"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rejection is an Empty Boat

There is a Zen story of a man rowing home from a fishing trip in heavy fog. Suddenly he sees the bow of another rowboat heading for him. He starts yelling, to warn the other fisherman, but the boats collide nonetheless. Angry, he stands up to fight, then realizes the other boat is empty, adrift.

Feeling attacked or rejected, we react with anger or depression or some kind of upset. We try to figure out the other person's motivations, when the other has so many issues that have nothing at all to do with us that our interpretation can have nothing to do with them. Rather, we should act as if the other is an empty boat, banging against ours in the middle of a lake. Then our response would come entirely from our intuitive understanding of what to do next, which would not involve cursing the boat, or analyzing why it doesn't like us, and why us.

A writer friend sent out a story almost 100 times before it was accepted. He just kept trying. Another example of the saying, "Seven times fall down. Eight times get up." It's not always so bleak, however. I just received an acceptance for a story from the first place I sent it. I'll try not to get attached to that, as we say in Zen.

"I, Rowboat" at The Onion.


Cheryl said...

Thanks for this, Ann. I need to read this daily, to wake myself up to what really is going on versus what I think is going on (no matter how real I make it).

Senorita B said...

We think we are the center of the universe, but we're more like just another boat. I like that image, tho.