The Sensei

After intensity, especially the kind that’s hostile to oneself or someone else, there can be a kind of zen reboot. You run headlong into the darkness, reckless, lose yourself in it. Then comes the sensei telling you to embrace inner calm, to release everything you’re gripping fiercely, to stretch, to flow, and to let be. You don’t want to listen. You’re not ready yet. But he’s right. The sensei is always right, and sometimes you want to be wrong.

Release aggression, he says. Stretch out. Breathe. Find the pulse of the world that underlies the world. Let the stimuli of the surface fade to superficiality. People betray. People break promises. People fail in honor. Let them be.

The sensei is hard to resist. Eventually, you listen, because the alternative is unsustainable. You can’t commit to rage – it’s fission, it’s powerful, it can scorch the earth, but fission consumes everything. I’ve met people who didn’t listen to the sensei, and I find nothing in common with them – they’re horribly destructive. I’ve met people who always listen immediately, and I think they aren’t really listening – they’re just obeying or going along, which isn’t the same thing. They were soft because they were soft, pliable because they were pliable. They can’t tell you how it hurts to do as he asks – they talk smugly of high-minded bliss, but they aren’t initiates – they haven’t come from the one thing to the other – there was no journey. To listen is to wrestle. To struggle with it, And then finally, to let wisdom win.

I suppose… I must do as the sensei says. It hurts to do it. To stretch can hurt. To maintain a position of meditation can hurt. Anyone who has done it, knows. But it’s not a violent hurt. It’s a hurt of refusing to become violence. I don’t want to listen. I want what I need. I want what is rightfully mine. I want what I am owed. I want justice. And I want those who should care to care. But I think, if he keeps saying these things, I will yield to him. It isn’t weakness. It isn’t failure. That’s pride, to think that. Vanity. It requires, in fact, all the strength of self one has. But it’s hard. To make the muscles limber there is breaking. So there’s breaking either way. But the one is all flames, and the other… isn’t.

Good morning, Sensei. Show me then, though I don’t want to see, where to sit.

Storyteller Notes: Not really much of a story, is it? It has only the simplest form of plot: yes/no, yes/no, yes. The most primitive. I am convinced that, while Gilgamesh is an example of earliest epics, this plot structure is an example of earliest stories, the closest to the root of the tree, and to the bone. But I needed to write this, in order to think it, because there was no one else to say it to. It’s an extended maxim, and serves the same purpose – instructions on how to proceed and reminder for when one forgets. It is that, and communication. Some of my colleagues speak in a language made of stories and a code made of metaphors, and we leave signs for each other, like the signs left for fellow travelers in Homeward Bounders. Some of us can even sign one for the other, speak as one for the other, effectively multiplying each of us manifold, allowing us to change places without moving, for instance. This is a secret, but one that cannot be discovered merely through telling it. I will tell you a secret, because the underlying secret here is that the deepest things are all bare. It is the strength of this place, and my own source of strength. That is that the sensei is far away. Sometimes, I can’t see the sensei’s face. And though I would go immediately, before it could get so bad that I could stumble, I can’t go. So I have to learn from my own place on the way. This is my darkest truth, and the hardest truth of all. There is nowhere to run to, no place of meditation. It has to be attempted only in the mind. Fortunately, my mind is full of places. And so, the sensei would say that the place is every place. We, the sensei’s children, all carry his advice, and can speak one to another like this. It is ordinary wizardry.

It hurts, Sensei. It hurts.

I know, child. I know… boy.

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