LINES

We love drawing lines and borders. There are few things we do better than that. But increasingly we have lost our once finely honed skill at placing them where they ought to be. I won’t even get into walls on borders to keep out families, those like our families were once. I mean small lines and borders. What line decides whether the old inn is ramshackle or quaint? Is this thing I found in the attic a tchotchke or a collectible? And seriously, is what am I about to write doggerel or humorous verse? I’ll be the judge of that one.

TOZAN’S THREE BASKETS 鐵笛倒吹 四十一

Tozan said
the whole of knowledge
can be expressed
in a single letter.
Hakuun, the great Master
set to writing verse.

You, who hold the brush
with shaking hand,
what will you write
in answer to Tozan.
Think carefully
of each stroke
and imagine
Joshu’s endless smile.


A reflection on case 41 of the Iron Flute Koans