International A.N.S.W.E.R. is busily organizing protests and whatnot, but I will
not link to them. A.N.S.W.E.R. is not an honest organization, and I do not trust them.
If you hear of any other plans for action, please add them here.
Are we ready for secession? Here's a map comparing slave states and territories before the Civil War to the "Red States" of today. A pattern does emerge. Although
the antebellum map has a couple of inaccuracies (which I pointed out in the comments) the comparison, which is chilling,
reveals there may be deeper cultural differences between "Red" (or "Gray") and "Blue" than we'd like to acknowledge.
I am looking into manufacturing of a blue "Resistance Identity"
bracelet. CafePress doesn't have any "bracelet" products, but they do have buttons. Here are some basic buttons. I think the white on blue turned out better than the red and white on blue. Maybe they should say something beside "Resist"?
Anyway, I emailed CafePress and requested they add some kind of bracelet or wrist
band product. I also found a promotional products company that has a variety of wrist band products, and I'm checking that
out to see if any might be suitable. What do you think of something like this?
Something like the rubber "cancer survivor" bracelets would be good, but they cost a
lot more to manufacture because they require a unique mold.
America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment
values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed
on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the
Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Respect for evidence seems not to pertain
any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either
worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.
The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of
the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those
nations less than we do our putative enemies.
Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious
intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim
world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous,
so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.
And unlike Saddam Hussein, we do have weapons of mass
First off, be assured The Mahablog will go on. And I hope very much that
everyone who's been dropping by these past few months will keep dropping by. We've built up a nice little community,
and I truly hope we keep it going.
I need to disengage a little from blogging for the next few days, though. I've been
blogging full tilt for the past few weeks and I'm feeling a little burned out. I'll post a little something every day, but
I need to get my head out of the news for a little while and pay attention to some other things I've been putting off.
If anything significant happens, of course, I'll be all over it. Assuming I
hear about it, since I am tuning out the news. It's Law and Order reruns for me the next few days.
Please please please comment and let me know how you're doing, and what you're doing.
(Today I went out and bought one of those electric paint roller contraptions and painted a wall. Trying to figure out how
to put the thing together and make it work and clean up all the parts after was very therapeutic. I think tomorrow I'll paint
In the comments in the last post, Capri asked for a forum in which to discuss our
next steps. Well, here it is. Discuss away. It's not clear to me what to do. I would like to get more pro-active, however,
and stop just reacting to the Outrage du Jour.
I just heard the news that Kerry plans to concede, which given the numbers
is probably the right thing to do.
So thanks to homophobic voters in Ohio, we can look forward to major and possibly
permanent economic deterioration, increasing terrorist threats, more wars, and probably a draft. But we can sleep well at
night knowing homosexuals can't get married.
I'm torn between becoming a full-time activist or moving to Canada. Maybe I'll be
a full-time activist in Canada.
If you know of any activist-type jobs open, let me know.
I plan not to listen to news the rest of the day. I will just bleeping tune
it out until I'm done processing. I may surf some other blogs later today.
After Operational Clark County, I suggest Operation Rock the Voter - well-meaning
Guardian readers volunteer to visit America, and are assigned a single Bush voter, who they then shake violently and slap
around a bit, and point at any given 5 second video clip of Bush and scream, "Look! He's a fucking moron! Can't you see that?
Everyone else on the bloody planet can, what the hell is wrong with you?". Followed by some more violent shaking.
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with
ourselves; finally just lay back and say it -- that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all
the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
OK, I admit I'm no good with numbers. Assuming Bush is 130,000 to 135,000
votes ahead now, and there are 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots to be counted, Kerry would have to win 75 percent
of those to take Ohio.
It's also possible the Kerry campaign has better information than I have, and different
numbers, and maybe it's not that bad. But I would not be surprised if Kerry concedes some time today. The numbers
look pretty hopeless.
On the other hand, Kerry does have lots of lawyers in Ohio.
The Bushies have declared victory, via Andrew Card, but John Kerry has
not conceded. As of early this morning ABC, CBS, CNN, and PBS have not called Ohio. Provisional and absentee votes have
yet to be counted, and may not be counted for a couple of weeks.
Bush is 136,221 votes ahead in Ohio, according to CNN. Other sources
say Bush is up by "at least 100,000." There are approximately 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots not counted, and they
cannot be counted right away because they have to be verified. It will be about two weeks before we know who won Ohio.
