Burn it all down

 

An old woman built a refuge for herself to practice poetry. She had food, clothing and a husband. She practiced for seven years but sent no news to her relatives. The relatives sent their youngest son with special instructions. When the son arrived, the old woman opened the elaborate gates. He gave her new clothing and ancestral grains from the relatives to renew her energy. “Thank you very much,” the old woman said, “the relatives are very thoughtful.” Just then the son said, “How does this make you feel?” She replied, “The wind is moving, the mind is moving in mud, it’s a proverbial chaotic concert. My time is filled with tedium.” The son returned to the relatives and relayed her words. They were furious because the old woman had not bowed and displayed her wisdom. She must be a demon, better go back and retrieve the clothes and food. But when he returned to the refuge, the old woman had burnt it all down.

(Inspired by a koan from “Seonmun Yeomsong Seolhwa, dated from the 13th century)

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