The Zen Payoff


They should learn of my passing from the sandbox gardener. Don’t even let the gardener look up. He should just tell the visitors over his shoulder and keep raking.

An extract from Walking Backwards (A journey of a thousand miles on the Camino de Santiago):

As far as music is concerned, I’m thinking just simple, soft, background farm sounds like chickens clucking occasionally mixed in with extravagant bursts of women wailing from one of the sheds. Maybe some creaky hinges and doors opening and closing off-camera. That can just be the people scurrying about doing whatever people do when somebody’s died on a farm. But real quiet and subtle so you can still hear the crying. I don’t want some big, over-the-top violin soundtrack. It’s not John Williams who’s died. It’s a beloved old monk. I can’t afford to lose the Zen payoff of my entire life.

Then slowly start to montage all that with the other monks in long, silent procession losing their deep reserves of calm and weeping terribly, unexpectedly. In cutaway shots one of the head monk’s hands should reach to brace himself against the stone stairwell. It should be clear from information in an earlier scene that something like that has never happened in the monastery before, definitely not to that character anyway. Don’t force it, but I’m thinking maybe we might have been competitors somehow, but with me being the “not competitive” one who wins in the end. And now the head monk knows and, of course, I tried to tell him. Both directly and through parable.

I’d also really like a scene with pilgrims who came on foot some ridiculous huge distance just to see me, but arrived too late because then I was dead already. They should learn of my passing from the sandbox gardener. Don’t even let the gardener look up. He should just tell the visitors over his shoulder and keep raking. Because everything that happens is perfect and for a reason. And this is perfect, too. It turns out that this was the message they came a thousand miles for and what they needed to hear: “you came too late to meet him.”

Just that. Nothing more:

“You’re too late. He’s gone. You wanted to meet him. You didn’t.”

Dut-dee-dut-dee-dut-dee-dut.

This, my friends, is What Life Wanted You to Know.

– From Chapter 9 “Snowfield” of Walking Backwards (A journey of a thousand miles on the Camino de Santiago)

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