– From A Zen Forest, Sayings of the Masters
I sometimes call it an office, but it’s not that in any traditional sense. It’s a room lined with bookcases wherever a window isn’t located. Various small pictures rest on the bookcase shelves. Old postcards – one a picture of three women singers at the Lolita Club in Bangkok in the 1950s. Two small, framed, antique pictures of famous monks. A framed heart-shaped leaf from a Bodhi tree. A 6-foot, teak desk sits under four windows. The floor is teak. A sliding door opens onto a long porch, always offering shade. On the desk is a notebook computer, various black, gray, white and brown rocks worn smooth from years in local streams. A bronze turtle, a wooden frog, two small ivory horses. Two ivory-inlaid, small circular boxes from China. Two small, wooden elephants, two statues of the Buddha from China. Framed pictures on the wall include a Tibetan symbol for Om, a color photo of a sunset over the Rio Grande in the Big Bend, a picture of three wood ibises about to land on a river in East Texas, a small oil painting of a heron by Texas artist Frank Tolbert, Chinese calligraphy for the word Mu, a picture of Han Shan and Pick-up, a picture of Jiun’s calligraphy for the word Buddha. The books were mostly shipped here from the US, or were bought at local used bookstores. Most are old friends that have stood the test of time. This space helps to keep me alive, to keep me me, in the sense of being drawn into this mystery. My life.
Well, yes – exactly – that is the problem.
All travelers experience it
at each step on the Way. Is it
here, there, up, down,
backwards, forwards, all around,
or somewhere else? How are we to know,
if it doesn’t tell us so?
We all have our maps, but they are the
artifacts rubbing our noses in it.
My worn map I drew myself. I traced
a line from Birchman Street in Fort Worth
through dark caves as a Boy Scout, to Saigon
(and flowing dresses) to Ubon and
Thailand’s temples to Third Street in Denton –
a college town – to Dallas (there’s the dead president)
to Arlington to Thailand again and Laddawan – to Denton
(the college town again) to Waco – a crazy town –
to Alpine and the airy Big Bend where I met and lost
so many friends, to here and now in Chiang Mai.
Ok, just breathe deep and let go.
That’s as close as I can get to it.
An institute affiliated with Oxford University is studying the future with the goal of making some fairly rational predictions of where humans might be in hundreds of thousands, millions and billions of years from now––not an easy task to be sure with no real guarantee that humans, at least as we know them, will continue to exist. An interesting article which sketches some possibilities can be found here, but first read the quotation below:
Only 0.01 percent of all species that have ever existed continue to do so. We happen to be one of them, for now. When Rees looked at the myriad ways in which the present is more perilous than the past in his 2003 book “Our Final Hour,” he set the odds of human extinction in the next century at 50 percent.
Bostrom, the Oxford philosopher, puts the odds at about 25 percent, and says that many of the greatest risks for human survival are ones that could play themselves out within the scope of current human lifetimes. “The next hundred years or so might be critical for humanity,” Bostrom says, listing as possible threats the usual apocalyptic litany of nuclear annihilation, man-made or natural viruses and bacteria, or other technological threats, such as microscopic machines, or nanobots, that run amok and kill us all.