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Witty, wise, and just plain wonderful, the inaugural volume of this biennial, Mirth of a Nation, ensured a place for the best contemporary humor writing in the country. And with this second treasury, Michael J. Rosen has once again assembled a triumphant salute to one of America's greatest assets: its sense of humor. More than five dozen acclaimed authors showcase their hilariously inventive works, ...
Witty, wise, and just plain wonderful, the inaugural volume of this biennial, Mirth of a Nation, ensured a place for the best contemporary humor writing in the country. And with this second treasury, Michael J. Rosen has once again assembled a triumphant salute to one of America's greatest assets: its sense of humor. More than five dozen acclaimed authors showcase their hilariously inventive works, including Paul Rudnick, Henry Alford, Susan McCarthy, Media Person Lewis Grossberger, Ian Frazier, Richard Bausch, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Nell Scovell, Andy Borowitz, and Ben Greenman -- just to mention a handful so that the other contributors can justify their feelings that the world slights them.
But there's more! More Mirth of a Nation includes scads of Unnatural Histories from Randy Cohen, Will Durst's "Top Top-100 Lists" (including the top 100 colors, foods, and body parts), and three unabridged (albeit rather short) chapbooks:
David Bader's "How to Meditate Faster" (Enlightenment for those who keep asking, "Are we done yet?")
Matt Neuman's "49 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth" (for instance, "Make your own honey" and "Share your shower.")
Francis Heaney's "Holy Tango of Poetry" (which answers the question, "What if poets wrote poems whose titles were anagrams of their names, i.e., 'Toilets,' by T. S. Eliot?")
And there's still more: "The Periodic Table of Rejected Elements," meaningless fables, Van Gogh's Etch A Sketch drawings, a Zagat's survey of existence, an international baby-naming encyclopedia, Aristotle's long-lost treatise "On Baseball," and an unhealthy selection of letters from Dr. Science's mailbag. And that's just for starters! Just remember, as one reviewer wrote of the first volume, "Don't drink milk while reading."
As hard as they try, most people never quite manage to achieve Enlightenment. Some have sat motionless, in silent meditation, and wondered, "Are we done yet?" Others have truly wanted to achieve Perfect Patience and Equanimity, but already had plans for the weekend. Few actually find time to attain complete Oneness, or even Two- or Threeness. Fortunately, help is at hand. Based on centuries of the most sacred and profound Buddhist and Taoist writings and influenced by several recent kickboxing movies, this convenient guide for the serenity-impaired will have you spiritually awakened and seeing into the essential nature of reality in no time at all.
You will never achieve Enlightenment with terrible posture. This is the reason for the Lotus Position or padmasana (Sanskrit for "I have just dislocated my femur"). Recite to yourself, "I am supple." Then, crossing your legs, bend your knees and position your feet on top of your thighs, pulling your toes in toward your kidneys. Then recite the following: "Yaiiiiieeeeee!!!" (Sanskrit for "I am not supple. I am in need of urgent medical attention.") Interestingly, according to emergency room statistics, "patient sat in full Lotus Position" is the leading cause of meditation-related injuries, ahead of "patient inhaled way too much incense" and "patient dropped Buddha statue on foot." Not to worry -- you are now in perfect harmony and balance.
The classic Sutra onBreath to Maintain Mindfulness lists no fewer than 16 different types of meditative breathing techniques, not even including hiccuping, burping, and having an asthma attack. Begin with the very simple Meditation of Contemplation of the Breath. With each in-breath, think, "Experiencing a breath, I am breathing in. Calming the breath, I am breathing in." If you become aware of a thunderous pounding in your ears and sharp pains in your sides, breathe out. This is a key point of The Sutra on Not Turning Blue and Fainting.
Then try the Meditation of Counting the Breath. Tell yourself: "I am ever mindful to number each breath consecutively, for no particular reason." If you have been breathing for a long time and the number is not getting bigger, something is wrong. This is explained more fully in The Sutra on Not Really Being a Math Person.
Finally, don't forget the Meditation of Freshening the Breath. As the Buddha himself often said, "Breathing out a whole breath, I am ever mindful to eat a Tic Tac." This advice can be found in The Sutra on Garlic Tofu.
One of the most ancient meditation techniques involves sitting and staring at a blank wall, a practice known as pi-kuan ("wall-gazing" or, literally, "no commercials"). Legend has it that the sixth-century Zen master Bodhidharma sat in this position for nine years until, finally, his legs fell off. Legend also has it that this was a pretty clever practical joke by the standards of the time and that all the Zen monks had a good laugh, though perhaps you had to be there.
Start by closing your eyes, though not all the way. Closing them completely could lead to napping or snoring, not to mention the whole problem of peeking. With your eyes partly open, pick a spot on the wall at which to gaze. Think about the spot. Ask yourself, "How did the spot get there? Will it come out? Who is responsible for this mess?" When you are finished with that spot, move to another spot. Then another. When you are done, ask yourself whether it is time to repaint.
Throughout history, students of Zen have been known to devote countless meditation sessions to contemplating a single puzzling question such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" (a whooshing noise, but you have to clap really quickly) or "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" (Probably not, but could the Buddha jump and catch a frisbee in his mouth?) Unfortunately, most koans are completely inscrutable. For example, a monk could spend years wrestling with the question, "What's the deal with Richard Gere?" For this reason, when presented with a koan, you should simply answer, "Gee, that's a puzzler. I'm stumped!" Then try to change the subject.
There's no need to sit still as you meditate, particularly if you are running late. For example, try the Walking Meditation. As you walk, think "I am shifting, I am lifting, I am placing; I am shifting, I am lifting, I am placing." This technique also works quite well for jaywalking. In a crowd, think "I am elbowing; I am shoving; I am putting my needs first." All that matters is that you take joy in every step, up to the point when you find a taxi. Remember that the path is the goal and the journey is the destination, especially in traffic.
One of the most commonly asked questions about meditation is, "What does Enlightenment really feel like?" The answer is that true Enlightenment transcends verbal expression. This in turn raises the question, "Yes, of course. So, seriously, what does Enlightenment really feel like?"
Enlightenment is sometimes described as "No-Self" -- the absence of any separation between the Self and other phenomena. (This is not to be confused with simply bumping into other phenomena). In other words, it is the feeling that the Self is part of a borderless continuum in which everything can be broken down into smaller and smaller parts. Even the smallest part can be broken further so that, in the end, a stolen BMW can be smuggled into South America completely undetected. Looked at another way, the nonexistence of the Self may mean that your psychiatrist is an even bigger waste of money than you thought.More Mirth of a Nation. Copyright © by Michael J. Rosen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.