When I Was Dead

I’m working on a new “real” post for this blog. This one is just kind of an interim thing.

The other day I was at Amoeba Records and found a CD called Spectre by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. It is a CD sent out by A&M Records to radio stations to promote Hitchcock’s 1993 album Respect. It contains all the songs from Respect preceded by short introductions by Hitchcock explaining each song’s origins.

This is one of my favorite tunes from the album, When I Was Dead. What’s amazing is that near the end of the introduction, Hitchcock gives the most concise explanation I have ever come across of the Buddhist concept of skandhas. As far as I know he never studied Buddhism, or if he did he isn’t keen to publicize it. Here’s what he says:

“Given the existence of the universe, all the molecules in it — nuclear fission apart and black holes apart — have been here for billennia or something. They just keep juggling around. So you’ve got three of Shakespeare’s molecules and you’ve got two of Himmler’s or whatever it is, you know. Part of your fingernail was part of St. Joseph of Aramathea’s frontal lobe or something. And you know, large parts of you were once a daffodil in Nova Scotia or something. You know, your feet used to be Winston Churchill. The same things keep getting recycled. It could be that when we pass away our psyches dissolve into lots of sort of strips of feeling. All the things that comprised us that were held together by our bodies dissolve. You know, hence ‘I wasn’t me to speak of just a thousand ancient feelings.’ Feelings that have been around since the beginning of human time.”

A skandha is usually clumsily explained as a “heap” of physical/psychic substance that makes up a human being. It is Buddhism’s answer to the idea of atman or the soul. The five skandhas as I first learned them are 1)form 2)feelings 3)perceptions 4)impulses and 5)consciousness. There are a number of other English translations. Most agree on numbers 1 and 5 and disagree on the rest. But it’s not terribly crucial to the concept to get all the specific divisions correct. Each of the skandhas bleeds into the others anyway. They’re just categories, places to make lines in the sand and pretend they’re borders until the wind or the sea comes and wipes the lines away.

I don’t really have permission to upload this. But I’ve noticed A&M Records doesn’t seem to police these things terribly thoroughly. In any case, they might come along and yank this video down so listen soon.

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87 Responses

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  1. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:54 am | |

    Why not then.

    It must be like when you are with a friend and you are both talking freely and most of the time trying to make the other believe some totally outwordly BS wrapped in layers of factoids based on just found (and non existing) theory or discovery or slightly bending some true one just to see if the other falls for it, both knowing or just not knowing exactly the depth of the joke and saying “fuck it’s the absolute truth” trying not to laugh. And going on building on top more abstrusely wild fantasy constructions and having fun seeing who’s the most prolific in piling up total absolute BS.

    This is woild too :)

    If it’s like this, OK. I got the suspicion it is this way.

    1. boubi
      boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:55 am | |

      … yeah, just be conscious it a joke, not taking it serious

  2. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:59 am | |

    The main point is leaving the other guess if “this time” you are serious or not, it’s a thin line, just fun

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 March 29, 2013 at 6:01 am | |

      Well, I am serious, boubi. But it is just a bit of fun. Pour passer le temps, tu sais :)

  3. Fred
    Fred March 29, 2013 at 5:33 am | |

    Boubi
    Articulating a description of emptiness isn’t bullshit, but as Mr. Dogen says, it’s
    a dream within a dream.

    When you know there is no substance to anything, including this self, you play
    along as if it has a reality consistent with the way the brain was conditioned
    to believe in.

    If you want to call that bullshit, it’s OK.

  4. Terrytrueman
    Terrytrueman March 29, 2013 at 8:27 am | |

    Following the thread on the relative importance and lack thereof to words and language in ‘getting’ zen. I feel sure that intuition, experiential knowledge and non-verbal cognition plays a huge role–but as a pretty much exclusive word-brain guy, I always use and defer to language for understanding, thus the challenge. If our practices here are ‘debates’ alone, I think we’ll find little growth, if we are weighing, in the entirity of our differences, chances to explain/experience ideas/emotions/bliss different and new to our ways of thinking/feeling, our time will be well spent.

  5. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 9:28 am | |

    @ Terrytrueman

    What i say isn’t worth more than the next guy/girl’s talking.

    I don’t want to put anybody off who’s looking for something in this blog, included you, even more because this isn’t my blog.

    I appreciate REALLY a lot Brad’s attitude, and everybody’s in general, for your openness, tolerance, kindness and LACK of fanaticism in talking your own mind.

    This said, IMO i find that “articulating a description of emptiness” IS rather bullshit, sorry not to have such a flowery vocabulary as Dogen Zenji.

    For the other point i’m neither really versed in dialectics or deep thoughts nor very interested in them.

    So everybody is entitle in saying whatever he thinks, included that i say BS, why not.

  6. anon 108
    anon 108 March 29, 2013 at 9:32 am | |

    I agree with you about the words/language/understanding stuff, Tt. I mean, feel the same way.

    I’ve heard that Kodo Sawaki once said “You can’t exchange even one fart with the next guy.”

    Maybe we learn – or grow – less from what we’re told by others and more from noticing our own responses. Sometimes we’ll consider if what we want to say is worth saying and decide to keep our mouths shut. And sometimes we’ll say it anyway. In the end, we do what we do, we say what we say, and there may be no way of knowing for sure how any of it impacts others.

    I’m full of it lately. Must get out more.

