Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Non-Tribute to Michael Thaler (Abdication of Responsibilities)

Michael Thaler has not posted on his blog since Thursday 03 January, and has not moderated any comments since that time. One senses that his learning of the backward step, in this world, has reached its conclusion.

Michael appreciated what I wrote, and the appreciation was mutual. Michael had a certain ability -- albeit still underdeveloped -- to see through the superficial. He had the will, at least, to look at life with the lens cap off. When I became discouraged with this blogging experiment, Michael encouraged me, on line and off line to carry on with it. One Foot in Front of the Other was what he preached and what he practiced. By no means a quitter. A man of integrity.

Ideas come and go that I ought to publish a photo of Michael, make some kind of internet shrine and perform some kind of internet ceremony -- maybe a sound recording of NEGAWAKUWA KONO KUDO O MOTTE AMANEKU ISSAI NI OYOBOSHI, WARERA TO SHUJO TO MINA TOMO NI BUTSUDO O JOZEN KOTO O, "May the merit of this [this commentary on Fukan-zazengi; this morning's sitting; this wayfarer's effort] spread far and wide, so that we and living beings may all realize together the truth of Buddha."

But no, I don't need to do that. Ceremonies for the dead and suchlike are not my job. Leave that to professional Soto Zen monks and others in the world of showbizz.

My job is not to burn incense, not to scatter petals or holy water. It is never my duty to behave as self or others expect. Anybody who that doesn't suit can fuck off my blog and do what Michael himself wanted to do in the end -- join a "Zen Buddhist community." In spite of his will to look at life with the lens cap off, I wonder if Michael saw through the inherent lie of Soto Zen in the end, or not. To be honest, I think not. In that sense, it was a shame he didn't devote himself more wholeheartedly to sitting-zen practice itself, while he still could.

There is no need for ceremonies, prostrations, talk of three treasures, and all the rest of it. The real task is only one, and when it is allowed to do so it continues to observe itself, four times a day, through births, through sickness, through aging, and through death -- and not for the sake of comforting any living person or bringing honour to any dead one.

Having said all the above, if there is anything anybody would like to write in appreciation of Michael Thaler, please feel free to add your own twopennyworth here.

I invite you to give up all idea of saying anything appropriate. Please, if you wish to say something, follow my example of not saying anything at all appropriate. And yet say something.


Blogger Bill said...

Well, for starters, he's still with us, albeit barely (I saw him Thursday). Certainly not up to blogging.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please let Michael know that all us anonymous blog commenters are still out here wishing him well!

Thanks :-)

1:45 PM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you for the news, Bill.

Re-reading now the post I wrote last week, I can't help noticing that, when confronted with some stimulus that might make me emotional, such as the sudden loss of communication from Michael, the easiest default position for me to adopt -- easiest by a long way -- is anger.

Behind the anger, of course, lies fear.

Fear of what? Fear of not being up to some perceived task, for one thing.

That kind of fear all too easily turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, thanks Bill for stopping by, and if you see Michael again, please do pass on my good wishes too, as well as my thanks. Please pass on my thanks to Michael for being such a good and true teacher.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you - please keep your blog "experiment" going. Appreciated finding it while looking for Shobogenzo translations.


4:46 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Did Michael Thaler preach?

The backward step?

Of turning light and shining?

Or not?

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Thaler died Jan. 15 at a Hackensack hospice.

5:08 AM  

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