February 2, 2014 § 29 Comments

Ever tried.  Ever failed.

No matter.

Try Again. Fail again.

Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Some writing comes easy, especially the exposition of the critical- the writing that comes from the head.  But what is the worth?

Most writing now painful and difficult.  Hours spent at the computer staring at the screen without a single keystroke.  And so many passages, fragile and aborning, killed off with a slashing delete.

You seek to capture a feeling or a thought that it true and important, or you inhabit a world of your imagination, and then you take that precious and evanescent wisp and try to reify it in the form of words.

But it all falls apart like a clump of moist sand coming undone in your hands.  You reach down and try to gather the sand but it’s now scattered across an endless beach.  And so you go back, seeking again that place where the feeling lived but you stagger through a maze of spaces, lost.

And so you begin again.

The exquisitely painful work beckons, as irresistible as it is impossible.

Words piled on words.  A lifetime of writing.

Yearning only to fail better.



Walking the Walk

April 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

So far in this blog, I have been talking the talk, for sure.  But how about walking the walk?

The truth is that I am embarrassed a bit by writing and offering these posts to the outside world.  I am embarrassed when I think of the gap between my admonitions here and the life I have led.  Sadly, I have lived most of my life at war with these lessons.  I have lived too much in my head, allowing myself to be pulled into the vortex of negative thought, imagining all the bad things that might come, analyzing the myriad ways in which I had failed myself and others, paralyzed by my spinning mind, unable to complete projects, withdrawn and wary of others, and on and on.

I would like to say that I came to a point in life where that all changed.  I saw the light.  I achieved enlightenment.  I started walking the walk.  But that would be false.

Yes, in recent years my deepening focus on spirituality has helped me change the way I live in, and move through, the world.  But no, I did not simply turn a corner.  My life to this day is a ceaseless struggle to stay in the present moment.   My mind, the little voice in my head, are always ready to take me back to that way of living that is not genuine and often hurtful.

There is no cure to the affliction that is our karmic spinning mind.   It is a struggle, moment-by-moment, to live one’s life in a genuine present way.   The following passage from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is of special meaning to me in this regard.   In this passage, Suzuki refers to a letter that he received from a former student.

One of my students wrote to me saying, “You sent me a calendar, and I am trying to follow the good mottoes which appear on each page.  But the year has hardly begun, and already I have failed!”  Dogen-zenji [a great 13th century Zen master] said, “Shoshaku jushaku.”  Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.”  Shoshaku jushaku means “to succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake.  According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen.  A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku.  This means so many years of one single-minded effort.

All that we have is the present moment.  And each moment offers us the opportunity to live, fully, in that moment.   It is not a matter of failure, or of success.  Such conceptions, with their backward looking way, distract us from what is right here, right now.   A single-minded effort in each moment, that’s all.

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