Last weekend we showed Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen in Boulder and Denver. We had no idea when we scheduled these showings that we’d be up against the Broncos Vs the uhh… Patriots (?) game for the uhhhh… World Domination of Football Grand Prize Thing or whatever it’s called.
This was one of those many times when I feel like I just don’t get it. We heard that the average price for tickets for this game were $900 and that some people were paying $11,000 to see it.
When I hear things like that I just get confused. I wouldn’t pay $11 or even $9 to sit through a football game. It holds absolutely zero interest to me. Which is not to say I’m somehow better than people for whom football is interesting. It’s just that it lies entirely outside the scope of my understanding.
I have to take it as a matter of faith that football games can be interesting things. It is so low on the scale of stuff I’d want to see that even the idea of people paying such ridiculous amounts of money for it would be unbelievable if I didn’t hear it from credible sources.
This is not faith in something supernatural. But it is still a kind of faith because it lies so far outside my own real experience. I might be able to find evidence that tickets actually did change hands for that amount. I might be able to find people who will tell me that football is so incredibly exciting to them that it’s worth that kind of money. But because it’s so different from my experience of watching football — I would literally prefer to watch paint dry and have done so as an alternative when people in places I’m staying have been watching football games — that I cannot truly understand their fascination.
Except for the fact that it’s reported from multiple independent sources, I might even be inclined to think people who tell me football is really interesting are lying to me or playing some kind of weird practical joke. Or maybe they’re not actually interested. It may be a kind of mass hallucination or some kind of hypnotism. Maybe they’ve been brainwashed by a cult! There were times in my life when I really did wonder if this might be the case.
The level of interest I see displayed in football seems to me to have no rational basis that I can understand. I can fathom why people might be interested in playing football. It looks like it could be kind of fun. I used to like slam dancing, which is sort of the same thing. But watching it? That makes no sense to me at all. I’ve tried and it gets painful after about a minute and a half.
When I talk about faith as an element of Buddhist practice, the kind of faith I’m talking about is the kind that I have to use in order to accept that people will pay $900 – $11,000 for a ticket to see the Denver Whoozits play against the God-Knows-Where What’s-Their-Faces for the Heizman Trophy of the Absolute Domination of the Entire Universe Game. It’s a faith that a) watching football can actually be entertaining and b) that with practice I could also learn to find it entertaining myself.
It’s not a faith in anything supernatural. But it is a faith in the real existence of something so outside my personal experience that I cannot understand it.
When I started practicing zazen I had faith that my teachers were not lying to me about their personal experiences with the practice. I had faith that I too could have similar experiences if I applied myself to practice. I could read the stories of hundreds of others who had also found the practice beneficial.
But, at least at first, I could not really understand why anyone would want to sit and stare at a wall for hours at a time. It seemed kind of baffling, the way it seems baffling to me that people would pay actual money to watch a football game.
Sometimes people imagine that what we’re after in Buddhism is some kind of supernatural experience. The ancient sutras sometimes seem to be referring to something magical with their flowery language and talk of heaven-realms and hell-realms, thousand armed Bodhisattvas and so on. But those are just poetic metaphors for things that are hard for those who haven’t encountered them to understand. If you talked to me about “fourth down conversions” or “lines of scrimmage,” I’d be just as confused as would a person new to Buddhism when hearing about Avaloketeshvara realizing that all five skandhas were empty. But what we’re talking about is no more supernatural than what all those millions of people were watching instead of going to see our movie.
By the way, the movie did pretty well even up against the football game. So that was kind of nice. It’s good to know there are some folks out there that like stuff a little off the beaten path.
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If you’d like to pay $900 or $11,000 for reading this blog donate here! Or if you’d rather show your appreciation with a smaller amount every little bit helps! Thank you!
You can see Hardcore Zen for yourself at the following locations (I’ll be at all screenings):
• March 11, 2014 Ithaca, NY
• March 14, 2014 Brooklyn, NY
• April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA