First & most importantly: If you have communicated with me by email regarding my upcoming tour of Europe or any other upcoming talks (see this link for details) please write me again. I lost ALL of the emails regarding this tour (as well as hundreds of other emails) when my computer was being worked on at the Apple Store in Summit Mall, Akron, Ohio. Thanks!
Next up, I've been monitoring the comments left about my previous post. It's fascinating. Lots of people seem to believe the post was an effort to enact some kind of revenge upon Barry Magid and the Ordinary Mind Zendo.
In fact, I do not feel vengeful at all. I kind of enjoyed the talk in a perverse way. No. Scratch "kind of." I very much did enjoy it. It was fun. I'm not angry at all. I'm mostly just confused.
There were a few people who took the opportunity to trash talk Mr Magid and his group. Since I don't censor those who trash talk me (and there are always plenty) I don't censor those who trash talk anyone else. But please don't read my not censoring them as some kind of expression of support on my part. I do not censor anyone. I really don't know what to think of the whole thing. People are mysterious. Most people's actions make no sense to me. This talk was just another in a long list of things I've participated in that I couldn't understand.
I thought the email I published was interesting. The writer's opinions seem to match those of the two people from the film crew who are doing a documentary about me who were also there. These film crew people had never seen me speak anywhere before and had never read any of my books. They also suspected the event had been set up as a way for the Mr Magid to attack me in public.
At the time I didn't feel I was being attacked or set up. Not exactly. I felt like I was being challenged by the woman who raised the question about "transference." I felt that Mr Magid's question about my "acting like a perpetual adolescent and refusing to become an adult" was extraordinarily rude. It would have been rude coming from anyone. But it was especially so coming from the leader of the community who invited me to speak.
This did not make me angry, just confused. Why would someone behave that way? It was weird. I still don't know. I've written to Mr Magid. Maybe he'll tell me. Maybe he won't. Maybe even if he tells me I still won't understand. Who knows? And, really, who cares?
In any case, I would like to speak to the matter of "acting like a perpetual adolescent and refusing to become an adult." Some of this will be what I said last Saturday. Some will not.
This is actually something I've heard before. In fact, I hear it quite often. I have put some thought into the matter and have decided that I do not, in fact, act like a perpetual adolescent and refuse to become an adult.
Yet there are times I wonder if it's true. I wonder if I really have somehow failed to become an adult. But then I have to write a check to my insurance company, file my taxes, take out my trash, plan a speaking tour of Europe, deal with divorce-related matters, fix my car, etc., etc., etc. I left my parents' house when I was 18 years old and have been living on my own ever since. I have actually managed to become an adult quite nicely, thank you very much for your concern.
I think this relates to something that happened to me a few years ago when I first started teaching Zen. One of the older guys in Nishijima Roshi's group took me aside and said he thought I did not take Zen very seriously. He found my attitude too light-hearted for his liking. He said that, for him, Zen was "a matter of life and death."
At the time all I could do was sort of wimper in response. This was someone I respected, someone I thought of as a friend. His tone was extremely angry. It made me sad. It made me confused.
But then I thought, fuck you. Fuck you. This is not an angry "fuck you," by the way, for those of you unfamiliar with uses of this phrase other than to express anger. It is a way of expressing that what someone has said about you is entirely wrong.
I do take Zen very seriously. It is the most serious thing in my life. And my attitude is a manifestation of just how seriously I take it.
I realized during my teenage years that my life might get cut short very quickly by a really nasty disease that ran in my family. At that point it became urgent for me to find out what life was really about. I jumped into my Zen training with an almost desperate sense of urgency and seriousness.
I have one life and one life only. I refuse to waste it. I don't care if the way I choose to live does not measure up to the way you imagine I ought to live. I don't have the time to waste on caring about that kind of trivia.
To me, what Buddha was really looking for was a way to live a life that doesn't suck. Hedonism didn't work because hedonism sucked. It looked like fun, but it really wasn't. Austerity sucked too. It provided a kind of high, but that high didn't make him happy. Instead he found the Middle Way between the two.
Buddha was not looking for a way to make all of us clones of whoever comes along claiming to be the manifestation of "adulthood." He was not looking for a way to make us all "serious" in the conventional sense. He wasn't an authoritarian leader looking for obedient followers. He was looking for a way to help people live a life that did not suck.
Buddhism is about enjoying your life. The goal of zazen practice, if there is one, is to learn how to enjoy living as thoroughly as you can. This is what I am working on. Nothing else. I am working on having as much fun while I'm here as I possibly can without hurting anyone or impeding their ability to have fun.
This is why I sit and stare at walls every day. No other reason.
And that's my bottom line.