and “folk” pottery, both have their respected space. Seto is an old city known for its history of pottery, sometimes pottery will be referred to as seto-yaki—Seto fired thing. Seto is known for many styles of pottery, such as Oribe, Shino, Ki-seto, seto-guro, and sometimes just referred to as Seto style. Mino, an area next to Seto developed the same styles of pottery about the same time, people will also use the term Mino-yaki, I find myself often using the term Seto/Mino.

A Dragon Boat for the Dragon Festival, which is on the gift day of the fifth month (Chinese calendar), Dragon boat painting by Janney.

With one tiny stick
To arrange the air over the eating shed
And the evil part of the earth around it
So that at last
Not even the stick is left.

poem by Kenneth Patchen

A layman asked: “Does killing have Buddha-Nature?”

Wu Song, (武松;) one of the main “heros” of Water Margin is a handsome literary errant “hero” who while drunk kills a man-eating tiger with his barehands, avenges his brother’s murder by cutting off the heads of his brother’s wife and her lover and setting up the go-between in their affair to be executed. Sent into exile Wu Song helps a roadhouse owner/neighborhood exortionist recover his stolen property by beating his rival for the extortion business into submission an! d Wu Song’s martial capabilities are inversely related to his sobriety.—the more wine the better he fights. Link to podcast in english

Wu Song by Janney

Water Margin, like many popular stories of ancient literature and today’s popular tv and film, romanticizes violence. Victims of corrupt authoritarian political systems. corrupt individuals using political power for their personal agenda, bribery, honor, police doing questionable tactics because the law prevents justice and personal bonds—a “brotherhood of heros” overcoming establishment evils.

Along Alameda Creek you can see people doing all kinds of everyday things. People like to be outside

The difference between books and movies, between print and visual story telling, is that while reading we are able to imagine these characters and the visual is within our own control, unconscious though may be and many people may read the same book but each with their own eyes.

But in tv and movies the role of the actor is to create a vicarious bond between the viewer and the player and to this end film and TV uses visual “stereotypes” with the heroes, no matter what kind of despicable scum they are, will generally be attractive, usually sexually, which is an LCD that works to consistently create the vicarious experience— i.e. the audience viewer feels in their heart that they are living this experience.

Films/TV use actors who have professionally prepared scripts with which they rehearse while receiving direction and when it is not right they do it over again until it gets right— right being that magic of a popular film to have the viewer identify vicariously..

Not everyone is affected the same way at a particular film, nor are individuals personally affected the same at different viewings. A variety of films offers a variety of experiences, but the most popular experiences will generally have more of “that which works stuff” to communicate the vicarious experience.

Its not always the exact same “stuff, ”elements such as fashion, style and technology may change without the “basic stuff” changing — controlling for change can give you some meaningful method to measure it.

And sow what? For most of us this visual violent behaviour is not part of our “real” everyday life but is part of our TV and film life.

One popular idea is that when people watch violence on TV, in a film, or at a sports event it enables them to sublimate their personal violent urges—Ah! Like watching people kill people on TV keeps me from becoming a serial killer, or maybe I would just be better off shopping.

But if I make photographs of people doing normal everyday things it enables me to sublimate those urges inside myself to be normal and encourages me to be abnormal.

Yuki daruma, a snow darama. In Japan Daruma is a visual representation of the man who brought Dyhana (Zen) Buddhism from India to China, (Chan) and has become associated with human spirit –“Nana korobi, ya oki”—“seven times down, eight times up!

At a Chinese temple Daruma taught the monks meditation (Dyhana) by mediating for nine years, its called Wall Gazing, and during that time he lost the use of his legs???. In Japan the daruma figure has a rounded and weighted bottom, when tilted it will roll back to an upright position—–seven times down, eight times up. Yuki daruma are a favorite and children make them out of snow and tree branches

Maybe I was just born with that skill or perhaps its not really a gift from God but just some bad karma punishment from a previous life in my fantasy as an outlaw from Water Margin.

Are we having fun yet at the University of Toledo or just getting through the day? It could depend which side of the camera lens you are on. about 1968. Some of these people really want to be in the photograph.

On the other hand, Nietzsche, Freud and Marx arguing the social structure of modern society is the cause of self imposed internalized repression and except for the history, Buddha is also in this group— existence is illusion.

Acadia National Park about 1970

Nietzsche—only the individual can awaken him/herself to take control of their life; Freud—understanding your repression resulting from the process of civilization will enable you to awaken yourself and change your life;

Toledo Ohio, about 1969, this image reminds me of how easy is for me to be a jerk and how much I lose by doing so, one of the few time I saw him look so serious.

