A monk asked Tozan, “When cold and heat come, how should one avoid them?”
Tozan said, “Why not go to a place where there is neither cold nor heat?”
The monk said, “What kind of place is it where there is neither cold nor heat?”
Tozan said, “When it is cold, the cold kills you; when it is hot, the heat kills you.”
—The Blue Cliff Record, Case 43
Russ was away, so we opened the Zendo ourselves for the evening sitting. We turned on the lights but couldn’t figure out how to operate the overhead fans. It must have been 90â„‰ inside: we sat, breathed and, sweated. For one night, the buzzing of the cicadas and the chirping of the crickets could be heard instead of the whirr of the fans. Something is lost, something is gained.
That day the temperature in Moscow was over 100â„‰.
July in New York had been the second hottest month on record.
This summer’s heat is just one more data point in the thousands of data points providing overwhelming evidence of global warming.
Annual Average Temperature (Departure from the 1901-2000 Average)
Our planet is rapidly warming with predictable results: floods, draughts, intense storms, desertification, shifts in flora and fauna, changes in disease transmission vectors, and one hot Zendo. Despite scientists’s warnings, nation states have been disinclined to take effective action. Coal and oil lobbyists together with political conservatives (who are distrustful of government action, ecological causes, and science in general) have succeeded in stirring up doubt in the public mind. As a result, the public remains aloof and skeptical, and politicians feel no great pressure to act. Even the modest (and probably ineffectual) cap-and-trade bill stalled in the senate last month.
Maybe today’s heat can help concentrate minds.
As aware human beings who inhabit this planet, we have an ethical responsibility to stay informed, to communicate our concerns to our representatives, and to do whatever we can within the small circle of our lives to contribute to the Earth’s well-being. We can and should hold our politician’s responsible for supporting solutions on a national and global level. At the same time, we can and should examine our own lifestyles to see how we may be contributing to the problem through profligate energy use and thoughtless waste.
What is effective action? Writing your congressman? Writing letters to the editor? Reducing your own carbon footprint? Something to sit and think about on a hot summer’s evening.
“Cold and heat are right in your face, right on your head! Where are you?”
— Yuan-wu’s Notes on Case 43