Zen and Seeing
“The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see.” Huang Po
Zen has taught me to notice even more than my naturally inquisitive mind would otherwise notice. Bosses love me, but my family finds me irritating. Sometimes, so do I.
The fourth of July was rough. I have a brother that has drank way too much, consistently, over the years, but don’t call him an alcoholic. That conversation ended badly over twenty years ago. Now he looks like crap. It has all caught up to him. I’m pretty sure he avoided me. I could see why. I am not comfortable just watching him kill himself with beer. When I heard him say he planned on retiring in eight years, I had to leave. I don’t want to be the problem. I don’t want to be the one to say, “Yeah, right. Like you’re going to live another eight years.”
Practicing Zen makes living in a fantasy world impossible. Being around dying people has made pretense seem stupid. Why pretend you’re healthy when the present moment is all you have to spend with your children and prepare them for the real world? I’ve seen too much loss lately. I was never great at pretending, but Zen has made me so much worse. I will do everything in my power to help others not to suffer, but don’t expect pretense. I will “hospice” someone, but I won’t pretend they are not terminal.
It has to be difficult to protect the kids from observing anyone or anything that might contradict the artificial pseudo-reality so carefully crafted. If he felt free to try to tell me (his little sister) whom I could have as friends twenty years ago, he would clearly feel fully entitled to determine his children’s friends today. It didn’t work with me then, in the late eighties; I would love to observe the attempt in today’s internet-savvy, hyper-connected world.
Buddhism is about preventing and alleviating suffering. That’s tough to do when someone is pretending not to suffer.
Zen will destroy your fantasy world (or prevent altogether your development of one). It will prevent the development of “faith” in anything hoped for but unseen. Zen is reality-based. And reality is not always pretty.