Zen and the Art of Mosquito Murder


The neighbour was burning leaves again. Driving us crazy. ‘What’s the point of having a garden,’ I said, ‘if we can’t sit out in it?’

‘If he does it again, I’m calling the police.’ When it comes to the neighbour, Carole’s fury runs even deeper than mine. The smoke, she says, gets into the sheets on the washing line. At times it’s so thick we can hardly see our beautiful Aleppo pine.

Bruce, an old schoolfriend come to visit, smiled and nodded in that soft, placid way of his. He’s been a practising Buddhist for thirty years, and apart from his bony, ascetic appearance, everything about him is placid. I watched him watch a frenzied Carole massacre mosquitoes – he didn’t say anything, but it troubled him.

I found that intriguing. ‘Yes, I know all life is precious,’ I said, ‘but a mozzie? You just let it bite you? And turn the other cheek, I suppose.’

‘Oh, no,’ he said, pouring himself more wine (the asceticism only goes so far). ‘If it was really bothersome, I’d kill it. In a Buddhist way, that is.’

‘You mean there’s a Buddhist way of killing? Meditate for an hour first? You’d be bitten all over by then.’

‘No, quite the opposite, really. One sharp slap and think no more about it.’

That was a couple of days ago. Now we’re sitting in the garden again, and a glorious Indian summer bathes the Aleppo pine in a golden glow. The mozzies are out in force, though, and Carole’s getting all jumpy. ‘Still,’ she says. ‘At least there’s no smoke this evening. That’s a blessing.’

‘Oh, I don’t think we’ll be bothered by smoke again,’ I say. ‘That problem’s settled now.’

‘Really? You called the police? That’s good!’

‘The police? Good heavens, no.’ I smile placidly. ‘That’s not very Buddhist.’

Book Covers and Monks


A calm, meditative, peace-loving Buddhist monk? Uh, no. Ashin Wiratha, the “Burmese Bin Laden”, preaches hate and discrimination against Muslims, and has now called the UN’s special envoy to Burma a “bitch” and a “whore”. So there you go. As the French saying has it, L’habit ne fait pas le moine. Literally, “the clothes don’t make the monk”, often translated as “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.

You might think I’m now going to analyse religion, discrimination and Burmese politics. Sorry to disappoint – I’m simply going to add a poll to this post. Trivial, I know, but blogging 101 has got me hooked!

It’s just for practice, really, but I’m also genuinely curious: how do you judge a book? Several answers are possible (if I’ve done it right).


What if the proverb is confirmed? Will I be able to go for something that really sucks? Or is totally irrelevant? Hmm…

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