Bring Me My Robe Back Please Holokai Brown

I’ll be leading a Zen Meditation class every Wednesday evening at 7:15 pm at Yogavidala 4640 Franklin Avenue LA 90027 corner of Vermont & Franklin in Los Feliz (behind 7-11). Starts tomorrow! Be there!

A couple days ago I returned to Los Angeles from my month-long stay  at Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery. While I was there, I gave two talks. The first one was bad. But it’s somewhere up on the San Francisco Zen Center website (sfzc.org). The second one was called “Dogen’s Monasticism — What’s the Deal With That?” It’s also on the SFZC website and you can listen to it by clicking on the title that I just typed above this line. That one was OK.

Lots if stuff happened to me while I was there. A month in Tassajara is equal to twelve months anywhere else in the world. I don’t really understand why that is. But you’ll find yourself saying things like, “Last week I talked to Bill (or whoever)” and then realize that you talked to Bill (or whoever) that morning. I’m not the only one this happens to. Maybe it’s the water up there or something. I feel this means that my life is extended by a year for each month I spend there. A subjective year, I grant you. But a year is a year.

I worked on the dining room crew again this time, like I did in 2010. So I was ferrying food from the kitchen, pouring coffee, pouring wine (it’s BYOB, but guests often b their own b’s), ferrying uneaten food to the bussing tables, occasionally sampling said uneaten food, and generally helping make the guest season run efficiently if not always smoothly. Tassajara is a Zen monastery. But it supports itself by opening to guests for four months of the year. Some people seem to think that working the summer guest season at Tassajara is not true monastic practice, while doing an ango (or “practice period” in Zen Center Speak), in which there are no guests and the focus is supposed to be solely on zazen, is. These people are wrong.

Guest season at Tassajara is real Zen monastic practice. They wake you up at 5:20 each morning, you do an hour of zazen, a half an hour or so of chanting and bowing, then a short period of temple cleaning all before breakfast. After breakfast you work your assigned job for most of the day. Then there is a service just before dinner and zazen again at 8:30 for another forty minutes before lights out. The rules for students are roughly the same as they are during a practice period, although you are allowed to listen to your iPods or even play guitars as long as they’re far away from the main drag through the monastery.

My robes were stolen. Here’s the story.

Richard Baker came to Tassajara and gave a talk. For both of you who don’t know, Richard Baker was once the abbot of San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara. He was ousted in the early eighties amid allegations of sexual improprieties and financial misconduct. The details are in Michael Downing’s book Shoes Outside the Door: Desire Devotion and Excess at the San Francisco Zen Center.  This wasn’t the first time Baker had been back since his departure. But it was the first time he’d been back in over a decade, and perhaps only the second time he’d visited during his years of exile. He came as part of Zen Center’s celebration of its 50th anniversary. He’d given a talk at SFZC’s City Center in San Francisco the night before.

I found his talk kind of lackluster. Other people loved it. So maybe it was just me. There was so much he could have said. He could have gotten right to the meat of what the problems were that led to his removal from office. But he didn’t. Instead, he talked about… uh… something else. I think it had to do with why monastic Zen is better than lay Zen. I couldn’t really follow it.

I was proud of the dining room crew that night, though. Because Edward from our crew asked Baker how he felt about being vilified by so many people for his actions back in the day, thus calling attention to the immense and stinky wooly mammoth squatting in the center of the room. Baker didn’t really answer him, unfortunately. He just talked about why Germans are less likely than Americans to judge a person by what they’ve read about him as opposed to what they learn from meeting him. Baker has a pretty big group in Germany’s Black Forest region. I wondered if Shoes Outside the Door was available in German.

The next morning weird things started happening. Greg Fain, the tanto (practice leader) at Tassajara, had asked me to act as doshi (officiant) at a number of services. Since the dining room was much closer to the zendo than my room, I’d gotten into the habit of hanging my robes in this little alcove behind it. The alcove is actually outdoors but it’s hidden under a staircase that goes to the women’s dorm above the dining room, so it’s a pretty concealed spot.

