As editors, we love to listen when an article sparks a spirited debate, as long as the conversation remains informed and civil. But we are equally pleased to hear an outpouring of gratitude, as we did following our Fall 2021 issue, which invited readers to join us in celebrating Tricycle’s 30th anniversary.
What Kurt Spellmeyer (“Helpless, Not Hopeless”) calls “helplessness” I’ve experienced in the past year as “smallness”—the reality that my individual life and impact are negligible (but not exactly zero) in a vast universe. Far from depressing me, this smallness has driven me, metaphorically, into the arms of our deepest interconnection. This is new to me, so I haven’t tried to articulate it much. But I certainly couldn’t do any better than Spellmeyer has here. What an excellent and important essay.
Mindy Newman’s article about Tibetan Buddhist practices for engaging with the goddess Tara (“Embodying the Healing Mother”) has been very helpful to me. I am having a flare-up of shingles, which I know is related to accumulated stress and anxiety. After reading the article, I have come to almost welcome that sickness; I must first welcome it if I am to do all I can to get rid of that sickness. I send all my discomfort to Tara, asking her to heal the sick part of my little self. Thank you so much for this deep understanding.
I very much enjoyed reading the conversation between two artistic stars who are fluent in the dharma, the composer Philip Glass and the painter Fredericka Foster (“Music, Meditation, Painting—and Dreaming”). The idea that you have to accept some panic, to be lost in the uncertainty of the creative expression, is counterintuitive but seems to explain creative insight. Turning off the observer-mind to increase creative energy in the artistic process may be the way of genius. Thank you! Great minds, great piece.
Thanks for everything you do. Particularly for those of us outside large urban areas, the Tricycle team is an important part of our sangha. And from this former magazine editor who knows how precarious a business it can be, big congratulations on making 30 years (“The 2,500-Year Argument” by James Shaheen).
I admire the Zen teacher and author Norman Fischer and have deep appreciation for his selfless work over the years. But his article (“No Beginning, No Ending, No Fear”) feels very out of touch with the lived experience of so many people in this world who suffer from trauma, daily fear, and the constraints of poverty, violence, disease, and oppression.
Even for those of us fortunate enough to live in materially comfortable, safe environments, the approach Fischer seems to be taking here of rationalizing fear away by looking closely into experience and seeing that There is really nothing but change, so why should we feel afraid? feels hollow. Fischer writes, “Fear is always fantastic, always fake. What we fear never happens in the way we fear it.” That may be true in the narrow sense that we can never accurately imagine all the actual circumstances and minute details of an event we are afraid may happen. But what about people who live their whole lives under oppression, see generations of their families torn apart by systemic violence, and are afraid it will happen to them as well? Maybe they can’t know how actual events will unfold, but they can have a pretty good idea. And do the specific details really matter when the reality is that countless people live lives ruled by fear and under limitations imposed on them by others?
Fear is not fake. It is real. It can have very real causes. And it can arise viscerally, as Fischer says, without apparent cause. Fear is one of the great energies of life, and it can indeed offer a gateway to freedom, as Fischer writes here. But my experience has been that it is a gateway to be entered not by dismissing fear as baseless in the way a logician would dismiss a flawed argument but by moving into my fear and befriending it even when I wake up at night in sweating terror for no reason I can see—in other words, accepting that the fear is real, finding out how it feels to let it be there, and trusting that, yes, whatever happens, it will be OK because—and maybe this is his point after all—this “me” that feels fear is really just part of experience unfolding, not someone who has something to be afraid of.
If we analyze fear as a conceptual misunderstanding, we are just using another, more sophisticated escape route that can cut us off from the freedom that comes from embracing and truly knowing in our bones the insubstantiality of all existence.
What is your favorite work of Buddhist-inspired fiction, and why?
The Buddha, Geoff and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas. Love, loss, fear, doubt, skepticism, relief, hope, grief— it’s all in there and neatly wrapped up in some decent lay terms. It’s one of the books I read in the early days of my practice and it changed my life. I still go back to it when I need a pick-me-up.
Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being for its characters, humor, and reflections on coincidence—in time and of self.
Life of Pi. Its theme is the search for the answer to the question “Is there a god?” I think it’s a story about a journey through hardships and delights in the search for enlightenment. The movie does not do it justice. I recommend this novel for one’s reading bucket list.
I always thought The Big Lebowski had dipped a toe or two in dharma waters, but recently I saw an interview with Jeff Bridges where he says it actually never had Buddhism as a reference; he only discovered the similarities decades later when talking to Bernie Glassman for another movie.
For the next issue:
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