Zen NO DUCKS Story, submitted by Fred Leeds

A story is told of Ma Tsu and Pai Chang. The two are walking along together when some wild ducks fly by. Ma Tsu asks what they are, and Pai Chang says “Wild ducks.” The master then asks “Where have they gone?” Pai Chang replies “They have already flown away.” Ma Tsu proceeds to twist Pai Chang’s nose and says: “When have they ever flown away, they have been here since the beginning.”

ALEX: All of us might not quite “get” deeper implications of this tale without some help. We see questions of permanence, ephemera, identity and appearance, to name but a few. Fred and I wanted to provide a link, first one I found, with supplementary explanation:

LINK: The Koans of Pai-chang Huai-hai


FRED: The stories of Chinese Zen masters such as Ma-tsu and Pai-chang are revealing and very telling, though directly realizing their intent usually requires meditation. It is like understanding a poem without further explanation, seeing its beauty as already one with its truth. The Zen masters place a high value on immediacy of expression because it reveals the level of one’s realization. One of the main goals of that realization, as I understand it, is to become supremely comfortable in your own skin, to see your place in the universe as at once beautiful and inevitable, as that of the stars and the sea. A Zen master I once met with told me to experience myself, that I might forget myself, to view myself, just I am, as one with all things.

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Doghouse and Writer’s Block

Humor, by Fred Leeds

I am holed up in an attic trying to write something. They may have to keep me here if I don’t come up with something soon. Let’s see… It is a dark and stormy night… I got rid of Lucy but am stuck with Schroeder. Charlie Brown lost at baseball and is sprawled asleep in the doghouse below me. Schroeder keeps playing Beethoven’s Fifth and I’m about to go mad. I must take off in my airplane and seek the wide-open spaces. Red Baron, my old friend, even you are better company than this. Linus, prepare my scarf! I will ride my rickety typewriter into yon evil sky.

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The Kindly Justifying Buddha Mind

a vignette by Fred Leeds

The lotus is an Asian symbol for finding order in chaos, as it grows up pure and strong from the mud below. Making sense of the seeming nonsensical, seeing the beauty in each homely reality, is the key. Can you discern the familiar meaning in the wail of an infant, or the intent behind the awkwardness in the beggar’s muted cry? According to Buddhism, all living beings participate in the Buddha nature just as they are. Our sometimes dreary, everyday world, they say, is the same as nirvana when glimpsed through the kindly justifying mind of purity. It arises above the world while still containing it, like a lotus sprung whole right from the earth below.

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Forgot My Parka and Fell in a Poodle – by Fred Leeds

Snoopy of Peanuts fame used to sit in front of a rickety old typewriter and begin his stories with the hackneyed words “It was a dark and stormy night.” I think I know how he must have felt; I have trouble coming up with new ideas myself these days. Nursing a fetish for originality is of course no wiser. As every punster knows, words are at bottom just a batch of funny noises. Nevertheless, i must make a pretense of stately oration in the public’s sacred name. I just can’t deliver a pronouncement right now because it’s been raining outside and my coat’s sopping mud-wet and dripping on the rug. I’m afraid the weather is in hands other than mine, and while I’m an author, I’m no author or master of the universe. Let me clean up the mud spot on the carpet and I’ll get back to you. (Curse you, Red Baron!)

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Counting on the Off Beat – by Fred Leeds

Counting on the off beat means trusting in our peculiarities, not being preoccupied with surface impressions. Something inside us knows what to do even when we seem baffled. I seek that certain something because I feel baffled more often than most. When I make a mistake I make it completely and try to tap its whole meaning.

For example, a lady seemed to be winking at me the other day. Before she rubbed her eye and revealed she had something in it, I winked back. Undaunted by my mistake, I said I wished I could keep the cinder company. She laughed where she had seemed sour before, so for a guy as timid as me, this was a triumph.

Chalk up another victory to Idiosyncrasy Incorporated.

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When Words Collide

a vignette by Fred Leeds

It’s the eternal question of putting pen to paper. What should I write about, and why? Shall I address something earth-shattering or just ordinary events? To paraphrase James Thurber, it’s better to write largely about small events and but a little about great events. Then there’s the question of what a reader might prefer to read, as opposed to one’s lofty authorial inclinations. It can all get pretty complicated, but the one thing I know for sure is that I love writing, writing about anything. Pushing a subject against a verb is all I need to be content. No earth-shattering collision need be imminent.

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Ever the Twain Shall Meet

A Proverb Revisited
a vignette by Fred Leeds

East is East and West is West, but ever the twain shall meet. This reversal of the old proverb is meant to describe my search for an Orient within. I seek a land, just beyond the rising sun, the dawning of a self at once Eastern and Western. I seek a soul of place that is one with the whole human spirit. I would treat East and West as complements in order to challenge the black and white thinking presented in the proverb. I wish to return a shared brightness to the supposed darkness of the stranger, to see in the “Far East” of the other a living mirror quite equal to myself.

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Blessings from Home

a vignette by Fred Leeds

Talking to oneself is not always plain crazy; it can sometimes prepare one to greet others as selves. It is simply a matter of greeting the whole human from within. It takes no candle or prayer book, just an ear that’s in tune. Greeting calls out to greeting in the core of the human; the one who will hear is, in essence, the one who speaks. Some may refer to the one who speaks here and hears there, the being represented at once in you and in me, as God. I would rather refer to him as home. So greetings alike to you and to me; blessings, dear reader, all blessings from home.

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Studied Blindness and Art

a vignette by Fred Leeds

To retrieve one’s more natural intention, one must contrive to study blindness. Take the pianist, for example, who creates whole worlds by training his hands to overtake him. Or consider the singer, whose long practice carries her off to nnw expression beyond the fixed sense of speech. Or consider the poet, who dives unaided into the evolving word, confronting meanings beyond the printed certainty of the everyday. Each is taken by a sort of willing surprise; each abandons old eyes to see past mere finish and welcome the new.

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Writing: Quite a Trip

a vignette by Fred Leeds

Pen and hand and head, get ready. Work together now, but don’t get too serious … You can’t fall out of the universe, but writing’s quite a trip. You never know what will happen when you write. First intentions won’t do, and you might, all at once, find the writing writing you. Writing can be a proud thing, a heavy symbolic act, but it can also be a simple snapshot of the human planet, its own naked yearnings and their constant disguise. Like the rising and setting of the sun, it can be a free and easy ritual, a joy and a surprise. You can find yourself by losing yourself in writing, and find that the writing is and has been writing you. I know because it happened to me.

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