Marc Racicot of the GOP is on TV now saying that a Kerry win is a "mathematical
impossibility" and suggesting that Kerry should face reality and concede. Psychological game.
States no one has called yet are Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Bush is
slightly ahead in Nevada, New Mexico, and Iowa, and Kerry is slightly ahead in Wisconsin. To win the Electoral College, Kerry must have Ohio and one other state. It is possible for Bush to win without Ohio
if he wins all four of the other uncalled states, or he can win with Ohio and one other state.
I've seen a couple of news stories suggesting that Bush has assumed he won Ohio and
will declare himself the winner as soon as one of the four uncalled states is called as a Bush state. He's not going to wait
for a Kerry concession because he's an asshole.
The news this morning is going to be very messy, with a lot of operatives declaring
a lot of stuff that may or may not be true. The next few news cycles may tell us how big a mess Ohio actually is
and how effective GOP vote suppression efforts have been. I'll be listening to Air America Radio (on and off) for updates.
Update 8:20 am eastern time: CNN called Nevada for Bush.
8:23 am: CNN called Wisconsin for Kerry. If that holds
up, the election will be determined by the final result of Ohio.
8:46 am: As I just posted on American Street, if we can get an honest count of provisional and absentee ballots in Ohio the Electoral College is not out of reach.
Bush needs Ohio to win, just as Kerry does. Right now Bush is up by about 130,000 votes, give or take. It's estimated there
are about 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots to be counted. So, Kerry will need to win a majority of those. It's a long
shot, but not mathematically impossible.
1:20 am. CBS is refusing to call Ohio, so there is a slim
ray of hope. But apparently some areas with serious economic problems went for Bush to keep gays from getting married.
1:08 am. Right now I believe it is over, and I'm going
to hang it up. Even if Kerry picks up all the rest of the states, the best he can do is a tie. The only hope is a challenge
of the Ohio vote, which would take a few days.
1:02 am. MSNBC is calling Ohio for Bush. Looks like it's
12:56 am. So far other news outlets have not gone along
with the call for Ohio for Bush made by Faux News. A guy on CBS News is saying that if the Ohio results come down to provisional
ballots the state might not be called for a few days.
12:50 am. Minnesota for Kerry.
12:48 am. Faux News is calling Ohio for Bush. If that's
true, it's over.
12:42 am. Kerry has New Hampshire.
12:40 am. Ohio probably won't be called until 3 or 4 am.
Bush has a slight lead in Ohio, a larger lead in New Mexico, and is expected to take Alaska. Kerry is ahead in all of the
other states not yet called. But even if he wins all those other states Kerry still needs Ohio.
12:30 am. The talking heads say that Ohio is absolutely
essential for Kerry. This is not looking good.
12:28 am. Kerry is ahead in Hawaii.
12:20 am. Tara O'Brien and I are sitting on the sofa in
our pajamas and fuzzy slippers and wondering how long we should hold out. I'm afraid to go to sleep. Tara O'Brien was overcome
with tension for a while and had to take a nap, but she's awake now and watching television. She's very anxious.
12:15 am. Kerry is slightly ahead in Nevada, which was
a Bush state last time.
12:12 am. Kerry is slightly ahead in Michigan and Minnesota,
according to CNN.
12:08 am.Kerry is slightly ahead in New Hampshire and
Iowa. CBS just called Oregon for Kerry.
11:56 pm. Right now there are eleven states not called.
Kerry has to get at least seven of those, including Ohio and Michigan.
11:50 pm. Florida for Bush. This is bad.
11:30 pm. Kos says the youth vote did not materialize. That's why it's so close.
11:20 pm. They've been saying all along that it will come
down to Ohio and Florida, and I think that's right. I've been playing with an electoral college map and if either guy gets
both Ohio and Florida, that's a wrap. However, it's possible Kerry will need only one of them, while Bush may need
both of them.
11:15 pm. I wish the TV pundits would shut up and just
ring a bell when they're about to call a state.
11:10 pm. Colorado for Bush.
11:08 pm. Bush is still ahead in Florida, but it seems
the Miami-Dade County results aren't in yet. Bush is ahead in Ohio, but very close.
11:01 pm. California for Kerry! Also Washington! Bush gets
Idaho and Arizona.
10:58 pm. Pennsylvania for Kerry!
10:42 pm. We've been stuck at an electoral vote count of
Bush 193, Kerry 112, for a while now. It probably won't budge until 11 pm eastern time when the Pacific Coast states close.
