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Authors: Eliot Fintushel

Zen City

BOOK: Zen City
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First published by Zero Books, 2016

Zero Books is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK

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Text copyright: Eliot Fintushel 2015

ISBN: 978 1 78535 350 5

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015956009

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publishers.

The rights of Eliot Fintushel as author have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Design: Lee Nash

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY, UK

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Epitome of the Gimlet of True Cityzen Practice A Universal Recommendation to Sit Zen by Anonymous


Hear the Voice of the City! The true Cityzen is not separate from all beings.


After the example of the natural world (e.g. the specialization of cells in multicellular organisms and the disappearance of cell walls in animals) people in cities, under increasing population pressure and crushing market forces, with decreasing availability of natural resources and with distribution of necessary goods hampered by regional wars, strikes, and other disruptions consequent to the intense, debilitating exploitation of the social and natural environments, were forced into ever greater specialization of function and, at the same time, intimacy, reliance on immediate neighbors, dissolving traditional interpersonal psychological and eventually even physiological borders.

Ironically, the achievement of this intimacy and integration of function depended (at first) on the solitary exercise of mind-damping practices, causing the apparent, temporary separation of “individuals” from the life of the society-at-large. It was not long, however, before hermitages gave way to monasteries as their natural development, and as the influence of the monasteries began to be felt in the wide world, exercising a powerful attractive force on the beleaguered lay people, the idea of the City, as we now understand it, began to coalesce, and in due course, as we might now say: to


Hear the Voice of the City! The true Cityzen is like the air, which fills the lungs of dung beetles and of dignitaries alike. He has no preferences. When a leaf flutters, he flutters. When a bird falls, he is there.


With the development of
technology and its corollary
or subliming processes, the ideal of a complete instantiation in human culture of the model of organic unity in a living creature at once became practicable. Mental components of “individuals” could be hypostatically converted into flat images for transcendental diagnosis, facilitating the selection of appropriately tractable “persons” (aggregates, component heaps) as building blocks for the City and also enabling the creation of (phantom) “persons” out of the homogenized substance of the realized City to act as the City’s agents in various essential urban and interurban functions.

By hypodyning “individual” entrants, dissolving intellectual, moral, emotional, and perceptual integument along with the physical, and thus freeing components for combination with appropriate parts of “other” Cityzens, while retaining certain labels (name, classification number, DNA print) strictly
pro forma,
as an administrative convenience, the life of the City could be efficiently tended, just as, in Nature, organic life maintains itself through ingestion, digestion, and assimilation. It is, of course, crucial that name be no more than a formal convenience, for, in fact, it is largely on the basis of non-attachment to name (in all its guises) that an entrant has been allowed into the City.


Hear the Voice of the City! The true Cityzen yields where life presses and presses where life yields. He is in responsive communion with the life of the City. Is this not a desirable condition—to be one with all things, to feel all things from within the things themselves, and to respond freely and generously? Then redouble your efforts to lose self and self-gain through the practice of sitting zen. Developing samadhi, honing the mind, damping the waves of separation and doubt, ripen and fall into the wondrous City!

Chapter One

“To enter the City you have to get rid of the idea of self-gain.”

…That’s what Control said. Somebody else might have let me pass. It all depends what particular guy you get. This fellow, with his yardstick spine and a voice like adding-machine tape, never took his eyes off the monitor. My pose was wasted—hands folded together in front of my crotch, chin to collarbone, feet parallel; me in the dun-brown pants and the dun-brown shirt and a face like driftwood, how could he not let me through? But all he saw were the green silhouettes on the hypostatic scanner. “Not you,” he said. “You’re a carrier. Step aside, please. Other people are waiting.”

Never mind my Doubt Mass, the inner fury that drives men toward the City. Never mind that heaven and hell were just tinder for me, burning to get into the City, spending every waking moment trying to chew through this
world, this world of illusions. All Control wanted was a flat stat and a dumb puss.

In the old days I would have shoved him and run through, but, of course, in the old days I wouldn’t have wanted to enter the City. A little woman in a coolie suit, next in line, smiled at me as she brushed by. “Do more zazen,” she said. “Sit. You’ll get through. Don’t worry.” I looked at her hypostat on the overhead monitor; it was like water in a bucket, pulsing and pooling with ambient sounds of the terminal—paper rustling, latches clicking, the fans, footsteps, bits of conversation, breathing, the occasional sizzle of some City entrant up the line being hypodyned and placed—nowhere turbid or opaque.

I stepped aside. The queue itself was a foretaste of the City, a tight quarter mile of grey immigrants, folded in on itself like a wad of paper dolls. I did a western roll over the cordon and
headed for the nearest exit, with an angry guard on my tail: “Them ropes are for something, you know, hick.” He was brandishing his karuna rod, his compassion stick, in a way that told me he had a couple of notches on it and didn’t mind collecting a couple more.

A ‘sardine’ shuttle was just filling up at the gate outside. I wedged in the door as it irised shut, catching a corner of my shirt. Two padded steel slabs immediately sandwiched and stacked me, ripping my shirt, and the shuttle took off.

Good. I had a berth to myself. I couldn’t move a muscle, of course, but I could smell my own smell, musk and garlic, and read at my leisure the graffiti on the shredded foam around me: “YOU’RE NOT ME.” Someone must have scraped it there during a long run with a pin between his teeth. I read it over and over, rather than do zazen—“YOU’RE NOT ME. YOU’RE NOT ME. YOU’RE NOT ME. YOU’RE NOT ME.”—as the shuttle burrowed through the suburbs and closed in on the hick frontier.

You always feel like a transcat’s turd when the ‘sardine’ shuttle peels you out of your slabs, lays you onto the exit belt, and pushes you out the rear iris. Doesn’t it grunt as well? Or is that me?

Thin and strong, Angela was waiting for me at the hick terminal. She was wearing a patchwork she’d fashioned from scavenged fabric and stolen hankies. It was wound around her legs and torso like a mummy’s sheet. She sat on a sun-bleached bench, feeding crows. “I knew you’d be back. I never even packed a lunch.”

“Leave me alone,” I said. She looked hurt. Let her. I walked on past her.

“Hey wait up,” she said. I heard crows’ wings flapping. “Don’t be like that. Hell, I been waiting for you. I been doing zazen here for six hours or something. Come on, Big Man, be good to me. How about it?”

I kept on walking, like everybody else coming from the
terminal, fanning out into the hicks, into the spalled lots and broken streets, like drops of water shaken off a dog. Angela tramped after me all the way to the Old On Ramp and the Blue Plymouth Hotel, where Pirate was cooking up couch-grass seeds over a fire he’d made in the trunk. The air around him was hazy black with the kind of flimsy, sticky ash that comes from a plastic fire; God only knows what Pirate was using for fuel.

Pirate was a big, skinny guy who used to be a big, fat guy before all the ag rights went to the City. He let his hair curl out like a black sunburst, like a mane. I don’t shave my head like some vanny zealots, but I keep it short, and I shave my face. Maybe that’s for Control, or maybe it’s a memorial for Janus, who thought I was good-looking, despite my club of a nose—symmetrical and slick, said she—and made me shave and comb.

Pirate didn’t sit. He was smart, and he liked to eat. He’d practically had a hydroponic vegetable garden put together on the bed of the Red Dodge Half-Ton Hotel, when the ag cops got wind of it and declared eminent domain by the Enclosure Acts of ’07. They compensated him with four cases of Circenses.

(“What gets me,” he’d said, chugging a can of Circenses, “what gets me is that they don’t even taste any of the goods they pull in from the hicks. It’s all pulverized together and intravened to the slickers. You couldn’t pay me to live in the City.”)

The Lincoln Continental Inn, like all the other hick dwellings, was in the same spot it had occupied during the Big Jam, when the traffic had stopped a decade before. The crew there was getting drunker year by year. They were singing and dancing with some Mack Truck stiffs, while the ladies from the Two-Tone Toyota Corolla Hotel and their pals at the adjoining Chevelle House coaxed an old tune from a peened oil drum and some junked windshields. It was tasty, and the sunset was too, like a rim of fire tickling the bottoms of the clouds, with the mountains all round for kindling.

“You can’t eat that shit,” I told Pirate. For days now he’d been
threshing thickets of grass over a sack.

“Back already?” he said. “Couldn’t get in, huh, Big Man? Too much ego, am I right? Well, Angela here’ll be happy, but you’re gonna have to deal with the guy I said could have your back seat.”

“No sweat. Let’s dance.”

“Go dance with Angela. I want to see if I can get something digestible out of this. Hell, the clover was good, wasn’t it? And I didn’t see you choking on the bulrushes or the arrowroot, buddy. I’m a goddam culinary genius, you asshole.”

Angela grinned. I shrugged. We strolled over to the Continental and started to dance. Angela tugged me by the hand. “Be nice to me, Big Man.”

“Let’s just have a good time, all right? I don’t want to think about a thing.” I pulled her up close, and we rubbed bellies, shaking and hopping with the music. Somebody put a brew in my free hand, a City issue, a Circenses; I chugged half of it and gave the other half to Angela. Some guys and gals hugged round us to dance in a big clump; then we exploded outward again, laughing.

“Big Man,” somebody shouted, “we knew you’d be back. You’re too crazy for the tight-ass fucking City.”

The back doors of the ’69 Ford Econoline Center crashed open, and half a dozen men and women in dun-brown smocks (like mine) filed out and stormed over to the Chevelle House. Some of them wore earphones, but they weren’t hooked up to anything.

I stopped dancing and went over there to listen in. Angela tagged along. I could see that Pirate was making for the Chevelle as well.

“We’re trying to sit,” one of the van people said to the lead drummer of the Chevelles. I had seen this vanny around a lot. She’d shown up on the ramp one day and decked a couple of Mack Truck toughs who tried coming on to her: martial-arts training—I like that in a woman. I liked her freckles, too. I would
have liked to count them with my tongue, but she was only interested in one thing. She was maybe twenty, but she was already some kind of honcho there, a close disciple of No Mind. She had one of those patterned Japanese cloths tied around her head—a gift from one of No Mind’s visiting Jap grims—but little thickets of red hair sneaked out the sides and back. Cute little nose for a vanny zealot. “We’re trying to do zazen.” The drummer ignored her.

BOOK: Zen City
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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