On the wooden board outside of the meditation hall in Zen monasteries, there is a four-line inscription. The last line is, “Don’t waste your life.” Our lives are made of days and hours, and each hour is precious. Have we wasted our hours and our days? Are we wasting our lives? These are important questions. Practicing Buddhism is being alive in each moment. When we practice sitting or walking, we have the means to do it perfectly. During the rest of the day, we also practice. It is more difficult, but it is possible. The sitting and the walking must be extended to the non-walking, non-sitting moments of our day. That is the basic principle of meditation.
One of the fringe benefits of being an English or history teacher is receiving the occasional jewel of a student blooper in an essay. I have pasted together the following “history” of the world from certifiably genuine student bloopers collected by teachers throughout the United States, from eighth grade through college level. Read carefully, and you will learn a lot.
I am mesmerized by the photograph of my father, staring at me from solemn dark eyes just like mine. He is dressed splendidly in a striped suit and white shoes; I cannot tell the colors of anything else because the faded sepia tones of the photograph reflect only subdued lights and darks. A dandy, my father was, with a handkerchief in his pocket and a flower in his lapel, his dark hair perfectly parted on the side. There is an anger in the way he stands, and a shyness; the look on his face is sullen and inviting.
The Madrid North Train Station was a newly-built but not fully operational facility, well heated, and very clean. Under the building, almost as an afterthought, were located the train platforms. The workmen had retired for the day by the time I arrived at six p.m. I placed my bags in a coin locker tucked away in a corner of the waiting area’s great expanse, then I cashed a traveler’s check and bought a ticket for San Sebastian. I had a three-hour wait and found a bench where I could stretch out, write a few letters, and, possibly, catch a nap in anticipation of my second overnight journey in as many nights.