Saturday, July 2, 2011

making the same point

I guess everyone has run into one of those situations in which someone just goes on and on and on and on about a favored subject. Maybe it's some guy on a bar stool who can't stop talking about baseball. Maybe it's some intellectual who can't stop pirouetting for others at what otherwise might be a pleasant party. Maybe it's a conspiracy theorist whose chicken burns in the oven while he holds forth to his guests. Pick your favorite ... you know the feeling: Get me the hell out of here!

After a weekend during which a very smart woman stayed at my mother's house, my also-very-smart mother breathed a sigh of relief and gave some clue as to why she did not plan to renew the invitation any time soon:  "I simply cannot discuss Dostoyevski before my morning coffee," she said acidly.

Stand up, speak up and shut up: Is there a situation in which that old journalistic yardstick doesn't work pretty well?

Well, maybe sometimes there is a time for repetition. Maybe.

In his teisho or Dharma talk referred to in the next blog entry, my teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa said: "Someone in Israel said to me, 'Roshi, you're always making the same point.' Of course I am." Over and over and over again, spiritual teachers making the same damned point. Over and over again, the holy texts and wise exegeses say the same thing. You'd think they would run out of steam. You'd think their listeners would stop talking about how 'compassionate' those teachers or texts are ... over and over and over again. Boring, boring, boring! Haven't they got any good dirty jokes to share?!

Heaven ... making the same point.
Hell...making the same point.
Sin...making the same point.
Salvation...making the same point.
Enlightenment...making the same point.
Delusion...making the same point.
Emptiness...making the same point.
Compassion...making the same point.
Dog shit and cockroaches...making the same point.

The bookshelves fill up, the temples get built, the hymns are sung, the horrors are perpetrated ... over and over and over again.

But did you ever stop to think how much any of us might resemble the baseball fanatic on a bar stool or the spiritual instructor all decked out in one costume or another? Every morning we get up and reconstitute ourselves over and over and over again. Oh yes, I am a male. Oh yes, my name is Adam. Oh no, I am not a girl. Oh no, I am not a Christian. Oh yes, Zen is important. Oh yes, I have chores to do. But wait a minute (I'll be right back) ... I have to take a leak. Over and over and over again. Wouldn't you think we might get bored? Making the same point over and over again. It's not very imaginative and yet we credit it over and over and over again.

Making the same point.

The only question is, what point and why does it need making? Please don't go all fluffy trying to answer that question. I've got enough fluffy bullshit of my own.


  1. Well, nice try, but it is impossible to make the same point. The reader or listener may conclude that the same point is being made, but it is not true. Just as in physics, two points can not occupy the same space. It is the dullness in the hearer that concludes that the same point is being made, but if we really care to listen and hear another person, even discussing a "same topic" there are subtle and not so subtle differences being made. Each persons point of view, timing, choice of words, and varied experience are revealed. Its' the arm chair commentator that lumps it all together and concludes that the same point is being made. Just because one becomes old and has seen it all doesn't mean that they have a monopoly on categorizing pieces of information into neat bundles and declaring them null and void. Sounds like a touch of "old mans disease".

  2. I stand corrected, "anonymous."

    Old man's disease, young man's disease ... I suppose we might call them same or different.