Thursday, 8 June 2017


Mechanical egg timer internals
(The following is a passage from Rough Around the Edges, a manuscript I began 20 years ago. Though my Zen practice was still about six years in the future, it's interesting to me today to read a fundamentally exact description of what the Buddha called "world weariness" – the mainspring of enlightenment practice – written in my own pre-monastic hand. Like the man said, we come by it honestly.)

The problem, the problem. What is the problem?

You're born. Somewhere, someone sets an egg timer. For a quarter-hour you rave like a rich man in a burning mansion, snatching at a vase, a string of pearls, anything to show you lived there.

The timer dings; you're unborn. The necklace falls to the ground.

We get it about wealth. The prophets have all warned us. But there are other treasures just as fleeting.

I hunger for love, to share life, and not to be alone. Except it won't do. Even if you find love, the timer still goes ding. The necklace falls to the ground.

What's the problem? I'm afraid to die alone. But I live alone. I work alone, and most of the time, I love alone.

The seconds tick. The words echo in my mind. A thought occurs:

Perhaps the most valuable thing in that house is the fire.

(Adapted from Rough Around the Edges: A Journey Around Washington's Borderlands, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of the mechanics of egg-timing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and generous photographer.)
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