I’ve been hiding away in my little concerns for the last while; and to anyone out there who has been following my posts here and who might have been looking forward to new ones, all I can do is belatedly thank you for your interest. But, I don’t think I will be writing here anymore; I have transferred my interest. I am trying to take what I have learned from studying zen into outward things, into the world. And I have come up with the idea of developing a website, found here, for the purpose of helping the artists and crafts people in my local community promote their work. This idea is predicated on the notion that when artists/craftspeople are actually doing their work they enter a state of awareness that is not unlike the state we aspire to in zen. But most artists either have no interest in or no skills in marketing their own work. Having a little skill in that area myself, I thought that helping everyone along might not be misplaced. Well, the idea that I can help may well be misplaced, but I’m going to give it a go. And to that end, attached to the website, I will also be writing a blog about arts and culture on Galiano Island (and the world in general, and to how art helps us be aware and awakened to the moment). You can find it here.
It’s been about two months since I wrote here. And the book is done. It was done shortly after the last post and it has been sitting in the book press ever since waiting for the person who commissioned it to come back from Europe. He has family matters to attend to and I have no information re: date of his return. No matter. The book is a book for all that. I’ll not be able to get to another one for a while as the summer is the time to work on the house to try to get it finished. Today I did the final coat resurfacing the bathtub.
I got up on stage and played bass and sang in front of 200 people a week ago. Conquering an old fear has changed my life. Tonight I have a opening of abstract drawings; no fear.
I am starting to remember people’s names. Something I’ve always been bad at. This is so I can start doing a little community organizing with all the many wonderful artists on the island. Can’t talk to people if you can’t remember their names.
When one knows nothing about a topic, it is not necessarily a bad idea to jump in head first – as long as one is willing to put up with all the mistakes one is invariably going to make. In my case all the things that I could do wrong I have done wrong. The process of putting this rather large format book together has been a process of screw it up and fix it.
My Iaido teacher, sensei Ken Manecker, always talked about the importance of the beginner’s mind: One can only learn when one is in the embrace of the beginner’s mind. I wonder if, as in zen, the practise is not so much getting to the point that one does things perfectly, but rather one gets faster and faster at figuring out solutions to the problem of the mistake at hand.
The book is now sewn and glued. Next I will finish the spine and make the case.
The picture above is of the end papers, done with acrylic paint, that keep sticking together whenever I put the book into a press. Then I repair the paper. Why can’t I remember to put waxed paper between the pages? The solution: I thought to write a reminder on each press: “Wax Paper”. I wonder if I will pay any attention.
If I had bad days any more this would be one of them. But not being a bad day, it is merely one beset with fear and trepidation. Everything is sure to go wrong. What have I gotten myself into? I know nothing about book binding. Reading books on the subject is no substitute for having a good teacher who can direct one away from the most common errors. Me, I decide to go it alone. Figure out what I am doing as I go. So today I suspect that my signatures are too thick. When I press the signatures into my gluing frame, it looks like the glue will run down at least an eight inch between them. Is this good or bad? I have no idea. After procrastinating for hours, I go ahead, and glue everything up. If it doesn’t work, I have enough paper between the spine and the pictures that I can sew through the face of the paper. There is always a solution. Sometimes it just takes remaining calm in the face of habitual panic and self-loathing while waiting for the solution to come. So I procrastinated by going for a walk with my companion, in the sun, on the beach. She said, “Everything is shining.”
It still is.
I started making books because I was comissioned to do a book of abstract drawings/mixed media. The books that were commmerically available contained paper that was too thin to allow washes, so I opted to research bookbinnding and fell in love. So here is where the zen comes in – as a tool to allow me to continue to make the drawings (60 [+,-] on 9.75″ x 12.75 paper — ideally to sewn into signatures) when I want to fall into my new obsession and spend all my time there. But the commission comes first, and only then do I get to do anymore bookbinding. Ah, the anguish. All my life I’ve had a problem with impulse control. My impusle is to experiment wildly with bookbinding but my need and promise is to make a hand-made art book. I draw and wait for all things to pass. I don’t need to be impatient. In fact, impatience is best served by breathing and focusing on the art. I’ll post one of the draswings as soon as I decide that one is finished.
Second attempt. Still with the handicap of not having appropriate material. I am using 13 oz duck canvas. The coloured bits are 13 oz. painted with acrylic by the age-honoured method of using a scrap piece for a paint brush rag. My first book was signature sewn. This second book is fan glued (attempted a quarter-joint but the book was too thin and the canvas too thick). The glue on the first book was ordinary carpenter’s glue. I did a test on glues and the carpenter’s PVA glue became very brittle in a dried blob, where as the bookbinding PVA stayed flexible. Today I used acrylic medium to cover some paper. The idea is to paint my endpapers before putting them on the next case.
