Chapter Forty Nine

Janah’s on the phone with Mrs. Epstein, Nikko and I are whacking each other with bokken, Amaya is announcing points, refereeing and encouraging in Japanese. She sounds like Hanshi, still can’t figure out how she creates deep male voices. I could have sworn Hanshi was standing behind me, gruffly growling his disappointment in my skills. Nikko clonks me on the head.
Amaya, “Match to Master Murakami…again.”
“You could have skipped again.”
Amaya, in Hanshi voice, “Humility is good for student. You must try harder, always rely on speed, not cunning. Observe opponent, learn cunning.”
I bow, “Hai, Hanshi.”
Amaya gets the giggles, Janah comes over, “Sit.”
We plop on the mat, sanding splinters out of the bokken while Janah tells a story, “Gantner is in jail, but will likely make bail. His passport is being held however, he’s considered a flight risk, bail was set at one million dollars. Tony and Tiny are cooperating, adding to Gantner’s miseries. Min has left the country, the authorities satisfied she was a victim of a plot of which she was unaware. There is naturally the question of who outed him. His attorney tried to claim he was being framed but could offer no explanation for a signed confession. Particularly since the confession expressed deep regret for past behavior and a desire to atone. He also couldn’t overcome the testimony of two men swearing that Gantner hired them to kill Choi Min. It doesn’t much matter if he’s convicted in the US. He’s already out of the Choi Group and the US doesn’t really want anything to do with him, they’ll ship him to Switzerland without waiting for extradition. Mrs. Epstein said the cost of trying him for conspiracy here is too expensive and didn’t serve justice as quickly as turning him over to the Swiss. The Swiss will try him on charges related to sex trafficking, conspiracy to murder and murder. He’s cooked.”
Nikko, “Good, he deserves it. You think Tiny and Tony are going to mind their manners?”
Janah, “We’ll see. If they don’t they get to see you again, in a worse mood than the first time.”
Nikko sneers, “I hope they screw up.”
Amaya, “My mom is the meanest son of a bitch in the valley.”
“You’re prejudiced.”
“What do you have to work on today, daughter?”
"Janah, my schedule?”
“Rest of the morning is creative time, so go get creative. Lunch, rest, this afternoon we have yoga with Lacy at two. From three thirty until you’re done you have a tea ceremony.”
Amaya, “Yay! I will no doubt delight and amaze you.”
Nikko, “Go somewhere and do something.”
“Yes, mother.”
She goes to her room, I hear the computer, her tapping. She is always working on a play, a song or poem, practicing the shamisen or flute. Her creative time is not wasted staring into space. Amaya understands creativity is the result of sweat equity, not something that happens to ‘special’ people by dent of their specialness. She has given up public recognition to work with us, maybe the gods of creativity give her a break for that. All I know is she spends hours honing, working, reworking. I hear voices being tried out, songs sung, poems that she likes, poems she tosses. She dumps material just like Kara drops paintings that seemed like a good idea but didn’t translate to canvas. You can take good and make it better. You can’t make bad anything but mediocre, and that isn’t good enough by half.

Chapter Fifty

Janah, “Your painting is beautiful, it is you and Nishiko together, yes?”
“She’s the razor-like quality of the edges, I’m much softer.”
Janah, “Uh, huh. She adds edge to your edge, together a double edge instead of single.”
“You mean I’m not sugar and spice and everything nice?”
“If by spice you mean hotter than habanero, that’s you.”
“I’m willing to forego sugar and everything nice, you can be that part, cover my deficiencies.”
Amaya, “Being deficiency-less, it is difficult to relate, but I catch the drift.”
I’ll thoroughly examine you for hidden deficiencies later.
There are none. But that will encourage you to look harder, which will work out nicely for me.

Janah, “Amaya’s suddenly gotten a hint of color, is it too warm in here?”
“You brought up habanero, her creative mind starting developing the concept, fleshing it out, so to speak.”
Nikko, “You mean her nasty mind, which you encourage.”
“I wouldn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm.”
“Particularly in regards to you.”
“I demure.”
