PICTURE, if you will, Ed Miliband sitting cross-legged on his zafu.
He is contemplating the void, not to be confused with Labour Party policy.
Tremors of shock ran through the Westminster village this week with revelations that the Labour leader deployed Zen Buddhism to stay "stoical" in difficult times.
On closer inspection, it became clear that he'd emptied a whole basket of eggs on a small dessert. Zen implies depth and some kind of study beyond market research.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Ed added that he wasn't clear – "Let us be clear, I'm not clear about this" – if it was Zen that he meant. A little disappointing perhaps, but even Keith "Hatstand" Zen, founder of the controversial philosophy, admitted it was difficult to understand.
Indeed, as soon as you think you understand Zen, it slips away from your grasp. It's like trying to chew water.
Or as Ed put it (cue tinkle of wind chimes): "I think what you learn most of is, er, is it Zen?" We don't know, Ed, is it? "I'm not sure Zen is quite right, but I'm a pretty stoical guy. You know it's not a walk in the park. But I'm sanguine."
I see. Certainly, Ed seems to have emptied his mind and eschewed western logic here. What's not a walk in the park, Ed? A kazoo? A herd of wildebeest? Perhaps he was deploying a Zen koan, where the very meaninglessness makes you think.
Och, we mustn't be too hard on him. I often have a go at Ed and sometimes feel guilty about it. But it's his fault. Once, in the line of duty, I'd to thole him giving a speech in Glasgow, and his only redeeming feature was that he made Iain Gray sound interesting. Zen was only one among many Z's I experienced that afternoon.
The sound of one hand clapping would have been better than the lukewarm ovation he received, and I can't have been the only one in attendance tempted to leap onstage and kick him in the koans.
That said, the audience wasn't much better. If Ed, like the mystic sage, had pointed at the Moon, this bovine shower would only have stared at his finger.
Clearly, Ed needs to get his finger out when it comes to Zen. Buddhism teaches compassion – hence its unpopularity with Conservatives – and so he shouldn't seek to contend with Cameron or whoever. He should try to love them.
Neither should he speak without reason, let alone babble on in an empty stream of cliche. You know the sort of thing: "I'm my own man. And we're going to win. I'm clear about that. Oh yes. Onward to victory. Victory. Onward. Yes. Is that the time?"
Why can't he learn from his Scottish counterpart, Johann Sebastian Lamont, who rarely makes public appearances and has taken a vow of silence on many subjects such as Trident?
But you must caw canny with Zen: it could blow up your whole mind. It's potentially dangerous stuff. Brian Daizen Victoria's book, Zen At War, outlined the philosophy's influence on Japanese militarism. Clearing the mind of all feeling can set you up nicely for all sorts of horror.
The Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Bonkers Breivik, used Zen-style meditation techniques both to kill his feelings before his heinous acts and to stay detached during his prime-time television series or trial. True, he alluded to "Samurai" psychology, but it's pretty much the same thing. Where there's contempt for death, it's a short step to inflicting it on others.
We started with Ed Miliband and somehow got onto the Samurai. Ed, thankfully, whatever his other faults, is an innocent abroad, trying to do the right thing, or at least to get elected.
His spokesman confirmed that the Labour leader had not studied Zen Buddhism: "What he means is that you keep your focus on what you are trying to do."
Yes, that would help, as does having a spokesman to clarify later just exactly what it is that you mean. The spokesman added of Ed: "He is not going to get carried away." I wouldn't bet on it.
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