“…be good to us, ‘cause we get to choose where you end up”, said my teen daughter pointing to an old people’s home. A sobering thought, I mused and delivered with such breathtaking ease.
Aside from the shock at me being resettled in my old age so casually, I suppose I’m thinking her approach is just a following up on parents very ‘sophisticated’ negotiating tactics, “once you’ve eaten your greens you can have some pudding, pass those exams and those tickets will be yours. You’ll do what we think is best for you (in your interest sweetheart!) and we’ll invest in what makes you happy.” Naturally, we parents are driven towards rewarding, encouraging and persuading our loved ones. Blackmail really, and it’s no surprise they’ll want to sharpen their skills in this, and get their own back with a bonus personal twist.
But then along came this blinder one day:
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Woah, What? My daughter mumbled this from under her breath, within clear earshot of me- it was obvious that I was her target, because of some ‘wrong doing’ I had done to her. I felt as if struck from the heavens. Was my daughter like some sort of holy WiFi; picking up a celestial messenger or was she the next Dalai Lama, biding her time? I felt inadequate; ‘merely human.’ Speechless, I looked across at my pietistic, patronizing higher being and I wondered, could she? Could she have been spawned from some divine celestial energy, a deity? Her father wouldn’t disagree.
But I came to my senses pretty quickly. I took a deep breath and told her to consult the wisdom of Congelata
(Frozen 20:14) and seek to “let it go.”
Continuing the spiritual note, I tripped over a couple of Zen stories courtesy of Stumble Upon just recently. One was about a young man who asks a hermit if he could be his master because he wants to find God. The hermit jumps up, grabs the young man’s head, takes him to the river and plunges him into the water, holding him there, resisting his kicks and screams. After lots of struggles, the hermit pulls him out and asks the gasping man what he wanted most while he was ‘under’. The man replies “air”. To which the hermit replies, “Go Home. Come back to me when you want God as much as you just wanted air.”
Is that the only time the hermit expects one to really want to seek God; in a time of crisis? Isn’t that a little convenient? And aren’t we all a bit like that anyway? We’re not that hard to find. In times of great need, most of us will admit to calling out to something beyond ourselves. And sometimes we can be calculating about it when it’s hardly life or death; when wanting our children to attend that extremely good church school, we suddenly find ourselves in the front pew, singing anachronistic hymns and buffing up the weekly collection. Surely, the test of the young man’s desire towards his faith is to find out if he calls out for God when everything in his life is just tickety boo and all his ducks are lining up, thank you very much?
Zen stories are. Full stop. How do I love Zen? Let me count the ways. My view is that there’s a lesson there in those stories for every type of human experience, equipped with two clear suggestions on how you can receive these sagely tales. a) Take it or leave it, b) take it and leave it. It’s like wine, I think though I don’t drink. You de cork, pour and leave it to breathe. Zen stories need time too for deep breathing and understanding. The stories are like an absorbing piece of art, where each person walks away with a different meaning and experience. Zen is cool. If Zen were a person, they would be wearing dark ray bans, stopping us from seeing into their windowed soul, and if we got lucky in getting beyond those ray bans, well, too bad- a projected image of sheer indifference would be seen; a reflection of disinterest. Because I think Zen doesn’t care. Doesn’t care whether you have any interest in it or not; You’re to make your own conclusions, from your experiences, aren’t you? And Zen doesn’t want you to invest in it, but to invest in your own thoughts. Yet, sometimes you read these stories, and it feels like there is a Mr. Omniscient- waiting to remind you, informing you that, whatever viewpoint you come up with, there’s as a much, much better one- so nope, contrary to what you may have thought, you didn’t actually get life’s little lesson there.
Another ‘take it or leave it’ story, worth a mention is The Egg by Andy Weir. Am I the only one in love with the thought that this idea of Andy’s took very little time to be written? However, somehow, it has managed to capture and arrest the minds of many, many people (and equally by-passed others). And the comment posted, “See what I did there?”, will not mean anything without reading it. So go on, whichever side of the fence you’re sitting on, it’ll certainly make you think. Let me know what you think too. And have you ever written something that has made such a disproportionately profound impact on yourself and or to others? I would love to hear about it.
The Egg by Andy Weir — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists