Monday, August 23, 2010


The newspaper was delivered at 4:45 a.m. Sitting on the porch, I can see the lady's lights when she swings onto the block each morning, makes a couple of stops and finally slips the paper under my door. No one else is around. She does her job. Somehow, I am impressed: No one else is looking; do it anyway.


I wonder if it's true ... maybe sometimes, but not always: People who have suffered more are more honestly kind to those around them. I was remembering the kindness of Dokai Fukui, a man who, before he became a monk, had been captured by the Chinese during World War II and spent some time as a badly-treated slave building a railway. He returned to Japan with a number of physical ailments, became a monk, and yet, when he encouraged me to practice zazen or to see things in another light, he was the soul of kindness ... firm but ever willing to lend a hand.

Yesterday, I read an interview with a woman who had considerable contact with the world of Buddhism. She had tried Zen but switched to Tibetan "because they are happier." I too love the Tibetan smiles, but it is too late for me: Smiles and frowns each carry their wisdoms and their idiocies and my job, like anyone else's, is to winkle out which is which.

Yesterday as well, I reminded the woman who came to sit with me that there was a mythological swan in Hinduism -- a swan which, while floating on a vast body of water, is capable of sipping the one drop of milk hiding in its vastness. Even those who have precisely zero interest in spiritual endeavor do the same, I imagine: Sip the pure milk from the murky water; find the truth among the fabrications. It's a hell of an effort and some get no further than text and ritual ... the ability to parrot the wisdom and kindness of others; the ability to read and regurgitate instructions; the ability to gather up and husband the cozy, if uncertain, contentments of belief.

What does it take to be a swan? Sometimes I think it just takes a courageous curiosity ... but maybe that's wrong. A swan is a just a swan -- what need for curiosity? Drink your milk.

Just noodling.


  1. No.

    A swan is either born a swan, or becomes one through intense effort.

    Saraswati uses the animal symbol of the swan, which embodies the attributes of intelligence and wisdom (amongst others). The Swan symbolizes that her attributes are founded in the experience of the Absolute Truth, and it is this experience, that provides her with the discrimination neccessary, to separate milk from water.

    No Experience, No Milk.

    Whenever I noodle, all I find is more noodles - which is wonderful, if all I want is noodles.

  2. "but it is too late for me"

    This is your koan. No swans, no noodles, just this. For the rest of your life nothing but this.

    Good luck.