Amaya, “I recall finding Daphne and a certain mom in a most compromising position less than an hour ago.”
Nikko sighs, “She found the most incredible use for one of her calligraphy brushes. It was not nasty, it was….creative.”
Amaya, Note to Daphne, soft brushes, apply gently, save to: Amaya’s Orgasms, click…file saved, click, send to: Daphne drive G-spot, click.
I smile, an artist lives for her work. Trying out varied techniques with the brush, to flawless canvases, first Nikko, then Amaya. Soon, I will arrange to stroke Janah as well. Then, well, I have two hands don’t I? The mind reels.
Janah, “Before your brain explodes, can you crank out something for dinner?”
“When have you gone to bed hungry?”
“In the temple, every night.”
“Oh, yeah, well, excepting then.”
“Never, and I see no reason to start.”
“Spinach salad, brown rice with sautéed vegetables, berries with crème fraiche?”
“Perhaps a snack while I anticipate.”
“Coming up.”
Amaya reads us the front page of Le Figaro, Nikko chops vegetables while I start the rice. I supply crackers, cheese, and nuts to fortify Janah in case she feels faint anticipating dinner.
She and Amaya pile into the appetizers, Amaya rustles up a vodka, Russian Standard, she has high standards, adds two drops of Angostura bitters.  
Half an hour later, we are facing warm spinach salad, crusty French bread and butter, stir fry and pan-fried trout in herb butter.
Nikko, “The fish is splendid Daphne.”
“Thank you, more wine?”
They usually drink red, but tonight I’d chosen a brisk Pinot Grigio that is well received. At least that’s what Janah says, I don’t drink. Our family is not on the wine snob list, Sis and Chris buy the stuff in 1.75 ml bottles, James and Kara drink scotch and whiskey. The Epsteins like fine wine, and Janah could talk the talk, and I could, if I indulged, sniff out or taste variations most wine aficionados could only dream of. I only sniff to determine if it’s gone to vinegar, not to ferret out flavor subtleties. Amaya reads about wines in French, and has a few preferences in reds, not so much so in whites. Janah further trains her in wine culture, in both English and French. Might come in handy if we ever refocus an abusive gourmet. Nikko could crack him on the skull with a robust but flirty `98 Cabernet.
Amaya, “I have a question.”
“People tend to project their insufficiencies onto others, then complain about them. A broad example is when people blame the President for being spineless, or ignorant, when it is they who lack courage and brains. A narrower example is when I hear a girl dissing other girls about behaviors I have seen her engage in herself. You know, the girl crap, ‘she’s jealous, she’s a drama queen, blah, blah.”
“And the question is….?”
“Why are we so blind to it, and second, when we refocus, are we guilty of projecting our own deficiencies on the targets? That is, requiring them to be better people than we are?”
Janah, “Excellent questions. What do you think?”
“It would be much simpler if you just answered them so I can return to self-absorption.”
“At least you know what you want. But the answer is no. You supply your observations, we talk it over.”
Amaya, “She always says that.”
“Sometimes she just explains, sometimes not, so get busy. You brought it up, put your cards on the table.”
Amaya glances at Nikko, sees she’s getting no relief there, grins, “My own mom will let me be pinned to the board like a captured butterfly.”
“You pinned yourself, now apply your mind to it, you want easy answers, you should have been rescued by Christians.”
“Eeeewwww, gag. Let me see. That we see ourselves in others is fairly obvious. We deny it of course, at least the traits that do not fit the ego’s constructed image. It can be a negative trait, a tendency to gossip or cause pain, or a positive trait, one that is deferential, kind, or compassionate. As long as we believe ego, then those traits cannot belong to us, it does not matter if they are positive or negative.”
Janah, “Which means?”
“We do not see ourselves as we are, only the illusion of what we want to believe we are.”
“And are those images constant, consistent?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“Very good. That’s La Comédie Humaine, glad to see you’re paying attention.”
Nikko, “And now the second part. Are we demanding more of others than we demand of ourselves? Is it even our business to demand anything from others?”
