Rambling Again…

Let’s start with the 3 jewels of Taoism:

Simplicity, Humility, Compassion

Now let’s add On A Night Such As This, a collage created by Romare Bearden in 1975:

Here’s a picture of a pretty full moon rising over my block…

…and a Thanksgiving souvenir stand briefly on our corner:

There’s so much I know nothing about, so I present it rather than write about it.  What about you?

Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm  Comments (3)  

“It is so much larger than anyone can possibly imagine”

Another guest blog, this from a friend, Hannelore Sander

11/21/12

Notes from Sandy

I am volunteering a lot these days at disaster relief sites in Staten Island, Far Rockaway, and Coney Island, communities, which have been hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy.  I love doing this.  It is such a good place to put my energies.  I get up at six a.m., when it is still dark outside, and put on layers of clothing and a backpack, so that my hands can be free.  I take the subway to the Mayor’s Office in lower Manhattan.  Old clattering yellow school buses, called back into service for new turns of duty, take the volunteers, who have gathered there in the early morning cold, on long bumpy rides to the places where help is needed.  They come from all walks of life, ready for simple, practical, sometimes backbreaking, curiously unsentimental work.

On the way, initially towering above us, and then seen from afar as we cross the bridges out of the City, are the monstrous buildings of Wall Street, many of which still stand silent and empty, their electrical guts destroyed, a skyline of previously unassailable giants brought to a patient halt.  The power and the money that is in Manhattan will soon have erased all traces of the storm. But it will take years to rebuild the devastated neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, with their often poor residents, whose lives and harsh living conditions, which were a reality even before Sandy hit, now are made infinitely worse.  I have never really been aware of them before.

The most dramatic sight of boats carried onto shore and tossed onto the roads along the beaches is gone.  The cars that were buried under mountains of sand swept in three or four blocks deep on 20 foot waves are freed now, though their engines, corroded by salt water, will never allow for them to be driven again.  Where will they end up, these thousands of car carcasses?  Most of the commercial establishments along the main streets are boarded up but a few of the grocery stores and bodegas and small food places, their walls stained and their floors buckled and cracked from water damage, are beginning to stock some goods again.  Cosmetics are not important, the aim is to just open and make a living again.   There are piles of debris filling the yards and the sidewalks in front of the houses.  In some cases, it seems that every last possession that ever was in those homes, is heaped outside.  Traffic snakes slowly through streets clogged with fire engines and Con Edison trucks and other emergency response and repair vehicles.

In cavernous warehouses, we sort through mountains of donations, which will then be delivered to various distribution points.  In community centers and churches, we hand out bottled water and food and toilet paper and tooth brushes and diapers and cleaning supplies and serve a warm meal to those who for two weeks now have had neither heat, nor water and who are, in many cases, still without electricity.  “We will only take what we need,” they say shyly or proudly, and we feel a pricking behind our eyes.  We smell their bodies and wonder where they will be able to take a shower or wash their clothes.

Where will they go to live, these thousands upon thousands of people from those huge, housing projects, now still huddled around their gas stoves, which they keep on day and night to get some measure of warmth?  For many of these buildings are no longer safe, with gas leaks increasing and mold growing relentlessly on the walls.  “We went through the buildings the other day, knocking on doors asking if people needed help.  I smelled gas coming from behind one of the doors and we found a woman inside the apartment.  She had a respiratory disease and needed oxygen.  There were tanks of oxygen all around.”

As responders are beginning to look up from and beyond providing for basic survival needs, the scope and scale of this disaster are beginning to be seen and known.  “It is so much larger than anyone can possibly imagine”, the team leaders, who accompany us on the buses, say. “We now need to move into the restoration stage and it will be massive.  We just hope, that the interest will not wane, that people will still want to come out…”

This is Thanksgiving Week.

Published in: on November 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm  Comments (3)  

Guest Blog…with Eventual (and utterly unprejudiced) Commentary

My dear husband,

If I were your guest blogger, this is what my offering would be:

“Today, Day 24 of Richard’s retirement, has offered us a moment that could only be described as WONDERFUL. The scenario: me, at my desk, catching up on some work interspersed with checking email; he, supposedly at his desk, responding to various Facebook offerings. As I was somewhat engrossed in my own environment, I slowly realized I was hearing a sound emanating from the kitchen…a sound of clean dishes being put away off of the dish-drying rack.  Or so I thought.  But it continued. And continued. As I sort of “came to,” so to speak, it dawned on me that we didn’t have that many things on the drying rack. Sounded like coffee mugs and glasses. Lots of them. And then it hit me!! He was rearranging the mugs and glasses in the kitchen cabinet!!

I quietly walked to the sound I dreaded to confirm….and YES, there he was, up on the little step-stool, rearranging the mugs and drinking glasses!!  I waited for about 30 seconds, which was all I could muster before I started to quietly snicker. As he turned around to see what the sound was, he smirked as only he can. We then both broke out into uncontrollable laughter. He said, “Busted!!”

I can’t help but wonder (dread?) what the NEXT 24 days will bring. ”

Your loving, and patient, wife….Bobbie

*************************************************************************************************************************

OK, so there’s the guest blog exactly as written.  Now permit me a few observations.

