The Dust of a Distant Past

I’ve been trying to bring the wisdom of the path to a Western audience since I began writing The Zen Revolution over 20 years ago. At that time, before the dawn of the Internet, the Zen wave was already fading and, without a platform, I had no traction. I found it impossible to publish a book on Zen. The Zen Revolution was originally self-published alongside a podcast where I introduced a new chapter every week and talked about other things. I gave the book away free to promote it, and my name, and had some measure of success with it. Still, it was a book, and I had no idea how to break through with it.

The Field of Weeds was a progression of that, a central theme that became clear after writing The Zen Revolution. The metaphor is encapsulated here.

At that time I was living in LA. Naturally, I decided to start working with video. I did a number of experiments, short videos alongside a podcast, and wrote a new essay every couple of weeks.  It was quite different than The Zen Revolution, following my love of the autobiographical novel: Mark Twain’s Roughing It on through, Celine and Henry Miller, Hunter S Thompson, Bukowski. It was an experiment, and it didn’t really connect with an audience. At the same time I started developing The Void Project, which was video only. It was very dark, existential, and too wordy I think, too complex for its own good.

I started training to become a Zen monk in Korea soon after. During the lengthy process of ordination I wrote a science fiction novel Another End of the World and half of another one, working on a new angle, and the journal Some Other Burning. All remain unpublished.

After the ordination, in Covid stasis, I met Nino, who read my previous work and was sure that we needed to pursue it further. He encouraged me to go back and try another approach with Field of Weeds. So we dusted it off and culled a collection of excerpts, which were culled further at a few late-night sessions at the café. After hastily organizing scenes we began shooting, not trying to do anything literal, but just run and gun, get the stuff down. Dharma Fragments is what it is, exactly as it happened. We shot the scenes, edited them together and added the narration, and moved on. He was with me through the entire editing process, sitting beside me in the studio. It was great having a second eye on everything, one that wasn’t prone to going dark, which is my predilection. I know I can paint great things, but I’m at the mercy of the brush. Does it work? Did we succeed? Time will tell. We’re both happy with it. Artistically, it’s where we wanted to go, and we want to go much farther. We have two more segments planned, Death and Liberation, both of which will be filmed on the islands of the Jeollanam-do province, South Korea—and a different film altogether with DJ Shanell, an Ingmar Bergman-style drama on said islands. I hope we make it there. I hope our work will be well received. But, you know, it’s a life. It’s already complete.

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