Zen Birthday Pranks

August 13, 2011

Back story: a zendo in Portland where a teacher and a few hearty souls gather between 6-7 AM every weekday morning for traditional sitting, silent, facing the wall, facing life.

And then one short email unleashes an upheaval with consequences no one can predict …

Monday, Aug 8 – email from senior student: “The teacher’s birthday is on Thursday. How about we hum ‘Happy Birthday’ during the first sit?”

Later that day – emails roll in from other students: “Yes”. “Hahahah, I’m in.” “I’ll hum if you do.”

Still later – another email from senior student: “Let’s hum the entire song twice through.”

Tuesday, Aug 9 – quiet.

Wednesday, Aug 10 – another email from senior student: “I forgot! I have to be at the airport after midnight to pick up some house guests. I won’t make it in the morning.”

Thursday, Aug 11 – 5:55 AM, I’m so excited, I’m the first one to arrive. I quickly take my place. Minutes pass and I hear others drift in. Is the teacher there? How about the senior student? Is this going to happen? The bell calls us to pay attention. Minutes pass in silence. Somewhere around 6:15, a cough. And then humming. Tuneless at first, but gradually one can recognize the melody of ‘Happy Birthday’ as others join in. We get to the end and start over. A rousing rendition on the second run through. It’s quiet. … A moment passes and then from the teacher I hear humming, a short recognizable tune, repeated as a song with words, “and many more.”

Giggles. Again quiet. We face the wall, and life, individually and together.


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