Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Taking a deep breath"

More road closures in the Jamesburg area this morning, in preparation for the (intentional) firing out from the observatory along the east side of Tassajara Road, reaching down to the Ventana Ranch and east to meet the original dozer line. The humidity is up - they're waiting for a favorable change but hope to put fire on the ground today. That means Tassajara Road remains impassable.

The air at Jamesburg is smoky but the birds seem unbothered as they flutter and splash in the pond outside. Inside the phone continues to ring - neighbors calling for updates, Zen Center personnel staying in touch, Tassajara students filling us in on their many adventures beyond. The crew here is beginning to see the bottom of the fridge, and so, a deep cleaning...

Moments ago Steve reported that the air quality at Tassajara is improving. Some of the folks there are working on the water system. For them, a Thai breakfast. "What's the most important thing?" we asked. "Taking a deep breath," replied the Abbot.

44 comments:

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

It's great to see that the posts continue to come.

I posted this in yesterday's comments (and so did someone else) but it deserves to be posted here, too:

We now have a photo of "The Tassajara Five" that's was published to Cuke.com this morning.

Anonymous said...

Will someone resent that five people stayed behind outside of a group agreement, and became heroes as a result?

Tim said...

Who's asking?

IJ said...

I felt stuff, mainly fear for those five who were going to be alone with a fire in a huge forest and a fairly large valley. I feared for their safety. I even thought I would have rather the abbot had left this stuff to the younger folks, but resent that they get to be called heroes? Hardly. Thank you thank you for staying safe first, and for acting on your love. Action from the heart like this, what more is there to give or receive? Thanks again Iva

Tim said...

Perhaps my question won't be answered. In anonymous 12:32's question, I see a concern for the group of people who did not return to Tassajara, and how they may feel compared to the five who did return.

I feel, though, that using terms like "resent" and "heroes" has a bit of a charge. What I see being expressed is gratitude for five people's actions on behalf of the community and an acknowledgment that there were many who made the saving of Tassajara possible.

I hope if there is resentment among the people who did not return, that they have the opportunity to address their feelings in a satisfactory way.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know why we are so invested in stopping a nature-process that is important for forests?


I would like to know what people think about the Zen center operating with such an easily identifiable mindset that seems so contrary to "practicing what you preach"?

Thank you,

Anonymous Concerned Non-Citizen.

Suzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

@anon 2:03pm: I don't suppose anyone stopped the fire, but merely saved some buildings that were in it's path. Are you saying that this was the wrong thing to do? I believe the nature-process was intact. Those who've had a look, please correct me if I'm wrong, but the forest around Tassajara burned completely, no?

Chris vLS said...

anon 12:32 asked: Will someone resent that five people stayed behind outside of a group agreement, and became heroes as a result?

Oh, the answer is certainly, "yes."

The interesting question is for the someone awash with such resentment: Now what?

As a side note, I always feel the pull of the emergency. Part of me always envies those who are there, doing what is helpful in big disasters. I was on the east coast on 9/11 and I *still* wish I had driven to NY instead of going home to California. I look back now at the anguished envy I felt when I read of the intrepid souls organizing the feeding of the firefighters.

I feel that pull when I am at home seeing someone place sandbags on a levee 60 miles away . . . So I can't imagine how crushed -- just totally crushed -- I would feel if I had actually been there, at the right place, at the right time, on that road. With a beloved place and people who need me. And then to not be there when it happened. I don't know how I would handle that. Something tells me I would feel things that were, uh, in addition to just "sympathetic joy."

So my heart goes out to the Tassajara 15. And my thanks. As one who hasn't come any closer to helping than just reading this blog, thank you for being heroes in our stead.

And like putting down the woman after carrying her across the stream, I hope in the coming days, you are able to put out the fire that is probably still raging in your mind. I think that would take me a long time.

Nine bows to all, including the fires that still rage, seen and unseen.

--C.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing the photo Tim

and I tell ya Anon, if you feel that way, maybe you need to come to the Gulf Coast, and put some time helping ppl rebuild their homes....then you can be bunched in w/ a group of heroes

Anonymous said...

@Jim.

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

However you didn't answer my questions. You responded with a belief and two questions.

My intention is to provoke critical thought in the individuals as a way to avoid truth by consensus.

If we cannot understand this situation, observe ourselves in it then how can we trust ourselves to take critical action in an important situation* that affects us as a species, individually.

