Like the bubblegum surreptitiously stuck up under a student desk -- maybe for later retrieval, maybe to be forgotten forever -- the old and obvious reasserts itself in my mind this morning: When it comes to peace of mind, thinking doesn't work and emotion doesn't work ... only finding out works.
But no matter how often this find-out bubble gum is chewed, the desire not to chew it asserts itself. Let's make it a religion or a philosophy or a deep meaning or a profound mandate ... maybe then we can bring peace to heel, capture and tame and have control and explain and find meaning.
In my early days at a particular Zen center, I was sitting at an informal tea being wowed by all the conversation. Everyone seemed to know stuff I didn't know ... lots of names like "roshi" and "sunyata" and "compassion" and "emptiness" ... I was new and hadn't quite got the lingo down and sure wished I could know what everyone else seemed to know without a backward glance. For a while, I sat there longing to catch up, to be part of the crowd, to be as competent. I was in awe ... and yet after a while that awe turned to a kind of frustrated rage and in my mind a voice spoke up, sharp-tongued as a prairie school marm: "Will someone please tell me what I want to know so I can get the fuck out of here?!"
And of course, if asked, I would have been hard-pressed to say precisely what I wanted, but "peace" is a pretty good bet ... and no one at tea, informal or otherwise, could tell me that. But the fact that no one could possibly do what I so dearly wanted them to do did not stop me from insisting, somehow, that someone had a secret that I didn't and they were being churlish pricks by not sharing it with me. They seemed to be part of a club that knew the secret handshakes.
But of course all the handshakes in the world couldn't give me what I wanted. I could curse out those around me all I wanted. I could bury myself in philosophy and religion all I wanted. I could tug my forelock and play humble. I could exercise my wise or witty intellect all I wanted. How smart ... how kind ... how assured ... how full of shit!
I wasn't much different from anyone else, I imagine. I was understandably lazy and my habituated laziness expressed itself in trying to learn the social handshakes in place of ....
Making the personal effort.
To find out.