The Plinking Buddha

Buddha Yesterday the chubby two-foot-high Buddha in our living room started plinking. Every five minutes or so, we’d hear this gentle, unassuming ‘plink’ from his quiet corner. Closer investigation revealed that the ceiling has developed a slow leak directly over the Buddha’s right arm. We’ll have to fix it some time, but no worries. It only happens when it rains.

Inevitably, this experience leads me to some philosophical meanderings. Why is the Buddha plinking now, at this particular moment in time? Yesterday was Friday 7 September. Could this be a gentle comment on the APEC goings-on in Sydney? A subtle, enlightened type of protest, to show up the Chasers‘ more obvious antics? Or is it pure coincidence? Do coincidences even happen?

I’m not a Buddhist. Philosophically, I’m a mix-and-match kind of girl. But one of Buddhism’s central tenets appeals to me:

At the centre of everything is nothing.

This is a strangely comforting idea. It’s worth doing a bit of meditation in search of that nothingness. It helps when waiting for the E66 that never came, or ironing clothes that are wrinkly by force of nature and destiny (ironing has to be the most futile occupation ever) or undergoing other more troublesome vagaries of life. Hey, it’s freakishly fortunate that I exist to have this experience at all. And other creatures around me are similarly amazing and lucky to have made it this far.

‘Nothing really matters to me’. You can take that two ways.

What does all this have to do with technical writing? Very little. Almost nothing, in fact. Close enough to matter.

When you’re writing a document, and you really get in the zone – that’s much like losing the self. When you surface and notice what’s going on around you with sudden clarity, that’s mindfulness. When you’ve spent hours writing glorious prose and then have to hone it down to the bare bones, that’s an exercise in humility. (Select a shoe size. Click ‘Submit’. Click ‘OK’ to confirm your selection.) When you wonder why you’re telling people how to do something so utterly unrelated to real life, that’s when it helps to know that nothing really matters. And so everything really matters.

My mum and dad have recently given me a copy of Karen Armstrong’s latest book, The great Transformation. The World in the Time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah. Thanks guys! I’m looking forward to digging into it. A while ago, I read Karen Armstrong’s Buddha. I think she did a good job there, with a very hard subject.

The hero of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a technical writer. Here’s a passage from the book that stands out for me:

“What I wanted to say,” I finally get in, “is that I’ve a set of instructions at home which open up great realms for the improvement of technical writing. They begin, ‘Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.’”

A leaking roof is not the end of the world. It ain’t over when the fat Buddha pings.

Garden zen Garden zen

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 8 September 2007, in Buddha, philosophy, technical writing, zen. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Dear Lady Please remove from floor

    must be placed slightly higher than you are when you sit it normal seat

    Blessings to you


  2. Dear Dhammagevesi
    Thank you! I have moved him onto the table now.
    And blessings to you.

  3. Thanks for writing about me on this thing called the “inter-web”! I am enjoying my new position, because I don’t have to stare at your son any longer.


  4. It’s good to have such exalted company 😉
    Cheers — Sarah

  5. James William Dumay

    What a lovely garden!

  6. Nanako Tachibana-Brophy

    On the Nature of the “plink” ; was it a particularly persuave and a questioning “plink”? I can feel the smile in the “plink”, especially if your Buddha was cast in brass.
    ( I’m not very confident with the proper usage ot ” ; ” )

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