The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
Today was perfectly ordinary which is how I would have my days and how they so seldom agreed to be. I did pause and look at the Yamaha keyboard and remembered that when the Court of the Empress Theresa rejected Mozart, he attended the symphonies of Haydn as a form of consolation. That reminds me that I, once, played the piano not particularly well, but with what my teacher said was a great depth of feeling. Haydn, who I love to this day, had nothing to do with my quitting, it was Handel and his Largo from his opera Xerxes that was my undoing, a burden to large for my smallish hands to bear. I did find a recording of the Largo and listening, gazed at my hands, and for a moment I wondered if they might just have finally grown sufficiently large.
Mrs. Weiskopf lived in a small cottage Mrs. Weiskopf taught piano in her living room. Mrs. Weiskopf had no first name, even checks were to be made payable to Mrs. Weiskopf. Mrs. Weiskopf grew suddenly old, some said, to full fit into her name, no one could remember her ever being young. Mrs. Weiskopf said I must always find Middle C, that everything starts there. Mrs. Wieskopf was not pleased when I said that Middle C was key number 40 on my piano and there was no middle key, only a gap between E4 and F4. Mrs. Weiskopf looked at me sternly and ended my lesson early that day. Mrs. Weiskopf was a great teacher. I think of her each time I sit down and place the doumbek on my lap.
Good night, Sisyphus try to get some sleep. It’s been a long day and you already know the rock will await you when you arise in the morning. I suppose by now you’ve come to realize there is no percentage in pissing off the Gods. Think of this as a personal re-education center where right thinking is the lesson of this and every other day. Did you really think they would let you stand in the middle of the Square openly mocking all of their edicts. Sleep old fellow, we have all the time in the world, it is one of the benefits of immortality.
Enter the room slowly and look carefully, since you are here to find something. There is much within this room, but you can see nothing save the old man, sitting calmly, staring at nothing, staring through you at nothing in particular. You know he is the teacher, the one for whom you have been searching, Still, he ignores you, staring at nothing. You walk around the room, from end to end to end to end and he does not move or speak, and so you leave.
He has given a great lesson, do you appreciate what he has taught you? You walk away angrily, say that he is no teacher at all, that you are no closer to enlightenment leaving than when you entered, for you found nothing but yourself. As you leave the old man bows as teachers do to Buddhas.
A reflection on Case 4 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)