James LePore: Project 52/2015: Being Zen, Joey and Eddie, 1

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14814_1750436lBeing Zen, © James LePore

KOAN: a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment. The effort to “solve” a koan is intended to exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will, readying the mind to entertain an appropriate response on the intuitive level. Each such exercise constitutes both a communication of some aspect of Zen experience and a test of the novice’s competence. A characteristic example of the style is the well-known koan “When both hands are clapped a sound is produced; listen to the sound of one hand clapping.” Sometimes the koan is set in question-and-answer form, as in the question “What is Buddha?” and its answer, “Three pounds of flax.”

“Three pounds of flax? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Joey, I’m trying to teach you something here.”

“Come on, Eddie. This is bullshit.”

“Remember at the circus, all those clowns coming out of that little car?”


“You were amazed.”

“I was six. I’m thirty now.”

“Where do you think they came from?”

“A tunnel under the car.”

“No, Joey, they came from somebody’s mind.”

“Yeah, the guy who dreamt up the trick.”

“And where did he get the idea?”

“I don’t know, from out of his ass.”

The coffee shop had little tables outside, with folding chairs. Eddie and Joey sat at one. Eddie lit a cigarette and leaned back. The cars on Eighth Avenue were stopped for a red light.

“Do you know what a catalytic converter is?” Eddie said.

“Of course I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“OK, so I don’t.”

“It’s why the city doesn’t stink of carbon monoxide.”

“That’s great.”

“Where do you think it came from?”

“From the government.”

Eddie smiled. “You’re fucking with me.”

“Yes, I am.”

“You don’t want to learn anything.”

“Everything you need to know about life,” Joey replied, “you learned in kindergarten.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

“It’s true.”

“Where’d you hear it?”

“Three pounds of flax told me.”

“Christ, Joey.”

“I know about Buddhism, Eddie. I know what enlightenment is.”

“What is it?“

“It’s a state,” said Joey, “that’s impossible to achieve, another trap for desperate people looking for happiness.”

“That sounds like an enlightened thought.”

“Here’s another one: that card game in Queens, those dumb ass Haitians?”

“What about it?”

“I’m knocking it off tonight, and you’re helping me.”

The cars on the avenue were starting to move. Eddie watched them. “Okay,” he said. “I’m in.”

(To Be Continued)


About Project 52/2015: I like to take pictures and I like to write fiction. This Blog will combine the two in what I am calling Project 52/2015, one of my images mated with a piece of very short fiction each week in 2015. Enjoy.

James LePore is the national bestselling author of numerous novels, most recently, God’s Formula, which he wrote with Carlos Davis. Visit his website.


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On May 8, 2015
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