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There is a passage in the Book of Revelation where an angel proclaims that
there will be time no longer. I wonder how you respond to the idea of time,
from your Zen point of view perhaps, whether there is a way to escape from
Well, itís a very bad idea to try to escape from time, because youíll be late
for all your appointments and you wonít be able to get your kids to school on
time. Of course we have a dream and an appetite to dissolve time and not feel
it rushing at us, or catching up on us. So itís important to be able to
experience both the absolute crushing urgency of time and to be able to
dissolve it. Almost all the religions I know about provide the technology for
experiencing this great affair without the conditioning factor of fime. But you
canít live in that world either.
Book of Revelations certainly does fulfill that great characteristic of charged
writing by pulling the rug out from under you. You are in a new world and there
is a New Jerusalem, and you are ready to embrace the notion of newness and of
rebirth and a new cosmos. Itís a kind of religious or meditation manual, and it
invites you to unfold that dissolving of time in your own hart and in your own
"Dance Me To The End of Love" implies the dissolving of time in the moment of
sexual ecstacy. To what extent do you make a distinction between the sexual and
the spiritual when it comes to absolute?
the sweaty, passionate, filthy embrace, in all of its delicious and
time-dissolving power, in the midst of that embrace there is no difference, no
separation between the spiritual and the profane. But itís reached through the
profane rather than through the spiritual, at least in my canon. That is the
portal, that is the door into the whole affair. In that moment there is no
separation, there is no spirit and flesh, thereís no conflict, there never was.
Feminists have given you a lot of flack for "I'm Your Man," but it seems to me
that to have such a man as is singing this song is to be a fortunate woman.
This is a woman who is allowed absolute freedom. This is a troubador of the
nineties who is singing to her.
Well, I certainly meant it that way. I didnít write a love song to turn anybody
off. If people are turned off for ideological reasons, I can only wish them
well. They turn away by themselves, so thereís no need for us to meet one
another. I think itís quite legitimate to be offended by it if one is prone to
offense, but Iím not offended by art. I usually donít see something where the
word ďdisgustingĒ comes to my mind and I have to develop a position about
something I donít like. The beautiful freedom about ďlikeĒ and ďdislikeĒ is
that if you dislike the thing, you donít have to entertain it.
What strikes me in your prose poem
"What is a Saint?" is the sense of balance and of acceptance of the
chaos. You're saying that it's arrogant to think that you can change the chaos.
first reality is that there is a wound and there is suffering, a deep sense of
unsatisfactoriness with life. There is no question about it. The Buddhist
theology presents it as the first noble truth. We live in a world that is not
perfectible, a world that always presents you with a sense of something undone,
something missing, something hurting, something irritating. From that minor
sense of discomfort to torture and poverty and murder, we live in that kind of
universe. The wound that does not healóthis human predicament is a predicament
that does not perfect itself.
What about love, though?
believe we know that love is a terrible wound itself, and that it presents a
bewildering landscape to stumble over. Love is a fire: it burns everyone, it
disfigures everyone, it is the world's excuse for being ugly.
You're talking about acceptance.
would dissolve every approach. I would just say that there is no escape.
Acceptance is too good a word for this predicament. It suggests a kind of
resigned, sage-like approach. You can't get off the hook by finding the right
word-acceptance, resignation, embrace. All those things are lies about it.
Then what about compassion?
know, we come up with all kinds of things, but still the wound does not heal,
still the reality is suffering. We come up with all kinds of new drugs, all
kinds of new approaches. Yes, there are all kinds of human decencies to
embrace, and we should really try to be nice to one another, but nothing
dissolves this sense of irritation and unsatisfactoriness that we all feel.
Nobody gets over that.
Tell me about your Zen practice and your relationship with Sasaki Roshi.
met a man a long time ago, and by chance he happened to be a Zen monk. And I
donít think he cared very much about it one way or the another. He accepted his
duties. He was born into a family and taken to a monastery when he was
fourteen. He became a master, and thatís the way his life unfolded. If heíd
been a professor of physics at Heidelberg,
I would have learned German and studied physics. So I never really felt I was
studying something called Zen. I never thought I was looking for a new
religion; the religion I had was fine. So it was something else.
Itís the nature of the man.
nature of the man, yeah. Itís a buddie movie.