virus: Zen

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Mon, 3 Mar 1997 23:32:59 -0800 (PST)

Several years ago, while sitting around a campfire at an SCA (Society for
Creative Anachronism) event, I met a strange man. He was bald, cheerful,
and very drunk (he had an empty bowl of the size normally used to serve a
salad in front of him, which had recently been full of sake). He uttered
a couple of enigmatic remarks in my direction, and when I responded to
them with some attempt at insightfulness, he laughed and asked me to sit
by him and talk with him. He told me several koans, and then suggested
that I try not to use the word 'I' for ten minutes. I smugly took the
challenge, and failed miserably, saying it three times in the next half
minute. He laughed delightedly again. Chagrined, but piqued, I listened
to him some more. He said, "The spaces between the stars are very cold.
But not if you're a star," and assigned me to try it that night. Since it
turned out to be a cloudy night and I couldn't see the stars, I found this
very difficult, so I tried being a fire instead. It worked pretty well, I
thought, and I was enough into it that I became utterly confused when
someone suddenly offered me some watermelon. I didn't manage to go
without 'I' for any appreciable period until a few weeks later, though. I
heartily recommend the experience, preferably with a friend, a very open
mind, and a free afternoon.
I have used psychedelics, but the potential mind-altering effect of this
exercise is, I think, more permanently attitude-enriching. I trace parts
of my world-view directly to that experience.


who is capable of speaking of herself entirely in the third person for
days on end, but only because she spends too much time on MOOs.