Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Zen Myth(s), Zen Reality"

Like some Las Vegas dancer checking personal details before bursting onto the stage, I wake up in the morning and straighten the seams or apply one last dab or lipstick or powder: In bed, I am comfortable-ish after a night's sleep, but I need to arrange the aches and pains that will attend on the coming, stand-up-and-move day. It's not that I want them but rather that I know they are coming and I want to get my ducks in a row. Ribs? Check. Joints? Check. Neck? Check. Sprained finger? Check.

And once those ducks were more of less lined up....

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of time considering a friend's essay, "Zen Myth(s), Zen Reality." Somehow, Brian Victoria (a Zen monk and academic who lives in Japan) and I have come into a relationship in which I lend my eyes to articles he is currently writing. Besides grammar, spelling and other mechanics, there is substance to attend to and yesterday, that substance took the stuffing out of me, so there was little left over for easy-peasy writing that once dripped out of my mind like water from a leaky spigot.

The substance boiled down to a small tussle about the word "enlightenment." It is strange how, in spiritual adventures, there are some words that are blithely assumed and seldom examined. "God" drips off the lips of believers and non-believers alike. "Enlightenment" is grist for the Buddhist mill.

But if such touchstone/cornerstone references are central to the critique or encomium, isn't there an intellectual imperative (at a minimum) to say what you're talking about or to admit (full frontal nudity) that it cannot be adequately described and thus whatever the argument, pro or con, it is far weaker than the seriousness that can be brought to the discussion?

These are not questions I would put to the superficial critics or cheerleaders, but they are questions I would put to Brian because 1. I like him and 2. He's not dumb.

So I made my email-based pitch and by the time I was done, I was quite tired, mentally and physically. Digging in and digging down takes an effort I once would have found merely invigorating, a stepping stone to the rest of a hopefully-more-productive day ... going to the supermarket, perhaps, or making the bed or doing a load of laundry or making dinner... something concrete and useful. Who in their right mind wastes a lot of time on "God" or "enlightenment?"

It's like pissing into the wind, isn't it?

Yes it is, but sometimes it is fun -- or at least I imagine it will be fun -- and the idea of fun appeals to me, even if, like "God" and "enlightenment" and "love," finding an adequate definition is like nailing Jell-O to a wall.

Zen argumentation vs. making the bed ... I can no longer be quite so careless: I need to do some triage if whatever energies I have are to be well-spent.

1 comment:

  1. Chop wood, carry water, hold but do not name... i suppose delight is possible. But i think "fun" has to do with orneriness. What can you do with jello and walls that will call someone out to play? We play games because they are fun, and games are competitions. Not trying to drop a judgment here, just wondering about fun. It's really not part of my world anymore i don't think, takes too much energy.