Tag Archives: zentao

In for a Digital Grand

So, for the last three months, I’ve been eyeing my pianos — my acoustic pianos — thinking, I really ought to get back to playing regularly …get back to serious practice. After all, I’m not writing novels or books, right now (though that itch has been making itself known, too). I’ve successfully resisted the idea, though. It would mean getting a piano tuner/piano repair person in to go through both instruments — expensive (VERY).

Yesterday, along comes my husband (via cell phone conversation), who asks: “What would you think about playing piano, again? …As part of zentao, the music. I mean actually performing.”

I gulp, thinking about all the work and expense that means, me getting my chops back along with potentially having to restring and refelt one or both of my pianos. I mean, they’re both antiques, now, the upright grand built in 1917, the spinet in the 60s. And they’ve been moved and moved and stored and moved, again.

Then Forrest starts talking his musical Geek Speak — MIDI triggering, patching into the sound system, and a bunch of other jargon that I don’t understand.

Ummmm….

He talks on, speaking dreams and wishes, visions and hopes. I listen, my brain reeling as it starts connecting dots here and dots there. He’s not talking acoustic piano. He’s talking digital. Wow.

As he elaborates, I’m getting more concerned, more wary, and, simultaneously, more relaxed to the idea. I have the training and skill, though, as mentioned above, I’m very out-of-practice. And I can hear his excitement at the potentials he envisions, the first tune he wants to do being a Michael Hedges piece. He’ll arrange it tonight for me to play.

Now, we own three electronic keyboards. But we don’t (…or didn’t) own a digital piano, which is a completely different instrument.

He’s set on a VERY expensive keyboard he’s read the specs on. Meanwhile, I’m frantically doing a search for digital pianos. The keyboard he’s talking about is or can be a digital piano. It has the weighted keys. But it is not a digital grand. It’s a professional keyboard, designed for triggering stuff I don’t understand. A digital grand piano, on the other hand, is, in fact, a fully sampled grand piano.

As he talks to me throughout the day, I feel the inevitability. This is going to happen. It’s only a matter of ‘when’, and, since we’re both ‘now’ people, I realize that, yep, I’d better find what I want, and it has to be something we’ll both be happy with.

Yamaha makes the very best digital grand pianos. I hit Yamaha USA. I study the specs. I also go check out the unit he wants, and, no, it’s NOT a digital grand piano, which is what I want. Back to the digital grands. I read through the specs, the features. I look at the reviews of the one that first caught my eye. I check out the one I tried over in Spokane in July, a unit sitting on the main floor at Hoffman’s Music. I liked that unit. A lot. And it wasn’t over-the-top expensive. My eye travels back to the top-of-the-line model. Sigh. It’s got the top-of-the-line sampling, the GHS keyboard, and the damper resonance enhancements, which makes it act, play, and sound like a top quality acoustic grand.

Without telling him of my decision, I order one, and I order the three pedal add-on, because I play Rachmaninoff, not just Bach and Chopin. I need all three pedals, thanks. Would feel lame without them. Deal done, I text him about it. He’s good about it. In fact, this morning, he’s excited — more excited than me.

Me? I’m okay with the idea. I’m resolved to the fact that, yes, once again I’m going to be working very hard to get myself up to speed …up to the performance level he needs for what he envisions. Luckily, the piano is an easier instrument to play than the flute. (Yes, really.) I’m in for a grand — a digital grand. It’s coming in Friday.

Pragmatic Material Realists vs. Saturated, Infatuated Believers

In my daily life, especially with regard to both martial arts and the zentao lifeway, I often find myself besieged by one of two extremes — the pragmatic, material realist or saturated, infatuated believer. These two extremes are dynamically at odds with one another, yet love to seek me out, the former to argue and debate, the latter to try to gain reinforcement for their phantasmagorical euphoric belief systems.

