Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Master and the Thief

One evening, Zen master Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras when a thief entered his house with a sword, demanding "your money or your life!"

Without any fear, Shichiri said, "Don't disturb me! Help yourself with the money, it's over there in the drawer." He then resumed his recitation. 

The thief was startled by this unexpected reaction, but he proceeded with his business anyway. While he was helping himself to the money, the master stopped and called, "Don't take all of it. Leave me some to pay my taxes tomorrow."

The thief left some money behind and prepared to leave. Just before he left, the master suddenly shouted at him, "You took my money and you didn't even thank me?! That's not polite!"

This time, the thief was really shocked at such fearlessness. He thanked the master and ran away. The thief later told his friends that he had never been so frightened in his life. 

A few days later, the thief was caught and confessed his theft at Shichiri's house. However, when the master was called as a witness, he said, "No, this man did not steal anything from me. I gave him the money. He even thanked me for it."
--- --- ---
So, unbelievable as it may be, seems I have a stalker on the loose. Why I should have one is beyond me, but it seems that I have. He has done all the things that stalkers do, including drive-bys, several "fan" sites, letters sent hither and yon, and some awfully naughty vitriol directed to those who he thinks are close to me.

Now, a stalker doesn't want money.

What a stalker wants is attention.

The police in the city where he lives -- not far from where I am sitting right now -- tell me their experts have determined this stalker fits the "escalating danger profile," and they have asked me to help them make their case... for my own safety, or so they say.

I feel that if I do this, I may give the stalker what he wants -- attention -- and of course I am tempted to give him what he wants. Isn't that the generous thing to do? Give people what they want? Isn't that what Shichiri did in our story, above?

However, a stalker doesn't want just any attention. He wants the attention -- the undivided attention -- of the one he stalks. In this case, if I give the stalker what he wants, I am left with a paradox. Were I to give him my undivided attention, would I not become his stalker?

Interesting thought, isn't it?

By satisfying the stalker, I would myself become the same.

Do you think he would be angry with me?

Of what use is it to become angry with the stalker? Through anger, whatever small merit you might have accidentally accumulated is burned in the flash of an instant -- gone forever. Through anger, you give rise to 21,000 male dons, and populate your world accordingly. Through anger, you give rise to sickness in the upper part of the body. Truly, I have learned through experience, that anger is a complete downfall unto itself.

Stalkers begin by professing their undying love and devotion. When their expectations are not fulfilled, that love and devotion turns to hatred and obsession. Some are capable of doing great violence -- some assassins, for example, begin as zealous partisans. When the police express their concern, they do so on valid grounds, for he does fit the profile: lack of achievement, inability to maintain relationships, deviant lifestyle, financial problems, status frustration -- all the palette of failures that push him to commit one final act of desperation.

But, while I understand the concern, I cannot share it. Not with this stalker, for he only stalks himself and his only destruction is self-destruction. A directionless, sad and lonely, middle-aged man on a bus, iPod in his hand, nodding his empty head to a broken beat --- committing the coward's long, slow suicide.

I think the stalker is angry at himself, and he displaces this anger toward himself by directing it toward me.
"How could I have been such a fool!" he cries. "The great Me, who cannot be deceived!"

He knows that I know the extent to which his credulity demonstrates his emptiness, and his sly notion of self does not wish to be so known.

"I was set upon by a demon!" he cries. "For only a demon could deceive the great Me!"

But, how easy it is to fool this stalker! All I have to do is put up a mirror, and he will bluster, and posture, and call out my name. Truly, it is as if, every time he looks, he sees me in that mirror -- laughing at him -- reminding him of his emptiness.

And once, he even thanked me for it!

To repent the conditions of one's generosity is to create the conditions for one's own poverty.

Slowly, slowly... catchee monkey.

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