Universal Activity

Here’s a poem I wrote a few years ago to my Zen teacher:

Scrubbing the toilet
A persistent shit stain
Impatience, frustration,
Dissatisfaction

Then, what’s called I
Was poured into the scrubbing
The self flowed down
The arms, through hand
Through the fingers
Into the motion
Where it found rest
In groundlessness

What is mind?
Boundless activity
Who feels that to be so?
Boundless activity

Scrubbing, bending,
Walking, feeling,
Laughing, thinking

Without a self
Without a lack of self

All nouns are verbs
All words are synonyms

All is accomplished
With no sense of accomplishment

Each breath
The first and last

Selfless curiosity
All is forgiven

In the message before that, I also said, “Not one pebble can be extracted without taking up the whole earth.”

That was all before romantic love came back into my life, plopping me into the thick slime of the human condition again.

Zen is easy when you set aside everything that makes you human. When you look at all things as passing dreams, shadows and echoes.

Boundless or universal activity was what I called emptiness at the time. When confronted by the silent question, “What is it that’s active?” I said, “Activity.”

So I made all nouns into one verb, and then that one verb into one noun. That’s like if we said, “There’s no jogger, only jogging. And that all joggers are this jogging.”

That’s kinda satisfying, isn’t it? It negates being but affirms becoming, since it’s because everything is always in the process of becoming something else, that nothing has its own being.

Then that view closes the gap, and says that becoming is Being. So, it doesn’t get rid of, “I am,” but puts it somewhere else: actions. I’m not the doer or what’s done, I’m the doing.

Shortly after that, I think I shortened it to, -Ing.

There’s a beauty to that view. It allows us to lose ourselves, and our baggage, in a kind of infinite, boundless process that’s both an essence and a function.

But, is it so?

I can’t really come up with any good reason why it wouldn’t be so, except that it defies common sense and perception. But, it’s possible that our perception is skewed, that common sense is really kinda nonsensical.

It’s universal because we’re not separate from anything else. What’s outside is always coming inside, what’s in is always going out. And there’s no such thing as a thing apart from activity. Even doing nothing is doing something.

And yet, something feels off about it. The teachings say that the wisdom of sunyata is beyond words and letters, but the view I plopped down here is easily communicated.

It feels imbalanced. Too much Illumination, not enough silence. A kinda Dharma drunkenness.

Also, it didn’t set me free. For much, much suffering and confusion followed over the next two years, and I mostly forgot about universal activity altogether.

But it is pointing in the right direction. I don’t have any alternative view to offer at the moment. I can only say that it’s a warm, sunny day here right now. The birds are singing, and the trees are trying to bud.

Green grass all around. Before we know it, there’ll be dandelions.

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