The master asked his disciples: “how do we know when the night is over and the day has arrived?”

And the disciples pondered the master’s question.

One answered: “Master night is over and day arrives, when you can see a house in the distance and determine if that’s your house or the house of your neighbour.”

Another disciple responded: “Night is over and day arrives when you can see an animal in the field and determine if it belongs to you or to your neighbour.”

A third disciple offered: “Night is over and day has arrived when you can see a flower in the garden and distinguish its colour.”

“No, no, no,” thundered the master. “Why must you see only in separations, only in distinctions, only in disjunctions. No. Night is over and day arrives when you look into the face of the person beside you and you can see that she is your sister, he is your brother, That you belong to each other. That you are one. Then, and only then, will you know that night has ended and day has arrived.”

Source | unknown


If you didn’t know the master’s answer, and if you happened to be one of the eager disciples how would you answer the question: “how do we know when the night is over and the day has arrived?”


The French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, is well-known for his delicate painting Footbridge over Water Lilies.” What is less known is that the artist painted over 250 versions of this scene in his idyllic garden at Giverny.  He painted the patterns of the changing light on the water at every time of day, from early dawn to noon to late evening.  The effect of changing light dancing on the waters intrigued and challenged Monet.

Once, a well-meaning but unknowing visitor said to Monet: : “You really ought to change the scene you are painting.  It seems you are making no progress.”  The visitor’s untrained eye missed the beauty of the similar yet vastly different canvases.

Monet took no offence at the comment, but kindly replied: “Ah, progress. You are right, my hours on end in the hot sun do not move me to progress.  But what a progression, minute by minute, the dazzling light makes upon the waters, calling forth from them new beauties at every shimmer and sparkle.”

Source | Dennis Clark, Sunday Morning (1996)


  • Life is about progressing steadily, that is, slowly, a tiny step at a time – no huge leaps. This is not always an exciting process to watch! Sometimes it may even taste like boredom. Often it is invisible!
  • One thing to remember and to opt for daily,  is to go through life with a “learner’s permit”, learning by doing, by trial and error.


In the 1995 film Smoke, Auggie Wren manages a cigar store on the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn. Every morning at exactly eight o’clock, no matter what the weather, he takes a picture of the store from across the street. He has four thousand consecutive daily photographs of his corner all labeled by date and mounted in albums. He calls this project his “life’s work.”

One day Auggie shows the photos to Paul, a blocked writer who is mourning the death of his wife, a victim of random street violence. Paul doesn’t know what to say about the photos; he admits he has never seen anything like them. Flipping page after page of the albums, he observes with some amazement, “They’re all the same.” Auggie watches him, then replies: “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down, my friend.”

The pictures are all of the same spot, Auggie points out, “but each one is different from every other one.” The differences are in the details: in the way people’s clothes change according to season and weather, in the way the light hits the street. Some days the corner is almost empty; other times it is filled with people, bikes, cars, and trucks. “Its just one little part of the world but things take place there too just like everywhere else,” Auggie explains. And sure enough, when Paul looks carefully at the by now remarkably unique photographs, he notices a detail in one of them that makes all the difference in the world to him.

Source | Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, page 27


A Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu puts it, “One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds awake each morning, to realize how inexhaustingly rich and different is sameness.”

Auggie reads the world – in his case, one corner in Brooklyn – for meaning.  By its very nature, his project is rooted in the everyday.  He knows how closely we may need to look to see the significance of seemingly ordinary and insignificant events.  He understands that some of the most rewarding spiritual journeys are those we take on our own block.


A young missionary priest was assigned to work in Central America. Upon arrival, and after settling in, the leader of the community picked up the young priest and took him to meet the people. At that time, as was the custom, everyone was having a bath in the river men, women and children, all stark naked. No malice!

When the priest saw this, he was shocked and very upset!  He called  the leader and he commanded him to let the people know that  it was not proper for men, women and children to bathe naked together in the same river. “From now on”, the priest said, “bathing will happen separately.”

One of the man, sensing the upset,  got out of the river, ran towards the priest and said, “Father, what’s wrong with you! What’s the difference, if we take a bath separately or together, it is the same water!”
  • When we project our fears and our unease onto others aren’t we judging them?
  • Can it be that wrongdoing and rightdoing exist only in our heads?
  • Can it be that our unreflective intrusions and the enforcement of our way of thinking wound and disturb the innocence of the others whom we are trying to teach and help?