Monday, November 28, 2005

A Zen interlude

(or, in the parlance of Zen, "There is no interlude.")

I read a little Zen book today; and while I must demur at Zen's materialist pantheism; and while I choose not to "get" much out of Zen's koan (illogic) parables, one of them really stuck with me, and now, perhaps, with you too.

One day Matsukomi came to Matura to learn swordsmanship. "I want to be a great swordsman," Matsukomi said. "How long will it take?"

"Ten years," answered Matura.

"Well," replied Matsukomi, "what if I work doubly hard?"

"Thirty years, at least," answered Matura.

"What! Well, what if I work all day every day and spare no energy or expense to train?"

"Seventy years."


"A student in such a rush will never learn anything."

Matsukomi bowed.

For the next three years he worked as a servant, never touching a sword or learning any martial arts. This greatly disappointed him, but he persevered in his duties.

One day, Matura attacked him from behind with his wooden sword, sending Matsukomi to the floor in agony. Day after day, Matura sprang upon Matsukomi with his wooden sword. Over time, however, Matsukomi became like a cat, always on the balls of his feet, full of coiled energy and alertness.

After some time of this, Matura began training Matsukomi in swordplay proper. And, in little time, Matura became the greatest swordsman of his age.

So it is for me. I must BE here, daily, in the small ways and the big ways, not "up ahead" at my imagined vocation. Pray for me. "A pupil in such a rush never learns anything."

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