AN INTERVIEW WITH BERNIE

Photo by Rae Cook

“How did you sleep last night, Bernie?” I ask when he comes down to breakfast. “I came home and you were deep asleep.”

“How do you know? Maybe I just had my eyes shut.”

“Because I talked to you and you didn’t answer.”

“I talked to you, too, Eve, and you also didn’t answer. I turned around and you weren’t there. So I realized that I was talking to your residue.”

“Oh yeah? What did my residue look like, Bernie?”

“It was invisible,” Bernie said. “I talked to your invisible residue.”

“This is a stupid conversation,” says Stanley. “Could you hurry up and eat so that I could get your residue? I mean what you leave on your plate.”

“Dog, you have a one-track mind,” I tell him. “Food, food, food, food. Right now, you look like you’re waiting to have an interview with Bernie.”

“What’s that?”

“Lots and lots of Zen students have had interviews with Bernie over the years because he’s a Zen teacher, Stan.”

“You mean they wait to get the food off his plate?”

“No, no, Stanley, an interview is a face-to-face encounter where the teacher and student together explore the vast nature of reality.”

“Is there food involved?”

“Everything is involved, Stanley. The light, the dark, joy, sorrow, birth, death, who you truly are in this moment—”

“At this moment I’m a hungry dog—”

“And you’re asked to present that in a nonconceptual, direct way—”

“Right now I’m presenting it the best way I can. Not that it’s getting me much.”

“Stanley, you don’t get how lucky you are spending so much time with Bernie. You have the opportunity to have a deep and intimate exchange, to see in his eyes a recognition of something very important.”

“That I’m hungry?”

“And you have a chance to ask him the most important questions of life, like who am I?”

“A hungry dog.”

“You have to go deeper than that, Stan. Who are you really?”

“A hungry dog.”

“I mean the very essence, Stan, the jewel in the lotus, the treasure of this very present moment.”

“A hungry dog.”

“Don’t just come up with the easy answers, Stanley. This is a wide-open inquiry, answers just—

“He’s just put down his fork!”

“So what, Stan?”

“So what? Don’t you know anything? That means he’s getting ready to put the plate down on the floor for moi. You see, he dabs his mouth with the napkin, then around the edges of his beard (don’t know why he does that, I could do the dabbing for him), and then—FOOD!”

“Bell of awareness, Stan, bell of awareness.”

“No, FETA CHEESE OMELET! MY FAVORITE! Only there’s not much there.”

“He left you a residue, Stanley.”

“Pretty invisible, if you ask me.”