Friday, July 8, 2011

Too Late

The third in my series of excerpts from Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership, following on Don't Rush and Being in the World Without Misery. I should think the relevance is clear.

65. Too Late

Lingyuan said to the astronomer Huang:
     In ancient times someone said, "If there is fire at the bottom of a pile of brush on top of which you are reclining, as long as the fire has not reached you, you are sure it is safe."
     This truly describes the workings of safety and danger, the principle of life and death. It is as clear as the sun in the sky, it does not admit of the slightest deviation.
     People usually stay in their accustomed situations, rarely reflecting on the calamities of life and death. One day something will come up that they cannot fathom, and then they will sit down and beat their breasts, but all will be helpless to come to the rescue.
a hanging scroll

Some commentary:
Once again, the proof is in this 1,000 year-old document: the human condition is eternal. Since we're not likely to change that, aside from selling our genes to Monsanto (new human condition: "mmm, GE soylent green is soooo tasty...."), we need to learn to work with it. From a community activism perspective, this might mean helping people to feel the urgency of something that seems, prima facie, to be a far-off concern. This doesn't mean scaring people. It probably means agitating them, though. Helping them to see the reality of their present condition, which in most cases is pretty awful, despite the fact that they'd prefer to live in denial.

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