Pragmatic material realists are the ‘safer’ of the two. People don’t get themselves into dire jeopardy, falling off the crumbling brink of their own sanity, when adhering to pragmatic material realism like do saturated, infatuated believers. Pragmatic material realists are ever steeped in skepticism, and skepticism for any method is very, very healthy. The mind of a skeptic questions, looks for holes in logic and reasoning, examines precepts and purported truths with an intent honed to detecting rot and misguided thinking. I applaud that. I invite it, even sanction and condone it. In fact, I do it myself quite readily and fervently, even in and to myself. It is the zentao way to do so. What I don’t condone, though, is that pragmatic material realists never bother to critically examine their own reductionist beliefs and question their close-minded, tunnel-vision. Worse, they outright dismiss anything and, worst, everything except pragmatically material explanations, no matter how contrived those explanations must become to fit the evidence. These folks ‘make decisions’ about absolutely everything, even when there are no grounds upon which to make such a decision.

Still, though, I much prefer the pragmatic material realist to the saturated, infatuated believer. While I won’t debate them (knowing very much the futility of trying to open a steel-reinforced granite vault whose 150 ton door’s locking mechanism has long-since rusted shut), I’m much more at home with their grounded perspective. Exposing the zentao thoughtway to the pragmatic material realist, though, is purely, for me, an exercise in patience and in accepting futility. Epiphany is beyond their any scope, yet they are apt students of martial ways, even Tai Chi, though it must be taught using principles of Newtonian physics. While the pragmatic material realist might never gain the ease and flow of Tai Chi, at least they gain a comprehension of the body mechanics involved in defending themselves.  Tai Chi is, after all, a very effective self-defense system when practiced as its founder intended.

Saturated, infatuated believers, on the other hand, are utterly and completely immune to any form of grounded, rational thinking. Their ecstasy at any possible supramundane suggestion they can, will, and do conceive, even the most ludicrous, propels them into ever-heightened euphoria. There can be no reaching the insidiously infatuated to bring their hot-air balloon brains back to earth.  Even suggest unlimited thinking to them, and their minds leap to the most fantastical, utterly and completely spurning any practical rationale whatsoever. Try to teach them a martial art, especially Tai Chi, and they embrace, not the self-defense system, but rather some dreamy, completely ungrounded oozing — people fronds waving in the sea of park — that they claim will magically protect them by sheer virtue of belief. To introduce them to the zentao thoughtway would be completely unethical …like handing a lit match to a toddler squatting in a pool of gasoline.

Blunt Honesty from a zentaoist POV

Here’s some honesty:

In social circles, or, better said, by human judgement, your value is often measured by ‘successful’ achievements, by your name and heritage, by what you do for a living, by how lucky you are, by who likes and loves you and who doesn’t, by how much money you have in the bank and your status in relation to others. These are quantitative measurements.

And it’s all false.

In reality, your value, which can only be measured by you and no one else, is a qualitative, not quantitative one. It’s based on who you are as a Self, an entity, or, better said, as an entity consciousness. It’s not what you do for a living, how many assets you control, what you own, what kind of car you drive or the house(s) you own in which neighborhoods, who you’re friends with or related to, who values you and who doesn’t, your status amongst peers or any other nonsense. And it is nonsense.

In zentao, we say that we are what we do, but that ‘saying’ — those words — can mislead the uninformed. It’s not whether you dig a ditch or perform successful brain surgery. It’s not whether you build rockets, lead an organization, or raise children. It’s not ‘what’ you do, as in some job label, that defines you, but, rather, the ‘what’ of yourself with which you do anything. It’s the quality that matters. It’s the intent that matters. It’s the essence of the very doing that matters.

If you cut wood for a living, it says nothing about you, the self. If you clean septic tanks, likewise. Or write legal briefs. Or build cars. Or run a multi-national conglomerate. Or a country. Rather, it’s the nature of your intent and intensity — what you pour into the doing of yourself into that project, that job, that ‘doing’, that is the measure of yourSelf. And the judge of that doing isn’t others — it doesn’t matter whether they deem it of value. Rather, it’s what you yourself KNOW — that you did your utmost with pure heart and clean intent.

