I recall a footnote in William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience,” of an incident at the Baltimore train station, early 20th century. The narrator of the story wore a chocolate brown snap-brimmed hat and smoked a pipe.
“Harry.” A man with thinning hair and glasses, with a cart of luggage was passing on the platform and recognized him.
It was an old schoolmate. Harry knows the face but forgets the name, and is reduced to calling him, old boy. “Where are you off to, old boy?”
“Japan, Harry, Japan, where I intend to study zen buddhism.”
“Exactly what might that entail, old boy?”
“A lot of sitting in an uncomfortable position, as I understand it, so as to clear the mind of meaningless chatter, and rid myself of anger and worry.”
“Does it work?”
“It works for the Japanese, so yes, Harry, it works. I intend to do this, so you may not know me when you see me again. I’ll be Japanese.” They both laugh at this and part on that high note.
He stood there on the platform at the Baltimore train station and thought to himself, “If you know you can do a thing, why not just do it? Why fuck around sitting in uncomfortable positions for twenty years. I hereby give up anger and worry.” He made an unequivocal decision.
It took awhile for him to realize he’d done it, and certain incidents demonstrated to him how this had changed him. There was the train pulling out of the station without him on board because the hotel had not gotten his luggage to the platform, and he sees the bellman coming, horrified with the realization that he is too late.
“I’m sure you did your very best, my friend,” he said, being collegial, “and it is of no real consequence, there’s another train tomorrow.” He and the bellman became friends for life and always sent Christmas cards.