Sit Down and Shut Up

Brad Warner plays bass, a refugee from the six string world, as well as that of the world of corporate radio rock. He is a contemplative, never to blindly follow anything or anyone. Some might even call him his own man. I suppose Warner is something a lot of people think about but never step into. Most people seem to find infectious melodies of the radio to be proof enough of the song’s own legitimate existence.

As is customary with books of faith, Warner places readers in numerous stories, one of which involves a fox and wisdom. Buddhist monks like telling stories about each other in order to impart a similar faith in their readers, faith in this case meaning a confidence that the writer’s views are the most sane to live by.

One gets the feeling that Warner cares not to write, but yet contrarily does so with a certain depth which at times sits on the surface of an adolescent’s mind while still conveying the deep understanding one would expect from a learned Zen priest. These two personality traits no doubt reflect two of Warner’s numerous worlds: Zen priest and hardcore punk bassist.

What’s most interesting to me about “Shut Up and Sit Down” are the geographical references. As a resident of the Cleveland area, where Warner is also from and to where he returned to reunite with his band, I found his discussions of the hardcore punk scene here to be very interesting. I’ve never visited the spots he writes of, but I now have incentive to do so.

Warner takes a lot of time to make his position clear about many other Buddhist books/writers: he doesn’t like a lot of them. He thinks many Buddhist quick fixes like “enlightenment” are often falsely prescribed, believing that enlightenment is something not to be consciously obtained. Any time a practitioner of zazen – or meditation – claims to be enlightened, his teacher should inform him, probably to the dismay of the student, that this is not so.

Zen is often times misunderstood in the west. I for one thought Zen was like a defense mechanism for detractors of a free spirited lifestyle. Zen might in fact be this but the power of the individual still rests with the individual, and no one else. If people practicing Zen were in a boat, they would surely request rows, and not allow the wind to blow them in whichever direction it pleased. That surprised me.

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