“Exactly. I am sure you have had this discussion. But I have not. And I do not think it is from conscience, I have already willingly participated in the work. I am not looking for justification. I am curious. Is it merely a sense of self-righteousness?”
Janah, “And what have you come up with? I could tell you my rationale, Daphne hers, Nikko hers, but if you just adopted those, they would not be yours, just a convenient imitation.”
“Wait. If you are all one, how are there differing reasons?”
“Another good question, and one that will have to wait, we don’t know. It seems, and this isn’t an explanation, that the brains retained the singular and encompassed the multiple. There was adaptation, not conversion. That’s a description based on what happened, not an explanation of how. Let’s get back to the discussion. ”
“What I feel is, we are presented with a situation, always an ugly situation, someone looking to harm someone who is either unaware of it, or who cannot fight back. The Min woman was unaware that someone was putting a contract out on her. On the other hand, we did a job on a guy who blackmailed corporations or stole corporate secrets. Now in both cases we said the target was harming innocents. And we took steps, extreme steps, to neutralize them. But could it not be said that Gantner was doing the same thing we do? He was trying to get a woman, Min, out of the way because her behavior was hurting flesh and blood people who had no control over her?”
Janah, “Quite a pretty paradox, yes? And what, if you have one, is the solution to this dilemma?”
“I do not have answers, only questions.”
Nikko, “Answers are boring, questions are interesting.”
“Finding an answer is exciting. At least for a bit, until the next question comes along. In Gantner’s case, he had other bad behavior on his plate, but we did not know that until we intervened.”
Janah, “And it would have made no difference if he hadn’t had other issues. We still would have stopped him. You might think over intention and motivation more deeply. You pointed out the similarity, keeping innocent people from unnecessary harm. And Min was causing unnecessary harm. So are there differences? A drop of water is not the river, nor is one river identical to another.”
“I am not clear on differences. You said intention and motivation. Gantner’s actions were perhaps motivated by self interest, it is also true that the whole company was in jeopardy. You cannot know his motive is selfish unless you bring in his other behavior, but you did not know about that a priori.”
“What we did know was that Gantner hired killers. We do our own dirty work, we don’t outsource it. I confess we use monks from time to time, guilty as charged, but only as an extension of action we are taking ourselves. I was still exploring what it was that Gantner was trying to accomplish by killing Min, and remember, for a time we didn’t know he was trying to kill her, it could have been anyone.”
“So as the job went along, more of Gantner’s other life was revealed, which changed the circumstances.”
“Yes. I’m not going to argue that I would have used a different approach. In all likelihood, I would have gone the drug route anyway. It’s the simplest way to cut to the chase. And I knew we wanted Greasy and Big Boy out of the murder for hire business, regardless of how I ultimately handled Gantner. And there’s another intention here we haven’t discussed.”
“Whose? Of course! Min’s. Min was not intending to destroy the company, nor to hurt anyone. It was more that her lack of awareness was destroying both her and the company. Her personal psychology and the surrounding confusion made it impossible for her to run the company properly. She was so tied up in her head, she didn’t see it.”
“Unlike targets intentionally creating pain in others for self gratification, she was inadvertently creating problems. She is, if anything, more hurt by her own behavior than anyone else. She gains nothing by the demise of her company.”
“I see why mother doesn’t get caught up in philosophical complications. We could twist this topic until it was only a tangle of confusion, and nothing gets done, nothing prevented, no suffering is relieved.”
“Still, to question is intelligent. There is always the possibility that an action of mine is no better than the action of one we target. Cutting it up into black and white is no solution. If someone says me killing is no different from them killing, they have a point. I don’t kill animals for food, but I condone Nikko whacking off a guy’s head. Based on a conclusion that ‘killing is bad,’ it surely seems grossly hypocritical, even bizarre. There is far more underneath, circumstances, intentions, motivations. Life comes in colors and shades, it is not at all reasonable, nor will it neatly conform to our conclusions, whether a priori* or a posteriori*.”

*Using the terms in the original Latin sense of what comes before and what comes after. In the current philosophical sense, the terms refer to things you can infer by deduction without direct knowledge, a priori, and things you can’t, a posteriori. Those would be things like historical dates that have a beginning and end. No amount of deduction at the onset could have concluded that the Hundred Years War was going last a hundred years. You can only know it when it’s over.