If we are spending so much energy/space on preventing a natural process from occurring - we are simply not available for taking care of more systemic issues - Like developing a sustainable relationship with the planet.


Thank you,

Anonymous Concerned Citizen.


*The Bees are disappearing - Yet we still eat our honey.

Jim said...

Excuse me, all I have are beliefs and questions. No answers. I don't know what you expected.

However, it is my belief that allowing the buildings to be a few minutes' worth of fuel for the fire, buildings which are a cumulative effort of hundreds of people committed to saving all beings, would have been irresponsible and poor stewardship of resources. This is not an unexamined opinion on my part.

However, I do not live at Tassajara. I'll leave the question alone now.

gaynigger said...

NOTICE: please do not feed the trolls!

They are Anonymous, and they are legion.

Anonymous said...

I love the honesty in Chris's reflections. I too might burn with envy or with what ever that need is to either get credit, or perhaps even on a deeper level to have had that chance to face the fire directly after such a build up. For my part this would be especially so once the fire moved on and I knew nobody got hurt. Then I could really get going. It would be interesting to hear from some of those who did leave and what they do encounter in themselves and how they work with it. It was great seeing the picture of the five. My hat is off to them and to all who did so much to save this precious place. As for the whole meddling with nature thing, the tiny strip of green that is left is hardly one mosquito breath amid the mighty exhalation of fire and smoke that has very much had its way with the area for some weeks now. Namaste to all and nine bows to the fire, whose gifts to all have already been many.

Anonymous said...

Dude, can someone delete the comment (err, that is the "Rickrolled" comment) from the guy with the offensive name?

ruuku said...

what heroes?

Anonymous said...

I geniunely feel for the brave lads and lasses who are doing their bit but please o please why do trite supposedly wise 'take a breath' type comments abound when its just makes the whole 'sense' of the fire sound nonsensical ..which is might be absolutely but relatively it seems it assuredly isn't.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,
Huh?

Anonymous said...

Oi Anonymous Lad you're being an arse, truly.
I reckon you'd well to read some evol. biology.

Your 'truth' provocation is pure gibberish.
You're doing i reckon some kind of dominance stance.

If you had a cancer perhaps would you let the cancer do as it 'wants/does' ?
If you would, then why by yr rationale as stated above ?
If you truly would not you are by any loose definition 'mental' or so elevated above the human condition and biology to be.....from another planet !
Nature Via Nurture Matt Ridley
The Blank Slate Steven Pinker
Ubiquity Mark Buchanan
Intuition its powers and perils David Myers

Good luck on yr journey from the perennial wisdom which compared to sociobiology don't seem very wise at all..however well intentioned and well meaning it assuredly is.
I spent almost 3 yrs in Thera, Zen and Benedictine enclaves so i have some, little experience.

Melinda said...

dear anonymous at 6:11

what i got from the words of abbot Steve as quoted in this original post, that taking a deep breath was the most important thing, was very straightforward. First, the air is probably not so good down there and so difficult to take a good deep breath. Also, the fire has mostly passed the valley and so there might be some relief as in a sigh or deep breath. Also returning to the work of a monk, which is sometimes described as watching the breath, which may have receded some in the midst of fighting raging fires...

...a not very eloquent, hopefully helpful opinion...

Anonymous said...

wouldnt it just make sense to extend the tourist season at the center the number of days it is closed and simply recoupe the lost revenues that way

a little flexibility and the monetary shortfall dissappears

Anonymous said...

To genuinely consider another person a hero means that you see in that person qualities that you yourself hold in extremely high esteem. To be envious means that you resent those qualities in another. The "Tassajara Five" are heroes in my book! I don't envy them. To me they are models of fortitude and bravery that I should like to emulate.

One of the monks said...

"Will someone resent that five people stayed behind outside of a group agreement, and became heroes as a result?"

One of the fifteen who carried on over the road when we were evacuated says: yes, I felt some resentment, among other things. It had seemed clear to me that being told to evacuate by a professional fire fighter meant we had to evacuate, and I had thought that everyone who had been at Tassajara at that time understood that and agreed to it. I wasn't consulted about the turning back. At the time I was focused on getting us all out. Since then I have had a number of feelings, and have asked myself what I would have done if I had been asked to go back. Maybe I would have, maybe not. The words 'heroes', 'success', 'failure' came up ,as well as my own ego saying 'I could have been a hero too'. A week on, it doesn't bother me so much. I fully understand why those who went back did - to do the job they ended up doing the next day. I notice a lack of resolution for myself, having been ready to face that situation and then not having faced it, while others that I am close to did. I can't wait to talk to them about it. I don't imagine they really think of themselves as heroes.

