Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The photo is from former East Berlin, Karl Marx Strasse with Dunkin Donuts taken yesterday by me. Dig Dirk from Sprockets dancing on the Don't Walk sign!

I have over-extended myself and it has bit me on the ass. I am sick in Berlin. It's 2:30 and I have yet to leave the apartment of the wonderful Jan & Angela who are kindly hosting me.

One perk of traveling and staying at people's places is that I almost always end up staying somewhere much nicer than my own apartment. This one is definitely one of those. So that's nice.

But I got a fever of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm usually below 97, often 96.8 just to make things dyslexically confusing. So 98.6 is a low grade fever for me. I rose all the way up to 101.6 last night, which must be like 103.6 for a normal person. I'm sure that what did me in was just too much of everything.

When you're in a foreign nation, even normal stuff can be a bit stressful. Like buying a train ticket! Hey people who've lived in Japan! European train station ticket machines do not take paper money! They look pretty high tech, but alas they are not. I'm pretty sure even the Los Angeles subway system ticket machines accept paper money. Get it together, France and Germany!

This caused me a lot more frustration than it should have a few days ago in Paris. It was like I was thrown back into the Angry Brad I was about fifteen years ago when I'd just yell and scream about every damned thing. I took that as a signal something was askew. And now this fever has confirmed it for me.

I've noticed that lots of people who comment very eruditely upon the Zen Precepts don't really understand what anger is and why we should avoid it. Anger is not merely being unhappy with a situation and making direct efforts to change it. That's not really anger at all. Though some folks who comment on Zen seem to believe it is.

Anger is when you allow your natural dissatisfaction with a given situation to become emotional. That's where you always have trouble. If you can deal with dissatisfaction without becoming emotional, you're good to go.

You need to avoid it for various reasons, the main one being that it's not good for you. A kind of conscious selfishness can be your friend. It appears that now that I've done a lot of Zen practice the rebound from bouts of anger comes very quickly. I'm running a temperature for a lot of reasons, mostly exhaustion. But if I had been more willing to manage my anger at those French ticket machines, I'm sure I'd be feeling better today.

I say willing because it's hard to do this. I was right! Those machines were wrong! I already told you why! They should have accepted what was perfectly legal tender! I've put paper money in train ticket machines a 100,000 times in my life! I know what they're supposed to do, dammit!

You see how this works?

Then I got sick. I'm pretty sure it always worked like this. I just failed to notice. So many, many, many things I failed to notice.

The best effect of decades of zazen? I notice things a little tiny wee bit more quickly.

Oh my God it sounds like there's an oompah-oompah brass band with a tuba out on the street! I'd better go.

I will NOT cancel my appearance tonight at 8 pm (20:00) at Dharma Buchladen no matter what! Info is at Be there!


Natur said...

The "Karl-Marx-Strasse" actually belonged to West-Berlin (and hence to West-Germany), althoug you might think it was the other way round because of good old Mr. Marx.

Oliver said...

Hope you get better soon. Terrible thing when you are sick and still need to fulfill your obligations.

Blake said...

I read "Angry Brad" and thought to myself not only have a wasted much of my time being angry but I've wasted even more time playing "Angry Birds."

gniz said...

Comment moderation on again?

As I refuse to believe I'm seriously first.

Anyhoo, I agree with you about the types of things that get us sick. Or rather, get me sick. Anger and stress and anxiety wears me down. Being depressed wears my immune system down.

So all in all it really is bad for me to be angry and upset a lot--it will actually cause me to get way sicker way more often.

I've also noticed that during periods of time where I've let my personal meditation practice slack a lot, I've often gotten profoundly, annoyingly sick. Like having to go on antibiotics type stuff.

Hope you feel better.

Fred said...

Wenn Das Spiel ist zu Ende, es wird
Nichts gegeben.

I don't know if that is correct German, but I like the sound of it.

Sort of like " no-self upon the
absolute. "

It's good to have angry Zen masters. I don't feel so bad when
I lose it. Ask them what "Ruhe" means.

Mysterion said...


Mysterion said...

You know what the French say:

Tout Va Tres Bien

Fred said...

Ruhe und Gelassenheit

Anonymous said...

st. anger

Fred said...

What would be funny if you were
wearing your robes and going
beserk on a ticket machine, kicking
it and swearing. And the press came
along and took a photo.

Anonymous Bob said...

Brad, Could your fevered brain be making the wrong conclusion, believing that your emotion caused the illness rather than the other way around? Hope you feel better soon.

CAPTCHA : dambooy : I kid you not

Doug said...

Hi Brad, sorry to hear you're sick when I fly to Japan with wide and daughter I almost always get a bad cold or flu days later. I get a lot less sick lately though ever since I started going to the gym 1-2 times a week. Boosts the immune system I guess and my blood pressure dropped.

As for trains in the EU, that's a little odd. I used to live Ireland which uses the Euro and their train, the DART, took paper money just fine. Must be a Continental thing I guess. :-/

The DART wasn't the fatest train but I have a lot pleasant memories riding it to/from work, studying Japanese and enjoying the Irish coastline.

Natur said...

"What would be funny if you were
wearing your robes and going
beserk on a ticket machine, kicking
it and swearing. And the press came
along and took a photo."

Hahaha I like you Fred! :-D

J. Thorn said...

According to Rage Against the Machine, anger is a gift ;) Hope that temp drops for you.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Doug said...

@Fred: that would be funny. :)

Don said...

yeah Gniz i hear you with that one, anger and stress take so much energy, getting sick is the body's way of getting a holiday from itself :)

anger is a funny thing, i tend to see it as an extreme form of... ummm.. just action somehow. the impetus to do things. like the difference between fire and a forest fire. one you cook with, the other burns your hose down. but fundamentally the same thing. i think this is a great topic, it's a hard one to put yr finger on, and ppl have madly different views, from total suppression to 'letting it all out'. is anger ok if it is released benignly? is it better to go mental for 20 seconds than spend the next week indulging in low-grade bitching? there is a school of thought that repressed anger leads to depression. Great topic Brad. I agree with the guy on facebook who suggested garlic. It has the added advantage of making you smell like last night's pizza leftovers, so people are not so inclined to sit close to you and catch the bug.

Unknown said...

@Blake, I was relieved to read your comment, as it helps to know that I'm not alone in having an Angry Birds presence floating around in my head. :) (And I deleted the thing from my phone months ago now.)

@Brad Warner, take care and feel better soon. (And if you do decide to scream and kick a ticket machine, please, please have someone take pictures. :)) Thanks for the reminder about the connection between emotions and equilibrium. I forget about it pretty frequently, and wind up somehow surprised that a situation or mood has snowballed.

Lauren said...

These days I view the immediate rising of anger as an unavoidable condition. That is, that it arises from the subconscious depending on how those circuits of the brain happen to be put together (a result of genetics AND conditioning). It's pointless to try and not have that sort of anger, because it is there and active anyways. How one acts on the risen anger is where your choices come in. Over time I suppose one can reshape even their subconscious reactions. I assume this is aided in part by a strong will not to be so angry. But in the immediate sense, if anger pops up, might as well just say "hey, I'm angry" without any "they might thing I'm a bad Buddhist" shame.

Heinz said...

Take a stock ("bouillon") of fresh grated ginger as hot as it gets and then go to bed. And do none none not thinking (hishiryo?, Dogen knows all about that) Fever is over, I guarantee.

Khru said...

This is...without a doubt...the worst comment thread I've ever seen on Bradley's blog...

??? said...

well 1st counting your breath always helps when you realise that anger becomes emotional and 2nd it s just not true that ticket machines at the train - subway stations in germany won´t take paper money . . .

Hoodyman216 said...

German ticket machines will take paper money, but it has to be a 10 Euro bill or less. If you were trying to use a 20 to buy a ticket, it won't work.

chu said...

Brad, When you said some disparaging things about Zeppelin, this goes back a few years, I thought.. This guy doesn't know dick.. But that wasn't the first time I was wrong.

