Monday, June 13, 2016


The Zen Buddhist teacher Rinzai (died 866, birth date unknown) once admonished his listeners approximately: "Your whole problem is that you do not trust yourselves enough."

Now there's a statement to fuck up a wet dream: On the one hand, those seeking a bit of peace and respite and understanding come pretty quickly to the realization that their whole problem is that they trust themselves too much and, as a result, run into an unending number of brick walls -- proof positive that trusting yourself is far from trust-worthy. On the other hand, here is a guy who reputedly has a handle on things encouraging students to do the very thing that dropped them in the quicksand in the first place.

Well, knock me down and color me floundering!

None of this might matter much if it weren't for the fact that trust -- assuming you can wrest it away from the TED talkers and other caring mealy-mouths -- and the desire for it are so insistent and so overarching. It's almost as if there were something woven in the DNA ... birth, death and in between, trust.

At the shallow end of the pool, there is the political arena of the 2016 presidential race. Trust Hillary. Trust Bernie. Trust Donald. But where the waters are deeper and more subtle, trust friends, trust spouses, trust platoon sergeants, and, yes, even trust enemies. Cynics who may count themselves as worldly beings trust their skepticisms. Optimists trust in a bright today and brighter tomorrow.

On the one hand, it's all pretty airy-fairy. On the other, it's bed-rock stuff: Trust and the demand for it. You can hear the demand in the smile-raising prayer, "May I become the person my dog thinks I am." What is it that dogs know and human beings seek?

Trust is, among other things, a place to rest, a place in which to feel assured, a place to be safe. It's bright and clean and lacks the doubt that can infuse the daily grind. It's a place which fends off surprises -- the friend who does something utterly inimical or the enemy who does something undeniably loving and kind.

Deeper and deeper the waters run until distrust and trust run into each other, infuse each other, find sourcing in each other. The longing to settle the matter -- whatever the matter may be -- once and for all natters and nags an is always just out of reach. God, what I wouldn't give for a little peace. Is there no resting place this side of the grave?

Rinzai hit the nail on the head. The matter comes down to trusting yourself AND the fact that trusting yourself is a fool's errand without first settling the matter of who, precisely, this self is. It's not a Buddhist thing; it's not a philosophical thing; it's not profound or shallow ... it's just what needs to be done if the demand for a trusted and trusting place is to be actualized.

No one likes the bathroom mirror, but in the end, what else is there?

1 comment:

  1. Trust and belief are a curious thing. Belief is an uninformed feeling that, when fully embraced, dispels doubt and worry. But trust believes it's informed and that opens a door to second guessing and uncertainty pokes at you. But the monkey mind isn't bothered by flailing about.

    Life erupts and lives without consideration, but then learning happens, and fear gets a footing, as well as hope. The monkey wants to untangle this mess. And i hope that sitting will let me live without feeling that the tangle is anything other than a distraction.

    Trust and belief, hope and fear, so distracting, but how else can we talk about it? And maybe the need to talk about it is the symptom we ignore. Frown Strong, in Conversations With Merlin, said it is not the man who writes, but what is out of balance in the man. We write and talk and hope because we fear our trust might be in the wrong belief. We mistrust ourselves. Or we mistrust life and imbue ourselves with a separateness of importance.