Zen Spot #237 - Mindfulness, meditation and the downward facing dog October 25, 2019 21:37


Twenty-four years ago I founded a graphic design studio. We specialized in toy packaging. A sensible choice, since the three partners met at Tyco Toys. 

Our portfolio earned us entrance into most companies with products designed to appeal to children. In hindsight, creating graphics whose sole purpose were to induce a frenzied tantrum until a parent or grandparent bought whatever product a child was screaming about was a dubious moral venture at best. In the moment, the opportunity to play while designing a package seemed wonderful  -- and most graphic artists can’t see beyond their computer screen to the end game of their creation anyway. I couldn’t.


I performed business development for our company. As such, sales support was needed to capture the interest of prospective clients. Ideation fell to me. 

I set out to conceive a product idea so silly that a manufacturer could never possibly market it to the public. The purpose of the exercise was to create a fun and provocative brochure that would feature my company’s ability to handle the product’s branding, packaging, promotion, merchandising and website. Within three hours, I had my idea  -- a hot dog tied in a knot. 

Silly. Stupid. Suspect. Erotic. Fun.


The name wasn’t a stretch. Hot dog, Knotdog. Within three days, my staff had a back story worthy of any soap opera  featuring twisted characters, sub-plots, pets, inventions, espionage, infidelity, car chases, fight scenes and a resolution James Joyce would’ve loved. Shortly thereafter, designs for a logo, product packaging, promotional ideas and a merchandising display showed up on my desk. Embracing silliness is as American as apple pie, and so my staff did.

“May I have ten-thousand marbles, please.”

Formerly a student of mine, an employee was fascinated with animation and 3D rendering software. Armed with his vision for the Knotdog, he did whatever he had to do, using premillennial software, to depict my invention. The rendering process took 16 hours, as did any revision. Dozens of hours passed in pursuit of perfect pork striations held in place by a micro-thin casing. Too, applying digital mustard became a problem, the proportions of which were enough to consider never splurting the delicacy on a wiener ever again. Suffice it to say that the debate surrounding the integrity of brown mustard vs. yellow mustard became reminiscent of the feud between the Alphas and the Omegas.

Turds and Tommy Hilfiger

Having received a copy of the printed brochure, my best client -- a Harvard lawyer turned X-man  -- called to tell me that the Knotdog look like a giant turd. Well known for his uncanny ability to bring grown men to tears with his lack of tact, I responded with a tried and true epithet for which I knew forgiveness would be granted. Perhaps he had a point, though.

Conversely, Tommy Hilfiger’s creative director called (with whom we had no relationship) to invite us to give a presentation. We did. Pursuant to working with the Hilfiger brand, our lack of fashion experience was a hurdle that could not be overcome, but the love they lavished was for anything but a turd -- and they referred us to three new clients..

Two decades later, I am reminded that we see what we want to see in everything we encounter. What we bring with us determines our future. As the Buddha said, “What we think, we become.”

Briefly, while writing this essay, I considered a story built on the idea of the yin and yang of a mandala, where the yin is a turd and the yang is not a turd. I choose silliness as my future.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 Michael has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

 What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?