Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not Zen 102: Raging Water

In a long, narrow stream there lived a community of crawfish. Amid the shale and clay, among the sands and pebbles and algae, they hid in their lairs and hunted young carp, catfish, and minnows. A crawfish, newly established in her territory, staked out her spot under a long rock. The water was clear and fast.

For a while, she waited while fish glided above her. The current had changed from the day before. It carried her prey above her and to her left. She shifted positions. Finally, a large minnow slipped into her cove from above the rock. She struck at its tail.

Whether the fish felt her coming or whether it got lucky in the current, she missed her strike. With a flick of its fins, the minnow escaped to the shallows. The crawfish howled with frustration. Not content to let the moment slip away, she emerged from her position to chase her prey.

She and the minnow dodged and struck at each another. They stirred up pebbles and silt. The cloudy waters made it difficult for the minnow to evade her but made it hard for her to strike, too. Downstream, the rest of community noticed the disturbance. Even in the steady churn of the currents, they could tell there was a problem. One of her neighbors crept upstream to find out what was going on.

"Why are you thrashing about, sister?" she called.

"I am trying to catch a fish, of course," the crawfish replied from the murk. "The waters are so muddy that I can't see a thing. I track and fight, track and fight. If I could see again, I would make an end of it."

"The cause of the muddy waters is you, sister."

"Not at all. It's the fish."

"Your imagined battle is long over." The visitor could see over the territory of her neighbor. There were no minnows, nor were there any trails in the silt to reveal where such a creature once swam. The clouds of disturbance centered on the thrashing crawfish. "Your fish fled."

"It's here somewhere," said the crawfish. "I'm sure of it."

"Anger has clouded your vision. Test yourself. Test me. Make yourself at peace for a moment, sister, and see if everything doesn't become clear again."


  1. This is simple, beautiful, yet so profound. :)

  2. I think it was you who pointed out to me in an email that fixation on things that no longer exist is true of fear as much as rage. It's a really good thing to notice. I'm going to keep your words in mind.