Leave it to philosophers to take simple concepts, before/after, and complicate them.

Chapter Fifty One

Time has passed, not for us. A year since Amaya’s introduction to intimacy. After a session with Lacy back then, she said there was no more holding out and she came after me with an impure heart and determined voraciousness. It remains salaciously sublime between us. She gives it up for Janah sometimes, frequently when Janah shows up clothing free with evil intent. She is creamily irresistible, not to mention she could stick lusty thoughts in our heads anytime she feels like it. I don’t think she does, it would be unnecessary overkill. Other than that, it’s only me for Amaya. I’m sure things will shift, our extended life will trot out new players, and I’m still hot after Janah and Nishiko.
I am alone with Janah on the roof. We are, I don’t know, to say sad is inadequate, inconsolable is not it either, we don’t seek consolation. Grieving is perhaps closest.
“I’ve kept the death scent turned down for years, knowing that someone is ill is bad enough, knowing they’re ill when they don’t know it yet is too much.”
Janah, “I wish I had something insightful or comforting to say, I don’t.”
“What do we do?”
“You have to tell Sis, then she has to tell Chris, and then they have to do whatever they decide needs to be done. No, that’s not right, not for Chris. You have to tell Chris, then offer to tell Susan or let her do it. Chris would expect you to come directly to her.”
“God, I do not want to deliver this message.”
“You can’t delay. If it’s treatable, best to get moving. You don’t know what she has, you simply know it is more serious than the flu.”
“Come on, Janah, it’s cancer. I just don’t know what kind. The scent is dark, burned sugar, not good.”
“I’d say to hope you’re wrong, except we don’t deal in hope. I can’t catch the scent of illness like you can, anymore than I can see a bullet coming towards me. Some things are just you.”
I sigh, “Nothing for it, is there?”
I sit in Chris’ office at the dojang, she is a master and reads me when I walk in, she smiles, “You sniffed me out. I wondered how long it would take.”
“Until we dropped by yesterday, you’ve managed to be out the last couple of times we visited the condo, and I haven’t been here to teach in a while. That was the last time I saw you in person.”
“I’ve been trying to avoid you since I found out. I collapsed about six weeks ago for no reason. I’d been feeling tired, chalked it up to a busy schedule. Fortunately I was alone when I dropped. I was groggy, lay on the floor a half hour and realized it was serious. I wasn’t chest pain, or a numb left arm or any facial paralysis, so I ruled out heart attack. I called my doc, she ran tests, I got scanned, the results suck.”
I’m in tears, C-mom comes from around the desk and holds me. She’s dying and comforting me, that’s Chris. I’m at it for a while. I’m not a crier, not usually.  This isn’t usually.
When I get it under control, “When do you tell Sis?”
“Tonight. Be on call. I’ll tell her you know, that you came and outed me today.”
Always takes the tough side on herself and tries to make everyone else feel better.
Chris, “Where’s the little white haired girl you’re usually attached to?”
“Outside, in the lobby.”
“Well, let’s not be rude, tell her to come in.”
Seeing Janah’s moist eyes starts Chris. She could tough it out with me, not with my other. I live for Janah the way she lives for Susan. To see us both in tears melts her. We don’t bawl, we weep. Yes, both for the pain of the other and for the loss each of us would feel. If it’s selfish, tough.
Janah, “Treatment starts?”
“I’m not going though that crap. I’ve done my homework. I get to spend a lot of money, have a fair amount of pain, keep the family in a state of mourning just to stick around a few months longer. That’s not happening. Susan and I have talked hypothetically about this, just talking when we’re alone and drift into serious matters. She knows where I stand.”
Janah, “We’ll be available for the duration.”
“Don’t fade to black on me. Don’t make whatever time I have into a living wake for Christ’s sake. Maybe nobody feels like partying, but I won’t tolerate sad eyes and sighs. Get it?”
I nod, Janah says, “We won’t and we’ll help the others get it. Do you need us to do anything else?”
