LAST TIME: “Still Forest Pool”
Postcards from the Looneyverse
The last episode, “Still Forest Pool,” featured a video showing the Flindeepul, Edzl the Nebboid’s second-hand space yacht, flying through the peculiar parallel universe known as the “Looneyverse.” Edzl and Pretzl are using the Looneyverse as a shortcut to get to our solar system in a hurry-up-quick. Y’see natural law is different in the Looneyverse; the speed of light, for instance, is orders of magnitude faster than it is in our slow poke universe. So the Flindeepul was traveling soooo fast, the video had to be slo-mo’d to the extreme. (OK, gimme some “suspension of disbelief,” here, please!) Consequently, the background was somewhat obscured. For those who are inclined for leisurely sight-seeing, the slide-show above provides some small measure of relative clarity to this baffling and ultimately incomprehensible realm.
The Retreat Interview
Bozobots, as explained in Multiverse Comics and Stories (see below) in “Invasion of the Bozobots,” are actually people who are in thrall to their conditioning – just ordinary human beings, in other words. The Pali term is puthujjana (unawakened regular folks, like you (probably) and me (definitely).
Our conditioning can like likened to programming. We are programmed for survival, for instance, not necessarily a bad thing, to be sure. We are programmed to string together an unbroken chain of pleasurable moments (not going to happen!) and avoid unpleasantness (not possible in this world!).
We have the potential to be more. Most of us know this, don’t we? No, I don’t mean richer, smarter, better-looking, or eternally youthful. I mean wiser – connected to reality, kind, compassionate, delighting in the wholesome happiness of others. We have the potential to be fully present, connected deeply to the way things actually are and to be at peace with it, however it is, without passively accepting our flaws, but also without kicking ourselves in the butt.
Even bozobots can aspire to freedom from humankind’s 3 basic flaws: greed, hatred, and delusion. So bozobots will be occasionally featured on these pages.
Before this, the longest retreat I’d done was 3 days. Back then, a 3-day retreat was anything but easy for me, but the first 3 days of this retreat were torture. My mind was unrelentingly restless. The Bozobot (Shall we call him “Billy?”) description of his meditation attempts is only slightly exaggerated.
Restlessness and worry, I had learned, was one of the Five Hindrances, including also desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor (dig the Victorian vocabulary), and doubt. These will be covered in a future “DIY Dharma” segment, but for now, I’d like to note another synonym for restlessness is “monkey mind” a mind that swings incessantly from one topic to another like Tarzan, hollering, while he swings high-speed through the jungle from branch to branch.
Everyone who undertakes one of these retreat is required to see a teacher at least once or twice, just to make sure they aren’t about to flip out and instead of keeping “noble silence,” scream and run all the way into the ice cream shop in Barre.
My teacher wasn’t as laconic as Billy Bozobot’s. He reassured me that such discordant cacophony was normal and made some sensible suggestions, like doing more walking meditation. But he also suggested that as aggravating as it might seem, it was an impermanent state and that with some patience and a bit of fortitude I would be able to endure it.
He was right! Not only that, but it gave me genuine insight into the nature of my mind. It gets kinda wild and wooly in there sometimes, you know? This was also when I first began to see that the mind wasn’t my enemy in this seemingly impossible practice. My mind was used to being more or less continually entertained and to providing entertainment with its fantasies and daydreams. All that lack of input on a silent meditation retreat (no talking, no music, no TV, no phones, etc.) had set off a near-panic. It’s as though my mind thought I was “starving” from lack of stimuli. It was just trying to fill in the “blanks.”
Once it realized it could calm down, it began, at least some of the time, to find it agreeable. But other times the hindrances would come up and storm and prod and insist on gnawing on some kind of “mental bone” and rail at times against inexpressible boredom.
It took me a while to understand this was not about discipline or mastering a task. This was about relaxing, but paying attention and being curious about what in the @%$&! this mind/heart/body was all about.
This was when I first began to understand the value of self-directed kindness.
NEWS & VIEWS PROVIDED BY THE 2-D COMICOLOGIST
Bozobots are a human kind of robot. What about the mechanical sort? Matteo Farinella, neuroscientist, cartoonist, and illustrator, whose work provided the inspiration to think of webcomics in a whole new way, has also been generous at pointing to other remarkable cartoonist’s work. Check out “You, Robot,” by Emmanuel Espinasse, based on the Social Robots Project, lead by Prof. Emily Cross (University of Glasgow). This 10-part webcomic imagines a near future complicated by robots. The content is intriguing and so is the container! The reader is lead by color from panel to panel. The style and level of detail is perfectly adapted to the content.
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