Life in the Shadows

A monk asked Zhaozhou, “The solitary moon is in the sky, from where does its light emanate? Zhaozhou said, “From where does the moon emanate?”

There is so much of my life that I would like to bring into the light of day, examining the crevices, the subtleties of color, an examination of roots, trunk, branches and leaves. It is my heart, my interior life that I would like to bring into the light, to study and discern definitively, to reach conclusions and choose knowingly between this and that, meeting life in the landscape of the crystal clear. I would love to step into the light of day, to dodge the shadows, to live in the bright the horizon far in the distance, a land of knowing arrayed before me, my place in the world secure.

So, to dwell in this clarity, that would be nice. To securely know, to rest in definitions, to work programs, to make sense. Finally, and thankfully that is not my life. Life is penumbral (from the latin, paene (almost) plus umbra (shadow), lived in a twilight place, known and not-known, lost and found -- more of process than product. It is here that I meet what rises to greet me. And it is here that I am free to be confused and lost, to not know and face into whatever comes. There is no refuge here save in the shadows of not knowing. And love comes, sorrow comes, pain comes, joy comes, people come, feelings rise. I can’t control. There in the shadows I surrender, open and play host to these guests, offering tea, joining the conversation. And as with all deep conversation we meet -- join, become one -- host and guest. And as we talk deep into the night dawn arrives right here in the meeting.

Zhaozhou defies explanation. He could have answered, “The moon reflects the light of the sun...blah, blah...blah…To thus explain is to miss penumbral light, the place between lost and found, right and wrong, So, he won’t do it. Instead, he asks, “From where does the moon emanate?” or “Where did you ever get the idea of a moon?” And this is the loveliness of this koan. Zhaozhou invites us into the shadows, into an unguarded welcome of life, probably that place before you have words for it. This is an invitation not into understanding but into the wonder of being alive, an invitation to play host to the whole thing, to sit and to bask in the light of I-don’t-know awaiting the dawn.

Have a lovely week.


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