Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Peeling Zen Potatoes


Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

I think of myself as a Zen Master. I am not a Zen teacher. Teachers do not come into being until a student appears. The appearance of a student creates the teacher. I have no students.

When a student presents himself to a Zen Master, begging for instruction, he or she is traditionally rebuffed. The student must try harder and more sincerely. One student eventually cut off his left arm and presented it to the Master as proof of sincerity.

When you ask a question of a Zen Master you may be rewarded with 30 whacks from a cudgel. If you fail to ask a question you get the same treatment.

The secret of Zen is that there is no secret. Zen has nothing to teach. When you understand that you may stop your 30 year study under your master and say goodbye with respect. You become the Master.

In 1985, I went to work for a company with 500 employees in 40 offices. The first week the CEO gave me a new IBM XT with four boxes of software. It was our first computer. I took the software manuals to the beach in Sarasota on the weekend. One was DOS 2.3, one was Lotus, another a database and the last was a word processor.

The CEO came back on Monday any I made the ancient computer play "Yankee Doodle Dandee". He was satisfied.

By the end, all 500 staff had laptops, word processing, debit cards, access to accounting reports, e-mail, fast connections over a wide area network and they were keeping track of 1,000,000 donors on a database I designed. We were "ghosting" software installations and running data over fiber optics and big Cisco routers.

I had one idiosyncrasy (well, maybe more than one). When they logged into the domain controller that validated them in the morning, I would put some kind of Zen story into the login script and sign it "Zen_Master". Each morning was a different Zen story. No one ever questioned who the Zen_Master was. This went on for 20 years. Sometimes I gave them an Emily Dickenson poem and they sighed with relief.

Back then I never really understood Zen. Now, because of my advanced age and wisdom, I am a real Zen Master. Here's the deal: it's just life. Get though it. There's no secret. Peel the damn potatoes.

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