“Take care of the family. I’ll try not to have too many encores. When the play is over, it’s over. A callback for bows is fine, do it and pull down the curtain.”
We leave Chris to her thoughts, she’s going to see Sis in a little while, she would want time alone to check off her feelings, what she wants to say, and when she wants to say it. She doesn’t need us around for that. Tonight, Chris will face the hardest part, worse than the pain, worse than the ending. Telling the woman she wants only to care for and not grow old with that it isn’t happening. We gave Chris the proteins along time ago, but they don’t stop illness or injury, just aging.
When we get back to the apartment, Amaya and Nikko are on the couch, they are doing what sad people do, crying. Nikko followed Janah, Amaya followed in my head. They knew when I talked to Janah on the roof, and knew when we talked to C-mom.
I look at Amaya, “Holding up?”
“I am devastated, for Chris, for Susan, for us and for myself. Chris is so alive, so generous, an incredible master and a wonderful author. To say this sucks may sound juvenile, too bad, it sucks.”
“It does. In every way something can. You heard her request, we promised, and we promised for you as well. No tears, well maybe a few at first, no pouting, no ‘so sad you’re dying’ eyes. You don’t have to be fakey cheerful, but skip the perpetual eulogy.”
Nikko, “Who tells Lacy, Chan and Ning? Miyako will be crushed, David Li spent hours in Chris’ arms.”
Janah, “It’s Daphne’s call for now, unless Chris says something.”
“The phone will ring soon. Let’s get through the night. Susan or Chris, or both of them, may want to tell Lacy.”
The phone rings.
Janah and I are at the table with Susan and C-mom, at the condo. Sis went to tears when we came in, we did too, then we bucked up for Chris’ benefit.
Susan, “We’ve decided to keep everyone in the dark until it can’t be kept in the dark any longer. I will talk to Lacy, but not right away. James and Kara will know of course, but they don’t mingle much with the others. When I tell you to make it known, coach people not to come over with gifts, food or sympathy. We aren’t in denial, a procession of well meaning friends doesn’t change anything. They come over, they play Scrabble, we watch TV, have a drink, dinner, swap stories about today, not yesterday. Chris insists I continue to work on my projects, I work from home, it fills time. We can’t just sit and stare at each other.”
“What’s C-mom going to do? I mean, of course, can she still work, oversee the dojang, and more important, how can we help? We’re Buddhist monks, we won’t be sitting around fretting over inevitabilities. We can be useful with qi, pain relief, contemplation.”
Susan, “In the rush of this, I hadn’t even thought of that. Chris, did it occur to you? The girls can make it substantially more bearable. Good God, what a relief. Maybe less drugs, not out of it so much.”
Chris, “No, actually I hadn’t either. Finally, some payback for all the years of suffering though Daphne’s jokes. I’m feeling better already.”
Janah, “C-mom, enjoy each day. I guarantee, the remaining journey may be psychologically difficult but it will not be physically difficult. Chan, Amaya, Nikko, Daphne and I will be in attendance. Any ideas or thoughts you have on your books, Amaya will record. She will finish anything you want finished. She’s good, creative, imaginative, and she will do it in your style.”
Chris brightens, “I hadn’t thought of that either. Maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone when I’m gone. She can just keep cranking out Chris Fischer novels. I’ll be immortal.”
We laugh, catch the flavor of how C-mom wants it to be. She has no choice but to go on her final adventure, she could do it in joy, or she could do it in morose self pity. Option two isn’t an option, not her style. Everyone has a glass of wine, then another. Chris is looking tired, we kiss and leave.
Nikko, “She is going with dignity, like a warrior. It is good.”
“Yes, I never thought of it, she seemed so invincible, but now that it’s here, her response is entirely her.”
“Amaya, this is the first death in our family, aside from long before I was here, when Ms. Alva died. Even then, Janah was not physically present, she was in Daphne’s mind. Janah and her parents did not ever know her. Alva still lives in Daphne and Susan, as Chris will live in us who are fortunate enough to know her.”
