Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brandon's Digest: Zen and Simple Living

Hello all, today Brandon wants to share with you his summer reading material plus a little to chew on! Take it away! 
Required reading, although highly informative, tends to stifle my recreational reading to a frustrating minimum. This back-up causes summer to be an avalanche of titles headed straight for the soul.This summer my prescription included two books that would offer much needed comfort and confidence in a time of pure confusion.
            Sam, Eliza, and I have been riding a particular wave, that has some of our closest  friends and family concerned for our well-being. The cosmic irony of it all is, what lead us down this path is that exact concern. The responsibility of life at a young (normal) age transformed us into super parents who scrutinized every stimulus surrounding our daughter. This parental intuition led us to reject many of the societal norms concerning food, healthcare, art , entertainment, etc... Simply because we loved our baby so much. It is not easy to make these decisions, to live outside the norm, especially when you're almost suffocated by pressure, but again we wanted more for Eliza. This means Sam and I are constantly on the hunt for credible, transparent, and loving sources to sooth our worried looks. So when I came across the title, “Folks, this ain’t normal”  at our local refuge a.k.a. Library, I knew it was a must read. 
Joel Salatin (seen above sniffing that gorgeous onion) is a weathered farmer who has not let a dangerous ignorance pervade his intensely “normal” methods of production. Every chapter made it more clear as to why things were not adding up to Sam and I, and the two things it boiled down to was energy and the consumption of it. For thousands of years, and even up to the last hundred years, energy had been such a precious commodity that was not to be wasted. Holding it so dear meant that you were able to trace the line of energy from start to finish and back again. The preservation of energy is what led to our superior capabilities in the first place. A bear will never have the brain of a human, it takes far too much energy to run on four legs, therefore he can not dedicate that energy to higher thought. But now humans are flushing it down toilets, dumping it in the trash, and shipping it across country. Folk’s this ain’t normal... I want my family to realize that energy is not the middle east or a pipeline or a refinery, that instead it is you, and you are responsible for what you use and how you use it. Joel was neither on the left or the right or the middle really, he tried to be all three at the same time in order to truthfully answer a question. Of course it would be ill-fated to try and dismantle the entire system responsible for such waste, but one of the goals of “Folks This Ain’t Normal” was to prove that everyone can take certain action to heighten awareness of a growing disconnect with energy. It is worth every ounce of my energy to grow, care for, and prepare all the ingredients for life. Thank you Joel for giving me the confidence to say, Folks this ain’t normal!
            My second summer jewel was uncovered by Ms. Sam Wish, who knows I’m all things Dude a.k.a Mr. Lebowski a.k.a Jeff Bridges, and that I have recently been studying Buddhism. To her wonderful surprise she was able to give me both in “ The Dude and the Zen Master.” This is a beautiful conversation between two long time friends Bernie Glassman and Jeff Bridges. Hopefully Jeff needs no introduction, but on the other hand Bernie who is not a star may need one. Mr. Glassman is a renowned teacher on the practice of Zen (school of Buddhism) eventually starting his own school, the Zen Peacemakers. Through this collective he has done countless humanitarian projects including one I thought was extra special, Let All Eat Cafe. A community meal program with an emphasis on removing nasty stigmas and providing fresh food, all at a location any mother would be comfortable bringing her child. Meaning, he too is good people.

            Anyway, what had me blazing through this book was the level of comfort I felt with these two. It is always fun and interesting to engage in a serious discussion over serious issues with a friend or colleague, but sometimes you just need someone to agree with you and guide you down a path of discovery. They often referred to the children’s poem, row, row, row, your boat, which reflected both of their gentle approaches toward the world around them. This book was like reading the transcript of my own inner dialogue, placing me in a warm state of oneness very similar to that of serious meditation. Virtually listening to two of my idols discuss their own daily struggles, and their methods of dealing with that stress and apprehension, was just the act of humanization that my reality needed. Too often, especially with Jeff Bridges, I imagine my idols to be these objects of pure confidence whose superior decisiveness has lifted them to their current status. But these people do not exist. It is not the extraordinary confidence responsible for their success, but instead their ability to work with these insecurities in a positive manner. Jeff Bridges explains that his choice of roles is less about his particular taste, and more about what he drags himself into, even then not knowing if he can pull it off!  I try to use my lack of confidence as an excuse for my fruitless endeavors, instead of focusing on the joy that fruit can bring.

            Luckily for fans, philosophy is only half the book. The other half is two worldly dudes jammin’ about all the awesome people they have worked with, all the awesome feats they have accomplished, and snoring. The Big Lebowski is a brilliant movie and an underestimated lesson in the ways of the Buddha, only two righteous Grandpa’s could shed light on the everlasting wisdom of the Dude!
 Too many people, myself included, are having trouble finding that awesome light that lies within them. We all know it is the things we eat and think and feel, but are so quick to ignore them because what is outside can often be quite compelling. I don’t believe I have found the answer to success because that is not what I am looking for. I believe my family is on a path of internal peace, a knowing that places us above worldly suffering into a womb of truth. One thing I know is I am here to learn, and I will never stop reading and witnessing and practicing, so that I too can share with someone who is hurting. 

Here's a video of Joel Salatin talking about his book, Folks This Ain't Normal:

You can click here to see some past book reports we've done. 
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