Carved Into the Universe

Rote Flora, Hamburg

Rote Flora, Hamburg

Jazzy music at Pizza Pazza at the corner of Juliusstrsse and Schulterblatt in Hamburg. The stocky Mediterranean-looking guy behind the counter is surly but figures out what I mean when I say, “Ein slice of funghi.” The guy before me was apparently arguing with him about something. He grabbed a bunch of old magazines from the counter and put down a coin. The surly pizza man yelled after him, holding up the coin. The guy with the magazines was gone. The counter guy rolled his eyes and slid my slice into the oven.

The cobblestone streets outside are damp from the chilled drizzle all day. Next door is the Rote Flora, an old theater that has been squatted since 1969 and now hosts punk rock shows. The few people in Pizza Pazza might have been from there, but maybe not. There’s hipster couple in one corner, a pair of blonde girls behind me talking intently about something important.

It’s just 9:45, but it feels later to me. I’m fighting a cold. Or ebola. Who knows? I just came back from a grueling Q&A session at the Hamburg Zen Dojo. My friend Logan is dead. I’m sick. I don’t want to talk about fucking Zen.

I want to be in Portland getting high on custom grown weed with you, Logan. Watching stupid videos. I want to be back in Akron at the Clubhouse sitting on the bed with you and Laura eating Riscissi’s Pizza and planning world conquest. Why did you buy Stroh’s? Even I know it’s garbage. Maybe there’s something on at the Daily Double. What a shit hole that place was. Even the name made you want to barf.

What am I doing with my life? People ask me questions as if I have an answer for them. I have no answer. I have thirty years of looking at my own soul and finding there was nothing there to look at after all. I took a vow to save all beings. I couldn’t even save Logan from getting eaten alive by his own guts.

Where are we going? Where do we come from? Why are we here? Does anybody care?

Deepak Chopra made himself a millionaire selling fairy tales about consciousness to people who desperately want to believe they’ll live forever. People blow themselves up on busses because someone said that was how to get to paradise. Famous people kill themselves because they just want the fuck out.

And here I sit in a pizza shop in Hamburg, staring out the window.

My teacher told Jürgen Seggelke, who he named Yudo, “Every action you take in your life is carved into the universe.”

My pizza. Carved into the universe.

Does anybody care? We careen into each other like dodgem cars. We plow through fast food suppers that were once cows that lived a few months in mounds of shit before being dragged off to slaughter houses, trusting their captors. Then we act as if it’s all gonna last forever. Watching fucking Duck Dynasty.

Slam! Bam! Crash! After a while we’re just wandering into department stores, shell-shocked at how it all passed us by. Wondering where everything we understood went. Why are the children we raised on a steady diet of plastic garbage so resentful? Why does their music suck? Why doesn’t anyone listen to me when I rage at the darkness that is another chain restaurant replacing the park where I first put my fingers inside someone and heard her whisper, “Oh God, please, yes”?

Why am I doing this at all? Riding foreign trains to places I can’t even pronounce. Trying to figure out if this stuff in the fridge of the apartment I’m in is sauce or toothpaste or something else. Sitting. Sitting. Sitting. As it all passes by. Lighting incense and candles. Bowing to nothing. Chanting the same stupid shit that they’ve chanted since forever ago because maybe this time it will work.

We’re like icebergs, I told them. What we know is just the tip. The rest of us goes on forever below, unseen, unknowable. We can’t understand it. We can only try to accord with it. You can call it God if you want to. Or you can pretend it doesn’t exist and bang into all the other icebergs.

You can make a statue of it and pray to it to spare you from the fate it has already decided on for you. You can wish for money and sex and power and fame.

Don’t stare at me with those “There he is!” eyes. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

You have made this world. It’s yours and yet you’re asking me to show you the way? What am I going to teach you? Are you even going to fucking shut up and listen if I try? No. You’re not. I never did. Why should I think you would? Don’t answer. Please.