Chris vLS said...

Thank you to one-of-the-monks. For your effort, for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone could answer my original question. I'm uninvolved with the situation except as a former student and observer-from-afar.

I think it is a good story, one fit for a public radio documentary (as one other commenter said.) or a novel. It is dramatic. It tells a story about who we are.

What motivated some people towards taking great risks in this situation, despite an agreement to evacuate? How strong was that agreement? How do the people who did evacuate feel after the five helped save Tassajara?

Did the five have a difficult time convincing the other fifteen? Did they announce their intent? If they did not say they were going

Would they have felt any different if the efforts of the five who stayed were in vain? What if, additionally, those five were significantly injured or even killed in the process?

These are all questions about group process. Aside from these, I'm also curious if ZMC is adequately insured against catastrophic loss. If so, I'm interested in the relative merits of selfless action versus protecting one's own life. How much is risking one's life to save a place, albeit a hallowed and historic place, heroic? How much of it is foolhardy, especially if insurance would pay for reconstruction (not the lost guest season income.)

Me, I would feel jealous. That would come up for me. Despite years of facing a wall and counting my breaths, I might feel like I missed out on a chance to display heroism and character, or to be noticed as someone who has these things.

Deep bow,
Anon E Mouse

Anonymous said...

im still wrestling with the concept of risking life to save material things .... compared to not letting material things control your sense of wellbeing

hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

This conversation seems to be moving in a positive direction. It is important to accept that feelings such as resentment, jealousy, and anger reside in us all, and always will. Who among us would not be at least slightly envious or resentful of a person who showed as much resolve and courage as did the five who stayed? That is not wrong, but a part of being human. Now, if this thread causes any person to look deep within the self and acccept that they are not perfect, that they - like all people including each member of the "Tassajara 5" - possesses qualities that are enviable and qualities that are not, then this conversation has been productive for us all.

Anonymous said...

The word hero seems odd to me in this context.

Incollege I took a course in ethics.. .and a "moral" or "ethical" decision was defined as acting against ones own self interest to create a better good not otherwise possible.

If the five had chosen to stay behind to save say.. Fred Nason's place, I would see a great heroic act showing huge moral and ethical character.

Saving your own place, isn't heroic, the term is enlightend self interest.

Let's honor the monks for acting in their own self interest, and dowing a great job of it.

Three deep bows to the monks for saving something of value.. to the monks.

Anonymous said...

The word hero seems odd to me in this context.

Incollege I took a course in ethics.. .and a "moral" or "ethical" decision was defined as acting against ones own self interest to create a better good not otherwise possible.

If the five had chosen to stay behind to save say.. Fred Nason's place, I would see a great heroic act showing huge moral and ethical character.

Saving your own place, isn't heroic, the term is enlightend self interest.

Let's honor the monks for acting in their own self interest, and dowing a great job of it.

Three deep bows to the monks for saving something of value.. to the monks.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous :
July 15, 2008 6:33 PM
-

Thank you for your very thought provoking post.

No one has been able to address my 2 questions.

I'll stop wasting my energy. Thank you for yours.

Anonymous said...

" Three bows to the monks saving something of value...to the monks".

Thank you for your insight, though a little hard to face this facet of truth you've reflected... I wonder if your offering may be buried under a landslide of affirmations of ZMC as a shining jewel, glinting most brightly now in the crown of zen buddhism in america, heck, the whole world; lost under the stories of life-changing experiences,puffs-o- ephiphy and other ecstatic self-revelries etc brought-to-you-by-Tassajara ... or if those of us who still drop by this blog, after the main drama has unfolded -- will be able to reflect on all the many ways our efforts (to save all beings, or otherwise) cloak our own self-interest... to salve our tender hearts, to satiate our ravenous ego's, to confirm we are leading meaningful, valuable live's, to perhaps, secretly & everso quietly affirm that this Nothing Special life we monks are choosing, is indeed-- very special.

Anonymous said...

Isn't every life "very special"?

Isn't that the point?

monk or not monk?

Isn't every house and tree very special? Buddhist or not Buddhist?

Isn't that the point?

Anonymous said...

uhm, well, I'm not sure what the Point is, but that's kinda what I was trying to flush out...

