SUBMISSION: ZEN

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Will Johnson's picture

One's flights of fancy do not crash into the mountainside of schizoid alienation if one has the landing strip of reality within sight at all times.

Us "UFO nuts" are sometimes too open-minded and too quick to express our open-mindedness to the wrong crowd. I think of a family acquaintance who almost got a drubbing at a redneck bar for telling a biker he had an Indian chief spirit guide sitting on his shoulder. Ending up on the wrong end of a steel-toed boot might be preferable to the tin-foiled hat assigned to us fantasists when we soberly acknowledge undeniable realities (because nothing is more of a reality than non-human intelligences and their interactions with humans.)

I find that Zen practice keeps me grounded to "what we call reality" (whatever that is.) As a materialist mysticism and acceptance of the concrete it helps to whisk away metaphysical abstractions like the mugginess at the head of a cooling thunderstorm. To quote the medieval Rinzai monk Ikkyu-san: "Violate the reality of things and babble about 'God' and 'the Buddha' and you will never find the true way." In other words "Be Here Now." Hold tight to concrete reality. 

But again, what is "concrete reality." I will describe what I think reality is by combining the words of Winston Churchill with those of Linda Moulton Howe: Reality is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that lives in a hall of mirrors with a quicksand floor.

And the immersion in the concrete present that we call Zen is paradoxical and so works for our weird "concrete reality." By even talking about Zen I have slipped back into endless commentary and abstraction.

The point I am trying to make (while not sounding too much like a college stoner) is that I find Zen to be the instrument guiding me to the landing strip of reality, a way to re-orient oneself back from fantasyland. 

There is no need to slip into Narnia during waking hours. The everyday of every person on this planet is strange enough. The fact of non-human visitation merely makes it stranger. Cutting through abstraction helps one to sift through all the fact and fiction, an aid to the coherence necessary to present the phenomena to a skeptical public.

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