10:30 pm. Looks like it will be a long night after all.
10:20 pm. Kevin Drum says Kerry is expected to win Minnesota and Michigan.
10:09 pm. ABC calls Missouri for Bush.
10:05 pm. ABC calls Arkansas for Bush.
10:00 pm. Montana and Utah for Bush. None of the "swing
states" are settled.
9:46 pm. Iowa closes at 10 pm eastern time, and then all
of the Midwest will be closed. The Pacific Coast states all close at 11 pm. In fact, I think by 11 pm all states will be closed
except Alaska, which is a Bush state.
9:29 pm. Bush gets Louisiana and Mississippi. Whoop di
9:22 pm. An NBC reporter says lots of people in Ohio are
still lined up to vote. Even though polls are closed, it may be after midnight before everyone is done voting. The slowdown
is in heavily Dem precincts. Hang in there, people! Vote!
9:14 pm. Right now, Bush and Kerry are neck and neck in
Missouri. Kerry is way ahead in Pennsylvania -- I can't believe they aren't calling it. Bush is ahead in Florida and Ohio
and Michigan. But there are a lot of votes yet to count.
9:05 pm. It's too close. I'm not happy.
9:00 pm. Bush gets Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, both Dakotas,
Wyoming. Kerry gets New York and Rhode Island.
8:56 pm. I've been watching Ohio; Bush just bumped ahead a bit.
8:50 pm. Coming up on the hour a bunch more polls close,
including a couple of biggies -- Texas and New York. Might as well call those now. Look for Colorado, Wisconsin, New Mexico,
Michigan, Minnesota, and Arizona.
It looks like Florida will go for Bush, although nobody is calling it yet.
8:37 pm. It looks like that nutjob (R) is winning the Senate
race in Oklahoma.
8:32 pm. For what it's worth, CBS is calling states a lot
faster than NBC or ABC.
8:25 pm. Arkansas and North Carolina are about to close.
8:18 pm. Bush gets Virginia.
8:15 pm. North Carolina for Bush.
8:08 pm. South Carolina for Bush. They was just countin'
8:00 pm. Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland,
Connecticut, most of Maine, DC, and Delaware for Kerry. Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma for Bush. (Maine has proportional
7:55 pm. Comin' up -- Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas, Mississippi,
Missouri,Oklahoma, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New
Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. Florida?
7:46 pm. They still aren't calling Virginia, but Bush is
ahead. Bush is also ahead in North Carolina.
7:33 pm. CNN called West Virginia for Bush.
7:30 pm. Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia just closed.
No calls yet.
7:00 pm. Polls have closed in six states. Bush
wins Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky. Kerry wins Vermont. They're not calling South Carolina or Virginia right this minute.
As I keyboard we've got about 40 minutes to go before the first polls
close. There are some early polls floating about the web that look very good for Kerry, like this one. But this can change.
I actually turned off the computer and the TV for a while and took a nap, so now
I'm rarin' to go.
At 7 pm eastern time we should be getting results for Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana,
South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont. As I'm sure you know, of that batch only Vermont is expected to go for Kerry. But at
7:30, I think, we should have Ohio and West Virginia. Fingers crossed.
My polling place is an elementary school in a suburban neighborhood in
southern Westchester County, New York. It was busy but not swamped. Volunteers stood the required distance from the school
and handed out brochures. There were no Kerry or Bush workers, but there must have been ten Dem volunteers promoting the candidate
for state senator. I saw only two Republicans.
Time for the Official Mahablog I Ching reading. Consulting the I Ching really
is total superstition and is utterly unscientific and irrational. I'm doing it anyway. Read this if you are curious, but if
not, then just ignore me.
Interpreting the I Ching is tricky, but it helps to understand that the Ching doesn't
take sides. The I Ching is all about the dynamics of change, so it doesn't necessarily point to a result, but to where
a result might take you. The point of it is not necessarily to tell fortunes but to uncover some
bit of philosophical advice to help you deal with whatever it is you are dealing with.
And then you've got to interpret bits of text from an ancient agrarian time and apply
it to today. If (hypothetically) the Ching advises us that it's an auspicious time to castrate a horse, what does that mean?
Maybe it's better not to know.
The I Ching originated from Shang Dynasty (BCE 1766-1050) divination that originally "read"
bones or tortoise shells, although I can't imagine how. There's a more recent method that involves sticks or yarrow stalks,
but it's way complicated and probably takes all day.
