My daughter took the call while I was out yesterday -- a local funeral home looking for a "Zen master" to conduct a funeral on Friday. Someone had died in North Carolina and a ceremony was planned here as well. My daughter took the phone number and, when the polite young man asked in what way he should address the person he was seeking, my daughter said, "'Adam' will do."
I tried to call back but had no immediate luck, so perhaps I will get a call today or maybe the funeral home found a "Zen master" elsewhere. I was calling back as a matter of courtesy, thinking maybe I could help find the person the funeral home wanted. I don't know any particular funeral format and so, unless the family wants me for personal reasons, I'm afraid I wouldn't really fill the bill.
Funny how things that were once light and airy and hopeful without much substance turn into established fact.
Kurt Vonnegut, in "Slaughterhouse Five," tells the tale of a man who works as a propagandist for the Nazis during World War II. The man is convinced that he can remain aloof from the politics he finds both ridiculous and repugnant and yet, over time, becomes the very thing he was convinced he could avoid.
Once upon a time, I thought to build a small zendo or meditation hall out behind the house here. For a year or better, I was up to my ears in lumber and cement and how to build a roof. I never had it in my mind that this would be something established and recognized ... that would somehow be ridiculous.
I did hope that A. I would have a place in which to practice zazen B. Others might like to do the same. C. Those who came might help me even as I might help them. And being a "Zen master" was something better left to those with over-active imaginations.
But here it is so many years later and someone is calling up as if Black Moon Zendo were something more than a twinkle in its daddy's eye -- some established entity, some shaped and solid monolith ... sort of like Microsoft or something. True, there is a web site I keep meaning to take down, and there are various contact points along the Internet, but for someone to take it seriously -- C'mon man! They're just Nazis! -- strikes me as peculiar. Suddenly I too am a Nazi.
How did things get from idea to idee fixe, from hammer and nails to a funeral home's looking for a stand-up act at a pretty serious event ... a funeral?
Luckily, there are a couple of people I can think of around town who have the requisite thin lips and formal know-how to conduct a funeral. So it's not as if I can't lend a hand if called upon.
But in the meantime, it is interesting how what began as a pretty simple idea -- something without any real borders or claim to fame -- suddenly is seen in some corner of the world as an established Blarney Stone it might be useful to kiss. What was important in some small way has suddenly taken on a life of its own and is leaden in its weight.
I suppose the same is true for individuals in their lives -- finding acknowledgment in what once lacked or even needed acknowledgment at all. But still ...