I never expected this, he said. It came from out of nowhere. None of us predicted it. It’s a sort of thing that happens elsewhere, but not here, at least that was our assumption. We certainly never wanted it to come to this. But come it did, and so we accepted it. We learned to like the placidity of its face. We were lost for a while but our lives returned to their normal pace, the rhythms of the day overwhelmed us, and our lives went on. We never bothered to fashion a new year. We were satisfied with perfection twice each day.


He asked her what she did, and
the question surprised her. Most
didn’t ask that until much later on,
but she replied, “I am a historian.”
He said, “Isn’t that an odd profession,”
quickly adding, “and I don’t mean for a woman.”
“It is,” she smiled, “but I fell in love
with history as a young girl,
and I’ve been fortunate to watch
stars being born and die, galaxies appear
as if from nowhere, seen events
that happened before our own sun was born.”
She could see he was confused, perhaps
that he thought her mad as others had.
She calmly added, “You understand,
I am an astronomer and all I see
is the history of our universe.”


The young man asked the old Buddhist monk,
“If there are 64,000 gates, how will
I know through which I should enter.”
The monk paused, considered
the question, then smiled broadly.
“Why would you want to enter any gate?”
the monk said with a wink.
The young man replied, “because they
are the gates that lead to the dharma,
and that will lead to enlightenment,
so of course I want to enter the right one!”
“That is your mistake,” the monk
gently added, for there is no right gate,
they are all right gates, but your problem
is you want to go in through the gate,
but you must go out from where you are,
for that is how you enter the dharma.”


Between this point and that
lies a vast uncharted space
noted on every cartographers chart.
If you ask how this
could be possible, I reply
it’s like listening to silence
and hearing each sound
deeply embedded in the one
next to it, a glissando of
what exactly? Uncertainty?
That is the whole point
in the final analysis, for
between that point and this one
everything exists in that one place.


He notes with alacrity
that modern man has stripped
all logic from time, rendering it
an arbitrary temporal system
based on mechanics, and even that
is quadrennially imperfect.
Once it was seasons, which came
and went in orderly fashion,
but heating was never a science then.
Later it was the moon
a reusable calendar and what
was an odd month here or there
if the crops were in the ground.
Now it is sweeping hands
that carry off the dust
which is all that remains
of our once logic.



If you answer the question
I will ask you another
each more difficult.

If you enter a room
and catalog its contents
there will always be a door
leading to yet another room,
another inventory to be taken
to determine what is there
and what is missing.

It is only when you enter
an empty room,
that you will find all things.

A reflection on case 28 of the Iron Flute Koans