What’s the sound of one hand clapping? Think on that for the next 30 seconds before continuing to read. No cheating, now!

 

 

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By Karl Kempton

If you have the answer, then don’t bother to read on, because it’s not about finding an answer. It’s about the paradox and about unsticking the mind by grasping the unknowing, because it is only in the unknowing that something new can enter. This is a type of Zen Koan and is designed to put the mind into a double-bind and thus paralyze the ego-self, that which thinks it needs all the answers.

 

There’s another Zen story about the professor who comes to a Zen master for the purpose of learning something about Zen. The master offers him a cup and asks if he would like some tea. “Yes, of course!” Replied the professor and the master began to pour and pour until the cup ran over and filled the saucer then ran across the table. “But the cup is full!” Cried the professor. “And so are your ideas about Zen!” Suggested the master. Again, it is with your mind full, when you think you already know something, that there is no room for anything new.

Here’s a third story where Chuang Tzu, a Taoist teacher, told of a time when a man traveling in a boat sees another boat heading right toward him. In reaction he yells in anger and shakes his fist at the other boat to come about and change course, but nothing happens and they close the gap getting closer and closer. But now he notes that there’s no one in the other boat and his anger subsides and he himself steers clear. His preconceived notion nearly got him killed.

These stories lead to three more lessons in wielding magic, 1) Embrace the double-bind–the paradoxes of life, but embrace them as mysteries; 2) Give up what you know–actually, give up what you think you know. Until you do, you cannot learn anything; and 3) Learn to respond, not react–don’t operate out of your preconceptions, or your expectations e.g. be appropriate to the moment and action will flow easily.

Actually all three require letting go of the ego-self, the “I” and this leads me to a fourth lesson.

The “I” divides us from the magic that is all around us. It separates us from one another and makes us less than whole. In a men’s group this morning we got to talking about how so often we humans get caught up in dichotomies separating left thinkers from right, conservative from liberal, etc. We talk about diversity being a good thing but rankle when it bumps up against us. Every time a group doesn’t think or act the way we think they should we take our game somewhere else, church denominations split, political parties cut each other off, friends and lovers walk out on each other–separation, separation, separation.

However, I think that the very divisions can point to the whole and we can become more aware of what the whole looks like through the diversity. Each point of view is valid none are superior, or inferior, to the other except through the lens of our egos. And I contend that it’s only when we embrace our opposites that we can feed our souls.

Speaking of opposites, there’s an old Chinese fable that tells the story of the difference between heaven and hell. In both places there is a large banquet table. Each of the people sitting around the table is given 5-foot long chopsticks to eat with. In hell the people try in vain to feed themselves with their 5-foot long chopsticks while in heaven each person just feeds the person across from them. In heaven they surrender their individuality and rid themselves of their self-imposed division.

In church on Sunday we passed the peace of Christ amongst us when I came upon two folks who were deaf. In their signing the peace of Christ I noted that the sign for peace was the clasping of the left and right hands back and forth–how appropriate, peace comes from the inclusion and union of opposites.

Here’s to feeding and clasping your opposite.

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