Tuesday, December 1, 2015

burnishing the worm hole

Shakespeare, among others, put his finger on it: "The truth will out." Eventually, with drips and drops or tsunami-like force, a new appreciation of what may be or have been a wracking situation shape-shifts and becomes more complete or honest or something.

But since the point at which the truth comes out refers to a situation now past, I wonder at its usefulness: In a knee-jerk way, I think it is useful, but less reflexively, I'm not entirely sure. Saying it has no use opens the door to more obfuscation and lying; saying it has a decisive usefulness -- "healing" or "closure" or some such -- hardly scratches the surface.

Everyone seems willing to burnish his or her own chosen worm hole, the not-quite-so-delicious aspects of one apple or another.

The U.S. invaded Iraq based on faulty intelligence, but once committed, the tale was burnished. "Collateral damage" is so much nicer than children ripped to shreds. In Paris, heavy-hitters have gathered to address climate change on the same day Beijing is elbow-deep in a coal-inspired, soupy smog that betokens a red-hot economy.

And then, of course, there are individual bits of spin-doctoring and facile forgiveness based on an outcome that makes "it" all worthwhile, whatever "it" may be. Yes, I have done cruel and irresponsible things, but just look at the good parts that likewise evolved. Five thousand, six hundred and nine people died of disease and accident in the course of building the Panama Canal that opened in 1914. A lot of deaths ... but a marvel of engineering and commerce and many of those who died were brown and besides, it's all in the past.

From the 1960's to the present, the Zen exponent Eido Shimano was dogged and chastised and defended in a sandstorm that accused him of thoughtless affairs with his vulnerable students and, peripherally, with some financial hi-jinks that have yet to be addressed. Through it all, like the Vatican's subtle and not-so-subtle sidestepping of its pedophile-priest scandal, Shimano implicitly denied all wrong-doing and sought to maintain a burnished persona. There were people who had been badly shaken -- vulnerable women whose vulnerability made them easy sexual prey.

The critics -- me too -- yowled. Shimano stood fast. The evidence mounted. Shimano stood fast. A lot of the accusations -- like the accusations against the Vatican -- were just too compelling to describe as vindictiveness or high-class gossip. The Shimano Archive collected information and loosened Shimano's purchase on a vaunted persona. Yes there were those unwilling to let him sink into a sea of calumny, but there were also others who were. Still, Shimano never 'fessed up.

Until last Nov 21 at a meeting that Shimano himself orchestrated -- a gathering in New York that he claimed was in search of some healing balm. The fact that such balm might coincidentally restore some of his tattered luster was not the point. He cared. The meeting took place at the All Souls Unitarian Church.

Various raw recordings do not make clear whether the congregation absolved and resurrected a fallen angel -- it was a set piece, but what table it set is not entirely clear: Was this a contrite and more honest Eido Shimano? Were the women he had taken as paramours in any way salved? The questions hovered. I wasn't there so I don't know.

But I do know that for the first time, Eido Shimano said the words he might have said so long ago: "I had many sexual relations with female students." (http://www.shimanoarchive.com/Audio/Shimano%20Apology%20A2.mp3 ... 12.15 mark)

A simple statement. And yet on it hangs years of twisting and turning and discombobulation of the Zen sangha, a no-no in Buddhism. And what does it amount to after all this time? The workers at the Panama Canal are dead. The women harmed by Shimano remain, in many cases, wounded. What price has been paid and what good does this latter-day honesty do?

I'm not trying to minimize, but I can't help but wonder. Cui bono -- who, if anyone, benefits? The truth is easy, somehow, and yet it is also used up and battered and what good does it do? I hope it does some good outside the absolution and resurrection of the man who organized the meeting.

As Dylan Thomas wrote, "Time passes. Listen! Time passes." I favor the best truth anyone can muster. I favor a reduction in the effort to burnish the worm holes, public and private.

I favor ....

But that's just me.


  1. This is the comment: http://www.shimanoarchive.com/Audio/Shimano%20Apology%20Clip1.mp3