Sunday, August 16, 2015

Not Zen 170: Different Grasses

She strolled out onto the back porch, put her hands on her hips, and gazed. For a moment, she watched the orange sun sinking behind the clouds. Then her attention turned to her father. He'd been sitting in the garden for half an hour. He remained seated, not moving. She grew concerned that he was ill.

"Why have you stopped planting?" she asked. She strolled from the porch to the garden plot. Her father raised his hand spade and resumed digging.

"Feeling, noticing," he said. He turned up a fist-sized lump of dirt. "Just lost in thought."

"Were you considering planting the alfalfa and onion grass around the entire border of the garden?" She pushed her toe up against the edge of the turned ground. "You said they would serve to keep away pests and then we'd eat them. Or were you thinking of something else?"

"You know, alfalfa grass can pick up the tastes and traits of other plants, especially other grasses."

"Yes, I've noticed."

"Plants aren't completely separate. Species aren't distinct."

"There can be a bit of blending but not much, I think."

"When I was young, I studied myself intensely," he explained. "I know you do the same. I corrected my flaws, corrected my concept of flaws, adjusted myself, and adjusted again. It was a continual process of awareness and improvement. I saw myself as a small part of a great world. The separation between my body and my mind dropped away. The separation between my body and the world dropped away. I came to be at peace."

"That sounds like an achievement." She had known this from growing up with him but she enjoyed hearing hints of his adventurous youth.

He shook his head. "It was only the letting go of desires."

"You have moods but still you seem at peace nearly always. So it must have lasted."

"As I aged," he continued. "I came to realize that what I thought of as my 'self' had many aspects. My concept of the mind was limited. It always would be. My concept of the world was limited. It was a dim flicker, a minimal insight in a sort of monkey-brain, framed by misleading perceptions. The idea of unity in the world became something else, a concession that even the best human actualizations are childish, almost innocent. Our best and worst concepts are part of nature. Our actualizations are like all things natural. They are a bit rough, a bit changing, a bit different than what they seem. My clinging to peace dropped away."

"It still fills you."

"That is natural. Eventually my concepts of myself and of others dropped away. The idea of a self became useless. Sometimes I watch my limited perceptions. That is, sometimes part of me is mindful. But sometimes not. There is a blending of those states, as there is a blending of so many things."

"If everything is one thing, why draw distinctions?” She rolled her eyes. “You are always so satisfied regardless. Why do you do anything at all?"

He laughed. His other hand found a second spade to his left. He held it out for her. She grabbed it by the handle.

"There is not really a me and there is not really an option of doing or not doing. But come," he said as she put a knee on the ground next to him. "Let's plant the different grasses."


  1. Beautiful words. It made me think of French Kiss and the scene where he shows her this box full of scents. She smells the different herbs, mushrooms and assorted things and then drinks a glass of wine he has made and now she can differentiate the different aspects that have permeated the grapes from the environment around them.

  2. That makes me want to see French Kiss. I had to read a summary of it to find out how the scene makes sense. I do a lot of things by smell myself and I can see how your description fits.

    One of my favorite scenes from the book 'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feyman' comes when a magician shows Feyman, as a boy, some of his tricks including a bloodhound trick. But the trick to the bloodhound illusion is that it's real. The magician can smell the difference between a book on a shelf that's been touched and one that hasn't. So can almost everyone.

  3. And yes, of course, I had to test myself a few times for the ability to sniff out a recently-handled book.