Beating a fourth horse


Beat poet and Buddhist Allen Ginsberg inspires "The Worst Horse," a Fri/27 program of multidisciplinary work at the San Francisco Zen Center curated by acclaimed SF author and RADAR founder Michelle Tea.

If Ginsberg’s definition of poetry as “making the private world public” is one starting point, the other is the Buddhist parable of the fourth horse, related by Zen Center founder Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in his famous Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. In the story, the mere shadow of the whip causes the first horse to run swiftly away, while it’s the first touch of the whip that induces the flight of the second, and the whip’s tearing of the flesh that provokes the third horse’s flight. But the fourth horse does not run until it’s repeatedly lashed.

 “If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses,” writes Suzuki, “you will have a big problem. This is not the right understanding.” Considering the merciful nature of the Buddha, however, it becomes clear: “He will have more sympathy for the worst one than for the best one.”

The parable acts as the specific point of departure for the featured group of artists, some of whom are well-versed in Buddhism while others fall under the “beginner’s mind” rubric. The bill includes Philip Huang (writer, performer, agent provocateur and founder of the Home Theater Festival), acclaimed actress and Cultural Odyssey co–artistic director Rhodessa Jones, writer and artist Ali Liebegott, and poet-comedian and “reluctant self-help guru” Bucky Sinister. The evening also includes a screening of the 1960 award-winning short film Dream of the Wild Horses, a gorgeous and haunting cinematic rumination on the wild horses of France’s Camargue District, presented by Oddball Films.
"The Worst Horse"

Fri/27, 7:30 p.m., $10-$12 suggested donation

San Francisco Zen Center

300 Page, SF

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