Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Buttons Up the Back

I just had the pleasure of stumbling into a talk by Linda Cutts from the San Francisco Zen Center. I taught both her children at The San Francisco School, so it was an extra pleasure to hear her uplifting talk titled Kind Speech Turns the Destiny of a Nation. For me, the mark of a good talk is the way it sheds new light on familiar thoughts and/or stimulates further thought and this talk did both. 

 

The first story that caught my attention was a practice in Japanese preschools of wearing smocks that have buttons in the back. It was a brilliant way to teach young children the deep lesson of interdependence. No child could button up her/his own smock and needed someone else to do it.  We can lecture forever about that topic, but this simple physical manifestation of it is genius. Such a clear daily reminder that we need each other, that we are necessary to each other. 

 

It is also Japan where I learned that while eating or drinking with others, it’s rude to refill your own glass of beer or wine. The proper etiquette is that you wait until someone else at your table notices your empty glass and re-fills it for you. Which means that they develop a mind that becomes alert to the needs of others. They develop a practice of interdependence. 

 

I believe it is China where the little story about the difference between Heaven and Hell comes from. 

 

What is Hell? It is a table laid with the most sumptuous and delicious food, the aromas wafting in the air inviting the hungry diners, all of whom have been given a long pair of chopsticks. But they are so long that having picked up the food, the chopsticks are too long to get to the food to their mouths. So in the midst of plenty, they starve. 

 

What is Heaven? The exact same situation above, but having grabbed the food with their long chopsticks, they feed the people across from them. 

 

Three images to illuminate the world we need, the world we deserve, the world we vote for— the world of interdependence. More to come.  

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