Monday, September 27, 2010
An Interview With George of Transit Notes
The next interviewee in this feature series is George of Transit Notes. As you will discover, George is a man of extraordinary talent, gentle wisdom, a strong intellect and a generous spirit. Every one of his posts is a tour-de-force. Mere descriptions cannot not do his blog justice, you must experience it for yourself. You will find a link enabling you to do just that, at the end of the interview.
Just to change things up a bit, George has agreed to opening the questions up to YOU the readers, after you read the interview. If there is something in particular you would like to ask him when you comment, he will answer questions in the comment section here.
(Images that accompany this interview were photographed and/or painted by George. You will find titles and details of his works on his blog.)
I invite you now to read and enjoy:
George, could you give us a brief overview of who you are, where you live, current interests or preoccupations?
Prior to retiring in my early fifties, I was a practicing lawyer in Washington, D.C., where I lived for twenty-five years. After retirement, my wife and I moved to an area known as the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which is part of the Delmarva Peninsula, just east of the Chesapeake Bay. My current interests are essentially the great passions that have always driven my life, even during my years of practicing law — reading, philosophy, the creative arts, travel, spiritual growth, and physical challenges.
Thanks for limiting your request to just one. I would say it's the inability to enjoy myself in the company of people with whom I have nothing in common.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
In your sidebar you reveal that you are a lawyer. What can you tell us about your lawyering days?
For most of my legal career, I specialized in energy law, working out of my own small law firm in Washington. I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunities I was given and the support I received during that phase of my life. The great joys of my life, however, have always been found outside of the trappings of my chosen profession.
When did you first become interested in Zen? Would you share a bit about how your Zen training manifests in your everyday life?
Please tell us about your Zen Master?
What quality do you value most in your human friends?
Intimacy and honesty — the ability to be forthcoming about the truth of one's own life, and the ability to listen to, and be compassionate with, the truth of other lives.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
It's difficult for me to answer this question by identifying a particular trait that I would like to change. I am primarily concerned with the ongoing process of changing the way that I see things — breaking through the conditioning of my childhood and my culture, breaking through the illusions that a terrified mankind has created to avoid an encounter with reality.
You are clearly a lover of poetry. Please tell us about the origins of that love.
You are also an excellent photographer. Does photography rank up there with your love of painting?
Thank you being so kind. I'm not inclined to rank one over the other. My passion is for expression through the creative process. Sometimes I am called to painting; sometimes I am called to photography; sometimes I am called to writing. I just try to dance with it, avoiding any need to establish myself exclusively as "a painter," "a photographer," "a writer," or anything else. Again, it's all about creative expression for me — nothing more and nothing less.
Changing topics again, what do you consider the most over-rated virtue?
There are so many that it's hard to choose. Perhaps it would be something like success or achievement. Somewhere in the dusty bins of my memory is a quote to this effect: "I would rather be a man of value than a man of success." That's something I have always agreed with.
Which living person do you most admire?
The first name that comes to mind in the Dalai Lama. I'm sure I could think of others, but they would all be people who have resisted cultural materialism and conducted their lives with a higher consciousness.
Is there a historical figure, or a figure from literature, you identify with?
How do you play?
I try to bring a spirit of play to everything I do. I also find play in just wandering through cities or countrysides with curious eyes and a receptive heart — no agenda — just being "at play in the fields of the Lord," to use the title of a book by Peter Matthiessen, another Zen practitioner.
How do you attend to your spiritual needs?
Solitude, stillness, and listening — finding a quiet, beautiful place that keeps me anchored in gratitude.
Is there one thing you wish you had learned or discovered earlier in your life?
This is difficult to answer because I don't dwell too much on what might have been in the past. More to the point, it seems to me that what is truly important could not have been learned or discovered earlier in life. I needed the ignorance, the inexperience, the pain, and the fear. These were the conditions that energized me, the conditions that launched the quest. Everything plays a role, doesn't it? At this point, it seems to me that the comforting fullness of age could not be experienced without the emptiness of youth.
In the midst of so much mystery, how do you make your life meaningful?
Gorillas. I've never recovered from my childhood experience with "King Kong." More seriously, I guess that my greatest fear would be some type of incapacity that would threaten my ability to fully experience the joys of life. Consistent with my philosophy of life, I certainly hope that I will be able to gracefully accept whatever comes my way, even if it severely limits my external abilities. On the whole, however, I think that I am relatively free of fear — assuming, of course, that I am within striking distance of a good bistro that does not permit gorillas.
So I take it we should not come knocking on your door October 31st costumed in a gorilla suit!
George, what sustains you through difficult times?
What two or three pieces of advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
What brought you to blogging?
While doing research on a coast-to-coast trek across England, which I completed in June of this year, I came across our friend Robert's blog, "The Solitary Walker," and found myself delighted by Robert's intelligence, the scope of his interests, the quality of his writing, and the types of things he was writing about. That prompted me to follow through by checking out some of the blogs he read on a regular basis, and that, in turn, led to the discovery of a community of like-minded friends who I have been searching for all of my life. I never expected to place so much importance on electronic communications, but blogging, I'm forced to admit, has turned out to be a great and unadulterated joy.
What keeps you blogging?
People like you — people who are growing, people who reach out to others, people who love to play with words, images, and ideas, people who are willing to express their lives honestly and creatively. Underpinning all of this are the friendships among fellow bloggers, friendships that, in my case, are as valuable as any I have ever had in my life.
It IS the people we encounter that really make this blogging endeavor worthwhile!
What have you learned from the experience of blogging?
What is the one thing about you that would surprise readers of your blog?
I haven't the faintest idea. Perhaps it would be that George — the forceful advocate of breaking free of cultural restraints and other types of mental conditioning — does not like sushi.
OMG, I'm not sure we can be BFF if you don't like sushi :-) ... but back to our questions:
What two books would you recommend to readers of your blog?
What is your favorite word?
The first words that come to mind are "transcendent," "mystical," "iconoclastic" — all for obvious symbolic reasons. I also like some words for their musical value — "bistro" and "trattoria," for example. Having just said that, I can see that these words also have symbolic value for me. I'm suddenly experiencing the onset of hunger.
What is your least favorite word?
What sound or noise do you love?
Small wind chimes, perhaps, with their mystical tinkling. I also love the deep moan of my Zen Master, Derry, as she roles over on her side and goes to sleep at my feet.
What sound or noise to you hate?
It's the monotonous sound of unwatched televisions that are left on in gyms, bars, and many homes.
What question have I neglected to ask that would have given readers more insight into who you are?
I think you have done a masterful job, Bonnie, so masterful that I may be forced to leave the country after this is published. Speaking of another country, however, it occurs to me that one question that might have been asked is whether there is any country or region other than my own where I might be more comfortable living, given my temperament, interests, and passions?"
And the answer to that question?