Labels mean nothing. At all. I tire of friends who brag upon the supposed accomplishments of themselves and of others whom they claim as friends, the very fact of that friendship some supposed measure of their own value as a person.  Bunk.

I tire of the long lists of Fortune 500 names they drop. I tire of the relations they claim as uncle, aunt, grandfather, or great grandmom. It means nothing — nothing at all.

What matters is who they are, not who they know, not who they are related to by blood, nor the mammon they have managed to hoard. What matters is how they do anything, even breathe — how they live their lives, in their hearts and with their minds.  Do they, when they set out to do something, whether they fail or succeed in that task, do it fully and completely to their utmost? …Because what matters is what of themselves they commit to any and EVERY moment of being and doing. And that’s the blunt truth of the matter.

It’s not ‘what’ you do, as in job, but how you do it, not measured by false standards of success or failure, but, rather a ‘how’ of pure intent and pure self-immersion in expression.

When we say ‘we are what we do’, what we mean is: Every doing we undertake, we do with our utmost, pouring ourselves into it to the fullest perfection, willingly and thoroughly, with complete commitment of ourselves in that doing. If you don’t commit yourself to that level of doing regardless of what it is — washing dishes, taking the garbage out, raising a child to majority — anything — then you’re doing injustice to your Self and insulting, even, yes, vulgarly desecrating the very resources utilized to perform that any action, activity, or project, including the resources utilized to maintain your life  — the very air you breathe and foodstuffs that sustain you.

In short, if the quality of your every moment of being isn’t committed to the utmost expression of being and doing YOU, then you defame your Self.

February 15, 2017 – Diamonds in Experience

Frozen diamonds greeted my bare feet this morning. Refreshing to the toes and soles, I delighted in the sensation of those crisp, frozen water nodules crackling underfoot. It sleeted sometime in the night–just a little–and it coated the truck, the drive, the ground with glowing shimmers.

Experiencing what we, in zentao, call ‘moment’ keeps me vital and life enraptured. For me, that’s important for my writing, my artwork, and, yes, even for playing my husband’s music. It keeps me enthused and refreshed. Without those experiences, what would life become? Just drudgery and duty? I don’t know.

I do know that I’m never bored, never lacking passion. There’s always something fresh and new to me. For me, experiencing compounds a desire to learn more, and, then, to express anew in word, in sound, in imagery, through my art, my novel writing, my musical performances.  So, no, never lonely, never bored.

Life is full and sweet, full of delight. It’s also, of course, filled with hardship, toil, and danger, but, even inside the frenetic and the frantic, there lives ‘moment’–the play of light and shadow, the scent of soil, of wood, of sweat or blood or mud, yes, even muck, the sound of snapping wood and of the storm wind’s turbulence, the sting of frozen fingers thawing, the taste of terror fading on the tongue as panic eases. There’s always something to stimulate an awe in me.

I guess that’s why I’m flummoxed when acquaintances arrive, bemoaning loneliness and boredom. Even when I worked at a job requiring me to perform repetitively like some machine, I never experienced what they suffer, so I never know quite what to do or say. It’s not a shared experience.

Live Now.

An  art friend of mine has recently begun posting some secular humanist perspectives over on G+. He turns off comments, perhaps to avoid discussion…or, maybe, to fend off trolls.  Of course, it could be that he considers anyone who might choose to discuss the topic to be a troll.  He’s rather odd that way–easily offended, easily riled, easily disquieted.

Anyway, his posts got me to thinking about the mindset of atheist secular humanists, especially those who perceive life and reality as reducible to clear, concise mechanical processes that include chemical reactions and Newtonian physics. He’s a retired engineer, so this mindset comes quite logically and naturally to him and his. Dwelling in the strictly empirically measurable pragmatic, any idea of something more than life as a chemical reaction and consciousness as a neurological function is quite alien. Having myself dwelled in mechanism, pragmatism, atheism, and stoicism for a solid decade or more of my own existence, I can understand the very solid, stolid stability provided by it. What bothers me is that what he’s doing is no different than the proselytizing of the fervently religious. In truth, it’s no different.

