Thursday, January 04, 2007


“The scholar asked the Buddha: How might I ensure an early and active start to the day after Christmas?
The Buddha replied: Make yourself a cup of coffee and then knock the full cup to the floor, smashing the cup and spilling its contents everywhere. Then go downstairs and, after making a second cup of coffee, knock that over your book as you sit quietly reflecting on its contents.
If that doesn't get you moving, nothing will!”

No, I’m not suddenly taking up a different type of mysticism. I’ve just discovered an e-mail I sent to my family part-way through the morning of 26th December, having just knocked over my second cup of coffee and causing my second hot, brown deluge of the day. The first disaster was at 06.00. The last thing I wanted was to be mopping up pools of coffee, moving books and sticking floor mats into the washing machine.

I seemed to set the ball rolling because one of my sisters had two similar disasters, but with tea, one of her drinks cascading over a rug that could not go into the washing machine.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day could be well-ordered and peaceful? If I could plan every moment of every day, with a place for everything and everything in its place, so that the day would be divided into neat little packages, each one conveniently timed and located, would I be happy? There wouldn’t be any disasters, but neither would there be any pleasant surprises.

Imagine what it would be like to wake up in the morning to see an identical sunrise at precisely the same moment every day, with the weather predictable and unchanging. When there is non-stop sun, don’t you wish for an occasional cloud that would allow you to use your imagination with its shapes and colouring?

Birthdays and all other celebrations would be regulated, all happening in exactly the same way with, perhaps differences in the presents and the cards, but all pre-ordained according to my express wishes.

Basically, we’d all be living in “boxes, little boxes, little boxes made of ticky-tacky…and they all look just the same.

On the bus home yesterday evening, I sat looking at some of the people who were waiting for their stop but couldn’t remember if it should be the next one or the one afterwards. I found myself thinking that each of the people before me was and is, uniquely loved by God, but, just looking at the complete strangers, I couldn’t see anything lovable about any of them. Not on the surface, at any rate. In order to love someone, I need to know what is inside them. I can’t judge a book by its cover. Who knows? Some of those individuals on the bus last night might have been some of the most wonderful people on this earth, and I will never have known that I was in contact with greatness….but God would know because he sees what is inside. He knows that some of the most unlikely characters would also be some of the biggest surprises to their neighbours, if only they would open their eyes and their hearts.

Perhaps that is the meaning of the saying, “There is no such thing as a stranger: only a friend whom I’ve not yet met.”

Perhaps spilling my 6am cup of coffee was opening up the day to a vast, undreamed of experience even though it appeared to be nothing other than a mopping-up exercise.

It’s good to leave room for surprises… even the unpleasant ones!

God bless,
Sr. Janet