Friday, December 24, 2010


Yesterday, a woman from the cardiologist's office called to remind me that I have an appointment next Tuesday -- a fact I had already written down on the calendar but had largely ignored or perhaps blocked out. It wasn't the 'mortality' thing that caused the blockage -- I'm pretty much in tune with the doctor component of getting old -- but rather the fact that I don't much like or trust the doctor I see and I have avoided the effort and diplomacy necessary to finding a different guy.

My problem with the current man is his expertise. He is -- or I sense that he thinks he is -- an expert. As Shunryu Suzuki once observed more or less, in the beginner's mind, the possibilities are endless; in the expert's mind the possibilities are few. There is a difference between being an expert and knowing you are an expert. This guy knows -- or acts as if he knows -- he is an expert. He reminds me of the 18th century French doctor who, in the age of reason, dissected a corpse and announced to the world with an expert's delight that he had not found anything resembling a soul. In an age reacting to a credulous past, I can sympathize with the announcement and delight. But there is something to be said for getting past our own expert abilities.

Not that expert abilities aren't wonderful. I would hate to go to a car mechanic and ask him to tend to my heart or any other organ. But for an expert of all people, the imperative to move on -- to get wider and more open -- strikes me as, well, imperative. How else can you BE an expert?

Oh well, perhaps on Tuesday I can ask for future visits to be with someone who does not know so much and therefore knows more. Just because you can't find a soul doesn't necessarily mean it's not there.


  1. I like this post. I'm one of the 4 or 5 world's experts in what I do, and it has taken some time to say this w/o self consciousness as though it reflected something about where I sit on a status hierarchy of virtue. I thought I'd nailed this long ago--saying that I don't be my happiness on work--but of course it was never true as I found out a couple of years ago when the relationship between work and creating virtue clarified. Thankfully, I knew enough never to bring this to practice. At 62, there is an emerging sense that it's OK to teach a little among friends, like in our Quaker Meeting. Still, am glad not be be a Buddhist expert--would have been the end of it.

  2. "Just because you can't find a soul doesn't necessarily mean it's not there."


    Referring to the "soul" needs some clarification on an essentially Buddhist blog. It may be seen to conflict with the central teaching of "anatman."

    I assume that by "soul" you are referring to some kind of subtle and relatively persistent skandas that form the basis for reincarnation? If so, I for one, would love to learn more.

    Merry Christmas

  3. Circular -- Merry Christmas to one and all.

    By "soul" I simply meant that which defies the limits of what ordinarily passes for expertise. Life, for example.

    PS. Thanks for clarifying this space ... I'm never quite sure what this blog is in essence.