ZAZEN

He likes the sitting, at least at first. It does calm him, as it is supposed to, and he knows he needs calm in his life. Even his knees accept the stillness for a while. Soon enough they begin to question the wisdom of this practice. Good for him, maybe, but hell for them, regardless of the position, lotus, seiza, chair. Hurt a bit less, hurt a bit more, but hurt certainly. He can ignore his knees longer and longer each time, but he knows that sooner or later he will give up, when the silence becomes deafening.

KNOT WHAT YOU THINK

“Trying to explain the Old Testament is like trying to untie a series of Gordian Knots.” He said that often, and few argued with him. Whether they did not argue because they agreed, or simply wanted to avoid his unwillingness to cease pushing until the other or others conceded whatever point he was making hardly mattered. He knew nothing about the New Testament. He wasn’t even sure to what it was a Testament, though he could say that of the Old as well. It was just that one set of Gordian knots was enough, unless and until he could find his philosophical scissors, and God only knew where they had gone.

TRUE MEANING

The iguana sits in the tree and stares at me. It isn’t clear whether he is daring me to climb the tree, knowing that I like most humans well into middle age are incapable of the task, or merely showing off, appreciative of an audience. A little child walking by points to the iguana, says, “Mommy I’m tired too and want to get ready for my nap like that monster in the tree.” The iguana nods in agreement.

HIGGS TO IT

He had always wanted to be a scientist. He wasn’t particularly good at math, biology or any of the other sciences, but dreaming didn’t require that sort of aptitude. He imagined he was part of a great scientific breakthrough, something that would change man’s understanding of the universe and life itself. He knew such discoveries were few and far between, but they did happen, so he had a shot. Then, reading some science magazine he discovered his quest. He would find the God particle. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew it shouldn’t take a great mind and a magnifying glass to find a particle that looked somewhat like him.

MIA

Each morning, as he went out on his walk, he would check the street light pole just down his block. He would carefully read the missing cat and dog posters, pause to think whether he might have seen any of the missing animals. He often wondered how many had been found, the missing notices left to fade in the sun and peel away after enough rain. He knew that some had found new homes, wondered briefly what they might have been escaping, hiding out from their owners. And each morning he scanned the pole to see if anyone had reported him missing, but he was the sort of person no one missed, he knew, and so he continued on his walk.

TERMINAL

Birth, he said, is the first and only real terminal disease. You only realize that, of course, when it is far too late and there is nothing at all you can do about it. Cancer and all manner of diseases merely shift the timeline, but once you’re on the path, there is only one way off, and that is a step few are willing to take. For some, this is a source of terror, for others it is no more than a slow walk around the block, with the promise you’ll eventually arrive back at the place you began, although it is no longer the place you began but one from which you begin, not again but anew. Again. This is what the Buddha said 3000 years ago, more or less. He confirmed that the just the other day, outside the soup kitchen. “Hey,” Buddha said, “even the once or twice enlightened need to eat from time to time. Join me?”

AWAITING

He strains mightily to hear the sound of a wolf. He knows the voice of coyote well, and here they are ever-present. But wolf is a different creature. He knows coyote will try to take the shape and voice of wolf. But an elder such as he can tell the difference. Wolf is his totem, and each day the man knows he grows closer to death. He wants to speak with wolf one last time, out here, among the sage and jackrabbits. He wants to sit with wolf and stare at the thickening moon and leave the wolf his story to impart to another generation.