February 22, 2018

Zen and the Art of Being Slim, Rich and Adored

Zen and the Art of Being Slim, Rich and Adored is not a book about diets, financial strategies or advice on how to win friends and influence people. Nor does it spout formulas on positive thinking, visualization or repetitive affirmations. These eleven short stories impart the ineffable, indefinable, unthinkable Zen experience through the use of satire rather than metaphor. Metaphor is pleasurable for it unites. It compels readers to dig deeper. Conversely, satire is disruptive, tearing apart familiar patterns, jolting readers from habitual thought processes, propelling them to a higher level, initiating inner change. Its humor and irreverence is not an indication of ridicule or cynical indifference, rather an affirmation of life. The stories are warm spirited, offering wisdom within whimsy Readers have the opportunity to laugh at themselves in the life process, a major leap in clearing away the excess baggage that inhibits human potential…



At 12:55 P.M., I walked from the parking lot toward the entrance to John’s Flaming Hearth, wondering if Andrea would recognize me, or think I’d sent my grandmother. I pulled my shoulders back, trying to dismiss the slight dowager’s hump that had recently surfaced….Entering the foyer, I began to feel like I was going to a Halloween party dressed as a hooker. I wondered how Andrea had aged? Some underlying quirk impelled me to hope she’d deteriorated as much as I had. I was sorry I’d accepted her invitation. She could have remembered me as I was; unobtrusive, inconspicuous and visually noncommittal. …

What I feared most had come upon me. She looked fabulous …. I asked what had brought about this change? “Zen,” she answered readily.…”How did you come to learn Zen?” I asked. “Zen isn’t something you learn, it’s more about unlearning.” she answered.


In no time he was asleep and dreaming that he was lying on Emma Lovit’s treatment table. He raised his head and saw the magic fairy coming at him. Instead of her customary wand, she clutched the colonic hose. She was twirling it like a lasso. She finally cast it around his neck and pulled with all her might. He felt it tighten.

For some unknown reason he didn’t struggle or resist. He felt an amazing feeling of trust permeate his entire being. He was aware in his dream that in one sense, the fairy was a symbolic image of his own self-destruction. Yet, he knew he must surrender to his shadow.


He confided that when he was a tyke, his mother enrolled him in class at “Miss Trudy’s Academy of Tap Dance”. “It was Mother’s ambition that I be the male version of Shirley Temple. Father saw me perform ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop’ in the annual recital. The very next day he outfitted me with baseball equipment and signed me up with little league. For the next year it was a tug of war as to whether I would be pretty boy Shirley or tiny Ty Cobb. It ended when Mother signed to play with the ‘Atlanta Women’s All Stars’ and Father ran off with Miss Trudy. Mother became the female version of Ted Williams, winning the Ladies’ Slugger of the Year award. Father and Miss Trudy played the Poconos circuit and achieved a modicum of acceptance tapping to Cole Porter medleys. The act climaxed with an up tempo version of ‘Let’s Do It’.”


The line moved along. Questions invaded my mind like smog. I needed answers and I needed them fast. I asked, “How can I accept my death, get rid of my ego and lose a few pounds?”

“Precisely” she responded. “At first I was overwhelmed with doubt. Why should I torture myself dieting when in the end I will expire? Why not live with an eat today, gone tomorrow philosophy? Even if I did reduce, would anyone really care? Would I really care? If reincarnation was in store, would the same fat lurk in my karma? Would I reappear eternally with cellulite on my thighs and flab on my upper arms?”

There was only one man ahead of me in line now and I wasn’t any closer to knowing the secret of permanent weight loss. She sensed my impatience.


I pulled the sheet from my eyes and there sat Clark, smack in the middle of my chest, looking at me pleadingly. I knew I was faced with a choice. I could have looked at that cat and thought he was adorable for being just what he was, a hungry cat that wasn’t sure if he’d ever get fed or I could have thought he was a pest for interrupting my last three minutes of tranquility. Depending on which way I chose to think, I would either have kissed his little furry head or have kicked his furry little ass off the bed.

As I lay there watching Clark’s antics, wondering which response to choose, the incident became an example of my life. I could have chosen one response or the other, neither or both. Whatever I chose, I would be faced with another choice. I would have to choose how I would feel after acting on my initial choice. If I chose to kiss Clark’s furry little head I would probably have felt compassionate and loving or permissive, over-indulging and stupid. But if I had kicked his furry little ass off the bed, I would most likely have felt anger or guilt, smug or justified, and yet maybe none or all of the above.

Then it occurred to me that maybe it was the feeling that came before the thought. Had I felt like kissing his head or kicking his ass? Would I have thought about it before acting, or would I have acted spontaneously in accordance with my feelings?


In the beginning I was concerned. I worried I would not be able to find the numbers on three Bingo cards, even though virtually everyone in the hall had no less than ten cards to attend. I worried that, in a frenzy, I might shout “BINGO”, only to find I had anticipated a win in error. I worried that someone I knew might see me there and wonder if I was in financial difficulty. I worried that I might get cancer from the amount of second-hand smoke that was permeating my throat and lungs. I worried about being attacked by everyone seated in my vicinity if I were to win the jackpot while appearing affluent. Most of all I worried about my inclination to worry.


