Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nothing Doing

- It's been a few weeks again. What have you been doing?
- Nothing.
- Doing nothing, or nothing you want to talk about? Fine, don't answer. Talking about doing nothing would be doing something, would be an expression falsifying what it expressed. I get it. But do you think it is even possible to do nothing? Like the capitalist is always doing something and never rests, the Buddhist in his monastery sits absolutely still, receiving the world and thinking to do nothing with what is received.
- I've seen plenty of capitalists take their doing for the sake of doing to the limit, so why not Buddhists taking their doing nothing to the limit?
- Well, I don't believe anyone has ever seen such people. Have you?
- I've seen some getting close.
- You have? Good. Tell me about them.
- I have already, many times. Remember the supermarket in Westwood where all those who live with no place to live go to pass the night hours, the dining area under the sign that claims this store is "The Happiest Place On Earth," an outrageous lie much in the style of our new president? To fight back against this invasion of people with no other place to go the supermarket hired a security company who brought in a cadre of obese black women from the South Central L.A. ghetto to do crowd control. When that didn't work, they closed the seating area between 10 pm and 5 am, the market remaining open twenty four hours a day. But they kept coming, those doing their best living with no place to live, spending the nights as they did before they found this supermarket refuge on sidewalk pavements or benches, on church steps or in the bushes on the grounds of the university, in the morning filing back in to the corporate happiest place on earth. The insane, talking back to the voices in their heads, dancing around and raving about this and that, or standing immobile like statues, these the security forces, concerned for their own safety left alone so long as they didn't destroy anything. But if anyone, chronically sleep deprived, sitting quietly let their eyes close more than half a second the obese guards would waddle over and shake the culprits awake, shouting "no sleeping allowed!" then making as rapid a retreat as their obesity allowed, cackling with laughter, soliloquizing 'What a place I work in, what a job I have!' They were so famous that a UCLA fraternity made it part of their initiation to send candidates into the dining area by pairs, shouting obscenities, getting themselves chased about the store by the obese ghetto guards, finally making their way out watching themselves on the video monitor above the door give the camera the finger.
- A Buddhist does his nothing by strict training of mind and body to stay still. How can you say that that group of idlers is doing anything comparable?
- They are disciplined in their own way. They don't drink, smoke or take drugs. They can't, if they are to survive their dangerous way of life. They might take some money from the government for food, the majority don't, but all of them think too highly of their independence than to allow themselves to be locked in institutions for the night in exchange for the gift of a bed in a room of beds occupied by drug addicts, the crazy, the alcoholic, the sick, and the dying coughing their lungs out.
- Come on. The world they receive as they sit dozing in their chairs under the sign locating them in the happiest place on earth, that world is the Internet, right? They all have phones with WiFi. That very store sells the phones for less than 10 dollars.
- It does. But think about it. What is a greater danger to a monk's enlightenment than his vanity at his own superiority and advancement? Receiving the world through the intermediary of the Internet these doers of nothing can't easily come to think they themselves are responsible for the world they see at their ease.
- You can't be serious.
- They are not on the Internet all day as you might expect. They really are doing nothing and want to do nothing, and they are doing it without benefit of any authority above them, or even any real ability to rely on each other or contact with anyone outside. Because of this they do really escape the vanity of the monk in the monastery. Not all of them, of course. You find those not remotely spiritual who like the ghetto guards, feeling they never had a chance, seek to exonerate themselves and blame others for their undeserved suffering.
- And those at the supermarket don't suffer?
- They do, but take little notice.
- But you can't possibly admire them. Like the capitalists are always doing for the sake of doing, never taking a rest, your friends at the supermarket, not receiving much of the world's truth, have nothing to teach the rest of us in our task to manage our lives of doing so we can make our way back back to rest.
- I never said I admired them. I gave them as an example of doing nothing.
- But why should we care? Their doing nothing is only a knack, doesn't involve self knowledge, any control of body or mind?
- Have you heard the argument that the election of our new president might indirectly be a good thing and move us forward because he brings into the open the falsity of capitalism's claim to serve democracy and prosperity for any but the wealthy?
- I've heard the argument. Do you agree?
- No. If the situation eventually teaches us anything it will be no more than a political and economic lesson. We might be led to a new politics and economics, away from worship and hoarding of property and towards voluntary sharing and collective decision making. But once there in our advancement would we have any reason to think the new state of affairs will last?** It looked to us like we'd have continuous progress in our freedoms, but the latest improvements in racial and sexual equality came at the cost of economic slavery and political impotence. If there is a progress of civilization it more likely is a progress not in the way we do things but in the way we don't.
- In the way we do nothing?
- In the way we receive the world when we do nothing. Progress in ideas, spiritual progress. Some have claimed the thousands of monasteries that used to be in Tibet, the hundred thousand monks, were a battery of stored spirituality kept in trust for the world, held for when it was ready to receive it. Could it be that the million in this country who have no place to live may come to play the same role in our lives? They are not vagabonds looking for adventure, they cant no dogma about their spirituality and what they are doing, or rather not doing. The subject doesn't interest them. They've got it managed.
- And what about you?
- What about me?
- Have you got it managed, your doing nothing? Ok, fine, don't answer. Don't think you're fooling me with this nonsense.

Further Reading:
About Buddhism
* Westwood Stories
** Lesser Evil Voting