Rattling around associatively in a mind-video this morning, the punchline on folksinger Pete Seeger's version of "Talking Union" raised its head once more:
Take it easy, but take it.
Seeger's bit of history came in the wake of a serendipitous email -- a fellow writing the other day to say he was enjoying reading my book, "Answer Your Love Letters: Footnotes to a Zen Practice." The book's sole usefulness in my present-day mind is its capacity to gather dust, both metaphorically and literally. Definitely a rear-view mirror object ... but hey, who doesn't like having her/his ego stroked?
I wrote back saying thank you and there followed several emails about Zen practice, problems that crop up ... the usual stuff that is never "usual" to the person exercising them. As I was myself once helped by snailmail from brighter lights than my own, so I feel bound to do something similar: If someone asks, well, speak up... lie a little.
The email give-and-take lingered as recollection this morning. I thought about it and invariably came on one of my hot-button points: The greatest single difficulty in spiritual life -- which is to say life -- is probably the crediting of "something else." Some god, some (wo)man, some text ... something else... good, bad or indifferent -- something else.
And the conundrum that accompanies the something-else syndrome is the realization that there is nothing besides something else. Everything is something else and something else is the central difficulty in spiritual or any other sort of life. There is nothing else besides something else. Reality check! -- the greatest problem is something else and yet there is nothing else to work with.
I can hear the objections from here: If there is nothing other than something else, how could something else be the bestest with the most-est problem?
Answer: Tough titty. Practice anyway and don't get hung up on something else. You have to be a little bit crazy to follow this Yellow Brick Road, but what the hell, none of the other Yellow Brick Roads has worked very well, up until now so ... go ahead and be a little bit crazy.
When I once asked my teacher if Zen were dualistic, he said no. When I asked him if it were therefore monistic, he again replied that it was not. "So," I said, "if it's not dualistic and not monistic, what is it?" I watched his face as he tried to frame an answer -- he was obviously caught between wanting to say nothing and wanting to say something. Finally he opted for the latter: "Maybe," he said, "it is like a pointless point."
All of this probably sounds airy-fairy or religious or something, but for someone willing to investigate this life -- its marvels and its horrors -- it's target-central.
MEATI'm getting dust up my nose with all this Zen-recall stuff ... dust stacked on the bookshelf. Am I jerking myself around? Sure -- you got a better suggestion? It's bullshit that bullshit is merely bullshit. Of course it's not bullshit either.
Pick your poison, your something else and then, "take it easy, but take it!"