Marxthe agent of change is in the oppressed class awakening to their material conditions;

Buddha—Awaken the Buddha inside of you—the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.many awakenings.

So much awakening , it makes me so tired I just want to go to sleep.

Seal Script (篆書/Zhuan Shu) is a very old technique to draw Chinese characters before brush and the strokes, originally drawn with a hard tool such as a stick are a consistent width. It is time consuming to execute well, and used for seals and for the visual feel of antiguity. Adapting the brush significantly changed the visual feel of the characters but this Seal Script has a feel of its own that is worth waiting fore.

The last lines of The Heart Sutra written in Seal Script by Janney.

Perjur, reefer zen

In US popular culture, especially in book titles, and Zen often refers to the idea of a “basic, bare-bones, simply stated essentials, an understanding of the basics without all of the useless other stuff. The zen of cooking, the zen of motherhood, the “zen of this” and “the zen of that“ — with the suggested implication that the reader will be exposed to some simple secret understanding of some thing.

In the popular mind, zen as a metaphor implies insight into the basic fundamentals of “some “thing”—bare bones zen—without all the “red tape”—Is other stuff I do the “red tape” of my life? Am I doing unnecessary things everyday which I need not be doing so I could be doing some thing basically more important?

Perhaps in the zen mind enlightenment is doing the zen things all the time, and/or never doing the “red tape,” Would the opposite be any diferent— doing the “red tape” things all the time and never doing the zen.?

Emptiness is form, form is emptiness. (public domain image of The Heart Sutra)

I walk on the Alameda Creek levee daily, and since the “stay at home” conditions, the kinds of people out on the creek trail has changed.

When you are walking as a person approaches you how do you feel? Its a rush, the more information you can experience the more you quickly you define the situation until you arrive at a conclusion— if its a dangerous situation you are under time-pressure and in normal situations it all just unfolds unconsciously.

‘Its the “normal situations” which interest me.

With my photographs you do not get specific information, you could not make that kind of specific judgement, . . .

perhaps people could not be safe in the world, but they are, generally. And when you do it may not be what you expect.

Walking along the creek everyday is the same thing, I never know what to expect . .

Before the virus I used to give a greeting to almost everyone, we share a common bond, exercise in the outdoors. Before the virus there was a “community“—people who were out there regularly who got to know each other on sight—did not feel uncomfortable when theperson cannot sight—greeting and passing, sometimes even stopping to talk and a social structure of common behaviour emerged,

This is ‘public property” and for the past three months there have been many new faces, a new strangeness, new definitions, new adjustments— while older regulars had established some “personal preferences” through a nonverbal negotiation— sometimes the short term process of change appears to resemble how society changes which would be a long term . . .

or maybe because as I experience it I try to make sense of it and end up with a “concept or theory.”

What brings social solidarity to a geo-political nation, an empire or civilization, or what if I used the word “tribe? What defines social solidarity?

As a global social order evolves—there is no choice, as the “world gets smaller and numbers of people increase” outside of disaster or massive war— an upstart USA seems to lack the ability to deal with empires and civilizations and as a break-off colony which became a geo-political legacy of an empire with a lot of negative world wide baggage it has shown little capability or interest in dealing diplomatically with others.

In Shibuya real people and printed people share the same space quite comfortably.

Somerville, Massachusetts about 1970, probably some where from Winter Hill, you can see the Mystic River Bridge, (aka Tobin Bridge) and some film mottling in the sky

Union City, California, 2020. I had an oil change and I walked around for 45 minutes. there was a large business with union workers which went out of business and there was pension and healthcare money up for grabs and the lawyers and a judge—in collusion, kept the case in the court for decades, slowly bleeding the capital while the workers went without health care or retirement funds.

Plagiarism or revolution, if these are choices I want see Art’s last name, and while the girl’s expression probably has nothing to do with the words on the back of the shirt . . . the viewer sees it little differently.

What is Art? is a simple question with a simple personal answer, we all know it when we see it? But in selling Art its different —more than personal taste, there needs to be a group demand. a place in the market which exercises a demand.

Seeing up-side down in hand cuffs, is that a workable concept? Is credit given where credit is due or is it just a band-aid to cover up the wound.

There was an article last week in the NYT referencing 1969— here are three images from Fall, 1969, Chicago. Often “political oriented” references to the 1960s are associated with the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, but these were made over a year later.

At Sensoj early one morning I met a young documentary film maker—I had his information written on a piece of paper, but lost it. He was excited about his life and it was about 6:30 am.

Gasshō or camera in hand, mind need not be the difference.

which, just for light fun, re-minds me of a ladder in the back yard, any steps can be an safe harbor in a empty storm.

Day begins, day ends the light on an angle, the shadows long and people.

