From the Archives: Terrence Reviews Cornelius

I have told you many times now that life is suffering. It is for this reason that a Buddhist such as myself has no need for the soothing pleasures of marijuana buds and leaves that many of you have continued to send me despite my admonitions. As a Buddhist I have no use for the herb, for ss Tao te Ching once wrote, “we shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.”

I read these words again and then took a small walk through the garden, where I meditated for a few hours or so. After consuming my daily dose of tea and barley grains, I went to the barn of pottery and began to work without mind– the essence of the zen which we seek here. I worked with the earthly clay for I know not how long and I left without even seeing my work.

After that I read a bit more and went to my room where I surfed the net for a while on my i-mac. On the page of a fellow called “momus” I read of another interesting musician named Cornelius. Before I went to bed I used my Visa to buy the CD and have it shipped overnight.

The next morning I awakened feeling nothingness, which was perfection. I tried not to feel happiness for my accomplishment. To be a Buddhist is to deny oneself many pleasures, primarily that of the soft, fluffy nodules of resin-soaked herbal delights, but that is of no concern to me. I could feel enlightenment tugging on the folds of my robe as I dressed myself.

My first stop was the lake, where I meditated quietly for a few hours and watched the mist slowly disappear into the atmosphere. It was beautiful but I could not concentrate, so I went back to the potter’s studio.

It was a good thing I did, because sitting there in the middle of the spartan room was my work from the night before. In horror I realized it was a perfect double-chambered, long stemmed bong with an extra large bowl. It was nearly a replica of the one that sat on my dining-room table for 10 years when I was an undergraduate at Santa Cruz. I quickly placed the beautiful, yet sinful, smoking machine into the folds of my robe. I did so just as our Yogi passed by. He gave me a strange look and passed by without speaking.

After that encounter I hurried to the mail room. The usual junk mail was waiting there– a sample of the new Tostitos salsa that our monastery was endorsing, a kind note from Richard Gere, and a gift certificate from the Gap. But also there were two packages, and I quivered with delight, even though I knew not why. Stopping only for a second at my room to pick up my Sony Discman and cordless headphones, I hurried to spot I knew in the woods that was private and peaceful.

I opened the first package quickly and found the Cornelius album. It was a blissful collection of 60’s sounds, sweet dreamy singing, multi-layered percussion, hip-hop elements. There were so many moods and textures that I was lost in rapture for the whole album. The electronic bits reminded me what time I live in, while the vaguely baroque and golden age of kitsch elements made me realize where we’ve been.

I opened the second package with some apprehension. Sitting there staring at me was a perfect, orange-haired bud with more crystals than a chandelier. I sniffed it and realized at once it was premium B.C. big bud, most likely grown in Holland by a Canadian friend of mine who lived there and has a thriving seed business.

I was caught in a quandary– what to do with such a gorgeous gift? It was at that moment that Buddha himself entered my thoughts and reminded me of the most important sayings of Zen Buddhism: Unformed people delight in the gaudy and in novelty. Cooked people delight in the ordinary.

How true it was. I removed my clay bong from the folds of my robe, filled it with some cool lake water, and proceeded to cook myself into oblivion. I pressed play and again entered the confusing and beautiful world of Cornelius. Harmonicas, IBM PC blips, banjos, Japanese country vocals and sweeping strings transported me into a place between time and space, between nothingness and everything. It was gaudy and it was novelty but in my cooked state it was the ordinary that made me blissful.

So blissful that I did not notice when the Yogi appeared at my side. I was too baked to even pretend to feign sobriety. He looked at me, at the bong, and at the sky. I feared the worst. It was rumored that he once lashed a student for several hours because his meditation was not selfless.

Instead he picked up the bong and said something I will never forget: Water which is too pure has no fish.

He took a mighty rip and went on his way without saying another word. I pressed play again and leaned back into the soft earth and leaves on the ground.

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