Notes on a Buddhist path

The Sizzle

March 30, 2014 By | 2 Comments

Don’t sell the steak. Sell the sizzle.” ~ Elmer Wheeler

I must admit, I have a crush on this world. With its smiling dogs and breaching buds of flowers that have dreamt all winter long of this day. Wrapping myself along the edge of the ocean for a morning walk, I watched jeweled ribbons skitter across the water’s aurbergine surface and a cresting sense of joy rose in my heart. It followed kites offering themselves up to the azure heavens on thin strings of hope and joined the distant triangles of colour washed sails pressing their course against the horizon of the world.

Hamburgers sizzling on my stoveOn a day like today when spring’s pronouncement to the world feels so palpable, I remembered a scene from The Matrix. In it the character of Cypher is having dinner with Agent Smith as they make the final arrangements that will sell out Cypher’s friends to the provocateurs of The Matrix. Spearing a piece of juicy steak on his fork Cypher acknowledges that although he knows the steak is not real he still craves the taste, the texture, the sense pleasure that piece of dead flesh still exude in him. “Ignorance is bliss”, he concludes.

Seeing the sun’s brilliant grace and feeling its warmth on my hungry brow, I could understand Cypher’s short sighting of pleasure. I so easily lose myself in the sensory interludes of time, relishing the bombastic flourishes of misappropriated meanings in a temporal and all too fleeting world. This human landscape is a most alluring place with its sense assembly line constantly offering up another and another and still another titillating menu option to spur our cravings ever further towards an insatiable inevitability.

Rounding the familiar bay that marks the end of my walking tether I turned and headed back. The air changed. Clouds pulled in their moorings and darkened as they tucked the rays of light into firmament pockets of seclusion. The winds turned from wisps to fledgling tempests and the sparkling waters became crinkled sheets of august anticipation. I felt a door of sadness close ever so gently inside of me and thought of the world and its sufferings. Of mudslides and missing planes, of nuclear testing and the demise of baby seals. These too are of this plain, this sojourn we are all on as humans.

As much as we try clinging to the good and holding the bad in abeyance, we are still met with the question of why we continue down this path of illusion. It is not the crimson tulip or the house that washed away. Not the saber rattling of a mad man or a child’s first sight of the sea. It is not the steak. It is the sizzle; the promise of something beyond the aspects of form and thought. The kilesas, greed, hatred and delusion, lay claim to our moral compass and the conditioned states of dukkha (dissatisfaction), anicca (impermanence) and anatta (not-self) hold us hostage to a Matrix-like world of perpetual longing and the insane belief that all of it will go on forever. It is in the quelling of those defilements and our unwavering practice leading to their desolution that we may come to know a joy beyond anything this sense laden existence can offer us.

I bought a few groceries on my way home and the sun joined me for the rest of my walk. Its return to the day bathed the end of the morning in a glow of abiding warmth, assuring me again of the impermanence of all things. Be it clouds or dictators or the white heron turning its face to the light.

Train Ride
by Ruth Stone

All things come to an end;
small calves in Arkansas,
the bend of the muddy river.
Do all things come to an end?
No, they go on forever.
They go on forever, the swamp,
the vine-choked cypress, the oaks
rattling last year’s leaves,
the thump of the rails, the kite,
the still white stilted heron.
All things come to an end.
The red clay bank, the spread hawk,
the bodies riding this train,
the stalled truck, pale sunlight, the talk;
the talk goes on forever,
the wide dry field of geese,
a man stopped near his porch
to watch. Release, release;
between cold death and a fever,
send what you will, I will listen.
All things come to an end.
No, they go on forever.

“Train Ride” by Ruth Stone from In the Next Galaxy. © Copper Canyon Press, 2002.

 Image Credit:

Hamburgers sizzling on my stove by Sara Gilbert via Flickr Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.


  1. As Morpheus states in The Matrix, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself”. What a wonderful advertisement for Vipassana.

    And yet, we recoil from that ultimate and terrifying beauty — as Kalu Rinpoche said, the beauty that “… you are nothing, and in being nothing, you are everything.” Safer, it seems, to remain stuck in illusion, than to be nothing and everything. As a brilliant dhamma author once wrote “… we still choose to follow the same misguided steps we’ve scuffed into the floor in our old and well-appointed cell. ”

    And yet even a desire for that nothing/everything-ness is part of the trap. My favourite quote from Krishnamurti: “I do not wish to become peace. I only wish to let go of everything that is not peace.”

    “All things come to an end. No, they go on forever.” That is a koan worth exploring.

    • Morpheus, Kalu Rinpoche and Krishnamurti. David, you do have the most refined taste in teachers. And thank you for your kind reference to a far from brilliant yogi who is scuffing along in her cell just like all of us in this state of samsara.

      Glad you liked the poem. Yes, a koan worth pondering indeed.

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