By: Tamon Mark Uttech
Last Saturday I drove three hours up to Merrill, WI for an aikido seminar and I had a very good time reconnecting with aikido friends and teachers from the Midwest. But the lesson that stays with me is how I got lost on East Main Street while looking for a West Main Street address. You would think it would be easy; the direct opposite of East is West, right? But, no.
First I just drove on East Main Street, hoping it would ‘become’ West Main Street if I went far enough, but it only turned into a dead end. Next, I simply turned around and drove in the other direction on East Main Street, but ‘East Main Street’ disappeared altogether after just a few blocks.
I stopped at a local restaurant to ask for directions.
“West Main Street? Beats me,” said the cashier at the restaurant.
So I left the restaurant and did the dead end and no end thing again and then stopped at a gas station for directions.
“West Main Street?” said the gas station attendant, “See, it’s the 3 way intersections that throw you off…”
Here in the Western world, we’re used to either this or that. Throw in a 3rd option and we’re at the damn trinity mystery again:
“There’s three in one, but there’s four directions…”
There may be some love in the mix, but you can’t always tell where it is. Or where the spirit is, or where East turns into West.
At the end of the book: The Empty Mirror by Janwillem van de Wetering, a prospective western zen student likened a zen monastery in Japan to Hell. He wrote, “a good zen student knows how to make himself comfortable, even in Hell.”
Then he turned his back on the monastery and walked across the street for a cold beer.
And that was just the beginning.