Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 5: Up-and-down
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toki ni li nasa: mi ijo seme?
– Toki Ponist Pu
“Next on our list is Howard, “ Lenny said while taking a violent left.
“You seem agitated, “ Tipi said while fastening his seatbelts even more than they were.
“Well done, you still have some skills left. I am agitated. I have been ever since you dropped from your goddamn pedestal.”
They sat in silence for a while, even though the van shook left and right at every corner.
“Why are you resisting us?”
“I am getting pretty peeved myself,” Tipi said. “First, you project all kinds of guru features onto me, then you’re coercing me into traveling across the globe. And the way to convince me, other than threatening me, is by putting me into a silly costume and force-feeding me self-help cliches by a best-selling miss dillydally.”
“Just work with us.”
Lenny gritted his teeth and hit the pedal to the proverbial metal, missing a woman with child crossing the street by a few hairs. A few minutes later, Lenny hit the brakes and pulled the van over near a small park.
“So where are we now?”
“Outside is Howard. He’s a Buddhist. Maybe he can talk sense into you about what happened to you and how important it is to get back onto your path of enlightenment.” Lenny lurched over Tipi to open his door and then shooed him outside.
Lenny drove off the moment Tipi closed the door to the van. A man with large orange ear protectors carrying a heavy duty hedge cutter in his gloved hands looked up to him and waved. Tipi sighed and stepped into the public park to greet Howard.
“Howard!” Howard said when Tipi got close enough.
“Hej,” Tipi said. “Enjoying your work in park service?”
“Yes, indeed. This park is my temple, the entire world is.”
“And you’re a Buddhist?”
“Am I?” Howard said.
“So I was told. Am I a Buddhist?”
“Are you?” Howard said.
Tipi sighed and hugged his cheeks with his hands. This was going to be another smooth conversation. Tipi had no intention of sticking around for much longer. He doubted even more whether those people on the list were the best those three stooges had to offer.
“From the little I know about me, I’m not an entrepreneur,” Tipi said, “but let’s get down to business. I am here to be convinced to go on a very uncomfortable trip because I need to be enlightened again.”
Tipi made sure Howard had taken in all the words, then he chopped the air in front of him and said: “Your turn. Go!”
“Go,” Howard said. “A nice game. But to answer your earlier question, tell me first this: have you studied any books on the Dhamma? Can you summarize the eight-fold path at the least?”
“I don’t know what that is. Maybe I did before I blanked out, but I don’t remember.”
“Hmm. But do you at least burn incense during meditation and have a few altars with a fatty smiling Buddha? Do you act out the rituals? Ceremonial offerings? Tea?”
“I don’t even have a home anymore. And no, none of that.”
“But I bet you go around telling everyone how they are suffering and how their egos are impeding happiness and enlightenment?”
“I am supposed to be a guru to a heap-hop of people, but from what they told me I did not really preach anything in particular.”
“Good. Good. So you might be a Buddhist after all. You have all the signs. Those who call themselves Buddhists and perform every little ritual to perfection, those who poison their lungs and the earth by burning stuff, those who study more than they live, those aren’t Buddhists for sure.”
“Nice to know,” Tipi said. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. I am trying to find out first who I am, before I care what I am.”
“That’s wise, you will never have to worry about what you are, because you will never have to reach that question.” Howard put on his ear protectors and trimmed a hedge. Tipi had to cover his ears and take a few steps back from the loud noise. After a brief minute, Howard stopped again.
“When they asked me to talk to you,” Howard said. “They told me you had fallen out of enlightenment.”
“That’s what they say.”
“Which is funny.”
“Yes, because you can’t.”
“Lose your enlightenment. It’s not like virginity. You can’t lose it because nobody ever gave it to you.”
“Yet, here we are.”
“So it could be enlightenment and you were never a thing. Maybe you just had an awakening?”
“Then you get a glimpse of the truth, a lick of the lollypop, a nipple slip. And then it’s gone and you spend the rest of your life trying to feel that same way again.”
“Do you think that happened to me?”
Howard looked him hard in the eyes. “No,” he said. “You would act like waking up from a dream that you want to get back into, but that fades away until you can’t remember what it was about again. Instead, it seems you have lost all your memories. It is more like you have entered a dream instead of leaving it behind.”
Howard put his hedge cutter down and fetched a rake from behind a tree. Although it was still summer, fallen leaves messed up the otherwise well-kept grass. With large imprecise swings, he raked the leaves to one side of the lawn.
“You’re missing a few,” Tipi said.
Howards smiled. “Have you heard of wabi-sabi?”
“The beauty of imperfection. One related story is about a wise man who as a student tidied up the teacher’s garden. He spent the entire day getting the garden into a pristine state—raking the leaves, cleaning the pebbles and the statuettes, refreshing the pond. When he had finished, but before he showed his work for approval to his teacher, he shook a cherry blossom tree so that a few multi-colored leaves would fall again on the ground.”
“I know that legend,” Tipi said. “But what people forget is that he first did a very thorough job before messing it up himself. You are just doing a half-assed job.”
Tipi was not sure if the remark had hurt the man or not, but Howard picked up his loud hedge trimmer again and decimated a whole range of plants. Tipi walked around the park looking around for signs of Lenny’s van or either of the other two stooges. They were not around. When Tipi noticed the loud noise had stopped, he returned to where he last saw Howard. The man sat under a large tree eating a sandwich.
“I wonder,” he said when he saw Tipi approaching. “What part of the path are you on? First, you see the mountain. Then you don’t see the mountain. Then you see the mountain.”
“I don’t see any mountains, we’re in a city park.”
“First you see the world as physical matter, the mountains are rocks and the rivers are full of water. Then you realize it is all connected and nothing exists and there is no purpose and nothing is there. You can’t even see the mountain and rivers anymore. But then you see both, the physical and the divine and enlightenment envelopes you.”
“None of the above fit. I am growing tired of these empty wisdoms. What good are they now to me?”
“Hmm,” Howard said. “Maybe you can’t see anything because you have your eyes closed. And with eyes I mean soul. You know, there are many koans about opening up, opening the mountain. We could read and study them together.”
“No thanks,” I think I’ve had quite enough of this. “I’m rude, but you will have to forgive me, or not.” Tipi walked off. He still could see none of the threesome around. Tipi would not let them determine his social interactions anymore. He could not handle any more useless wisdom and self-help talk. If he was to regain a normal life, he should find a place in the normal world.Read the next chapter