Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Maybe "Get Over Yourself" Can Be a Koan?

If I never hear another pretentious American talking about "the Zen of this" or "the Zen of that", I will have had my fill. "The Zen of X" always comes down to something like, "I've found that such and such activity is relaxing" or "I do this seemingly simple thing, but I pay attention when I do it, so I'm more spiritual than you non-attention-payers". Yes, yes, repetitive physical activity is relaxing and allows the mind to quieten down and come up with creative ideas; you, I, and our elderly Aunt Edna all know that, but Aunt Edna never applauded herself for it or attribute its effect to a religious/philosophical system she didn't practice. And paying attention to clipping your toenails may give you a greater quality of experience, but in the end, you're still just clipping your nails. And, if I may go so far as to contradict any number of women's magazines, clearing the clutter out of your living room doesn't make you or your living room Zen--the room looks better and it may be easier to be in it, but odds are that while you sit looking at your empty table, enlightenment will remain as elusive as ever.

If I were Buddhist , whether Zen or not, I think I would find it a bit offensive that non-Buddhists think they can become Zen masters just by deciding whatever they're doing anyway is Zen--and coincidentally they can sell books about it to others who want to think their pleasant hobby is deeper for them than for other of its practitioners who haven't bought the book. I think if I were from a Buddhist-heavy country, I think I'd petition the UN or something to stop this. But maybe they're all being philosophical about it--i.e., rolling their eyes and getting on with their lives, like sensible people. They can probably find some inspiration for that by studying American Indians, who've long had to endure Americans of European heritage enthusing about how they're "genuine Native American shamans" because they once attended a weekend seminar on it and got a certificate; selling "authentic" plastic dreamcatchers; lecturing Indians of Tribe X on how to build an X sweatlodge; channeling Indian spirit guides, etc.

Me, I'm not so sensible. I think I may start involuntarily channeling Lewis Black when I hear "the Zen of showering/embroidering/soldering/licking popsicles/whatever". And that can't be good for my blood pressure.

If only I could meet some of these people, I could sneak up behind them while they're doing their Zen thing and whap 'em upside the head. It would make me feel better, and I'm sure, being Zen, they'd appreciate my efforts on behalf of their enlightenment.

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