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No Attachment to Dust

A half year ago in Malaysia, I met a Polish guy who had trained heavily in ninjitsu and was generally an admirer of Japanese culture and philosophy.

He and I talked for a number of hours, and we swapped a few book recommendations. I had just finished my copy of "The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan" by Yukio Mishima, so I gave that to him as a gift. He recommended a number of good books and things for me to look up.

One of the books he turned me on to was "Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings" - and he gave me a link to a site where you could read all the stories for free, 101zenstories.com

I go back to the site for inspiration every month or two. I quite liked this one, "No Attachment to Dust" -

Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the T'ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:

Friday Found Poem: Mr. Mezei on the Island

On like an apple

This week's "found poem" is another one crafted from a legal case.

The case is a really interesting situation that happened during the second "red scare" in the U.S., in the 1950s. Mezei, a Romanian/Hungarian man had lived here in the US legally for 25 years, as a permanent resident (i.e., he had what everybody calls a "green card," though it is not green now). He left the US to try to visit his dying mother in Romania but was denied entry and then had trouble getting permission to leave Hungary. He finally got permission to leave Hungary, and was granted a visa at the American consulate for entry to the U.S.

But when he actually arrived at Ellis Island, the U.S. government denied him entry, as a threat to national security. The government refused to disclose why it thought Mezei was a threat. Unfortunately, no other country in the world was willing to take Mezei in, especially now that the U.S. deemed him a threat but refused to say why.

Mezei sued, demanding a chance to hear the evidence against him and respond, to try to prove it was safe to let him go back to his home in New York. He argued that keeping him on Ellis Island was depriving him of his liberty without "due process of law," in violation of the constitution.

As you'll see in the poem, Mezei lost the case. The court's opinion has a single chilling line that has always stood out to me, from the first time I read it: "Whatever the procedure authorized by Congress is, it is due process as far as an alien denied entry is concerned."

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