Zen Garden Silence has it's place. Noise has it's place. They don't often belong in each other's space, and learning to respect the differences that separates each presents valuable fuel for invention and clear thinking.

Try it like this:

Ice cream is good. Pickles are good. Together? Not so good.

It's tricky. In terms of a creative process, the juxtaposition of disparate qualities often sparks life into a new idea. But generally I find the combination of disparate qualities something that must be undertaken with care. Driving a monster truck to a monastic Zen retreat strikes me as a philosophical discontinuity. It doesn't reconcile easily.

This all has to do with a process of making good aesthetic choices, at least superficially. But superficiality does not confer irrelevance. Superficial presentations of ourselves and our creative work are often the only interactions we will have with a majority of others. Presentation matters, and if you're hoping to present something to an audience beyond your spouse, your parents, and your children, you're going to need to polish it up.

But beneath the surface, we enter a dialogue about the nature of things--the essential, deep, honest nature of things. This is the book judged for what's beneath the cover. This is the person regarded for the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. This is why some software delights us, and some software exasperates us. This is why amateur performances of great music are not the same as great performances of great music. This is why paintings of ostensibly the same subject can have profoundly different merits. Transcendental truth presents hard to define boundaries. People of good intention can disagree intensely about the nature of an ordinary thing or idea. But my point is that in a world of seemingly effortless information transfer, and a seething churn of ideas and cultures, it's important that the potential for all combinations does not overwhelm good decision-making. Just because something is possible does not therefore mean it should be done. Pickles do not go well with ice cream.

And there it is: everything…is not everything. Discretion is not the same as prejudice. Decision is not the same as exclusivity. Merits of good invention spring from respectful evaluation of source material. Rock 'n roll is great…if you're in a rock 'n roll frame of mind. But to play it at a Zen retreat is to miss the innate nature of each thing.

Do I think there will never be a way for them to brush shoulders, rock music and zen meditation? Not at all. While nothing lasting about that particular pairing springs to mind (and I'm not clearing my afternoon to await an epiphany on this juxtaposition), I most certainly remain open to some unexpected, delicious frission. That's because a respect for each element individually affords the potential for new relationships. Respect for the essential nature of ingredients makes it possible to consider new combinations.

After that, anything's possible.


PS -- Yes, yes, here's where the good people of 1AU ask our dear readers to share what you've read with friends and colleagues. And here's the place where you think, "Oh, sure, one more imposition of my precious time." Well, we're asking. It's something we value above rubies, above gold: if you like an idea enough to give it a moment's thought, then consider giving it a measure of freedom. When you share an idea with another person, you release an idea to grow freely in the world. Like what you see? Set it free.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Subscribe in a reader