Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eeny Meeny Miny Mo

Hey Lao.


You got a minute?

Can i finish this paragraph?

Sure, go ahead.



OK. Thanks. What'cha need?

Can i ask you a personal question?


Doesn't it ever bother you being old and stupid?


Not even a little? Not ever?


Don't you want anything out of life?

Sure, i'd love to win a lottery or something for a set of season tickets to the CSO.

That's it? I mean something big.

I'd like to put up new gutters on the house next spring if i can come up with the money. That's big. And of course there's those two tea cups i want.

Come on, you know what i mean. Big. As in it could change your life.

How about that Asian woman we saw at the coffee shop a few weeks ago? She could change someone's life.

Lao, i'm trying to be serious here.

So am i, she was...


Ok, Ok, why don't you just tell me what you want me to say. And besides, not everyone thinks i'm stupid. Those kids i tutor a couple times a week think i'm pretty darn smart. Well, one or two of them do at least.

You mean those elementary school kids?

Yeah, that's why i can fool them so easily. :-) I even have one convinced i know the entire multiplication table through 9x9 by heart. Ha! I can't believe she fell for it.

Lao, you're hopeless sometimes. Forget it. Can i ask one last question about the Hosshin no Dōjō before we go into the next section of the henro trail?

Sure. Who would you be without all your questions?

??? Well... anyway, i don't understand how just walking can chip away at who i think i am?

For starters, as soon as you start the walk you will lose your identity as 'Dave." From the moment you step foot on the trail you will be looked at as Ohenro-san (Mr. Henro, Mr. Pilgrim). That's what everyone will address you as, that's what they'll refer to as when they talk about you, that's how they will view you and judge you. You will not be 'Dave' with all the identities, the stories, you have buried in you head, you will be a henro, walking the henro trail, and nothing more. The rest of your stories become irrelevant.

In addition, the physical difficulty of the walk will also chip away at your stories. There will be times when you are simply too tired to continue thinking as you normally do, when you are so tired that the stories drop away and all you can do is think about taking your next step. Times when the pain of blisters, sore shoulders, whatever, is so distracting that your entire focus is directed at only one thing — taking that next step, getting through the pain and keeping on going.

On the other side of that coin, there will be times when the scenery is so particularly beautiful that it absorbs you and you find yourself as nothing but a pair of moving boots experiencing experience, with no stories to be found.

Then there is the numbing effect of 'routine;' doing nothing other than walking, all day, every day, day after day. After a while this becomes your life, this completely takes over how you see yourself. Being isolated from what used to be your normal routines, the stories about yourself that came as part and parcel of those routines start to fade into the background. After a while, what's important to you each moment of the day has nothing to do with what used to be important; what's important is that simple routine of looking for your next meal, looking for your next night's lodging, looking for your next bath, and looking forward to another good night's sleep. That's it. That becomes your world, and in the narrowness of that world the old stories loose their interest, their focus, and their importance.

Before setting foot on the trail your life is one constant game of Eeny Meeny Miny Mo. You go through your days constantly choosing who you want to be: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the happy Dave; Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the angry and unhappy Dave; Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the old man Dave, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo. now i'm going to be the athletic bike riding or running Dave, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the volunteer Dave, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the unemployed Dave, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the spiritual Dave, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, now i'm going to be the [whatever]. You live your life bouncing around from story to story, never getting past the final movie credits and letting the stories end, seeing who you really are.

But, once on the trail, as i said, the walk can let all that stop. The stories become harder to find as the one role of Henro predominates. That's still another story, don't misunderstand, but in this case it's a better story because it's one that brings you closer to who you really are. We'll talk about that as we move into the next dōjō.

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