She was nine years old when she first heard that it is as hard for a rich man to get into heaven as it is to pass a camel through the eye of a needle…. That night she dreamt a bunch of rich camels died and went to hell. They lived in air-conditioned, ocean front condominiums. She saw them sitting in reclining lounge chairs on their balconies, sipping strawberry Margaritas while they conducted business by phone. She tried to caution the rich camels that they were in hell, but they were too preoccupied wheeling and dealing to listen. Then she looked in the sky and saw herds of poor camels that had died and went to heaven. The poor camels lived in crowded basement apartments and worried how they were going to pay their bills. She called out to the poor camels to tell them not to worry about bills because they were in heaven but they were too steeped in worry to hear her. At that moment, she looked to the horizon and lo and behold God appeared. He seemed to be beckoning to her. As she moved toward him, he turned and like the other side of a dime, there stood the devil, pitch fork and all. She woke up and promised herself not to think anymore about heaven and hell or God and the devil.


As he lay in bed, thoughts flew in and out of his mind like DC7′s at Pearson International Airport. He thought of Freud and how he refuted his own theory of the pleasure principle, replacing it with his conviction that we are all driven to disintegration. Colin wondered if the survival instinct, which includes the pleasure principle, was paradoxically one and the same as the death instinct? Abraham Maslow popped into his mind. He questioned Maslow’s theory of a hierarchy of needs and self actualization. He wondered if going to Malibu had anything to do with becoming self-actualized. He wondered if anyone ever really needed to go anywhere to become self-actualized. Was striving for self-actualization just one more way of avoiding what is? He thought of Maslow, on his death bed, affirming there was more than self-actualization. Had Maslow been spouting theories just to satisfy his own need to be recognized and valued for his psychological insights. Colin thought he should have become a shepherd after all. Sheep don’t crave recognition, they just graze and poop.


Lance was a chiropractor. He had written a book called “The Virtues of Garlic and Carrots”. He chose to take Liberty to his country cottage, where he said he would show her his crop. She knew right from the start that he adored her because he wanted to x-ray her spine and put her on a diet that consisted mainly of garlic and carrots. No one had ever taken an interest in her spine or what she ate since she had moved away from her adoring parents.

From the moment he said “hi”, an overpowering odor of garlic pervaded the atmosphere. Lance read from his book the passages that emphasized the miraculous benefits of garlic…. Liberty was impressed by his dedication to garlic and carrots. It made sense to her that if he cherished these two vegetables so much, he would have the capacity to give her the same tender loving attention. A warm feeling enveloped her being, which prompted her to reach out and stroke Lance’s ruddy receding hairline. Lance tensed and jerked out of reach. He said this might be an appropriate time to tell her that he was celibate and intended to remain so, informing her that orgasms deplete the functioning of the immune system. “Orgasms cause Aids”, he warned. As he continued to educate her on the advantages of celibacy, she noticed the white of his eyes were tinged with orange, as was his face, neck, arms and hands. She began to see him as a cross between a carrot and a clove of garlic. Orange was not really one of her colors,(she was spring), and the odor of garlic appealed to her, only when used subtly, to enhance certain gastronomic delights. Also, although she was an advocate of safe sex, she firmly believed in the old adage, “use it or lose it”. She decided to love him unconditionally and to pass on him as a possible mate candidate.


It all began with my inner struggle to be like, the slim, rich and adored Elizabeth Taylor. I couldn’t possibly imagine an obese, impoverished, despised Elizabeth Taylor. Everyone that ever was anyone was slim, rich and adored. For example, who could have been more slim, rich and adored than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis?

Being plump, broke and insignificant filled my existence with chronic dissatisfaction. I was paralyzed with futility. I prayed circumstances would change. They did. I grew two sizes larger, was on the brink of bankruptcy and detested by my creditors…. Then something awful happened. Elizabeth Taylor got fat! She was mocked on national television, parodied gorging a whole chicken, tossing the cleaned bones indiscreetly over her mammoth right shoulder.

Imagine, Elizabeth Taylor fat and mocked! She was rich. She visited fabulous spas. She became thin and adored. Then she got fat and mocked again. Then thin and adored. Fat and mocked! Thin and adored! Fat / mocked! Thin / adored!


Having acquired a modicum of self-mastery I no longer succumb to the tortures of rejection!…. I remain unflappable in the face of scorn and ridicule!…. I’ve lost interest in interpreting or judging the actions of others!…. fear, based on past failure no longer paralyzes me!…. my timing is beyond reproach!….if I’d attempted it sooner I’d have been badly bruised…. like a fragile gardenia!….now I’m more like a dried hydrangea!…. slightly withered but virtually imperishable!…. disintegrating only gradually as time goes by.