When I went to look for my robes to wear for morning zazen, they were gone. I ran back to my room to make sure I didn’t just space out and leave them there. But they weren’t there either. I spent the whole zazen period wondering who the hell would have taken them and why.

Every morning all students at Tassajara gather for what’s called the Work Circle. This is like the Facebook of Internet-free Tassajara where news is exchanged and work assignments are given to those without them. At the end of each Work Circle, students are able to make their own announcements or pleas to help find lost items.

That morning one student, an Austrian fellow in his sixties, said he had found a “large turd” on the pathway near the bath house, which he believed might indicate there was a bear roaming the area. Richard Baker said that he heard two women wandering near his cabin talking very loudly at around 3:30 in the morning. The person who had run the wake up bell said that he’d had to jump over a guy sleeping on the path near the swimming pool and asked whoever it was not to do that anymore. Another person said she heard someone drive a large vehicle into the monastery grounds at about 4:30 AM. Others reported hearing a dog barking. And I announced that my robes were gone and that I’d like them back, please.

It emerged that several people had seen the guy sleeping on the path. But there are lots of weird people at Tassajara. A guy sleeping on the path is unusual, but it could happen. After breakfast I found the inner portion of my robes, the white kimono, wadded up on top of the guest refrigerator stained with blood. But the much more expensive black outer robe called the kuromo remained missing.

Later that day, a guy named Steve discovered a wallet near the swimming pool. There was a driver’s license inside identifying its owner as one Mr. Holokai Brown. That afternoon Tassajara got a call from Mr. Brown’s relatives asking if he’d been seen in the area. It seems he’d gotten separated from a group he’d been hiking with in the mountains. A few days later, Mr. Brown reappeared and asked if he might have his wallet back. Brenden in the office asked Mr. Brown if he knew the whereabouts of a black Buddhist robe. He did. And he agreed to give the robe back in exchange for the wallet. The wallet was sent to the nearest station of the forest service where the exchange was made. About 20 days after this I received my robe back.

I wrote a song about all of this, which I will record and put up in a future installment of this blog.

***

Your donations to this blog are deeply appreciated and will be used for dry cleaning and sanitizing my robes.

 

 

71 Responses

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  1. Fred
    Fred September 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm | |

    “I think it had to do with why monastic Zen is better than lay Zen”

    Richard Baker is an expert on lay Zen.

    1. Anonymous
      Anonymous September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm | |

      Nice one.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm | |

    Good article! Thanks!

  3. waicyum
    waicyum September 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm | |

    What’s up with Baker ? Shouldn’t he at least acknowledge his contribution in possibly destroying all that Suzuki Roshi built and is still building ? Maybe Suzuki was wrong in “picking” him but even the best are still human. Just say it. Dialogue Baker-san

  4. Ted
    Ted September 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm | |

    Wow, I have to say, I’m flabbergasted. What kind of Buddhists are you guys? The Baker scandal was 25 years ago. Are you so young that there’s nothing you did 25 years ago that embarrasses the crap out of you and that you’d rather not talk about anymore?

    Whatever karma he planted then is planted and done. If karma works, it’ll produce a result at some point, which will be a lot worse than what was planted. If karma doesn’t work, then who the hell cares? Buddhism isn’t about dwelling on the past, at least not any version of it I’ve heard of. Certainly not Zen Buddhism. Get some fucking compassion.

    Basically, the way I see this is that the guy who asked the question about the Baker scandal at Tassajara is a fucking asshole, and Baker’s response was entirely appropriate. When students ask me embarrassing questions I try to answer them directly, because teaching from personal experience is always more effective. But the way the question was reported, it sounds like the student wasn’t interested in hearing an answer. In that situation, the teacher is not obliged to give one.

