Are You Ready?
Dear old and new friends,
The Chinese holy man Chuang Tzu tells a parable about an Emperor who sent a fighting rooster to be trained by a famous old fighting master. After two months, a court envoy arrived asking, “Is the Emperor’s bird ready?” “No,” replied the white-haired trainer. “He is fiery, wants to fight every bird he sees, but he’s not ready…come back later.” Three months pass, again an envoy came asking, “The Emperor enquires: Is not his bird finally ready? The old master replied, “Not yet! If he hears another cock crow, he flares up and ruffles his feathers threatening, but he’s not ready. Come back later.”
Four months pass and the envoy comes again saying, “The Emperor is growing impatient, isn’t his fighting cock ready?” “Almost ready,” answers the old trainer, “yet he still gets furiously angry around other roosters. No, he isn’t ready, come back in ten days.” Ten days later, the Emperor himself comes. The old cock trainer makes a profound bow before him as he demands, “Is my bird finally ready?” Arising from his deep bow, the old cock master smiles, “Yes, now he is ready. When another bird crows loudly he doesn’t blink and stands still as if made of stone. Now when he walks into the yard the other birds take one look at him and run.”
Chuang Tzu’s parable reminds me of the words of President Roosevelt’s wife about the silent strength and courage the Emperor’s fighting cock obtained. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You (then) must do the thing you cannot do!” Whenever afraid, resist shying away from what is so frightening, and muster the courage to look what is feared directly in the face. Living in a country of reoccurring senseless gun violence asks the question: If you are unfortunately involved in the next massacre are you ready?
Each week we hear of another horrendous shooting at a school or shopping mall. When as a nation we do nothing to stop or prevent this gun carnage, don’t we logically live in a country where anyone of us could be among the next victims? We must train ourselves to look that fear directly in the face again and again until we are ready. The United States doesn’t have more mentally disturbed citizens than other countries but it does permit the easy purchase of unlimited guns and ammunition. Countrywide gun violence and public killings creates dark anxiety about our personal and domestic security resulting in stores, aided by the gun industry’s propaganda, being busy selling guns to defend oneself and one’s home.
When face to face with danger, instead of resorting to weapons or physical strength, Chuang Tzu teaches us to learn how to become inwardly strong and confident. Eleanor Roosevelt adds we should look whatever is frightening directly in the face again and again until we are ready to do the thing we think we cannot do.