Yes, doctor, it's more the case of 'try not to be a Buddhist.' Try not to find disappointment in nearly everything. So stop setting yourself up. Why look for happiness and contentment elsewhere, some bar, some restaurant, the perfect social scene. Other people might be sold on it, or make a living out of it, but not you, not me. The problem is... it's like you're a teacher, unbeknownst to yourself.
I mean, I could say I've come upon that through being poor, more or less, and can't afford to go out chasing pleasure and variety. If I go out I'll look for the outsider in it all, the person who has to work, or the homeless guy with his shirt tied around his waist, who went out into the avenue in traffic, to get a tennis ball two boys were tossing back and forth in their baseball outfits. Belonging to the crowd has never been my thing, so it seems. The awkward truth living in a city...
Expectation, followed by disappointment, or if not disappointment, the realization that other beings are suffering as well, sad over things, lonely, at a crossroads.
I spent an hour on my laptop looking at restaurant's wine lists, at pictures of their bar seating, some place for a lone monk to go to. But I suppose you cannot preach the gospel in someone else's establishment; it might be rude.
Do I want to be a Buddhist? Well, I... you read a few books, because you're otherwise bored and the books interest you, and you learn about spiritual maturity...
I've not been a good Buddhist, at least when I was young, but I guess we don't all start out that way, even Gautama Buddha himself. You learn. You see things. You observe your own self and other people. And with disappointment, let's call it that, comes something grander, more grown up.
Ah, but who wants to listen to that in a big city with so many options and hot scenes... There's too much to do.
I looked at her directly, took a sip of water from the clear plastic solo cup from the little round table with a box of kleenex on it, and reached into my courier bag for my checkbook, glancing again at the clock.
But that's what writing has always been for me, a way to accept, a way to, how do they say it, give me the wisdom to change the things I can change and want to change, and accept the things I can't change.
I guess that's why I don't share things so much, because I've been able to grasp that sort of sad or unsatisfactory quality of expectation and pleasurable experiences. You don't want to be a downer! That's not in style. And maybe that's what ultimately I'll take from the book I wrote, not just reading it all as mistakes and fool-headedness and stupid college boy stunts and all that sort of thing, but that realization set up for all of us to comprehend. That's life, honey, that's the nature of life. The book represents the dawning discovery and the territory of the coming spiritual quest for maturity. That's a good thing; there's nothing wrong with that. And ultimately that's what writers are supposed to be, wise, not advertisement for fine watches and automobiles and political agendas and happily ever after product plugs.
And maybe that's why people's reaction, having read my book, is vague, as if they too were caught in the gulf between wanting the happy life and the reality of existence. They acknowledge its writing, that it's a good effort but maybe they want no more than I do, or more than I did once upon a time, to get the so-called deeper truth, the sort of Abraham Lincoln truth, if you will. It's a hard thing to understand, a hard thing to believe in, because it does take karma, a special disposition toward the suffering quality that cannot be changed.
To me that's the point of literature.
So I wrote her name out and the dollar amount and the date and signed the check.
"We'll see you next week," she said. And I said, yes, I'll see you next week.
I went up the hallway, stopped in the men's room, found my hat and sunglasses and went down the stairs rather than taking the elevator. And I felt that all this concurred, now that I stopped to think about it, with my twenty five years behind a bar, feeling less and less taken in displays of pleasure that was never my place nor fate. The perfect, almost, experience one could have to explore such things. Out onto the bright sunlight of Connecticut Avenue through the glass doors of the office building...
Alright. Okay, I said to myself as I crossed the streets and Dupont Circle itself with its round of park benches and the fountain in the middle and the light trees none so substantial as to be a focal point. Buddhism is fine and well as a way of tending the garden of consciousness, lest one get too rationalistic, too materialistic and all those other things that never satisfy even if they might keep one busy and making money and investing in real estate, but there is, there must be something else.
There is something else that makes it all worthwhile, the miracle of transubstantiation, the union of God as Christ, the true human being, in the physicality of bread and wine. Buddha to clear the mind, Christ to give it a positive sense of what one should be doing with himself, that couldn't be so bad, though you had to go way way back.
Christ had been enduring the obscurity of his own godly mystery in many ways, even though it was right before him. Had he entered into therapy in order to redeem it, to give it real faith again. And there I was, all along, serving bread and wine and doing some of God's work, I mean, in my own small way. Figuring that, whether true or not by any outside standard, I began to feel better. Life's lumps you have to take, and you have to keep on, faithfully.
That was the stuff to keep me from going mad. That was the spirit with which I took my walks in the woods, admiring trees and the stream and the birds and the rocks themselves. There is but one way to go, and that is, simply, home.
I know, I know, such statements are fraught with mortal peril. There is poor old Kerouac going through the nightmares of his own alcoholism in that book Big Sur, a breakdown, and then seeing the Cross before him, a vision of salvation. You'd have hoped that vision would have lasted, protected him more, considering his end, but on the other hand you could look at his whole long Duluoz Legend, of On The Road and Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels, all of it, as a return to the early stuff which might similarly have in looking for something given rise to a freshly reborn mythos of a search in the world and in one's own self for the lost father substantiated in the flesh, if you could take the lost figure searched for of "Old Dean Moriarty" at the deeper level it might bloom into one day in your own reading.
I do not hasten to blame Kerouac for his excesses of drink and physical pleasure and his enjoyment of nature. Writing itself is a Christian thing to do.
For that matter why not take The Brothers Karamazov the same way, a getting back to, a free healthy reimagining, as God gives us to see.
But that's what tending bar might ultimately be about, despite its history, despite the mistakes and bad behavior (which is basically mild after all.) Jesus came aboard Peter's boat. Then it's not about the excesses anymore nor about the luxury...
As far as experiences go, it seems that nothing is all that. That's the Buddhist part. If all it's about, my so-called work, is gustatory pleasure, about getting tipsy, than I'd be bored to tears... There's got to be more to it than that.
And I had too much self-pride as a young man, too much pride to accept that which is God's love for man through Christ and the mystery of the transubstantiation. Maybe the church itself isn't all that, but it's essence shines through.. Through acts...