29 December 2018


a long time ago i used to stay with this zen monk (lol) in boston. i stayed with him initially because his place was so cheap . . . it was just a studio apartment in somerville with a few single-person air mattresses on the ground. if all the beds were taken one night, jon the monk would sleep in the center of the room on his back in a sleeping bag. he wore all black and owned almost nothing. he was writing a book and getting his phd at harvard. years later he would send me that book for free.

but yes: after that first visit i stayed with him on purpose every time, even though the place was cramped and old and kind of drafty in the winter. jon was a real cool guy. instead of going out i would stay inside for hours and talk to him. he was more interesting to me than boston.

anyway: i had this sort of childish question i put to him one day when he was making breakfast, which was (ugh): “jon. i am a little baby. can you tell me what zen is in a few words?”

i have written about this before . . . and have bored dozens of people with my story of his explanation, which was very simple, which is to say it was zen (lol)~

he held out his arm with his palm turned up, and caught something invisible in his hand and closed his fingers tightly around this nothing. he twisted his hand so his clenched fist now faced the ground. he released the nothing from his hand, let it fall away from him.

i was like: “whoa.” i thought about it a lot. it made more and more sense as time went by. i know it sounds silly but it really does make sense to me.

and so once again i twist my hand so my clenched fist is facing the ground and release what is in my hand. i don’t know if this counts as killing my own emotions, but i sure am rid of at least some of them now. good-bye to all that.