I just went to a fascinating seminar on the intersections between Zen Buddhism and Judaism. It sounded crazy to me too, which is exactly why I went.
It was held at my temple and run by our new cantor, who grew up Jewish but also found Zen and studied it devoutly. I very much respect him for his clarity of thought, precise memory for quotations and stories, and of course his amazing voice.
The seminar went through the history of both Zen Buddhist and Jewish/Kabbalistic traditions and showed how many of the most influential thinkers in each tradition were saying the same thing, but with different words. There were important differences between the two disciplines, but many of the core messages were extremely complementary and shockingly similar.
I learned way too much to write here, but I figured it would be interesting to point out the idea that resounded with me the most and the idea that was the most difficult for me to grasp.
(As an aside, both traditions teach that once you have grasped an idea, you have failed. It is in the act of grasping and striving that one learns.)
Idea I relate to the most: Having a beginner's mind.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." -Shunryo Suzuki-Roshi
This quote sounds very close to home for me because I am always interested in the things that I know nothing about and in how I can always improve in various ways rather than how I'm good at something. Though at times my "beginner's mind" can seem limiting, it is often what drives me to learn and study hard and to always be prepared and expect the unexpected.
Idea that I struggle with the most: Finding myself where I am and feeling the emptiness.
"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" -Dogen Zenji
The seminar talked a lot about the idea of non-attachment as well as of dependent co-origination -- that all things in life are somehow connected and affect each other. And it is only when we can quiet our minds and feel the emptiness around us that we can truly feel ourselves. This concept is so difficult for me and is what I'm struggling with right now -- how to quiet my mind and all my busy-ness and just be.
I've learned a lot already and look forward to the next two meetings of this seminar. In the meantime, I hope to just be with my beginner's mind.
I've been thinking a lot recently about why various social networking sites exist and succeed. What I'm most curious about is why people twitter, use facebook, post photos on flickr, etc. I'm sure there are many reasons, and each person's are different, but there must be some inner shared drive or motivation that I'm interested in learning more about.
I'm a fairly private person, but what fascinates me most about these new tools is the ability to not lose touch with people I know. When I was growing up and meeting many new friends or associates through school and camps, I always thought to myself that I would like to be able to keep in touch with everyone, but I didn't know how. I imagined keeping a very long Rolodex with everyone's contact info in it and going through it every year and just saying "hello" to each person I had met. I realized that this would quickly grow tiresome or difficult or impossible time-wise, but it was sad to give up. I remember meeting good, interesting people while traveling and always feeling sorry to have to say good-bye.
I haven't been the best at keeping in touch with everyone I know, but I hope that by understanding how to use the new tools out there effectively, I can do better. I'm wondering whether this same motivation is what fuels others to tweet or whether it's something else. Someone I recently met told me they tweet/fbook/geolocate everything for documentation purposes and to keep a permanent record of their life so they and others don't forget. At first this seemed odd, but after considering it for a while, I think this reason makes a lot of sense as well. Perhaps my sadness in leaving someone from my travels is similar to the sadness of forgetting something interesting about one's life.
I doubt I will ever really understand why others use these tools differently than I. Hopefully I can just one day understand how I want to use them for myself.
It's a fortunate coincidence that today is the launch of Google Buzz as well as my newly redesigned site. I'm still learning the ropes behind all the new social networking sites out there and figuring out how they can be most effectively linked and used together.
For me, this revolution in social media represents an opportunity to stay better connected to those I care about. I hope that can lead to unforeseen synergies and ways for me and those I know to help each other in the future.
I'll be using this site to post some of my thoughts on what I'm reading and learning about on a daily basis. In addition, it will be the home for recording my professional and personal pursuits.
Thanks for visiting, and I welcome your feedback.