Burque Councilor Dan Lewis’ Libertarian Zen Koan

Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis was quoted a few days back in a Journal story regarding Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART). He said:

“I don’t believe mass transit is a core function of government.”

That statement has been rattling around the addled-brain of Better Burque for five days now, in somewhat the same way those eternally puzzling Zen riddles, known as koans, do.  You know, like this one, sometimes titled “Nothing Exists.”

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku. Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry. “If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”

Like any good koan, Lewis’ statement elicits endless questions. For instance, where does Dan Lewis’ anger about mass transit come from? Is it part of an overall libertarian philosophy he holds? For example, does he also think public roads are a bad idea and not really a “core function”? What exactly are the “core functions” of government to Zen Master/Council President Lewis?

All the public debate over ART has given us every angle of what esteemed local blogger and water expert John Fleck likes to call the “Pageant of Democracy.” We’ve learned much through the process, including the undeniable fact that the Pageant of Democracy is often messy, sometimes embarrassing and generally tends to emphasize emotions over logic.

In this way, ART is itself a zen koan, one many of us have become increasingly angered and frustrated by. Zen Master Lewis, however, takes ART as koan to a new level, elevating ART into truly metaphysical realms of political science, raising questions not of good/bad or pro/con, but of existence itself.

Maybe Mayor Richard Berry is an enlightened disciple of Zen Master Lewis. The Mayor’s non-appearance at any ART public meetings might be because he has learned from Lewis that nothing exists. To quote the koan above, “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist.” Nobody is really at these meetings; the Mayor is just fully realizing his buddha nature in not showing up.

Still, maybe because of Better Burque’s continued failure to achieve enlightenment, it’s kinda hard to fathom Councilor Lewis’ “core function” comment as anything other than that of a person who became involved in government in order to kill it. You know, like the famous “kill the Buddha” koan, but with far fewer resulting government services.  This enlightenment backsliding also has one wondering if the Mayor is effectively trying to “kill the Buddha” via a lack of leadership on the issue.

The City Council is expected to vote March 21st on ART, although it’s somewhat unclear what exactly will be voted upon and what force, if any, such a vote might exert. In other words, what happens on the 21st is almost sure to be just as enigmatic, maddening and strangely metaphysical as has been this entire exercise in the Pageant of Democracy. What further koans and lessons does Council President Lewis have in store for us in about ten days? And will he bring a bamboo pipe?  The questions, again, are endless.



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