    1. tera dactil
      tera dactil September 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm | |

      I’m mostly in agreement here, Ted, and Brad himself has pretty much said that, however tawdry the sequence of events might have been back then, it’s not wise to make such a big deal out of it. I think the karma already plays out in that there are people who weren’t part of the environment at the time who nonetheless still feel a need to tape him to the wall over it. He’ll always have that asterisk by his name, the same way Barry Bonds does.

      People are more than the sum of their shortcomings.

  5. monkeymind
    monkeymind September 18, 2012 at 1:54 am | |

    Hi Ted

    This is not about Baker’s self-image. Rather, it’s about the people who got hurt, who suffered (to use a technical Buddhist term), and about Baker taking responsibility for what happened.

    Taking responsibility is NOT denial, or victim-blaming, or saying the correct magic formula of an apology and displaying some kind of sentiment, so people will be nice again and pretend nothing happened.

    Taking responsibility is an adult thing, and involves responding appropriately to the actual situation at hand. The sequence of denial (it didn’t happen, or it happened too long ago to be relevant), counter-attack (blaming victims), and displays of contrite sentiment or even tears, is a child’s reaction.

    Teachers can have many qualities, and they don’t have to have all of them all of the time. BUT simple human maturity is an absolutely basic requirement. A person not mature enough to deal with responsibility is simply unfit to deal with people looking up to them for their teaching.

    As to compassion: why do you exclude his victims from your call for compassion?

    Cheers,
    Florian

  6. altmilan
    altmilan September 18, 2012 at 3:36 am | |

    FWIW, Google results for “blood-stained robe”: http://bit.ly/bloodrobe

  7. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 6:33 am | |

    “Wow, I have to say, I’m flabbergasted. What kind of Buddhists are you guys? The Baker scandal was 25 years ago. Are you so young that there’s nothing you did 25 years ago that embarrasses the crap out of you and that you’d rather not talk about anymore?”

    Ted, as a fiction I am responsible for everything this fiction has fictionally done
    and will do. And I must own what I have done to others including creating their
    suffering.

    In the sense that
    “when we find this way, this action is inevitably the realized universe”, the past drama is a dream.

    Brad and Gudo speak about a balance between the realizing self and the self
    operating in the mundane world. Baker has some work to do as a human being.

  8. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 6:40 am | |

    Thanks for the lecture Brad.

  9. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 6:46 am | |

    Bring Me Back My Robe Please, Holokai Brown

    starring Brad Warner and Samuel Jackson

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5pfU3Sd3Aw

  10. kathleen
    kathleen September 18, 2012 at 7:00 am | |

    Blood stains?????

  11. anon 108
    anon 108 September 18, 2012 at 7:21 am | |

    Hi Brad,

    I enjoyed the ‘Dogen’s Monasticism – What’s the Deal With That?’ talk. So what’s the deal with your month-long stays at Tassajara? If daily, even-if-solitary, zazen is the real deal, what do you…erm…get out of your stays at Tassajara Zen Mountain Monestary?

    P.S. So you never found out exactly what happened to your robe and why? It’s like a mystery story?

  12. Mettai
    Mettai September 18, 2012 at 7:23 am | |

    The horror of this is that he’s been invited there as a celebrity for their 50 year anniversary. If you ask the folks that he hurt, some of whom are living there, you have just invited their abuser into their home. It simply shouldn’t have happened.

    Two weeks ago there was an interesting webinar I listened to here: https://faithtrust.webex.com/ec0606l/eventcenter/recording/recordAction.do?theAction=poprecord&AT=pb&renewticket=0&isurlact=true&recordID=5710222&apiname=lsr.php&rKey=5c7a1cd738f7cb74&format=short&needFilter=false&&SP=EC&rID=5710222&siteurl=faithtrust&actappname=ec0606l&actname=%2Feventcenter%2Fframe%2Fg.do&rnd=3377230623&entappname=url0108l&entactname=%2FnbrRecordingURL.do (wow-that’s a long link) about the issue of abuse in zen centers. The bottom line for many was the power imbalance, about which the SFZC centers have done little (there is no authority that can disrobe Fred Baker for instance).

