Thursday, April 2, 2015

Zoe vs. Zen

Sometimes the readers I imagine I have don't write me to ask: What is Zoe's Buddha nature? Finally, today, I answer the question that no one who actually exists is asking.
So, what is Zoe's Buddha nature?
Answer: It depends. Can screaming be zen? 
For screaming is the main feature of Zoe's playing. There's always the Good Guy and the Bad Guy and, as tends to happen when these two knuckleheads get together, their exchanges get heated.
Not only does Zoe play the parts of the hero and the villain, she also plays myriad victims, performs all the sound effects, and is the narrator/Greek chorus.
Not what I think of as Zen. But then I'm no expert.
My impression of Zen Buddhism can be summed up thusly: chubby guy sitting under a tree, seems happy enough. He meditates, occasionally asks questions (koans), spouts proverbs, has a head that's paradoxically full of enlightenment yet empty of thought. Karma. Dharma. Greg. Something something clapping one hand. Nirvana.

What's the sound of one amputated
hand hovering in midair?

So I knew I'd have to do some research. First thing I learned was the original Buddha is not the fat Buddha, aka the Laughing Buddha, we often picture in the West. That's a common misunderstanding.
But I decided not to worry too much about things like facts since material matters keep you from reaching nirvana. And anyway, all is one, which is an excuse that covers a lot of ground. 
Now as a parent, I'm supposed to be guiding my daughter on her path to wisdom, among other responsibilities, like clothing her, feeding her, and making sure she doesn't get her head stuck in a banister. Occasionally, however, she'll seem wiser than I.
You know how sometimes children say things that blow you away with their profundity, making them sound like pint-size Buddhas, closer to the source of all things? Well, the other day Zoe told me her pain hurt. Deep, right? Of course, right after that she demanded I smell her butt, which might be Zen, by way of the Three Stooges.
In any case, let's examine some Zen proverbs and koans and see how they apply to child-rearing.

You know how when you get a haircut you feel
freer and lighter and use less conditioner and
want to wear orange and bare one shoulder?

Let go or be dragged. ---Zen proverb
Here's one that resonates with the parenting experience of trying to take a toy away from a child. Or my phone, or the iPad, or the washcloth at bath time because she objects to having a clean face. It becomes a tug of war, and if she doesn't let go, she gets dragged. The times I've taught her this lesson should make me an honorary  monk.

A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a first step. ---Zen proverb
What they don't say is that the journey is that long only because a four-year-old chose the route, one that takes you out of your way a million times, so yeah, what should be one or two miles turns into 500 and feels like double that because the kid stops every minute to commune with another rock. If that's meditation, I want no part of it. What if there's a bug under that rock? Or what if what you thought was a rock turns out to be petrified poop?

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. ---Zen proverb
Probably because you're jealous that he has no kids and still mad that he burned you with that last proverb. On further review, I discovered Siddhartha Guatama, aka the original gangsta, actually had kids but that he abandoned them. Nice one, Buddha.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? ---Buddhist koan
Here's where we're supposed to be contemplating silence but I'll need to wait about twenty years for this one to even be possible. In any case, my husband has big hands with long fingers, and he really can clap quite effectively with one hand, so I consider this "settled science."

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. ---Zen proverb
So quit your whining! I intend to broadcast this one on a loop under her bed.

Better to see the face than to hear the name.---Zen proverb
Clearest one yet. With direct applications to my life. If Zoe sees my face right before she does something bad, this will, usually, be enough to stop her. By the time she hears her name, she's already done the bad thing.

What did your face look like before your parents were born? ---Buddhist koan
Your mother!

One too many ice cream koans.

I'll end with a couple of Zoeisms.
On space . . .
(Said while trying to jam her Elsa doll into her pants pocket): "Big things won't fit in my small pocket."
On time . . .
Ever since she turned four she's been saying, "Am I still four years old? Later, I'll be five. . . . Will I be five today?" If there's no such thing as time, then yes.

Zoe: 86; Universe: 0

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  1. I can do the one hand clapping thing. Can't everyone?

  2. Elizabeth CatalanoApril 3, 2015 at 7:46 AM

    Shutup. And not when you have cookies in your hands.

  3. Haaaaa! Ice cream koans. And yes he did abandon his children. Occasionally I think, well if the Buddha did it.... but then I remember he didn't go for a massage but to sit under a tree for eternity. :)

  4. Elizabeth CatalanoApril 6, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    Haha! I could go for a little light abandonment occasionally. Massage sounds good but 20 minutes sitting under a tree by myself would be great too.

  5. I think I'm failing on the whole path to wisdom thing. Unless wisdom is knowing when to bluff and when to fold your J7 offsuit.

  6. Elizabeth CatalanoApril 7, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    I'm going to say it is even though I don't understand what you said.