Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Zen Calendar

Page-a-Day calendars, made by the company of that name, make great gifts, but shop carefully. If you buy one you can register for another online and get it free. This year, the Complete and Total Loser registered for one with Mensa puzzles in it and it's awful: Nothing but word grids. 
The one the Loser likes is the Zen calendar, and he's been getting it for himself and as Christmas gifts for others for over a decade now.
The quotes are not always from those who practice Zen. They can be from artists, musicians, writers, scientists, politicians, business leaders, teachers, actors, religious leaders -- what matters is that in some part of their lives they've stumbled on something that fits with Zen philosophy and put it into words. The best quotes are the short ones, though the long ones are often instructive and worth reading. (A good example of a short quote is the one last Sunday from W.C. Fields: "My wife drove me to drink -- I'm eternally indebted to her.")
One of the Loser's gift recipients was his father, who died in December of 2011. He loved his Zen calendar, the Loser's father. Born in 1920, he was a depression-era kid and he had the mindset of most of his generation. He read the usual books (though he was far more well-versed in Shakespeare than most), the usual newspapers and magazines, did the usual things (married, worked, lived in the suburbs, raised three sons, just one of them a loser), died a normal death, luckily at 91 rather than younger. 
That traditional upbringing and life made the Loser's father regard the Zen calender as a source of messages from an alien civilization. He was often baffled by its missives of non-competition and acceptance.
The Loser's not sure how many years he bought it for his father, but it was enough that when he gave him a gift-wrapped package for Christmas each year his father would say, "Ah! There's my Zen calendar!" in a sincerely excited way. One year the stores were sold out so the Loser gave him a calendar of quotes from the Dali Lama. They weren't as good: accept no substitutes. It was a lost year and from then on the Loser made sure to buy the calendar online by late November.
In October of 2011 the Loser's mother died. In November his father had a stroke. It wasn't, thank goodness, the kind that left a side paralyzed and drooling, but it was a body blow.
When the Loser went online to purchase the calendar, he couldn't help but think: Will Dad see all of it? The best thing to do when you think that kind of thing when you have an ailing loved one is ignore the thought and act as if it never occurred to you. You certainly don't mention it to anyone you know, not when sober, anyway.
The Loser's father didn't live to see page one of the 2012 edition of the Zen calendar and, in fact, didn't know he was getting it, dying December 15th. It could've been assumed, but he had other things on his mind, of course. 
On January first, the Loser opened his calendar (he's good about not cheating with that kind of thing and as a child didn't open the little doors on advent calendars in advance). He stripped off the cover pages to January one and saw what you can see in the photo below. It seemed to say to the Loser: There's no reason to read the rest of this calendar. Take the year off. Cope.
So he did. Now he's back and reading the current edition, though weeks can go by and he'll forget, so he has to catch up sometimes.
The Loser put his Zen calendar photographs of his late parents. It's still there.

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