“How does one escape hot and cold? “ a student asked the Master.
“Why not go where it is neither hot nor cold?”
“What sort of place is neither hot nor cold?”
“When it’s cold, you freeze to death; when it’s hot, you swelter to death.”
~ Record of Tung Shan, case 74
For me, this koan has always been about total immersion, total commitment. The virtues of being all in. It is a great one for me right now, because on this rainy Friday morning, I am getting sneezy from watching my sister’s dog, and not feeling very committed to writing this note. Yet, I’m not feeling terrible enough to pack it all in. Slouching toward commitment, my forte.
I wanted to share a hilarious piece of “when nutty, be nutty to death,” that I came across in the past few weeks. Acceding to my daughter’s demands, I recently downloaded The Disaster Artist (2017), a biopic about making The Room (2003), considered by some critics to be the worst movie ever created. It was directed, produced, written by, and stars Tommy Wiseau, who claimed to be a native from New Orleans but spoke with a heavy Eastern European accent. Tommy, who seemed well funded from mysterious sources, put up the $6 million to make The Room, characterized as a “melodramatic love triangle”, and after a limited release took in just $1,900. One critic called it “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
In The Disaster Artist, co-star Greg moves to Los Angeles to look for film work with Tommy, a new friend he met in an San Francisco acting class. Soon, because they can’t find work themselves, they will make their own movie, which becomes The Room. But for now, standing on the rooftop of Tommy’s apartment, they look out over the L.A. skyline, and their unbridled optimism for their future in the movie business is sweet, exciting, and palpable. They are all in, wholly committed (from Artist the script), yelling:
Holy shit, we’re doing this! We’re really doing it! Woohoo!
Ha ha ha!
The truth in Zen, of course, is not dependent upon being the least bit committed. We are, from the first, immersed in the Way, no matter what we do, lazy and sneezy or screaming from rooftops. But falling into things, losing ourselves in things, if only for a moment, is not a bad way to live. It is certainly not a disaster and is not without some art.
Tommy Wiseau with James Franco on Jimmy Kimmel
Clips from The Room