As the idea of 'house' is related to material gain, pride, and compensation for lack of imagination, a zen approach to dwelling finds itself at odds with this form of stability and uniformity that houses invite us to appreciate. And which we do, for the sake of convenience. There is a slight irony here, however, as zen can also seem a philosophy of stability: it insists on change as unchangeable. At the museum, enjoying the samples of wooden houses in the forests of Norway the most, I was reminded of this zen koan: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” I could feel surrendering to the calmness of detachment. I felt rising above the successful manipulation of feelings that the exhibition operates with. It was enough to take a quick look at most people's strong reactions to the way in which houses were depicted and represented to make me feel good about myself. As people were either repelled by some dwellings or envious of others, I was reminded of the wisdom attached to the trio of learning: understand, accept, and let go. Most people see the latter stage of renunciation as a sign of resignation, but here I would have to insist that insofar as we don't move towards living but towards dying, accumulating things in life will reach a dead end a lot faster even before the other end is experienced, which is the real tragedy. And this is the paradox: the more one lets go, the more one experiences what it means to live in the world. This is the teaching of zen.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Yesterday was a day of checking out houses. Going from old farm houses to the virtual types, the latter installed as part of the House exhibition, also called Living, at the museum of contemporary art, Louisiana, I came home with a sense of relief. Where I was concerned, I declared it once again to myself that I am definitely not the 'let's play house' type. The reason for this has little to do with my general aversion against all things status quo and the tyranny of possessiveness. As I entertained myself with watching people's reactions to houses, I rather got a clear idea in my head that the reason for my remaining immune towards such exclamations, oh no, or oh yes, has to do with my zen inclinations.