Half-Staff Nation

— after Burt Bradley (1951-2021)

Greetings, Santōka!

I did what you recommended. I took my heavy heart to the high hills, and it was as you said it would be Practicing the sublime art of Serene-Mirroring in such a place, I now see.

A pilgrim of the Way can travel there, take their heart out, give it away to the cloud-kami, and it becomes a fire on the mountain. From that fire one can light a lantern — to practice by, to study by, to drink saké by, to stay warm in this cold world.

Today, though, my heart feels like ashes. There has been another senseless tragedy.

Though the leaders of this land have it within their power to chart a different course, they’d rather stay out of it. I guess they don’t realize it makes all the murders quietly “state-sanctioned” endeavors.

So, they look the other way, keep all the high-powered guns within easy reach, and - after a few “thoughts and prayers” - get back to the important things in life — rounds of golf, stock trades, office renovations, planning their next “sexcapde.”

I think you’d be surprised by one thing, Brother Taneda.

Maybe not.

You see, they have a strange custom in this land of barbarians. Though they don’t address their shadow, national poisons, or engage in the actual inner work that lifts the spirit up, they do at least try to honor the fallen with a gesture.

The barbarians lower their flag to what they call “half-staff.” Only, now it’s become the new standard. Up and down, up and down, high one day, low the next. They’ve become a Half-Mast Nation.

Somehow, I don’t think they’ve comprehended what this looks like from the outside-looking-in.

You see, the families of the slain don’t care about empty rituals. To them, and a growing number of us, the lowering of the flag is a sign that we failed the dead because we’re failing the living. Under such conditions the lowered flag becomes a mark of shame, not an act of reverence.

If this keeps up, I wonder what the “new half-staff” will become. Will the barbarians simply take down their flag altogether?

You tell me, Master Santōka. You tell me.


Layman Inzan