The Man With the Bag

A very nice sunrise over one of my last walks before Christmas and the big snows hit.

I read an article on the Guitar World site that states 90% of new guitarists abandon their effort within a year. I’ve been told figures in that ballpark regarding martial arts training. A month from now will mark my one-year with the guitar. So I have yet to officially beat those odds.

I don’t know how much of the 90% that abandon the guitar within a year are new to musical instruments or have previously mastered another. I recently transitioned from C# (the programming language, not the hard to play barre chord) to Python (not the snake) as my main language. It’s easier to stick with an effort when it’s your livelihood at stake and you’re not starting from Step 0.

But we can do better than striving on the fuel of fear or choosing only to pursue something we’re pretty sure come with high odds for success. We can merrily carry on, content in all dimensions. From an old blog, Three Zen Stories, the one that is the least favorite (as I gather from feedback) is the third. It’s “The Man with the Bag”:

After years of searching for spiritual enlightenment, the seeker spotted an old man walking up a hill, carrying a heavy back slung over his shoulder. He sensed that this man knew something, despite what may have seemed like a burdened life.

The seeker ran up to the man. “I see in your eyes that you know the meaning of life. What is the secret to resolving my unhappiness?”

The old man, let go of his bag, stood up, and gestured as if saying “TAH DAH!!”

“I understand!! Thank you so much, wise man! … But what comes next?”

The old man picked up his bag, slung it over his shoulder, and continued on his way.

Those three Zen stories are the foundation of the teachings of the Eternal Fishnu. Please take a moment to read those three very short stories (somewhat updated for modern times), then come back.

The first two, “The Empty Cup” and “Is that So?”, can seem more attractive than the “Man with the Bag” since there can be immediate, instantly-gratifying results. On the other hand, the notion of mindfully and merrily trekking on has no clear and immediate reward.

But traveling the path without suffering is the entire idea of Zen. The first two stories are what you need to walk your path. It’s all you need. As Willy Nelson said when he lost almost all of his worldly possessions in 1990 due to tax trouble, “As long as I got my guitar, I’ll be fine.”

The path for all of us is more than a meandering hiking trail through through the woods. Rather, the path intersects with other paths at every point. No point is like another – to paraphrase Heraclitus. That goes for everyone, whether Zen masters, Zen novices, those disinterested in Zen, those disheartened by Zen, or Country singers.

That is the true nature of this wonderous world. There is no particular place to get to nor any place to stay. There is never anything truly lost nor anything genuinely gained. There is nothing to abandon and nothing to seek.

If you can see how the seemingly nonsensical preceding paragraph means you should take care of your loved ones, wake up every morning grateful for the day, and keep on practicing guitar, you’re well beyond “the 90%” … right now, this instant.

If you don’t, The Lunar Bodhi Day is coming up on Monday, January 10, 2022. Ponder on this until then. If you still don’t get it. Ponder it until this same time next year. Maybe you’ll find something 90% didn’t give themselves a chance to find.

The art of architecture is to craft what addresses the forces for a unique time and place. It may seem like we desire to solve a problem, sell a lot of that solution, and live carefree forever after. And that the constant drudgery of solving problem after problem might seem like hell.

But the opposite is true. Accept that the Universe in which our sapience finds itself is a dynamic system where every point and moment is unique. Meaning, without the constant change, there is nothing but a static picture. We are an intractable part of every unique instant. When you do, what seems like hell to those who cling to what they think they have will be pure joy for you.

Happy New Year! The number, twenty twenty two, just has a nice ring to it.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

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