Thursday, October 25, 2007

MOZO: [To Meet] The Fake Elephant

MOZO: [To Meet} The Fake Elephant

MO: fake, imitation
ZO: image, statue; elephant

“Do not, after a long time studying under a fake elephant, doubt the true dragon,.”

A friend of mine who is also an Alexander teacher, Jeff Hall, has expressed on this blog a thoroughly outlandish view on the existence of mind outside of time and of space. And so, with grim determination, I have been thinking out an appropriate response to this strong stimulus.

Why the grim determination? Because of the hugeness, the immensity, the enormity of my monstrous Buddhist agenda. Because I, after 25 years of investigating Master Dogen’s view, after all these years of heroic self-sacrifice, am now the one whose turn it is to bestow his all-important view upon lesser mortals. At least, that is one line of thought. That is the means whereby I well and truly manifest myself as a fake elephant.

But to return to Jeff, he may seem from his comment to be a wishy-washy idealist who believes in mind over matter... but this appearance could be deceptive. Jeff has had a successful professional career to do with digging up large quantities of minerals and he now lives in a big detached house in a location inhabited, in the main, by people with loads of money. He is the kind of bloke who always gets a good deal, by putting himself in the shoes of the poor salesman trying to meet his quarterly targets. Jeff is not the sort of bloke easily to allow the wool to be pulled over his eyes. He understands well that, whereas views are cheap, money talks.

Jeff could be a modern-day King Asoka -- the kind of bloke that I would like to keep on my side, who I would like to offend as little as possible (unlike young musicians and other penniless and powerless types out there who I don’t mind offending at all).

A person who receives the Dharma and lets other people know about it is, unavoidably, in a sense, whether he likes it or not, announcing that he is the real deal. Probably because he grasped this point, Jeff was the first person who ever dared to call me a “Zen Master” -- not in a cynical or sarcastic way but in open and inquiring way, with a wholly appropriate degree of skepticism.

Zen Master? Master of what? Master of fixing. Master of beating myself up. Master of holding rigidly to Buddhist dogmas about oneness of body and mind. Master of thinking I am right. Master of the Japanese-English dictionary. Master of playing statues.

But yes, I received the Dharma in 1998. Even though I received the Dharma from a bastard son of a king of masturbation, and even though my father in the Dharma appears in his dotage to have disowned me, I received the Dharma. So it might be inevitable that people should call me a Zen Master and look me in the eye as if to say: “Mr so-called Zen Master. Are you the real deal, or are you trying to pull the wool over my eyes?” Jeff was the first person to do that to me, in his no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point, let’s do business, kind of way.

Yesterday, while thinking out how to respond to Jeff’s expression of his outlandish view, my mind went back again to Marjory Barlow. When I walked into her teaching room in the summer of 1997, Marjory didn’t have any doubt whatsoever about whether I was the real deal or not. She knew, without doubt, that my directions (the so-called Alexander directions to let the neck be free, to let the head forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, to send the legs out of the pelvis, et cetera) were completely fake.

Marjory stood to my left with her hands on my head and neck and said, “Let.... No. You’re doing it.... Let the neck be free to let the head... No. You’re doing it.” And so on. Until, after several minutes of cold sweating, I totally gave up doing what I had thought was directing, and then she said, “Yes, that’s it!” And so I left her teaching room with my tail between my legs, but at the same time with a great sense of embarking on a totally new adventure. (This was after 2 years of full time Alexander teacher training.)

In subsequent lessons, Marjory did not teach me very much. She only taught me to continue not doing the Alexander directions while investigating in practice the arising and giving up of the idea of moving a leg, and, eventually, the action of moving a leg. She taught me, in short, in the action of moving out a leg while lying on my back, to inhibit what Alexander called our greatest evil -- fixing.

When I described myself to Marjory as an end-gainer, she didn’t stand for that. “Listen,” she told me, “there are two paths open to you. End-gaining or the means-whereby. You choose.”

Marjory’s initial interest in having lessons from her uncle, FM Alexander, was sparked by reading his books. She was fascinated by what he meant by consciousness in books such as “Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual.”

But, I was reflecting during a long drive yesterday, I cannot remember Marjory, after 70 years allowing in herself the growth of consciousness, ever expressing to me even once a view about what mind or consciousness was.

Marjory’s work was totally focused on getting me to devote less energy to abstract thought and upholding of my Buddhist views, and more energy to the work that FM called “thinking in activity.”

Notwithstanding my massive Buddhist agenda, notwithstanding my strong tendency to play the fake elephant, Marjory endeavored with me in a way that seems to me now, looking back 10 years later, truly remarkable. Remarkable because her work was so indirect. I didn’t understand at the time that what she what she was doing was setting me on the path of growth of consciousness. But still I could somehow sense the truth of her work. That’s what gave me the confidence to receive the Dharma in 1998 -- because I had begun to realize that, for the first time, despite my habitual fakery, despite my strong tendency to play statues, despite my deep inclination to imitate an imitation elephant, I had been initiated into a true way of working.

If I express a view on who or what the true dragon is, that is only my view. But what I know without doubt, beyond any view, is that the guy in the mirror with the face of grim determination, who wishes to rigidly uphold a fixed set of views: that is the fake elephant.


Blogger HezB said...

Dear Mr. Merrick,

I'm not announcing that I am the 'real deal'... unless the 'Real Dragon' is, in fact, a parrot.

I just parroted a couple of things I read in Bendowa for the sake of discussion. If I'd known your mate was loaded I would have asked for the answer on the back of a blank cheque.

Our views and 'the money' can, and do, very directly relate to each other though of course.

Now, no more end gaining bastardry on my behalf or there's no more of my poverty buns for you.



4:19 PM  

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