THROW THIS RASCAL OUT OF PRISON

A king visited a prison in his kingdom and talked with the prisoners. Each one insisted on his innocence except for one man who confessed to a theft.

“Throw this rascal out of the prison!” cried the king, “He will corrupt the innocents!”

Source: An old Hasidic story retold my
Louis Newman in The Hasidic Anthology (Schocken Books, 1963)

 

CONSIDER THIS

It is a simple story which looks at our willingness to see the wrong in others and condemn them and yet be blind to our sins. The prayer comes to mind ‘Give me the grace creator God to see myself as others see me’.

Being set free starts by admitting that we are not as innocent as we would like to believe!

 

TWO BAD BRICKS

After we purchased the land for our monastery in 1983 we were broke. We were in debt. There were no buildings on the land, not even a shed. Those first few weeks we slept not on beds but on old doors we had bought cheaply from the salvage yard; we raised them on bricks at each corner to lift them off the ground. (There were no mattresses, of course — we were forest monks.)

The abbot had the best door, the flat one. My door was ribbed with a sizeable hole in the center where the doorknob would have been. I joked that now I wouldn’t need to get out of bed to go to the toilet! The cold truth was, however, that the wind would come up through that hole. I didn’t sleep much those nights.

We were poor monks who needed buildings. We couldn’t afford to employ a builder — the materials were expensive enough. So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing — the whole lot. I had been a theoretical physicist and high-school teacher in lay life, not used to working with my hands. After a few years, I became quite skilled at building, even calling my crew the BBC (“Buddhist Building Company”). But when I started it was very difficult.

It may look easy to lay a brick: a dollop of mortar underneath, a little tap here, a little tap there. But when I began laying bricks, I’d tap one corner down to make it level and another corner would go up. So I’d tap that corner down then the brick would move out of line. After I’d nudged it back into line, the first corner would be too high again. Hey, you try it!

Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took. Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed— oh no! — I’d missed two bricks. All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. They looked terrible. They spoiled the whole wall. They ruined it.

By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again — or, even better, perhaps blow it up. I’d made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.

When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it. Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

“That’s a nice wall,” he casually remarked.

“Sir,” I replied in surprise, “have you left your glasses in your car? Are you visually impaired? Can’t you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?”

What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. He said, “Yes. I can see those two bad bricks. But I can see the 998 good bricks as well.”

I was stunned. For the first time in over three months, I could see other bricks in that wall apart from the two mistakes. Above, below, to the left and to the right of the bad bricks were good bricks, perfect bricks. Moreover, the perfect bricks were many, many more than the two bad bricks. Before, my eyes would focus exclusively on my two mistakes; I was blind to everything else. That was why I couldn’t bear looking at that wall, or having others see it. That was why I wanted to destroy it. Now that I could see the good bricks, the wall didn’t look so bad after all. It was, as the visitor had said, ‘a nice brick wall.’ It’s still there now, twenty years later, but I’ve forgotten exactly where those bad bricks are. I literally cannot see those mistakes any more.

Source | Ajahn Brahm,
Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?
(Wisdom Publications, 2005) pages 3-6

CONSIDER THIS

We’ve all got our two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes. How much life goes wasted, how much potential goes unexplored and how many relationships are damaged or broken because of an unhealthy focus on the “two bad bricks”?

GOD IN THE CRACKS

In a large temple north of Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukotai, there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha. Over a period of five hundred years, violent storms, changes of government, and invading armies had come and gone, but the statue endured.

At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot, dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images of Buddha ever created in Southeast Asia. Now uncovered, the golden Buddha draws throngs of devoted pilgrims from all over Thailand.

The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest.

Source | Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart
(Bantam; Reprint edition, 2009) pages 11-12

CONSIDER THIS

Retrain yourself to see beyond the cracks to the beauty that lies beneath. It is unbreakable, has no concept of age and doesn’t conform to other people’s standards of perfection. Retraining yourself to see the perfection of imperfection, the image of God in the cracks of life, is an essential part of the path towards human liberation.

Saint Paul describes this experience in 2 Corinthians 4:7 as “treasures in clay jars”.

