This morning I took a random small stack of old journals to Mercury Cafe to comb through them for whatever fragments might be of some use.   The first one in the stack is one of my beloved Japanese notebooks that come bearing awkwardly translated slogans.  This one says:  “When I changed concept, I could see genuine articles.  A reliable brand selected by those with good taste.”   On the first page were notes from the first morning of a koan class with Roshi Enkyo O’Hara in 2007.

Since this finding is so nicely timed with Shundo’s having invoked the koan The Sound of One Hand Clapping in a comment on the previous post, I will include those notes here


2.23.07, BCBS

The sound of one hand:  right away, it sets up a sense of lack

it invites you to entertain what something might feel like if it’s understood to be both complete and dependent

this ache of wanting the other part to complete the pair.

the ache toward the other.  Missing someone.  I keep trying to live into that missing.  People stop me in the hardware store, offer up a mini-memorial for Stanley, tell me, “That must have been a huge loss.”   I’m trying not to think in terms of loss and gain.  I say, “It was a huge change.”My impulse is to remind the well-wisher of all that was was offered that I’ll never fully receive, but that only reinforces the mindset of loss, to think it has to be offset.

and yet, and yet

It’s still helpful to have a “loss” recognized.  It helps explain the way the organism moves more slowly, metabolizing.  The feeling of happiness at seeing E. Like seeing A come off the train.  How that happiness runs ahead of language.  Same thing when I hear Hakuin’s name, though it is a happiness not so specifically furnished.

the general ache toward the other.  I’m not going to apologetically brush tears away.  What will it feel like to let them roll down my face?      It actually made me feel less alone to feel the tear on my cheek.  Touch with no hand.  The sound of no hand.  something about how pathetic that sounds actually amused me.

this koan invites you to explore the habit of perceiving lack.  What do you hear in the absence of the racket of your own clapping?  For once you can hear what’s going on in the world. For a moment a break in the din applause for the self. You leave a space large enough for the world.

The sound of one hand

one hand, jerking off

“Keep your voice low and you will see more birds.”  (Bronx Zoo Aviary)

The sound of one hand playing piano:  Thomas Transtrømer playing songs for one hand.  It’s all melody or bass line.

kidan, gansen, nanto koans.

Feeling still caught up in thinking about what’s next.  the provisional.

I’ve had this sense that I can function more effectively as part of a larger organism, but that I’ve needed to be alone for a while to be able to relate more clearly to others.

Having what you need be in the way of having what you need.

The sound of one vowel:  I

follow it.  I.  wall and gate. barrier.  IIIIIIIIIIIIIII make it a fence.  a fence made of I.  A gate made of I.

Even I, this singular pronoun, is made of two vowel sounds.

It’s a diphthong, traveling from the lowest, backest part of the oral cavity to the front peak.  [aI]