    Until this changes, those of us who are vulnerable and turn to the dharma for help can be used by these monsters. Shame on you SFZC and Tassajara for letting him in again.

  13. anon 108
    anon 108 September 18, 2012 at 7:24 am | |

    monastery*

  14. King Kong
    King Kong September 18, 2012 at 9:25 am | |

    79 YEARS AND I’M STILL PISSED AT THOSE AIRPLANE PILOTS !!!

  15. maryshelldoll
    maryshelldoll September 18, 2012 at 9:25 am | |

    I was at that Tassajara talk by Baker, and I agree with Brad – Baker missed a really profound opportunity to teach the dharma. Instead he chastised Americans for being too judgmental, and praised Germans for minding their own business. He was charming, and said some cool shit, but he didn’t say anything that was meaningful to me, or that encouraged me in my practice.
    Also, the next day, he was really creepy with one of my co-workers. He took up a lot of oxygen at Tassajara. I was glad to see him go. Just sayin’……

  16. anon 108
    anon 108 September 18, 2012 at 9:33 am | |

    Just listened to your other talk, Brad. The one called “Dogen – What’s Up with That Guy?” Thanks.

    A suggestion: How about making it your regular practice to credit Mike Chodo Cross as well as Gudo Nishijima when referring to their joint translation of Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo? Just about every time I’ve heard you refer to the book lately it’s “Nishijima’s translation”. Whether intentional or not, it’s like you’re writing Mike Cross out of the story. Which isn’t fair.

    Also, the English translation of Shobogenzo by Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens entitled “The Eye and Treasury of the True Law,” predates the Nishijima/Cross version by some years (3 vols: 1975/77/and year unknown), and I think comprises all 95 fascicles. Not highly thought of and now out of print, but they did get there first.

    Credit where credit due, I say.

  17. Padma@MyBuddhistLife
    Padma@MyBuddhistLife September 18, 2012 at 9:49 am | |

    Hardcore Zen indeed! Glad you got your robe back.

  18. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 10:44 am | |

    “When we find this place, this action is in­evitably realized as the Universe.

    When we find this way, this action is in­evitably the realized Universe [itself].”

    ~Shobogenzo, Genjokoan, Gudo Nishijima & MIKE CROSS

  19. nozenji
    nozenji September 18, 2012 at 10:56 am | |

    Brad, thanks for the great story !
    I agree with you about the Baker thing. I was at “The Big T” both just before, and soon after Baker’s fall from grace. I imagine he learned a lot from the experience of being booted from the SFZC and he might have shared that with today’s students.

  20. SatisfactionJacksom
    SatisfactionJacksom September 18, 2012 at 11:06 am | |

    An unusual really funny posting

    Attended a talk of Baker in Germany 97 and was not impressed. Seemed average. The topic was mindfulness

    Shoes outside the door is not available in German

  21. Khru
    Khru September 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm | |

    You’d be doing yourself a huge favor if you simply burned your robes as well as all of your other Buddhist symbols, statues, and trappings (yes, pun intended). : )

  22. buddy
    buddy September 18, 2012 at 1:32 pm | |

    this story reminds me of some monastic recollections by koun franz over at nyoho zen:

    ‘One night in the monastery, I slept in a closet to hide from a monk who had gone down to the local village, gotten drunk, and decided upon his return that this was his night to kill me and the monk in charge. I just stayed where he couldn’t find me, and the next day we found our mutual ways back into the normal routine. I watched a monk trying to break a sleeping monk’s face with a kyosaku (but missed, luckily – it was dark). One evening after dinner, after hearing the next day’s job assignments, a monk who felt he spent too much time in the kitchen jumped completely over a table and tried to strangle the shuso (chief novice). I watched a fistfight break out over how much or how little monks should be involved in politics. A monk went crazy one day and basically destroyed a room, like a wild animal trapped indoors. We all waited in the hallway for it to end, then went in and silently cleaned it up.

