Queen’s Gambit Declined

Back during my Halcyon days when I was not half bad at chess my favorite opening with white was Pawn to King four. This is the old fashioned chess notation which is now known as e4. Now I learn the most popular opening is pawn to queen 4 (d4). Black’s usual response is d5 followed by white’s move to c4. This is what is known as the Queen’s Gambit. Black’s play is either Queen’s Gambit accepted or declined. Thought you would want to know.

Fun chess fact: In the 1927 match for the world championship between Alekhine and Capablanca the Queen’s Gambit declined was played 32 of the 34 games.

New Harmony, Indiana

Road Trip

New Harmony, Indiana is a great place for a weekend getaway. It is an easy two-hour drive from my home base of Louisville, Kentucky (135 miles).

Maureen and I set out about eleven am figuring to get there in time for lunch. Only made one wrong turn but, discovered my mistake quickly enough that it didn’t really result in any loss of time. Yes, I have GPS but I usually only consult it as a last resort. I like the challenge of finding places on my own after an initial consultation with the map. I seldom get lost but sometimes I am surprised by my destination. And Maureen was no help as she would be the first to admit she has no sense of direction and seemed to be proud of it.

Sara’s Harmony Way

So, there I was on my own with no navigator. Well, I always say, Id’ rather have a navigator than an alligator. But lucky for me, Maureen was neither of these things. She was a fine traveling companion and lover as well.  I had prepared a mix tape to listen to on our drive and we sang up every song we both knew and were in New Harmony before we knew it.

New Harmony is a small town, a village really, with a population of 850, situated on a stretch of the Wabash River. It was originally settled by a communal German religious group known as the Harmonists in 1814 wo attempted to create a Utopia. This worked for a while and then their leader, George Rapp, took them back to Pennsylvania, where they originated, in 1824. They sold the land to a socialist visionary named Robert Owen who believed in workers’ rights, an eight-hour work day, and communal living. Owen believed in a secular utopian socialism. He rechristened the community New Harmony in 1825. The Owenite community failed in the late 1820s.

The third utopia can be attributed to Jane Blaffer Owen (1915-2010). During her time in New Harmony she brought modern architecture to the town, such as the Roofless Church, the Atheneum and many public art pieces. She created serenity with Tillich Park, Church Park and the Cathedral Labyrinth and has left behind a legacy all her own.

While this is not a true Utopia, New Harmony truly is a unique experience. The village is very aware of its history and has done a good job in retaining its historical character and charm, and maintaining a state of genuine peace and tranquility. It features, public art and architecture, gardens, shopping, fine dining, a wonderful inn, live music, museums, a brewery, coffee shops, nature places, and an abundance of history.

AC Thomas House

So, like I said, we arrived right at noon, with the time change, just in time for lunch. I parked my car in front of the Bread and Breakfast where we were staying (The AC Thomas House) and we walked into to town. The first place we went was jammed packed so we made our way across the street to Sara’s Place. It is a coffee shop on one side and a pub on the other. We got into the long line to place our food order to the overworked barista and finally made our order. I had a panni and Maureen had a grilled cheese sandwich which is her “go to” choice in such situations. We carried our food out of doors to the patio, that’s when I noticed the pub. Say, I said, would you like something to drink? Sure, I’ll have a Hendrick’s gin and tonic, she said.  So, I marched back inside to place our drink orders only to discover they didn’t serve hard liquor, only beer and wine. So, I, ordered a Stella and beat feet out to Maureen to see if she wanted a wine. She declined. We had a pleasant lunch out there on the patio under the warmth of a golden sun.  A few minutes later her friend shows up with his daughter in tow and we make our acquaintances and exchange pleasantries. We are going to meet up with him and his partner later on that evening at the Red Geranium for dinner. Until then we were on our own.

Maureen

We walked around the town a bit and visited a couple of the unique shops along the way. Maureen bought something to wear for later on that night at dinner. We moseyed on back to the AC Thomas house to unload the car and get unpacked. Her friend was going to pick us up on his golf cart a little later and take us back to his house for drinks before dinner.

One of the many cute little shops in New Harmony. Visitors were masked and anonymous

Dan and John own an art gallery in town with many pieces of lovey art. We would visit their store tomorrow. Meanwhile it was drinks at their stately mansion on Main. Then we all piled onto their golf cart for the short ride to the Red Geranium for dinner. 

