Tag Archives: Shunryu Suzuki

It’s the Good Life

good life

 

“Romance… it gives a man something to do while he’s waiting for the only thing he really wants.”

A performer is just that. We earn our money by presenting whatever it is we have learned to do. Sometimes it is as simple as memorizing lines, and at other times it is the result of years and years of physical stunt training.

Our reputation hinges on our consistency. If all we had to do is walk on stage and execute the physical stunt then all our practicing would focus on just that. If we are comedy juggling act then we have to expend as much effort on being at the top of our comic game.

New comedy takes effort and time and practice and ultimately with all of that something might emerge that is repeatable and worthy of becoming part of our show. Stunt training is often a much longer process. We’ll work for months, sometimes years on a trick only to learn once it has made it into the show that it isn’t getting the kind of reaction we had imagined it would.

Every juggling act I know has wasted vast quantities of their precious time on tricks that never make the cut. Yeah, I know, everything accumulates into some positive contribution to what is ultimately presented. But, really the truth is that often what we’ve been working on amounts to a failed experiment and it’s time to get back to the drawing boards.

Living a lifetime on stage is to be caught in the world of performance pressure. We all have pressures, but the pressure to be a consistent top level performer is a particularly stressful life. I am sure a great janitor, a custodian of the finest caliber, can quietly fall off his game for a night. A performer in front of an audience has to face the spectacle of all the mistakes, the diminished emotional energy and general unsatisfied audience’s unfulfilled expectations. Ouch….

After decades on stage it never gets easier. You may find yourself in a polished sure thing vehicle, but if you are a creative you’ll have to move on from that pristine material and explore, and it leads inevitably to the very nature of what it means to be a survivor. I am such a creature.

I am breaking new material in down in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I am playing a string of resorts six nights a week. Remaining in the game, finding a path to being on stage, and reliably executing a practice and creative regime that supports this work I do is to say the least a challenge. Except for one night a week I’m swinging for the fences, looking to connect with my audience, send the ball over the outfield fence, and be the winner of the game. That one day off is golden…

 

 

 

Your One Night Stand on the Front Page

Fletch's cabin small

 

Imagining Hot Spring Honeymoon

Where Love Has Come to Play

“Emptiness does not differ from form. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness,” This ambiguous quote comes from Buddhism’s great teachings contained in The Heart Sutra.

Caught in this paradoxical world of here and now, the fiction writer slashes through all the chaos that we know as life on earth and proposes a pathway for human beings to arrive at a moment of clarity. It happens by chance in a parking lot, on a night like no other, in the arms of a perfect stranger, then a kiss and the answer to a question, and a plunging off into the night together… I see patterns in all this human behavior. Yes, I see taller women with shorter men, but not so often as the other way around.

Ultimately the world is more spiritual than physical, but what would we do if a writer of fiction was trapped in a literary form that had to remain nameless and shapeless? Where would the reader grab hold? We know the answer to that question. The reader would attach to the spirit leaving out the physical earthbound parts of the story. This is the literal neighborhood of life that characters press with their eager lips so they may enter into the ethereal realm. If relationship and love were formless and nameless the reader would be denied the pleasure of imagining characters groping through the delusion and into the beyond of where love’s located. Think of this as loves enlightenment experience, a non-judgmental elixir for the lustful, if such a kind of human pleasure might be allowed to be experienced, beyond the boundaries of conscience. This is where the sauce of love is to be simmered over passions stove.

Sexual farce unmasks the libidinous scaffolding where not such adorable human nature is delineated. This is not where we live, but for many of us it is a place we have once visited, some more than others, plenty having stayed long after they ought to have moved on. Human sexuality as comic farce pokes at uncomfortable truths as well as fallacies. We get into love and out of love by some odd gateway that is both physiologically ornamental and optically invisible.

A good farce is ridiculous, the whole human condition is absurd, but facts are facts and for reasons that can appear to be almost completely unfathomable our human nature urges many of us to find partners that we will want to enjoy intimate sexual behaviors with. There is the revelation, nudity, and all manner of peculiar yet popular physiological maneuvers associated with this part of the story. They must be wildly popular as people the world over repeatedly perform these very same stunts. More often than not this behavior provokes not just bodily desire, but love and the quest for relationship. What these provocateurs do about all this sex is the stuff of comedy and tragedy.

In Hot Spring Honeymoon I tipped the scales of human experience in the direction of laughter and amusement. I dared to explain loves whereabouts as in the proximity of lust, perhaps it is not the prettiest place we might locate this noble human hearted phenomena but certainly one of the more ordinary and naughty places. Maybe that’s sexual farces greatest fun is that it seduces the virtuous reader. And just when we had thought so much of our better natures we find ourselves having to hear the remnants of this other less wholesome and skillful side we all have resting in repose within us.

There is fortune in impulse control, glorious wisdom to be earned by tamping down the error of our own ways. Many of us grow up and get a life, find love and a reliable partner. Because of our lack of fame and notoriety we have not had our most salacious miscalculations splattered across the front pages of the National Inquirer for the whole world to see. Instead if we’ve lived long enough, we’ve quelled this perfectly human aspect of how we have been designed, and now from the lofty heights of at long last knowing better we slip back into our other self and enjoy the guilty pleasure and a good romp through the jungle from where we once prowled. We pass through this life at times tangled in this whole affair to discover we are part prey and at other times we have been shocked to discover inside of us is part predator. Or perhaps, as my wise friend gently urges, “You who are nobly born, remember who you truly are?”