THROUGH MY DAUGHTER’S EYES

I felt inadequate growing up; chubby, never pretty enough, bent on perfection, feeling like I always needed to be better. As a result, I spent a long, long time looking in the mirror, never seeing someone I liked.

Then one day all of that changed when I met for the first time a beautiful, passionate, and confident woman – myself …

It was a hot summer day and my daughter Jessica wanted to go swimming. I had a horrible headache and was feeling sorry for myself, having not yet lost the weight from my last pregnancy, eight months before.  I was on mommy overload  and had no energy left to go outside and play. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

After an hour of Jessica begging me to at least try on my bathing suit, I agreed to take her swimming.  She sat on my bed, watching me try on two or three old bathing suits.

“That one’s beautiful,” she said, so sincerely.

“Oh no, this one is still a little too tight,” I replied, turning to look at the back of my thighs and then back to my paunchy stomach hanging over the seam. I was horrified.

“I like that one the best!” Jessie said, nodding her head for added enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I guess it looks okay,” I said halfheartedly.

“But how does it feeeeel, Mommy?” she asked.

I smiled at her attempts.

“Well, it feels pretty good. Let’s go swim.”

We ran out the back door and Jessica immediately jumped into the pool, begging me to jump in after her. But I like to go in the slow way, so I began inching my way in, toe first, then my ankle.

“Jump in Mommy!” Jessica squealed.

I was so hot, and knowing that I would have to start dinner soon, I figured, what the heck, and cannonballed into the water. Jessie was delighted that I hadn’t followed my normal routine, and she swam over to me splashing and kicking.  She gave me a big hug.

“How do you feel?” she squealed again.

“Cold,” I stammered, laughing and trying to catch my breath.

Jessica giggled and splashed around me some more, then threw her little arms around my neck.

“How do you feel now?” she asked.

“I feel great” I said with the enthusiasm I knew she was waiting to hear in my voice.

“See Mommy?” she said, smoothing my hair away from my face. “You do look beautiful.”

I climbed out of the pool and cannonballed in all over again. But this time, I left the old me standing behind on the deck – the me I never wanted Jessica to know. I felt young and happy again, cutting loose in the water with a new freedom …

I caught a glimpse of the way Jessica saw me, and I understood how awful she’d feel if she knew how bad I felt about myself.

Source | Marlo Thomas, Bruce Kluger, The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2: Your Turn,
(Atria, 2007) pages 114-117

CONSIDER THIS

It is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  Beauty is not inherent in anything – it’s how we look at things.

Beauty isn’t always something that you see; it’s also something that you do and that you feel –  laughing out loud,  dancing with gusto,  holding hands with someone you love,  reaching your goals,  running through the sprinklers, taking chances,  loving completely,  singing along with the car radio,   sharing your life with someone, knowing your kids think you’re funny, and cannonballing into a pool.

These things are beautiful.  They make you feel beautiful. Beautiful is not an adjective, but a verb.

IT’S NOT PERFECT TO BE PERFECT

A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master.

One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.

When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”

After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now.”

Source | Patricis Kay Lebow, ColorFlow: Discover Your Perfect Colors. Experience Life’s Easy Flow, page 213

PONDER AND CONSIDER

The old, wise master in this story could well be practicing the ancient art of “wabi-sabi”.

“Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered – and it reveres authenticity above all.” | Robyn Griggs Lawrence, The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty

STOP WAITING FOR PERFECTION

One afternoon, according to an old Sufi tale, Nasruddin and his friend were sitting in a cafe, drinking tea, and talking about life and love.

”How come you never got married, Nasruddin?” asked his friend at one point.

”Well,” Nasruddin said, “to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no interests in common. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would always be something missing. Then one day, I met her. She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had everything in common. In fact, she was perfect.”

”Well,” said Nasruddin’s friend, “What happened? Why didn’t you marry her?”

Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. “Well,” he replied, “It’s a sad thing. Seems she was looking for the perfect man.”

Source | Rick Fields,  Chop Wood, Carry Water, page 35
Also published in Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy, pages 430-431

PONDER AND CONSIDER

In any partnership and any serious relationship, it does not take long to realize that no one is perfect.

  • What if it is in accepting each other’s imperfections that we eventually become more whole and complete, and in that sense, perfect?
  • What would happen if instead of  looking for perfection we start looking for a blessing?