Zen Talk: Our Words Don’t Do Reality Justice

“The instant you speak about a thing, you miss the mark.”

There’s little I find as frustrating as writing the same post twice, and though apparently I can’t possibly capture that frustration in words, I’m going to ask your forgiveness on the skimpiness of this post as it pains me to write it again.

I love this quote. It reminds me of the notion of Platonic forms. That is, we try repeatedly to capture the essence of an idea in its earthly manifestations and as close to our designs as we may come, we never truly capture its essence (not that I subscribe to the notion of Platonic forms, but this does make me think of them).

This quote also speaks to the value of experience. When we experience something we truly live it, but when we attempt to tell of that experience to others, we no doubt miss the mark. Though a shame, it reminds us of the importance of living life for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on this quote?

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Zen Talk: 21 Rules for a Sarcastic Zen Life

Thought this might be a nice change of pace from the usual seriousness of our Sunday Zen Talk days.

The Zen of Sarcasm

01. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the heck alone.

02. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.

03. Its always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

04. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

05. Always remember that you ‘re unique. Just like everyone else.

06. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

07. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

08. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

09. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.

10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.

12. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

13. Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield.

14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

17. Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

19. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.

20. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Got any good ones to add?

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In “Fourth Grade,” South Park Teaches of the Value of Moving Forward in Life

The boys, fearing that fourth grade is going to suck and desperately wanting to return to the third grade, try to make a time machine and travel back. After an episode of attempts to do so, Ms. Choksondick tells them:

“Life isn’t about going back, it’s about going forward. Yes, there are times in our life that we wish we could relive, but, if we already lived them perfectly, why live them again? The adventure of life is that there’s always something new. New challenges, new experiences. A fun game is a game that gets harder as it goes. So it is with life. Do you understand?”

This, I think, is wonderful advice and important for everyone to keep in mind, even if we’re not attempting to make time machines to bring us back to the third grade.

Life is about things getting more challenging and overcoming those challenges and experiencing new things. If life never got harder than multiplication tables and cursive writing then America wouldn’t have won the space race – and what’s more important than the space race if we’re ever going to colonize other planets when the resources of this one no longer sustain us. But let’s not make this geopolitical – let’s keep it personal. Let’s realize the value of adventure and challenge and new experiences and watch episode 412 of South Park.

Did you like this episode? What was your most recent challenge and how did you overcome it?

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Featured Guest, Kush Tavakoli, Talks about The Zen of South Park

Today’s guest blogger is Kush Tavakoli, a friend of mine from college. After we graduated his job happened to be in my home town of Atlanta so whenever I came home, it was great to always have him there. What’s more is that he’s become an integral part of the writing process for The Zen of South Park. He’s going to talk here about his thoughts regarding the book and his experiences working on it. Feel free to leave comments and questions for him or send him an email at kush@thezenofsouthpark.com. Without further ado, here he is:

It is difficult for a work of non-fiction to have an emotional pinball machine effect on the reader.  Religion is an old subject; Christianity, in particular, pervades every aspect of Western Civilization, and even texts that are pointedly anti-religious seem to necessitate religion as a foil to create their own meaning.  The complexity of the issue of religion is such that many, upon reading the book, will have their own preconceived notions on the subject.

In a sense, every person is a potential reader for a book on religion, because every person has beliefs that shape the way that he or she perceives and interacts with the world.  I was a potential reader.  As I read and edited the text, I felt the jerking about of my own proclivities (as Solomon calls them) in response to the messages he elucidates and expounds upon.  Given the fact that we have such preconceived notions, why do we have this pinball feeling upon reading a book that we might think can have little effect on an outlook on life, whatever outlook that is for us, that we have spent so much time considering, testing and revising, and ultimately believing in?

Part of this reaction is Solomon’s use of South Park as the medium for this discussion.  In our long conversations on the subject matter, his use of South Park as the driving force for the book was not just because of its outrageous use of religious subjects, imagery, and topics; it was because South Park actually deals with religion in a much more subtle, sensitive manner than we might discern on our own, because he had a genuine appreciation for their viewpoints, and because it provided a manner for him to explore and convey his own opinions through the underlying points made throughout the book.

South Park is outrageous.  The use of the word “sensitive” in the paragraph above did not refer to pillow talk sensitivity, but to the type of sensitivity one might have performing an autopsy.  What may look like violent mutilation of subjects as serious as pedophilia, crucifixion, global warming, homosexuality, and family, upon reading of The Zen of South Park, looks like careful removal and examination of critical organs of a living entity.  For a child to know that a heart is not shaped like a heart requires the picture of a heart; for an adult to sketch the heart requires the curiosity and discipline to extract and examine a heart for the first time.  For the viewer, witnessing  these gross surgical operations performed by a seemingly unsqueamish doctor results in knee-jerk reactions to the subject matter that more theological or purely rational examinations might not inspire.

It isn’t just that South Park is outrageous that results in these types of reactions.  The complexity of the operations performed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone are such that it is difficult, given the assumed attention span of the reader and the associated publisher’s requirements for the length of the book, to break them down, expose them technically, and convey their meaning – briefly.  Solomon is able to do this, but the speed with which the points are addressed is such that in a few sentences, the reader might react with vehemence to one point, only to find him or herself in staunch agreement later in the paragraph.

Even reading other nonfiction with the speed to point and outrageousness of subject provided by Solomon’s analysis of South Park, the reader might still not experience the feeling of being bandied about quite so forcefully if not for the gravity of the subject.  As mentioned before, every reader has thoughts and opinions on religion.  However consciously  pursued and actively coalesced, and with what degree of conviction, may vary from person to person, but we all have notions, ideologies, beliefs, religion; some framework for understanding the world around us, that this book will, to some degree, challenge.  This challenge provides that force.

When Solomon asked me to comment on his book in the context of my own thoughts on this subject, my first thought was on the specific experiences that have shaped my views on religion, but what I have realized is that the uniqueness of my experience is not as relevant as the fact that I have had an experience, and coming to this conclusion, I can only expect that we all have an experience.  South Park is a challenge, and in many ways, reading this book is an acceptance of a greater challenge: to explore these issues in such technical detail that we are fully exposed to our own spiritual anatomy.  Whether this challenge results in the rethinking of our beliefs, exposing notions hidden buried in consciousness, or a rough confirmation, the challenge is worth accepting.