Tuesday, April 19, 2016

the small, useless moments

Expertise is the inability to acknowledge
what you don't know.
But things even out: What you don't know is
the inability to acknowledge your expertise.
What, if anything, is the strange blessing of totally useless information? If it's a blessing, it must have some use since blessings are made up by human beings and employed to their benefit. It's an odd arena.

-- There was a time when, while seated facing a wall in a 20x60-foot Zen meditation hall, I had no need to peek at the doorway to see who was entering. I could tell from the rustle of the robe or the near silent tread of the bare feet: I knew who had just entered the zendo to join a morning or evening meditation.

-- In that same zendo, over time, I came to know within a maximum of two or three seconds when the sitting period had run its 40-minute (the usual single-sitting period) course. I was capable of being right on the gnat's ass in this matter.

-- During this same period of Zen practice, there was a period when I might wake up in the morning and know -- for sure -- that I was going to run into someone I knew that day. Not precisely whom ... just that the meeting would occur in the multi-million-popuated New York City. It was highly unlikely in empirical or mathematical terms, but it never failed to be true and had a kind of fun to it.

I hesitate to mention these minuscule happenings in a spiritual life context. I really don't want anyone thinking that I think strange stuff happens only if anyone signs up for some religious-context lifestyle. I do not believe that. What interests me is the minutiae that might occur in anyone's life ... little bits of quasi-inexplicable expertise that crops up like irreverent dandelions, often in quieter moments ... stuff that breaks ordinary molds and yet, so what?

As I look back on the incidents in my own life, I wonder 1. what other minutiae I may have overlooked and 2. why should I count them a blessing when they are so far in the rear-view mirror. I am pleased that I was allowed to live them, but why should I be pleased ... really, there was nothing special ... except that they seem to feel special. Who gives a shit who entered the zendo? Who cares if you can know 40 minutes down to the very second? And if you know you're going to meet someone and then do, well, so what?

In practical terms, it's all pretty much impractical information. Impractical and yet enriching. What a nice quiet little hoot. And, simultaneously, how lucky anyone might be to slow down long enough to experience life outside the practical and empirical boundaries that more often shape daily life.

Slow down. Learn something of absolutely no value. It strikes me as invaluable and I have a hunch everyone has opportunities -- quite aside from a spiritual format -- to peek out or peek in and assess the totally useless information that seems to hum aimlessly in the background. It won't put spaghetti on the table and yet is answers some small hunger.

I'm not writing this well.

Oh well.....

PS. As a footnote, I can not longer perform those above-named activities that once formed a part of whatever expertise I had.


  1. Practice is powerful, you can even learn to make a violin sounds nice. And a lot of what you mention are things the brain as we understand it can accomplish. But knowing you'll meet someone later that day smacks of the metaphysical and i'm skeptical about such things, for either value or possibility.

    I was a sought after tarot reader at one time, and i thought i knew how the metaphysical world worked. But i now doubt the metaphysical world. It's just not important and i've no support for belief in it aside from experience that might be explained some other way.

    When i read cards, was i tapped into a spiritual library or their personal stream or just an accomplished con artist. I don't know. I didn't go into it to con anyone and so didn't set out to learn such skills, but maybe they were acquired along the way.

    When i die will ancestors greet me from a well lit tunnel? That would be nice. But if it was my brains dumping happy chemicals and thoughts in a last desperate attempt at happiness, well that might be the nicest gift that my brain ever gave me.

    I suppose it's just as likely my brain will freak out and dump the chemistry of fear and experience the bardo's or Dante's rings of hell. But that may be a bad attitude enforced by not being a rich, sexy saint. Because i feel that my brain has too often let me down, i suspect the big brain as an evolutionary experiment has let our species down.

    Oh well.

  2. Who cares/cared? You do/did.
    What more do you want.
    Special is as special ... is.