I have had this website for several years but have never used it for posts, only as a static way for people to find out about my zen teaching activities. But now, entering my 12th week of Covid lockdown and unable to join with Ross Bolleter Roshi to co-teach the ZGWA spring sesshin as we have done together for the past nine years, I feel the need to communicate with the world beyond the walls of my apartment.
Many people seem to be waiting for everything to ‘get back to normal’. This is not going to happen. If you have been keeping track of the climate news during this pandemic you will know that things are getting worse much more quickly that had been anticipated. In the Guardian this week, climate scientist Peter Kalmus wrote, ‘As a climate scientist, I am terrified by what I see coming. I want world leaders to stop hiding behind magical thinking and feel the same terror. Then they would finally end fossil fuels.’ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/10/net-zero-2050-deadly-procrastination-fossil-fuels
We are not going ‘back to normal.’ Normal has gone. That is the bad news. The good news is that ‘normal’ was always an illusion, an unreal view of the world as predictable and knowable. We and the world together are unpredicatable and unknowable except here in the moment: this breath, the birdsong, and the wind rattling the door knobs on this blustery morning. Like Peter Kalmus, I too am frightened. History shows us that when people are frightened they are more susceptible to leaders with authoritarian agendas and this can lead to fractures and the kind of civil unrest we saw recently under Trump and in response to being told to get vaccines. We need to be frightened enough to respond appropriately to global warming which will otherwise destroy us all, but not so frightened that we stop trusting anyone, even those who provide vaccines to protect both ourselves and those around us who may be more vulnerable.
Having a Zen practice helps with this. We learn that everything is impermanent, that suffering is inevitable and that the self isn’t what we think. With time, this helps give us comfort and courage to do what we can to ease suffering whenever we meet it. I am heartened by the upswelling of people with a commitment to doing all they can to help others face the existential challenges we are currently facing, or that we know are coming. Sometimes I have felt frustrated that I don’t have the medical skills or the political skills or the engineering skills that would be most helpful in a particular situation but we can usually do something. If all else fails, do the washing up!
Now, unable to teach in person in WA later this month, I have decided to write occasional posts so that I can keep in touch with you and let you know what I’m doing, wherever we are and whatever closed borders prevent us from meeting in person.