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Posts Tagged ‘botox’

I was going to write something grumbly today, something about the decline of real blogging, the decline of writerly bloggers who blog for the sake of it, and without giving themselves the airs of entrepreneurs. You know the type? They’re always offering six easy steps to financial success, and a set of perfect white teeth along the way, the sort of entrepreneurial bloggers who tag my blog daily now as if I’m even remotely interested in what they’re selling. If only they would wise up, admit that, in the great scheme of things, like all of us, they’re simply nobody, going nowhere, and then open their eyes to the world and tell me what they see and feel, in original prose or poetry that seeks no remuneration. Then I’d be interested, and I’d follow back. But I’m not going to write about that.

In truth, I’m a little grumpy because I have the beginnings of a toothache. A bit of filling has dropped out, and my dentist won’t see me for a month. The place was taken over by a corporate brand, a few years ago, the original staff all fired off and replaced with younger, cheaper versions, who now offer botox treatment, white smiles, and other questionable cosmetic enhancements. I sense they now rather look down on the humble, unwashed NHS patient, who simply wants competent dental care and an annual checkup. Anyway, there’s nothing like a bit of naggy pain for refusing admittance to the higher realms of imagination, for imprisoning one instead in this denser version of reality. So we’ll distract ourselves as best we can with the ironing and an exploration of Zen.

How to iron a man’s shirt? Well, first you take the cuff,… or so begins one of those Youtube instructables. It’s a job I’ve taken up more seriously, now I have the time, ironing shirts, trousers, handkerchiefs. I always used to rush it before, and with mixed results. As a kid I had to pick skills up fast, like how to handle a turret lathe, or a milling machine without losing a finger, and all that was before they’d let me near those dangerously sharp pencils in the engineering office.

Once you’ve got the basics, it’s just a matter of practice and focus, and with ironing there’s as much of it to practise on as you want. It also grants an hour or so out of the day, to plug in and listen to lectures on You-tube, which is the main reason I like it, but don’t tell anyone. In particular, I’ve recently discovered a rich seam of wisdom in Alan Watts (1915-1973), many of his recorded interviews, lectures and radio broadcasts being now online.

When plodding a personal metaphysical path, we come to realize there’s no one person who has a monopoly on wisdom. More, there’s always been a succession of teachers throughout time who were able to communicate, or not, in different ways. We might encounter the works of one person and find them too advanced, or too difficult or irrelevant, but we might circle back to them when we’re ready. I think that’s what happened with me and Alan Watts.

Watts had (and still has) an immensely popular following in spiritual and philosophical circles, though various biographies I’ve read suggest he was somewhat shunned by the more orthodox intelligentsia of his day. I find he has a fascinating voice, a compelling manner, an infectious humour, and a canny way of getting across complex ideas, shedding them of their mystique. His topic area is the whole of eastern spiritual thought and seeking a synthesis between it and western metaphysics, but at the moment, it’s his lectures on Zen I’m finding most interesting.

Zen, fares well in the pop culture of the west, with books on “Zen and the art of this, that and the other”. What Zen is though, actually, is a tricky thing to pin down, its subject matter being so ineffable. I’ve read western books on Zen, but none made sense, and the eastern works seemed always to be either laughing or throwing up the shutters at my ignorance. The nearest we can get to it, in western terms, says Watts, is the field of psychoanalysis. This makes sense, suggesting the nature of the mind is bound up with the nature of being, and reality. Watts has opened the door there a little.

The nature of the self – our true self – is generally unrecognized throughout our lives, being too easily mistaken instead for the story of our lives. But, says Watts, when two Zen masters meet, they need no introduction, because each of them knows not only who they are themselves but who the other guy is as well. Each understands there is, as such, no “other”. Both are “it”.

The awareness that grants one’s sense of being is the same awareness as everyone else’s. That’s not an easy thing to grasp. Indeed, it’s somewhat troubling, and near impossible for a materialist to even grant it an audience, since it posits the fundamentally “conscious” nature of reality.

Many pilgrims come unstuck at this point, either unable to accept the universe is thinking itself into being, or they think it’s them, their mind, that’s at the centre of everything, that they are somehow omnipotent. Then their world collapses into a solipsistic delusion with their megalomaniacal ego at the centre of it. The nearest I can get to what Zen, in part, is saying is the western idealist philosophy which suggests the universe is thinking “us” into being and not the other way around, meaning the thinker thinking you, is the same thinker who’s thinking me.

If we can at least work with the possibility reality is structured in this way, it grants us a fresh perspective on life. It allows us to explore reasons why such a thing might be the case, and what it means to be human in the world. It presents also the paradox of waking up to the transcendent nature of reality, while at the same time being trapped within the limitations of this particular version of it. We have our personal functional limitations – like how it’s taking me an age to iron this one damned shirt, when the dude in the video says I should be able to do it in three minutes – but also the fact that the whole of human endeavour is so prone to suffering, and no matter how carefully we build our societies up for the greater good, we cannot help but sow within them the seeds of our own destruction.

As for what Zen has got to with ironing this shirt, I don’t know, except,… just do it, maybe? Nor does it explain the purpose of my toothache, which perhaps only goes to show I know nothing of the true path of Zen, that if I did, I simply wouldn’t mind it.

I’ll tackle ironing a pair of trousers next. Damned tricky things, trousers.

Last word to Alan Watts (audio only):

Keep well all.

Graeme out.

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