April 28, 2016
I am supposing that in Hawaiian ho`ala means awaken. Ala means path; for example, the Alawai canal on the mauka side of Waikiki. Ala = path, wai = fresh water. Ho by itself means go. My first-hand knowledge of Hawaiian is limited to common Hawaiian words that anyone growing up in Hawaii would pick up without making any effort. I hope that people more knowledgeable will forgive my probable ignorance in what I’ve just explained. My information about ho`ala comes from the Hawaiian Dictionary at http://wehewehe.org/.
This blog will be a mishmash of quotations from my own past writings (with commentary), links and commentary on pieces and books that I find interesting, and any new stuff that comes to mind. I hope there will be readers who find the blog interesting, but since I can’t count on that, this undertaking will be a mental and spiritual discipline of old age, an attempt to sum up what has been most meaningful in my life, thoughts that to me are most provocative or ideas that are just fun. In the next few paragraphs I’ll give a brief summary of my interests and life as an indication of what might show up here.
Although my formal education was in math and physics, at a fairly early age, I stumbled onto a liking for music, poetry and literature. In high school and college I hated history, but later became somewhat of a history buff. I was always interested in philosophy, but realized early on that I not only lacked the aptitude to get serious about it, but was also at times annoyed by what seemed to be its tendency to painstaking analysis penetrating into meaningless obscurity. Being fundamentally lazy, I found it much easier to muddle through in math where I had an aptitude. Later, back in the 1950’s, I realized, that I lacked an interest in pure abstract mathematics and that a friend who was engaged in cosmic ray studies of the newly discovered pi mesons was dealing with a much more fascinating subject: what is the fundamental nature of this universe we happen to have been born into? Accordingly I ended up in theoretical physics.
One might get the impression from the last paragraph that I’m entirely an intellectual. That isn’t the case. I was born in Hawaii before WWII and soon discovered the joys of the ocean. Early on I had a surfboard, but board surfing seemed somewhat impractical when we no longer lived near the ocean. Besides I hated having the board ripped out of my hands on the way out through sizable waves. Body surfing, on the other hand, was a joy. As a young teenager I would go out to Sandy Beach, an area near Koko Head on Oahu and attempt to push my brother and cousin over the waves as they broke crushingly into two or three feet of water. They were of course trying to do the same to me. Later I became a reasonably good swimmer and the three of us would body surf Makapu`u or the occasional storm surf at Waikiki.
In Hawaii I couldn’t indulge a passion for mountains, awakened by a view of Mt. Rainer at age 7. We would hike in the hills behind Tantalus and Manoa Valley, but that wasn’t quite the dream of topping glorious snowy peaks. After giving up competitive swimming in college, I joined an alpine club and climbing became my main passion for the next few years. Now I don’t do much climbing and certainly no leading, but skiing and hiking into the back country is almost always satisfying and sometimes awakens an awareness.
So far so good. But this account so far has left out what is most important in my life; namely, a search for ultimate meaning, a vision quest. What does it mean to have been born in the twentieth century, to try understand in the deepest sense knowledge, history and life, and live into the twenty-first, only to have one’s consciousness vanish forever into oblivion? Is there some kind of spiritual path that is more than an illusion, a path that one can follow, with the possible promise of a spiritual satisfaction in the face of sure obliteration? I think that the answer to the question of the last paragraph is “maybe!” And that answer is enough of an answer that I can persist in the quest. And it should be enough for anyone who is so inclined also to persist. In this blog there will be possible hints, though no promises. Even if I had found what seemed to be a deep, spiritual answer, such would not render me necessarily capable of helping anyone else. As the sign on Harry Truman’s desk said, “The Buck stops here.” With spiritual matters YOU are fundamentally on your own, a theme to be developed below.
So what we are left with are various ideas about a spiritual journey as well as ideas and links I’ve found interesting on a great variety of subjects, not necessarily having anything to do with spirituality or a vision quest, but which simply seem interesting.
Added Jan. 23, 2018
Hoala Blog has now been in existence since April 28, 2016, almost 2 years. Since then there have been 21 posts. So, there is now a body of material that suggests more specifically than what is written above, what this blog has been about so far. It turns out that what I’m attempting to do largely but not entirely, centers on Zen Buddhism; not, in fact, on Zen itself, but instead on the contribution that an understanding of Zen might contribute to Western thought in many areas, lending a spiritual dimension which is totally superstition free and lacking in any mystic ideas whatever. For a while, the image in the heading to this blog was a stylized drawing of Bodhidharma, the somewhat mythical sage who brought Mahayana Buddhism from India to China, starting a Zen tradition there, in the 5th century A.D. My “conceit” was that I am in some way trying to integrate Zen more thoroughly into Western Culture rather than simply presenting it. Such a presentation has already been ably done, beginning back in the 1920’s. For those readers who may be interested in pursuing Zen for its own sake, I have in several of the posts referred to books and writers who seem to have been most helpful to me. This blog is not so much about understanding Zen as it is in assuming that such an understanding would prove helpful to people pursuing such disciplines or “games” as physics, philosophy, history, literature, or engaging themselves in other scientific or humanistic areas. Of course, I may in this blog write about anything whatever that seems interesting, so it is not exclusively about spiritual journeying or an attempt to point out areas in our thought that are already, in my opinion, loaded with what might be called Western Zen. In calling such an infusion, Western Zen, I am being very unoriginal. What was called Dhyana in India, got a new name, Ch’an in China and then Zen in Japan. Calling it Western Zen seems to be breaking a renaming tradition. However, I’m not very creative, so there it is. Maybe someone else can do better. If this blog is to accomplish its aim, it needs enlightened, helpful comments. A searching kind of criticism can be very helpful. It would be nice if comments on these posts could actually grow into threads of interesting discussions.