Names and other abstractions

Gurus, as I was saying, are well known historically for having “answers”. I have put the word answers in quotes here, not to signal irony, but the more common fact that sometimes these answers are not so easily understood. Such was the case for yours truly, the semi-fictional Arthur Wingsmith, when I met a local guru for a drink at a service station (or gas station, if you prefer).The name of this guru, which I thought rather improbable at the time, is Gary. Just Gary. Real gurus, in his opinion, should only have one name.

“You can tell a fake guru,” Gary explained, as he brushed something invisible off his polo shirt, “because they will always have more than one name. Take Buddha for instance, no one would have paid any attention to him at all if he’d had three names. Of course, even he was a little marginal on account of the fact that he is sometimes spoken of as ‘the Buddha’, and technically ‘the’ counts as a name. I mean, my followers don’t go around calling me ‘the Gary’ do they?”

I confessed that until just recently I hadn’t known that he did have followers, and so had not been aware what they called him.

“Really? You didn’t know about my Garists? I’ll have to have a word with P.R. about that; somebody is in for a serious car-washing over that slack behaviour – you rely on people to do their job, only to find that complete strangers don’t know who you are.”

“Car-washing?” I asked, a little confused.

“What?” replied Gary, looking more than just a bit distracted, “yes, car-washing, it’s a spiritual practice central to the teachings of Garism. Essentially, it requires washing my entire classic car collection ‘mindfully’; that is to say, with full attention to the task at hand. If I think a garist has not been quite mindful enough in the car-washing, I then make them follow it up with some floor-washing-of-my-beach-house in the mode of extreme mindfulness. On occasion I have to enforce such practices on followers who demonstrate poor spiritual progress – as with when they call me ‘the Gary’, or fail to advertise properly.”

I could tell that Gary was really starting to warm to his theme.

“You see, Garism is a tightly integrated system of praxis. It involves such practices as the ‘mindful-washing-of-things’, accompanied by a complex array of mindfulness states operating in different modes. It also requires what I call ‘the giving of all your possessions-and-monies to Gary, which is important for the purposes of acquiring the cars and beach houses necessary for spiritual advancement. But most important of all, as I have implicitly indicated, is the importance of names.

“Given the ‘existence’ problem you have – as you have described it to me, anyway – you’ll find the name thing really interesting. Quite simply, names are what create and hold reality together. This is why explorers had to go around naming everything they discovered. If they had not, those discoveries couldn’t possibly exist. Take Hawaii, for instance. Most people think, good place to go on holiday, nice weather and so on. But what they fail to realize, is that if it didn’t have a name, there would be no possibility of going there at all, it wouldn’t be a real place. I mean, you can’t just rock up to a travel agent and say ‘can I have a return ticket to nowhere’, can you?

“The truth of names is something that I realized under a sacred coconut tree whilst washing a sports car. I have, therefore, taken this insight and developed it into the complete Garist system. This is why, upon becoming a neophyte garist, my followers must not only relinquish their possessions-and-monies, but also their names. In the place of names, I assign each neophyte a syllable. Eventually, through hard spiritual work, they will discover more syllables that will, in turn, become their true name. I have to assign a syllable that will be close to the front or back ‘edge’ of their name, one that is just a little ‘off centre’. If I give them one in the centre, they will be too lazy, where as, if I give them one at the edge, they are likely to fall off that edge and become crazy. These are the central principles of Garism.”

Gary concluded this monologue with the gesture of a slight, and self satisfied, nod of the head. We then exchange a few parting pleasantries, and Gary told me that if I had any more questions I could contact him at any time. (Particularly if I found myself with too many monies and/or possessions). I thanked him, and took my leave.

It was a lot to think about. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it actually, but I resolved to try ‘walking-home in the mode of moderate mindfulness’. As a result, I quite mindfully walked into this wall:


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