A man is having an enjoyable boat ride on a river. It is dusk. The man looks up to see another boat coming down the river toward him, and his first thought is how nice it is that someone else is out enjoying the river and the beauty of a summer’s evening. Then he realizes that the boat is fast approaching, it’s speeding—in fact it’s coming straight at him. Faster and faster the boat closes.
Anger begins to rise within him. “Watch out, you idiot!” he yells. “Look out—you’re going to kill somebody! Turn! Turn away!” But the boat bears down upon his fragile craft. Now he is standing in the boat, shaking his fist, screaming. Then the boat smashes right into him. He notices that the boat is empty.
This story sums up the trouble of our lives. The problem is not out there at all. It’s in here. I’m screaming at people—complaining, blaming, accusing as if I am simply minding my business, sitting quietly at the center of the universe, wondering why all these problems, why all these crazies keep hurling themselves at me. I refuse to see that I am the one racing at breakneck speed . . . and blaming a silent, still, empty boat. I am living at odds with reality, and that, as everyone knows, is like spitting in the wind.
The simplest way to describe Lent is: A time to stop spitting in the wind. It’s a season for honesty. It takes courage to acknowledge that our troubles, our sorrows, frustrations, fears and anxieties all come from in here. We spend most of our lives projecting all that on other people or on fate: life has done us dirty. Lent is a time to look within, a moment to know the truth and welcome it. It’s hard, but—ahh—it’s the path to peace and wholeness.
Jeffery Koller says
Meditation/reflection is the digestion of the mind. Unfortunately we sometimes find it hard to swallow.
That is an amazing story.
Lida Ward says
Great posting during this season of self-reflection, slowing down and digging deeper. We are so often the cause of our own troubles…thanks for the reminder that I don’t want to be in that “boat”!
Ric Davenport says
Great story! Somewhat analogous to the serenity prayer. And reminds me a bit of Mark 7:15 too.
very cool story!
We are all at the center of the universe right? 😉
David Anderson says
well…we’re supposed to be
You should really credit Thomas Merton’s interpretation of Chuang Tzu for this story
See Merton’s The Way of Chuang Tzu
or go here:
Scroll down to “Being Humble”
David Anderson says
Thanks, Joel–I enjoyed reading the pieces from Chuang Tzu, especially the one which tells a version of the empty boast story. I had never seen this version–which is even better, really–because it teaches one to locate the “problem” for any collision within oneself, even if there IS someone in that other boat.