A Koan about a Tree

lone tree
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevincollins/115305184/">Kevin Collins</a>

Luke 6:43-44

You don’t get bad fruit from a good tree. You don’t get good fruit from a bad tree.

Every tree bears a specific kind of fruit. You don’t get figs from thorns. You don’t get grapes from briars.

Here’s another koan.

It may be tempting to use it as a measure for assessing the good and bad in others, and to try to figure out what kind of “tree” they are.

Avoid this. The koan is not about anyone else. It’s to help you figure out what kind of tree you are.

The Real Network

sphere of lights
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3143417443/">Kevin Dooley</a>

John 15:1-8

I’m the real network, and my creator is the network administrator. Wherever there is a dead node in the network, she disconnects it. She tunes the nodes that are useful, to make them even more powerful. What I’ve told you has already made you good conductors. Just remain a part of me, as I’m a part of you. A node on its own is just a wire, unless it’s part of a network. By yourself, without me, you won’t get very far. I’m the network. You’re the nodes. Those who remain in the network can accomplish anything, but outside the network, you can’t do anything. Outside of me, you’re just so much scrap wire off to the trash heap, gathered up and sent to the smelter to be recycled. If you stay with me, and hang onto my words, whatever you wish for will be possible for you. My creator is proven right when you accomplish great things by really following me.

In Jesus’ original agrarian setting, a vine was a tangled mess of stuff that only grew and thrived when it stayed connected. There was no sense in pulling the vine apart to try to make it more orderly, or to understand exactly how it worked. It just “all hangs together.”

In our world, we love to talk about networks. We gather for “networking” sessions. We are wired together through tangles of communication lines we can’t make heads or tails of. But it works. It works because in some way larger than we can understand or keep track of, it “all hangs together.”

In the 4th gospel, Jesus claims to be that real network that connects us with the resources we need to accomplish anything. If the idea of a single person being an entire network seems strange, it is no less strange to us than it was to those who first heard the concept. How can one person be going in so many incomprehensible directions at once?

But, in the theological understanding of this gospel, Jesus the person is always the incarnate logic of the Universe. If you understand and take part in what Jesus the person is about, you are part of that universal logic. You can move with it, or you can get swept into the recycle bin of history by it. Your choice.

Powerful? You bet.

Be the One You’re Looking For

man in a balance
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/4058605601/">Hartwig HKD</a>

Matthew 13:45

Here’s another way to say it: The goal is like a company’s purchasing agent, looking for the next great thing. She finds the deal of the century and uses every penny of the company’s reserved assets to buy it.

Like yesterday’s koan, you still need to be aware enough to recognize what is really valuable, and you still need to be courageous enough to act on what you know.

But unlike yesterday’s koan, this koan makes a subtle shift. Instead of the goal being the thing that is sought and bought, the goal is now the person doing the seeking and buying. In other words, the goal is no longer obtaining or having something, but being someone.

Put the two together, and you get – yet another koan. The goal is the object of the seeker, and the goal is the seeker of the object.

Did that blow your mind?


Be Aware. Be Courageous.

file cabintes
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bennyseidelman/5705184567/">Ben Seidelman</a>

Matthew 13:44

The goal is like the idea for the next Facebook buried in a filing cabinet in a company records room. Someone finds it, and tucks it back away, then goes and cashes out all her stock options, and buys out the company.

This single verse koan requires two essential things.

First, you have to recognize the treasure for what it really is before you can cash in your chips for it. Opportunities come to those who are aware enough to notice what others pass by.

Second, but no less important, you have to have the courage to cash in your chips. And it’s not fear of failure that holds most of us back. Exactly the opposite is the case: we’re more often paralyzed by fear of what will become of us if we succeed.