After centuries of presiding over the monastery, the zen master passed away. Upon his death, all his pupils, some had been there for their entire lives, convened to discuss who would follow him. Of course, the question who would become the new zen master, led to a discussion of what qualities make someone a master. Perseverance? Clarity of thought? Enlightenment? For days and days the monks discussed.
At one point, they were sitting at the dinner table. They had been stuck for days now, and desperation slowly made the rounds. While the cook walked in, they said: “Ha, why don’t ask the cook about what makes a zen master?!” They all laughed, and then one turned to the cook and said:” Cook, what makes a zen master?”. They laughed.
Upon hearing the question, the cook froze. In his hands, he held the full pot of soup that he made to feed the monks. As their laughter died down, he still stood looking at them. Once they were silent, and without a word coming out of his mouth, he just let go of the pot, and as it fell he turned and walked away. When it lay shattered on the ground, they knew what made a zen master, and the one who would lead them forward.
For some time now I have been reading Impro by Keith Johnstone, which is a book about the art of improvisation in the theater. Written in the 70s, this book is not only very entertaining, but also offers deep insights into human interaction and the human condition. Among many other topics, Johnstone mentions what is known as “Mask” acting. Masks form important part in pageants, rituals, ceremonies and festivals. They are used to embody an important tradition to the people, and form a central part in many religious ceremonies. For Johnstone, masks represent another way of activating creative resources within his students, and more than that, they get into the experience of trance.
Robert Quillen once said that “Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance”. How many times have we started a friendly discussion, whether it be at work or in a private setting, and after a little while the sides harden, and learning goes straight out of the window, and we go straight to having a full blown argument. By that stage, it is not anymore about what is said, but about our own emotions…who is right! In his famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie wrote: “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it”.
Albert Einstein once said that “Reality is an merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”, and after all my investigations into possibilities and the human potential, the words of MC Escher are for me truer than ever:”Are you really sure that floor can’t also be ceiling?” Although this question might sounds strange, how can we know, and how do we know what is real and what is not? Is there actually such a thing as reality?