I'm writing this today from the Psychobabble Coffee House in Los Feliz (part of LA, just east of Hollywood). The chick who made my herbal tea is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Their website is weird, though. But Psychobabble has played host to way more of these postings than Angel Falls coffee shop in Highland Square, Akron. And I gave them a plug. So I s'pose Psychobabble deserves one too.
Before I get down to the Zen stuff, long-time reader Jules Agee (who may be one of the first people who wrote me regarding my old webpage a million years ago, if memory serves) is doing a run for cancer and needs your donations. So go support the guy. OK?
I've been thinking about impermanence a lot. In fact, that may be the true theme of the new book I've been working on. I realized I needed to clarify about my new book cuz even though I thought everyone knew, it seems like they don't. It is another memoir-ish philosophical type book about Zen, like Hardcore Zen and Sit Down And Shut Up. So don't worry. It's basically the harrowing story of my life this year in which, as Husker Du said it would, pretty much everything has fallen apart.
It's also related to something really profound 0DFx drummer Mickey X-Nelson said recently. They were working on transferring the new 0DFx tracks we recorded last month to (evil) ProTools and encountering all sorts of unforeseen difficulties. He said something to the effect of, "It's like in the movie The Fly, all you wanted to do was move this thing from one place to another, but..." I think life is always like that.
There's an old koan that ends with the line, "From birth until death it's just like this." I've always liked that line. It really tells you all you need to know about Buddhist philosophy. Everything important, anyway.
We're always looking for something permanent and unchanging, something reliable. Everyone is. All the things we imagine will be permanent never are -- family, friends, marriages, houses, possessions -- they'll all fall apart some day. Even if they last until we die, we still die and then all our stuff is gone all our relationships are over, all our beautiful memories blow away like smoke, everything we did falls to dust.
This year I've been faced with loads of impermanence. My mom died, I lost my job, my grandma died, important relationships in my life went sour... Lots of impermanence. It's been a lesson. That's for sure. Thank you, Jesus, for all your lessons this year! (Brad says as he secretly raises a defiant middle finger to the sky)
In the midst of impermanence, we seek for something we can count on forever but most of us never find it. The only reason we fail in our search is because we're not paying attention. That which is permanent and perfectly reliable is staring us right in the face even as we look past it searching for something else. The empty and silent present moment of which we are just a superficial manifestation is eternal and unchanging. It is the essential ground of our being. We imagine the ground of being must be far, far way, off in a distant galaxy or buried deep in some mystical place we can only reach with the proper spiritual guidance (fully paid up, of course, major credit cards accepted).
But the present moment is always right here. There's no place it can go. It's never hidden from view. When you die it will be right there beside you, just the same as it is now.
There's another Zen koan in which a student goes to his master all excited because he thinks he has The Answer. The Master asks what the answer is. The monk says, "The child of fire comes seeking for fire!"
The master says, "That's bullshit. You have no idea what you're talking about!"
The monk gets all weepy and begs his master to tell him the real truth. The Master says, "The child of fire comes seeking for fire."
Our intellectual understanding is worthless. The monk was able to present his understanding only as a superficial intellectual construct, not as a living reality. All the master did was tell him the very same thing, only for the master it was a real, living thing, not a theory.
Whatever. That girl behind the counter here is so hot...