Tuesday, May 31, 2011

shirt problems

An old Zen friend of mine once sent me an email in which he mentioned casually that of all of his friends, I best exemplified the saying, "He'd give you the shirt off his back."

"What's the matter with you?" he asked jokingly. "Don't you like your shirt?"

Dave's observation caught me flat-footed for several reasons. First of all, it had never occurred to me...was it true? Second, if it were true and if he meant it as praise, I was forced again to recognize that I am not used to and don't cope well with praise...what's that about? ... a definite 'shirt' problem, isn't it? And third, as an addendum to number two, I have a naive inability and sometimes-crankiness when it comes to fathoming the need others have to hold their cards oh-so-close to their chests.

I felt the crankiness rising this morning when I got an email from an acquaintance who wrote a note soliciting my opinions/state of mind while carefully hiding his own behind a veil of brevity. It's something that people who amass power like to do... get the other guy to open up and show his frailties, but reveal little or nothing of your own. Shrinks, priests, CEO's ... that realm.

As a professional matter, sometimes secrecy is warranted, but sometimes 'professionalism' seeps into a personal life and fouls the waters. My own view is that everyone is dying to go naked in the world -- just let 'er rip. Serial killers and other ill-intentioned types need to be restrained, but most people's nakedness is so mundane -- so perfectly OK -- that not-granting one a deepest wish seems churlish and small. The world is not going to fall apart if someone picks their nose on Thursdays or uses the Kama Sutra as a biblical revelation.

I think I read once that it was the mongols who rode into battle wearing silk shirts. The tight weave and strength of the material meant that when they were struck by arrows, the material did not break and the arrow pushed the silk into any subsequent wound. This meant that pulling the arrow out was that much easier. Yes, where there is battle, it is nice to have a shirt -- nice to be defended. But there is a difference between being defended and imagining there might be some escape from wounds.

I suppose it's pretty much the dealer's choice. Button up your shirt or shed it. But I think it's a mistake to neglect the longing to get naked ... the state no one can escape no matter how many shirts they put on. Play dress-up as long as you like, but don't overlook or disdain the plain facts ... those facts that really are never much different from anybody 'else's' facts.

1 comment:

  1. I have more than one shirt and am willing to share. Take your pick should it matter, age has rescued me from vanity. If I only had the one shirt, I bet I could get another.