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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
68 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 2 the lumbering conceptual mind to smithereens. I craved dramatic confrontations with the fero- cious Rinzai Zen masters I read about, who screamed and smacked you when you answered your koan with the turgid intellect, rather than by a raw, mindless explosion of primal knowing. Rinzai Zen, in short, was punk rock. Unfortunately, there were no Rinzai Zen mas- ters in quiet Minneapolis, so I was stuck in the Soto school of Zen. In the Soto school, instead of wrestling with koans, you simply sat for vast, geological stretches of time, concentrating on your breath and trying to be in the present moment, something for which I had no talent whatsoever. And, looking back on those days, I suspect that my longing to be in the gonzo world of Rinzai Zen and its mad koans was, deep down, a subterranean urge to have some sort of bull unleashed into the China shop of my anal retentive ways. Over the next fifteen years I sold my guitars to fund an ignobly brief period of homeless wander- ing, inspired by Jack Kerouac and various itiner- ant Zen monks. I had my motorcycle stolen and gave my now purely ornamental black leather jacket to an ex-girlfriend who wore it well with her pink Mohawk. At twenty-eight I married an implausibly sexy novelist, moved into the staid Lowry Hill area of South Minneapolis, and became a high school teacher. Somewhere in there I quit Soto Zen, though I still read books about Zen masters—Ikkyu, Huang Po, Hui Neng—the way other people read suspense nov- els. And somehow, throughout all that time, I was able to remain blind to all my little neurotic eccentricities of order and tidiness. You’d think that if you could hide idiosyn- crasies from your friends, you must know you have them. But that’s the ineluctable mystery of blind spots. They are impossible little miracles of mental compartmentalization. And you never know where that thing that cracks the hard shell of a blind spot will come from. In my case, it came from my refrigerator. Although I was now thirty-two, I still kept up the pretense of being a loose, rock and roll guy. My appearance was toned down to a subtle nod to punk rock. My old Levis sported vaguely Ramones-esque holes in the knees. I still kept my hair slightly choppy. And, of course, my home was still cluttered. Mine was, after all, an oddly selective species of fastidiousness. But one morning, as I made a smoothie, I opened the egg carton and was stopped cold by something I’d seen many times but had never noticed until that moment. It was the chaotic way my wife had taken eggs from the carton. There were two empty egg spaces over near the left side in the rear row, one at the far right in the front row and one nearer the middle in the back row. It was a masterpiece of carefree disorder. And for some reason, it suddenly shined a glar- ing spotlight on my own approach to the eggs. I always removed the eggs from the carton in a precise, balanced fashion. I began on the far ends of the rows and worked my way in. Or maybe, in an especially jaunty mood, I might’ve ventured four from the middle and worked out, contra-laterally. But now, in contrast to my wife’s insouciant egg grabbing, I felt suddenly ashamed of my meticulous ways. I blinked at the orderly little piles of ingre- dients lined up before me on the counter. Cel- ery, beets, kale, goji berries. And then the awful realization started to seep into my awareness: it wasn’t just the eggs. My fastidious ways were everywhere. I saw how I always had to leave the paper towel roll just slightly unfurled, so the next sheet could be easily grabbed. And how I underlined in