a bit of sacred mischief. los angeles may 19-20, 2007

by | Jun 5, 2007 | Clown + Zen

(photos by peter cunningham)

Wondering just what might be sacred mischief?
One might consider it an act (or action) of sacred clowning.
Just what is sacred clowning?
I like Egyoku’s observation about the Hoxua when she saw a video of these sacred clowns of the Kraho of the Amazon basin:” they’re ‘just human’…but ‘JUST human’….

Hence one might conjecture sacred mischief to be humor that reaches our very essence. Well that is a lofty goal. Perhaps we just shouldn’t give it such deep consideration.

Hence straight to the matter at hand, the 40th anniversary of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, ZCLA. In the spirit of Sacred Mischief. I am invited by the abbot Egyoku to Clown ZCLA’s Anniversary Celebration. She says “bring Yoowho”- in other words: come and ‘clown’ the event , bring levity into the environment.

I have been teaching workshops at ZCLA for a number of years now. the last two years have seen different incarnations of a clowning institute there, currently called i.smacc, the institute of sacred mischief and contemplative clowning. Hence the invitation for
the 40th anniversary of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, and the White Plum Assanga (Maesumi Roshi’s lineage) Teacher’s meeting rolled into one. Lots of Zen Masters and teachers visiting Los Angeles for three days. Some rituals, ceremonies, bell ringings and robes swirling. Lot’s of laughter and earnest conversations.
There is also a contingent of the Order of Disorder, OD, present. What is OD? hard to say in a few words. There is an entire web page: orderofdisorder.com
Here is a photo of FoundOD and ElderOD touching noses, an OD ritual. (this is a 2017 photo:))

bernie and moshe, zcla 2017. photo by peter kuku cunningham

So once more, back to the subject at hand:

As the elder of the Order of Disorder, OD, I have convoked an OD action for the second morning, Saturday, of the 40th to do . Egyoku and I have agreed that the intervention should be at the end of the panel discussion, which is about ‘Zen in America.’
Taking on the ‘fool’s’ hat to contemplate OD possibilties: an image of multiple laptops bubbles right up. Every Zen master I know carries one around it seems.
At 9 am I put out a call for OD participants. My request: 7 people and 7 laptops.
At 10:30 , we are 13 with 8 laptops and 1 yellow cardboard folder.
I supply the rest with a variety of bells-Tibetan, Swiss, Austrian.
In a 20 minute brainstorming creation, we create a lttle ritual around puntuated bell ringing and various images of laptops stuck together.

We process in hiding behind the laptops shaped like an arrow pointing backwards. The bells stop, we stop. We peer over the laptops. The bells ring, the laptops become a circle. Pause…Bells ring laptops are slowly moved through space into an absurdist shape. Bells ring, laptops recreate the arrow, pointing the other way, we process out in the opposite direction. Short sweet and hopefully to some point.

There are other smaller actions until the Sunday morning brunch.

Accompanying people to the evening awards ceremony with different sized umbrellas.

Early in the ceremony, when Roshi Bernie gets called up for an award, I accompany him by holding a paper cocktail umbrella over his head. He immediately goes into a clown walk and plays the moment.

At the tribute to ZCLA on Sunday morning, I attempt a short speech. I am led ontstage by a large orange sunflower. When I can’t get a word out of my mouth, the flower takes over and makes the speech, then drags me off stage, all at lightening speed.

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