Wednesday, May 19, 2010

losing it

A longtime Zen friend sent me an email this morning asking if I could make suggestions he could pass along to a parent whose son was writing a high-school paper on Buddhism. Frank said he knew I was well-read in Buddhism, so....

And I was caught utterly flat-footed. First of all, although I have a hundred or so books on Buddhism gathering dust on the shelves, I really haven't read very much. I pretty much blew my reading wad when I studied Vedanta. Not that I haven't read some, haven't been wowed, haven't been encouraged by some Buddhist books ... but none of them really spring to mind. I feel like someone who OUGHT to know where a favorite shirt was ... but just don't. Where did it go? It really was a wonderful shirt ... but it got away from me somehow.

How would I write a high school paper on Buddhism? Buddhism is something that has consumed a considerable amount of time during the past 40 or so years. A school paper ought to be like falling out of bed ... no problem. But the fact is I feel as dumb as a high-school student assigned to write a paper on Buddhism. An a-b-c ought to be a piece of cake and, well, I can't find the cake mix.

Someone else will have to go the supermarket and get the mix and set the oven and bake it for 24-26 minutes -- someone who knows about Buddhism.

A part of me feels flummoxed and vaguely sad. What the hell was all that energy for if you can't even write a five- or ten-page paper? But another part is content: If someone asks me a direct question, my friends and acquaintances will tell you I can talk the hind leg off a dog. It's in there somewhere ... at the back of some memory closet ... together with my favorite shirt, I imagine.


  1. I feel the same way. Students are always asking me to recommend them good Zen books. And for some reason, out of the dozens if not hundreds of books in our library, I always end up giving them "The Empty Mirror" by Van de Wetering, which is really kind of ridiculous. But it fits, somehow!

  2. Hand me down info is great but ...better if he has to do some research to write the paper and who knows maybe stumble across something along the way