Today it's most common to toss three coins six times to get a hexagram of six lines.
Each line is either yin or yang, and the lines can be fixed or changing; for example, two tails gives one a fixed "yang" line,
but three tails indicate a yin line changing to yang. As you might expect, changing lines point to a situation in flux that
needs attention. If there are no changing lines, just contemplate the overall judgment of the hexagram.
Changing lines also create two hexagrams. The first hexagram is more important, generally
pointing to conditions as they exist now, and the second hexagram shows where the changes might be taking us.
Some interpreters ignore the second hexagram altogether, but since it's there, I say, what the hey. Read it.
There's a kajillion different translations of the I Ching with as many interpretations
as the lines, so you can pretty much interpet any part of it to mean anything. I'm using a book by Kerson and Rosemary Huang,
but the interpretations of the lines are mine. So don't blame them if I'm wrong.
So, here we go.
The first result, on the election today, is Hexagram 6, "Obstruction" or "The Court."
The Judgment: Somebody may be in legal jeopardy. It's a good time to talk to lawyers, but not necessarily a good time to bring
suit; consider accepting a settlement.
There are two changing lines, the third and fifth. The third line says the people
and the King have lost faith. There is danger, but good comes in the end. The fifth line points to a legal victory.
The changing lines create Hexagram 50, "The Cauldron," which is a sign of abundance
and well-being. The third line points to a cauldron that is leaky or worn out and needs to be discarded. The fifth line is
a cauldron carried on golden poles, as in a celebration or state dinner.
The most obvious reading of this result is that court challenges may be initiated
but not carried through, or if carried through the plaintiff will lose. Or maybe the lawyers will chill out. We can hope that
the good that comes in the end is a Kerry victory, but with the I Ching there are no guarantees.
John Kerry's hexagram for today is 22, "Grace" or "Decoration." This hexagram is
about a wedding. The Ching tends to be ambivalent about weddings and marriages in general; you may be enthusiastic, but don't
expect happily ever after. This is a good sign for clearing up affairs, but not for deciding controversial issues.
The first and last lines of the hexagram change. The first line reveals a groom who
is so excited and happy he leaves his carriage to walk. The last line is about simple decoration, possibly marking a new beginning.
The changing lines create a new hexagram, "Ascendance" or "Pushing Upward." This is a hexagram about promotion or beneficial
results, and the first and last line both point to a reward.
However, I'm having a terrible time getting a fix on what the I Ching is trying to
tell me about George W. Bush. The coins keep turning up huge ambivalence; very good and very bad, winning and losing. I tried
three times and got ambivalent results each time. So I'll go with the first one.
Hexagram 59, "Dispersion" or "Flowing." The Judgment speaks of success and getting
things done. The King approaches his temple, possibly to ask for blessing or to give thanks.
The first, second, and last lines change. The first line shows aid coming with the
strength of a horse. The second line shows water washing away sediment and remorse. The last line, however, shows bleeding
and injury after a flood, and suggests it is time to withdraw.
The change reforms the hexagram to 6, "The Court," again, but we're looking at different
lines. The first line speaks of leaving work unfinished and drawing a small reprimand. But I like the second line. Here's
the Huang translation:
Having lost in court,
He returned and fled.
The three hundred households of his town
Were thus spared harm.
In the last line, a belt of honor is given three times and taken away three times.
Fate is fickle.
It may be that today Bush will end the day believing he is the winner, or he may
lose today but win tomorrow, or vice versa. Perhaps he will lose the election, but his supporters will gather around him and
pledge their support and devotion, and he'll get all pumped up about it. The second hexagram looks bleak for him, but second
hexagrams may or may not be significant.
Thus spake the I Ching. And I know you won't forget to vote.
I know you want more polls. Here are the results of the Maha Election
When asked what was most likely to happen tomorrow, 252 intelligent and
well-informed Mahablog readers voted, thus:
Kerry wins big :164 Kerry wins by hair: 24 Bush finishes
My Pet Goat: 20 Electoral/popular split: 11 Bush steals it: 9 Courts decide: 7 Rove ritual
suicide: 7 Cheney seeks exile: 5 Age of Aquarius begins: 3 Bush wins big: 2
Go ahead. Vote. Waste your time. It won't make a bit of difference.
Excuse my cynicism but only a blithering idiot can possibly believe it will
make one ounce of difference if we replace one son of privilege with another at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or if one corrupt
political party replaces another in the leadership of Congress.
