Tuesday, July 19, 2011

favorite surprise

Yesterday, Keith, a guy I haven't talked to in more than 50 years, called up. We had gone to college together and although my mind does not delight in most school-related memories or chums, still I was delighted. Imagine that -- fifty years and suddenly, voila! Things had happened to me that he didn't know. And things had happened to him ... all of them utterly unbeknownst to me.

Keith said he would be up from his current home in North Carolina come October and perhaps we could get together. I said I would like that. I love hearing people's stories -- where they have been, what they have learned, what satisfactions and dissatisfactions they have encountered ... it's like watching a particularly delicious movie ... riveting.

It's fun having something happen out of the blue, with no apparent connection to the other things that are going on. A surprise.

At the moment, I have few and wispy memories of Keith. There was the fact that I unexpectedly beat him in a billiards competition and won the only trophy I ever received in college. There was the day -- a snow day -- at the college when we went into the pool-table room at 8 a.m. and didn't leave until midnight. The was his college sweetheart whom he had married and with whom he had had two children. And there was the unexpected statement that I was the "best natural athlete I ever saw." Me? Athlete? I wasn't clumsy athletically, but the 'best' kind of left me floundering. And there was the observation that I had been Keith's best friend. Boy, there is a lot of stuff I don't know about what others think or thought of me.

Anyway ... a surprise. One I look forward to filling in with particulars.

Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins once observed that meeting your favorite author "is one of life's most reliable disappointments." A pointedly accurate observation for my money, and yet I look forward to the disappointments that the particulars of any individual might offer. It's like any good story ... turn the page and you don't know where you might end up. Isn't that the part that deserves the designation as "favorite?"


  1. Hi Teacher,

    Just as I was preparing to settle down and do some Cherenzig chanting, I noticed my incense burner was full with ash from the past and I started to think maybe i would use the spatula beside me and flatten the entire mess of ash.

    Then I paused, then thought twice, as part of my practice, why flatten? Why not just throw all this dust away?

    Just as I realise I was approaching yet another emo-logical deadlock, I recall you always quoted some other zen guru saying about "I will not express this teaching about suffering as a dharma".. something like that as long as it rhyme.. then I thought.

    Can u please hold this dust for me for a while until I finish my chanting.

    In asian tradition today is Avalokitesvara birthday. Happy birthday to u.


  2. i'm done, thank u sir. dropped out halfway while chanting the mantra because the thing I shared above remains a nagging feeling at the tongue.

    Still, wow, please do not stop sir. if there are as many questions or teachings in the buddha dharma, there is always the famous vows of samanthabhadra who reminds me to invite u to stay on and teach for the benefit of this world.

    u da man.

    dedicate merits to all beings surrounding this special blog.

  3. Anonymous -- I don't know what sort of incense you use (whether on a stick or whole incense) but I generally take the burners out to the kitchen, dump the contents into a sieve over a piece of paper towel, sieve out the leftover bits, and return the contents to the bowl.

    If I were virtuous, I would save the leftover bits, grind them down, wrap them cigarette-fashion in thin paper and burn them as more incense. I am not that virtuous, however: Generally I just throw the bits away, wipe off any dust on the burner and return it to its home.