discontent #3. Summer 1996





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Recently I have become...content. I took a journey of great spiritual pith and moment and discovered that the world doesn’t suck if you approach existence correctly. The catalyst for this revelation was the bicycle which I rented to ride across half of Scotland. The bike shop people in Aberdeen eyed my form and fitted me with a bike which was, strange to tell, built for a midget. I cursed the Fates and dubbed the infernal machine "Mammon" and made up several rude songs about it; but I realized that I was saddled with this thing--or it was saddled with me--for the greater comprehension of certain truths. So although I pedalled across the highlands in the posture of a circus bear on a tricycle, the ordeal lifted me to a higher and metaphysical understanding.

Thanks to Mammon, I have adopted a meditative coping technique which I’ve dubbed the "zen moment." Its uses are myriad. For example, if stuck in interminable traffic five minutes before an appointment, instead of becoming abrasive like Otto in "A Fish Called Wanda," I say to myself: "This is another zen moment. Experience the traffic. Appreciate your unique hatred for the people in front of you. Remember this is a joyous world." So far it’s worked brilliantly; you can see I’m quite a proselyte. Just today I suggested to a friend that perhaps the waitress was ignoring her because she was saving up to deliver extra-attentive service in the near future. And when my employer weeded poor-selling titltes like "Crime and Punishment" and "Madame Bovary" from our inventory, I told my disgruntled co-worker that the bookstore was entering a cleansing period and would probably stock even better titles as succedanea.

Try it yourself. Here are a few exercises to fuel your "zen moments."

1. Irony is for geeks. Instead of sarcasm try saying exactly what you mean and use lots of adjectives for effect. Exempli gratia: Replace the statment, "I wish it was this fucking hot every day," with "I zealously anticipate the balmy, temperate zephyrs of the autumn."

2. Establish yourself to yourself. How would you fill in the blank on a personality questionnaire? A good key phrase can act as a mantra. For example, repeat to yourself, "I am an engagé pseud," or "I am a trophy wife manquée." (Substitute where necessary, French words optional.)

3. Immerse yourself completely in the zen moment. Become the moment. As you notice your breathing, think, "This is a test. This is only a test. I am learning something from this experience. The uncarved block, c’est moi."

4. In the event of frustration, irritation, hatred, or loss of temper, take time to consider the scope of your existence. Your terrestrial being is less important than the most obscure comma in the Bodleian library. Is the lack of hypothetical blueberries in your metaphorical muffin worth unhealthy tension? I think we know the hawk from the handsaw here.

I hope you feel centered and at ease now, O Jewel in the Flower of the Lotus Blossom.