using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 70 way of saying thank you to all the kind people who gave to the Zen Hospice Project and helped make their work possible. That kind of giving is not about losing. It is all about amply, generously, and joyously letting go. So the organizers knew better and I agreed, but I continued to think about the difference between losing and letting go, and the degree to which they are interchangeable, or not. Eliza- beth Bishop’s poem offers a lens through which to look at this question. ONE ART The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster; places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. —Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. Clearly, this is a case where “losing” and “letting go” are not interchangeable. “The art of letting go isn’t hard to master” makes for lousy poetry, failing both rhythmically and rhetori- cally. What makes the original line and the poem so strong is loss—the stark, uncontrollable, and increasingly disastrous quality of the losses it enumerates in such a casual, almost non- chalant tone. It’s the unsettling disparity between the tone and the turbulence of feeling that makes the lines quiver and sing. So what is the difference between losing and letting go? What makes losing feel like such a disaster? On an obvious level, it’s about control. When I let go, I’m in control; when I lose, I’m not. Letting go is a willful act; losing, a violation of my will. The poet’s assertion of her art, her will, over her losses heightens the poignancy of her poem, because in the poem, she both is and is not in control. Be- neath the surface tension of her careful lines lies disaster. My Zen teacher, Norman Fischer, is fond of noting that the world is a disaster, but he is a poet, like Elizabeth Bishop, so per- haps this is just something that poets notice. Of course, being a Zen teacher, he tempers this by pointing out that the world is simulta- neously magnificent. Maybe it’s precisely these unbearable and irreconcilable tensions between magnificence and disaster, be- tween chaos and control, between loss and letting go, that give birth to both poems and religions. DIVIDING THE BONES My own introduction to religion and poetry came when I was very young. My mom’s father was a poet and Zen practitioner, and the very first memory I have, as a small human being, was of watching him sit zazen with my grandmother. I was very little, maybe three years old, and growing up in New Haven, Con- necticut. My grandparents came to visit us on their way back to Japan. It was the first time I’d met them. We lived in a tiny house with no spare bedroom, so they were given my parents’ room, while my parents slept on the couch. I remember being very excited about these two strange people in the house, who must be very powerful to displace my parents, the most important people in the world. I remember their clothes smelled funny, probably like incense, now that I think of it. The first morning was filled with suspense. My mother was in the kitchen, cooking, and she must have sent me to call my grandparents to breakfast. I remember approaching the closed bedroom door with enormous trepidation. Perhaps I knocked, or maybe I didn’t. It was perfectly silent on the other side. I imagine I must have felt a grave sense of responsibility—I had been given a duty to discharge, and Asian people, even very small ones, are nothing if not dutiful. So perhaps it was this innate sense of duty that compelled me to turn the knob and open the door. Nothing in my entire three years of living prepared me for what I saw. My grandmother and grandfather were sitting on the floor, on either side of the bed, with their legs crossed and their eyes half-closed, rocking gently back and forth. Now, you have to remember that this was New Haven, Con- necticut in the 1950s. People didn’t sit on the floor cross-legged, with their eyes half-closed, rocking back and forth. This was not San Francisco. It was not the East Village of New York. Seated on the floor like that they were my height exactly. We were at eye level, only their eyes were shut. Mine, on the other hand, were wide open. I stood there for a moment, then I backed out of the room and ran full tilt into the kitchen, where I told my mother what I had seen. And here’s the funny part. My mom must have tried to explain to me that they were meditating, which of course meant noth- ing to a three-year-old. So when I didn’t understand, she went and got my Daruma doll. Daruma is the Japanese name for Bo- dhidharma, the monk who founded the Zen lineage in China and who sat for nine years, gazing at a wall, in silent meditation. Japa- nese Daruma dolls are round and red and shaped like a rice ball, MAR 68-77.indd 70 MAR 68-77.indd 70 12/19/07 2:16:02 PM 12/19/07 2:16:02 PM