Friday, August 15, 2008

Fox Mulder's Vespa

Stories about celebrities riding scooters are almost as common these days as the boilerplate fluff pieces linking rising scooter sales with rising gas prices. In other words, not really worth me commenting on. But this story about David Duchovny purchasing a Vespa to fill the holes left by electric car is worth checking out.

"I’ve had my RAV4 EV [Toyota’s all electric 4x4] for the last four years,” Duchovny says. “It was supposed to be a prototype for the next generation of cars. But the problem is that the car needs charging every night and the most you can do in a day is 80 miles. It is like being tethered.”

He has become so fed up with it that since moving back to New York from Los Angeles he has bought a Vespa scooter.

I also like the fact, mentioned later in the article that he didn't have a drivers license until he was 27.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Buddha's Mom Wants to Know Why He Never Calls

My recent post Buddha was Deadbeat Dad has elicited more thoughtful responses (three!) than just about thing else I have posted in over two years of this blog's existence.
I feel little bad that the angle I took in that post was a little of the devil's advocate. At the same time, well, it got at least three people to thinking and writing, so whatever.

Above is a picture of Hui Neng, a pivotal figure in the development of Chan and Zen Buddhism. He is, of course, ripping up sacred scrolls. His point, supposedly, was that enlightenment is not to be found in texts, but in reality. Such is the inspiration behind such Zen mottos as "Mistaking the finger for the moon," and "If you meet Buddha in the road, kill him."

Sure this is all well and good, but how does it relate to parenting? More specifically, how does it relate to the secular spirituality of parenting?

My point in declaring Buddha a deadbeat dad, was in a way, to kill the Buddha in the road. True enlightenment is not dependent on weekend retreats, or even dedicating a half-hour a day of uninterrupted time to zazen. True enlightenment comes from being aware of where you are RIGHT NOW. That can be, as Robert Anton Wilson would have said, "Right where you are sitting now." It can also be awareness of yourself as you deal with a difficult client or co-worker. It can be the zen-like adrenaline high that comes from operating a scooter, which Steve Williams often alludes to on Scooter in the Sticks. Or it can be the awareness that your every action, every word, every subconscious attitude is being absorbed by the sponge like wailing infant, screaming inconsolably in your arms.

This concept of Buddhism being merely tool which is to be discarded once it has served its purpose is one of the most alluring aspects of it as a philosophy. Most religions and philosophies seem to want to rule your life, to become irrevocably integrated into your entire existence. Buddhism, like all great teachers... and most importantly for the purposes of this post, like all good parents, has its own obsolescence as it's goal.

There is definitely more to be discussed on this issue, and I welcome your thoughts.

If Buddha had a Scoot

Fatherhood has put a serious dent in my blogging, but not in my thinking, the B.S. -ing philosophizing part of my brain has gone into overdrive, I just have little time to record it.

Recently though I received the following email from Booboo Tannenbaum, and I thought I should share it. I'll comment on it in more depth in a later post.

Dear Honky-Tonk Dragon--

I bounced onto your website the other day while doing a search on a
winter Dianese jacket that my husband is crazy about, but obviously
can't afford ($1200?! zoinks!). But right away I fell in love with
your blog.

I also really like the song for your new daughter, Zoe, that Mark
Hinkley sang at your baby shower from your most recent post. Thanks a
bunch for sharing it, and congratulations on this transformative and
joyous new stage of your life.

While reading through the recent entries, you had one in May about
Buddha being a Dead-beat Dad. I read it about a week ago, and it's
been kicking around in my head for the last few days especially. I
know you weren't attacking Buddha, Buddhism, or religion in the post
itself--in fact, I quite agree with you completely that our families
are especially ripe circumstances for us to recognize and work with
the challenges of our egos, or our self-centered thinking. And I hope
you don't think it's presumptuous of me to write you about this
(especially if you're not interested in further conversation about
it), but the Buddha's teaching are all about the middle way, or the
"Middle Path".

Buddhism doesn't advocate withdrawal from the world, but recognition
that the world does not exist as we think it does. The Buddha's
teachings are very staunch in advocating the dangers of extremes--even
his years of ascetecism, before his enlightenment, are examples of how
dangerous and damaging living in circumstances of extremity or
polarity (whether physical, emotional, or intellectual) can be. In
this way, most Buddhists would say that the path of the Buddha, the
middle way, is about being *in* the world, but not *of* the world.
It's like when you're out in your scooter in bad traffic--it sucks,
and you could let that ruin your day (be *of* the world), or you could
let go of the busy traffic, the heat, the stagnant air. What can you
really do about it but control the way you think about and respond to
the experience? You could be mad and angry, but who suffers for
that--just you and your ride, and anything else in your day or your
life that you let that anger infect. (The Buddha said that being
angry is like holding hot coals with the intention of throwing them:
the only one who is hurt is yourself).

So, in regard to the Buddha and his family, I wanted to send along a
short but (I feel) edifying from a text that discusses the Buddha's
spiritual path and responsibilities as it relates to his family, wife,
and child:


The Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and a
father before his renunciation and he knew what married life entailed.
Some non-Buddhists say that Prince Siddhartha was selfish and cruel
and that it was not fair for him to desert his wife and child. In
actual fact, Prince Siddhartha did not desert his family without a
sense of responsibility.

He never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He had same love and
attachment towards his wife and child as any normal person would have,
perhaps, even greater.

The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish
love. He had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional
and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered the
more noble, because he set aside his personal needs and desires in
order to serve all of mankind for all time.

The main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness,
peace or salvation, but for the sake of mankind. Had he remained in
the royal household, his service would have been confined to only his
family or his kingdom and that is why he decided to renounce
everything in order to gain enlightenment and then to enlighten others
who were suffering in ignorance.

Thus one of Buddha's earliest tasks after gaining Enlightenment was to
return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family, including
his wife and son. Buddha served his family and paved the way for their
salvation, peace and happiness . Therefore, no one can say that Buddha
was a cruel or selfish man. With his high degree of spiritual
development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase,
while Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

The Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his absence
and that other members of his family would willingly look after his
dependants. When He gained Enlightenment, he was able to give his
family something no other man could have given, namely the freedom
from slavery to attachment.


The context in which I tend to think about it is like this; think
about the love you have for your spouse, and especially for your new
baby girl. Now imagine that you feel that kind of deep,
indiscriminate, selfless love for all other living beings,
including--and this is the hard Hard HARD part--people you have
difficulties with. This was the path of the Buddha, to attain
enlightenment for the benefit of all other beings, and to cultivate
love and compassion for everyone, everyone, by eliminating the mental
obscurations which prevented him from experiencing the wisdom of an
enlightened mind. Then, having attained this, he dedicated his life to
teaching others how to do the same.

Like you said in your comments, "coming to terms with that which is
bigger than ourselves" is of immense importance in this life. In this
way, the Buddha had to think "bigger than" himself, his family, his
wife, his child. This is not to diminish their importance to him, but
to emphasize the great responsibility he felt for helping all other
beings, that in previous lives they had also been his family--mother,
father, wife, son--and that he owed them all the benefits of his
liberation and enlightenment, too.

For the last 2600+ years, those who have studied the Buddha's
teachings (the Dharma), are still benefitting from his teachings;
finding at least peace of mind and sometimes--as in the example of the
Dalai Lama--working more largely for peace in the world. If nothing
else, we owe the Buddha's wife and son so much gratitude for their
patience (another teaching of the Buddha's) during the years of his
absence while working toward attaining enlightenment.

Self-sacrifice is hard. But when it helps others, somehow it gains new
value and meaning. Especially when there's love involved, and a loving
compassion that wants others to be free of all suffering. But you're
about to have a chance to practice some self-sacrifice with your new
Zoe, and I have no doubts that it will be Worth It. :)

All best wishes,
Booboo Tannenbaum
Alabama (a different kind of honky-tonk, no?!)

Booboo also wanted me to mention the quotation about Siddhartha Gautama comes from here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Zoe Read Armstrong Auerbach

That's right folks, the Dragon is a daddy!

Jes had about 31 hours of early labor and about 2.5 hours of active labor. The attending midwife and nurse both were amazed at how quickly and smoothly Jes delivered.

Mom and baby are both recovering fine, thanks for asking.

So far Zoe has been a joy. She is a calm, curious infant whose most frequent expression is dubious but observant.

Though I son't intend to make this a baby blog, I'm sure more details will come.

For now we'd like to clebrate Zoe's arrival with song.

Isn't she lovely?

or for those you are the freakier side of reality, how about how about East German Punk Diva, Nina Hagen's trippy song celebrating the birth of her daughter Cosma Shiva?

And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to share the song that local Redding musician Mark Hinkley performed for us at Jes's Baby shower.

Zoe's Song

May you be blessed with loving kindness,
May you be well,
May you be graceful and at ease,
May you be happy.

May your first sight be of your family,
May you reach out,
And keep your family close to you,
May you be happy.

May your first steps grow strong and steady,
May you cry out,
Then may learn to sing of love,
May you be happy.