  7. Terrytrueman
    Terrytrueman March 29, 2013 at 9:42 am | |

    Anon108,I hardly think yer comments seem “full of” herself…. and NOT just because you happen to agree with my posting. Boubi, great name btw lol. I’ve read yer posting with interest and found much of value. Keep up day good work boys…. We’ll get there. :)

  8. Terrytrueman
    Terrytrueman March 29, 2013 at 9:44 am | |

    Sorry anon108 yerself not herself lol though who cares? Fucking autocorrect!

  9. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm | |

    —anon 108
    I’ve heard that Kodo Sawaki once said “You can’t exchange even one fart with the next guy.”—

    You are right, the first time i realized it, was as a child on the beach, when another child “drank a wave” (a very small one) and started coughing, i wanted to said “sorry” but suddenly it came to my mind that it was just a sound, that our experiences were totally separated…. and since i was a kid i always had aversion towards “wordy things” and “wordy people”, which is rather an impediment in such a “wordy world”.

    Further more, i really don’t think that my thinking is better than most of the people, it’s just my point of view, which makes sense to me, most probably not to many other people.

    I agree with “Maybe we learn – or grow – less from what we’re told by others and more from noticing our own responses … etc etc”, in this i thank once more Brad for giving me the opportunity to “think” and elaborate “things”, which helps me A LOT in understanding “things” better.

    In the end sometimes i wonder if we a have a clue about what the fuck we are talking about here ??? Maybe get slightly drunk and say bullshit could amount to the same, forgetting “path”, “states” and whatever come with it ???

    Are you the musician?

    1. boubi
      boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm | |

      Ah, yeah, BTW, sometimes it really seems to me that some people are way more clueless than the vast majority is, and are just reproducing some “wise and recognized as wise”, approved “standard talk”, the way others could talk about something using the same advertising words from a commercial.

      THIS is for me THE real BS.

  10. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm | |

    Cooking tip.

    Boil your potatoes with their skin before baking them in the oven, smear some olive oil, sprinkle big grain salt and put some rosemary in the oven tray.

  11. Fred
    Fred March 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm | |

    “In the end sometimes i wonder if we a have a clue about what the fuck we are talking about here ??? Maybe get slightly drunk and say bullshit could amount to the same, forgetting “path”, “states” and whatever come with it ???”

    I don’t drink and I don’t sit around bullshitting with friends.

    What the fuck we are talking about here is Zen Buddhism and emptiness.

  12. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm | |

    I feel sympathetic with this guy.

    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Huineng-tearing-sutras.svg

    Sometimes i have the impression that all the sutras could be a burden more than a help (talking for myself) sometimes i wonder what if Gautama Siddharta had been born, let’s say ancient greek* or mongolian or a mountain shepperd from the Alps, without all the indian culture accumulated in, what, a thousand years ?

    Indian philosophy, culture, mathematics, medicine is for me one of the tops of the world … but when you get a heart sutra that says what it says … in the end what you need is a manual, a map, that tells you where you are and where to go, the aim not being the manual itself, if not you risk being stuck watching that famous finger, i.e the manual.

    I don’t know if it’s understandable the way i put it, i’m not sure myself.

    * I have the impression that some of the greek “mysteries” could have been rather buddhist in their core, by buddhist meaning dealing with that “woild” someone mentioned before …

  13. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm | |

    +++What the fuck we are talking about here is Zen Buddhism and emptiness.+++

    WOW! And “emptiness” would be … and “Zen Buddhism” ???

    I realize that i’m losing it a bit, maybe i gonna get burned on the stake for stating such heresies, but what the fuck are those “things” you mention?

    Are they the same?

    Are they different?

    And if buddhism is not of the zen confession is it still buddhism?

    And if it is still “emptiness” could it be without the “buddhist label”?

    I, for one, don’t know, but i have the feeling that we are talking, here, about “labels”

  14. boubi
    boubi March 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm | |

    One more tip about one of the core task of our civilized life

    http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/hard-boiled-eggs-why-cooking-them-wrong-212300381.html#!c0yll

  15. anon 108
    anon 108 March 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm | |

    boubi,

    For me, the words are a hobby. Cooking tips? NOW you’re talking! I do music sometimes :)

  16. Fred
    Fred March 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm | |

    “WOW! And “emptiness” would be … and “Zen Buddhism” ???

    I realize that i’m losing it a bit, maybe i gonna get burned on the stake for stating such heresies, but what the fuck are those “things” you mention?”

    Read the links to Red Pine, McLeod and to the Zen nun, and then answer the
    question yourself.

    Or answer from the depths of unknowing.

    1. boubi
      boubi March 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm | |

      Good idea, i think i gonna boil an egg.

  17. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel March 30, 2013 at 7:37 am | |

    I don’t know in English, but “va te faire cuire un oeuf” (go cook yourself an egg) is a polite way of telling someone to go flicker off…

  18. boubi
    boubi March 30, 2013 at 11:03 am | |

    If you don’t know why do you say this? Nothing better to do?

    Just have a look a bit higher and you’ll find i gave a recipe for hard boil eggs, because i was going to try it … after having baked potatoes … i felt i wanted some boiled egg … elementary Watson

    Never heard, but i think you did, about Occam’s razor? The simplest explanation is usually the good one (i know i’m not in my league about erudition, but i think the quote should be correct as a general meaning).

    So the guy got upset about something i said, maybe rightly , it’s his business, and you just pour gasoline on the fire?

    … … … … … … …… … … … … … …… … … … … … …… … … … … … …… … … … … … …… … … … … … … fill the dots with what you wish, it will keep you busy LOL

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