Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Speaking in Koans, by Vineetha Mokkil

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

The Sweepers Wang Shugang Cast Iron (2012) Crow Collection of Asian Art

From my blog, The Daily Epiphany, Friday, July 10, 1998

Zen Food

Over my lunch hour the “low gasoline level” alarm went off in the MiniVan. It’s a gentle, yet jolting alarm; a soft, insistent “bo-ing” and accompanying orange light in the symbol of a gas pump. My head hurt.

I drove a block down and filled up the van with gas.

The gas station was one of the new ones that offer everything under one roof. Twenty pumps, cold drinks, car wash, hot food, air and water, pizza, oil and washer fluid, magazines and lottery tickets, toys and office supplies, maps and pornography. An entire civilization springs up in this little store with its spreading shade-wings across the hot tarmac. An oasis, a tacky colorful monument to American Capitalism run by a family of Pakistanis.

I finished pumping and walked to the store to grab some juice and pay. As I was walking I could see through the glass door a sign hanging from the ceiling. It was bright red neon; near the back of the building, yet very visible and obvious. It said:
ZEN FOOD

I was tired and hot and my brain was fuzzy. I allowed my thoughts to believe the evidence of my eyes. Why would a cheap-ass convenience store offer Zen Food? What is Zen Food anyway?

A momentary fantasy floated through my brain of exotic, delicious, far-eastern culinary delights. Spicy colorful mixtures, displayed on steam tables, savory herbs and succulent vegetables prepared with ancient recipes and exotic skills. I allowed myself the luxury of imagining for a moment I had stumbled on something special, a precious mystery hidden away in the most common of locations – a gas station.

As I entered the store it was obvious that an advertisement hanging from the ceiling, an inflatable pack of cigarettes, had concealed the first three letters of the sign:
FRO

I pulled a V-8 out of the freezer. The day suddenly seemed hotter, barren, a little more bleak and a lot more ordinary.

And today’s piece of crackerjack flash fiction:

Speaking in Koans, by Vineetha Mokkil

from Ellipsis

Vineetha Mokkil Amazon Homepage

Vineetha Mokkil Twitter

What I learned this week, February 26, 2021

Zen-like Christmas decorations, Waxahachie, Texas

The Zen rule for becoming happier: Change one thing

1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.


Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

Train Your Body to Work Out—or Just Hang Out—in Colder Weather

So you hate the cold.

With coronavirus surging, restaurants and bars closed and the homes of even friends and family off-limits, does that mean your winter social life is doomed?

No, according to a host of scientists, professors and trainers who are experts on the physiological impact of frigid weather on humans. Adapting to cold isn’t fun— who loves to shiver?—but it’s possible, scientists say. And as a bonus: Cold, like exercise, makes you healthier.


Window washing job I couldn’t do
Downtown Dallas, Texas

The computers rejecting your job application

A professional journalist, I had recently applied for a new job, and for the first part of the recruitment process the publisher made me play a number of simple online games from the comfort of my own home.

These included having to quickly count the number of dots in two boxes, inflating a balloon before it burst to win money, and matching emotions to facial expressions. Then an artificial intelligence (AI) software system assessed my personality, and either passed or failed me. No human had a look-in.

I wondered: is it fair for a computer alone to accept or reject your job application?

Welcome to the fast-growing world of AI recruitment.


The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

How to Write a Novel, According to 10 Really Good Novelists

Take notes everywhere, embrace Wikipedia wormholes and other handy tips



Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
(click to enlarge)

Our 14 favorite gadgets and hacks for working at home

From mesh networks to lap desks, here’s how The Verge’s staffers create their workspaces


Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

The Use and Abuse of ‘They’

Journalists and essayists in recent years somehow formed the impression that the academic study of English grammar is partitioned into two mutually hostile tribes: descriptivists and prescriptivists. Both are portrayed in cartoonish stereotypes.

The descriptivists allegedly think that anything uttered by English speakers is ipso facto good English and can never be erroneous. So if people sometimes say, “It’s in the, the . . . the hall closet,” we must deem that correct, and posit noun phrases with three definite articles in a row. This insane view is purportedly associated with the political Left.

But the other tribe seems just as deranged. Its members won’t change their minds about the sacred edicts of grammar regardless of evidence. No matter how many great writers may have committed some solecism, they say, it’s still wrong if the rules of correct grammar say it is. This view gets tagged as conservative.

Best Part of a Holiday

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Zen-like Christmas decorations, Waxahachie, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Do something boring

Went in to work today for the last time this year (not entirely true – thanks to our government and their thoughtful regulations I will have to stop by a couple more times, but that doesn’t really count). It was surprisingly not-unpleasant despite the fact that I finally had to to all of the stuff I had been putting off all year.

Oh, sorry, can’t help myself – I stumbled across one last quote:

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
― George Carlin

Man, I miss George Carlin. Actually, now that I think about it – as far as I’m concerned (I never met him and never would anyway) he is as much still here as he always was.

I Am Not Mad

The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.
—- Salvador Dali

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Overtly resist change

This is adapted from something I wrote twenty years ago – updated it a bit.

As I left work to run an errand over my lunch hour the “low gasoline level” alarm went off in my car. It’s a gentle, yet jolting alarm; a soft, insistent “bo-ing” and accompanying orange light in the shape of a symbol of a gas pump. I drove a block down and filled up the car with gas.

The gas station was one of the new ones that offer everything under one roof. Twenty pumps, cold drinks, car wash, hot food, air and water, pizza, oil and washer fluid, magazines and lottery tickets, toys and office supplies, maps and pornography. An entire modern civilization springs up in this little store with its spreading shade-wings across the oily tarmac. An oasis, a tacky colorful monument to gaudy garish American Vulgar Capitalism founded, owned and operated by a family of Pakistanis.

I finished pumping and walked to the store to grab some juice. As I was walking I could see through the glass door a sign hanging from the ceiling. It was bright red neon; near the back of the building, yet very visible and obvious. It said:

ZEN FOOD

I was tired and cold and my brain was fuzzy. I allowed my thoughts to believe the evidence of my eyes. Why would a cheap-ass convenience store offer Zen Food? What is Zen Food anyway?

A momentary fantasy floated through my brain of exotic, delicious, far-eastern culinary delights. Spicy colorful mixtures, displayed on steam tables, savory herbs and succulent vegetables prepared with ancient recipes and exotic skills. I allowed myself the luxury of imagining for a moment I had stumbled on something special, a precious mystery hidden away in the most common of locations – a gas station.

As I, with a spring in my step, eagerly entered the store it was suddenly obvious that an advertisement hanging from the ceiling, an inflatable pack of cigarettes, had concealed the first three letters of the sign:

FRO

I pulled a V-8 out of the cooler. The day suddenly seemed colder, barren, a little more bleak and a lot more ordinary.

There Is A Way To Be Sane

“I’m simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I’m saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple witness of your thought processes.

It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.

It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher.

And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.

That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”
― Osho

Sculptures, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Mechanicalize something idiosyncratic

I am fascinated and have been studying the intersection of Self Hypnosis, Meditation, and Mindfulness. They are related, of course, but different. I think there is an especial power when the three come together.

If anyone has any thoughts – think them pure and strong, and maybe I’ll pick up some vibrations.

Or better yet, send me an email or leave a comment.
bill(dot)chance57(at)gmail(dot)com