Brad Warner said...

German ticket machines will take paper money, but it has to be a 10 Euro bill or less. If you were trying to use a 20 to buy a ticket, it won't work.

I had to try 3 machines in 2 different stations before I found one that would accept a 10 Euro bill.

In that way, Berlin is like New York.

Louisemouise said...

Thank you for your lecture yesterday.
I was pleased with your honesty.
Perhaps it would be helpful for the attenders to speak from your comprehension of zen how to cope with (foolish)unexpected difficulties of life : unemployment, divorce,sickness and so on.I mean not to stuck too much narrating personal anecdotes but to enlarge the "personal history" in order to use efficient "zen tools".
I wish you a prompt recovery of your health.

anon #108 said...

Hi Brad,

In the last post you commented: "You can do zazen without twisting your legs up that way. Even Dogen was clear about that."

And Doug asked: "...I am glad you mentioned that...Where does Dogen mention this by the way?"

I've read what you've written about this before, and it's clear to me you're no posture Nazi...But as far as I'm aware, Dogen's instructions for zazen only refer to and recommend full lotus or half lotus. Have I missed something? Does he mention and ok any other leg arrangements?

Of course, whatever Dogen said, we can only do what our bodies will let us do. Which doesn't mean that those who try (full or half) lotus and find it uncomfortable/impossible will never be able to it. It took me about 6 months of stretching exercises to be able to sit regularly in half lotus. Now, six years later, I can sit regularly, comfortably in full lotus (but my left leg goes numb quicker). And for me, sitting that way definitely feels different - better - than any other way of doing zazen.

But folks who are genuinely incapable of sitting in lotus or who aren't mentally inclined to, will do whatever they can. What else can you do?

Fred said...

Anger is not a reflection of the
balanced Autonomic Nervous System.
When you operate outside your time
zone in front of an audience in
a different culture your body has
to be secreting larger than normal
levels of cortisol and adrenaline
and the sympathetic system is out
of whack. So Gudo is right.

It is best for me to drop my
opinions and be open to reality.

Mysterion said...

Zen is about living NOW, not 'back then' or 'in the [near] future.'

There's the old story about Les Kaye being asked about 20 years ago: "If there was an incoming ballistic missile from Russia headed toward San Jose, what would you do with you last 7 minutes?"

Les answered: "Finish my tea."

Things which are beyond your control just need to be accepted as beyond your control. So what if the top 0.1% controls 70% of the wealth?

You _can_ vote. But if you choose not to vote [which is within your control], then don't complain about what is (by your inaction) beyond your control.

Accept responsibility for your actions (and inaction).

Zenleo said...

I always get angry about small things that don't amount to nothing, it's a good thing the windows are rolled up on the car sometimes. But as the song says:

Letting the days go by
let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
water flowing underground
Into the blue again
after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime
water flowing underground

You may say to yourself, this is not my beautiful Paper Currency Accepting Train Station Automaton.

...and you may ask yourself My God What have I done?

Zenleo said...

This is the song that really applies here about anger:

Sheep go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell.

It sort of goes with what Lauren said about the way our brains are wired.. face it Brad just like some of us out here you are a Goat.


john e mumbles said...

Anaxagoras said to a man who was grieving because he was dying in a foreign land: "The descent to hell is the same from every place."

Natur said...

"[...]balanced Autonomic Nervous System"

I never understood why Nishijima is talking so much about the autonomic nervous system. I do not think that Zen is just an exercise to balance our autonomic nervous system.

anon #108 said...

Hi Natur,

You write: " I do not think that Zen is just an exercise to balance our autonomic nervous system."

Neither does/did Gudo. You'll find a simple and more complete picture of Gudo's view(s) of zazen here - from the bottom of page 9:

If you read the whole booklet - it's very short - you'll see how these four views of zazen fit into his "Three Philosophies and One Reality" (or "Four World Views") theory. ...Just a theory, you understand :)

Toshogu said...

Yes the LA subway ticket machines do take paper money.

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