Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Quoteables – Edward Aspe Brown

I can multi-task with the best of them – talk on the phone while I mix bread dough, watch a movie while I fold laundry, read a book while I ride in the car, etc. It helps pass the time which makes things seem more enjoyable. In the back of my mind, however, I often wonder what I’m missing along the way.

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about this sort of thing while watching a trailer for “How to Cook Your Life” and remembering a scene in the kitchen where Edward Aspe Brown is talking about mindfulness. He goes on (more or less) to explain what he’s written elsewhere on the same subject. In fact, for the non-video types, there’s a fantastic article over at Shambhala Sun called “Let Your Passion Cook” where he writes:

When I asked Suzuki Roshi for his advice about working in the kitchen, he said, “When you wash the rice, wash the rice. When you cut the carrots, cut the carrots. When you stir the soup, stir the soup.” Though very similar, this is not the same as, “be mindful in the kitchen,” which makes it sound like you have two things to do: washing and being mindful, cutting and being mindful, stirring and being mindful. What would that mindfulness part look like? Probably a bit stiff, as your impulse will be to move slowly and carefully so that only a moderate amount of energy and emotion arises to meet the circumstances. In other words most people hear be mindful as keep yourself in check.

Yet what is magnificent and magical is finding out how to manifest the cutting of carrots with your whole body and mind; how to wash the rice with your eyes and your hands, connecting consciousness with the senses and the world—not just going through the motions.

Of all the things Brown has said (in the movie and the article) this still stands out to me as plain as day (and as bright as newly fallen snow if I may venture into multiple clichés for a moment) so that now I’ve taken to repeating in my mind, “wash the rice,” whenever I catch myself wondering far away from where I stand. It’s not perfect (and I don’t always remember), but like I’ve said before, more often than not change comes in fits and starts and looks a whole lot more like work than miracle.

Here’s to the practice of everyday life!


My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from Birmingham City Jail

Quotables – Anne Lamott

A reblog from last year and a good thing to think about today.

Under the Maple Canopy

…I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong.  But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality.  I don’t think anything is the opposite of love.  Reality is unforgivingly complex.

– Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird

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Behold the Privilege!

Nothing like Christian privilege to cover you like a warm blanket on a Sunday morning (or maybe it’s the rise in one’s blood pressure?):

As often happens, there was a huge rally to defend this clearly unconstitutional behavior. A local Baptist minister organized the rally and 1500 people showed up. One of the speakers was Rep. Roger Wicker, now a U.S. Senator from Mississippi. Among the other things he said at the rally was this:

“Now I want to say this to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit: You could not have inflicted a deeper wound upon the souls, upon the very core of this community, than to do what you’ve done.”

Expecting the government-funded public schools to follow the Constitution is a deep “wound upon the souls” of the community. Forcing kids to listen to prayers they may not agree with, that’s perfectly fine. Singling out young children to be ostracized and called devil worshipers, that’s perfectly fine. But filing this suit is a deep wound. This is the essence of Christian privilege and Christian hegemony, which often ruthlessly imposes itself on everyone else and then takes terrible offense at the mere suggestion that no one should have to put up with it.

From Ed Brayton and Dispatches from the Culture Wars – I tip my hat to you, sir.

On JK Rowling – Today’s Thing

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.

– JK Rowling (I first saw the quote on First Draft)


Sunday Quotables – Natalie Goldberg

…[W]riting has this quality where all the effort and desire in the world doesn’t do shit.  It’s hard to comprehend.  All our lives we’ve been taught to try hard.  That’s good, important to writing, too, but then in the middle of it, you have to be willing to jump off a hundred-foot pole with no net to catch you, no assurances….Writing’s essential nature asks you not to go forward, not to be productive, not to be logical.  In the middle of all your conservative striving, it asks you to take a step backward into the dark unknown – actually back into your real self, which has never been explored and you are not sure how to get there.

–Natalie Goldberg, “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir,” page 52