Saturday, September 13, 2008

Za-Zen

My blog mates lead such exciting lives.  If they don’t live in Hawaii, they’re flitting around Paris or Bangkok or Cape Town.  They buy new houses in the Canadian countryside and host cool jazz radio programs and play cool jazz themselves.  As for me, well...


Summer has finally abated here in the Sonoran Desert.  It’s been under 100 degrees for three days in a row.  We’ve had a lot of rain, for here.  Don mowed down the backyard jungle last week, and now it’s knee high again.  I’ve been doing a lot of work on stuff other than my book, which I need to do, I guess, but I sure miss that book.  My niece is in the hospital with some mysterious ailment the doctors can’t diagnose.  Don tripped over the garden hose and bruised the hell out of himself. My cat died last week. 


For many years now, I have been a student of Zen, which I love, because it’s very helpful at times like these.  It’s also pretty funny, and anything that’s pretty funny is okay with me.  Years ago, I went to my first meditation retreat with some trepidation, since I had heard that during sitting meditation, the sensei prowls around the room with a long stick and occasionally whacks the hell out of you when you least expect it.  The point of this is to make you be totally in the present, and believe me, when you think you’re about to get smacked at any minute, you actually quiver with awareness.  As it turned out, our sensei told us that he quit doing that because his students seemed to enjoy it too much.  So I’ve never actually been assaulted while meditating.


I’m sure most of you Dear Readers have heard of koans, such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping,” those apparently senseless little sayings and stories that you can ponder on all day, but really don’t mean anything.  Here is one of my favorites:


A Zen master was teaching his students when a cat wandered into the room.  The master picked up a cleaver and said, “If any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.”  Not one student said anything, so the master whacked the cat, and his students ran out of the room, horrified.  The next day, the master was relating the incident to another sensei.  “I said, if any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.”  The second master sat there for a moment, then hung his shoes on his ears and danced out of the room.  As he disappeared, the first master yelled after him, “If you’d been here yesterday, that cat would have lived!”

(Please don’t get all het up, cat lovers.  It didn’t really happen.)


Or how about this one :  Two masters were debating which of their teaching methods was best when a disheveled drunk burst into the room, kicked the crap out of the first master, and ran out.  “Who was that!”  he cried.  “That was one of my students,” said the second master.  “You win,” said the first master.


Ah, I’m feeling better already.


Now for a little business.  There is a very nice review of Rick’s A Case of You in the latest Mystery Scene.  Reviewer Betty Webb calls it “intriguing and haunting.  You can almost hear Blechta, himself a jazz musician, singing ‘Mamas, don’t let our babies grow up to be jazz musicians.’”


And last but not least, tomorrow’s guest blogger is Carolyn Wall, author of the astounding Sweeping Up Glass. If you have ever wondered if it’s possible for something wonderful to happen to a debut novelist, Carolyn’s story will prove beyond doubt that it can.


2 comments:

Charles benoit said...

How many Zen masters does it take to change a light bulb? Three—one to change it, one to not-change it and one to both change and not change it.

Donis Casey said...

I'm adding the light bulb koan to my repertoire.