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Thomas Merton: The Way of Chuang Tzu

Master Zuang and a Frog


Four men got in a discussion. Each one said: “Who knows how To have the Void for his head To have Life as his backbone And Death for his tail? He shall be my friend!”

At this they all looked at one another Saw they agreed, Burst out laughing And became friends.

Then one of them fell ill And another went to see him. “Great is the Maker,” said the sick one, “Who has made me as I am!

“I am so doubled up My guts are over my head; Upon my navel I rest my cheek; My shoulders stand out Beyond my neck; My crown is an ulcer Surveying the sky; My body is chaos But my mind is in order.”

He dragged himself to the well, Saw his reflection, and declared, “What a mess He has made of me!”

His friend asked: “Are you discouraged?”

“Not at all! Why should I be? If He takes me apart And makes a rooster Of my left shoulder I shall announce the dawn. If He makes a crossbow Of my right shoulder I shall procure roast duck. If my buttocks turn into wheels And if my spirit is a horse I will hitch myself up and ride around In my own wagon!

“There is a time for putting together And another time for taking apart. He who understands This course of events Takes each new state In its proper time With neither sorrow nor joy. The ancients said: ‘The hanged man Cannot cut himself down.’ But in due time Nature is stronger Than all his ropes and bonds. It was always so. Where is there a reason To be discouraged?”

April 19, 2022

*The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, New Directions Press, 1965

Free Image Credit: Master Zhuang and a frog, Author Unknown, Public Domain, Wikipedia.

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