Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

The Stink Of Zen

Napa Bookmine, Napa, California, USA

March 22, 2017

"In studying or practicing Zen, it is of no help to think about Zen. To remain caught up in ideas and words about Zen is, as the old masters say, to 'stink of Zen'." ... Alan Watts

This essay, The Stink Of Zen, is the thirty first in an open group Encounters With A Friend:
  1. Showing Up
  2. Poet Laureate
  3. A Man In The Crowd
  4. Real Men Cry
  5. A Different Set Of Rules
  6. Nametag: A True Story
  7. Half-Life
  8. Waiting On You
  9. Erotica On Schedule
  10. A House On Franklin Street
  11. NeXT
  12. Reflection On A Window
  13. Here And There
  14. How To Enroll The World
  15. Demonstration
  16. Two Of Me II: Confirmation Not Correction
  17. Holiday Spectacular
  18. Hello! How Are Things Going For You?
  19. Regular Guy
  20. A Scholar And A Gentleman
  21. Images Of You
  22. With Nothing Going On
  23. Where No One Has Gone Before
  24. Attachment: Causeway Between Islands
  25. If You're Not Then Don't
  26. Images Of You II
  27. Living Where Life Is
  28. Create Me The Way I Am
  29. How Do You Spell The Sound A Ratchet Makes?
  30. You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining
  31. The Stink Of Zen
  32. Sitting Quietly In A Room Alone
  33. Footsteps On Metal Stairs
so far, in that order.

Is is also the tenth in an open group on Zen:

Note to self: stay present, or else these essays will stink. They'll stink of Zen. Not all of them. But some of them will for sure. That's the truth.

They'll stink of Zen if I don't intentionally bring forth and live critical distinctions. Distinctions such as what, Laurence?

Such as: you can't do Zen; you can't have Zen; you can't even write  Zen; authentically, you and I can be  Zen - or (spoken with rigor) you and I can be with  Zen (better, I like: you and I can come from  Zen). Actually it's not even "you and I can come from Zen" or  "you and I can be with Zen". It's "you and I can be" ie "you and I are", period. Remaining caught up in ideas and words about Zen, costs us the experience  of Zen ie it costs us our experience of being. That's the stink of Zen.

Zen is lived. And there's nothing special  required to live it. There's nothing to get. There's nothing to figure out. Explain it, be smart about it, profess to understand it ... and pretty soon it'll stink. There's the being of Zen, and then there's the talking about it. And being it and talking about it, occur in different domains, both of which are domains over which we human beings do have choice. As long as I'm willing to authentically differentiate between the two (which, by the way, is a discipline in and of itself), both can co-exist. When I don't differentiate between the two, I pay a price - like the well loved monk who plays a cameo role in various Zen stories, behind whom the abbot ie the master of the monastery quietly draws near, giving a terrific blow to his shoulder - whack!  - with the flat of his wooden broadsword.

With all that said, if the stink of Zen goeswith  (as Alan Watts may have said) remaining caught up in ideas and words of Zen, is it even possible to speak Zen's ideas into play to impart it ie to share its profundity, without ruining it? I'm now clear it is (the issue is resolved for me) and here's the incident which got me clear about it.

As I, enrapt, listened Werner presenting a body of his ideas, I wondered if his linguistic mastery itself could unintentionally get in the way of us relating to him as an ordinary human being, given the enormous almost super-human role he brings to bear with ideas and words. I made a mental note to ask him about it sometime.

I got the chance. We were driving in a car somewhere. And I reminded him about that presentation. After a brief moment of reflection (he was recalling the experience and recreating it for himself) he told me the way he is when he's leading, is the way he has to be if it's going to work. He said it with no significance or attachment, just as blandly as if he were telling me he puts on a white shirt, a navy blue sweater, tan slacks, and brown Ferragamo  loafers before he goes out in the morning.

It was, by any stretch of my imagination, a stunning  admission. I opened my mouth to say something to him about it ... then shut it again quickly, my mind blown. I couldn't believe it! I had just listened Werner Erhard differentiating between playing the role  of Werner Erhard, and being who Werner Erhard really is. Now that's  a distinction worth making! He didn't need to make it at all. There would have been nothing off for me if he hadn't. And I for sure  would never have made it myself (ie not until then). But the fact that he made it at all (unasked, I might mention) demonstrated an extraordinarily  wide-awake, bone-numbingly honest intellect at work.

So whither the stink of Zen? Zen stinks when I remain caught up in ideas and words about  Zen. There's no stink when I'm being  it, living it. It's a critical distinction.

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