Zen Spot #283 - Mindfulness, meditation and letters of dissent January 12, 2020 00:00

Masthead logo for now defunct Australian magazine D!ssent

The 42nd Street Public Library

I’d seen the two lion sculptures sitting on either side of the front entrance to the 5th Avenue branch of the New York City Public Library hundreds of times in photographs. Walking past, alone, that day in 1981, the building had a gravitational pull. Never having been inside, the time was right. I was nineteen years old when I burst between the beasts.

Just inside, I was met by a poster introducing an archival display called Letters of Dissent. At the time, I associated the word dissent with malevolence.

Informed disagreement

I was raised in a larger environment where dissent was quashed. Believing that a disagreement with the thinnest splice of dogmatic hair threatened their control of the universe, my extended family would berate naysayers into submission. Data wasn’t even a word. Veering from any flat-earth belief displayed hatred for the church, for the patriarchy, for the inebriated, for the cook, for the cops, for the ignorance. There was no place for logic or discourse and eventually I believed the belief. I didn’t know that data was relevant — and that, when combined with compassionate observation, resolutions for growth could often be achieved.

The letters

I remember feeling a sense of community among the writers. Handwritten, and in some cases typewritten, the connection I felt was overwhelming. What began as a open-ended walk down Fifth Avenue became a brief glimpse into enlightenment. The letters undid, in ten minutes, what my community taught me in nineteen years. I was home among the dissenters. I was, I found out, a dissenter. The road less traveled is dissent.

Mindfulness is dissent.

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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.