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The Zen of W

J. Clifford Cook, Irregular Times contributing writer

Note to aspiring authors: In recent years, there has been a very successful trend in popular writing about Asian philosophy. The key is to find a widely recognized character from Western literature and then re-interpret the character's behavior and motivation from the perspective of an Asian philosophical tradition. The most famous example of this new genre is The Tao of Pooh, which seeks to explain Taoist principles through an examination of the well-known character of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Well, heck, why should we leave this kind of analysis to the realm of literary figures? I think we have an awful lot to learn about Asian philosophy from the political figures of the day too.

irregular actionA good place to start is with the big man from big oil, the junior who's been made senior, the guy who put the "What?" in W: George W. Bush. Sure, sometimes it seems that he's got more confusion than Confucius, but let's not underestimate the man. After all, he did manage to lose a presidential election and yet gain the presidency itself. Perhaps Bush is crazy like a fox, or stupid like a bear, or something like that. What I mean to say is that there may be some secret reserve of insight underneath his dense exterior.

Actually, I've got a working theory on the surreptitious savvy of President W. By making careful observations of his statements, I have come to the conclusion that George W. Bush is a student and great teacher of Zen.

The Zen of W

irregular book of the monthWhat's that, you say? You've never heard of George W. Bush talking about Zen once in his entire life? Well, my literal-minded friend, that's just further proof of Bush's Zen genius.

You see, one of the signs of a truly advanced practitioner of Zen is a certain indirectness in teaching. Great Zen teachers are not like Billy Graham. Now Mr. Graham, when he wants to teach his followers an idea, he just comes out and says what he wants them to believe. If Billy Graham thinks that his followers ought to believe that they will go to hell if they do not abstain from premarital sex, he will say something direct like, "You will go to hell if you do not abstain from premarital sex."

return to irregulartimes.comTeachers of Zen seek to inculcate a break from the rational mind that forms the attachment of the student to the world of everyday perception. In order to do so, Zen teachers ask their students to understand logically bewildering statements. These statements are called koans. The most well-known koan in the West is the question, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" The idea is that through the contemplation of such questions in meditative attitude, the logical minds of students of Zen will eventually crack open, allowing the students to perceive the true, linguistically inarticulable nature of reality.

Now, my theory is that George W. Bush is actually a practitioner of Zen, has attained the status of a teacher of Zen, and uses his position in the White House to bring Zen insight to a worldwide audience through the use of koans in his public statements. Just as koans contain the kernel of logical impossbility, so the public statements of President Bush make no sense if interpreted literally. If contemplated as Zen koans, Bush's statements take on a certain quality of mystical lyricism. Okay, they're not that deep, but they certainly are befuddlingly provocative.

The Bush Koans

The following are just a few from among the many koan-like ideas promoted by George W. Bush since his ascension to the Oval Office. Do they represent a deeply enlightened separation from rationality? You decide.

The United States is prepared to use nuclear weapons to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. In order to protect their freedoms, Americans must be willing to sacrifice the civil rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution. The best way to help poor people is to give huge tax cuts to the 1% filthiest rich Americans.
For the sake of peace, it is necessary to start a new war with Iraq. It is necessary to allow loggers to more extensive networks build roads and cut more trees in our National Forests and National Parks in order to preserve the areas' natural beauty. Tax cuts will help the federal government avoid deficit spending.

Now, I'm certainly not what you'd call an expert in matters of enlightenment. I am, like the masses of other poor souls out there, mired in the material world. However, I know a great teacher when I see one. The way I figure it, George W. Bush's statements are so incomprehensible, he must be a very wise guru of some kind.

The alternative explanation of Bush's incomprehensible statements, well, it'd be ridiculous even to consider it, wouldn't it?



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