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The Zen of Jimmy Buffett

Ven. Dr. Am Koe Beighley Su

June 17, 2022

It has been a wonderful adventure to have spent my life around water and water activities. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, living near the water in Florida, California, and Texas, engaged in surfing, skiing, sailing...just plain awesome. And, the music of the water is equally awesome. Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys...very popular during my teen angst years, gave way to the music of Jimmy Buffett. Yes, I am definitely a Parrot Head! And Margaritaville IS a real location, although the prescribed cure for everything, Barbados Rum, is off the table!

When we listen very closely to the lyrics of some of the Buffett tunes, we can often hear the distinct overtone of Zen thought and practice. Take, for example, the song "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On", written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It begins in this fashion:

"I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man

Floating down canal.

It doesn't use numbers or moving hands,

It always just says now.

Now you may be thinking that I was had,

But this watch is never wrong.

And if I have trouble the warranty said

Breathe in, breathe out, move on."

In our meditation practices we are taught to focus on our breath, and if distractions occur, to simply return to our breath. We are also taught not to focus on the past or the future, that this present moment is the only reality. We understand that the concept of time is a very fluid reality and that with every keystroke I make, I am no longer in the now, but already in the past. So...a watch with no numbers and no moving hands is truly speaking truth when it simple reads "NOW".

"And it rained, it was nothing really new.

And it blew, we've seen all that before.

And it poured, the Earth began to strain

Pontchartrain leaking through the door, tides at war."

Chaotic climate on this earth is really nothing new. If you believe the Biblical creation story, the earth was formed in a sort of systemic chaos, through each of the ages (Ice age, etc) the effects of the climate quite naturally wreaked havoc on life as whatever it was at the time. As in Buffett's song. "we've seen all that before". Which simply leads us to the Buddhist tenet that nothing is permanent, everything is changing...always. We should expect nothing different. Whatever our lives seem to be at any given moment-it will change.

"If a hurricane doesn't leave you dead

It will make you strong.

Don't try to explain it, just nod you head.

Breathe in, breathe out, move on."

There's something in our shared humanity that insists that we know the "WHY" of things. I would like to posit that we are asking the wrong question, because "why" takes us in circles and rarely offer us anything new that we already didn't know. The more important question might be "WHAT". I know that nothing is permanent, I know that everything is changing all around me all the time, I know that I am part of the beginning-less and endless cycle of birth and death, I know that I have always been and always be, in some form and in some realm. What does whatever is happening in this moment mean to me? What is my response to this event going to be in this moment? What will I do that is for the benefit of all sentient beings in the here and now, as I have taken vows to do? What does it even mean to me that this is going on in this moment, knowing that everything could be different in the next moment...or not? It would seem that WHAT is a question of paramount importance on this journey!!

"And it rained, nothing really new.

And it blew, seen all that before.

And it poured, the Earth began to strain,

Pontchartrain buried the Ninth Ward to the second floor."

As in most natural disasters, or "natural occurrences", there was tremendous loss of life and loss of property, livelihoods, family, natural and man-made resources...all of which went back into the beginning-less and endless cycle of life, as it always has. Impermanence and the Now are the only permanent things we have at our disposal.

"According to my watch, the time is now,

Past is dead and gone.

Don't try to shake it, just nod your head.

Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

Don't try to explain it, just bow your head,

Breathe in,

Breathe out,

Move on..."

May we recognize the impermanence of everything, the power of Now, and, as long as we inhabit this realm, breathe in-breathe out-move on.

May you be well and at peace on your journey.

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