Pointers on the Way

Pointers on the Way August 8, 2023

Bum in Doorway
Erika Stone


I had a dream the other night. I was walking down the street and past a bum sitting on the street. I’m guessing a bum. Lots of reasons for lots of people to be sitting on the street. He seemed to be nodding off, probably drunk. Maybe. If I didn’t note, hard to say about such things. Hard to say about things…
As I walked by I thought I heard him say “It’s all connected.”
Or, maybe the voice was parked inside my head. Hard to say.
Later I thought of Hanshan…
Talking about food won’t make you full,
Babbling of clothes won’t keep out the cold.
A bowl of rice is what fills the belly;
It takes a suit of clothing to make you warm.
And yet, without stopping to consider this,
You complain that Buddha is hard to find.
Turn your mind within! There he is! There she is!
Why look for him, why look for her abroad?
(This version of the poem is very slightly adapted from Burton Watson’s translation for those interested in such things)
Hanshan might have been a Zen person, or maybe he was a Taoist. Hard to say. In any case he gave some pretty good advice. There’s even an ordering to what to do. And I like that a hermit living on the side of a mountain does have to think about food and shelter, at least a bit.
I do think there’s another step, one a hermit isn’t likely to get fully. And, that’s okay, as well. None of us do it all. That said as another sage, whose name escapes me, if I ever knew it, said: take care of yourself. Then help someone else.
And. That other voice. Perhaps from madness. Perhaps from deep insight. Perhaps from a place where neither is clearly lined out.
It’s all connected.
Pointers on the way.

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