    For a time, the head monk, hell-bent on saving money, tried to force us to eat rotten pickles every day – so rotten that they had turned from yellow to a deep blue. One afternoon, I just went into the woods, dug a hole, and buried them.

    In winter, when the head monk had to suddenly leave for medical reasons, some of the junior monks holed up in a room for three weeks. They were free, and their version of embracing freedom was to close the door and keep their little kerosene stove burning constantly, with the windows closed, essentially gassing themselves into a constant toxic sleep. They’d stumble out from time to time, looking intoxicated and confused, then wobble down the hall to raid the kitchen. During that whole period, I don’t think I ever heard any of them actually speak.’

  23. Ted
    Ted September 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm | |

    I have to agree that Baker missed an opportunity for a great teaching, but equally clearly he isn’t ready to give it yet. Until we realize enlightenment, we all have bad shit to work through. That’s what samsara is. The fact that someone has something to work on is no excuse for being unkind to them, regardless of what personal history we may have with them.

    From the other side, if after 25 years someone who was present for the bad times with Baker and is still there can’t let go of that experience, that’s a piss-poor recommendation for the practice. This is something I worried about with one senior teacher I heard speak at the Zen center—I hope she was just being modest.

  24. boubi
    boubi September 18, 2012 at 4:26 pm | |

    hi Brad

    Glad you had a good time, haven’t still read your speech.

    I never wanted to ask you about how you “dated” one of your female “sitting buddy”, was there any form of hierarchical relation, you were buddies, yes, but one was the teacher and the other one was the student.

    I can imagine that you didn’t barged in explaining that having intercourse with you was a worthy shortcut to satori, like that bearded das-asshole.

    But there was a degree of dependence, “looking up to the master” stuff, you wrote about in your book very honestly. Did she have that puppy lost look and did you take her fatherly into your arms or was it the kind of “i never fucked a zen master, this is my best opportunity” or rather “it’s my 5th zen master in my list” kind of situation?

    I would never have raised this matter had not been for this article of yours.

    Thanks

  25. sri_barence
    sri_barence September 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm | |

    I just want to say that Tassajara seems like a very weird place. Woolly mammoths and blood-stained kimonos indeed!

  26. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm | |

    The 1st talk wasn’t bad, it was great, and it confirmed some things.

    You say that we are the eyes and ears that “It” uses to experience the universe. You would
    like to call It, God..

    But why not just call it the Realizing Universe, the It that is experiencing Itself through all form
    and thought. There is a point in regular thinking where you can’t go beyond, but this It is there.

    You might even say that manifesting from the inside out, “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find you way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point”

  27. AnneMH
    AnneMH September 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm | |

    hmm, I am going to wonder about how the blood got there, a lot. It seems that somehow this could become a baffling zen story. And I have always wanted to go to Tassajara, but it seems I could just go to Boulder up the road.

    On a serious note, I would love to hear about how retreats are valuable. I see value but I also get stuck in wondering if it is more of a trapping than an essential practice. On one hand all of our practice matters in how we do daily life, however retreat also seems important. Honestly it could justbe sour grapes on my part for not being able to do these retreats so far but I like to see myself as taking this seriously.

  28. Fred
    Fred September 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm | |

    The fundamental point is actualizing the you, and it’s best to be silent and let
    it do its work.

    Fucking the zen master isn’t going to work.

  29. Andrew
    Andrew September 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm | |

    brad, i think you have a mild form of huntingtons, my long comment

  30. boubi
    boubi September 19, 2012 at 3:54 am | |

    You are a nice and decent person, nice to ear you.

