Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Have any of you ever been in a pet store and seen a hamster globe?

It’s a clear plastic ball, about the size of a softball. Its two halves lock or open with a twist, and they have several air holes. You put a hamster or a mouse inside, lock the ball closed, put it on the floor, and watch the little critter inside roll it all over the room.

A cat will go crazy batting at the ball and trying to snag what’s inside.

But cats are smart. They quickly decide they can’t get to the hamster for a meal. But it’s all a game, and they have great fun playing with the ball.

Imagine for a minute you are enclosed in a transparent sphere. From inside your bubble you can observe everything. You are cozy because you are shielded from anything that does not agree with you. You are protected from disturbing noises, disagreeable odors, and difficult people. You are isolated from the world.

Everyone, from a monarch to a digger of ditches, has learned from childhood on to create and live in a closed shell.

Such a shell is built around a person’s “me,” a person’s “I.” It’s a protective defense.

Remember the old Star Trek series? Well, such a shell is like the force field around a Klingon battle cruiser. It’s designed to repel, or else filter, anything that is not in agreement with what it protects.

Shells enclose a very small world.

Too often one’s shell is so tight it becomes stifling, which leads to deceptive thinking. That is, if anything that manages to insinuate its way into that small world is not in agreement with the center—the “I” or “me”— the center suffers.

As long as one is bound by one’s small world, one behaves like a bird in a room that has no open windows or doors. A trapped bird flutters against walls, not sure of what it is doing but struggling to escape confinement. In its struggle it often injures itself.

Some humans allow themselves to be trapped birds. They ask “What am I?” Or, “Who am I?” Or, “Do I like this or that?” They struggle endlessly within their shell and harm themselves.

Paradoxically, their concept of “I” is what, in the first place, creates their small world and limits its boundaries. Ironically, this “I” is self-created. It is delusion.

In Zen there is no “I.”

Some religions teach that every human being is a worthless worm, born into sin and living in transgression unless he or she accepts certain manmade principles.

Making threats of recrimination, or dangling carrots of reprieve, is no way to treat the human spirit. Such practices harden people’s shells and strengthen their notion of “I.” People become fearful and guilt-ridden. That causes them to withdraw, to close in on themselves and shrink their world.

A life based on the “I” concept is abstraction, not existence.

Zen realizes existence directly.

Think about it: Zen realizes existence directly.

According to researchers, human consciousness develops largely in one’s teenage years. By consciousness I mean a sense of being-in-the-world. Consciousness is a background against which one’s existence is defined and measured. Consciousness means being coexistent with others.

However, the necessity of coexisting with others often encourages the development of the egocentric “I,” and one looks at all externals as so many tools, so much equipment. Friends and associates become equipment. Parents or children become equipment. Mates become equipment. They exist, in small world terms, only as things to validate the “me,” the “I.” Of course, this equipmentizing reaches in two directions. One’s items of equipment, in return, also treat everyone else as equipment.

Think about it.

With everyone thinking “I,” “me,” and “them,” is it any wonder there is so much alienation in the world? Political systems clash. Christians and non-Christians wrangle. Arabs and Jews disagree.

When one lives in a closed shell everything outside becomes equipment designed to serve the needs of the inner “me.” Everything is depersonalized.

As an example, consider this teacup I have in my hand. At face value this cup is an object for holding tea to quench my thirst. But no more than a tree is an object meant for lumber to build a shelter for me is this cup a mere thing designed for my need or my pleasure.

Perceive this cup. Discover it. Don’t judge it, thinking that you don’t care for its shape, or that its color is not agreeable to your personal taste. Take the time to experience this cup for the unique thing it is. It has shape. It has form. It has color. It has texture. It has an essence of its own.

Furthermore, this cup may seem identical to a matching cup that was made at the same time, but each of the two cups is its own self.

Do away with small worlds. Banish Klingon force fields.

That would make a dandy bumper sticker: BANISH KLINGON FORCE FIELDS.

Experience a tree. Experience this cup or that cup. These are not mere things. Each is significant. Each is as important as any one of us. These items are not pieces of equipment intended to fulfill our ego. Other human beings are not pieces of equipment designed to validate our self.

Everything is unique. Every thing is what it is. Every thing, and every one, is.


Post a Comment

<< Home