Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's getting impossible to drive around my own neighborhood. First, the city is still digging up the water main along Peachtree Road that leaked in front of my old karate studio and created a huge sinkhole - the road is down to two lanes, bottle-necking traffic in both directions, and now the storefront building is collapsing into the sinkhole. Next, they're building sidewalks along the side road off of which I live, reducing that road to a single lane with flagmen holding traffic up in both directions - it took me 15 minutes to pass the work zone earlier this week. And the latest is some guy, wanted for murder in Florida, climbed a crane in Buckhead and has been perched 25 stories up for 24 hours now, refusing to come down and threatening to jump if anyone gets too close. This has completely shut down all lanes on Peachtree in both directions in the very heart of Buckhead. Sheesh, why bother even owning a car? You can't get anywhere!

The compassionate right-wing pundits on A.M. talk radio are suggesting just hiring a sniper to shoot the guy down - apparently, to them a human life isn't worth the inconvenience of not having easy access to high-end shopping. The poor guy is obviously confused - he can't summon the courage to jump, he's not willing to turn himself in to the police, and he can't figure a way out of the predicament he's got himself into.

It might be difficult, but put yourself in his situation. Things are going from bad to worse - you lose your temper and kill your girlfriend, then flee the state. Out of shame or remorse or what have you, by the time you get to Atlanta, you decide to end it all and see this big old crane towering over the city. Somehow, you get past the security and the construction workers and take the elevator up to the top and then climb out onto the crane itself. But once up there, the height is more frightening than you ever could have imagined, and you can't get yourself to jump. But the next thing you know, the police show up and if you turn yourself in to them, then you'll have to face all your mistakes back home in Florida and you just can't do that. And then, as if that wasn't enough, next the media jumps in, and you're on television and the newspapers and the Internet and talk radio jocks want to shoot you and helicopters are buzzing around like you're King Fucking Kong and there's absolutely no way out . . .

To retreat is to face all of the messes that you've made. To proceed is annihilation. To neither retreat nor proceed feeds a media circus. So tell me, what would you do?

The Red Thread koan is much like this. The prologue reads, "As soon as there is affirmation and denial, the mind is lost in a sea of "yes" and "no." To act freely and unrestrainedly, just as one wishes, is the self-styled practice of anything-goes Zen. To sit blankly, in quietism, is the practice of a corpse. To proceed is to miss the teachings. To retreat is to deny the truth. To neither proceed nor retreat is a dead person breathing. So tell me, what would you do?"

Or, to put it another way,
Not falling, not ignoring,
Odd and even are on the same die.
Not ignoring, not falling,
Hundreds and hundreds of regrets.

- Mu-mon (1183-1260), from The Gateless Gate, Case 02

We don't need a sniper to fix this situation, we need a Zen Master!

1 comment:

Linda said...

What would I do? Reminded of the "jumping from the frying pan into the fire" behavior pattern of my youth. Our culture definitely could use some help in instructing their youth in "frying pan" identification ... Getting oneself into the frying pan thereby places one in the position of perceiving the fire as an alternative to pain.

In the late 80's a Lakota holy person told me my "name" was "Fire Wind Walker" ... hadn't thought about that for quite awhile.