Fill a sieve with water—Zen KoanSome koans give us impossible tasks like the ones in fairy tales. We can’t deal with them out of what we already know and they help us notice that everything that we love comes out of the dark of not knowing. We are immersed in our lives.

Where do ideas come from? What about songs and art? And how do we know what we love? One way we discover what we love is that little bits of the universe speak to us. The bits don’t have to be beautiful—a corner of a building, a patch of sky, the rhythm of a child’s feet running—any piece of life will do, and what makes these little pieces appealing is entirely mysterious.

Serendipity is a helpful idea here, because it refers to finding, by accident and sagacity, things that you are not looking for. The need for sagacity indicates that you have to be paying attention to notice a good idea when it occurs. Serendipity indicates that life is larger and stranger than we imagine, and that there might be mysterious and invisible connections between things.  When we notice connections between the separate bits of life, they make us happy. In stumbling on connections, we learn to rely on what we don’t know.

The important thing is to make discoveries that you are not looking for. If you find what you are looking for, you are still a familiar person in a familiar world, doing routine things. The Chinese knew about this problem, and invented koans as one solution.

Monday night’s koan is “Fill a sieve with water.”

John Tarrant
This talk will be recorded and live on YouTube in case you can’t be there in person

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