Scrambled Eggs on the Middle Path

Warning:  If you have come accross this article by way of Alton Brown’s website, you are about to be one confused chef.  The same warning might apply to wandering Buddhists.

Let’s start here:  Epiphany comes to you where ever it finds you.  For me, as often as not, it finds me in the process of cooking dinner or breakfast.  Maybe it’s merely a case of “nothing focuses the mind like a…good meal”.

Anyway, there I was, last night, making a nice hollandaise sauce to put on my pork chops.  Yeah, I know, kind of decadent.  But, here’s where it got a little wierd:  I found myself of the “horns of a dilemma”, wondering, “what exactly do you do with the left over egg whites”?  I had four, you see, two from the first failed attempt and, then, two more from the (much more) successful second attempt.

Now, this might sound like a foolish question to anyone who’s really comfortable with wasting a perfectly good egg white or anything, for that matter.  But, you see, where I grew up, that simply isn’t done.  Ben Franklin (or my mother’s version of him) was there chirping in my ear, “waste not, want not“.  At least it wasn’t Dad’s “use your head for something besides a hat rack“.  (Geeeze, Dad, I’m a grown man, you know!)

And, I shudder to think just how casually those OCD health nazi’s are about tossing away the yolks after making an egg white omelette.  That’s just wrong.  It somehow seems much worse given that the yolks are, arguably, the best part of the egg.

Dilemma:  Greek for “two premises”, sometimes likened to a charging bull, hence the term “horns of a dilemma”.

As anyone with any exposure to classical reason (or eastern mysticism) would know, the solution to any dilemma is, often as not, found between (or in altogether avoiding) the horns. 

When trying to determine whether “quality” was objective or subjective, Robert Pirsig’s Phaedrus (in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) also considered:  a) throwing sand in the bull’s eyes, b) singing the bull to sleep, and c) not even entering the bull’s arena.  Sort of reminds me of the sort of political, not to mention religious, “solutions” presented to us on a daily basis.

Pirsig’s Phaedrus, as you may know, suffered a schizophrenic breakdown over his dilemma.  Which, as it happens, is quite a bit like my own “solution”:  an egg white omelette with hollandaise sauce.  As an epicurean experience, not such a great idea; as a metaphor for schizophrenic expediency, a rather tasty dish.

“And so in recent times we have seen a huge split develop between a classic culture and a romantic counterculture…two worlds growingly alienated and hateful toward each other with everyone wondering if it will always be this way, a house divided against itself” – Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

On this score, let me take a moment to apologize for – or, at least, to explain – the great frustration and impatience that is often reflected in the acerbic commentary offered here toward those I consider to be political or economic imbeciles.  (There he goes again.)  And, of course, here I refer, specifically, to those who, it would seem, are fatally attracted to the simplistic appeal of socialism (or it’s more chronic variants), compulsively trading their own personal liberty – and mine, too, in the bargain – for the siren song of the ever-promised and, yet, ever unfullfilled hope for “peace”, “security” and the ever-popular “better world”.   

In the kitchen of my life, you are more than a bit like the OCD food-nazi’s that keep popping up to steal the yolks from my omelette, always, of course, “for my own good”.

Perhaps, the invective that this behavior inspires in me is as unproductive as throwing sand in the bull’s eye.  Still, while I might be bothered by your own notions of a perfect omelette, to allow you to fiddle with mine is another matter altogether. 

“Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a thirty thousand page menu, and no food.” – Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Eggxactly right. I mean, can’t we all just get along?  A little compromise?  Well, maybe not.

“Middle Path” may be misunderstood as equivocal. In fact Buddhism is not as such. “Middle” means neutral, upright, and centered. It means to investigate and penetrate the core of life and all things with an upright, unbiased attitude. In order to solve a problem, we should position ourselves on neutral, upright and unbiased ground. We investigate the problem from various angles, analyze the findings, understand the truth thoroughly, and find a reasonable conclusion. – From Teachings in Chinese Buddhism.

I’m no Buddist, but, I’m willing to accept truth, sort of like epiphany, where ever I find it. 

You might disagree, but, for me “personal liberty” is a “divine institution”, provided (by God) to ensure that my efforts to “do good” and “live right” will be authentic, sincere, and uncoerced. It seems obvious that, as God Himself was willing to take the chance that we might not return His love, we mere mortals might just risk the nuisance of people benignly living the way they see fit, even when it strikes us as distasteful or unseemly.       

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence (emphasis mine)

This was an obvious (self-evident) truth to our founding fathers.  To those who, today, seek to transform the democratic process into the means of limiting, rather than protecting, the personal liberty of their fellow citizens, you’ve missed the whole point, and one which should have been obvious:  You simply don’t have the right.  It is not sufficient, even, that you might promise to give me a bit of hollandaise sauce for the egg white omelette you’ve left on my plate.  It’s not your decision to make.  Some of us want the whole egg, cooked to order.

What is food to one man is bitter poison to others. – Lucretius

It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.”  – Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Harry Tuttle



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