I wonder if the Buddha had himself a Wingman? It may seem funny to picture such a thing, but in all honesty — it does not seem that unlikely to me.
So, the past week I have had the privilege to get to know a pretty rad person who also happens to be a Soto Zen Priest. He came to town for a week to do various things, and I took the week off to simply go to as many events as I can and see what happens. No, I was not looking for any help, was not looking for any answers, I was not expecting enlightenment; hell I wasn’t looking for anything. I don’t think it works that way, but I did know that this guy has spent over 20 years studying something that I have just now barely begun to scratch the surface of — so hell yes I am going to sit on the ground and stare at a wall for half an hour with the dude.
Zen always kinda pissed me off because it says that there is no soul, no atman, that enlightenment is not what we expect (or want it to be), there no warm fuzzies — no cookie at the end of the tunnel; and I really, really wanted there to be one. This is the Promised Land, this is Hell… it is whatever one you have decided to make it to be.
People just don’t quite seem to get that it seems. In listening to him talk it seems that some people “get” the idea that he is saying that there is none — and they get pissy and leave. Or others understand that he is saying there there is none, but they tell themselves that he is just being really “deep” and that really his point is that we are not supposed to be focusing on the cookie — but really there is a cookie… there has to be right? Nope… there is no freaking cookie.
This Priest also tends to piss off other Priests from time to time. Why? Well, if you ask me it is because he has taken his embrace of reality to such a level of transparency that it makes them uncomfortable. Reality, meaning all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the unsettling — even the parts we do not like to talk about, he talks about. This display and embracing of reality smacks them in the face and they see their own flaws and hypocrisiesin him, and they hate that. They want to walk around in nice robes and smile, and answer tough questions in cute little riddles. They want to think that they have their shit together, and more importantly they at least want us all to think that they have their shit together.
Anyway, for some reason or another, I wound up getting to hang out with him a lot; take him around town, and from place to place. It has been a lot of fun, and I consider him a friend now. I learned a lot this week, but not in that weird-ass “teacher-student” kind-of a way; no I just mean as two guys hanging out. Two people hanging out, being real with each-other, and inadvertently coming to know something about them, life, and even yourself.
I had a couple odd comments from some other Zen practitioners who seemed envious that I was here or there with the guy when they weren’t; like I was secretly gathering some pearls of wisdom that were dropping out of his ass while nobody was looking and hording them all to myself. Shit. It is not like that at all, I just have been having a lot of fun enjoying his company, and I also know when to leave people the hell alone and get out of the way.
I don’t want him to autograph my book of his. Actually I don’t have his book, and I am not going to get one until after he takes off so he won’t confuse me for a fan. Sure I want to read what he wrote, but because I got to know him and I like to know what people I know are thinking about and what they have gone through.
I don’t know, if he was the kind of person that was even looking for a person to “pass on the lineage to” I would be down for that. I think that would be cool as hell, and if Soto Zen priests go to hell if they fail to pass it on to a successor — I guess that’s good enough motivation… although I doubt he believes any of that B.S. The issue though would be that I would not trade being cool with the dude as a friend for finding a Guru. I think I (and he) would rather have a peer than a follower. I suck at being a follower anyway. So I guess if there was a way to learn from him without ever confusing the fact that I am more into the idea of being his friend — I would do it. If not… screw it.
Ah, so anyway, about the whole picking up chicks thing…
I learned a bit this week about the history of Zen, and this form of it; I got some new thoughts to debate over here-and-there; and I did get some tips on how to properly do the “form” better of sitting, posture, hand placement, etc. That was all helpful, and I especially like the tips on form because I really do like traditions and keeping up certain things like that. I learned some things in the various talks given, but nothing that I could not have read in a book or something. Really, my best “Zen Moment” came late one night at a bar.
Yup a bar.
So two Priests are in a bar and a hot chick walks by, and one of them says to the other “Hey check out that girl. She is hot.” and the other says “Humph. I do not notice such things.” What is the difference between the two monks? The difference is that one of them is also a liar.
Here is am with a Zen Priest in a bar (I am having a beer, and he is drinking juice) talking to each other about life, love, hurt, disappointment, pain, joy… all of it. He talks about his divorce, and I open up and tell him about mine. He notices a cute girl that seems interested in him, and I get to be there as he fumbles through hitting on her (like we all do). Is she interested? Am I actually? Is this worth it? Is this going anywhere? All of that. In the end he decides to leave and not take the conversation further. I reassure him that he could have “scored” if he wanted to (and I meant it… he had that one in the bag). He states that there was this other girl he met earlier that had more substance to her, and that he would like to just focus on her instead… she was coming to his talk for sure in a day or two.
When I left that night I was just very peaceful and happy. Happy that I made a friend, that I had a fun night with a cool guy, and also just that I finally realized that I was starting to understand Zen. In seeing his openness, his struggles, his humanity — I realized how there can be and can not be enlightenment at the same time. I understood that there is no escape from suffering, not really, and that is OK! What changes is our perspective on it. We do not stop living though, and with life comes all kinds of ups and downs. This flux at times can be disturbing, but there is a beauty in it all well. It really is a beautiful thing, and not something to be feared.
Tonight he had his talk and the girl showed up. I knew that she was there, and I also knew that after the event there was going to be a kazillion people crowding around the guy asking him questions, and trying to tag along with him wherever he was trying to go next. That must suck. It is like if he wispers to someone “Hey later today can I maybe go to the store” it somehow turns into a group trip.. “Hey everyone the freaking Dali Lamma is going to go to the store — let’s all go too! Group hug!”.
Knowing this I went on the defensive and started telling people not to expect to be hanging out much tonight. I informed people that there was nothing “going on” after the talk and that we were all just calling it a night.
He pulled me aside during the night and mentioned that maybe it would be nice to have some time alone with that person and wondered if I could somehow make sure that others did not get in the way. Before he finished his sentence I smiled and told him that I was already on it.
“You are my Wingman.”
Yes, I got your back.
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