Saturday, September 29, 2018

Moment of ZN


I’ve been meditating on this offering for a while now, thinking about this box, with its ancient zen-like spirit.  Started as a branch of Chinese Buddhism called “Chan” (which derives from Sanskrit for “meditative state”) over one thousand years ago, Zen Buddhism emerged after the migration of this religion to Japan.  The teachings of Zen are complex and focused on enlightenment, like all Buddhism, but contain the central theme of accepting reality just as it is.  Zen must be practiced in real life - it can't be truly understood through words on the page.

Box of ZN by Randal Gatewood

Randal Gatewood must have loved the ideas contained in these centuries old teachings.  Zen, and Taoism, which Zen is strongly influenced by, appear to have factored into a number of his works.  His Yin-Yang Master box has the central symbol of Taoism prominently displayed on top, and his “Box of ZN”, at least to my interpretation, appears to be similarly themed.  A calm and meditative approach is not a bad way to experience a puzzle box, after all.  No point in getting frustrated, that won’t get you anywhere.  Enjoy the beauty, observe the motion, the interactions, and go with the flow.  Don’t keep trying the same move over and over, you’ll get nowhere.  Let it take you on a journey and before you know it, something unexpected might occur.  It’s like a Zen koan, those wonderfully insightful stories with deeper meaning.

N-e idea how to open Z box?

I’ll tell you my favorite koan.  There are many variations, but here is one:  Two monks, an old master and his young apprentice, were walking in the country side.  They came upon a river bank where they observed quite a spectacle.  A wealthy woman was shouting at her servant, who struggled in the middle of the river with all her luggage piled on his shoulders.  She demanded he hurry up and fetch her across as well.  The old master shrugged, picked up the woman, and carried her across the river where he set her down, with no thanks, and continued on his way.  The young apprenticed hurried to catch up with his master, and spent the next hour fuming but saying nothing.  Another hour, and another, went by in silence.  Finally he could take it no more and exclaimed to his master, “Why did you help that awful woman?”  His master replied, “Young apprentice, I set that woman down hours ago.  Why are you still carrying her?”

Moment of Zen by Will Talbot

The Box of ZN is easily my favorite of Gatewood’s creations.  It has a very interesting shape, like a little chest with flared sides and two sturdy handles, and is made from exotic Bubinga and Keruing woods.  The top features a zig-zagging pattern of wood slats which is echoed in design on the sides.  Depending on how you look at it, or how the slats may move, perhaps, you might imagine the letters “Z” or “N” at various times.  Which is probably how the box got its name.  That’s a very zen way to name something, don’t you think?  The mechanism is extremely satisfying, with well-hidden but logical moves, a dynamic experience, and 27 total steps required to open the box.  There’s no banging, force, or invisible mechanics involved.  It’s a very peaceful, meditative flow, and the end is illuminating.

Take some sage advice and try this one

Such an experience calls for a moment of zen.  Yes, the box provides such moments, as described, but I’m talking about the cocktail.  Set amidst the backdrop of one of Manhattan’s swankier spots, the roof top hotspot bar at the Standard Highline Hotel, the Top of the Standard Bar (aka the Boom Boom Room) would seem the last place on Earth to find a moment of zen.  Of course, it’s just the kind of place where you could really use one.  Perhaps that’s why bartender Will Talbot created it, but for whatever reason, we can all enjoy it now.  This is a solid bourbon whiskey cocktail, which is certainly a good place to start when looking for some zen.  It adds a nice zing of lime, and an unexpected whirlwind of flavor from yellow Chartreuse, which might derail the serenity.  But it’s balanced with an incredibly soothing syrup made from jasmine tea, which mellows and balances the flavors and brings the calm.  A little sage adds depth and wisdom, and the result is a truly delicious cocktail.  The original is served with a fried sage leaf garnish as well, which is pretty neat, but I found my moment of garnish zen in a different way.  Cheers! 

Enlightenment awaits

Moment of Zen by Will Talbot

2 oz whiskey
½ oz fresh lime
½ oz yellow Chartreuse
½ oz jasmine tea syrup
6-8 sage leaves

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with a fried sage leaf or citrus twists.

For more from Randal Gatewood see:

And now you have come to ZN.

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