Voting is a sham, an exercise in deception designed to perpetuate the myth
that an average American has any say in how this country is governed or what happens to you and me in the future.
Last year Molly Ivins published a book titled Bushwhacked:
Life in George W. Bush's America. It's all about how Bush's policies, as Governor and as President, diminished the
lives of you and me. On almost every page are real-world examples of people who lost money, property, jobs, opportunities,
and even their health because of who was in charge of government.
Ivins isn't blind to corruption. "More or less in the 'duh' category," she
writes, "we found that government no longer works for most of the people of this country. It works for big corporations, it
works for big campaign donors, but it works less and less for 'average' Americans." (p. xii)
So, what else is new? This has been going on for years. It's been going on
no matter who is in the White House, or Congress. It's gone on for far too long. And if our nation continues down this road,
eventually there won't be any point in even going through the motions of representative government.
But I think we have a chance to turn it around and take our government back.
A slim chance. It may be our last chance.
Winning tomorrow's election, by itself, isn't going solve the problem. Even
if the Kerry-Edwards ticket wins by a landslide, and the Dems get a majority in the Senate, and Tom Delay is convicted and imprisoned and thereby out of the House -- even then, the big corporations and big campaign
donors will have more clout and power than we "average Americans" do.
As I see it, winning tomorrow's presidential election is just one step. But
it's an essential step. It will make the difference between being utterly shut out or getting a chance at a second
Many on the Left are unexcited about Kerry because, they say, his Iraq policies
don't sound all that much different from Bush's Iraq policies. And his domestic policies aren't all that inspiring. His health
care plan, for example, falls way short of single-payer national health care, which is what we really need. Most economists
are skeptical that he can tame Bush's budget deficit as quickly as he has promised.
But consider Iraq. If Kerry's Iraq promises sound a lot like Bush's, it's because
Bush's bungling hasn't left us with many options. The Bush Regime's error in invading Iraq, and its mismanagement of the occupation,
are among the biggest screwups in American history. It can be argued they are the biggest screwups in American history.
It can be argued they are among the biggest screwups of any nation in world history. And Bush is incapable
of admitting the screwup.
Worse, the same bozos who got us into Iraq, and who "planned" the disaster,
are still in position to do more mischief. The same fools who told Congress the Iraq invasion would practically pay for itself,
and could be fought with few troops, and would cause democracy to bloom throughout the Middle East -- they are still in charge
of our foreign policy.
They need to go away.
Kerry is an intelligent, experienced guy who will bring in more intelligent,
experienced people, like Brent Scowcroft or Wesley Clark, to guide our dealings with Iraq. This will be better.
This will be a lot better.
But this election isn't about Bush and Kerry; it's about us. Who are we, and
where are we going? And who do you want to answer those questions? "Average Americans"? Or the brownshirts at Little Green
I said earlier that electing Kerry is just a first step. There are a lot of
next steps. We need to battle, and marginalize, the Nutjob Right. We need to break up media monopolies and get news media
to rethink the idea that "balance" and "objectivity" means forgetting about "truth." And we need to take the Democratic Party
into hand and let them know they've got to respond to us, or we won't carry water for them any more. (See this article by Ian Welsh for more.)
Getting the Bushies out of power means they can't use that power to protect
themselves. Of course, if Bush loses tomorrow every document shredder in Washington will be working overtime to destroy evidence.
But as Paul Krugman says in this must-read interview, they can't shred people. (Um, of course, they can, but shredding all the people who could testify against
them would be hard to cover up.)
We, the People, need to know the full extent of the Bush Regime's crimes and
corruption.We need investigations, trials, and sentences. We need to drag all the foulness of the past four years into the
light. And all of their accomplices and enablers must be held to account.
We are likely to face great turmoil in the next few years (see my web buddy Stirling Newberry about this). But the election tomorrow is a vote for the soul of our nation. Light or darkness? Liberty or tyranny? Truth
The polls aren't telling us anything, are they? "Too Close to Call" should
be our new national anthem. This Business Week story says that neither candidate has any momentum right now.
The Smart People are saying the race will be whisker-close, and that by early morning
Wednesday vast armies of lawyers will be marching to courts to fight it out. You know they've already got their briefs written.
On the other hand, other Smart People say a big turnout, which is expected, could
break the deadlock. Either way. As a Kerry supporter I am certain the big turnout favors my guy, of course, but the Bushies
seem to think the same thing.
