There is a modern Zen question that asks; “If Isaac Newton was sitting under the tree listening to his IPOD, Walkman, or transistor radio instead of remaining still in contemplation, would he have noticed the apple drop from the tree? This action would set off a cataclysmic understanding of gravity that would eventually lead to commercial flight, enable satellites in space, and explain why little Johnny is constantly falling down on the playground! Ok, let’s face it, little Johnny is a spaz, but gravity is “kind of” important!
Anyway, the idea is this; in a world with constant stimulation, adulation, recreation and every other type of “ation,” is there any room, or time to sit and do “nothing?” If most Americans were playing a word association party game, and began to come up with words that go along with silence; “awkward, dead, and instant” would be at the top of the list. Yes, yes, “silence is golden” got thrown in there, but only by the mother of the 5-year-old triplets, and a husband to match. Does silence have to be bad? As much as almost all of us love modern technology, has the TV, phone, texting, and mini music players sapped not only our creative thought, but our powers of observation?
A common “anti-terrorist” billboard in the public and private transportation systems now says “If you see something, say something!” Is that possible anymore? A subway train, or bus is full of people staring at their feet, due to a common fear of eye contact, mixed with their inability, or unwillingness to make chit-chat. This is before we even start on their electronic pre-occupations. Not only may this behavior hamper the security concerns of a nation, but how many will miss the chance to see the cute kid on the way to his first baseball game, the red faced young woman who accidentally begins to belt out the lyrics to her favorite song, and the middle age man who only has two stops, and no smooth track to scribble out a love note on the anniversary card he managed to snag last-minute at the subterranean Green Line kiosk , next to the Milky Ways, before he meets his wife for that special dinner? Yea, I saw something; and it wasn’t all evil!
If we’re throwing out old quotes, why not; “A watched pot never boils.” That may be the case in the Zen realm, but last week as I stood blurry eyed, and famished in front of the microwave oven waiting for my soup to boil, I was struck by the gift of observation; each time I stopped, and restarted the cooking process, the plate’s rotation inside would change from clockwise to counterclockwise I was thrilled! I had never seen this before, and when I pointed it out to more than I should have, they were just as fascinated. Will this observation bring world peace and betterment for the human race? Probably not; but it’s a good place to start.