Thursday, December 26, 2013


There were three high-note good parts to my Christmas: 1. I didn't do any of the cooking or cleaning up; 2. my daughter hit the sweet spot when cooking the (supermarket)-fresh cauliflower and string beans; and 3. my son-in-law helped me to understand the weight-lifting world of which he is a part.

1. Not to cook and clean up ... what a luxury.

2. It is wonderful, assuming anyone does something, that they do it well ... and the beans and cauliflower were right on the money -- not too righteously raw and not too steam-table squishy. My daughter managed to honor the vegetables ... wish I could do that. Whatever, my teeth and tongue were delighted.

3. My son-in-law, who is the size of a large and sturdy dog house, got a bunch of weight-lifting gear from Santa. I took the opportunity to ask him about his world of expertise -- the various exercises performed competitively, the names of various lifting feats ... and the overall framework of his athletic choice. He was patient enough for a while, but I could sense his weariness setting in: It's not always easy to go back to the beginning and parse a preference for an utter ignoramus. It's more fun to be among club peers who know the lingo and the successes and defeats. Where there are clubs, there are outsiders, and I was a self-confessed outsider.

I wonder if there is not something to be learned from the expert who is unwilling or unable to put a field of expertise into language that addresses the uninitiated. How expert could anyone actually be if hanging out with the boys at the club were the extent of that expertise? What ignorance and lack of expertise is at play? If you can't do the foundation, how credible is the house?

My Zen teacher was always willing to admit it when he could not explain something: "If you want to know that," he might say when I asked some understandable but fool question like, "what or who is Buddha?" "you'll have to try it out."

OK ... there are brick walls in expertise ... points at which only experience can tell the tale. But before that, the irritation and the long-and-specialized words of description strike me as a good indicator that the expert is, in fact, no expert... by trappings, s/he is a pro; by essence, an uncertain and miching dandy.

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