Posted by: patenttranslator | June 17, 2016

My Top Seven Moments of Zen


We all have them, but different people draw inspiration and enjoyment from life’s little moments of Zen from different things.

For Hillary Clinton, it may be the moment early in the morning when she is reading and sending e-mail from her own private Guantanamo that she has built for herself and her e-mails in her basement so that nobody would know what she is really thinking and doing.

For Donald Trump, it may be the moment when he says something outrageously offensive and obviously untrue yet again – and when everyone in the audience cheers loudly for him because they’ve found a hero who dares to speak his mind.

My little moments of Zen may be totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but they are dear and important to me.

Mad Patent Translator’s Top 7 Moments of Zen:

Zen Moment No. 1

The moment just before I fall asleep. Because my window is facing a pond, I can look through the semi-transparent darkness and think about the noisy frogs I hear as they are keeping themselves busy doing their thing in the pond below. I see or imagine that I can still see the silhouettes of trees beyond the pond if I raise my head from the pillow, and even the fireflies that I sometimes observe on summer evenings dancing above the pond. There are fewer fireflies here now, while the number of the ticks in the woods behind our house has increased exponentially.

It’s probably a sign of the times. Maybe it’s because of global warming. Fifteen years ago I could see a veritable army of dancing fireflies, then about five years ago they disappeared completely and now they seem to be slowly coming back. I hope they do come back and stay for good. They like to say that California has everything under the sun, but there are a few things that the East Coast has that California does not. California really has no seasons, and it doesn’t have fireflies either, I’m not sure why.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

That’s how Christian children used to pray and maybe still do before they fall asleep. I am not a Christian, and I am not a child, so I think about the frogs, trees, and fireflies instead. It works just fine for me.

Zen Moment No. 2

The moment when I wake up in the morning, when it’s not too early yet or too late already for a new day to start.

Older people like myself often can’t go back to sleep if they wake up between 3 and 5 AM and I usually have a headache for many hours when this happens, until I can finally catch some zzz’s to make up for the sleep deficit from the previous night. It feels so good to wake up at the right moment for a new day to start. That may be what all the proverbs about night and morning mean in different languages, such as La nuit porte conseil (The morning brings advice, in French), Ráno je moudřejí večera in Czech (Morning is smarter than evening), or the Japanese saying Hayaoki sanmon no toku (早起きは三文の徳 , literally: early rising – three coins, although this is probably closer to the English saying “It is the early bird that catches the worm”.)

Zen Moment No. 3

The moment in the morning when I open my e-mail and see that somebody on the other side of the world who has replied to one of my silly blog posts is saying something really interesting in response, something that would never have occurred to me otherwise. Bloggers are usually not compensated financially, (except for those who have turned their blogs into marketing platforms), nor will they be richly rewarded in Heaven for having labored on their posts on Earth, especially heathens like me who don’t believe in Heaven.

But sometimes they are rewarded early in the morning when they open their e-mail on their smartphone or computer.

Zen Moment No. 3

The moment when I suddenly I feel that I have no choice but to start writing another blog post about a topic that is at that moment so terribly important that I simply have to share it with the world right away, such is the urgency of the moment! It could be in the morning, it could be in the afternoon or in the evening, whenever the spirit moves me, because these moments don’t have a chronological order.

Half the time when I start writing something on a topic that I feel very passionate about, the post ends up being about something else altogether and I abandon the original idea. That’s part of the excitement, you never know where the post will lead you because the motifs and ideas occurring to you are triggered by the words that you are writing and the images that you are seeing in your mind.

Zen Moment No. 4

The moment when I return from a trip, usually a trip abroad. From that moment on I am back in my familiar environment and I don’t have to worry that a stupid mistake like losing a wallet or passport will leave me stranded in a foreign country.

It’s so good to be able to lie down on a comfortable bed or sofa any time I want, take a bath in my oval bathtub, (huge by hotel standards, at least by the standards of those hotels that I can afford), any time I want. I see from my bedroom window that the pond is still there, and so are the trees, and I know that the noisy, horny frogs will probably start again going at it: ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, once it starts getting dark and that, if I’m lucky, I may be even able to see fireflies.

Zen Moment No. 5

The moment when the sky angrily refuses to put up with any more of the oppressing humidity in the subtropical climate here in Eastern Virginia and erupts with a storm bringing with it lightning, thunder and gusts of heavy rain.

I can watch the storm and the rain sitting on a chair either on the front porch or on the back porch, but the storm is often so violent and the rain so heavy that the chair gets wet unless I push it all the way back next to the door.

I wonder where the birds and squirrels who come to our back porch where we feed them are hiding from the rain. Can they find refuge under the branches in the woods behind our house? The frogs in the pond are fine, I’m sure, and so are the turtles who come back here every year to lay eggs in the same place where they were born with a hard shell on their back. If you pick up a turtle, the sly, slow-moving, but not slow-witted animal will piss on you in a brave act of self-defense, which tends to give a bizarre dimension to this particular moment of Zen.

Zen Moment No. 6

The moment when I have just returned from the beach and I am standing in the shower, watching the sand circling the drain before it disappears. I usually try to shower at the beach but you can never get rid of all of the sand that way. “Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives” was the motto of a TV show that ran for many years although I never watched it except for a few scenes because it was interrupted by too many commercials.

Like beach sand circling the shower drain before it disappears in it completely, so are the days of the lives of those of us whose life is already mostly behind them.

Zen Moment No. 7

I can’t help it, my favorite moment of clarity is the moment when I am translating a patent. I see the familiar format in Japanese, German or another language on a printed page on the left side next to my own translation as it is taking shape on the big monitor in front of me.

The world is starting to take a form that is logical and symmetrical the way it should be, symmetrical like a snowflake, or a sunflower, or human body. There was something missing in this world before, when the message was encrypted in a language that somebody who needed to know what was in it did not understand. Something was missing because there was a hole in the world. But I plugged the hole and restored the meaning of the message that is now finally in the correct language.

In the beginning, I struggle to find the right words as I look at the drawings to try to understand what it is that I should be saying. But if the stars are aligned right, and most of the time they are, after a while I become a secretary taking down a divine dictation from an invisible source in the universe as I am creating something new, something that has not been a part of this world up until this moment, while my fingers do their dancing on the keyboard, like fireflies dance in the darkness of warm and humid Virginia summers.

And they pay me for it!

This is my ultimate moment of Zen, because in that moment, I am restoring the proper balance to the world. And although it lasts only for a short moment, restoring the proper balance by creating meaning out of the total chaos of messages hidden in incomprehensible foreign languages is the best job in the world.



  1. What a wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I can relate to your Zen moments, particularly to feeling elated when close to nature. I can also relate to your Zen moment No. 7. However, only this week I had moments of deep doubts about the beauty of my profession. I realized that I will always be stuck between two extremes: too much work to handle elegantly on the one side, and a nagging uncertainty about the future on the other – not only regarding the question if translations will be done entirely by machines one day putting people like me out of work, but also if I personally will always be able to earn enough to support my own life and that of my two kids in the face of falling translation rates.


  3. Dear Walpurga (I love your name!):

    I seem to be recognizing that what you are describing are symptoms of incipient TD (Translator’s Dementia), see my post below.

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for this insidious disease.


    • Ha ha, yes, indeed, I recognize the symptoms

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Patenttranslator,

    ‘Translator’s Dementia’ – such a nice term of such a gerontic disease…!:D
    I definitely recognize some symptoms at my behaviour:
    – The I-Need-To-Find-A-Safe-Job Syndrome
    – Compulsive E-Mail Checking Disorder
    but I always thought it’s a kind of mature adult’s behaviour;)


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