Amaya, “So, in that way, she will be gone physically only, but not from us, she is in each of us.”
“Her spirit runs through us as surely as blood runs through our veins. Now and forever. So we do not act as if she will be gone, she will never be gone.”
“I understand. When may I see her?”
“Susan will call. Until then, we are in silent meditation for the gift of an honorable life and the gift of an honorable death.”
Janah and I call Lacy, Chan, the Temple, Mrs. Fong and the Murakamis. We didn’t call about Chris. We told our friends only that we were entering deep meditative training, and to excuse us for being out of touch. We said we would contact them when we were finished. No need to call Mini and Chuck, they’re used to us being gone for stretches, a few days wouldn’t spark any alarm.
Nikko said all there is to say, and we are silent for three days. We fast, water only, we do not leave the apartment, we seek neither distraction nor sorrow. We are still. We sleep when we’re tired, we sit otherwise, no music, no sound of any kind, a single candle burns. The lights are low, the windows curtained, we have only a vague idea of time.
I talk to Sis once or twice, told her what we were doing, to call us if Chris was in pain. How we handle it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but us. We aren’t in sorrow, we aren’t trying to get anything, or in hopes that our meditation would fix anything. It is simply stopping, physically and mentally. It isn’t symbolic of anything, it isn’t ‘for’ anything. It is what we do.

Chapter Fifty Two

Our silent vigil over, I visit the condo. I want to see how Chris is doing of course, but not a parade of us converging all the time, no death watch. When the time comes, we will do qi duty, to relieve pain, to relax her. Qi is powerful but it doesn’t cure fatal diseases. There are tons of charlatans, not the least in China, who do laying on of hands, mumbo jumbo, and ‘cure’ people. Naturally, none of it is tracked scientifically, no double blind studies, and only the patients who live are testimony to efficacy, the ones who die aren’t around to complain.
Chris, “So far, it’s like I’m dying of nothing. That’s not quite true, I have a day of nothing, and a day of weariness. I don’t feel right, like I’m me sometimes and I’m someone watching me sometimes. I thought I would be angrier, or sadder, or even in a panic, but none of that is there. Not yet anyway.”
“There’s that Kübler-Ross grief thing, the five stages. The first is denial. It doesn’t sound like you’re pretending this isn’t happening.”
Chris, “No, it’s happening. What are the other four?”
“Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The original model said they didn’t all have to come, and didn’t all have to be in order, there was no time for each, no five days of denial, two weeks of anger. Like lots of psychological models, subsequent work says it’s baloney.”
Chris, “It’s baloney for me, I went straight to acceptance. At least intellectual acceptance. I don’t know if I accept it on some deeper level. I don’t know if there’s a deeper level. You know how I am about so called spirituality.”
I laugh, “Janah agrees. We’ve seen some strange things, heck, we are some strange things. But we don’t try and tack spiritual onto it. There’s no point. Not understanding something that happens means we haven’t figured out how it works, not that it’s a mystical experience. That’s religious crap.”
Chris, “Get your others over her for Scrabble, we’ll have food and wine at the ready.”
“I feel good today, so how about tonight? On bad days, stay away until it’s time for qi.”
“Done. Just so you know, Janah has been coaching Amaya on arcane words and spellings,” I hug her, I hug her for a long time, then Sis, then back to the apartment.
“You picked up on the plan?”
Nikko, “Yes, I’m guessing six?”
Janah, “I need to go to the temple.”
“I’ll go, what do you have on, Nikko?”
“I want to pass by Fong’s then the building, but I don’t need to go for very long.”
“If you want, meet us at one for lunch. If I’m done, then Daphne and I will come home, if not then we’ll go back to the temple and finish.”
“Good. Amaya is working on a project, we’ll stick here until time to go to Fong’s. I can wrap up there by three or four. I can go over books from here just as easily as the office. Amaya and I will visit tenants, check up on maintenance, see the old woman.”
The day in place, we get to our respective duties. Janah reviews student and disciple reports with the masters, I check the freshen up work on the dining hall and kitchen. The cooks are delighted with the new stove. Lots of burners, three ovens for roasting, heating and keeping warm. The kitchen spotless, the inventory correct and orderly.
