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Making the Sign of the Cross

Some of us have been questioning what it means to be mechanical or not mechanical.  Months ago, in the course of reporting a story for a Buddhist magazine, I took a trip up to Leverett, Massachusetts, to visit a glorious Peace Pagoda built by the monks and nuns of a little known sect of Japanese […]

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What Does It Mean Not To Be Mechanical?

A reader posed this question as an alternative to “what it means to be mechanical?” He was right. It is the more fruitful way to go. After all, over the past three decades, scientists of all stripes have amassed a great deal of evidence to support Schopenhauer’s claim (as paraphrased by Einstein) that “a human […]

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The Happiest Place on Earth

Last week, while visiting my father and sister in Florida, I took what I’m quite sure will be my last roller coaster ride, “Expedition Everest,” the latest spectacularly elaborate attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane wrote an essay about the rich and strange art and mindset of Walt Disney, […]

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What Does It Mean To Be Mechanical?

How naturally the subject of God and what it means to be good flows into the subject of the next Parabola theme: Man and Machine. In this space and in the readers’ forums, correspondents have shared comments and questions that revolve around the observation (that was also St. Paul’s) that we cannot do the good […]

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stepping back

Christians call it the “recollected heart.” In Sanskrit it is called “smirti,” or “that which is remembered.”  “Sati,” the word for mindfulness in Pali, the ancient Sanskrit dialect of the earliest Buddhist texts, means to remember.  The great Zen sage Dogen spoke of taking a half step back inside ourselves, creating the space to allow […]

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Open and closed (post redux)

Traveling by car is like watching life on a screen, writes Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, his now classic account of a motorcycle journey with his 11-year-old son that is really an inquiry into values.“You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On […]