  31. Andy
    Andy September 19, 2012 at 6:58 am | |

    @Ted

    “Until we realize enlightenment, we all have bad shit to work through”

    “According to the book San Francisco: The Unknown City by Helene Goupil & Josh Krist, Baker explained his actions by “…explaining that unenlightened people sometimes could not understand the actions of an enlightened person like himself.” (From Sweeping Zen).

    Perhaps Baker is going to keep on missing that “opportunity for a great teaching.” (If there ever was or still is one who thinks along the above lines). Perhaps his response was as good as it gets: don’t expect too much from sole heirs of highly respected teachers, even (or especially) after they’ve been ‘enlightened’.

    I thought the guy who raised the matter did it respectfully. And if you listen to the start of the lecture there had already been a jokey allusion to it, albeit not instigated by Baker (from 5.07: “we can’t resist you… trouble maker). So I don’t think it was out of the way for him to point out the white elephant, seeing as though it had already been tickled (Kannon’s fingers?) and giggled up to the surface.

    It seemed to me that the question did affect Baker quite a bit – he sounded distracted when the woman asked a question immediately after, and needed a time out to have a drink and a joke. I imagine it took some balls to do those two talks at SFZC and Tassajara. Showing up there and facing up in such a way might have done the guy some good – even more so having had to experience a more direct question on the matter (whatever the intentions of the questioner – Kannon’s cannons?). I don’t know if it did anyone else any good.

    Brings to mind Suzuki’s words: “It is not difficult because to sit in cross-legged position is hard, or to attain enlightenment is hard, but it is hard to keep our mind pure, and to keep our practice pure in original way.”

  32. Andy
    Andy September 19, 2012 at 7:08 am | |

    … and brings to mind also something from that Katagiri talk Buddy posted in the last thread, about extending IT into every inch of your life.

  33. Jinzang
    Jinzang September 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm | |

    As far as Richard Baker goes, I know I’d hate to be judged by the worst stuff I’ve done in my life or asked to explain it in front of a crowd of people. I know that means I’m not enlightened yet, but I’ll keep working at it. Before laying a burden on Richard Baker, ask if you’d be able to carry it.

  34. Fred
    Fred September 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm | |

    Sure, what’s hard about being honest. Baker is not enlightened. He gained
    whatever postion he had by raising enough money for Zen to take a physical
    hold in California.

    An ego is something that you have to drag around with you for the rest of
    your life. If you don’t identify with it, you should be able to deconstruct it
    verbally in front of other people.

    The only burden being placed on Baker is the one he lays on himself through
    clinging.

  35. Khru
    Khru September 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm | |

    Fred: “An ego is something that you have to drag around with you for the rest of
    your life. If you don’t identify with it, you should be able to deconstruct it
    verbally in front of other people.”

    This is a good point.

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm | |

    Richard Baker’s cart was turned over because his paramour’s husband became suicidal; maybe that wouldn’t have happened in Germany.

    I heard Baker speak at San Francisco Zen Center, he wrapped up by saying “respond with your concentration.” I’m told he could arrive at the Zendo after a late night of drinking and sitting after sitting, become more centered; an adept, was how he was described to me by the person who observed this.

    Because he was adept at sitting cross-legged and adept at raising money, Shunryu Suzuki had no choice but to approve of his understanding, for the sake of the business of bringing Zen to America. That’s how I feel. What did Suzuki say, something about how sorry he was to do that to Baker, I think?

    Intention produces karma, good karma, bad karma, consequence. There are good things about SF Zen Center, and Tassajara. There are good things about the Sotoshu, and as Brad has pointed out a lot of complaints about corruption among the younger set in Japan, which point to the weakness of any ongoing institution (especially in a tough economic climate).

    Will we find a way to describe the nature of just sitting in terms that everyone can understand (if not experience), or will we stone-wall communication in favor of the business of bringing Zen to America? ‘Course, it’s not as black and white as that, but I see it that way a lot.

