Barry Smith: Irrelativity | AspenTimes.com

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

The Aspen TImes
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Jordan Curet The Aspen Times

Dear Bad Guru,

I’ve heard it bantered around by my New Age friends that you’re supposed to “do what you love, and the money will come.” Well, you know what I love to do? I love to lie in my hammock and smoke cigarettes. And I do this all the time, with a passion, dedication and commitment worthy of Van Gogh, but the money has yet to arrive. Also, I’m starting to develop a troubling wheeze.

And speaking of Van Gogh, it’s my understanding that he did what he loved and then died penniless and insane. Seriously, this “do what you love” maxim might be the most misguided one since “starve a cold, strangle a fever.”

Signed,

WTFTO (Wanting To Figure Things Out)

Dear WT,

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The actual expression, as translated from the original Sanskrit, is “Do what you love, and they’ll call you a bum.” Weird how the Sanskrit words for “come” and “bum” also happen to rhyme, isn’t it?

There is some truth to the concept that following your passion is the path to success, but it’s in dire need of revisiting and updating. The ancient teachers who first offered this guidance to eager seekers were living in a different time, a time when the world wasn’t overflowing with people whose passions were stupid and pointless.

As for Van Gogh – brilliant artist, atrocious networking skills. This stuff matters, even on a cosmic level.

Dear Bad Guru,

For years now I’ve heard that the Mayan calendar only goes up to 2012 and that the world is supposed to end when the calendar ends. Well, just the other day it occurred to me: HOLY … ! IT’S 2012! NOW!

Man, how did that happen? The time just creeps up on you, doesn’t it?

So, is the world really gonna end in the next few months, or what? Seems unfair that we all have to die just because the Mayan calendar makers slacked.

Signed,

Muy Concernisimo

Dear Muy,

Much has been speculated about the Mayan calendar and the Mayans themselves. The truth is exactly what you’d expect – the Mayans were a magical super race with far-reaching voodoo powers. When their calendar ends, the world ends. That’s just the way it goes. Naysayers will say “nay” to this, but that’s what they always do. Our time is running out, so our best bet is to spend these few remaining months indulging our most hedonistic desires.

Only joking. Well, the last part was a joke. The stuff about the Mayans was true, though, and when their calendar ends, the world will end with it. But as of yet, nobody has bothered to flip the big old stone calendar around. It’s pretty heavy, so this is understandable. But when they do, they’ll see all the dates printed on the back. It even says so right there on the front, “Continued on other side,” but everybody is too freaked out to read to the end.

We’ve still got another 2,500 years or so left, so we’re good to go. You can do the hedonistic indulgence thing if you want, but it’ll make for a pretty awkward 2013.

Dear Bad Guru,

How come out of all the Buddhist teachings, the one that became the most popular is the “sound of one hand clapping” thing? I don’t even know what this means. I know that the whole point is that it’s meant to be pondered and that you aren’t actually supposed to know what it means, but I REALLY don’t know what it means. I don’t really know how else to put this, but … I’m starting to suspect that it might be a little bit stupid.

Signed,

Clap Ponderer

Dear Pond,

Well done. Most people pretend to understand this saying and just nod and smile and hope nobody calls on them. They sense the presence of stupid but are afraid to trust their intuition.

Wisdom, as Confucius said, is just stupid with nice clothes. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is actually a timeless Koan of Stupid, and the lack of understanding is the true understanding. So you’re on the right track. Stick with it.

I applaud your honesty – but only with one hand. I’m using the other to tweet.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays. It just appears … just like that. Poof! Amazing.