Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nansen cuts the cat...


Ms. Palin is getting ready for the debate at a time of enormous uncertainty about a highly complicated issue, the unfolding crisis on Wall Street, which makes preparing for the face off especially hard.

And the McCain campaign appears to be leaving nothing to chance. Ms. Palin will spend her preparation time at Mr. McCain’s vacation compound in Sedona, with her husband and children.

I guess they don't have to go to school.


If you get beyond the cultural bias, you might see something...

But none of Nansen's monks can say a word and he kills the cat. Is it fair to kill a living creature just to make dramatic point? A fair question, but one that will toss you right back into the midst of the monks' original argument.

That night when Nansen tells Joshu what happened, Joshu immediately puts his sandals on his head and walks out. What do you make of that? How is putting your sandals on your head "saying a word" of Zen? The danger here, of course, is if we think Joshu's gesture has some deep, esoteric "Zen" meaning. People have interpreted that gesture in all sorts of ways. Some say it's a way of illustrating how topsy-turvy the arguing monks thinking was. In Aitken Roshi's commentary on the case, he says that in old China putting your sandals on your head could be a show of mourning. Maybe a Catholic would automatically make the sign of the cross when hearing about a death. Whatever it "means," it was simply Joshu's spontaneous response to the story, and the immediacy of that response stands in stark contrast to the monks (who up until then had no shortage of words) standing around speechless when asked to "say a word".

Traditionally, Nansen and Joshu are said to each wield a sword: Nansen the sword that kills; Joshu the sword that gives life. Nansen's sword cuts through all thought, all dualism. Nothing is left. What then? Joshu shows how we must respond from that place of no thought. It's not enough to empty our heads of dualistic thinking, we must act.

And, no, no way, no how, the kid's education is not less important than whether Ms. Palin can get to snooker Americans and wind up vice president; she's still snookering Americans.

Life is still suffering, and may be imposed for any of a variety of reasons or no reason at all.

Let's say a word at the right time.

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