twenty-one.

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CAUSTIC REACTION

BEING EJECTED CLEAN FROM THE HUSK

A MEETING WITH AN OLD FRIEND... DETRACTORS

can’t believe I’ve written this, yet it continues on and stronger. Am I any more in control of this pen? It signals to me that it’s time to change. I resist. I try to resist. Shouldn’t I respect my audience, continue building this empire? The answer is withheld, only the sound of a door closing. I just began communicating with a man I met on a retreat at Southern Dharma, before I moved to Providence Zen Center. It was my first retreat, what convinced me to move to a residential Zen center and begin a string of long retreats. Although I hardly remember him, I recall he was very nice, shared his home with me on my way north and found me after all these years — really a gentleman from a moment in time I can hardly piece together, before the training began. What dreams I held then were all proven wrong. Naive, but very fresh, enthusiastic. It would be hard to reconstruct what I was. For this reason it was very difficult to write The Zen Revolution. I prefer the work I do now, the life I have now, the practice, understanding, clarity. I would prefer not to exist rather than go through all I’ve gone through to get where I am today. So it is with a tinge of remorse that I recount the old days with this Southern gentleman, who asks that I fill him in on all the details since. The revolution isn’t enough, he wants details. Is

I

there another way to tell the story? How narcissistic can I be? Another version of my life? Do I get the girl at the end? The treasure I was after? Was there a magical potion to be found? Are unicorns real? Do we live forever? Are your eyes still green? What do you do to survive? Were you a writer then? Do you have any savings? What was Korea like? Do you get lonely? Do you still dream? What is your fetish? Have you ever been arrested? What do you listen to? Have you ever painted your fingernails? Was it your girlfriend? That bitch. I guess you weren’t emasculated... you enjoyed it? Why? ...because it was strange? What kind of quality is that? You like the oddity? Isn’t that the same thing? *** After the interview I flowed into a fiberglass molded seat like a thing of jelly. I understand his curiosity, so allow the probing. All of you. What else? You want to control my limbs? Pick out my clothes? Live my life for me? Go ahead. I’m sure you’re right. Under the glare of your scrutiny I secretly change the channel. Sorry. It was only a fragment anyway. I never existed. For instance, someone remembers me from the old days at big dog radio, a role I played for a few years. It put me on the spot, his expectations. Where had I gone from there? I didn’t figure into his dream. “What was this Zen thing all about?” But the moment in time that identified me to him was such a small thing when I was famous, a rock God lording over the rednecks... maybe a man doesn’t aspire to lording over a dirtbag town, whatever perks. For me it was a downward spiral into the maw of preternatural bliss. The cacophony on the surface became like the clattering of hooves, the ramming of horns; bellows, snorts; the smoke of civilization. “Would you like a cup of milk?” For me, I found the important part and abandoned the rest. For him, I was a dropout, a teenage success gone to withering. But I’ve hardly moved. Whatever it was that fueled the rising

is still boiling in me. It required a larger vocabulary, a world of experience. It is my master, this thing that speaks through me. It doesn’t care for my schoolboy fantasies or passing fame. I write in the dark. Though I destroy what I create, throw it to the ground, it can’t be stopped. I’m powerless against it. No fame or infamy. Though nothing reflects back at me from this dim well, at times I doubt even that I exist, or that I exist empirically, it hardly concerns me. What’s important is that I continue this work — however long, whatever angle, until I am, until he is, fully satisfied. “You’re a writer now? Have you been published?” “Forget it. Five copies only. One for the priest, so he can wipe his ass.” What I’m doing isn’t important. I should’ve remained in the abandoned fields of my youth. Indeed, I’ve never left them. What would it matter if I moved a tree branch? My voice is stifled by the rustling of swamp grass. The crows find their way across the barbed wire. How far will they take me? *** Back underground to a stalled train, the thing chasing me down, to stand with my back against a pillar, to let it catch up to me. What is it, old friend? Did I do something wrong? The bundle of concerns crests and breaks against the wall, now indecipherable, but clearly I see the poor mutterings of those who haven’t found their place, who’ve squandered their lives down dead alleys, who’ve turned bitter. Easy to do, to miss the sweet life spilling out everywhere. The need gets ahead of itself. Constantly scheming... it’s been that way forever. The true voice is there, but you can’t discern it, not until the noise has abated — a real conundrum for my old friends, who constantly create more strife. Truly there’s no hope for them, but you can’t say that. Whatever twisted logic they’ve worked out stands. By the time it gets to you it’s been cooked to a fine patina. There’s no tempering the sauce. My old man was con-

stantly in a rage over nothing. Whatever he’d worked out the kids were all just looking for something to do, trying to escape the leers, the indignation — a pointless exercise. The law is broken time and again for convenience. It’s the police who bear the burden. Are we governable, knowing that nearly everyone is frustrated, driven, full of rage because of their own blundering swath? Why are people so different when you get to know them, when you finally pry apart the veneer and see the primitive workings? Because the dream can’t be made real, and what is real is avoided at all costs. In my case, I was fortunate to have a caustic reaction naturally occurring around me that rose to the point that I was ejected clean from the husk. It wasn’t the practice alone that cured me of my afflictions, but the afflictions themselves. Attempting to attain liberation through practice or faith, how many can accomplish it? Instead we have a lot of people crowding the scene who are after the title, so the landscape we have today. The whole business of attaining the formless realm is subverted by all too human needs, rather we have a placard with someone’s name on it, who cares which one? And a cheap vase with flowers. A lot of quality people on the path refuse to participate in the stampede. After a lifelong practice in obscurity, they are the real jewels of dharma — effectively suppressed by the king of the hill players. Who understands this? I don’t think we’re ready for it. In reality it is the final movement on the stage, for there can’t be anything after. That’s the question you should ask yourself, are you ready to end this affair? The brakes squeal, the passengers fling forward, then back. No one questions it. Two old friends talk through the crowd, what the children are eating. “I’m a fish person.” A man outside easily outpaces us on a bicycle. I get out at Wilshire to get a coffee. Long sitting tonight at the Zen center.

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