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.

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.

If they were keeping you in a box…

glowing sky
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/3400702016/">Nicholas T.</a>

John 20:1-2

Before dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the grave and saw that the stone had been removed from the grave. So she ran and told Peter and the other student (the one Jesus loved), “They’ve taken Jesus from the grave, and we don’t know where they’ve taken him.”

Why is it that whenever Jesus isn’t where we expect him, we immediately conclude that someone – but who? – has stolen Jesus from us?

Someone has stolen Jesus from the church. The church has stolen Jesus for it’s own institutional justification. The right/left wing has hijacked Jesus for their own purposes. Someone has made off with our precious Jesus.

If Jesus is alive, then it seems that we ought to let Jesus be Jesus. A living person goes places. A living person makes unexpected choices. Sometimes even choices we disagree with. A living person does things for that person’s own reasons.

So it is with Jesus.

Next time Jesus isn’t where you expect him to be, instead of assuming someone has kidnapped him, consider that he may have just decided to step out of the box we like to keep him in to get some fresh air.