Staring into the darkness of your own mind, what do you see? Are you afraid to look? Of course you are. Duck Dynasty is a lot more easy. There’s a mountain of porn at your fingertips right now. There are things to buy on eBay. There’s Deepak Chopra to tell you it’s all consciousness, that science doesn’t really know shit.

I want some God damned apple pie.

*   *   *

Donate and I can get plane fare to run a memorial for my dead friend. Don’t make me go on Indie GoGo.

*   *   *


Oct 24: Lecture/Movie screening in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab

Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands

Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands  at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00  (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)

Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1,  Utrecht)

Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU

Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 9: Noon — 5pm  Manchester, UK

Dec. 5-7 Three-Day Zazen and Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy (near Los Angeles, CA)



Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland– Movie screening

Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland — Lecture Event

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18 8:00am — 6:00pm Retreat in Bonn, Germany

Oct. 19 4:00pm 3 Schätze Shop Bonn, Germany

Oct 20 Lecture in Hamburg, Germany

46 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. The Idiot
    The Idiot October 22, 2014 at 3:46 am |
  2. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 22, 2014 at 4:47 am |
  3. dharma_duck
    dharma_duck October 22, 2014 at 4:51 am |

    Wow, yes, best post ever for sure!

    Just don’t quit the tour yet… I’m booked for Manchester. I won’t ask any questions, promise.

  4. Michel
    Michel October 22, 2014 at 5:14 am |

    I have felt deeply touched by your rant.

    It is one of the things that make you “real”, like Mike Luetchford once said about you.

    I love you, Brad. (But don’t take it the wrong way, though… :))

    1. Harlan
      Harlan October 26, 2014 at 10:07 pm |

      I love you too Brad. But not like I love my ego.

  5. dougleader
    dougleader October 22, 2014 at 6:27 am |

    Nailed it.

  6. Fred
    Fred October 22, 2014 at 8:04 am |

    Beautiful, Mr. Warner

  7. Fred
    Fred October 22, 2014 at 8:11 am |

    “Deepak Chopra made himself a millionaire selling fairy tales about consciousness to people who desperately want to believe they’ll live forever. People blow themselves up on busses because someone said that was how to get to paradise. Famous people kill themselves because they just want the fuck out.”

    Another couple of weeks on the road, and you write a bestseller.

    Fear and Loathing in Buddhaland

  8. Yugen
    Yugen October 22, 2014 at 8:14 am |

    From one iceberg to another, so sorry for your loss. Best wishes. And thanks so much for your writing.

  9. adam fisher
    adam fisher October 22, 2014 at 8:18 am |

    Good one!

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2014 at 9:20 am |

    I asked Issan Dorsey what he was doing at Hamburger Mary’s, one night when he wandered in. He looked after me once when I stayed at SF Zen Center for a week, and Hamburger Mary’s was definitely his kind of place, catering to the LGBT crowd. He said, “oh, you know, burger and a couple of drinks.”

    I used to dance in the bar there by myself. They had a DJ, Ted; I think everybody called him Tess (the memory fades).

    Hamburger Mary’s is closed, long time now. SF Zen Center goes on, my hat is off to all the good people who have kept the institution alive. Look, there’s Brad, bitchin’ and mumbling to himself over a piece of pizza, keepin’ the place alive.

    Great write, Mr. Mxyzptlk. If I could light a fire and invite you for tea and chocolate, I would. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well, I haven’t found a way to beat colds, my efforts with D3 not withstanding. I sympathize.

    Superman goes on forever:

  11. sri_barence
    sri_barence October 22, 2014 at 9:28 am |

    HOLY CRAP BRAD!! That was one of the best goddamn things I have ever read! Fucking awesome.

  12. Michel
    Michel October 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm |

    I have found a way to beat colds, but it implies walking barefoot in sandals all year round. Not too many people want to try see if it works. But it does… (although not where temperatures get under 0° C.)

