We’ve become so bored and boring


“Alas it is the flower of the heart that fades with no outer side of change”.

Outwardly I’m all right, but something fades in the flower of the heart.

Chekov said in one of his plays “we were so full of life and enthusiastic, now we’ve become so bored and boring”.

What’s happened to us? The flower of the heart is faded. The outside is all right. We feel something has gone wrong, but we don’t know what it is, so we try to build up external things. Perhaps if I get a new car, that inner radiance will return, no, well a colour television set in every room perhaps, no, perhaps its  physical, if I got healthy and strong, no, but then I begin to go in for things like learning.

Now there was a mediaeval Japanese story about learning which is quite revealing. A man turned up at this  mediaeval court, it’s supposed to be about 13th century, and that its noteworthy that the local Lords are in the cheerful Democratic traditional Japanese way often presented as rather fools, anyway this local Lord is there and this man turns up his court and asks for a job of employment so the local Lord said:

‘what can you do’

so he says well ‘I know the unusual things that other people don’t know’.

Oh, oh, well that might be useful mightn’t it?

So he takes him on, well, the man’s at the court and then periodically you get these court crises when the accounts are miles behind and they ask him to lend a hand. He says no, no the clerks can do the accountants. I do the things that no one else could do, I know the things no one else knows. In that way he gets out of pretty well everything!

Then the time comes, the Castle, is the near coast, when the fishermen catch, as it’s described, it’s a round slimy thing that doesn’t even have any mouth or eyes. It thrashes about in the net, so they bring it still moving in the net to the castle and the Lord looks at it.

No one has ever seen anything like this before, so he calls. He says now, now’s the time, he’ll be able to ….. its brought along, and the Lord says now this is something nobody knows anything about, what is it?

He looks at it and says well, yes, there are creatures like and the Lord says, evidently there are ’ but what is it’

and the man ponders and says ‘this is what’s called Kowgaraguttsa, this is a Kowgaraguttsa!’

This is a Kowgaraguttsa and everybody is sort of relieved, so the Lord says, yes ‘well now write that down in the court diary, now we know. And his reputation goes right up.

After some years this thing is kept in the court museum, and of course, it shrivels up and becomes a little spiny mass of bones. Then a visitor comes from another part country, and the Lord says to him we caught something very unusual two or three years ago, I don’t remember the name, but it’s very unusual. They bring it out, and the visitors never seen anything like this, even the skeleton of this thing, and he says what is it.

So they look for the court diary but they can’t find it, so they call on the expert on unusual things and the Lords says now you told us what this was, what is it again?

Well, the man can’t remember what he said, so he said ‘this is Hihirihitsu!’

Oh yes, that’s right, and they write it down but then a bit later the court diary is found which has been misplaced and they compare the two entries so the Lord calls the expert in front of ministers ‘that now look you told us the other day this was a Hihirihitsu, but three years ago when it was caught you said it was Kowgaraguttsa how do you account for this?’

The man said well yes it would certainly appear there was a contradiction in the…. but the fact is although there might seem that there was a contradiction the fact is that when its alive it’s  called Kowgaraguttsa and when its dead it’s called Hihirihitsu. And the lord is very very impressed.

Well this story, by incidentally, a Zen master of the time, is an example of learning, as he says, it consists in putting names to things you don’t understand, and we still do this to day, not only in simple learning, but in science. The fatal disease suddenly gets better and we say that’s what’s called ‘spontaneous remission’. We named it and now it’s known and is correspondingly supposed to be understood. but this sort of pursuit in the end, it doesn’t, the flower of the heart has faded, it becomes dry and it becomes empty. I’m not sure what to do.

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