 

Under the Spell of a Golden Gate Wooden sloop, Hull #18 Maestro

Baby in Cradle of the Imagination

Indian summer ignites my passions. I don’t mind a hot summer
day, don’t care for a cold winter night, but those last gasps of balm that
slather my skin as the Northern hemisphere inevitably marches toward winter
stir some deeper part of my yearnings. Because fitting out a wooden sloop is so
time intense they become objects of contemplation. Some days a single task
takes the whole of the day. You get out of a thing what you put into it. Put
your whole back into a marriage and you might just get the life partner your
heart has always dreamed of. So, like the feel of sun on my skin in October the
mere sight of a wooden sloop displaying a refurbished and seaworthy appearance
stirs some illusions I carry in my soul as I quest toward perfections that I
know do not actually exist in reality. And so against the odds a beautiful day
appears between the last storm and before the next. One repaired and soon to be
launched wooden sloop pushes back against the tyranny of all those neglected
hulls dissolving back into the primordial soup from which they arose. My mothers
love for her son was unconditional, absolute, and foundational. As Shunryu
Suzuki would say, “we must find perfection in imperfection.” Work on a wood
sloop beneath the healing beams of an Indian summer day comes close to such a
notion.

 

Bankrupt Heart                                               The Second Novel 

“He had to start over and walk the length of the mast one more time. Seemed by the
time he got to the other end he’d forgot he was supposed to be doing a final
inspection instead of dwelling upon his new job. It was like that for Ry. He
looked up. He turned and looked one direction and then in another direction, he
looked up into the sky, it was blue the air clear the sun warm, he looked down
into the water it was calm, reflecting the sky it was darker but blue, the
siren like high pitched scream of a woodworker cutting an edge with a router in
the distance sounded right to his ear, Palo and Javier were moving boats with
the jitney, Max had just dashed by in his straw hat with his stoic manner, the
yard was alive with one man  painting a
bottom, another man carving out a piece of rot from the hull of a wood boat in
the early stages of a major refit. The long rainy season was giving way to
warmer days. The light of the sun shined more often and longer. The late
afternoon was after a hot shower, if a man had worked to his limit became a time for
satisfaction, for a beer, with the acknowledgement that a hard day’s labor had
moved a project closer to its end.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

When Will You Ever Change

A Place Where Time Stands Still

My first drink in the Mauna Loawas much the same as my last drink. It was with much the same folks who were there the last time I was there. And while the people could not possibly have been the identical group of people there the first time they were linked by some mysterious attractant that somehow pulls these like minded souls to frequent the very same place. I was on tour in and passing through Parker, Arizona and pulled over to catch the Super Bowl. It was an out of Mauna  Loa experience. It was as if the venerable institution had beamed its community from San Francisco south some 600 miles and they had gathered for a convention of the like minded. Of course they came with the same fire in their belly to drink, cuss, shout and cheer for a game that seemed to increase in consequence with the sacred consumption of the spirit laced beverages… Your faithful digitally published author is investigating in long form all evidence of impermanence (I use the word change in my blogs…) , its relevance to helping us understand the passage of our life while here, and nothing could be more of consequence in this journey through change than to have that quintessential close encounter of the neighborhood saloon kind and find that in some defiant,
against one of the fundamental truths of existence that at least in one small corner of the Universe…….some things never change. One more for the road barkeep….

For relaxation at night he went to a place called The Tavern, where he shot pool, drank beer, and idled his time away with the hired help. He could always count on a conversation with Leslie, the bartender, and she seemed to like him.

Tonight Noel was drinking Blitz, the local beer. He had been picking at the label with his fidgeting fingers, the metallic scraps
scattered in front of him. Leslie was a less than demure woman. She kept up a constant discussion with customers at one end of the bar and the other. She wore a long skirt that fell almost all the way to the floor. Tucked into the skirt was a tight turquoise blouse, unbuttoned just enough to allow the fullness of her breasts to fill the open neckline. Lovely and fetching, Noel thought.

Highway Home

A World of Change

San Francisco Bay Bridge at Dawn

“That everything changes is the basic truth of existence.”

                                    Shunryu Suzuki

            We do great harm to our lives when we surround it with worn out old stories. Nothing stays the same. Things are not fixed but rather in a state of flux. We have a lot of change going on in our world. In Japan there is change happening. In our own lives it is happening. It is wonderful in some circumstances to have fond memories of some special moment. Not so wonderful moments take advantage of our minds tendency to cling. We think that Japan is a fixed thing. I look at photographs of centuries old villages here Thursday and now vanished. Everything is gone. They can’t even find the bodies. It is difficult to accept. My mind doesn’t want to believe this can happen (to me). It happens out there somewhere, to somebody else. They were caught in a story. Someone didn’t look both ways before they crossed…. We have this mental trick in our head that tends to be dishonest about reality. We predict when something bad might happen. We avoid certain neighborhoods. We stay off the roads when weather is bad, we hope things will work out. Might be that we would be better served by taking a fresh look every next moment and forget about thinking we know how something might turn out. Might be better to not know how it is going to go. We don’t have to go around believing everything we tell ourselves. I got up Friday morning and it turned out I was wrong about what I believed about Japan. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. That is a fact.