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ZEN Aluminati DC Update September 18, 2005
Who Are the Zen Aluminati?
OUR MOTTO: Remembering friends, visiting the old, the sick, those in need and in time of trouble - even when we don't feel like it - at least now and then.
Who are the Zen Aluminati?
[written as an article for the 9-05-2005 sangha-e!, the newsletter of the SFZC - see SFZC.org - see this article on SFZC.org.]
Greetings to noble readers of sangha-e! Iím pleased to have the opportunity to share with you some thoughts I have concerning our maturing wider community and the task always before us of staying in touch to some extent with each other.
About two and a half years ago, a senior member of our sangha fell ill and went to a hospital. He was there for three weeks and he was miserable. There was a wellness ceremony for him at Green Gulch, but no one visited. This was distressing to him. He told me about it at Tassajara where heíd been a student every guest season since Zen Center bought it. He had also attended practice periods and spent a lot of time visiting others in the city, for instance Issan and Philip Whalen when they were ill.
I felt bad that I hadnít visited my dharma chum in the hospital. I hadnít known he was there but I realized I might not have visited him even if I had known. Iíd have maybe thought I was too busy or too far away or that others who knew him better would take care of him. I discussed his situation and the implications of it with a few senior teachers and administrators at Tassajara. I was on my way to Asia and other parts for eight months, and I resolved that when I returned I would make a greater effort to keep up with people who might have become isolated.
Not long after I was back in California, I tried to call my friend and learned heíd moved to Florida. No one I talked to knew how to contact him. I found an email address and sent him a note but received no response. I didnít give up on him but for the time being turned my attention to others.
Because of the historical work Iím involved in, Iíve naturally been in contact with a lot of the older folks around the Zen Center. I like to keep up with people and have always done so when it was convenient. Gradually I was starting to see it as a practice Ė something I should do as well when I donít feel like it. I thought about who would appreciate visits Ė mainly, those who couldnít get out so easily.
I decided that if I was going to try to start a visiting program that it would be best for me to first set up a schedule of visiting for myself then little by little talk to and encourage others to do so. I didnít want an organization Ė just the activity Ė but I have come to see that some sort of organization will be necessary. I started a section on my web site for this work and called it, for fun, the Zen Aluminati. I frequently call myself an alumnus of ZC when people ask what my relationship is and this seemed like a right-alumni sort of thing to do.
I also decided not to try to do too much and have set for myself the rough goal of spending one day a week visiting and talking with people or writing about visiting. I set this limit because I thought it was a commitment I could keep and an example that others could relate to. I didnít expect anyone else in particular to do what I was doing. People in our culture tend to be busy and some have relatives to visit and canít take on more. I donít want to guilt trip anyone (though this has a sort of built-in guilt trip) or suggest they do more than they can or want to, but I do want to stir up awareness in this area, get something going, and I suspected that some people would want to join in. In keeping with this attitude, the motto (for now) of the Zen Aluminati is, "Remembering friends, visiting the old, the sick, those in need and in time of trouble - even when we don't feel like it - at least now and then."
If you go to www.cuke.com youíll see a link to the Zen Aluminati section just to the right of Whatís New Ė also thereís a link on the Whatís New page. I suggest you read the brief Statement then go to the section called Whom are we thinking about? If you then go to the Updates section youíll see more. I highly recommend the latest entry Ė The Monk with Dysentery Ė an original Vinaya text wherein Buddha speaks directly to this subject.
In addition to Buddha, there are other sage advisors whom Iím in contact with such as Frank Ostaseski, founding director of the Zen Hospice. Frank is encouraging me to sign up a few volunteers who would commit to one or more visits a month. Martha de Barros and Bruce Fortin, both Zen teachers with years of experience in hospice work have signed up as the first official volunteers. Others have been visiting, sitting, and reading to some senior Zennies without the word volunteer coming up. With the help of these folks the hope is that we can move forward slowly in this venture so that we can be more responsive to each other. Right now there are only a few on the Aluminati visit list and mainly the best people to visit them are those they already know, but there are various ways that people could help and there is going to be more and more need for volunteers because weíre headed for a demographic bubble. May we be prepared.
I have received a letter from the senior friend who had moved to Florida and heís doing quite well. Heís in contact with Norman Fischer and has visited with Pat Phelan and other folks in Chapel Hill. He doesnít want any visitors at present.
Those wishing to email David Chadwick, especially about being an Aluminati volunteer, may contact him at email@example.com.