Time seemed to stand still in New Harmony

The Red Geranium is known for its fine dining and congenial atmosphere. We ate out on the terrace. Food was delicious and the company was solid. We had a lot of laughs as Maureen caught up with her friends. David and John were from Louisville and thy had just moved to New Harmony a few year ago to open their art gallery and to lead a more tranquil life with their daughter. They had started coming to the village as a weekend getaway and fell in love with the place and decided to move there permanently.

Maureen on the steps of the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed

After dinner we walked around the town a bit more. It was surprising how different everything looked after dark. Things took on a more sinister aspect and even the religious art had a pagan look to it. When we got back to the B&B we were exhausted. We quickly disrobed and climbed between the sheets and fell to sleep listening to the strains the mixtape I had prepared which I was able to play on my cell phone. The last thing I remember was Toni Braxton singing Unbreak My Heart before drifting off to La La Land holding Maureen tightly in my arms.

Art gallery owned by Maureen’s friends

Next morning, we were up bright and early as our hostess prepared our breakfast of coffee and quiche. It wasn’t bad but not as good as expected. Today we would explore the village a little more before heading back to Louisville. We walked out to the labyrinth and wandered around there for a while then we came back to town to visit John in the art gallery. Of course, I took copious amounts of pictures which I will now share with you, dear gentle reader.

Dinner at the Red Geranium

What’ll you have?
Maureen in her new outfit
Mysterious Fountain
Baal, Goddess of Darkness

As seen in the daylight….
Guardians of the Galaxy
Wicker Man
Peace, Tranquility, and Balance in New Harmony
Atheneum – Visitor’s Center
Wabash River
Cathedral Labyrinth
The Orpheus Fountain
the Lyre of Orpheus
Go with the Flow
Maureen at the Fountain of Orpheus
Sweet Little Angel
Angel Heart
On the Way to the Labyrinth
Atheneum – Visitor Center
Harmonist Labyrinth
Walking the Labyrinth
At the Center of the Labyrinth
Wait! Don’t go in there!
Beautiful Landscaping
New Harmony Bank Building
Ribeyre School Gymnasium – Main Street
John on his golf cart
Welcome to Indiana
New Harmony

The Two Truths

Buddhism by the Numbers

The Two Truths

According to Buddhism there are two kinds of truth: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth. We recognize the presence of happiness and the presence of suffering. One day we realize that suffering and happiness are “not two.”

  • Where ever there is joy there is suffering.
  • Suffering and joy are not two.
  • Our life is the path
  • We enter the path of practice through the door of knowledge
  • All conditioned things are impermanent. They are phenomena, subject to birth and death.

In the Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path. In the Heart Sutra, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara tell us there is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation of suffering, and no path. Is this a contradiction? No. The Buddha is speaking in terms of relative truth and Avlakiteshvara is teaching in terms of absolute truth.

The Buddha recommends that we recite the Five Remembrances every day:

  1. I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.
  3. All things dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  4. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Waves

  • When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end.
  • If we look deeply, we can see a wave is made of water.
  • While living the life of a wave, it also lives the life of water. When a wave touches her true nature, which is water, all her complexes will cease, and she will transcend birth and death.
  • Liberation is the ability to go from the world of signs to the world of true nature.
  • What is essential is to be our best while we are here.
  • All formations are impermanent.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo credit: Benn Bell

Red River Gorge

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is in Kentucky along the Middle Fork of the Red River, next to the Red River Gorge in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Natural bridge is the centerpiece of the park.

I had occasion recently to hike the original trail from the Hemlock Lodge to the summit of the bridge. I made two ascents. One on the afternoon I arrived and one early the next morning. What a difference a day makes.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Hemlock Lodge
Suspension Bridge
Trail Head

View of the bridge from below
Rocky Trail

My Walking Stick

Carved in Stone
Between a rock and a hard place
View from my Balcony

Two men and a dog at the pizza place that night for dinner
Slade Church of God
Hemlock Lodge
In the forest
Overlooking the Gorge
Cotton balls
A View from the Bridge
Reflecting Pool
Narrow passage
A Light in the Forest
On Top of the Bridge
Early Morning
The fog is on the mountain
Chairlift up the mountain
A view of the bridge from afar
Natural Bridge from Below

Right Concentration

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Concentration

The practice of Right Concentration is to cultivate a mind that is one-pointed. There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes. The following poem by a Buddhist monk, Huong Hai illustrates active concentration.

