Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Show some emotion; Put expression in your eye...

A “Zen Seminar in English” at the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai HQ in Mita, Tokyo, in February or March 1984. In questions and answers after Gudo’s lecture on Shobogenzo, with ideas far above my station, I thought I would have a stab at expressing my intellectual enlightenment. In response, at least as I experienced it through my warped perception, Gudo seemed to get very angry at me. He went on about how human beings should not try to make themselves into gods. “This tendency is very comical,” he said. He seemed to be ridiculing me in front of everybody. I, whose sensory appreciation was already debauched, both from congenital vestibular dysfunction and from almost 2 years of sitting as if with a poker up my backside and a ruler down my throat, experienced this dressing down as a kind of trauma that seemed to go on for ever.

For several weeks after that I continued going to the Saturday lectures but steadfastly kept my mouth shut. I also stopped going to Gudo’s office to ask questions on Shobogenzo.

Eventually he phoned me up and asked why I hadn’t been asking any questions recently -- as if he didn’t know. After receiving his phone call, I got on my bicycle and went to visit him at his office in Iidabashi at once. “I hope you will recover the courage to study Buddhism,” he told me.

It occurs to me now, as I reflect on my present situation, as I reflect on why Marjory emphasized to me again and again and again: “Listen love, being wrong is the best friend we’ve got in this work,” it occurs to me now that on some deep, deep level I never have recovered my courage completely. All my efforts in pursuit of the Buddha’s truth since that day have been tinged with the fear of being wrong.

From the moment I walked through the door of her teaching room, Marjory had my number. She saw my fear. People who know me less well see anger. But Marjory saw the fear which lay beneath it. Good old Marjory.

Funny how it’s taken me 23 years to let the tears roll down.


Blogger Michael said...

Hello Mike,

I have found that fear has been one of my best teachers. Fear, to me, is the mirror principle writ large.

All the best,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007  
Blogger oxeye said...

mike - I had always imagined my fear to be greater than other people's.. I now think maybe my problem was not so much fear's object but rather a fear of my habit. why would I ever think I should not be afraid? fear is only another teacher.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Email message from my brother:

"Pull yourself together and stop crying, you big poof..."

The little bugger has been waiting nearly 40 years to get that one in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thanks Michael....

Of a spiral staircase made of stone
I dreamt; I knew not why.
I woke at dawn and sat alone,
A stubborn, twisted guy.

For picture to accompany this verse, visit Michael’s blog, One Foot in Front of the Other.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Oxeye.

I think that most of us tend to be afraid not so much of our habits but rather of the unknown, of being out of control.

We fix because we are afraid to let go of the habitual, and be in danger. I fix like that, anyway.

Endeavoring to make fear less unknown, to understand what fear is, has been part of the story of my life -- from being the schoolboy who blushed uncontrollably on the school bus, and wanted to understand what mechanisms were causing this very discomforting physiological reaction.

Most people associate fear with the fight or flight reaction, whose colour is red, but deeper than that is its polar opposite -- fear paralysis, whose colour is white, or blue...

I wish that she were with me
But there’s nothing I can do.
Tokyo in the winter sky
Is black and white, and blue.

That verse, circa 1984, came out of a state of denial. Equally, it came out of a kind of fear paralysis.

I think that what psychologists call denial has its basis in a very deep and very old physiological response -- the response of an animal playing dead, or a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  

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