Thursday, January 8, 2009

Susie and the Banshees

Coming back to New Orleans yesterday was a bit of a pain in the coccyx. There was turbulence after taking off from DC that was, according to a seasoned flight attendant, "The worst I have ever experienced." I was among the screaming and crying chorus of banshees as the overhead bins opened up raining down Louis Vuitton on our self entitled souls. There was no "Life flashing in front of my eyes" or Angels beckoning me toward the light or Jesus pointing to his sacred heart, ("I die for your sins and I get what, a white sale at Macy's, an Easter bunny? Frickin' eggs? What's with the eggs?") nope, just terror. Joan Rivers without makeup terror. In my moment of sheer horror, I put my head down and with my right hand I held tight the recent gift from my precious baby Moose, a Fleur de lis pendant from Mignon Faget, a symbol of where I call home and that I am always loved. In 18K no less.
After it was over I tried to calm myself by mentally thumbing through whatever random comforting thoughts or spiritual teachings I could manage to find in the now fried motherboard in my brain.
First I thought about the fact that the day before Monsieur Moose, whom I heart, asked if I wanted to go to Paris, a well meaning gesture that to which I had declined, then I thought about reading "Susie's New Stove- The Little Chef's Cookbook" (A Little Golden Book) at age 6, (from the illustrations, I pictured her living in Switzerland and therefore, naturally, speaking German) thinking it was a staggering feat of word-craft with one of the great heroines in fantasy literature, followed by absolutely random neural misfirings, like the divine taste of eating ripe cherries with expensive bourbon or wondering if Oxyclean would work on the Shroud Of Turin. Then I thought about the spiritual studies from my past. Sure, why not? The teachings of Zoroaster? No. Islam? Ugh. Judaism? Oi Gevalt. Voodoo? *Sigh* I am so not ready to join my ancestors, yap, yap, yap. The lives of the Saints started to flash one by one through my head. but luckily, before the stigmata began, the Roman Catholic stuff gave way to the Taoist that in turn gave in- willingly- to the Buddhist teachings. I remembered. I remembered Suan Mokkh.
Suan Mokkh was the brainchild of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (the name means "Monk who is Slave of Buddha). His ultimate goal was to relieve human suffering, the basis of which is ignorance of the true nature of reality - the most important aspects of which are that all phenomena are
a) impermanent and b) void of inherent existence.
Item a) is simple enough - you don't need to be Heraclitus to work out that there is nothing (i.e. No thing. Not one) that doesn't change. But b) is a bit more complicated. Unless you've seen The Matrix and Matrix Reloaded, whose fundamental cosmologies and metaphysics derive from postmodern theories which, in turn, were imported largely from Buddhist philosophy and applied to late 20th and early 21st century culture (Did you notice all those Buddhas? All that stuff about cause and effect?)
Postmodern theories of reality also recognize that cognitive experience of external phenomena is mediated by the senses, interpreted by consciousness, and that the existence of such phenomena is also contingent upon causes and parts - those of both object and subject. The essence of Buddhist philosophy is identical - nothing has inherent existence, including and especially the self. At Suan Mokkh, these philosophies are used as the basis for a meditation practice that liberates the mind from conceptual thought and, in particular, the concept of such a thing as "I" or "mine."
In the I of the beholder So, the idea is this. When we come into contact with an object - any object, whether it a potential beau, a bottle of wine, a pair of Manolo Blahniks, or that irresistible deep-fried Mars Bar, our mind creates not only a mental image of said object, but also an identity with which to consume the object. Which is why you can see/drink/eat/wear/date the same thing twice (or so you think), but on one occasion you'll hurl and the next you'll salivate. Not just because nothing's ever really the same thing twice, but also because you're never really the same person twice. We take for granted the fact that we have different personas for work, family, date, life-partner, bit-on-the-side, etc. The Buddhist philosophy of self pushes that envelope into a different dimension, stating that not only does the persona fail to exist, not being the true "core" of the self, but that, being entirely dependent upon external causes, conditions, upon its constructions of memory and experience, no such self exists at all, but is created from moment to moment. This happens with such speed that we perceive these selves a narrative, much as we see separate shots played at 24-frames-per-second as a movie. So, ultimately, nothing is what it seems, at all. That's life. And then you die. And then you do it all again.

It's all enough to make you wonder what the hell is going on and, more importantly, who in the hell you are, anyway. Never mind. Have a cherry...

Bourbon Old Fashion
3 dashes bitters
1 tsp water
sugar cube
3 oz bourbon whiskey
1 slice orange
Fresh cherries
In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the bitters and water into the sugar cube, using the back of a teaspoon. Almost fill the glass with ice cubes and add the bourbon. Garnish with the orange slice. Serve with a tasteful swizzle stick and fresh cherries. yummo.
Here are two versions of a favorite animated feature by the great Ub Iwerks, one for Disney, one for Columbia, one from 1929 and one from 1937.
You're all gonna die. I'm just sayin'... And, FYI, There is no crying in baseball. Or the cemetery. If you live there. So there you are, now you know. Get it? Got it. Good......

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zeitgeist, particular friend, perky libertine, animated trickster, iconoclast, rabble-rouser, object of worship, provocateur, capricious damp enchantress, idiosyncratic beloved reptile, whimsical saucy booze hound, bellwether, luminary, stoic, pensive illicit paramour, aloof, engaged, intuitive, curious, perplexing deranged mastermind, passionate, lasciviously adored offspring, amorous, sultry flamboyant charioteer, scholar, scribe, exalted thespian, voracious, considerable chieftain, impaired, cynical colleague, dreamer, procrastinator, loathsome glutton, artist, oppressed peasant, dainty heathen, narcissist, self-loathing...renaissance man