“Is That So?”

images-10I think, if only for my own peace of mind, it’s time for my own particular retelling of one of my favorite Zen parables:

In a small village, there was a young woman who was illicitly seeing a young man without the knowledge of their parents. When she became pregnant her parents demanded to know who the father was. Unwilling to implicate her lover for fear of his life, she instead named the old monk who lived in a shack on the outskirts of the village.

When the baby was born her parents furiously took the infant to the monk’s shack. “This is your responsibility!” they said. “You have to take care of this child and stay away from our daughter!”

“Is that so?” the monk said, quietly, taking the soiled and wailing child and closing the door.

A few months passed, and the young man and young woman managed to persuade their parents to let them marry honorably. Distraught at the thought of being without their child, they summoned up their courage to go to the monk’s shack and pound on the door. “That’s our child!” they demanded.

“Is that so?” the monk said, quietly, giving the healthy and smiling child back and closing the door.

I was recently reminded that it’s the ones you love the most that have the power to get past all your self-work and behavioral strategies and bring out the parts of you that you dislike the most. In my brain, that dialogue is an irate judging parental figure, shouting You’re a bad Grandpa! A hypocritical writer! You’re a complete impostor! And thanks to that story, there’s a higher self that calmly listens to the internal tirade and says Is that so? and calmly closes the door.

It’s the closing the door that matters the most, I think. Letting the storms happen, letting them pass, and then going back to the world as it is. I almost wrote “…as it should be” but of course, they are the same thing. Whether we realize it or not.

2 thoughts on ““Is That So?””

  1. So a short while after posting that last comment, this parable came back and knocked on my brain again. Your comment about closing the door being the key for you on this encounter with the story shone a light on the very different way I approached it. …And then I rehashed it multiple times in the process of composing this comment. All of that boiled down to a small question to leave here for you:

    What if the title of this parable was “The Gift Exchange”?

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