Here’s the thing, though: Does it really matter what he believes versus what someone else believes? No. His beliefs give him solace, just as those who believe that their loved ones have gone to join Jesus or entered Nirvana or…do them. The fact is there is no proof or disproof of continuance of the self/soul/spirit upon the body’s demise, and, truly, it really doesn’t matter. Live now.

Part of an NF Book Series I’m Writing

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The weather forecast predicted a low of 48°F. and a high the next day near 62° with partly cloudy skies. I sat on the cement apron under my awning, reading one of my manuscripts, a novel I was planning to publish the following month. Around me, a few wasps and hornets still sipped at the water saucers put out expressly for them. Others worked at the dried beef strips provided them because their normal fare of garden insect pests was long since depleted.

Out in the garden, my tomato plants were heavy with green tomatoes slow to ripen, everything else having been harvested, except for a couple of winter squash and pumpkins. We had yet to have a frost.

These were the lazy days of autumn, when you get a lull between the heavy work of a summer spent preparing for winter and the miserably hard work that ice and snow brings to the north country. It’s my favorite time of year, not too hot, but not yet cold enough to warrant wearing a shirt over my t-shirt.  My mom calls them ‘gravy days’, and it’s an apt term.

Happily occupied on finding where reader flow could falter in the novel, I ignored the first nudge.  And the second.  When I got up to get a cup of coffee, though, the nudge became impossible to ignore.  I groaned.  I didn’t want to and reminded myself that NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) was predicting continued mild weather.

The nudge turned into an insistent pressure, like a nag, but silent, just known…like when your mom is watching you from across the room when you haven’t done your homework or your chores, yet.

Okay!  Enough, already!

The pressure backed off, but its presence didn’t leave.  I got dressed to go over to the local farm store where they keep a supply of straw on hand.  Starting up the truck, I felt my usual, pragmatic terseness about giving up my afternoon for something that, while it needed to be done before the freeze, certainly wasn’t critical right now. The thought of the empty fuel containers came to mind, and I groaned.  Got out.  Got them.  Tied them in the back.  The neighbor was outside lighting his barbeque as I pulled past his place.  He waved.  I waved back.

I don’t argue with my nudges. I’ve had too many proofs of just how important it is to listen to them. So, begrudging the fact that I often get smirked at by neighbors and friends, I do what’s suggested, when suggested, regardless of how illogical and impractical it might seem.

At the farm store, the high school kid who loaded the bales of straw onto my flatbed wondered out loud to me on why I was getting a full load today instead of my usual handful of bales.

I thought about hedging.  Decided against it.  “Because it’s time to winterize the garden and stock up for a blow.  Livestock can’t go without straw in the cold.”

He gave me what, locally, we call ‘the hairy eyeball’, pointedly looked up at the blue skies and sinking sun, then, more pointedly, said, “Su-ure,” sarcasm dripping.

I grinned, finished strapping the load, then followed him inside to pay, grabbing a couple of rolls of heavy plastic and some snow blower sheer pins, to boot.  Then, I stopped at the gas station and filled my empty gas cans, bought some fuel stabilizer, and got some oil, just in case.

Once home, I spent the rest of the afternoon on into dark harvesting the green tomatoes and squash, pulling the houseplants in, winterizing the roses and banking the house, then loading the rest of the straw into the storage barn.  Last, with the yard lights on, I stapled the heavy plastic up around the north end of the open air barn.

Exhausted, I fell into bed around 10PM.  The thermometer reported the outside temperature at a pleasant 54°.

 

I rise early.  And I don’t keep the furnace on all year.  At 3:30AM, upon rising, the house felt chillier than usual.  Not much.  Just a bit.

I poked my head outside.  It was brisk, but it hadn’t frosted.  I shook my head.  “So much for following nudges,” my surly side grumbled inside my brain.  “Hey, the job is done, and I won’t have to do it later,” my ‘glass-is-half-full’ side shot back.

