Zen & the Arts - Field Notes


Uncertainty Club is a magazine started by a group of friends. We are interested in the space between art, science, and consciousness. Because we’re a group of friends the magazine is a conversation. You are welcome to join, too.

Some bits of the universe are profoundly alive; they show up in the morning even before we are fully awake. At Uncertainty Club, we’re attracted to lively pieces because they’re beautiful or because they are destabilizing and that’s exciting. The pieces that jump out at us refer to something larger than our usual interests, to how we know things and what we are and our place in the matrix of everything. A piece here is a piece of the pattern, something that opens a door out of whatever prison the mind might have wandered into.

Uncertainty Club comes out of the Pacific Zen Institute’s long-running project on Zen koans, the arts, and consciousness.  Zen koans, like art, can change your life, they embrace our vital unsteadiness—the way we are not actually standing on anything. One koan goes, “Not knowing is most intimate.” Language too is an unsteady, changing thing. Language is based on metaphor, which comes from the Greek “transfer, bear across.” All of our understanding rests on this uncertain, uneasy footing, a rickety bridge of words, myth, aspiration and half-sensed images.

Uncertainty leads in the direction of not being separate from the life we’re in. It’s also in the direction of not believing most of the things I might otherwise have believed, even things about who I am. Not believing things is an important job for artists and scientists and meditators right now, when the world of power is full of vehemence.

So send us some of the bridges, images, and dreams you create or stumble upon, while wandering in Koanville.

We look forward to the conversation.
– John Tarrant, General Editor


Beginning in 2018, Uncertainty Club will be published online two times per year.

We always start with a koan. The magazine’s editors and a few other Pacific Zen Institute members and artists each contribute a piece responding in some way to the koan, and this bundle of material is published all at once. This will give a sense of the diverse ways that we can respond creatively to koans, as they show up in us and in our world.

After publication, Uncertainty Club will remain open for new submissions for three months. You are welcome to submit material that resonates with and responds to the current koan, and we will let you know within a few weeks whether we will add it to the issue or not. After these months, we will move on to a new koan. And so on and so on….

To learn more about Uncertainty Club’s editors and contributors, visit our Contributors page.

Besides submitting to Uncertainty Club, you can also subscribe, or support us financially, because poetry generally doesn’t. Become a Patron to help sustain us and move towards publishing printed issues.