Insanity was once described to me as “the result of doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.” It was soon after that I realized that the same person had to be one of the most insane individuals I have ever met. I suppose recognition is the first step.
At first I thought that this was a reasonable definition, based not on a dictionary, but by practical experience. However, upon careful evaluation of it, it appears to be in direct conflict with the notions I have gathered in my dabbling in the Zen arts.
Years ago, as a young actor unaware of the process of acting, I was advised to read a book by Eugene Herrigal, Zen In the Art of Archery. It was my first real study of anything Zen. At the time I did find it to be a very curious study.
Here you had a University Professor who left his position in Europe to study archery with an Archery Master in Japan. The student shot his bow. The Master refrained from teaching. The student, although very frustrated at times, stayed with him for something like seven years.
He did this for the one moment when he knew that he had achieved Zen in this most difficult of arts. It was elusive; he was not a master by a long shot. But he understood what it meant to be the archer, the bow, the arrow, the target and the air in which the arrow flew.
He would now spend his life trying to get that feeling to reoccur, and reoccur more and more often.
Similarly, it was described to me when I was playing competitive tennis. Being overly emotional and never in the moment, I found I often lost matches that should have easily be won.
Trying to get a handle on this problem, I consulted a coach I knew. And of all that he said, one thing stayed with me vividly, “we play tennis day in, day out trying to find that sweet spot that ends in the perfect shot – effortless yet powerful. We live for that feeling.”
Champions have naturally mastered making this an everyday occurrence. And it all happens because we do the same thing over and over again, taking the need for thinking away.
My son does this just in the attempt of learning to stand and walk. He tries over and over, but expects a different result – to not fall down this time. And when he does, it is as if time stands still with him.
You can see the calm elation on his face. And when he falls, he doesn’t get frustrated or go insane, he simply moves on and tries again. This is what I would call “Baby Zen.”
Repetition, then is not what leads to insanity, but is the work needed to find greatness allowing one’s genius to be expressed.
To flip the coin once again though, aren’t most geniuses pretty much considered crazy anyway? Maybe there is a correlation? Hmmm….