    Brad’s good, and he would throw Zen over in a heart-beat for real, all-consuming love. I think that’s what we need, because Zen is about being human to the max, and whatever ability to feel we have out of where we are now is necessary to love what we are.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm | |

    Ok, so Brad said he would give up teaching Zen if it were a choice between that and the woman he loved; truth is, the part that he couldn’t give up, that’s the real Zen to me.

  38. boubi
    boubi September 20, 2012 at 5:21 am | |

    Hi Michel and others internauts.

    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2012/09/-nasas-mars-curiosity-to-examine-odd-rock-en-route-to-mount-sharp.html#more

    Please get acquainted with Jake Matijevic Mars rock.

    Moebius?

  39. boubi
    boubi September 20, 2012 at 5:21 am | |
  40. Fred
    Fred September 20, 2012 at 5:40 am | |

    “Ok, so Brad said he would give up teaching Zen if it were a choice between that and the woman he loved; truth is, the part that he couldn’t give up, that’s the real Zen to me.”

    Yes, but he would still sit with the one he loved, working on the self. So there
    would be 2 Reals there. 2 Actions – love and Zazen.

    I have meditated while having sex, and while drinking up to 8 beers. It was
    bullshit.

  41. Andy
    Andy September 20, 2012 at 6:53 am | |

    @Fred

    “An ego is something that you have to drag around with you for the rest of
    your life. If you don’t identify with it, you should be able to deconstruct it
    verbally in front of other people.”

    I can’t see how this could possibly work in any real situation. All that would be happening is the act of constructing another story; a story constructed in the minds of others in a myriad of different ways.

    We might be able to usefully talk about certain practices as deconstructive, as we may be able to usefully use the term ‘ego’. In this way we would be, at best, providing provisionally expedient intellectual contexts for what we do and how we do it. But what, at any point, is the real story of what is going on, of what happened? And here I’m referring only to how we see into our own lives.

    When we’re talking about a person opening-up their story to others, surely what you are referring to is a person’s ability to engage honestly in such an activity for the benefit of others. This is the realm of personal parables and analogies.

    Perhaps, beyond and through the content, we might get a sense of that person’s (and thus our) humanity in how they offer themselves up while they are talking; and maybe even find ourselves opening up to moments of wisdom and compassion along the way. Something to encourage us to face our own lives with a similar honesty and even courage. Maybe the guy next to us is seeing it differently.

    For me it’s not a case of ‘you should’, but a case of ‘I would have liked’. As to the subject of Baker and his talk, I think it’s reasonable for people present to have preferred that someone with a very public role, whose experiences in that role touch on wider issues than his own personal struggle, to have addressed them.

    And I think it’s also reasonable for folk to feel that just getting up there and facing up is good enough (for them); that the when’s, how’s, where’s and if’s are really a matter for Baker himself, for the person who has actually experienced whatever is now history (still in the making).

    As for the whole area of abuse and victims – well that’s a matter, in each case, for those individuals invested in those experiences or in some capacity of responsibility. The ‘you should’ remainder being how those outside pick over the general ethical bones of how people dealt with stuff and how it relates to wider issues.

    Hey, if someone were actually deconstructing their ego verbally in front of others, I think the audience would be experiencing a strange improv indeed. I imagine it would be something akin to listening to an emotionally charged, linguistic jazz, wherein the speaker interrogated his own statements on the hoof as he rode the crests of image, impulse and intention.

    Zen lectures as post-structuralist performance art. With therapists waiting in the wings, like body-mind first-aiders.

  42. Fred
    Fred September 20, 2012 at 7:59 am | |

    lthe absolute valuel of a thing is neither positive nor negative; it is what is;
    without any intent for the benefit of others.

    Whether its a show about a show called your life is not the purpose. And you
    could argue that any construction is an illusion.

    What gets lost is any discussion involving the slant of a viewpoint is that you
    know exactly what I’m talking about, but you wish to further your own viewpoint.

    You can’t dispassionately look at the milestones of your existence and describe
    how you have fucked people over?

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