Monday, October 14, 2013

The Buddhist Nose

Last night I decided to go to a Litquake event: a special night featuring Buddhist writers who will share their truths about life, death, joy, and belief. Led by humorist and author Wes 'Scoop' Nisker, the panel will include readings by Buddhist teachers and spiritual leaders Sylvia Boorstein, Patricia Y. Ikeda Mushim, and Mark Coleman--with a discussion about the spreading of Dharma via writing. Audience Q&A to follow.

This was the small print at the bottom of the announcement:

Please attend this event fragrance-free, including aromatherapy and naturally scented products.“How to be fragrance free” and a list of personal products can be found online here.

Taken aback and a little bit frightened, I clicked on the link and read:


Important things do:
  • Wear clothes laundered in fragrance-free laundry detergent
  • Avoid laundry softeners such as “Bounce.”
  • Use fragrance-free soap, shampoo and hair products
  • Use fragrance-free lotion
  • Avoid cologne, aftershave lotion, and perfume
  • Read the ingredient labels on all products used on your body or clothing
  • Test each product with your nose or ask a friend with a good sense of smell. Many products are mistakenly marked “unscented” or “fragrance-free” (but actually contain masking scents that can be very harmful).
  • Don’t be afraid to trust your naturally occurring pheromones rather than using added-on scents!
Honestly, I was scared to death! Who would dare attend this event? I tried to remember what kind of soap I had used that morning: a bar of Small Bees goat milk and honey that Gina had given me. Would I be kicked out for that? The lotion I had used had a very slight scent. Let's see. At 7 o'clock it would be about 10 hours since I'd used it… maybe the smell would have worn off. Should I go scrub my body with steel wool just to be sure?

And if we're to trust our naturally occurring pheromones rather than using added-on scents ---does "added-on scents" mean deodorant? Would no one there be wearing deodorant? Would the joint smell like a high school gymnasium? 

I decided to take a chance. As I parked out front I noticed the speakers lined up outside the door in what looked like a reception line. "So nice!" I thought-- until I jumped in line to meet them and realized they were acting as bouncers--smelling each attendee to make sure they were fragrance free.

Sylvia Boorstein sniffed everyone's wrists. She rolled her eyes when she smelled mine. I had sprayed on some cheap Gap HEAVEN the day before--could it have still been evident? But she waved me on to Wes Nisker, who was sniffing everyone's whiskers. Hair, too.

He stuck his nose in my tresses and muttered "Herbal Essence." Crazy! I hadn't used Herbal Essence since high school. But he said if I promised to sit in the back row I could proceed on to Patricia.

Patricia Y. Ikeda Mushim took a whiff of my clothing. She began with my jacket ("Tide" she stated), and then my jeans. I knew my jeans had been jumped on, slobbered upon and pawed over by a German shepherd on the beach earlier, and damn if Patricia didn't wink at me and go "WOOF!"

Finally, Mark Coleman took me aside to sniff my pheromones. It's hard to explain what happened next--though eventually I did find myself in a back row aisle seat.
But seriously: Everyone on the panel had written books. However, they all agreed that many different kinds of writing can be considered "Buddhist literature." Writing that opens the heart, writing that reflects on the changing nature of things, writing that promotes connectivity, writing that's tender (though it doesn't have to be), writing that takes one out of oneself. The Brothers Karamozov, the poetry of Mary Oliver, Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech--all those might be considered "Buddhist literature"--and the list goes on.