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Zen and the Art of Sailing while One Hand Claps

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I have a confession to make: I’ve discovered Zen.

Zen is a system of thought by which people like myself can follow a simple, logical, step-by-step approach to conclude they aren’t as dumb as they are.

Nice, eh?

The key to Zen is The Now.

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This can be complicated but basically it means no guilt. Example: to your friends you can honestly say, “I’ve pooped on you in the past and will poop on you in the future but within this glorious moment of The Now is a moment of relative non-pooping… so why are you on such a lower-plane-of-consciousness as to still be mad at me?”

In the 1960s this was called ‘laying on a guilt trip’ but now it neatly comes under the much broader heading of Zen. 

Yes, Zen Masters (why be modest?) such as myself know to ignore the ‘History and Mystery’ of life. 

Being a Zen Master is kinda fun. You get to order people around in incomprehensible ways while looking wise— and smirk when they get confused. Example: “The Past is History and we all know you can’t change history! So why worry about the past? And the future is a mystery! In fact, we don’t even know if we HAVE a future. We only have the present, and, aw-shucks, when things happen in the glorious ‘here and now’ we don’t even know if they are good luck or bad!”
Did you understand the above?

Neither did I.

That’s Zen.

And that’s why it is so nice to be a Zen Master: you get to watch your students and devotees attempt to fathom such gibberish.

Of course, you have to keep your students/slaves/zombies motivated. I mean, enlightenment  is always JUST AROUND THE NEXT CORNER… until you get to that corner and discover it is, alas, One More Path!

“…how you say,” giggled a Thai monk at the wheel of a silver BMW with a diamond-studded ying/yang symbol hanging from his mirror, “we play ‘em like fish, no?!?”

If your students begin to waver you just ‘zap ‘em with a parable’ in the fine old mumbo-jumbo tradition.  “Once there was old live-aboard sailor who adored his son. One day the son found a Jet-ski drifting through the anchorage. He rode it proudly, throwing up great rooster-tail wakes and making irritating noises like an angry bee. The old foolish man rushed to the wise harbor master and said, ‘Oh, this is great luck! Now, we will be able to harvest our barnacles better!’ The Harbor Master said, ‘Maybe so, maybe no.’ The next day the spoiled-rotten son rode his Jet-ski into the side of a Tortola ferry and broke his leg. ‘Oh, this is horrible luck,’ the old man told the wise Harbor Master. ‘Now my son won’t be able to help me during barnacle harvest!’ And the Harbor master merely repeated, ‘Maybe so, maybe no.’ The following day, the DPNR raided the harbor and sent all the young men to fight and die in the Global War Against Litter and Literacy… which, because of the local barnacle-harvesting labor shortage, made the stock market price of Caribbean barnacles triple… and everybody rich.”

See how easy it is? Remember: the more you avoid any logic or common sense in your Zen parable, the better it will stand the test of time.

Don’t worry, your students will accept anything: “Money is evil! Possessions are evil. You don’t know the Path. You are lost. I will help you. But first you have to pass a spiritual test: what is your credit card pin number?”

I know, I know… it would seem they’d balk but they don’t.

…such is the ‘wisdom of eastern thought.’

Since I’ve Zenned-up-to-speed I haven’t lost a single argument with my wife. True, she’s in the right 99% of the time, but I just dismiss her with, “How sad to choose being right over being kind! Don’t you know that ‘right’ is stupid? That True Wisdom only arrives when you are willing to admit being wrong when you are not?  Is your ego so out-of-control… so fragile… that it has to grasp at such weak straws as the truth? What is the matter with you, honey, that you must pretend to know what you know as if you know it?”

If she’s wrong, the process is more streamlined. “Dummy,” I say.

Zen and the Art of Sailing is a natural match— but it really doesn’t matter. You can make money off of almost any silly idea… motorcycles or something equally nonsensical… Westerners are THAT gullible.

The hardest part is keeping a straight face: only the capitalistic Chinese are honest enough to show Buddha laughing (all the way to the bank).

Example: if someone is missing their wallet and confused about where it is… and I happen to have possession of it… I don’t stoop to explaining its physical location, I merely say, “Two days from now tomorrow will be yesterday… what’s it really matter?”

Of course, California is the place to cash in. One Tibetan scammer who conquered LA was so happy as he screamed gleefully, “Rich people here are so screwed up they think I can help them!!!!!”

L. Ron Hubbard is, of course, one of my heros. A writer of such limited skills he was forced to write trash for sci-fi nuts, he had to supplement his meager income at writer’s conferences… where he’d tell his audience something like, “If I was really a crook I’d get involved in religion… that’s where the REAL money is!’

Yes, it is ‘clear’ to me he was a genius. He even knew the best way to hoodwink the gullible was to include the lofty word ‘science’ in the title!

But I digress. The real question, Grasshopper, is will Zen make you a better sailor? Yes, is the answer.

You’ll learn there is no such thing as the ‘true’ wind because truth is relative. Ditto the apparent wind…what has wind direction to do with raising a child anyway?

If you happen to lose your vessel on a reef, call up your insurance company with a light heart. “I once had a water glass. It was a perfect water glass. Every morning I’d drink cool mineral water from it. I liked it. It felt nice in my hand. But I knew someday it would break, that it would someday shatter into a million pieces and not be able to be put back together again. So now it has. Of course, I realize I have three choices and one bad option… and the bad option is denial. I am not in denial. The glass has shattered, the ship is lost. True. I can’t change it… nor can I just ‘leave’ the reality of the shipwreck. No, I must accept it… and if I was able to also accept an insurance check for $247,000… well, all the better to show me The Way and Wisdom of Zen!”

This doesn’t always work. Not all insurance agents are enlightened. In fact, some need a little prodding by an aggressive agnostic with a law degree… but, alas, I hesitate to mention such sad, sordid legal realities.

And if we should happen to meet someday and I punch you in the nose— don’t hate me for it. See my innocence, instead. Seek to understand me, not judge me. Look ‘beyond behavior.’

I do. I really do. I practice what I preach. For example, the editor of this publication originally rejected this piece on the premise it had nothing to do with boats and/or the Caribbean.

“Expectations are just set-ups for disappointments,” I placidly informed her. “Impatience is just a denial of the Now. We all have separate realities. There is no good and evil. You are only a thought away from a happy feeling. Change is the only constant. Let us all learn to love love lovingly. I can see God’s fingerprints everywhere. Let us celebrate! Embrace! Rejoice..!”

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Cap'n Fatty Goodlander
Cap'n Fatty Goodlanderhttp://fattygoodlander.com/
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 53 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com

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