Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site

not geeky  not geeky

Case 68


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When Banzen was a young monk, he grew despondent:

“What is the use of perfecting code?” he cried. “A module we write under the cherry blossoms in April will require a dozen urgent changes in sweltering July. By September it will be a tangle of debris, destined to be discarded and rewritten by someone else before the snows of December melt!”

Hearing of this, Banzen’s master summoned him:

“Your talk is disquieting; leave the monastery at once. Outside the gate is a stream that flows from the mountaintop. Follow it until you reach the ocean, and there walk the sands to clear your head. Do not return until your eyes can see.”

Young Banzen obeyed. He remained on the shoreline for days, walking many ri back and forth. There he spied women fishing in the tide pools with bamboo rods, and men weaving nets, and children playing in the sand.

It was the children that drew Banzen’s interest the most. As the morning tide went out they gathered at the margin of the receding waters, piling bucketfuls of wet sand into huge mounds while sorting out the shells and pebbles. With each hour the water grew more distant, yet still the boys hauled brine-heavy buckets up the beach to moisten the sand while the girls set to work on the summits of the piles. As the sun swung past its zenith a mighty fortress took shape, top to bottom, some bits sculpted or patted by hand but most of it carved with the help of old knives and broken rice paddles. The children lined the rooftops with tiny white shells, used chopsticks to poke out shadowy windows, pressed thousands of pebbles into the foundations, and dripped wet sand from their fingertips to make tiny conifers in the miniature gardens, one by one. By this time the tide would be creeping back up the shore.

Whenever Banzen saw the first wave strike the battlements he always winced; when the first delicate terrace crumbled his stomach always sank with pity. Yet the children cheered. Throughout the late afternoon they watched hand-in-hand as the sea reclaimed what had been taken from it, until all that remained of the day’s labor was a great undulating lump of sand dotted with shells. Then the children would leave.

But without fail they would gather the next morning with their buckets and shovels, ready to begin anew.

After a week Banzen returned to his monastery, enlightened.

Topics...  perfection, joy-hacking