I first read a book called The Way of Zen around 1972, when woolly-heads like me were still convinced that Eastern Mysticism held The Answer. The later discovery that there was no Answer, only another ton of questions, was a bitter disappointment…although it did eventually pave the way for Eckhart Tolle to explain how to forget the Answer, and instead deal with the Questions regarding one’s own life-wasting silliness.
In those days, the entire point of a book about Zen was for the reader to be completely baffled by the syntax. Phrases like ‘the sound of toenails growing’ were commonplace. This provided a halfway credible excuse to roll another joint, and see if that might help. It very rarely did, but what I gleaned overall from this particular Penguin was that ‘Zen action’ theory was primarily about imagining what might happen if something physical was missing from an activity. Thus in Zen archery, the arrow lands where you want it to land. In Zen parking, the car winds up where you want it to be. In Zen painting, the brush goes where it needs to in order to create a masterpiece. And so on.
I think you can see where the flaw in this idea is: the Sun headline is ‘Hard reality for wankers’. As a piece of philosophy, it’s a bit like the phrase in vino veritas: ‘Truth for lushes’. For most people, it’s never going to cut it. But for the EU in general and the Greeks in particular, it is spot on the money.
It seems to me that, over the last five weeks, the only way the media has been able to cope with reporting on the Greek debt crisis is by adopting a form of Zen journalism. Otherwise, how would one interpret all those Zen press releases, Zen soundbites, Zen progress reports, Zen deadlines, and zen and zen and zen…nussink iss happenink, ach so! How can ziss be?
In Zen austerity, you see, money is both saved and spent at the same time. Zen negotiations end with everyone being happy. The thing with Teutonic Zen is, all the orders are obeyed. And Zen fund hedging absolutely demands that whatever happens, you walk away with the pot.
This adoption by all things EU and Greek of all things Zen finally spiralled out of control in the last forty-eight hours. Let me give you just a little of the behavioural evidence for that conclusion. Last night, Mario Draghi applied Zen debt forgiveness to overcome an impasse between the bondholders and the Greeks. The next morning, Evangelo Venizelos left Greece for Brussels empty-handed – having failed to secure all-Party agreement – but on the plane managed to get all the Zen signatures he needed. Suddenly, there was a deal: once again, Draghi the Man of Zen said it was fine, we could add some more Zen forgiveness. Christine Lagarde in turn used her infinite powers of Zen to make 2 and 2 equal 4,719: it was all positive, she said.
But then uber-realist Wolfgang Schauble said that some of the cuts were Zen cuts, rather than proper Germanic cuts. So from Washington – to where he had been whisked by Zen aeroplane – Italian PM Mario Monti said there should be some Zen leniency. However, in the last few minutes, Angela Merkel has expressed her ‘concern’ about Signor Draghi’s Zen liquidity.
This is the way of Zen: things come and go depending on where each person wants them to be. It may look like Fred Karno’s Circus meets the Pinball Wizard of Oz, but it is nothing more than the Yin and Yang of universal Being.
Why Zen ying and Tuetonic Yang are so at odds in all this may have something to do with the fact that during the 197os (when all these folks were growing up) The Way of Zen sold 3 million copies in Italy, and just the four in West Germany. (In East Germany it was banned: Angela Merkel has never heard of it.) But either way, I think it is fair to say that another Zen deadline has been passed, because the EU FinMinCom will now meet tomorrow. And yes, another Zen release from the Brussels Japanese poetry-writer says this is ‘not a problem’.
It is impossible to have a Zen bottom line, because the bottom is where you want it to be. But if I may use an imaginary stick and draw a Zen line in the sand here, then my conclusion would be that the euro is a Zen currency: it was, at its formation, the act of printing paper and saying the value is what we want it to be; and all these ClubMed countries deserve to have this currency, because they in turn have Zen fiscal numbers we can believe in if we just try. This must be correct, because GoldZen Sachs says so. And Mr VeliZenos agrees.
That’s enough Zen gags – Ed.