A longtime Zen friend sent me an email this morning asking if I could make suggestions he could pass along to a parent whose son was writing a high-school paper on Buddhism. Frank said he knew I was well-read in Buddhism, so....
And I was caught utterly flat-footed. First of all, although I have a hundred or so books on Buddhism gathering dust on the shelves, I really haven't read very much. I pretty much blew my reading wad when I studied Vedanta. Not that I haven't read some, haven't been wowed, haven't been encouraged by some Buddhist books ... but none of them really spring to mind. I feel like someone who OUGHT to know where a favorite shirt was ... but just don't. Where did it go? It really was a wonderful shirt ... but it got away from me somehow.
How would I write a high school paper on Buddhism? Buddhism is something that has consumed a considerable amount of time during the past 40 or so years. A school paper ought to be like falling out of bed ... no problem. But the fact is I feel as dumb as a high-school student assigned to write a paper on Buddhism. An a-b-c ought to be a piece of cake and, well, I can't find the cake mix.
Someone else will have to go the supermarket and get the mix and set the oven and bake it for 24-26 minutes -- someone who knows about Buddhism.
A part of me feels flummoxed and vaguely sad. What the hell was all that energy for if you can't even write a five- or ten-page paper? But another part is content: If someone asks me a direct question, my friends and acquaintances will tell you I can talk the hind leg off a dog. It's in there somewhere ... at the back of some memory closet ... together with my favorite shirt, I imagine.