For the last few days (3-4-5?) I’ve been researching Bookbinding (youtube, Gutenberg Project. And now I’ve made my very first bound book, blank. I had to use what ever was laying round the house as I have none of the specialized tools or materials. But using ordinary paper and canvas from my painting, including an old paint rag, I cobbled together the book in the photos. Now I feel like I can go ahead and make a few more in preparation for a commission, 40 – 60 pages of abstract drawings. The reason that I needed to make my own book is that most books that are blank are not suitable for art. They are mostly used and intended for writing. Thanks for your attention to my joy at doing.
I have to get this off my chest (as the cliche goes). We were walking along a lonely country road, my partner and I, near dark, when a SUV passed us and disappeared around a corner. Then there was a scream and aloud thunk. We hurried ahead and found a trail of vehicle debris, a neighbourhood dog paralyzed on the side of the road, and then a woman, an acquaintance, collapsed in the deep ditch, hidden under a tree. My partner climbed down to see if she could comfort the woman till help arrived. Others arrived and called 911 from a home phone. Then the vehicle returned, its right fender crushed and mangled. I lost it and started screaming at the driver for leaving. My partner cautioned me and I left off. The fire department, the police and the ambulance arrived. Competence took over.
We stood and watched over the dog as it died. Two people volunteered to take the dog to the woman’s house and bury it in the garden. I gave the police my name and number then went home. Here I sit. Just now I hear the air ambulance taking off from the health clinic, headed for the hospital in the city.
I can think of all sorts of things about the driver’s culpability. The worse being that he only returned to the scene because he was on a small island and could not get off without being caught. But this isn’t the root of my emotional response, it is just a logical construction. My partner tells me to think about how young the driver was, that he probably just panicked. She is right. The driver may just as well have come back to the scene because he worried about the woman he hit. Who knows what he was thinking? All I can say is that it will be horrible for him because it will change his life. And all for a moment of not paying attention.
But why did I yell at the driver, and why do I have so many tears ready to flow?
No matter how much work I do on myself, I am always surprised by things that got programmed-in, deep in the past. My sister got hit by a drunk driver when she was six and I four. That is what came back: the grief built-in from before.
On the surface I yelled because I could think that if we hadn’t gone for a walk, the woman might have been left in the ditch to die. What a mess that would have been. The suffering could last for years. But underneath, I yelled and cried because my sister’s life was changed for ever, in an instant, and I have never fully been able to process my four year old reaction.
So now we pray for and worry about our friend. I think about how sad it will be for her when she wakes up to the news that her boon companion, her dog, has died.
‘Sorry to bug you again Arnie, but I couldn’t help but think of you when I read this, food for thought-’
“All religions, including Buddhism, stem from our narcissistic wish to believe that the universe was created for our benefit, as a stage for our spiritual quests. In contrast, science tells us that we are incidental, accidental.
Far from being the raison d’être of the universe, we appeared through sheer happenstance, and we could vanish in the same way. This is not a comforting viewpoint, but science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel.
Buddhism raises radical questions about our inner and outer reality, but it is finally not radical enough to accommodate science’s disturbing perspective. The remaining question is whether any form of spirituality can.”
Which he extracted from here.
If you follow my blog, then you might anticipate my answer:
“Hi Mr Wawa,
No, a simple spirituality or religiosity cannot accommodate reality because it is not based on any observed reality (and that is all we really have to work with) but is most often opposed to it: deny the earth and gain heaven. But we do not have to engage Buddhism in a religious mode; I think Buddhism serves better as a social/psychological science because it gives a method that allows us to reprogram our minds to escape suffering. The Buddha’s original statements (the four noble truths and the eight fold path: the method) are completely compatible with quantum physics, and in some ways can be thought of as anticipating it (emptiness, illusion of things, and the nature of the void). And so, while I generally agree with most of the statement you provided (above), the first sentence of the last paragraph seems wrong. Buddhism is scientific because it is a system for looking at reality and recognizing what is directly in front of us. Albeit, Buddhism is a science directed towards social and personal problems and not one that studies subatomic particles. In my experience, Buddha’s method steps in after the psychotherapy.
It cannot be denied that many people do make the Buddha into a saint or a god and ignore his ideas in because they need either a metaphysical father figure, who will solve all their problems, or an external source of the validation they cannot give to themselves. At its best, Buddhism, as a religion, does work for many people because it directs ones focus on the awareness of moment by moment reality. But even if people use Buddhism as a religion, it does not negate the Buddha’s scientific approach.
For me, Buddhism as spirituality is unnecessary. On the other hand, science is only useful once we have answered the philosophical questions lumped under the rubric Ethics. With no ethics scientific pursuit can bring us to unlimited destruction. Buddhism is focused on alleviating the suffering of oneself and of others. The big ethical questions are answered in Buddhism-as-a-science in a way not unlike entanglement in quantum mechanics, in that we are all entangled with each other and would do well to act accordingly.
As for Buddhism not being radical. And if your purpose is wanting to understand yourself and your place in the universe, Buddhism as an experimental science is a pretty radical idea.