It’s tough being human

The Zen master, Katagiri Roshi speaks throughout Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. His presence makes me doubt the writer. She quotes him in and out.

Just as I read Roshi’s name for about the fifth time half way through the book, I stop to do a Google search. Who is this man? Is he for real?

He is real of course, albeit dead. He died in 1990 at the less than ripe old age of sixth two and Natalie Goldberg could not believe it when he died.

Reading through some of her thoughts at his death, I find myself thinking about my own obsession with psychoanalysis. Goldberg is into Buddhism and shows total love and devotion to her Buddhist master. For him, she will do anything.

She will sit for hours chanting, bare feet on cold floorboards. For days, she will get up early, at 4.30am then work at prayer and reflection all day, with only a short lunch break until 10.30pm, all in the name of Buddhism – the serenity, the inner peace and calm that Buddhism offers.

I read the story and shudder, and then think twice about my own preparedness to do extraordinary things in the name of my obsession, psychoanalysis. To travel daily for years for my fifty minute session twenty plus kilometers from home and back at great expense.

I did this because I believed it was good for me. I believe it has been good for me, but at the same time, I wonder whether it might have been better for me had I not become so enthralled with the process, had I not fallen so helplessly in love with my analyst for all those years.

The Google site describes how Natalie Goldberg later felt betrayed by her father and her teacher Katagiri Roshi for being human. Roshi, Goldberg later discovered had breached boundaries with another student.

The child in us wants to believe we have perfect parents, or substitutes for them in other forms – religion, Buddhism, psychoanalysis – only to discover later, that our parents are flawed, as are we by association.

Idealisation shifts to denigration all too easily if we are not careful.

Ah but the comfort of these ‘-isms’ is alluring when it’s so tough being human.