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Showing posts from 2019

Poem About Autumn

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Out of the sidewalks, into the streets

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I arrived early to the protest at McKesson Plaza, but by ten minutes before noon a small crowd had already gathered, filling most of the tiny space in between intersecting streets. Protest organizers were speaking into a microphone. Members of the crowd interrupted: “People are dying! They don’t have food or medicine!” It was hot and I could feel the sun bearing down on my pale cheeks. Someone was handing out pre-made signs and I took one gratefully. One voice became two, then three, until it overtook us and we were all chanting “Close the camps, close the camps” and then “close the camps now, close the camps now.” I looked out into the intersection of Montgomery and Market street. Protesters had spilled out a little bit into the crosswalk, and other people with signs had already filled up the sidewalk across the street. “Why don’t we block traffic?” I thought. People are dying. Children are dying. There are enough of us. They can’t hurt us if there are this many of us. I felt agitat…

How to Hack an Academic Book

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People are intimidated and off-put by academic books. This makes sense, because academic books usually are very boring (and even the best academic books out there have sections of really boring material). But scholarly texts are also like diamonds for your brain; they are relatively small and incredibly condensed forms of knowledge and new ways of thinking that are forged over decades by the pressure and heat of academic life.  If you are a person who enjoys learning new things and increasing your knowledge, it’s useful to know how to read an academic book efficiently, because, otherwise, you will probably get bogged down in all of the boring stuff. In this post I will show you how to hack academic books. By “hack,” I mean “an inelegant solution,” or “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently.” These are techniques I learned and perfected in graduate school, where you are required to read and write a paper on at least one (if not two, three, four …

Patreon!

Hi lovely readers,
I finally launched my Patreon account! For patrons, I'll be posting "friend" links to medium posts, meaning you will be able to access my articles through the paywall without paying. I'll also be posting book excerpts and hopefully other fun things. Patreon is a way of supporting artists you like. In the olden days, artists would have "patrons," but now writers are expected to write for free. It's not sustainable. I expend a lot of emotional and actual labor in my writing, so if you enjoy what you read, please consider becoming a patron of mine!
https://www.patreon.com/gesshin


Some more context on how we don't think artists are worth paying: https://phys.org/news/2019-05-job-advantage.html

Joyful Renunciation

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I was confused for a long time about renunciation. This is not entirely my fault. In the Buddhist monasteries where I ordained and practiced, renunciation was a physical, ritual, communal, and obligatory action. Every few days we shaved our heads to signify cutting off delusion. We lived as simply as possible and renounced worldly accomplishments by turning away from professions that made a lot of money. In many spiritual traditions throughout the world, internal renunciation is symbolized and catalyzed by physical acts: shaving the head, living in poverty, departing from family. The idea is to change your body in order to change your heart and mind.

The mistake I made along the way was believing that renunciation is supposed to hurt. And I've actually heard this message echoed in dharma centers in the West as well as Zen monasteries in Japan; at the end of retreats at Spirit Rock, for example, I've heard the instruction to donate an amount that "hurts."

But renuncia…