Zen Spot #23 — Mindfulness, meditation, violence, age, apathy, warning and a totem January 24, 2018 00:15

Interdependence is a weird thing 

I struggle with compassion. When I can offer compassion, I must make an active decision to do so. Perhaps most people need to make a similar decision, but it doesn’t appear that way to me. Many seem to respond instinctively, with kindness, in the face of suffering. 

In my youth, anger was my first reaction to many circumstances. At times, violence ensued. Not toward people. But, sometimes toward objects. Evidence was always left behind — a broken chair, a cracked window, a splatter of paint.

Violence and compassion are not opposites.

Washington Avenue and 5th Street

In Philadelphia, most neighborhoods have at least one park that takes up an entire city block. More than one hundred freckle the city. Most are square and flat with a formal concrete curb, between the sidewalk and the lawn, that runs the entire perimeter. Most, also, have two diagonal sidewalks that crisscross from corner to corner. Friends, lovers, kids and neighbors stretch out, lie down, relax, play dominoes and picnic, in good weather.


I was walking back to my car after visiting a spring flea-market that took up every available linear foot of concrete in the park. The sun was bright. It warmed the north side of the street but hung low enough in the sky to blind you if you were walking west. I was looking down — more at the sidewalk than the horizon — until I stepped on a sagging, spidery shadow. Immediately, I looked up.

Violence, age, apathy, warning, totem

A mangled, rusted basketball hoop — without a backboard — hung from a telephone pole. The net was filthy, droopy, and frozen like cold pizza cheese. In a high wind, it wouldn’t budge. Screwed to the pole, with enough strength to hold it in place but not enough to endure the force required to pretzel the rim and struts, the violence took place some time before the screwing took place. 

In some parts of the city, in cloistered enclaves, totems are placed at the edges. Flags, food trucks, murals, boutiques. Sneakers hanging from telephone wires, wall tags, street fashion, drug dealers.

It occurred to me that the hoop marked the edge of somewhere. But, that somewhere wasn’t violent. The neighbors wouldn’t permit it. I know the neighbors. Enough rust crusted the metal to betray several years presence. 

An answer would take less than forever to find. Interdependence is a weird thing.

Facing north

I sat with my back against the north-facing half of the telephone pole. In that position, the rim was behind me. I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing, listened to the sounds of the park, felt the sun over my left shoulder and spent a few minutes in quiet contemplation of boundaries.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?