  13. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 22, 2014 at 6:58 pm |

    “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” -Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670)

    Nisargadatta Maharaj built a little meditation room above his tobacco shop. There he met with countless seekers over many years. They came to him.

    Maybe its time to not globe trot and just let them come to you, Brad.

    1. Wedged
      Wedged October 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm |

      I agree…let them come.

      and holy shit…crazy post. I could babble but wont. I didn’t think others would unanimously agree, nice.

  14. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf October 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm |


    Gassho, Jundo

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm |

    Michel Proulx, my problem is that by the time I had the money to buy sandals, they were sold out at all the S.F. Bay Area stores (except for Birkenstocks, which I can’t walk in). Seems that all the California suppliers are based in the East Coast.

    Maybe next year I can try your experiment.

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm |

    That should be Proulx Michel if memory serves- pardon.

  17. woken
    woken October 22, 2014 at 11:19 pm |

    This guy is about the same age as Brad. He grew up in a shithole town in America that he loves and hates. He writes a lot of beautiful songs about losing his youth and friends at this stage in his life

  18. UnSan
    UnSan October 23, 2014 at 1:43 am |

    Excellent Brad! I also believe your best post ever…

    It reminded me of something that Kobun said that I know you’re familiar with:

    “When noise, or chaotic situations come, you want to leave that situation to be alone. But there is no such aloneness!

    It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself, which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute. You see yourself as part of the absolute, so you have no more insistence of self as yourself. You can speak of self as no-self upon the absolute. Only real existence is absolute.”

    Apple pie = the absolute?

  19. Leah
    Leah October 23, 2014 at 3:04 am |

    Poor Brad. Suffering over his life choices. Why indeed?

    “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

    Yeah, I know the feeling. Then I decided I didn’t need to “be” anything in particular. I’m just doing what I know how to do and what I do best.

    “Don’t stare at me with those “There he is!” eyes.”

    It’s part of the gig, seems to me.

    Thought you might like this:

    Not like I know the answers to anything either.

    I hear the pain about losing your friend. ((hugs))

  20. Amiga-Freak
    Amiga-Freak October 23, 2014 at 4:31 am |

    “I want some God damned apple pie.”

    Well, at least this problem can be solved. Your’re (were?) in Germany the whole time. Just go into any bakery and buy one!
    Where else than Germany would you get the best damn apple pie in the world?

    And if you really don’t get one, get back to the Benediktushof – I bake you an apple pie personally and meet you there 😉

    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote October 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm |

      you in trouble now, Brad!

  21. Mayneric
    Mayneric October 23, 2014 at 6:08 am |

    A – Fucking – Mazing. I have enjoyed all your books but this post probably hits at the core of how we all feel the best of anything I have ever read. Jack Kerouac can forget his beatnik book, this sums it all up perfectly. You keep standing up when something knocks you down because that’s what “They” say to do. But, every time you stand up you are farther behind, more stuff hurts and you start to feel too tired to move. And in the end all I have to say is “Keep your head up and show them your tougher than they are.” Best wishes.

  22. Harlan
    Harlan October 23, 2014 at 8:00 am |

    Brad that was a good read! Sorry you’re not feeling so good. I guess that will happen when you’re in some foreign land away from your own bed eating strange stuff. Just remember that this too will pass.. uh, until that one time that it doesn’t. But the good news is that you can do absolutely anything you want now. It’s not like you must follow the path as given or burn forever in Hell. You’ve got options. Do I want cake or do I want pie? I guess you already made that decision.

  23. blake
    blake October 23, 2014 at 8:23 am |


  24. Michel
    Michel October 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm |

    Puru wa myouji desu.

    I often write Proulx Michel as this is the normal “administrative” way to state one’s name in France.

  25. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 23, 2014 at 2:01 pm |

    You mean, in American it would be Michel Proulx– that makes sense. Great to meet you, here in Brad’s backyard!

  26. Katageek
    Katageek October 23, 2014 at 7:44 pm |

    That really sucks Brad. I’m sorry you are broke and apparently miserable right now.