Not to be outdone, the pragmatic self responded with, “If it stays warm, the roses will rot. I’ll have to uncover them during the day, at least.”

I damped down all comments, moving to ‘not-think,’ the only sane way to deal with all the arguments and counters the rational, pragmatic brain will spawn.

Daylight showed gloomy overcast.  By 8AM, a chill wind had started.  By 10AM, the temperature outside had dropped from 42° to 35°.  By noon, the grass was frozen stiff, a winter storm warning in effect according to the National Weather Service, and the wind chill put the outside temperature down near 10°.  By evening, it was much, much worse.

If I hadn’t ‘listened’, which is another way of saying, paid attention to my instincts, my inklings, my nudges, I would have been scrambling to get everything done, working in miserable conditions to do it, and, believe me, it’s no fun stapling up plastic in the wind, to say nothing of trying to binder twine leafs of straw around roses to protect them from the bitter wind’s frost burn with freezing fingers.  Instead, I prepped the snow blower, then, bundling up, went over to help the neighbor with his frantic winterizing.

That night, snow started, the wispy, nasty stuff that creeps into every crevice and burns your face like stinging nettle when it hits you.  By the following morning, we were sitting at an ambient temperature of 3° F. with a wind chill of -26°.  It stayed that way for three solid weeks, no breaks.

 

People ask me how I know when to do what. Above, I gave you a simple example, not life critical, certainly, and probably inconsequential to most, but very demonstrative of how following nudges, following ‘flow’, allows you the luxury of avoiding unnecessary panic, toil, and suffering.

Oh, and the next time I visited the farm store, that high schooler grinned at me.  “You were right about the weather!  How’d you know?”

I gave him the easy answer, one that doesn’t give people willies: “A little bird told me.”

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Inspired Because of a Conversation

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I had an interesting experience today. A lonely friend arrived to perch in my dining room for several hours. Luckily, I had pretty much finished what I had on my ‘must-do’ list for the day, and two computers were engaged in rendering their assigned duties, so, while I wasn’t thrilled to be held captive by his needs, it didn’t hurt the day’s productivity. And, in fact, I guess it spurred me to break out Apophysis and set up some parameters, then render them out on my new machine. The results were satisfying, and I may use it as a cover for one of my books.

What I found interesting was realizing just how prone to cognitive dissonance are we as a species, how pervasive that condition, and how much we deny it in ourselves while criticizing others for exhibiting its symptoms. And, all the while, reality, at its absolute expression, simply is.

So, here, as the result of, both, that conversation, and the lack of time to apply myself to the one ‘wanted-to-do’ project planned for the day, is this image, which I call Reality 5/23/2016. 

The book for which I may utilize this has to do with my lifeway, zentao. There are seven non-fiction ones in the works. There may well be a couple of related novels, though writing zentao into a novel is…er…proving to be a novel experience in its difficulty. zentao likes truth, honestly, unvarnished perspectives. Anyway, so, here’s the result of all that.

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De-cluttering Mind and Life

I abhor clutter and disorganization, yet, while in the midst of a project it looks as if there’s nothing but. I move from concept to creating the necessary elements of the project which stack up in seemingly chaotic piles.  Then, once I have all the piles of necessary elements created, I put them together. From concept to clutter and seeming chaos comes order and a completed project, the detritus neatly swept away.

So why would there be a hoard of clutter over in this corner and that? Projects abandoned is the reason, but the pieces retain an intrinsic value and could contribute to a different project.

Several months ago I dumped all the corners of clutter, organizing what could be and discarding the rest. Now, in the midst of the first of the year cycle of “to-do’s”, I’m also deciding what to de-clutter from life and mind. So far, that includes any activities and events which are not productive for my well-being and peace of mind, which alter my desired state of being, which deviate me from my lifeway choices.

Removing these means changing life protocols and removing myself from certain circles. The protocols are easy. The circles, which are comprised of people, tend to be a bit more difficult, because the people who create those circles don’t believe me when I say ‘goodbye’.