My Moment of Zen

Back in the days when I watched TV, one of my favorite shows was the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Each show ended with an interesting “Moment of Zen.” Zen, according to Wikipedia, emphasizes rigorous self-control, mediation-practice, insight into the nature of things, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life. It was the perfect way to end a comedy show.

Comedy is a funny thing, and not everybody finds the same things to be funny. I watch a lot of comedy specials on YouTube and lately I’ve been watching shows produced by an outfit called Dry Bar. They specialize in “clean,” family-friendly comedy. I prefer my comedy rough, but after I watched a few of their specials, YouTube decided that they belonged at the top of my list of recommended shows. So, as soon as I click on YouTube, I am instantly made aware of the dozens of Dry Bar comedies I’ve missed that they “think” I would enjoy. I click on one of them and YouTube automatically updates my profile so that I will be made aware of even more of them in the future. A Zen Buddhist might see this as the self-fulfilling prophesy chasing its own tail.

The Dry Bar comedies are recorded in Provo, Utah, which instead of being a comedy capital, used to be a comedic punch line. The audience is probably about 99.9% Mormon, a group more known for being made fun of than being funny. Did you see the show The Book of Mormon? It’s hysterical. I was always amazed, though, that there wasn’t a picket line the size of Utah outside the show. A comedy show called The Book of Islam probably wouldn’t last a day before the theatre was bombed, especially if posters for the show contained pictures of Mohammad. The Mormons may have some weird religious beliefs, but at least they do have a sense of humor.

So, I laugh at all the clean jokes, but I fondly remember late comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin, who were far edgier. I don’t think any of them would have ever been invited to perform in Provo, Utah.

But…I digress. This isn’t supposed to be a story about comedy. It’s supposed to be about Zen. In 1974, a book came out called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was a catchy title and it became an instant bestseller. Now, history has a chance to repeat itself. A book just came out called Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping by John Karolefski. Can Zen once again be a best seller?

Full disclosure. I know John Karolefski. Back in the mid-sixties he was the leader of the band I was in, the Townsmen. We were also known for some time as The Heard. Whenever we got a bad review, we just changed our name. Business cards were cheap, and, one way or another, we were going to be rock stars.

The Townsmen

John, Earl, Victor, Dennis, and Joey on their way to being rock stars.

I met Victor, our drummer, last year at an Art Festival where he was selling designer eyewear. I keep in touch with John online and he has a blog called Grocery Stories.   I haven’t seen Joey or Dennis since the ‘60s, so I don’t know what they’re doing, but I never saw either of their pictures on the cover of The Rolling Stone. So, I must assume that none of us became rock stars. Life found other purposes for all of us. Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens, while you’re busy making other plans.”

Recently, John sent me a copy of his book, and since I’ve been writing blogs for ages now, he thought I might write a review of the book for Amazon. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a few “clean” laughs, and I learned some stuff about what’s happening today and what might be happening someday in the future at supermarkets across the country. I grew up back when if your mother sent you to the store for milk, you didn’t have to ask, “What kind?” There was only one kind. One of the chapters in John’s book, explained the hundreds of different varieties of milk that are now available, and today I bought my first container of Vanilla Almond milk. I liked it. Score one for John.

So, I went on Amazon to write a review of the book, and Amazon declined my review. I didn’t meet their criteria for reviewers. I’ve written three screenplays, one children’s book, a country song, a children’s song, a rap song, and hundreds of blog stories, but I wasn’t Amazon-qualified to write a simple book report. That was my moment of Zen, my reality check.

Maybe I should have told them that I was a former Rockstar.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl