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.

When zen, is d’one?

“On a planet reduced to village size by new media, cities themselves appear quaint and odd, like archaic forms already overlaid with new patterns of culture.”
Marshall McLuhan • Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man  • 1964

All of us have our own unique life experiences, if only because in our material universe two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time.


So what! That sounds self evident. Where is  the detail  in the devil, why do each of us not have our own language? why do we share a common meaning for words when our actual experiences are different.

A child experiences a table different than an adult; taller and shorter people experience the table differently, 


Or the customer, the  waiter or the bus person will experience the table differently but we speak or write  the word “table” the same —“Put the box on the table please, ”  and we all understand it even though each us has a different history of experiences with “table.” I guess its convenient⸮.


Why do we speak the same language? Is that a stupid question!

We are raised in a family, living in a society and as we grow up each of us  naturally learns the language,


But to learn to read & write we go to formal school, we also learn vocabulary to expand  that capability beyond the confines of a family experience . . .  or a small town experience . . .  or the confines of a country . . . or advances/creations in technology.


And as hurt feelings  or lawsuits or differing individual  characteristics present, this commonality is not always equally shared among individuals , but then even with differences it is not disagreement about the existence of the word or the thing represented by the word but differences in the meaning of the word.


The differences among people are so small as opposed to what they might be given that the individual experiences are all different.


Words, concept, categories— it is humans who share the ability to create language, or complex language if you think other life forms  have some shared  capabilities  of communication with each,


Life forms do differentiate  and categorize things in the universe,  a requirement for survival and whatever may appear tob e communication is not the same “quality of complexity ” as  the human ability.

A set of pixels once appearing on my monitor repeated.


Another  set of my shado images colored and repeated. I call them blankets because I like Pueblo weaving . . .


“Then weave for us a  garment of brightest;
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain.
May the border be the standing rainbow,
Then weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where the grass is green.”
from a Tewa song


Just aimlessly putting things into a pattern with no tradition-direction, no established  shared symbols. For traditional societies the visual the basic  elements  of art have had long periods to develop  meaning. modern societies, increasingly artist are called upon  to create new meanings.


One way works to build cultural cohesiveness; the other works to generate diversity.  Can these be combined to have cohesive diversity.

Not when our  minor differences become more important than our major samenesses . .


I wish, I wish, I wish in vane—or vein or vain—

I could even be 10% as good a person as I seem to fool others into thinking  I am.


If we did not have this  quality of language, would we still be able to communicate with each other?  Would we know were not communicating?  Would we know what are missing?
At he end of the day emptiness is form; form is emptiness,


Gate, gate,
body svha.”
from The Great Prajnaparmita Heart Sutra











Pho tow bow no

“Pattern is born when one produces  the intuitively perceived essence.”
Yanagi Soetsu    The Unknown Crafstman 


“Pictures are often distinguished from patterns, pictures being considered a depiction of nature and patterns as human compositions.  Yet the two have only parted company in comparatively modern times”
Yanagi Soetsu    The Unknown Crafstman 


Sometimes patterns block us from closer personal relationships or enable us to remain ignorant


Sometime we try to fit into the pattern of no pattern, or in your case know pattern


Knot looking for something that is there  instead of understanding something,  people often just knead to fit in too a category . .


Fore me its has to be two dimensional , a shadow is two dimensional, a place in Flatland where I can hide from time and at least one dimension of space . . . sure beats string theory with 10 or even more dimensions where I could never hide


You may not understand  a shado me, why bother,  Who cares? Horton?

But perhaps  in a pattern I can make some sense of it . . .

ShadowBlankets_700Its clear now , this guy is lonely,  he has no friends, probably a problem with body odor and will not lie, and you think its a  good thing you did not meet me in your travels . . .


But  the challenge is often two frustrating fore me, I could be washed out


my future always comes before the my past . . .


where I seek understanding in the free expressions  of the street


Or along Alameda Creek where everyday I am forced to see something knew


As a last resort to escaping the binds of the linear logic of print  , I recommend okinomiyake . . .  with a random page—read out loud so you can feel the words  — or two from  Finnegans Wake.


No matter who you are, you’re going to knead some body.










Quest, shuns, and sir

Graphic means a printing process where the same  image can be consistently  reproduced multiple times.

Since computers “a graphic”  has become a common term referring to a visual image often which  appears on an electronic device screen or some kind of a “designed” image unprinted materials, such as a logo.


What about content? Professionally I was a graphic designer, pre and post computer, and for  the  offset printer “the art” were the materials I supplied (into the work flow) called “camera ready art”  which  the printer  used  in another photographic process to make film  used  to expose on the printing plates which were photographically processed, mounted the press, inked and used to print (transfer the ink)  the same image over and over called the press run. It different than the “Art”  in History of  Art class.

/*This was made as a large poster so you cannot see the green sign in the bottom row, second column, which says “No Dogs Allowed.”*/


When people think of a photograph they do not think of a “ printing process” but as an image of something “real.”When most people experience a “photograph” their response is to think “What is it?” Or more precisely, What is it that is REALLY happening in this “REAL MOMENT” of time?

In that sense also the photograph is not something that will happen, but something that has happened, different  from an image printed  on a Tarot card  or naturally appearing  in your tea cup which may be  interpreted to predict the future.


Am I measuring a moment in my life,  doubling it  or just so busy making it  that I miss the experience of life?

Does it matter whether it is 1/125 second or 1/500 second? Or which lens I used?  it might  if the light is different. But what if  I was using words to lie to you? Would you still know the truth just by looking at the image and ignoring the words? Would you consider  using an image in a photograph to lie to you worse than using words?


