Zen and the Art of Homeland Security

Look up the word "Zen" and you will find hundreds of references, definitions, poems, artworks and masters of consciousness. You shan't, dear reader, find the Department of Homeland Security. More specifically, the TSA may be used to illustrate the opposite of Zen

Defining Zen


1: school of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith; China and Japan [syn: Zen Buddhism]

2: a Buddhist doctrine that enlightenment can be attained through direct intuitive insight [syn: Zen Buddhism]

3: street name for the drug lysergic acid diethylamide

However, the founder of Chinese Zen, Bodhidharma, as depicted in a woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, looks like the ex-Hell's Angels baggage screener I ran across today in the Pittsburgh International Airport. (I swear that is a cigarette butt poking out of his Grizzly Adams beard!)

It must take a great deal of meditative self-awareness to stare out at the lines of weary, caffiene-addled travelers and their bulky carry-ons, each and every one a potential well-spring of mass destruction.

Remember: Remain calm, no matter what the threat level.

from wikipedia:

Zen teachings often criticize textual study and the pursuit of worldly accomplishments, concentrating primarily on meditation in pursuit of an unmediated awareness of the processes of the world and the mind.

Zen, however, is no mere quietistic doctrine: the Chinese Zen master Baizhang (720-814 CE), (Japanese: Hyakujo), left behind a famous saying which had been the guiding principle of his life, "A day without work is a day of no eating."

When Baizhan was thought to be too old to work in the garden, his devotees hid his gardening tools. In response to this, the master then refused to eat, saying "No working, no living."

And perhaps detachment from worldly events is required to make it to one's lunch break, a topic one hears often loudly discussed amongst the TSA agents (ex. "Man! Yolanda sure has been gone a long time on lunch break! My break's coming up in one hour and thrity-seven minutes!")

Out of sincere curiosity, I conducted a straw poll of TSA agents asking if they had any opinion of the new nominee for Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, currently a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The female agent screening me, responded that she thought it might be "The Admiral" who was replacing outgoing head Tom Ridge. I offered to her that it may be someone else. "You should find out; he'll be your boss."

She replied, "Well The Admiral spoke at the Inauguration; I assumed he was gonna be our next boss."

"So, you don't know for sure?"

"Nope," came the terse reply. "I don't know who signs my paycheck: I got direct deposit."

Whoa. Now there's a metaphor for Zen: "direct deposit for the soul."

I really hope that the vision of Ron Ruiz comes to fruition. His concept made the runner-up's circle for ID Fuel's Bonfire #3 organized around the theme of Hassle Free Travel. It may not mesh entirely with TSA's inspirational credo:

"Through partnerships with industry, TSA has deployed the latest technology to detect weapons and explosives in a variety of transportation environments."

However, Ruiz's zenful vision for a security checkpoint re-design, dubbed Luf, involves streams, reeds, and ambient music.

Ahhhhhh. Just like heaven, except with x-ray machines.