Every now and then people say things to us that make us disclose the reasons for our counter-reactions. This month I’ve been constantly reminded of the fact that although I don’t follow any religion whatsoever, I am what others call a Zen Buddhist. Given my life philosophy, I must admit that both in and out of the Zen Buddhist context, I’ve now been a Zen person for 27 years. In fact I can even remember the exact date, when, on December 7 1984 I went Zen, after having confronted a whole Sanhedrin of another religion. I made some ‘unfortunate’ statements against the venerable institution of marriage, which the patriarchs, members of the venerable council in charge with maintaining the venerable tradition, didn’t like. As patriarchs are not in the business of listening to the voice of reason, I decided that it was high time for me as well to stop reasoning and to stop explaining what is wrong with hypocrisy, cultural preconditioning, and uniforming the self according to five-year plans.

I’m happy to say that 27 years down the road, I’m still against competing in school for the highest grades at 16 – so that you can impress your teachers and make your parents proud; showing your sexual prowess at 21 – it’s all about sex anyway, as some smart folks claim; getting both the dream job and the dream man at 26; feeding the third baby at 31; getting a divorce at 36; sleeping with your boss for a promotion at 41 – or getting another man to turn you into a respectable woman, and with whom you can live in a bigger house; getting involved in the community for the sake of preserving the future for the future generation at 46; ‘finding yourself’ at 51 after some brief internal crisis – you can’t be too unhappy for too long; getting ready for the marriage of your own children at 56; swooning over the grandkids at 61; retiring at 66 – you did well, after all; going on a pilgrimage at 71 – it’s time to think about death, but not too hard, you don’t want to get too depressed; pestering your family doctor about the whole world’s personal and political ailments at 76; and ending your days with the big remote control in your hands at 81 – as you can’t understand what all this minute technology is all about.

‘Yes, yes,’ most people would say, ‘but there are nuances, it doesn’t have to be like that, we can find that every age is meaningful in itself, and there are all these stories we can invent about ourselves,’ and so on and so forth. ‘Good for you,’ I’d say, ‘and good luck with it.’ And this is the point when I’m forced to disclose that I don’t believe in meaning, and that all of the above means nothing. Time means nothing and 'personal realizations' mean even less. ‘What do you mean you don’t believe in meaning,’ people would then further insist, and you begin to see the consequences of their rationality and how it shines through, for you yourself don’t make any sense. ‘You must be depressed or something, someone must have hurt you, or done you some wrong to be so cynical,’ people would rationally conjecture. To this you would be adamant in your response: ‘No, nothing is wrong with me.’ ‘But then how can you still not believe in meaningful narratives,’ people would go rationally, for there’s a lot of logic in the logic of concrete manifestations. And yet, even though you’d insist that modes of perception are often irrational, and that this is the reason why you believe in poetry - for poets are the only ones who don’t have a problem with death and are not so goddamned self-delusional - somehow the others would still win. ‘Yes,’ they’d argue, ‘but poets are a thing of the past, and besides, who can ever understand poets? They are all mad. They have no morals, no family values, they are all dangerous, and not to mention, suicidal.’ Indeed, most rational folks have a point. So what would you then say, if you had to maintain your position, however precarious? You’d have to sound conclusive and say, ‘now listen, do you know why I don’t place my faith in language, even if language is all we’ve got? Why I don’t like to consecrate words and rituals because they don’t mean anything at all? Because I’m a Zen Buddhist, that’s why.’ ‘Ah, well, finally, why didn’t you say so,’ people would go, sighing with relief. ‘That explains everything.’

Happy holidays to you all. Everything is clear now, and it still means nothing. Take it from a Zen Roshi who has just stumbled over some more funny koans, and even funnier stories of perception. Here’s one from Josh Steiger:

The Zen Roshi and the Ice Cream

A Zen roshi and his buddy from India (who was himself, of course, a yogi) are taking a walk along the beach. In the distance, they see an island, and on that island is an ice cream stand. Now, it's a hot day, and the venerable masters agree to go to the island and cool off with a nice lime sherbet.

The yogi says, "For thirty years, I secluded myself in a monastery, high in the hills of Nepal. Every day I would walk on hot coals, hang myself from the ceiling with fish-hooks, and eat feathers. After my thirty-year seclusion was over, I had the ability to walk on water."

The roshi says, "Why the fuck would you do all that? The ferry only costs ten bucks. I could've gone to that island and back a million times on the ferry, in the time it took you to learn how to cross the water at all. You must be some kind of retard.”

And if this is not enough, take a last minute peek at the latest EyeCorner Press books. Get some for Christmas, and enjoy all the rational and venerable stories about everything between heaven and earth.


David said…
Your Blog makes me smile - thanks for sharing and making the confusing reality of our Karmic momentum seem so ridiculous. Freedom of choice has become an anti establishment statement and religious, political, and cultural propaganda have become so acceptable. Thanks for standing up and articulating the middle road.
Camelia said…
David, yes, let’s just say that every time I hear someone trying to convince me of their happiness, or distress for that matter, not to mention their perception of my own happiness and ditto distress, I don’t believe an iota of it. For you see, given that things change so fast, all with your breath already, if you care to pay attention, then you will know that such people will have also moved already in their perception to some other state at the very time when they try to articulate the grand stuff in the symbolic order, of which however they are not aware simply because, and in spite of contrary claims, they are not in the habit of paying any attention whatsoever. Sure, some of the time some of the same folks would want to assure you that their attention span is like a hawk’s, but let’s just say that a Zen person like myself can see exactly where such bullshit comes from. It comes from the wish to impress or from rage. If I should have a wish myself, then it would be to see precisely that the middle ground is assumed, which means that we would have to look at what is in front of us rather than our own egos projected into a whole set of wrong assumptions about the other. So thank you for spotting what the whole fuss is all about, and for making me smile in return at the idea that if all else should fail in my life – given that I don’t have any, in this day and age of selling ourselves for less than nothing – then I can always start a new religion: the middle one.
David said…
LOL Love it XX :):):) We can all never get to much of taking a swipe at the do gooders - everything is beautiful people - and the assholes of this world. Why is the such a need to label a moment, form a group, see yourself through the eyes of others, appear fashionable even if the fashion is to be unfashionable, and forget how to learn from the ordinary environment we each live in and the experiences we have interacting with such? Its a complicated process to see things simplistically.
Camelia said…
That's it. But then this is also precisely what will enable us to know who we want to look at and who we don't. You know, simplistically speaking.
Ivy Sage said…
what a wonderful bonfire to stumble across, especially when it is being fed by two friends. There's warmth here, in the simplicity. No joining, just this... now this... now this :) Nice to see Camelia and David (both friends of mine online) sharing their Zen Bruisings. As for me, I alway love the dharma bruisers. "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him."

David shared a wonderful thought with me today: "How do you stop a drop of water from evaporating?" "By throwing it into the ocean."
nh2k5 said…
I'm a bit late but... super thumps up for this post!!greetings from Italy

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