Saturday, February 12, 2011

lingering scents

I stayed up past my bedtime last night and woke up feeling a bit foggy and glum. As I skimmed the news, I found myself looking for something that made me laugh or delight -- some sugar to put on my morning-mood cereal. But news, as CBS journalist icon Walter Cronkite once observed, "is not about how many cats did not get up on the garage roof."

There was jubilation in Egypt because, after a couple of weeks of massive street demonstrations, the president, Hosni Mubarak, had left his post ... and the demonstrators were confronted with the question of what to do now that their dream had come true. There was a 6.8 earthquake in Chile; a maize crop in Mexico struck by freezing weather; and one-time movie beauty Elizabeth Taylor was being treated for congestive heart failure. The cats that did not get up on the garage roof were no where in evidence.

About the best pick-me-up came from an old friend to whom I had forwarded some silly poems about farts. Jonathan teaches English and writes poetry at a college in Boston and I was happy that he got a smile out of things like:

A fart is a pleasant thing,
It gives the belly ease,
It warms the bed in winter,
And suffocates the fleas.
 It's nice to run into light topics -- things anyone might be forgiven for forgetting in a nanosecond. But on the world stage as in life, things seem to linger and cloy. If I were a Zen Buddhist, all of this would be moot, I suppose ... but, well, I never was much good at that.

The reason I stayed up beyond my bedtime was that a thread I had started on this blog -- Eido Tai Shimano -- had run out of comment room. Five thousand posts was all the blog seemed willing to allow. A friend sent me an email saying no more comments were allowed. Since I was the one who started the thread as a way of allowing people to have their say about the sexual and fiduciary manipulations of this longtime Zen teacher, I felt bound to keeping the space available. So I created a new thread ... but not with much gusto. Like the demonstrators in Cairo, perhaps, I kind of hoped everything would turn out well and the struggle would be as easily forgotten as a poem about a fart. But however it turned out, it was my responsibility and ... OK, but I wasn't entirely happy about it.

Simultaneously, in the midst of this beyond-my-bedtime activity, it occurred to me to present the whole matter to a chum who had been a Los Angeles Times reporter. The New York Times had done a soft-soapy report on Mr. Shimano's sexual predations, but here was a chance to get some added coverage perhaps. So I wrote a letter to Elizabeth and added appropriate useful links. It took some time and the hope that it would result in much was pretty dim ... but still, don't point the pistol if you can't pull the trigger: It was my responsibility. Bleah.

The past, like some lingering fart, comes up and reasserts itself. One thing leads to the next and simply forgetting about the farts you have laid is not really an option. But that doesn't mean you can't hope it would be an option. About the most consoling line I can think of as the threads of one activity or another linger and insist and take on new roles is this: "In a hundred years, who'd know?"

Or, more blithely stated:

A fart can occur
In a number of places,
And leave everyone there,
With strange looks on their faces .
From wide-open prairie,
To small elevators,
A fart will find all of
Us sooner or later.


  1. I'm awed by the events in Egypt. It's the most inspirational civil action I've seen in many years: A peaceful revolution (save the day Mubarak unleashed his thugs on the demonstrators). And you know what's happening today, the day after? The protesters are back in Tahrir Square, cleaning up after themselves. Cleaning up! They say they want their new country to be clean as it begins. It moves me no end.

    I hope this noble spirit lingers in the world, too.