Lunar Bodhi Day 2019 Eve – Time

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The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet pointing out this log disintegrating to be integrated into everything around it.

Tomorrow, January 2, 2020, is the “real” Bodhi Day. Tomorrow will be the 8th Day of the 12th Lunar month of the Chinese year 4717.

Since for most of the world today (Jan 1, 2020) is New Year 2020 (new decade too), the subject of time is an appropriate topic for this short “pre lunar Bodhi Day” message.

Perceived Time

Time seems to go by faster and faster as I age. It was harder to notice that when before I turned thirty. But when I turned thirty, I noticed that getting to twenty seemed to take forever. Then, before I knew it, I was forty then almost sixty. I know it’s not just me. Mrs. Hanamoku notices it, as well as most of our friends over forty or fifty.

The perception of time is a function of how much things are changing. If things are changing quickly, more snapshots are taken to capture what is going on. Fewer snapshots are needed to capture the essence of watching paint dry.

Most of us have experienced the second before a split-second, life-threatening event, such as a car just a few yards away coming right at us. Life becomes like a video at 10% speed. We’re able to notice everything. By noticing everything we can take wise actions. With that rapid rate of snapshots during that second, what seems like 10 seconds was really just a second.

As I recall my 3rd grade year of school, my impression of it is like that year lasted ten years. It was a time dense with learning, not just the school learning. The core of who I was becoming, my understanding of the world and my interaction with it, noticeably evolved every day.

When you pour cream into coffee and stir, the changes are noticeable, the swirls of cream and coffee. After a second of two, those swirls matures into the light brown drink where further change isn’t very noticeable. That initial time of noticeable change is very short.

As you age, the world changes whether you notice it or not, you continue to change, but not like when you were a kid. However, even at my age, I can still taste the phenomenon of time seeming to pass slower than others.

I’ve been at my current employment for about six months as I write this. I can remember the first two months going by slowly. Then suddenly I’m at six months! As it is with all new jobs, those first two months were a tumultuous time of learning about the processes of my new job, the nature of the work, laying the foundation of my relationships with my co-workers. Then I got the hang of it and despite project milestones and learning a new thing or two each day, it’s not like the learning of those first couple of months. Now the days pass by in a blur.

But even though I changed jobs this year and experienced that slowdown of time after those couple of months, I still have this uncomfortable sense of time flying when I think of Christmas 2018 a year ago. That’s because although I changed places of employment, my place of employment is only a tiny part of who I am.

In terms of Normal Daily Life, the vast majority of who I am, even the generalized nature of the kind of work I do, is roughly similar since last year. So my brain records relatively few snapshots of the year.

It’s not a matter of how many seconds or years go by, but how much is crammed into it. As the level of our Zen skill rises, our attention is focused tightly on the present and so more of the Universe is noticed. In a Zen sense, time slows down as our ability to stay in the present improves. Ultimately, if we were supremely in the Now, would that mean time pretty much stands still?

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The 2019 Buddha cookie aged over the past week and a half since it was made. The water in the frosting moves around.

Time and Impermanence

The Zen master, Takuan Soho, wrote about something like this:

“… when you first notice the sword that is moving to strike you, if you think of meeting that sword just as it is, your mind will stop at the sword in just that position, your own movements will be undone, and you will be cut down by your opponent.” – from The Unfettered Mind.

We can update Takuan’s statement to something more contemporary: “If a quarterback throws the football to where the moving receiver is when he throws it, the receiver will no longer be there.”

Football fans know that. But Takuan’s statement goes deeper, applying to the impermanence of every thing in our lives, not just the changing position of a wide receiver over a short time of a few seconds.

Change is constant. All of our thoughts are based on records of the past we store in our brains. None of those things filed into our memories actually exists in the next instant. So rather than the pursuit of learning more, we pursue how to blend in with this changing Now, so that our information is always up to date.

Change happens even if we don’t notice it. In the middle of the night life is in full gear somewhere else on Earth. At the microscopic levels, huge populations of tiny creatures are playing out predator and prey dramas every bit as wild as those of the savanna and jungles. Every cell of our bodies are buzzing along even as our mind detects nothing from our senses.

If you now understand Takuan’s statement from “Unfettered Mind”, I’m giving myself a pridefully un-Buddhist pat on the back. I read that passage many times over my life, but as hard as I tried, I didn’t really get it until a few years ago. If you still don’t, then please do chastise me for my pridefullness … haha!

Bodhi Day Mulligan

If you missed the “secular” Bodhi Day of December 8, as it is each year, you have another shot at Bodhi Day. Even though many of us are going back to work tomorrow after this New Year holiday, take the time to observe the lunar Bodhi Day. Wake up a little early to peruse my series of posts on the Eightfold Path from the “secular” Bodhi Day a few weeks ago.

