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



Zen And Coffee Cake

Napa, California, USA

December 30, 2017



"Mastery is not about being in an aesthetic place of love and kindness. That's just the beginning of mastery. Mastery is about having the world showing up as it is. And 'I' is just another piece in the world."
... 
"Being is enough. That things are  is exquisite for me."
... Laurence Platt recreating  
This essay, Zen And Coffee Cake, is the twelfth in an open group on Zen: It is also the sixteenth in a group of sixteen on People: I am indebted to Anita Lynn Erhard who inspired this conversation, and who contributed material.




Photography by Anita Lynn Erhard

Petaluma, California, USA

1:30:01pm Monday January 1, 2018
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
There's Zen. And there's practicing  Zen. With practicing Zen, joy comes in being with the thing in itself. A thing (any  thing) is perfect exactly the way it is and  exactly the way it isn't. That's what being perfect means. Something occurs as perfect when you can allow it to be exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn't. And things are  exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't, yes? So looking from Zen (which is to say looking from this  place), you'll see things are perfect (stop lying  about it).

Here's the thing about practicing Zen (ie here's the thing about bringing Zen to bear on life, living, and the world): you're coming from  things are perfect exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't, not because this is the way good  people ought to view life, living, and the world and / or hope and believe it's the way it should be  ... but because it's the way it already really is.

When you get this, you'll notice there's no significance  to things being the way they are and the way they aren't: they just are  this way. Adding significance to things being the way they are and the way they aren't is more arrogance. Now: so what?!  Why do anything  if it's already  perfect the way it is and the way it isn't? Why bother?  Try this on for size: in a transformed context, you do whatever you do and you do it well, not for the points but rather to be with the joy and the elegance of the freedom to create.

If you're going to do anything at all, do it to be with the joy and the elegance of the freedom to create. That's true freedom in life. That's true joy and elegance in life. That's what it is to live the / a good  life. Doing things with Zen (which is to say doing things to be with the joy and the elegance of the freedom to create) is really what a life well-lived is. There's nothing more to it than that. All the rest is either commentary, opinion, or simply being unclear on the concept ie just talking the walk.

I'm watching a master chef (a master baker actually) at work. I have the privilege of being in her kitchen (which is to say in her laboratory)  as she prepares to bake a coffee cake from a decades old handed-down family recipe. Now if you say or find yourself thinking something like "What good is coffee cake?" and / or "Aren't there more important things to attend to in our troubled world than coffee cake?" and / or (harkening to Marie Antoinette) "Let them eat coffee  cake" ("Qu'ils mangent de la brioche au café"), you not only defile the extraordinary ever-present opportunity for Zen, but you also besmirch one of the quintessential possibilities for being human and being alive endowed with the freedom to create simply for the sake of creating. With joy. With elegance.

The elegance with which she works, is remarkable. The precision ie the exactness  with which she follows the recipe* and measures each ingredient's quantity, isn't ordinary in the slightest. The way she sets bowls aside in stages when she's combined the ingredients with which she's now interimly complete, covering each of them with Saran wrap  to protect their contents until she's ready for them again (even if  in the impeccability of her kitchen / laboratory there's arguably nothing to protect them from)  is an education in itself. I'm clear I'm in the presence of mastery. I'm clear I'm in the presence of mastery as it's being lived  ie I'm clear I'm in the presence of a Zen master at work (which is the same as saying I'm clear I'm in the presence of a Zen master at play).

It's finally ready. We sit down at a neat, pragmatically laid table. She cuts two generous slices, offering me one on a plate with a silver fork. I almost don't want to eat mine. Rather, I want to stare  at it - like I'm admiring a work of art (look: no one would seriously think of eating  the Mona Lisa, yes? ...). Eventually I do take a bite.

Mmmm! Mmmm!  ... this is good  coffee cake.



This sumi-e (Japanese word for black ink painting)
circle is derived from the Sanskrit word "sunyata".
It means "emptiness" or "nothingness" in Zen Buddhism.

It was created by Zen master and calligrapher
Yamada Mumon Roshi.
* NANA FRY'S SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE RECIPE


Ingredients.

• butter: coating + 3 tablespoons + 1½ sticks
• 3 eggs
• 1½ cups sour cream
• flour: sprinkling + ¼ cup unsifted + 3 cups sifted
• ½ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
• 1½ teaspoons baking powder
• 1½ teaspoons baking soda
• sugar: ½ cup + 1½ cups
• 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
• ¾ cup chopped pecans
• 1½ teaspoons vanilla
• ¼ cup confectioners' sugar


Preparation.

Remove butter, eggs, sour cream from refrigerator; wait 1 hour.

Coat tube pan interior with butter; lightly sprinkle with flour so it adheres to butter uniformly; cover pan with Saran wrap; set aside.

Dry ingredients:  in a bowl, mix sifted flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda until evenly dispersed; cover bowl with Saran wrap; set aside.

Streusel:  in a bowl, mix ½ cup sugar, cinnamon until evenly dispersed; mix in unsifted flour until evenly dispersed; add 3 tablespoons butter; pinch together into a crumble; mix in pecans; cover bowl with Saran wrap; set aside.

Batter:  in a bowl, cream together 1½ sticks butter, 1½ cups sugar; mix in eggs, vanilla, sour cream; gradually mix in dry ingredients until combined.


Baking.

Put ½ the batter in pan; sprinkle in ¾ of the streusel; add remaining batter; sprinkle in rest of streusel; bake at 350° for 55 minutes until cake-tester comes out clean; leave in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes to cool before removing; dust with confectioners' sugar from a sieve just before serving.


Eat and enjoy.
This sumi-e (Japanese word for black ink painting)
circle is derived from the Sanskrit word "sunyata".
It means "emptiness" or "nothingness" in Zen Buddhism.

It was created by Zen master and calligrapher
Yamada Mumon Roshi.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2017, 2018 Permission