              The wind whistles in the bamboo

              And the bamboo dances.

              When the wind stops,

              The bamboo grows still.

              A silver bird

              flies over the autumn lake.

              When it has passed,

              The lake’s surface does not try

              To hold onto the image of the bird.

When we practice active concentration, we welcome whatever comes along. We don’t think about it or long for anything else. We just dwell in the present moment with our whole being. Whatever comes, comes. When the object of our concentration passed our mind remains clear.

When we practice selective concentration, we choose one object and hold onto it. During sitting or walking mediation our attention is focused on our object.

  • We concentrate to make ourselves deeply present
  • Right concentration leads to happiness, and it also leads to Right Action
  • Samadhi means concentration. To practice samadhi is to live deeply in each moment.
  • Mindfulness brings about concentration
  • Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration lift us above he realms of sensual pleasure and craving, and we find ourselves lighter and happier.
  • There are nine levels of meditative concentration. The first four are the Four Dhyanas. They are on the form realm. The next five levels belong to the formless realm.
  • After the fourth dhyana the meditator enters into a deeper experience of concentration.
  • The object of the fifth level of concentration is limitless space. According the Buddha’s teaching, nothing has a separate self.
  • The object of the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.
  • The object of the seventh level of concentration is nothingness.
  • Level eight is neither perception nor non perception
  • Level nine is cessation. Cessation from ignorance in our feelings. From this level is born insight. When someone practices well, the ninth level of concentration shines a light on the reality of things and transforms ignorance.

The Buddha taught many concentration practices. To practice the Concentration on Impermanence, every time you see your beloved see her as impermanent and do your best to make her happy today. The insight into impermanence keeps you from getting caught up in the suffering and craving, attachment, and despair. See and listen to everything with this insight.

According to the Lotus Sutra, we have to live in the historical and ultimate dimensions of reality at the same time. We have to live deeply our life as a wave so we can touch the substance of water in us. We walk, look, breathe, and eat in a way that we touch the absolute dimension of reality. We transcend birth and death and the fears of being and nonbeing, one and many.

Live every moment of your life deeply, and while walking, eating, drinking, and looking at the morning star, you touch the ultimate dimension.

Based on the Teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo: Benn Bell

Right Diligence

Buddhism by the Numbers


Right Diligence

Right diligence or right effort is the kind of energy that helps us realize the Noble Eightfold Path. Four practices usually associated with right diligence:

  1. Preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness from arising
  2. Helping unwholesome seeds that have arisen return to our store consciousness
  3. Finding ways to water wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen
  4. Nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen.

Unwholesome means not conducive to the path. The wholesome seeds of happiness, love, loyalty, and reconciliation need watering every day.

According to Buddhist psychology, our consciousness is divided into eight parts, including mind consciousness and store consciousness. Store consciousness is described as a field in which every kind of seed can be planted. Seeds of suffering, sorrow, fear, and anger, and seeds of happiness and hope. When these seeds sprout, they manifest in our mind consciousness and when they do, they become stronger.

We need to know our physical and psychological limits. We shouldn’t force ourselves to do ascetic practices or lose ourselves in sensual pleasures. Right Diligence lies in the Middle Way between the extremes of austerity and sensual indulgence. Joy and ease are two factors that are at the heart of Right Diligence.

The following gatha can give us energy to live the day well:

Waking up this morning I smile

24 brand new hours are before me

I vow to live fully in each moment

and look to all beings with eyes of compassion.

The practice of mindful living should be joyful and pleasant.  If you breathe in and out and feel joy and peace, that is right diligence.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Photo credit: Benn Bell

Right Action

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Action

Right Action means Right Action of the body. It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of non-violence toward ourselves and others. The Basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.

Right Action is closely linked with four of the five mindfulness trainings:

  • The first mindfulness training is about the reference of life
  • The second mindfulness training is about generosity
  • The third mindfulness training is about sexual responsibility
  • The fifth mindfulness training encourages mindful eating, drinking, and consuming

Right action is based on Right View, Right Thinking, and Right Speech, and is very much linked to Right Livelihood. The basis of Right Action is Right Mindfulness.

Based on the Teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Benn Bell