Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"I'm already pulled over, I can't pull over any more!"

"...a bird or fish that aimed to move through the water or the sky (only) after getting to the bottom of water or utterly penetrating the sky, could never find its way or find its place in the water or in the sky."
                                                                                         -Dogen. "Shobogenzo"

Welcome to my world! Zen masters emphasize having "One Vehicle" to experience the world. Well, I have one room to experience everything in my apartment! One room for storage, drying laundry, sleeping, working, relaxing, watching videos, surfing the internet, sitting, practicing martial arts.

Well, that's not exactly true. Behind the viewpoint of the camera in the first picture is another area of the same room that is a little smaller. In that space you will find my modest kitchen. Apparently we should not only have "one vehicle", but a very very small one. Look at my perfect tiny sink, and my one tiny perfect burner. The absolute ideal of zen!

Alllll the way across my kitchen about four feet away is my closet. We also hear about the perfect being contained in the imperfect. (Or perhaps it's the other way around when considering "big mind".) It's hard to tell in this picture, but this plastic portable closet of mine is developing a wicked tilt forward. Every month it seems to bend a little more, further manifesting the beauty of the imperfect. When it finally collapses it will be a great masterpiece of zen.

It has taken me a while to become used to my humble domicile, and honestly I'm not there yet if you consider the ideal state to be perfect contentment. I want a bigger place with more rooms, more closets, and a bed. For that I need more money. In order to get more money I need a new job, or at least another one. MORE!

But what would I do with a bigger place that I can't do now? Perhaps my desire for more is insatiable. Upon accumulating that desired more, I may only want more again. I'd like to think I'm a fairly simple guy at the bottom of it all; I just want to enjoy my life. But around that little grove of "enjoying-my-life" is a little elf that encourages me to live my life even more than I'm living my life right now. If only I could get to that one spot he speaks of, then I will finally be able to live. How can I live my life more than I'm living my life right now?

Am I not like a fish or bird that aims to move through the water or the sky (only) after getting to the bottom of water or utterly penetrating the sky?

If only I could accept my state and see it for the perfection it is I could be a happy fish-bird. But we have to do things don't we? Here is a pardox containing two opposites. The flux of the convergence and divergence of these two entities just may be ... something.

Great questions we have. Here and now is no place to attempt explanation of them any further though. For that we will need more time and some specific examples. While I may not be going to aikido as much as I'd like, I've just inundated my library (with the help of Santa) with some new inspiration that will surely be spotlighted in posts to come. Three of which are:

1.) "Shobogenzo", the great masterworks of Dogen, the Japanese priest famous for bringing Soto Zen to Japan in the thirteenth century.

2.) "The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty", written by Soetsu Yanagi, founder of the Japan Folkcraft Museum in Tokyo.

3.) "Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China", written by A.C. Graham.

Well, enough messing around. It's time to ride my bike in the snow so that I can teach some little Japanese kids how to speak English ... or at least keep them from hurting themselves or others or destroying the classroom they visit for an hour today.


  1. I feel you have gone from the beginner steps of gaijin in Japan, on to the next level of life over there. I am glad you continued on your journey. Stay there as long as sanity holds out.

  2. Ah Grasshopper;
    All you really need is a place to keep your Beer, A place to make hot Tea, and enough room to roll around with a girlfriend!