Monday, September 2, 2019

The Obstinate Student

I was asked, “What is the gift I bring as an offering?”

I’m imagining a gatekeeper on planet Earth. Rather than one being born on Earth where the environment is no longer conducive for the first 20 years of life, we are henceforth born on a space station, and then we can apply to be permitted to live on Earth.

In order to come to Earth, we’d have to bring an offering. But remembering an economist that objected to Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” I’m going to ask of the gatekeeper the opposite question, “What gift will I get if I come to planet Earth.” (I’m obviously at risk with this strategy of being banned forever from Earth, but I hear that the air isn’t clean, and hurricanes and shootings abound.)

We do learn in Zen that there is no separation between subject and object, or between gift, giver, and receiver. Yet in this instance, I’m the one who worked hard on the space ship, cleaning toilets three times a day so that I could make this journey. And I’m the one who is leaving my younger comrades so that I can make the trip.

So I ask again, what does Earth have to offer me?

There are a couple of problems here. One is whether there is something that I need. A second is whether Earth can offer me that.

And now I am reminded what a Burmese monk told me, that monks beg to give people an opportunity to give.

So it isn’t so simple. Maybe this really can be about what I can bring as an offering.

And then, if there is no separation between giver and receiver, there is no separation between gatekeeper and applicant.

I do like the original question as I’ve thought of that when advising people who are applying for jobs. People go into a job interview to see what the job will do for them. Employers want to know what they can do for the company.

I guess one of my offerings is that I question the question. The second of my offerings is I return the question to the gatekeeper. The third of my offerings is that I reevaluate if I want to live on Earth.

I do.

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