Zen Spot #39 — Mindfulness, meditation and a dead factory in post-industrial Philadelphia February 24, 2018 00:05

The common problem of noise

Many of the Zen Spots I find are common places — underpasses, abandoned buildings, urban parks, etc. In particular, dozens are within a two mile stretch of the one mile stretch of the Calder family’s sculpture garden found along the length of the Benjamin Franklin parkway. 

This spot is no different, with the exception of the white noise. The building, around which a concrete moat of chain-linked detritus swims, buffers the sounds of the most live and neon parts of the city. The north side of the once vibrant factory —  at the upward fold where broken concrete ground meets twelve stories of brick — is almost always in shadow, even during the summer, when the sun is at its furthest point north.

I walked across the moat, after climbing through a bolt-cut birth canal in the fence, and found a place to sit against the wall.

My imagination is almost not vivid enough to envision the factory alive. Almost--with the exception of a memory from perhaps my sixth or seventh year.

For forty years, my maternal grandfather drove a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline to regional service stations. The oil refinery from which he departed each day crawled with men, inside and out. The buildings were sparse and practical. The refinery itself was a peleton. Workers wore worker’s clothes. Tin lunch pails, and glass-lined thermoses filled to the brim with black coffee, waited in soldier’s formations. 

Back to the moat

Facing north, where a few commercial buildings fade into blocks of row houses, I closed my eyes and immediately noticed the distance of one siren. 

One siren. The faintest feather of sound. More prominent was the pain of the grit needing to be swept from my palm knuckles after placing all my weight onto one hand when lowering myself into place. A thousand annoying feathers of needles almost puncturing, but not really.

The entirety of the landscape before me was binary, either fractured by chain-link or opening into the expanse of winter sky. Anything alive and welcoming was disturbed by enough rust that one would only grab the fence to climb from a threat below and behind. Of course, the binary was a metaphor.

That said, the metaphor disappeared the moment I closed my eyes. The feather disappeared. The grit disappeared. The fence disappeared.

The binary — that most fundamental building block of logic — that yin and yang of the most illogical — faded into nothingness. 


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?