Friday, February 26, 2010

Wild Strawberries

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

When I first heard this Zen tale, I was quite young. Nevertheless, I remember thinking, “This is a man with screwed-up priorities. He’s got a tiger on his butt, he’s about to fall off a cliff, and even the mice won’t give him a break. Who CARES about the damn strawberries? Clearly Zen monks have problems with ADD.”

And there the matter rested for twenty years.

There’s a phrase from James Clavell’s novel, Shōgun that has stayed with me: if you want to keep something private you have to “whisper it down a well at noon.” There are many people who blog as if they were whispering down a well, but the Internet is no well, as countless surprised Facebook users can testify. Anonymity is also no guarantee of privacy; the lights always come on.

There are no grand lead-ins, there are no excuses. Life is Life—it is Messy and Ungainly, and when it’s not Boring it’s Exciting in ways that make you yearn for Boring. Things happening in my life of late are deeply personal and bring to mind disturbing situations and questions. I’m hardly the first to face these events or questions, and while it would give me great comfort to write about them, it would give me no comfort at all to imagine anyone even remotely connected with these events finding out my thoughts by reading them in this forum. It is both self-centered and foolish to post certain topics on the Internet and pretend that no one will know it was you. Besides, I have never particularly enjoyed art as an excuse for public psychotherapy. That’s why I gave up listening to the radio in the late 90s (Quit whining, suck it up, move on).

One thing I will say: even as Life is mess and dirty and sometimes makes you angry or sad, it also offers up many other things, some of them quite wonderful—i.e., chocolate-mint macarons.

All around me different people have sung the praises of these confectionary gems. Distinct from the humble American macaroon, these meringue-based treats are decidedly European and undeniably chic. They come in flavors like lavender lemon, raspberry mascarpone, even red bean and green tea.

They are also reputed to be temperamental, fiendishly tricky, and almost impossible for the home baker to master.

They’re also gluten-free.

I made these. They were awesome. I want to tell you all about them. Because although they may not look it from the picture, these macarons tasted of wild strawberries.

We will always face the twin tigers of the Past and the Future. The yin-yang of Good and Evil will always threaten to gnaw away our hold on an intellectualized Reality. The only thing we have, the only thing that is certain, is Right Now. Taste it.

It doesn’t matter is that moment is a hug or a drawn out, tiresome complaint; walking into a hospital room or biting into a macaron—be present to the moment you are in, because it is the only thing that is real.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hey Look! It's a Visual!

I'm doing a little experimentation with video embedding. It could add a whole new dimension to my blog -- Live PeachCam!