“Disciple Chin, thank you for keeping such a pristine kitchen. The floors even shine! Do the monks appreciate the refurbished dining hall?”
“Every day. The beauty of the surroundings encourages both healthy appetite and respectful behavior. All show respect for the cooks, and bestow many compliments. Giving us a pizza oven was a stroke of genius. Who would have thought pizza would become the Shaolin preferred dish? But it has! I have to make it once a week at least, usually twice, Mondays and Thursdays. The younger ones want the leftover cold pizza for breakfast! There isn’t much left after the noon meal. But we try not to waste. Our pizza is healthy, vegetables, tofu, mock duck, plenty of spice.”
I smile, “I wish I had thought of it long before. I got used to making Chinese, introduced yogurt and more fruit variety. Of course, we didn’t have a pizza oven then. I got the idea when we ordered pizza for a quick lunch two years ago, during the disciple review. The masters liked it so much, I decided then that the next remodeling we would get a commercial pizza oven. Sorry it took so long.”
Chin, “In the six months we’ve had it, it has served many happy monks. Abbess has stringent requirements in her temple, monks work hard. These extras are appreciated.”
“They earned them, and probably more, although Master Chan’s influence prevents too many creature comforts. He says this is not the Shaolin Ritz, and the Abbess respects his opinion. Fortunately, I also have some influence with the Abbess. You, I know, have explained to the monks that a more interesting diet is the result of their diligence, not an enticement.”
“I have gone beyond that, Master Sylk. I have explained that if I felt any sense of complacency, then what is given can be taken away. There has been no lapse in work ethic. We give more, we demand more. Even the Christian Bible has that rather obvious requirement.”
“To whom much is given, much shall be required. Even the religious have nuggets of truth buried in their illusions. Krishnamurti often asked if we could see the truth in the false. This is perhaps an example.”
“You become more like Master J every day.”
If he only knew. The old Masters understood. The younger monks, even disciples, have much to learn about silent observation. It’s hard for the young to sit, watch and wait. Everything is new to them, a new feeling, their experiences are not retreads. There’s a plus to that, they see with fresh eyes without bias or prejudice. There’s a downside, limited judgment as to which of these feelings and experiences have value, and which are merely diversions or distractions that ultimately have no meaning or are harmful. Janah, from birth, did not fall prey to easy distraction, was not impressed by things, and not much impressed by people. I am much like her, which is why she found me. Early on, I didn’t have Janah’s ability to be still for eternity, I could meditate, but my meditation was like speed reading compared to hers. Over the years, I’ve learned what she knew all along. The infinite reveals itself when it does, not when I want it to. Wanting will get me an answer, it won’t be truth, it will be made up in my head, but it will appear as an answer because that’s what thought and ego do. Ego is an image, encourages us to believe what we think, which is crap thought, which is ego. We believe stuff we make up. Think of that. You make up stories then believe they are true. That, dear ones, is illusion. The same illusion the Buddha talked about a couple thousand years ago. A death spiral of fabrication. We make up a story, believe it, when contradictory information comes along, we make up a story about the story to ‘explain’ the contradiction, then we believe that. The cycle never ends, it can’t, because reality will continue to creep into our stories, and the ego will continue to make up stories to explain the contradictions. Eventually we’re so far from truth, we can’t find our way home. The worst of us become preachers or politicians, then death roams the land.
I break off to find Janah, time for us to go to Fong’s. I pop into her head, she ‘s in the garden with her boys, David and David Li, busy absorbing the scents of the flowers and herbs, and watching the insects play. Unpotting and planting, taking cuttings and potting them until they grow big enough to replant in the earth.
Janah, I don’t want to leave. The garden is so beautiful, the plants calling to each other, the insects telling them fantastic stories. David and David immersed in the work, no thought of yesterday or tomorrow, only care for the herbs and the ground that nourishes them.
We can return after lunch.

Janah, No, enough. There is other work. Returning to repeat the experience is mere self gratification. I’ll have you gratify me later.
Splendid idea.

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