“You’re so Zen.”
I hear that every now and then and cringe. I’m probably the furthest thing from it, but I know how to put on a good act, that’s what people see. I’m the pilot who is telling a stupid joke over the loudspeaker while the plane is going down with two smoking engines.
Just because I’m smiling and saying everything is alright doesn’t mean I’m not crumbling slowly on the inside. I just know how to have a good time amid the suffering. That’s how you become a spiritual warrior, with a little humor, a lot of love, and the fervent faith that the universe is more rose than thorn. But when I get pricked I bleed. And sometimes when the sky turns damp I feel gray.
The great Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said:
True mind is the radiant nature of being; while false mind is the faculty of conceiving and discriminating. When we realize true mind, living reality is revealed in its completeness; it is the enlightened life of Zen.
See, I have no idea what that means. The only thing I got going for me is that I’m able to grin and bear just about anything. That’s not enlightenment, that’s just being stubborn.
I’m a writer because my invisible friends are so much cooler than me. They wear stylish threads and speak in clever, witty burst of banter.
It gets so tiring thinking about yourself all the time. That’s why I like to turn my attention to Roberto Clemente and the day he got in the plane, or Amelia Earheart, and the day she found her cat dead in the backyard. There’s so many interesting people in the world, the irony is all the self-obsessed ones are the most boring. That’s why there’s something intrinsically heroic about the homeless; they just don’t give a fuck.
There’s a black homeless man who likes to sit on the bus stop in front of the Coffee Bean at Beverly and Robertson. He wears a lot of leather and red glittery knee bands and seems like some flashback apparition to what Jimi Hendrix might have looked like had he lived and evolved into a disco dude. He has more style than all the Beverly Hills yuppies getting their caffeine fix at the Coffee Bean combined. He never gets on the bus. He’s just chilling. And he’s there everyday. He’s probably one of the only true individuals I see along my thirty minute morning commute down Santa Monica and Olympic.
(I know what I’m doing; I’m trivializing the horrific plight of the homeless in pursuit of some literary goal, a heavy-handed joke at that, and it’s a pretty shitty thing to do on some shitty blog from the warmth of my kitchen with my warm bed in the other room covered with 500 thread-count sheets and a cozy wool blanket. It makes me feel better to project such grandiose notions upon the downtrodden and disturbed, but then worse when it becomes obvious what it is I’m doing — assigning lofty status in substitute of the brutal truth of their suffering — but then I feel better when it dawns on me that realizing ones mistakes, flaws, tendencies, is a sign of growth and awareness, and thus something to feel pride over. I start to feel pretty good about myself, you know, then the truth hits me smack in the face — I’m pulling a carnival trick over my own psyche, and will continue to move the cup hiding the walnut until I’ve fooled it, me, into thinking I’m some benevolent, wise humanitarian. It’s a vicious cycle of ups and downs, the way the mind deceives itself and then discovers said deceit, only to create more elaborate deceits. In the end, after all the commas have been sacrificed, and all the words have been pillage and this parentheses can barely hold any more bloodshed, now that the train of thought has arrived at the station, I believe my literary treatment of the homeless disco dude is neither insensitive, or enlightened, just sloppy and sentimental.)
I find it odd, and troubling, that I can’t recognize any constellations but the stupid, elementary dippers, and that ancient mariners could navigate the mighty seas but I probably couldn’t locate North if it weren’t for the Hollywood hills and the eponymous sign adorned on its green chest. The night comes together and blooms in the cracks, like flowers on the freeway. I’ve driven all over this cement wonderland and I’m still wondering what it is that keeps me so compelled and enlivened by its sweeping streets and elevated freeways? (when people grab their heads and scream that they can’t take this place)
Maybe I like the distance? Maybe I’m in love with a lacuna?
If you haven’t already left me I want to leave you with one last image. An image I once had a picture of on my phone but it’s since been erased in some kind of cell phone spring cleaning binge. I walked down to the (what was at the time) Wamu Bank to use the ATM, this was some months ago when the sky was blue and the sun like a fast food heating lamp. I was grooving to the beauty of the day in my shorts, listening to my Ipod — I was lost in wanderlust, admiring the trees and the graffiti, the bustle of the city going by, waxing internally poetic, but anyway — I looked over into the nearby foliage and saw a white rabbit gnawing on the stem of some small, yet thick, plant. The rabbit had those red, rabbit eyes but was otherwise peaceful and benign. This was on the corner of a busy street, dozens of cars zipping by in either direction, every second, smog and tempers and pollution abound. The rabbit belongs to these two homeless dudes who sleep under the bank’s eaves. They have a cat carrying cage for it. I’ve since seen them feeding it lettuce and carrots. The three of them live there, huddled up against the bank for shelter. I’m not sure if it has a name. The rabbit, that is. The bank is now a Chase.