A student asked Daniella, ‘When Charlize said we should all get candy on Halloween, what did she mean?’

Daniella did a happy dance, and the student bowed.

Daniella then asked, ‘What did you see that made you bow?’

The student did the Monster Mash.

Daniella said, ‘Here’s a wild fox spirit.’

~ A recent translation of Blue Cliff Record, Case 93

‘Life and Death are a serious matter; Time slips quickly away’ is a verse we have often chanted at the end of each night during retreat. But do life and death always really have to be so bloody serious?

At one retreat a time ago, where I was serving as Head of Practice but also seeing some students in interviews, one student came in and admitted he thought I was making too many jokes when speaking in the zendo. Toward the end of the week, during a talk I was giving, I got kind of choked up ~ verclempt, as Michael Meyers would say ~ and with that he came to believe that I was, indeed, serious. Oh my, we should have done the Mash, the Monster Mash. It would have been a graveyard smash.

The world is in deep play. It is a dance in which not a single performer is out of place. Not one relationship, even the bad bits, is in struggle, despite our worst efforts to narrow, label, and name.

To realize this fact, I think, we must ~ for no good reason ~ be willing to continuously move across frontiers of the heart and mind. If serious, move to frivolous. If feeling small, get large. If thinking expert, become a beginner. If believing self, become other.

A teacher’s job is not at all to entertain or troll for laughs, but to illuminate the path across these sometimes dark borders. Why do we do that? Because life and death are bloody serious matters. So we do the Mash, the Monster Mash. It is a graveyard smash.

This is a great early video of Bobby Pickett on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand