Today I offer you random, scattered thoughts to ponder on.
Last week parents had a hectic time as families prepared for the start of another school year. A passive observer sitting on the sidelines, it is difficult for me to fathom everyone’s fascination with this materialistic “back to school shopping” and the almost obsessive, yet stressful mall visits. I cannot say whether it is a case of the tail wagging the dog, but here’s hoping that in addition to the proverbial three R’s (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic), we are also able to inculcate in our children the values of an ethical, just and caring society.
The famous comedian Groucho Marx reportedly said, “These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.” I am not sure whether the remark attributed to him was in fact someone else’s quote that he used for his show. However, what was perhaps said in jest appears to have become acceptable conduct, today. Public figures, corporate leaders and ordinary folks, all of us readily draw a line in the sand; but, equally quickly we remain willing to step on either side of that line to suit our interests, ethics be damned. We have seen it all – constantly shifting sands of statements – whether it be Brexit; regulations and walls to keep out immigrants; benefits of demonetization; diversity, inclusion and transparency in our dealings with others; cultural appropriation or just about anything else. Prejudices, not rational thinking shape our actions.
Nature then stepped in to remind us how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme. We have recently witnessed the awesome power of nature as never before! Floods, earthquakes and storms of unprecedented magnitude have resulted in enormous loss of life and property. Is global warming causing these climatic changes? The debate rages, even as we continue to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction that must surely be impacting the tectonic plates, depleting the ozone layer and upsetting the natural equilibrium. Nature extends a free helping hand in our efforts to obliterate our species.
In today’s world, full of turmoil and daily stresses relating to school, work, family or just trying to exist and stay in place, one needs to create a zone of harmony and peace to maintain one’s mental equilibrium. Stories, such as one of my favourite Zen parables narrated below, help us to accept the state of flux where good and bad co-exist and like two faces of the same coin, are always being flipped over:
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
6 Replies to “Who can say…”
Nice one, Pankaj!
Coming from a published author, your comment means a lot! Thanks
I remember another Zen story that you narrated to me. I’m sharing it here…
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
As they say, A little bit of Zen never did no one no harm!
Mayank, as a seasoned writer and a published author, your insights, critique and encouragement started me off on this journey and keep me going; so, mucho gracias, Senor!
You have compelled me to imagine this coffee house conversation:
“They say Hurricane Irma was caused by climate change…”
“…which is due to overcrowding on this planet…”
“…but we do need more and more people to consume more and more goods so that you and I can continue to keep our jobs and pay down the half-a-million dollar mortgages…”
“Please don’t think I’m greedy – I haven’t even paid 20 percent of the debt, and I already feel I need a bigger house.”
“If I am greedy, it’s only because it’s not in my nature to be content. So don’t blame me, blame Nature.”
“And don’t blame man for the mess in Florida, looks like it’s what God intended all along.”