Faith and Patience to you,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Mrs. Hanamoku and I are half-way through a two-day road trip from our home to Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast. We’re meeting up with my step-father, mother, and a few of my step-father’s friends. We’re spending three days with them there, followed by the two-day trip back home.

My step-father has advanced cancer and his prognosis is bad. But it seems to be under control for the moment. So he’s taking a break from chemo to spend some quality time with his family and friends who are in the Pacific Northwest.

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To the Eternal Fishnu, the tens of millions of years of processes that yielded these wonderful patterns is no time at all. These formations are practically brand new compared to his Devonian period. How distorted is the reality painted by our little human brains confined to a little spot of space and time.

Yesterday we stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds for a little bit of hiking. Places such as these where minimal vegetation exposes patterns and shapes forged over a very long time over huge areas paints vivid reminders that our Earthly brain of two to three pounds probably doesn’t know much.

The scale of reality is so immense we can’t begin to imagine it. Even many of my highly skilled software developer colleagues forget that systems are very different when we’re talking about handling a few thousand elements of data versus even a few billion, much less trillions. And a trillion really is a small number!! You have 30 or so trillion cells in just your own body!

Say the words, “Ten to ten to the tenth.” Wasn’t that easy to say? Well, maybe not with all those words starting with “t”. The “ten to the tenth” is ten billion, sort of close to the number of humans currently inhabiting Earth. If we “wrote” that number out with people, starting with me as the “1”, and all the other seven billion people in the world lined up next to me acting as “0s”, that would form a number still three billion zeros short, give or take, of ten to the ten to the tenth – virtually zero!

How valid is that point? Does anything have numbers that big? Yes. Perhaps not in the conventional “counting” sense, such as counting the number of copies of a book sold or the number of atoms in the Universe. It does, however, arise daily in the very real combinatorics issues I deal with that plays a big part in my job. That is, exploring as many possibilities for business decisions as possible.

You’ve probably heard it said that there are something like 10 to the 120 possible games of chess. That’s a really big number – so big that hardly anyone will deal with anything remotely close to such a number.

But chess is a very simple game – a board of 64 squares, 32 total pieces moving 6 unique ways. It’s also sequential, meaning pieces move one at a time as opposed to all at the same time. Remember, we’ve already made a computer program that can play this game better than any human. That means it is a simple game.

The world of business is an incredibly more complicated game. It’s not hard to come up with ten to the ten to the tenth possible ways business evolve. It may not seem like such an impossible task to make decent predictions because we can predict particular things fairly well within the next day, week, or month.

But add up a lot of predictions, all the things that go on in commerce – all those possible actions of seven billion people, thousands of governments at various levels, countless natural phenomenon – even over a short period of time. We end up with even more than ten to the ten to the tenth possible scenarios. All the planning by the Dream Team of planners will do a shitty job of predicting the state of business even a few years from now.

The Universe is vast beyond what we can actually imagine.

What does this have to do with my step-father? Dealing with mortality. There’s a good chance your brain is wrong about what it thinks is going to happen after the thirty trillion or so cells in your body ceases to operate as a team. Heaven or Hell? Reincarnated? Or do you just end right there? Whether or not we believe in an afterlife, our human brains are centered around our instinct to survive.

Personally, I have to conclude that in the unimaginable vastness of the Universe, there’s a pretty good chance there’s some outcome my human brain with this powerful instinct to survive would be happy with. All the matter that have been a part of you and all the matter you’ve affected throughout your life are an intricate part of all that is yet to come. Remember, Hollywood really screwed up our idea of what really happens if even little old you had not existed.

Our Last Sunset at Lincoln City.
“All beings are temporal phenomena, intricately woven into Everything, all intricately of great value to the One.” – The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet

The verse, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, is often attributed as the basis of our phrase, “This too shall pass.” That phrase is usually meant to comfort us in bad times. However, what if you are near the end and there is no good time to follow? Everything passes from our lowly human point of view. But in the scheme of the Universe, which is much beyond that, everything that has been and will be is there.

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“You live somewhere in time. Maybe not tomorrow or next year or next century, but somewhere in time.” – The Eternal Fishnu

In the context of this blog, the word, “unseen”, in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, means that because our brains are puny, just because we can’t fathom something doesn’t mean it’s not there. Have faith that “the numbers” are overwhelmingly on your side – that in the Universe there exists more than your brain can conjure up. As Mrs. Hanamoku very facetiously says to me, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

In a few hours, Mrs. Hanamoku and I will head out from Prineville over to Lincoln City. During that six hour drive, people at my place of employment will be getting on without me, busy with more planning than doing. That is, worried more about a future projected from past experiences, and not focused on what they should be doing now.