An Atheist No More

When you are 60 years old and
Have been splitting wood for heat
     the last 30,
Go outside during a January thaw,
Find an old pine stump
You didn't split last spring,
Some old pine that lived heroically
And stoically, long ago in the wind,
Now just a last stump long-dead,
Raise your maul up to the sky
And split that stump in a warm January breeze,
Lift an old dead split pine shard
Up to your face and breathe deep

And then tell me there isn't a god


There are a few reasons I think this may actually be a poem but the most important to me is almost immediately I realized that what had just come to me spontaneously was also a perfect symbolic representation of my whole life - the sound practice, taking these heroic but dead words from the old days, my first 30 years, splitting them open and with all my physical and spiritual senses, if only for a moment, breathing deep and grasping their total heart.   

In that spirit, after 30 years, I am announcing that I will be conducting my first Kototama sound class, in the style of Hikalu, open to anyone that is interested. It will be held on August 9 on top of Thunder Butte, South Dakota, sometime in mid-morning. There will be a meet-up at the diner in Isabel at 8:00a.m. I'm pretty sure there's just one place there that counts as a sit-down restaurant, but if there is any confusion, I will be at the place that has a vehicle with Michigan plates parked outside. Trust me, it won't be hard for us to find each other. Probably wouldn't hurt anything if you are planning to come to drop me a line at the e-mail address on this website.

It's about a five-hour hike to the top of the butte and back with time enough for a sound meditation included. It's possible to drive closer, but not last year when I went there for the first time because conditions were so dry just driving on the trail was a fire hazard. I enjoyed the hike so much I'm planning to do that again regardless of conditions.

Cost: Well, breakfast is on me. Other than that you're on your own. I will say that later that evening I plan to attend the opening of the Rock Creek Powwow an hour or so away. If anyone wants to go to that as well, dinner will be my treat too.

I want to say a few words about that powwow. I stumbled on it the first year (2008) I went out to South Dakota and have returned for portions of the three-day event every year since. I am strictly a visitor, claim no understanding or connection with the community or the culture, but will say just being there does my heart good somehow.

I remember asking one of the instructors at the Kototama Institute if the Revolution (I was referring to Sensei's ideas of 2011, but this was 1982 and something of the '60's was still in the air) was going to be urban or rural. I still wonder about that. In fact, the question seems even more urgent now if we understand urban to mean technology and rural to mean the natural life. I don't presume to know, and mainly I just hope for better days ahead for human beings and the human spirit. But it's a late spring this year where I am, and as I am typing this I occasionally look out the window at the field out back and think of the billions of seeds and eggs in that one field that are on the absolute verge of exploding into life.

I understand a little, I think, about the intoxication of this astonishing new technological age, and big data, and the storage capacity of microchips. But it seems to me each microscopic seed in my backyard is storing a connection going back to the origins of life, ultimately to the beginning of time, and contains information that can sustain life forward for probably a finite, but potentially at least an infinite future. This seems a little more miraculous to me than even the most amazing of possible future cyber-existences. Actually a lot more miraculous.

What I am saying is I will take my chances with the natural way. And if indeed this present moment is a turning point in human history (as every moment must certainly be, but let's face it: the stakes are pretty high for the human race these days), a guy could do worse than attend the Rock Creek Wacipi and find a center for changing the world at the center of that powwow circle, where even to a stranger like me it is clear the people feel that the earth is sacred, and that human beings have a sacred responsibility to it, and to each other.