I have told you so many times that life is suffering, and suffering comes from desire. This is why the Buddhist tries to free his life from desire– but it is not easy.
For example, I have recently been having trouble with my neighbor, Arturo. As you know, I live a simple and solitary life on top of a mountain in Northern California. Arturo is a great friend, and a good man, but lately he’s become what I would have called in my pre-Monk days “King Bogart”. By way of explanation, I need to back up a bit…
My supplies of crusty, resinated nuggets were running low, but I did not want to give into desire, so I decided to listen to some music instead. I popped a new CD into my discman by a band called “The Works”, a Swedish group on the same label as one of my favorite records from 2004, Dungen. I was immediately floored by the opening number, which employs psychedelic, swirling guitars and mysterious keys to great effect. It was like being transported back in time to the era of flower children, LSD, and clean air and rivers.
Songs like “The Tale” and “Slow as She Goes” are epic psychedelic rock numbers heavy on the atmospherics and multi-instrument jams, while “Time to Wake Up” uses plaintive, overdubbed vocals and folksy guitar to achieve a 60’s sound that gracefully evolves into a dreamy coda featuring strings and a fiddle. A couple of tunes, like “Speak Your Mind” are more straight ahead rockers– these were the tunes I didn’t like as much, as they’re solid but not nearly as interesting as the more psych-influenced ones. Those looking for comparisons to label-mates Dungen will find some, in that the record uses some classical/folk instruments, and there is a bit of comparison to be made in the vocal styles of the lead singers. One major difference is that The Works sing in English, which I enjoy because my Swedish is rudimentary at best.
As the album unfolded, I began to like it more and more. Most of the songs are in the 5 minute range, but feel longer, because of extended outro jams that float out into space, where drums, keys, and guitar have late night conversations about infinity. I was reminded of a Koan:
A monk asked Kegon, “How does an enlightened one return to the ordinary world?” Kegon replied, “A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches.”
I felt that I needed to puff on some fine, orange-haired flowers in order to properly stimulate the full enlightenment of the album, so I headed down to Arturo’s– he’s been keeping all my mail, including the wonderful horticultural gifts from my friends around the world. He knows I cannot ask him for these pleasures because it is against my nature as a Buddhist monk, and at times I feel he is lording this power over me, especially given his new appreciation for the sticky nodules of bright green buds that appear in our mailbox weekly.
So I arrived at Arturo’s casa to find him knee-deep in a super stone session. He was sketching his 20-something wife in the nude while sparking a joint the size of a healthy carrot from our garden. His wife quickly covered up and sat down at the table with us, talking about this and that. I eyed his joint lovingly and resisted the desire to ask for a hit, as a Buddhist monk such as myself must deny desire and only accept what is offered to him.
Where I come from, the rule used to be “puff, puff, pass” but I guess in Arturo’s house it’s “Puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, pass to wife, puff, puff, puff, puff…” I felt resentment starting to build up inside but fought the urges as valiantly as I could. As a last ditch attempt to improve the situation, I popped in The Works’ “The Tale” into Arturo’s system and turned it up loud.
As if magically overcome by the smashing cymbals and 60’s love vibe, Arturo leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, took an epic pull on the now-stubby j, and passed it to me without a word. I guess I had to give to recieve, something I will be sure to remember…
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