Je Suis Ms. Maisel, the HBO comedy about a Jewish woman in the 50s who became a stand-up comic. She found her ironic voice. This talk is about finding your ironic voice, the laughter that makes your tragic life into a comedy.
Zen is the Ironic Way. I say Way instead of a religion because Zen Buddhism is not a religion but the Way of Laughter. Zen is Buddhism with Jokes. A Zen Koan is a joke taken seriously by the monk. The master gives him an ironic joke, and the monk believes it is serious, so he struggles to find a logical answer. There is no answer. That’s the joke. But before the joke comes the question from the seeker who wants an answer to life’s pressing problems.
The master gives him a Koan. And the seeker, focusing on this enigma, just turns himself into a stew until a leap happens. The mind leaps out of the dilemma, out of the ambiguity; the body/mind drops away and what remains is laughter. Life at its essence is laughter, is a dance.
Why is life ironic? Why is life ambiguous? Everything turns into its own opposite if given enough time. That doughnut that gives you a rush of pleasure, having gotten rid of the desire when you get it, turns into pain if you eat too much. The problem with life as time is that we don’t see the whole in the immediate.
If you smoke a cigarette and get that pleasure, you are also smoking the pain of its side-effects, but that takes time. So time creates a gap between the pairs-of-opposites and we don’t connect the dots. But in truth, every moment contains the whole, just as the DNA of the organism is contained in each cell.
Zen is the seeing of the whole in the duality, in the ambiguity. Zen is the leap of laughter that bursts free from the absurd. When you laugh, you are whole. There is no gap of time in laughter. There is no ME in laughter. You don’t think, Oh, wow, I’m laughing now. When you laugh there is only laughter.
When you see through and through that everything is its opposite, a. yin/yang, you see that is no way out of the ambiguity. And that’s absurd. It’s a joke. You laugh. And you are free.
Our life is either a tragedy or a comedy. It’s a tragedy when we take it seriously, literally. It’s a comedy when we take it metaphorically. Let me explain what I mean. You have the expectation of having a perfect table setting for guests. The cat jumps on the table and knocks over a vase of perfect flowers. There are two realities here: one created by your mind, the other created by the Joker (the damned cat). How do you respond? As a tragedy? This should not have happened! Why me! What will my guest think? I shall be embarrassed. They will know my secret, that I’m a mistake, a mess, that I’m out of control….on and on…the tragedy goes.
Or is this a comedy. When the Joker breaks up my expectations, my idea of perfection, I can see the situation is ambiguous. Every perfect moment is also imperfect. Every moment of control is also out of control. There is no gap between these two opposites in truth. In mind, in the tragic mind, however, there should only be perfection and I should be able to prevent imperfection. There should only be life and no death, only UP and no Down. But life/Death, Up/Down are ONE….
When I see that through and through I laugh. I dance on the broken vase with the cat. And this incident becomes a joke I share to share the laughter.
In this gestalt image: is the picture a perfect woman or an imperfect woman. Is life perfect or imperfect, good or bad. Is this moment good or bad? Life is ambiguous at its core. Life is One, not two, but we experience life as two. And we struggle to restore the One through control. But this control is in time, control happens in the future. In the present moment, there is no control because the present moment is one, not this and that separated by time. The present moment is timeless. We are always Now.
Seeing that through and through is Zen, and you laugh. Life is perfect/imperfect.