Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lose Your Head/Vegetarian Poem/New Series

(P1) Philosophical

Himalaya Headless

(link to photo source)

I was so taken with Joe Carpenter’s response to my afterlife survey that, in addition to it being added as a comment, I thought I would feature it here because I suspect that not everybody reads the comments. Following the article, I’ll include what Joe provided as a “biography.” I first came across Joe Carpenter’s work in a wonderful article titled “We Are The People” in the current Utne Reader.

Notes from nobody - with a smile

In the 1930's, a fellow named Douglas Harding was hiking in the Himalayas. At one point, in an instant, he realized that he'd been confused about the nature / existence of - his head. His thoughts, and sometimes various sensations, had always endeavored to place this "head" atop his shoulders. However, as he was wandering about in the Himalayas, looking at the astonishing scenery, he was jolted by the fact that, for the most part, he did not experience a head in that "space," where he thought his head was, but, rather, moment to moment, in day to day life, he experienced an "empty space." Somehow, he'd just never noticed! He realized, too, that that space was filled, at the moment, with the clear, crisp grandeur of the Himalayas, but that it generally contained "the world." This empty space, where he'd always believed he had a head, was filled with life - with, well, with everything. He said, later: "...I lost a head, and gained the whole world." (photo-D.Harding)

This understanding, this insight, is sometimes called enlightenment, or awakening... as if waking from a dream.

Rumi refers to it in several places. In this example, he calls it "presence" -

"...The presence that one second is soil, then water, fire, smoke, woof, warp, a friend, a shame, a modesty,

is too vast and intimate for partnership. Observers watch as presence takes thousands of forms.

But inside your eyes, the presence does not brighten or dim; it just lives there..."

In this one, he calls it "another world" -

"People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep!"

In this one, he speaks of what happened to him, after this insight, after "losing a head, and gaining a world:"

"...He has ransacked my house so that no one lives here anymore,

just a boy running barefoot all through it."

Let's pretend, for the moment, that this "space," this "presence," is actually that "Reality, which is neither sensory nor conceptual, neither of the body, nor of the mind, though it includes and transcends both," as Nisargadatta puts it.

Let's pretend, further, that "the world," the stuff which occupies this "space" - whatever it might be at any given moment... the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, a row of filthy garbage cans, the kitchen sink, the pizza delivery guy, the lawn in the back yard, a portion of one's body and a computer screen and keyboard, a dreadful and vivid old memory, a fantasy involving several nurses and a bedbath, the darkness of the insides of the eyelids - whatever...

let's pretend that this "world" is a magnificent painting - a living, breathing, constantly moving, ever changing painting, astonishingly "lifelike."

I ofttimes think that, as we age, and perhaps acquire a bit of wisdom, there come some odd 'pentimento experiences,' as it were. There is something "else," sometimes, in the painting, beneath the painting. There arise odd questions, strange presentiments, experiences which do not make sense. We grow older, still, and the painting sometimes almost seems transparent, and the painting now sometimes contains odd images and strange dreams, insights, certainties...

Then, one day, an "unseen hand" comes and wipes away all the paint of the painting that is "one's life." That "empty space," that "presence" we've talked about, above, is entirely unaffected. It remains as "presence," powerful, aware, alive - but the painting has been wiped away. One could call this "death."

But now, the 'pentimento' painting is revealed; there is another painting beneath the old one. It is a "new," old painting - and the "stuff" of this painting is what fills that "empty space," for a while, or perhaps for a very long time. And then, perhaps, the empty space somehow conjures up a brand new painting to cover the old, new one, and we call this "birth." Though, of course, that "empty space," has remained, throughout, entirely unaffected - "including and transcending both body and mind" - and infinitely more.

Joe Carpenter says the following about himself, “Gee, I don't have much of a bio. I'm just a goofy, almost old guy who has spent lots of time wandering around. I work out in my cluttered garage, on an aging, beat-up laptop. I'm a nobody with a smile. I guess that's as good a title as any - "Notes from nobody - with a smile."

You know, I went to Nisargadatta's house, in 1991. He'd been dead for ten years, but I was undaunted. I stood there with my hand on the building for perhaps ten minutes while a lot of very, very poor Indians hustled by and looked at me as if I was from another planet - which, of course, was true. Then, I walked to a wonderful, old cafe up on the main road. I talked with an old curmudgeon who had known Maharaj. He asked me why I'd visit the home of a dead man. I told him about reading his books and pondering his teachings. The guy said: "You believe all that? No need to be so complicated. Here's the answer: Want much? Little happiness. Want little? Much happiness."

The US had just invaded Iraq, in George the First's War. He said: "Americans want very, very much."

( Sharp Cookie, eh?)

< - This is not Joe Carpenter

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(P2) Poetical

I'm Not Yet a Vegetarian but...

This poem must be read all the way through or you'll miss the whole point.

A Buddhist Grace or What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Somehow I never make it through this prayer:
Potatoes, celery, carrots, onions,
Each tenderly coaxed
From soft soil aerated by your hand
Thank you farmer for your work
I am connected to you

Through this fine stew
Unified by its good red burgundy stock.
Thank you vintners and wine makers
For your part in this symphony
Conducted with the tang of a bay leaf.
Let’s see, allow me to consider what else
For which to be thankful in my
deep dish of pungent stew...
...ah the succulence of fall-apart beef
Nurtured to morseled chunks by your hand,
My cook, my uniter of all components.
Thank you cattle for offering yourselves as sacrifice
Thank you slaughterhouse workers
wading ankle-deep in blood.
Thank you, those of you with the courage
to impersonally slay.
Thank you to the packers hanging carcasses on hooks.
Thank you for the cutters who hew beef bodies
As if they were so many grades and cuts of lumber.
Thank you, all of you, for the intimate part
You play in my meal and my life this day.

Please Post Your Comments Here about the above or any below and/or Read the Comments of Others.You can sign in as "blogger" or "other" but please add your name or initials to your text. Or email me at We need your feedback.

(P3) Political (sort of)

New Series: Things Even I Know That George Bush Doesn't

(1) "In all there are more than seven thousand known species of dung beatles without which the earth would literally smother in excrement."

-Carl Hiaasen in Sick Puppy


Chiara said...

You changed your picture? No suspenders.

Now you know why I don't eat beef, my dear.

Duncan said...

I don't eat.....very much.....beef. But, alas, only a little because it makes fat globules that float around in my blood and clog my vessels.

If one consumed only nuts and fruits, milks and cheeses, and there may be more, one could probably survive without killing another being.

I know a woman who will eat nothing that walks, flies, swims or grows in the dark. Legumes are permitted as the "working" part of the plant grows in daylight.

joe said...

Hi Ed -
Great poem, thanks.
I, too, struggle toward eliminating meat from my diet. I've cut down on almost everything, but, since I'm not really "excited" about any veggies, I'll probably never succeed completely.

I became more serious about it a few years ago, after reading that "factory farming" was becomming quite common throughout the US, squeezing out the traditional, and relatively humane family farms.
The article discussed in some detail, how dreadful is the treatment of animals in such places, which places their health at great risk and which, thus, requires that they receive massive doses of antibiotics, vitamins, etc... Sounded real grim. However, the kicker, for me was this little factoid:
It is illegal in Illinois, and in some other states, to take a photograph of a factory farm...!!!