April 2017

"Through a Window" by Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall-image

There are many windows through
which we can look out into the
world, searching for meaning …
… Most of us, when we ponder on the
meaning of our existence,
peer through but one of these
windows onto the world.
And even that one is often misted over
by the breath of our finite humanity.
We clear a tiny peephole and stare through.
No wonder we are confused by the
tiny fraction of a whole that we see.
It is, after all, like trying to
comprehend the panorama of the
desert or the sea through
a rolled-up newspaper.

—Jane Goodall, Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe (Mariner Books, New York, 2010)

"Bashert" — Definition

A person's soulmate, or "it was meant to be,” considered as predestined.  
(feminine - basherte):

- “Oneness" in their past, present, and future is thus what defines a truly predestined (bashert) couple. They share a common soul-root (their past), common goals (their future), and always (in the present) remember their common origin as they proceed toward their common goalSOURCE:


- Bashert, (Yiddish: באַשערט), is a Yiddish word that means "destiny". It is often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or soulmate, who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male). It can also be used to express the seeming fate or destiny of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening.


- In modern usage, Jewish singles will say that they are looking for their bashert, meaning they are looking for that person who will complement them perfectly, and whom they will complement perfectly.


- A more useful term than "bashert" might be "zvug," A "zvug" is a true (and only) life partner, the person who actually completes the other.


- Bashert, which in Yiddish means “predestined,” is most commonly applied to the concept of one’s intended soul-mate. This idea that, when dating, one is searching for his/her bashert, his/her divinely intended life partner, stems from Sotah 2a, which states: “Forty days before the creation of a child, a Heavenly Voice issues forth and proclaims: ‘The daughter of A is for B.’”


- The concept of bashert implies that the person one will marry is preordained even before birth. There are a great number of discussions that stem from this concept: questions concerning dating, marriage, bad marriages, divorce, second marriages....But the question Jewish theologians wish to address today is the broader understanding of the concept of bashert.

- Those pieces of our lives that are “pre-determined” may be related to one’s wealth, the country in which one lives or the person one marries. And while we may never know why these points of bashert happen, they are often important aspects of a greater story.


- The Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) speaks of husband and wife as “plag nishmasa – half souls”. And Nachmanides explains in his Emunah U’Bitachon (Chapter 24) that God takes the soul whose time has come for it to enter into this world, and separates it into two halves, placing one half in the male and one half in the female. And when these two halves meet again in matrimony, their original connection and love bond comes back.


"L'Amour et Psyche, enfants" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. 1890


a translation of Hans Christian Andersen's “Keiserens Nye Klæder" by Jean Hersholt

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room.”

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better.”

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.
"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.”

"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything.

"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.

"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.

"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!

Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead.

"Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver.”

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him.”

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine.”

"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.

"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror.”

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.”

Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside.”

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on.”

"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.


A translation of Hans Christian Andersen's “Keiserens Nye Klæder"
by Jean Hersholt


"Where is the Tao?" by Derek Lin in Chuang Tzu Stories

TRADITIONAL - zhuangzi
One day, a scholar by the name of Donguozi asked Chuang Tzu: “That which we call the Tao — where is it?”
The two of them were outside, and Chuang Tzu said: “Everywhere. There is no place where the Tao isn’t.”
Donguozi didn’t quite understand this, so he asked: “Can you be more specific and point it out for me?”
Chuang Tzu looked around and saw ants crawling underfoot, so he pointed to them: “The Tao is among these ants.”
This surprised Donguozi. He asked: “Why such a lowly place?”
Chuang Tzu pointed to a blade of grass: “The Tao is in the weeds.”
This puzzled Donguozi. The ants at least could move around. You couldn’t say that about the grass! He asked: “Aren’t the weeds even more lowly than the ants?”
Chuang Tzu pointed to some discarded construction material: “See that clay tile? The Tao is in it.”
This puzzled Donguozi even more. He asked: “Why do you keep going lower and lower? At least the ants and weeds are alive. The clay tile is a dead thing!”
Chuang Tzu pointed to a pile of manure: “The Tao is in urine and defecation.”
Donguozi’s puzzlement turned into frustration. He closed his mouth and said nothing more.

The Tao
This story inspires deeper thinking. On the surface, it seems like the Tao is nothing special, since it is everywhere, even in places that appear to be worthless or insignificant. Beneath the surface, what Chuang Tzu is really saying is that the Tao is all the more incredible precisely because it is everywhere. The Tao is not limited in where it can be. We can find it not only in the holiest places, but also the lowliest — and everywhere in between.

Most people divide up the world into categories and rank them against one another. To them, it makes sense that some places and things should be set aside for special treatment, while others should be cast aside to be ignored or ridiculed. Therefore, the Tao should be reserved for temples and sites of religious significance, and if the Tao is to be represented in a statue or sculpture, then it should be made of the most precious material available.

The thinking of the sage is the complete opposite. To a sage, the entire world is one sacred creation, and everything in it comes from the same sacred source. Places and things may appear different in human perception, but all partake in the essential oneness of the totality. Everything is connected with everything else — birth is connected to death, survival is connected to elimination, living organisms are connected to inorganic objects, and so on. A flower cannot live on by itself, separate from its roots that dig deeply into the mud. Thus, when Tao cultivators appreciate the beauty of the flower, they recognize also the goodness inherent in all other parts of the plant, and the soil that gives it life. Everything about the flower, not just its petals, has its own special beauty.

Today, the sage’s way of perceiving the world is still not widely understood. We may be far more technically advanced than the people of ancient China, but we haven’t advanced much at all in terms of our essential nature. Thus, it is very common that when people refer to the divine, they look up or point up to the sky, or they talk about “the man upstairs.”

Tao cultivators know the truth that transcends the mundane mind. The divine is not just up in the sky; it is also all around us and below us. It is inside and outside of us; it extends in every direction. God is not a man, and lives not just upstairs, but also downstairs and in every room simultaneously. The divine manifests not just in every nook and cranny inside the house, but also everywhere outside the house. To look only to the heavens is to limit that which cannot be limited in the first place.

The end of the story depicted the dramatic difference that the Tao can make in one’s life. People who do not understand the Tao fail to see anything special in everyday things, unless they are highly valued in terms of material wealth. The focus and pursuit of such values never leads to happiness, and that is why they are often beset with annoyance and frustration.

You do not need to think as they do. When you understand the Tao, you become more like Chuang Tzu. You see the Tao everywhere, so you can experience the exquisite essence of existence. You do not need to search anywhere for the Tao, since it is right in front of you no matter where you turn. You live each day surrounded by the mystery and miracle of life itself. This is why you are often smiling — your smile comes from the joy within, and from your appreciation for the incredible beauty of it all.

Derek Lin-screenshot_679
Chuang Tzu Stories

Derek Lin is an award-winning, bestselling author in the Tao genre. He was born in Taiwan and grew up with native fluency in both Chinese and English. His background lets him convey Eastern teachings to Western readers in a way that is clear, simple and authentic.


—Micah Monk 05 - Solitude is a drawing by Lori Grimmett

“Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service. Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to Your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory. Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy. Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice. But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone. For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone.”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

"Where is God?" by Rumi


I tried to find Him on the Christian cross,
but He was not there;
I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagoda,
but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.

I searched the mountains and the valleys
but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him.
I went to the Kaaba in Mecca,
but He was not there either.

I questioned the scholars and philosophers,
but He was beyond their understanding.

I then looked into my heart
and it was there where He dwelled that I saw him;
He was nowhere else to be found.

—Jalaluddin Rumi