My dear [please note the lack of capitalization in “dear.”  Dear indeed!] husband,

If I were your guest blogger, this is what my offering would be:

“Today, Day 24 of Richard’s retirement, has offered us a moment that could only be described as WONDERFUL. The scenario: me, at my desk, catching up on some work interspersed with checking email; he, supposedly [and just who is doing the supposing?  Who was directed to suppose?] at his desk, responding to various Facebook offerings. [Actually I was supposed to be checking to see what time the Beau Sia poetry reading at MOCA–Museum of Chinese in America–was supposed to start.]  As I was somewhat engrossed in my own environment, I slowly realized I was hearing a sound emanating from the kitchen…a sound of clean dishes being put away [and you can be sure just who cleaned them] off of the dish-drying rack.  Or so I thought.  But it continued. And continued. As I sort of “came to,” so to speak, it dawned on me that we didn’t have that many things on the drying rack. Sounded like coffee mugs and glasses. Lots of them. And then it hit me!! He was rearranging the mugs and glasses in the kitchen cabinet!!  [Well golly gee wonkers…]

I quietly walked to the sound I dreaded to confirm….and YES, there he was, up on the little step-stool, rearranging the mugs and drinking glasses!!  [Hey!  It’s not like I was rotating the dining table chairs.]  I waited for about 30 seconds, which was all I could muster before I started to quietly [Quietly like a 16 year old practicing the trumpet] snicker. As he turned around to see what the sound was, he smirked as only he can. We then both broke out into uncontrollable laughter. He said, “Busted!!”

I can’t help but wonder (dread?) what the NEXT 24 days will bring. ”  [Whatever that might be, I’m sure we’ll love it.]

Your loving, and patient, wife….Bobbie  [Sigh…]

As I’ve said elsewhere, “Hey, I’m retired, I’m home, I’ve got nothing better to do than to notice everything and make comments.”

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm  Comments (4)  

Good God!

 

 

Sunday morning I began attending a 6 part adult education series (free, of course) on the Book of Job being held at All Souls Church at Lexington Avenue and East 80th Street here in Manhattan.  The first question posed by Minister David Robb was “Why be good?”, but there seems to be a pre-question, “What is Good?”  Is Good the same as moral or ethical or correct or polite or something else? maybe natural or appropriate or desirable?  Growing up I was taught that being good meant obeying the 10 Commandments, to love–not just honor–your parents and to be polite. Whatever these requirements or guidelines might be called, the Book of Job clearly depicts a deity not acting in accordance with them.  This set me to noticing what for most people is obvious, that animals and oceans, winds and electricity–most humans in fact–don’t act in accordance with the Commandments or Precepts or any other concepts beyond what might be called their own nature.  But back to God…

How much human misery has resulted from people expecting God to obey the laws God had made only for humans and then being regularly disappointed at the reality that such is simply not the case?

While the Abrahamic faiths all label people as good or evil as they guide their lives by the Commandments, Buddhists and Taoists–Taoists particularly–emphasize following one’s human nature and simply fitting into the grand scheme of things as being the desired style of living.  The Tao Te Ching says we know the truth of this by looking inside ourselves.  This means looking past all the beliefs, opinions and feelings we’ve accumulated–the ego–to what others have called “God within” or our “Buddha Nature.”  Some might talk about uncovering the “real me,” but that, I suspect, easily turns into the “me I want to be” and sticks me back in the ego trap.

Retirement has taken me from a “senior” position in which I was expected to know and control a great deal and the ego to support that responsibility to one in which I am free to just respond to whatever comes along without having an assigned or defined relationship to it.  Relaxed, I don’t have to have opinions or any other habits of thought or behavior that must be brought out in reaction to the world as it presents itself.

What freedom!

Will this bring me closer to revealing that Original Mind, that Soul, that Real Me waiting under 70 years of accumulation?  Maybe.  I do know that there’s an increasing ease of living, a new joy each morning in discovering myself awake with  a new day ahead.  Less concern–I avoid the word “anxiety” here–with what I’ve done and what to do next.  There’s certainly less self-criticism for the variety of emotions–lust and anger come to mind–which come up unbidden then, usually, pass unrealized.  More music, more flavors and sights find themselves in the “delightful” category each day.  More options are not only acceptable, but actually exciting in their potential to take me somewhere new.  More spontaneous “Aahhh” and “Thanks!” and “Wow!”

All of this ties together.  Good, God, God within, fitting in, freedom, gratitude, delight and the rest of the list.

What do you think?  Please leave a comment.

Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm  Comments (2)  

After the Tragedy, the Laundry

I am not a victim of Hurricane Sandy.

Neither am I a hero nor a particularly keen observer.

I’m just here in New York, participating in my life

Itself unremarkable but for its uniqueness

And only thus equal to those of all others.

Just here

Sad with those whose pain

Is overwhelmed by suffering,

Envious of those with strength and determination

To lose themselves in service

With jealousy, too, for those whose words and photos

Have done so much to convey this moment to the world.

 

Friend Annie from Rockaway Park

Slept two nights on our couch

Glued by tortured imagination

To televised images of chaotic reality

Then replaced by Stepson David,

Just moved into an apartment 42 stories high

In a building without electricity

He firmly focused on next steps.

 

Some time spent in an emergency shelter

Serving bacon, eggs, pancakes and coffee

To grateful, subdued, nameless strangers,

Some time at a seniors center phoning

Inviting folks to a Thanksgiving feast

(“Travel should be possible by the 18th.”)

–Needed, then not needed at a hospice–

A contribution to the Red Cross inspired

By rock ‘n’ roll.

I attend a presentation on Taoism

& Relationships, another on the Book of Job,

One more on Issues in Buddhism

Watch an old movie, Chocolat.

Vacuum!  Cook!  Drink tequila.

Friends from The Bronx come to dinner

Bringing red velvet cake and their love.

Return DVDs and CDs to the library

And the laundry—after the tragedy, the laundry.

Published in: on November 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm  Comments (3)