Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I was sitting on the porch swing with the two younger ones enjoying burrito's and the sunny weather when an older couple, wearing their Sunday best approached us. It should have been obvious to me what their intent was as they walked down my driveway with Bibles in hand.

I could have asked them to state their business and go, or "let us enjoy our afternoon snack and respectfully keep your religious views to yourselves." I am a sucker for conversations about religion, especially with people who are not relativists but see god and the Bible as infallible and absolute.

"Do you read the Bible?" I was asked. "Well I have looked at it. I am a Zen Buddhist and the Bible is not a text we use" I replied. This comment was to be a, not so subtle, hint to them that maybe they should not waste their time with me.

To their credit they stayed on message and I forgot mine.

"Are you afraid of the end of the world?"

When I was eight years old I would have answered yes. I also would have answered yes when I was seventeen. Now, this question only perplexed me, how can I answer this? I was dumbstruck. Before I could answer, I was informed that God would protect us and we had nothing to fear, but we had to believe in god in order to escape fear, oh yes and we must read the Bible.

I finally replied that I was not concerned about the worlds end. And that the only things I was concerned about were finishing my burrito and studying for finals. And that fear, other than its practical uses, was not a factor in my "spiritual" (I still don't really know what that word means) life. In other words if I were to embrace Christianity it would not be out of fear of being excluded from heaven or going to hell.

After they left, this idea of fear lingered with me and has left me with questions. I was left wondering if fear does factor into my reasons to continue with Zen.

So, what am I afraid of? Well, looking dumb is way up there, (see this post.) I want to look smart and appear mature. (see this post) I want be the one dispensing answers to all others quandaries regardless of how little I actually know. ( I am positive that this quirk is quite annoying to those closest to me) I am afraid of Karma, I am not sure how I feel about this teaching, I have not fully embraced it nor have I been able to embrace the idea that there is no way of knowing what happens after death. The biggest fear I have though is of going through life without having lived it, I am not sure that even Zen can cure this one but it keeps me practicing.

Zen also has done little to assure me that concrete answers exist for anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zen and the Art of Escape.

When your 13 year old son comes home from school in the middle of the day, you want it to be for a good reason. When he stops you while you are busy trimming a hedge and you are having one of those pleasant mornings with your youngest child, you want whatever caused him to leave school to be merely due to an over reaction. When you respond to him and he falls into your arms and starts to sob, you want to find the person who caused this and demand to know why? why would you cause this harmless child to have to limp home and sob on his fathers shoulder.

You want to defend him, cure him, ease whatever pain it is which has caused him to tremble. You want to find who is responsible and make things right; you want to show him that you have control, like you did when he was a toddler and he skinned his knee. When you find that your son is the cause of his pain you, naturally, want to know who pushed him to do what he did. You want that other child punished, you want the school to do something to keep your kid out of trouble.

You want the other kids parent to call you up and yell at you, while you stay calm...just to show who the better person is. You want to tell him, that "my son was just defending himself" and if his kid had any self-control or respect for others he would not be bleeding. You don't want your son to be the responsible one. (the other parent never calls)

When your child comes home in the middle of the day, interrupts your day, starts sobbing in your arms- you give him a glass of water, you hold him, tell him you love him--you want to be upset---you want it to be simple. When he tells you it was his fault. You want him to see what he did, you want him to apologize, you want him to see how he can change.
, you want things to be normal... you want him to go back to school and have all the other kids like him. You want to blame someone; his mother, his not having many friends during elementary school, his lack of freedom,----you want it to be about him and not you.

You want your day back.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I watched my wife work magic this morning. Seriously, it was magic.

See, our three year old is pretty picky about what he wears, for example, he must wear brown shorts and will only wear certain t-shirts.

This morning, being the morn o' laundry, everything he wanted to wear was dirty. As I pulled shirt after shirt from his drawer only to have him reject them, I came to a point and a shirt which I was ready to force onto him if negotiation did not work. This particular shirt is basically a striped t-shirt, the lines are made up of different bugs. " Look! this shirt has bugs on it! isn't that cool! He was mildly interested. I had his attention but not enough to have him put the shirt on. Then my wife got into the act.

"What kinds of bugs are on your shirt?" she said. He quickly identified a spider. She found a beetle. "hey, if you put this on I will read you the poem about Alexander Beetle."
He was skeptical about the shirt at this point but definitely wanted to hear the poem, so she gave him the first line " I found a little Beetle, so that beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same." He put the shirt on and in no time she was reading to him from A.A. Milne's book.

Had it been me dealing with him, there would have been a struggle, some tears and eventual acceptance of defeat. Usually that means the kid wears the shirt and me being frustrated that he does not see that a shirt is just a shirt...."so put it on." My wife on the other hand, and this by the way is not the first time I have seen her do this type of engagement, actually made him interested in it.