    For me, I found that the most powerful hack to the dark night of the broke, frustrated, grieving buddha soul is the phrase “So what?”

    There is no “That’s what” that cannot be “so-whatted.” Therefore “so what” trumps “that’s what.”

    Life throws a lot of “that’s whats” that fucking suck. Right now, you have some big that’s whats right now. You’re broke, getting older, frustrated and grieving and unable to verify if you can attend a friend’s funeral. Those are pretty hard “that’s whats” to deal with in a foreign country.

    “So what?”

    And guess what? Saying it won’t work to make it any better.

    “So what?”

    But … courage.

    “Courage, however, is the best slayer – courage which attacks: which slays even death itself, for it says, ‘Was that life? Well then! Once more!'” – Zarathustra (Neitzsche’s fictional prophet)

    1. Katageek
      Katageek October 23, 2014 at 7:45 pm |

      “SO WHAT!”

  27. The Idiot
    The Idiot October 24, 2014 at 3:16 am |
  28. Fred
    Fred October 24, 2014 at 4:11 am |
    1. Katageek
      Katageek October 24, 2014 at 6:05 am |

      Agreed Fred, without the “so” and raw fucking arrogance, it has no teeth.

      What I love the most about Nishijima is his raw, fucking arrogance.

      And LOOK what is in this post. Raw, fucking arrogance.

      Love it. Love the writer.

      But … (SMILE)

      “SO WHAT?”

  29. Katageek
    Katageek October 24, 2014 at 6:49 am |

    “So what?” is a mind hack for me to let the raw fucking arrogance of reality itself to roar.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm |

      thousands of eyes
      on the tips of the fingers
      and reality itself
      to roar

  30. The Idiot
    The Idiot October 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm |


  31. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 24, 2014 at 9:28 pm |

    Miles, yay, verily.

    You know, I had a whatzit the other day, lodged in my windpipe. I got up to get it out and it was some kind of web widget-thingee- I whacked it with a waffle iron, a number two, and it split into

    Miles Davis- well, what’s up with that, you know, why wouldn’t anyone want to work with whatever and why’sat anything to do with ah so. What.

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 24, 2014 at 9:29 pm |

    “What’s this, Brad, some kind of upaya?…”

  33. Fred
    Fred October 25, 2014 at 7:56 am |

    “Upaya (Sanskrit: upāya, expedient means, pedagogy) is a term used in Mahayana Buddhism to refer to an aspect of guidance along the Buddhist Paths to liberation where a conscious, voluntary action is driven by an incomplete reasoning around its direction” Wiki

    ” I have thirty years of looking at my own soul and finding there was nothing there to look at after all.” There’s no one there and nothing looking

    “Every action you take in your life is carved into the universe.” There’s no one
    there and nothing looking.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm |

      ” I have thirty years of looking at my own soul and finding there was nothing there to look at after all.”

  34. vanMeerdervoort
    vanMeerdervoort October 27, 2014 at 4:06 am |

    That’s a solid post, Brad! Take care. I’d be happy to share another slice of pizza in Utrecht around halloween if you’re around.

  35. tkpriest
    tkpriest October 27, 2014 at 7:27 am |

    Thank you Brad! I cried as I read your post and it was good to be crying. At least I felt one thing real today.

  36. coburn23
    coburn23 October 29, 2014 at 8:02 am |

    Warner, I think you may have the title for your next book :


  37. GantzelCoaching
    GantzelCoaching October 31, 2014 at 2:10 am |

    Great article!
    Sometimes nothing more than feeling helplessness.
    And it hurts. And it sucks that it hurts.
    But it is.

    Thanks, dear Brad Warner, for sharing this with us.

  38. joerg
    joerg November 2, 2014 at 11:58 am |

    In case you’re looking for a place where nobody is, nobody asks questions and nobody knows you, you’re welcome at my empty Dojo! Unheated, though, and without a fridge … no apple pies either.

Comments are closed.