Mostly I'm hoping for a reality-based election. That's one determined by votes, not
At the risk of making some of you crazy -- the I Ching seems to say that we will
have a clear winner tomorrow. That's not the Official Mahablog I Ching reading, but it's what I'm getting now. Expect an emotional
roller coaster ride tomorrow with many frightening moments, ending in a celebration.
(I figure the I Ching is at least as likely to be right as the pundits. We'll see.)
The election itself is sucking up all the news cycles. We're on the edge of attacking Fallujah. Has anyone noticed? Last night "Sixty Minutes" fired one last shot at the Bushies by airing a story on how poorly equipped our soldiers in Iraq are. Colin Powell says
we're losing the war in Iraq. Missing explosives. Investigation of Halliburton contracts. $70 billion.
Half a century ago, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously separated intellectuals
and artists into two categories: the fox, who is clever, creative, committed to many goals; and the hedgehog, a creature driven
by a single unwavering conviction. By Berlin's standards, Bush has produced one of the purest examples of a hedgehog presidency.
This New York Times article referencing the Daily Show "Moment of Zen" made me think of the ways elections are (and are not) like koans. This is not
to say that the writer, A.O. Scott, knows what he's writing about --
Though I have not assembled a panel of historians to test my hunch, I feel
confident in asserting this is the least Zen election of our generation. The stress we feel about the momentousness of the
election is compounded by a barrage of imagery and information, often trivial, that promises at once to help us make sense
of the issues and to distract us from them.
Having done time in a Zen monastery a few years back, I assure
you that's a pretty good description of Zen. Rather than relieve one of stress, Zen (especially the Rinzai,
or koan-solving, school) is a means to make the student even more miserable. Become one with the pain, and the pain
Koans are nutty questions that Rinzai Zen students meditate on, like "What
is the sound of one hand clapping?" They are not riddles. Rather, they are a teaching tool, or a means for student
and teacher to work together. Once a koan is assigned, the student is supposed to meditate on it night and day, even while
doing non-meditative things like working and eating. The harder the student works, the more stressed he gets and the
more the universe conspires to drive him crazy.
From time to time the student must submit to a ritual face-to-face interview
(called dokusan) with the teacher. Spiritually speaking, dokusan is where
you gotta walk the walk. It's the place where you find out how full of bullshit you really are. The monks used to
warn us not to begin the interview with "I think the koan means ..." because then the teacher would end the interview and
send you out the door immediately, without another word. No visions, no out-of-body experiences, no miracles, and no magic are
The resolution of a koan doesn't provide an "answer," but rather a change
in perception. It changes the way the student perceives himself and his place in the universe.
The koans themselves are a way of working with the heart/mind. Their
power lies in the way they take up whatever assumptions we begin to settle into, and then knock the bottom out. The position
of the self is swept away, reformed, swept away once more. [Link]
The resolution may lead to a small "aha" moment
of clarity, or it may be an out-and-out kensho, which is something like an epiphany. The way the student communicates his perception to the teacher is between
him/her and the teacher. And as soon as a teacher decides the student is finished with one koan, he or she assigns another
But how is an election like a koan? The way we're all
on the edge right now and consumed by the election feels more and more to me like waiting outside
the dokosan door to see the teacher.
And on Tuesday, will there be a clear resolution, or will we
be sent back to the meditation hall to keep working?
I linked above to a discussion of a particular koan. The teacher is Bonnie
Myotai Treace, Sensei, whom I knew when she was just a junior monk. I really like this part of the discussion:
Many of you know I’ve been working on getting people to vote.
I’ve been taking a chance and saying this is important. This is the air we breathe; this is the water for our grandchildren;
this is whether your friend’s daughter gets raped and has to bear and give birth to that rapist’s child because some person
on a court thinks that’s right. What do you think is right? What’s called for? How do we feel, together? We don’t have to
agree, but we have to engage it. There’s more to it than voting, but voting can be a first step.
The first step is vulnerable. The first step is inadequate.
The first step can be criticized, but we’d better not fail to recognize its seriousness. And then—take a bold step of compassion.
Compassion is by it’s nature fiery and tender, sensitive and complete. It doesn’t separate. It doesn’t hold back. It doesn’t
wait to be safe. It doesn’t wait to know the answer. It’s not stopped by the possibility that it might make a mistake; on
behalf of all life, it begins.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.