- Date of passing: Jan 4, 2014
|Let the memory of Joe be with us forever|
"Joe gave me the world by grounding me in the physical practice of Rinzai/Soto Zen meditation while I tried to sort out the mental side. We were happily
surrounded with each other's human psychic batteries at First Zen.
East of Park Avenue on 30th Street, it's now out of business. But it lasted for decades. Sokei-An, one of the first Japanese Zen monks in the United States(who got rounded up into a US WW II internment camp), founded it. He transmitted his understanding to Mary and Mary transmitted to Joe."
"This is a beautiful memorial to Joe by his son-in-law.
Today’s Music: Pete Seeger – Turn Turn Turn
Days Til Spring: 73
This is a remembrance of my father in law, who passed away a few days ago.
An ordinary man. There will be no epic novels written of him. His name won’t be remembered in the history books. But a man, nonetheless, who lived a full and happy life, and who enjoyed himself all along the way.
Dinosaurs caught the imagination of the man. The fossils, the movements, the history. He studied them and grew intimately familiar with them. As a result, for many years, he served once a week as a Docent (someone visitors could ask questions about dinosaurs of) at the Museum of Natural History.
Music caught the ear of the man. He was already familiar with music, especially all the great folkies of the 50s and 60s. He already knew how to play piano, but this time he picked up a guitar. He forced his hand into the shapes of chords, again and again. Then, pushing on, he learned the positions on the neck and began doing more intricate finger picking.
He discovered middle-age and medieval music. On any given night, you could find him puzzling over obscure music notations, trying to figure out how that translated into English, and to the guitar and lute, which he taught himself to play. He delighted in picking out a tune for the first time, then realizing how similar it was to something he already knew, by a completely different name.
The lyrics too were a doorway to a world long gone. The ballads of the bards told a stylized history of life back then – serfdom, the actions of nobles, the difficulties of daily life. All these discoveries enriched his own life.
The birds caught the eye of the man. They entranced him. He already knew what a camera was, but now he went out and got serious equipment – cameras, lenses, filters. A high end printer so the physical copies would do justice to his digital images. He studied composition, light, color, all to bring his pictures closer to what his eye and his imagination saw.
On the wall behind me are five ultra-close-up images of flowers, a riot of color and swirls, that he took.
The last car he bought, a beat up standard transmission Jeep, was so he could get out to the marshes and preserves and photograph the wildflowers and birds he loved.
The sun caught the eye of the man. In a room of his apartment, with floor to ceiling windows to let the best light in, is a drawing table festooned with pens and brushes and inks. There are dozens of drawings and paintings of birds, of the sun, of dinosaurs.
The man had once studied at seminary to enter the priesthood. It didn’t take, but it had a heavy influence on his spirituality. In the end, he came to Buddhism…perhaps because of the meditative aspects, perhaps because of the inward focus. In time, he led groups in the practices of Buddhism.
The man was concerned about the well-being of others. For many years, he worked as a social worker. In later years, after he retired, he worked in an outreach program for helping people learn English as a second language.
He was going to work in another program to encourage and help foster children to go to college.
Despite having a severe bad reaction to sugar, the man LOVED cookie, with CookieFest being a highlight of his year for several years. There was no one he wouldn’t approach and strike up a conversation with, and no one who wouldn’t engage with him.
He was married for several years. And he raised the most wonderful girl in the universe.
They say that when someone dies, they’re gone, and all we’re left with are the memories of who they were. But sometimes we’re left with an example, of how someone can live their lives, working every day, and still find time to enjoy every day – whether discussing arpeggios with his son in law, or sailing a styrofoam sailboat in the bay (and getting a wicked sunburn), or simply sitting quietly with a pad, trying to draw the reptile skull on the shelf
And we realize that someone who was just a man hasn’t only left us memories.
He’s left us an example we can follow of a life well lived – a life lived with the companionship of close friends, the security of high ideals, and the unabashed love of family.
And puns. Good lord, did that guy love puns.
And he will be missed.
(This entry was posted in Death, Deep Thoughts, Life, Serious, Uncategorized and tagged Death, Eulogy, Life, Pete Seeger, Turn Turn Turn. Bookmark)"
"I first met Joe as the timekeeper at the First Zen Institute in NYC.
I had read a lot about Buddhism but this was my first time going to practice in a weekly group. It was Caroline Myss who said we need to attend a spiritual group weekly, for our health, as well as creative work and exercise. Joe said, "Of course we all die anyway."
Be that as it may, I attended First Zen on Wednesday nights for ten years on-and-off from 1994 and 2004. Some of the other meditators became good friends. Joe had a lot of friends there. Many passed through now and then, including myself.
We'd arrive a little early and chat in the basement office. Then do our sit for 25', walk, sit and there was chanting and a selected reading. A composer friend of ours played the singing bowl and Joe did the bell and drum as well as keeping time for us. Eventually we took turns with the timekeeping and readings.
Afterwards we sat around a tea table, mostly men but some women
(Maybe they'll post here). It was a free for all! I could hardly get a word in edgewise. But once I told a funny joke and they all laughed. It was in the office I first learned that Joe could sketch a very detailed and realistic bird in black ink.
On three separate occasions he, another celebrant and I would go to visit the grave of the Japanese founder of First Zen, Sokei-An, and this was where Joe's own late teacher was also buried. We'd light incense sticks, put them in the ground and do standing meditation for 20 or 30 minutes. Once we got locked inside the cemetery but the second time Joe had a Jeep and we drove out the back.
He had a very long commute to work on Wall Street. He said he meditated for most of it. He took a lot of buses and trains. I was very impressed with his knowledge of Paleontology and I heard he had a skull on his desk and some fossils. He volunteered as a docent. I also thought it was cool that he'd gone to Seminary for college.
Back to Zen, he said that once a week of course wasn't enough.
We had do practice daily on our own. And not only that, Joe said we should incorporate meditate into our entire day. To sit once a day is the best I can do. I try to be calm but forget sometimes to be mindful. However the fact that Joe told me I was an experienced meditator made it easier for me to think it was worth going on.
I go weekly to this day but we moved and I now go to Burmese Vipassana. I'm grateful for Joe's encouragement and for his extremely loyal friendship. We'd go to museums and concerts occasionally with our other Zen friends and once with his girlfriend. I also saw her on a trip to Jamaica bay and to visit Joe once in a rehab clinic. I could tell at concerts when Joe and his guy- friend both got bored and started meditating. We all did that at odd times when we had to wait.
After being timekeeper Joe got very serious about photography. He did buildings on Wall Street and birds, too, in Jamaica Bay as well as flowers.
Later in life he took up guitar and in his last email to me he was practicing "Air on a G-String" by J.S. Bach. He mainly studied Medieval music. I just learned he knew piano too. I told him about HAM but he found WHAM(the women's historical anthology of music).
Until I can design my own template, we have a piano up here."
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