Midnight Pub



I sit at a table in a warmly lit room. In front of me is a plate, white and round, a lump of rice on its center. On the fringes of the plate is a pair of simple wooden chopsticks. Beyond the chopsticks, beyond even the plate, is a small, unhandled cup, steaming with a grassy, but not bitter smell, tea. Far out, almost outside the realm of my arms, a teapot, made of clay, assures me that my small cup will never be empty. However, my focus is on the rice.

Using the chopsticks, I scoop up some of the white rice and get a few dozen grains into my mouth, then chew, then swallow. I aim my chopsticks to the left side of the rice pile, and work tirelessly to separate one grain from the rest. After a few seconds of exertion, I do so. A single grain sits apart. Now I try to pick it up, but, either because of the chopsticks, or the plate, or my lack of skill, I fail to do so. I can nudge it in every direction except for upwards. Having failed miserably in my attempt to raise the single grain of rice, I push it back into the rice-pile, scoop up another dozen grains, and finally succeed in getting that one piece of rice into my mouth.

A single grain of rice, useless on its own, needs every other grain, whether it wants them or not.


There's a number of Buddhist statements / parables / pithy quotes along these lines, the interdependence of everything in the universe. A picture frame on my desk is beyond insignificant when compared to, say, the Andromeda galaxy, yet both emerge from the same ground of existence.

This observation scales to what I think you're hinting at; at a social and human level, even the most reclusive of us needs the rest of humanity.



Yeah, that's about it. I'm taking a Japanese philosophy class and read somewhere (I forget exactly wear) about the symbolism of rice, then I decided to expand it a bit. Normally, I think of myself as pretty individualistic, but I've been reading quite a bit on Stoicism and Buddhism and it makes me appreciate more how much we all rely on each other, from friends and family to whoever invented computers etc. It's a pretty cool thought, but I haven't really acted on it much, except maye trying to pay attention more to my friend group and making time for them. Are you Buddhist, or have you studied it a lot? It seems like a practical system.



I'm as much Buddhist as I am anything ;) I developed an interest in 2002, 2003. Finally got off my rear and joined a center (Zen to be specific) to make it more than just an academic study. That was in 2009, stuck with that for 5 years, and have moved to just a solo meditation practice but staying in touch with friends in that circle, including a close friend who is a novice Zen priest (that's an actual certified title, recognized by the head temple of that lineage in Japan).

Zen is very stark, and I get much more out of a guided practice. Zen should really be a graduate-level practice IMO, after you have studied Vipasanna (generally known as mindfulness) meditation. Otherwise one can spend years 'doing it wrong'; you're just sitting there still lost in thought and not realizing it.

As far as studying theory to understand the what's-it-about I can highly recommend two books- "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor, and "What Makes You Not a Buddhist" by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. Neither is very large and both are engaging reads.

Buddhism is at its core very pragmatic, and that core is what survives export to other cultures outside of where it grew and thrives (India, Nepal, Burma, Japan, etc). What you end up with is something that can be appreciated without accepting any metaphysical baggage, if one so chooses.

Stoicism I've recently learned to appreciate quite a bit. My Zen priest friend calls it a Buddhism that is native to the Western world.