It has been a good while since I last posted anything – mostly because I got utterly lost thinking about zen as a tool for creative practice. This ended up taking me down a fascinating rabbit hole, where everything became connected and the words and ideas for this post ranged out of control. Zen opened up a whole can of messy worms – worms, rabbits, and everything else. This post aims to briefly summarise ideas that will take a life time to explore! This is funny in that the post becomes impossible – and also because words tend to be avoided in zen practice. This post is perhaps better titled ‘how to be entirely unzen with words about zen.’ Nevertheless, I am walking the zen maxim ‘no good, no bad, just one step after another’…this is my stepping to understanding.  

For simplicity’s sake, zen is the expansive space where everything is connected and life is accepted and experienced as an unfolding process. In relation to creative practice, this is an expansive mind state where Keat’s ‘negative capacity’ lives. Where one is able to accept uncertainty, unknowing, and open up to new ways of being, enjoying, and indeed creating and doing. This is the state that we have been exploring in the ‘Art of No Idea’ where Laurence Shorter’s research group practices a daily ‘yin practice’ of doing nothing while lightly holding a creative intention in mind (see post 10 for details). This is counter-intuitive to the common approach and ideology of productivity as we live in a culture that is obsessed with producing; with hitting deadlines and targets and by filling time constructively. We also experience various emotional negative feedback when we are not productive from guilt to anxiety. The great funny irony here is that productivity needs process – the better the process the better the product becomes. Here, ‘better’ is about a process that is in harmony with ourselves and our planet, while productivity is burning out the planet and the people. We need better ways of working.

The best humour lives in the expansive zen space. This is the humour that keeps on going – it continues to play in your mind as a puzzle to unravel life. It is no accident that zen uses funny koans (or brain puzzles to help free and enlighten) – these are often tiny stories or dialogues. They are condensed in the very same way that comics condense ideas into visuals with minimal words. The huge advantage here (that presumably others have discovered) is that cartoons can be completely wordless or use few words – super zen! This means that cartooning offers a wonderful medium for creating zen funnies. For a while, I have wanted to do this, but overthinking kept me concerned and circling. Today, I finally turned that corner and noted that it is much more difficult to overthink when you are condensing ideas into a cartoon. Cartooning as a solution to overthinking is perhaps itself a zen act…

This is my first ever zen funny, and true to form I’m not entirely sure what it means… 

 

 

Since I created this, I’ve started to notice that all my current stories for comics are really about zen, but then what isn’t? In the end, we all want to be free, to exist in this expansive space, and everywhere I go I see different methods for getting there. The self-medicating drinkers, the overthinkers who are trying to think their way there, the money-obsessed who believe if they have enough wealth that they will end up there. The zen masters would say ‘you are already there’.

All I want to do now is to live the process and create comics.