I could show you photographic images of  a “Real San Francisco,”  then again maybe you would not believe me, you would shout “Fake News, Fake News, Bias, Bias ” and I would say “Don’t look!”


Or close more lookly . . .a real event in a real place once afternoon


When you see a photograph you want to know what it is, you want to have words to describe the experience, but  I want you, when you see it, to just experience just the visual experience, that is for you alone but once you put it into words something outside of you is modifying your experience by giving you answers to questions usually before you have developed the questions—it is defining the experience for you before you can experience your experience.


In a sense this is OK, its the process of culture which arises from human behaviour  an homogenizing process which enables  people to behave similar enough that society can develop and maintain.

If I tell you yo , Chicago, Fall, 1969, SDS Days of Rage, does it make you feel any different about the image?


or  this one , a little earlier, just  around the corner . . .


Using a photographic image to make a pattern can create a different experience, it is a pattern made using an image of my shadow of me holding a camera . . .


Or using a photographic image of a screen capture  to make a pattern . . .


Is a screen capture a photograph?  Using  light it creates a digital piece of information which can be used  to “print” the same image consistently, not on paper but an image using light on an  electronic  “monitor.” And, as an added benefit you can send it to the printer and get a different image.


While electronic monitors may be basically the same, the appearance of the image printed them may be different from monitor to monitor because of many factors.

It boggles my eyes to think all this, maybe, just looking know thinking,  is less confusing.


And a “printed on paper” image while similar when printed from the same printer at the same time, will vary from printer to printer. Is the truth in an image just  in the unique personal experience or the culturally defined experience?  Or a unique combination of both . . .


Where then is there any truth in a photograph?


Which is the more important experience,  the experience of making the print—which the artist gets to do— or the experience of seeing the print? which both the artis and others share.


Is it any different,  for me, to experience my pottery by using it or experiencing  a photograph of it, or a  poster design of photographs of it?


There is the McLuhan story of two women who meet, one pushing a baby in a carriage. The first woman remarks,  “What a beautiful child,” to which the mother replies, “Oh but you should see photograph!”


Can you tell something about me when you see these photographs? Would I murder, steal or rob? Would I lie to you? Would I do a good job  if you hired me? Would you let in your cab? Would yolk me in your bed?

I too used to contemplate these questions . . .


Then again, and again, and again, I forget to remind myself to forget, I am just a passerby, a  mapless soul wondering from this moment to that, I to judge am whom?

There is so much more to appreciate in human beings.



Artistical inspite of technicality

Today anyone using a camera can express something  visually complex. Human beings have been around for over 400,000 years while most  people being able to express something visually complex has been around for barely  120 years,  arbitrarily choosing the introduction of the Brownie Camera in 1900.


Expressing oneself visually and expressing oneself artistically are not the same thing and the former is necessary to  achieve the latter while being able to express yourself artistically is not necessary  to express yourself visually.


Many people will have different definitions for what “artistic” means but most will approach agreement concerning  what technical means. Is that photograph just a recording of a moment in time or does it have meaning that I don’t over or understand?


One difference is that to merit artistic accomplishment among  viewers there will be a shared experience, a common feeling.  When  viewers experience an artistic piece of  Art—which is technically proficient—they experience a common feeling.


Many people might say that “Art is in the eye the beholder” but people are not clones, they are dynamic and different. Popular has a lowest common denominator position, the less  you  have to say the more it will appeal to a larger group, while if you  have nothing to say it may not appeal to anyone or if you have something really substantial to say it may require that the viewer be sophisticated (have a developed knowledgable standard).

Do you use your camera to invade the private moments of others? Is the camera expressing a feeling or just what you (and out people) would have seen had your eyes been in the position of the camera lens.


Maybe the camera and you are looking down on me, thinking probably I am too old for this job or that I have been promoted up the professional  ladder until I reached the job for which I was not qualified and just left there waiting to retire.


Some simply  prefer pickled salted mackerel on ekaratsu.


Some of these are no longer with us, and some were potted by Gary Holt from  Berkeley. One American-shino style bowl is of a set of four, found in a local museum of art in Roswell sometime in the 1980s.

Generally in the morning I eat fruit,— we have various fruit trees for much of the year” raison, almonds, granola and milk . . .no Japanese pottery here,  only a few Chinese noodle soup bowls with an image of  rooster—in a Chinese restaurant  you may get served with one of these bowls as they have been  used in restaurants for many years. While mine are old, you can get them cheaply in a Chinese goods store.


Or sometimes I have natto.  This is a Kuro-Oribe chawan— a black Oribe kiln tea bowl.


Designs, made using a photo shadow  image of myself taking an image of myself  It puts  me  in the company of like minded clones


I am not too likely to wander away  frustrated and in rage when I just don’t get it,  the blind bleeting the blind, it is a safer position  than the one  left behind.


Everywear I look the universe looks the same, whenever I look it looks the same, how I look, it looks the same, its enough to drive me sane.


Some thought I was having too much fun to get hit, and even though they said it was their independent judgment and they were just being  honest, my feelings were hurt.


We all have our own struggles, these two arrived  from Appalachia in a car almost out of gas,  barely running,  had not eaten for days . . .


McLuhan wrote about two women approaching each other, one behind a baby buggy. When they meet one says “What a beautiful baby!,” to which the other replies, “Oh but you should see the photographs.”


And then just color is enough, at least it doesn’t make me feel a lone.