Zen and the Art of Whatever

By David Gerrold

@copyright 1997, by David Gerrold, all rights reserved. Please do not reprint these remarks without permission. (And if you do it anyway, please have the courtesy to credit the author and acknowledge the copyright. Thanks!)


Forget about self-help. The "self" is fine just the way it is, it doesn't need any help. Concentrate on empowerment. That will produce far more powerful results.

The gardener doesn't plant the weeds.

Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. "I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day."

I knew a zen master. I asked him about life. He said, "Life is empty and meaningless."

I said, "That can't be so!"

He said, "And it doesn't mean anything that it doesn't mean anything."

And I still said, "No!"

Then he said, "And that gives you the freedom to make it up to mean whatever you want it to."

And I said, "Ahh!"

All the people in the world are gathered in one room, and God asks, "Who wants world peace?" Everybody raises their hand except one man. God asks, "Who wants a war?" The one man raises his hand. God points at him and says, "He wins."

Lack of enlightenment is only a problem to the enlightened.

The computer may not always be right, but it's always the computer.

No beliefs are true. They're beliefs.

A belief system is something you have faith in regardless of the evidence. That's why all belief systems are equally valid. They're equally invalid. Therefore they're all deserving of equal respect. Little or none. Which is why simple human courtesy outweighs the value of any belief system.

Even if a belief system is accurate to the way the universe works, it's still a belief system. That's its trap.

Do you see the invisible cat? Of course not. That proves it's there.

How Do You Lead A Cat?

You walk in front with a can of tuna.

When you can walk in front without the can of tuna, you are a master.

Zen is looking at what's so in the universe.

Belief is looking at your story about what's so.

Q: Why is the universe here?

A: Where else would it be?

You may believe anything you choose. The universe is not obligated to keep a straight face.

The whole concept of mercy is a bit weird and power-freakish, when you think about it.

The subjective umpire says: "I call it as I see it."

The objective umpire says: "I call it like it is."

The zen umpire says: "It isn't anything until I call it."

Efficiency experts are apprentice control freaks. Zen masters are the ultimate control freaks. They control the whole universe by letting it be just the way it is....

I was raised in a large Jewish family, with lots of political and social views represented across the whole spectrum. We had some of the best arguments you can imagine. Can you imagine an eleven year old using the word epistemology in an argument with a stuffy old aunt?

Yes, grasshopper, the universe does owe you a living.

But it's a lifetime job to collect.

It's not over until the fat lady sings, the paperwork has been finished, the last lawsuit has been settled, and the book has been published. It's not over until I get the last word. Unless God wants it first.

A guy I knew at college used to challenge others to a farting contest. They'd go into a closet and whoever left first was the loser. I'm not making this up. He called himself Mayor McFart, because his best ammunition came from McDonald's.

Seems to me that sitting in a closet, making the biggest stink you can and being proud of it, is not really something to brag about. But McFart did anyway. It was funny for a week, I guess. After that ... it was just one more bad smell that wouldn't go away.

Program Zen; {Pascal source code}

Const
It : real = 0;

Function Get (God : real) : real; {God is real, unless declared integer}

Begin
God := not God;
Get := God;
End;

Begin
Repeat Get (It) Until It = not It;
End.

A full cup is useless.

Q: How do you know you're an adult?

A: By trying adult jobs and finding out if you can handle them.

Once upon a time in the deepest darkest days of winter, a little bluebird fell to the snow-covered ground, frozen almost to death. He lay there on the snow, trembling and shivering, certainly doomed - when through the vagaries of fate, a bull walked past, and dropped a humongous wet pile of bullshit right onto the bluebird. Well, the bullshit was so warm and comfortable that in no time at all, the little bluebird was totally revived. In fact, he felt so good that he stuck his head out of the bullsh!t and began to chirp happily, singing as loud as he could - whereupon a hungry owl promptly swept down out of the sky, grabbed him, and ate him.

And the moral to this story is: When you're hip deep in bullshit, don't sing about it.

Life is the opportunity for art.

I don't want to be a computer expert. I want to get some work done.

In three billion years, the sun will still burn out.

A man is walking alone in a stange land, and falls among thieves. He is robbed, beaten, and left to die.

Shortly, a banker comes by, and when he sees the man, walks by saying, "That poor man. He really needs help."

A few minutes later, a local priest happens upon the man and, seeing his condition, walks by saying, "That poor man. He really needs help."

Shortly thereafter a social worker walks by, and upon seeing the man, says, "That poor man. The people who did this really need help."

Techno-Christians expect their computers to rise again on the third day.

Techno-Hindus understand that computer-reincarnation is a matter of karma and $900.

I don't want to be counted. I want to be counted on.

No amount of dollars is worth the sacrifice of integrity or self respect. At best, the dollars are a great way to keep score in the game of life; at worst, they become an end in themselves and we sell out our humanity in the pursuit of them. Given the choice between being rich and being human, I chose human. This was the best choice, because I already am human, and trying to fight what's so in the universe is a recipe for madness.

If Helen Keller falls down in the forest, does she make a noise?

I am my own zen master.

There's no such thing as a zen master.

Anyone who claims to be a zen master isn't.

If you believe in logic, clap your hands!

This is the bad news: The universe is going to do whatever it is going to do no matter how you feel about it. Your feelings are irrelevant to the universe.

When you recognize those areas in which your feelings are irrelevant, it's easy to detach them. Then you can watch the world as if it's a great soap opera and enjoy everything. Watching all these supposed grownups running around poking each other in the eyes with their fingers is better than the three stooges, 'cause these guys mean it.

Detachment also makes it easier to take a stand when it's important to take a stand, because you have a better perspective of your own emotional involvement. I think it's a skill that comes with age and exhaustion  -  when you finally realize it isn't worth going to war everytime someone farts in your direction.

Student asks Zen master: "You eat meat?"

Master reaches into fire and pulls out red hot coal, pops it into mouth and chews it. Swallowing the coal with no outward sign of discomfort, he says, "When you can do that, you can eat steak."

Once you recognize that they cannot enslave your soul, you can be free anywhere.

A student was trying for enlightenment for many years, but could not succeed. One day, the zen master picked up his bamboo cane and whapped him across the head with it. Suddenly, the student was enlightened.

Damn right. I'd get enlightened real fast too if that was the alternative.

Once you become Buddha it is no longer be important to be Buddha.

As the pilgrim prayed beside the road, he was passed by the sick and the crippled and the poor. Seeing them, the pilgrim went down into deep prayer and cried,"'Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?"

And out of the long silence, God said, "I did do something. I made you."

When you're ready to learn, the universe will provide a teacher. In fact, the universe is constantly providing teachers, whether you're ready to learn or not.

Man is not meant to begin sentences with "Man is not meant to...."