If It's Not Fun I Don't Want To Do It

I'm writing this from the airport, getting ready to get on my flight back to Japan. I just spent two weeks in California visiting my family and friends, and now I'm going back to start Japanese language school and continue with that whole... you know... Zen thing. I hope it will still have me.

America was really fun! There was that coffee shop with animal heads on the wall and not one but two different coffee stations, one for fancy coffee and the other for really really fancy coffee. The British guy pouring hot water over the coffee had a timer in one hand, making sure to pour at correctly timed intervals. There was the deep dish pizza with sausage. There were tacos. There was L.A, and palm trees, and long streets filled with stores selling beautiful, expensive clothes. There was a movie. I was in a movie! I can’t act, but I was in a movie in L.A (it was filming in the living room where I was staying. It was not a porno. Really). 

I love America. I really do. It’s why I keep coming back. I love walking down the street with my friends from college, laughing, and I love the spaghetti sauce my dad cooks, and I love that I can rock a bald head (in San Francisco, at least) and everyone just assumes I’m making some kind of bold fashion statement. I love America's music. That song by Pharell about being happy. That’s really good! Japan doesn’t have anything like that. I love that I can go on the internet and type in a few words and listen to whatever I want. With a video accompanying it.

But something about America- or maybe it’s just lay life? Not sure- makes me really crazy. I think maybe I’m too sensitive for all this. I get really overwhelmed by how many choices and options there are. I’ve never owned a smart phone (a friend pointed out to me that people don’t call them “smart phones” anymore. Now they’re just “phones”). All the new technology makes me batty. I just can’t handle being able to carry around Facebook with me wherever I go and have it "ding" at me whenever someone likes a photo I posted six months ago. I hate being able to text. It makes me more obsessive than I naturally am, which is pretty obsessive.

I learned today that my generation is being dubbed the “face down” generation because we spend all our time looking down at our phones. Apparently, my friends all work in tech now and say things like “My New Year’s resolution is giving up chasing men. I mean, he “likes” my stuff on facebook, but what does that mean in real life?” 

I don’t know. What does that mean? No really. I don’t know what that means. Someone please explain to me what any of this means.

Last post I wrote about (breaking) precepts and fun, and it got re-posted a whole lot. It's bizarre for me to witness this kind of thing, because when I write about sexy things like celibacy, renunciation, and following the rules, no one wants to read that. But when I write posts about how traditional Buddhism is crap and we can make everything up as we go along, people love it. Because... it's America! And we had the fucking tea party! We dumped that tea in the fucking BAY! So take THAT Buddhism and your RULES!! I DUMP YOU IN THE BAY!

I feel conflicted about this. I mean, yes, I want to understand truth for myself and all that good stuff, but I am skeptical of a view of Buddhism that places the individual self at the center and allows the individual self to act as the ruler by which everything else is measured (I mean "ruler" like the measuring tool). The individual self can only understand things based on its own, limited view point, and this isn't about myself. 

Using my own, small self as a ruler isn’t the most accurate way to measure things, because I’ll only ever be able to understand and evaluate things in terms of myself, in the same way that if you were using a standard ruler to measure the Empire State Building, you could only measure a foot at a time. Any measurement would just be in terms of a foot. When I'm using my self as the ruler, if something feels fun to me, I'll judge it as being ultimately good. If it feels bad to me, I'll evaluate it as ultimately bad. I can’t see outside of that, to something larger and more true. This is why I think it's trick to evaluate Buddhist practice (and anything) in terms of personal enjoyment. 

A lot of people I met in America seem turned off by the idea of Buddhist practice that is mostly hard. If it doesn't make me happy, why should I do it? I heard at least two people say, "If it's not fun I don't want to do it." This seems to be the consensus about Buddhism, at least in California where I live. 

"Fun" has never been a part of my Zen practice. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that "enjoyment" figures in at all. That will sound depressing to 98% of people reading this, but I think about 2% will understand what I mean. 

Enjoyment comes and goes. Fun comes and goes. The only thing I know how to do any more is let go. Letting go is the only thing that feels truly and deeply good to me. Letting go is how I enjoy things. 

I love America, and I think modern society is fun. I love my family, and walking through San Francisco, and playing around with clothes, and eating whatever I want, and intimacy and pleasure. And I want more and more of it. I want more connection and love and fun and intellectually stimulating conversation. I want all of it.

I want all of it but I can’t have “all of it,” because I am insatiable. There’s no end. And what is the "it" in "all of it?" There's no way to pin it down, to hold "it." So I’m letting go, again. I’m going to Japan, to a situation where I don’t know anyone (again), and I don’t really know the language (again), all so I can learn to study texts written by a guy who just wanted everyone to leave their families and live in a monastery. I wish I could be one of those people who lives “in the world but not of it,” but I don’t know how. I just know how to renounce things literally. I just know how to leave, to cross continents, to say goodbye, to cut people out, to shave my head, to wear weird clothes I don’t really want to be wearing, to follow a schedule I didn’t make, to study something I am not 100% enthusiastic about, just so that one day maybe somebody will learn something from it. 

I’m letting go again, and it feels really good. 

P.S Part of this whole renunciation thing is that I can't have a normal job. Not because I wouldn't love one (do you have a job for me? In America? That involves writing about Buddhism? Or making green tea?) but because I'm not allowed to work under my visa status in Japan. I'm only allowed to stay in Japan because I am a Buddhist monk, and the immigration office thinks I don't need to work or make money because I should be supported by sangha. So I rely entirely on grants and donations. If you like what you are reading, I encourage you to donate. It would make my day.




    you do not have to publish this part.

    1. I'm letting this post go through because you're my friend and I love you.

  3. I've started a running training program. On the day I didn't want to do it and it was raining. I did it anyway. I'm not sure I enjoyed it. I'll do it again tomorrow. One day I may enjoy it but at night in winter when I'm unfit and lycra screams "old fat guy who cannot even run for two minutes", not fun.

    But underneath it all, a very deep feeling - humans like to run. Closing the gap is not fun. Fun is half the picture.

  4. Awful interesting. Thank you. Keep what's zen, and throw the rest away. Gassho, Myosha

  5. Love you Claire. Wish I could tell you what a normal job is. What I see and feel is that you have enough talent to create one that would benefit all of us immensely. You included! It could be fun, and Buddhism, and struggle, and alive in all the ways you seek.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

So You Want To Practice Zen In Japan?

Burn It All Down