Disturbance is a Necessity

by Norman Fischer | January 29, 2014 at 2:03 PM


Flying home from Mexico after sesshin. On the plane I am working on ms of my big book of essays on "reading, writing, language, and religion." I keep cutting, polishing. There is no finished text, but at some point you say "finished" and off it goes to the publisher. Is any day ever finished? No, but the sun goes down anyway, and we had better be satisfied with it.

Sesshin was good. The Mexican sangha is so warm-hearted. So many good friends. On the plane also reading Ujele, a terrific book of poems by Uche's Nduke, a friend from Brooklyn via Lagos, Nigeria. He writes in the post-modern paratactic mode, lovely poems though so dense that I have to stop reading after maybe five pages to digest it. There is nothing particularly - that I can find - African about the poems. One must ask, is there anything particularly African about Africa, when you come down to it, or particularly anything about anything? Must think about this more...

In the sesshin I was talking about the Buddha's leaving home, as told in the Buddha-carita of Ashvaghosa. That version contains much extravagant poetry, lengthy arguments various people are making to try to talk Buddha out of leaving, but he, with great respect, argues against them. At one point he tells his father, "OK, I'll stay if you can give me four guarantees: that age won't attack my youth, that illness won't attack my health, that death won't eat up my life, and that no misfortune will befall me. Guarantee me these and I will stay and run the kingdom as you wish." But of course the king can't make these guarantees. What an imagination the Buddha must have had! He was, at the moment, fine. But, to him, death, aging, illness, and misfortune were present right here and now, and he had to do something about them - urgently. It is like Aachan Cha saying, holding a cup, "To me, this cup is already broken." I have always been impressed with that.

This was my third sesshin in about three months. I am getting a little tired of hearing myself talk. Meantime our son Noah is in Poland making subversive art. Art should always be subversive, just like the Buddha was subversive. Disturbance is a necessity. Life is inherently disturbing. Disturbing the great peace of nothing. 


Norman Fischer