Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

In the middle of the night
the dog
is watching summer lightning

In this issue of Uncertainty Club we have fire, water, the goddess, and long reads for the end of summer. 

The connection between Chan and the feminine feel for the world is ancient. It begins with an appreciation for beauty. The world is beautiful beyond liking or disliking. We never tire of the winter snow, the spring sunlight, the look in the eyes of a deer, a stranger, someone we love. Every moment is complete and holds all moments that have ever been or ever will be. The presence of here spreads out through our lives.

The early meditators in China thought of here as a kind of feminine presence from which everything arises. Everyone looks to mountains but the world actually comes from the valley, apparently unobtrusive, not asserting or exerting herself, something indescribable. That power, the Valley Spirit, is inexhaustible. And we depend on it without even knowing that we do, although it’s easy to see: the way the trail reaches up to meet your feet when you take a walk, the way the trees embrace the air, the sense of aliveness and deep solace you feel when you breathe and look around and see, “Oh I have a place in this mystery, I am this mystery.” Beauty catches us off guard. We reach out for wholeness but we already have wholeness, even in the reaching.

The Daodejing was written right at the beginning of Chan, and helped make Chan and Zen so different from original Buddhism. It describes the origin like this:

The power of the valley never dies.
It’s called the Mother-Deep.
The gate of the Mother-Deep
is the root of earth and sky,
gossamer like silk, always here unseen,
use it; it will never leave you.

(Version by Rachel Boughton)


In these pages:

Rachel Boughton has a lovely investigation of the European lineage of the valley spirit. She looks at the role of The Lady, the mother deep, the goddess, in the neolithic European world, and the implications of Marija Gimbutas’s archeological work on the goddess.

Joan Sutherland, who not by coincidence, edited Marija Gimbutas’s monumental book Language of the Goddess, has two pieces on the myth we are currently in. Joan is trying to reimagine the meaning we give to current events.

Dogo Graham, who teaches Zen and writes novels in Glasgow, has given us a poem.

Chris Gaffney has a piece about the Paradise fire in California which burned his land but not his house. 

Mario Da Cunha has three marvelous art pieces.

I have a piece on the enigmatic koan of a sieve being filled with water and also a poem about the dreams of an apricot tree.

Happy end of summer to all.

John Tarrant

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