Anonymous said...

After seeing the photos (and video) of the fire, if anyone doubts these people were heroes-in-action, they might want to think again. And I loved the cartoon. As someone whose "elements" are "too watery" I could relate.

Namaste.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps SFZC could sell the Story of the "Tassajara Five" to recoupe the lost revenue resulting from this far-reaching fire?

I have thought about this, quite jokingly, to help lighten the growing unease I have felt regarding the media attention the "Fire Monks" have received, sometimes, yes, at the invitation or solicitation of SFZC friends and affiliates (current/former concerned students, some of those solicitations were encouraged on this blog somewhere I believe?)
I do not want to question or argue these choices, I believe the motivation for inviting media attention was an effort of those who could not be there, to use the forums they thought best to draw the needed resources to Tassajara when/if the fire did reach it's sticks and bricks. There are however, consequences, some in this very thread.


As it was, the fire did reach Tassajara, as it was, there were only The Five there to greet it, to guide it around the sticks and bricks....and now the fire is 'out' of that valley, and so is The Story.
What will become of it? How will SFZC manage this potential wildfire?

When The Five emerge at last, will they burn in the blaze of media flashbulbs? Will they be asphixiated by our adulation? Smothered by our gratitude? Shall they buff their baldness to a gleaming sheen and hit the talk show circuit -- today NPR, tomorrow Oprah -- to share The Story?


So, I ask with a humble heart, following exaggerated ( I hope!) scenarios in words whose tone could be misheard as sarcasm: what's the story?

Anon E Mouse said above:
" It is dramatic. It tells the story of who we are."

Would the story be so dramatic, or interesting if it were the "Tassajara 20", "The Nason Five" or "Single Mother raises Three Kids on her Own", " Monk Gets Up at 3am Everyday for 6 months Straight to Meditate" etc?

I suppose how 'we' handle the aftermath, and the legacy of the five, will also be quite telling, for it's not just the media attention that concerns me, but the form our own heart-felt thanks may take. Can we save these precious beings from the burden of heroism? Or will we cash in on it?
Individually or institutionally?


Well, my friends, just in case it all makes it to the Big Screen -- suggestions for the cast of characters to play the "Tassajara Five"?

David Z.-- Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Jack Black or some combination thereof.

Graham -- Jason Statham, Daniel Craig, Tim Roth , or if none of those listed are available - Steven Segal may be lured out of retirment for this one.

Mako-- Jessica Alba
Colin-- Ben Affleck, Charlie Sheen
Steve-- David Hasselhoff

Anonymous said...

Naaah... you have to have copters to make an action flick that'll sell, although Zen monks racing around on fast dirt bikes might do the trick. Maybe Clint would cast as the big bad county sheriff manning the roadblock. "Go ahead and make my day!"

So.... many seem to think that the real fire is still ahead for the "Tassajara 5". Personally I wish them the greatest of strength and fortitude for the battle that clearly is coming. They are just people like the rest of us and should not be judged any more harshly than any of us would judge ourselves should they momentarily lapse in the challenging times ahead.

Anonymous said...

land owners..business operators save own land....so cash flow is protected.... no loss of life.. but none was projected.. no injuries but folks were asked to leave.. to avoid injuries.... what a selfless act.. my heros

late breaking news.. donald trump saves trump towers by selflessly staying in building to refinance when others told him to give up and go home.. what a hero... and such nice hair too

Anonymous said...

hmmmm, glad to hear that the five will be held accountable for their maverick decision...for regardless of the outcome( which may overshadow the whole works) it sounds like the five betrayed a group decision. Betrayed may end up being a strong word, (though "spontaneous" may white-wash it a bit, huh?) given how organically things can unfold in such situations...but I for one, would have felt mighty pissed...and ponder thoughts of arrogant disregard for the sangha, SFZC and beyond.

Anonymous said...

The Five are members of SFZC that hold 'important' positions...no worries, I'm sure they'll be fire-wrapped by the Abbots, President etc.

Anonymous said...

yeah let's sell the right's to the story to 20th century fox or something, there should be a better way to make a buck with this then asking for donations. Fundraising is such an old hat...

Anonymous said...

let's give the 5 the purple heart or something... maybe we could make up an sfzc medal or some sumthin. the others, the ones who leftcould get lollipops....

Anonymous said...

going back to save the day, or the monastery.... civil disobedience, spiritual anarchism.... my heroes yay yay yay.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear !