Reading a Zen Forum International thread just now reminded me of a time when I imagined myself to be quite an ecumenical fellow. I read Hinduism, Sufism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism ... and a variety of self-help-y off-shoots that showed up alongside the more serious volumes in the 'spirituality' section of bookstores.
The books piled up on the bookshelves of my house and I suppose I really did learn something ... though I doubt if it was what I imagined I was learning.
Remembering this put me in mind of one of my all-time favorite poems. It comes from Zen student and poet Ray Ronci and contains naughty words, but it has sap and sass and is one small anthem in my mind when it comes to spiritual life and the gushing encomiums that books can lavish on such an endeavor. It calls out to the bad boy in me and simultaneously expresses wonderfully my honest seriousness when it comes to spiritual life. It just makes me smile with delight ... every time:
HOMAGE TO MY FATHER
My father said:
Fuck Father Farrell,
what does he know, that old bastard!
Study all the religions. Learn Italian.
See Venizia, Firenze, talk
to all kinds of people
and never, never think you know more
than someone else! Unless,
unless they're full of shit.
And if they are, tell them;
and if they still don't get it, fuck it,
there's nothing you can do about it.
Learn how to bake bread.
If you can make pasta and bake bread
you can always feed your family,
you can always get a job.
Keep your house clean
and don't worry what anyone else does.
Cut your grass,
prune your fruit trees
or they'll die on you.
Don't drink too much
but don't always be sober --
it makes you nervous.
A couple glasses of wine,
some anisette now and then,
a cigar never hurt nobody.
Nervous people always got an ache here,
an ache there, they get sick,
they die --
Look at Father Farrell:
he'll be dead in a year.