There is a famous story in the Zen world that Dinty W. Moore (every time I write his name I think of baked beans), author of the “Mindful Writer” includes in his book. On page 118 to be exact. It goes as follows:
The student, newly arrived at the monastery, asks the master, “What work will I do as I seek enlightenment?”
The master replies. “Chop wood, carry water.”
“And what work will I do once I achieve enlightenment?”
“Chop wood, carry water,” replies the master.
A simple bit of Zenism, and as with all in the Zen world, it needs an explanation in order to understand it. According to Moore, “writers write”. They may do a myriad of other things: walk their dog, go to work, take meetings, care for their family—but in the end he says, “…any writer, even a writer who has published….and won two dozen awards, gets up in the morning knowing what must be done. The words must be chopped and the sentences carried.”
I think the famous story in the Zen world has a larger meaning. It can apply to all things we do in life—we must “chop wood, carry water”—we must continue what we are doing; we must not be satisfied; we must carry on. Our job is really never done, and when we think it is, we have in essence, stopped living.
It is a story of purpose, and without purpose there is no need to “chop wood, carry water.”
My bliss today is to keep chopping wood and carrying water. What about you?
- Guest Post: CHOP WOOD AND CARRY WATER – Irving H. Podolsky (tweedling.com)
- Of writers who are woodcutters (pamirtimes.net)