Gate gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.

Know swamp, high dingzen

“Song Jiang” of the “梁山”(Mountain Liang)  painting by Janney

 The main character in the novel Water Margin, the flag in his left hand was used to issue commands such as to start a fight, etc. The Chinese character on the flag, “令”,  represents  “Order”.


As I do my daily fast-walk along Alameda Creek  levee I have been listening to podcasts of the Chinese classic novel Water Margin, aka Outlaws of the Swamp, aka All Men Are Bothers.

One of the “Four Classic Chines ” novels, written in a  “picaresque style,” characters are moved to act on some mixture of political victimhood, personal skills and inadequacies, greed and honor while  during their process of becoming  outcasts and outlaws the book being the series of events of their coming together in a “brotherhood of self interest” to help save China.

Taking place doing the Song dynasty, story of traveling around  fighting, eating,  drinking with enemies or among themselves, stealing , around the Liangshan Mars) in an adventure story of over  100 chapters


In the early 1800s Suikodan, the Japanese version   was published  with  fantastic  illustrations by  Kuniyoshi. In China  criminals were tattooed on the face, and in Japan the combination of  brotherhood of outlaws, nationalism and  and tattoos  was a natural fit for yakuza.

kuniyopshM2_800Water Margin has been adapted into several other types of modern media, such as television and film, across several different countries. In Japan, where it is known as “Suikoden”, it has even inspired several video game adaptations. Most notable are Koei’s “Bandit Kings of Ancient China” series of strategy games and and Konami’s “Suikoden” series of role playing games.


Another classic cross cultural story of the Romance of Killing genre shrouded in the romance of brotherhood, political injustice and honor.  Its not much different than we see today in film and TV, and video games and music.


Perhaps Nevil Shute got it right with On The Beach, and he only needed three characters.


Why do we have these stories of killing, and  why do  people like them so much? Maybe that’s just the way human beings are—Is there such a thing as human nature  and if so what is it? Are people, naturally  good ?or bad? or just natural.


Is it something about “human nature?  Are human beings “Naturally Flawed”? “Naturally Good?”  “Naturally Bad?”

The Bible story  is that God (perfection) created man in his image, and man was lonely —obviously man is not perfect otherwise he would not feel lonely—so God created woman.


The Bible version is that God (perfection) created man in his image, and then  man was lonely —obviously man was not perfect otherwise he would not have felt lonely or maybe to be lonely  was the way God designed man—so God created woman.

Since the first (in his own image) effort  did not work so well, no reason to think the  second would work any better and sure enough woman had two  faults—curiosity and defiance” —faults so bad that God kicked them both out of Paradise, maybe God was angry at himself for failing?— I guess we could say that the Bible says that people are naturally bad or they were good  to start with but they chose to become bad  and now must live outside of Eden.


Hobbes, in The Leviathian  suggests social order is necessary for a good functioning society but since everyone is a “sociopath”seeking to fulfill  their uncontrollable impulses and desires even at the expense of others it results in a  breakdown of social order.

Even if people make agreements, enter into contracts, compromise?  its  all to no avail,  people lack the ability to control their own base impulses,  the only thing that will control them is fear.


Hobbes suggests that a “super sociopath” will emerge who has the “ ability” to establish order—the biggest scumbag of all who will use any means necessary to establish order—and because social order is in the interest of everyone in society, it is the obligation of people to recognize this “great leader ” and submit to him (or her) for the good of society.


Also you could suggest that people learn to understand  themselves, learn to  express themselves and learn to interact peacefully with others to make compromises about social rules with which they agree to live with and enforce for the social order—this would be Liberal Democracy.

Or you could say that sitting around taking a break from shopping and having some coffee with friends is a way to deal with the problem.


“The eye with which I see God is the very eye with which God sees me.”
Nyogen    The Iron Flute     #67 Ch‘ien-feng’s Transmigration

Somedays I have to look for myself .


“…Sir Robert of Namur ands his men leapt eagerly on board the Spaniard, with their swords drawn. They attacked its crew so heartily that they killed them all and threw them over board, and captured the ship.”
Froissart Chronicles  Book One


Is there no place for peace? None of these people were characters in Water Margin. This photo is VISTA workers in Bangor ME about 48 years ago. I never saw them again, probably  never will, but people who believed they could  find a way to make a difference.


A zen temple could be hiding behind a “laundry of no access.” Or maybe knot.

The Aztec Motel, Route 66, Central Ave SE, Albuquerque NM . I believe its no longer there,


gate gate
bodhi svāhā

Allen Ginsberg’s version:
“Gone gone
totally gone
totally gone
over the top,
wakened mind,
So, ah!”