The Wisdom Problem
I woke early one morning to make Wise Alun his breakfast tea. I quickly dressed and rushed over to his house, where I began preparations for the tea ceremony.
"Good morning brother Jed," he said, "I trust the gods are smiling on you."
"Good morning oh wise one," I said. "The gods aren't being particularly smiley today, I'm being bombarded with texts and emails. I'm over a year late with my novel and my publisher is threatening to rip up the contract. I'm behind with the magazine and newspaper articles I write to keep afloat, and I started a six-part story on a writing site two months ago and I still haven't finished it."
"Buddha once said that busyness was a state of mind."
"Buddha never had a publisher on his back night and day. What should I do? I can't write a novel and the outstanding articles, but they're both demanding I send something today."
"Buddha would say 'Have a cup of tea'."
"Why, is tea a stimulant? I've been knocking back the red bull, I've been up since 5.00 and I'm whacked."
"What you need is not more stimulation but less. You need time to reflect, to order your mind, then you will see that your problems are not so bad. Have you meditated today?"
"Meditated? I don't have time to meditate, I'm getting up at 5.00 as it is to get your tea ready."
"There is always time for meditation. Here, I will finish preparing the tea. You can meditate here."
"I've already made the tea. I was just about to leave."
"You remember your mantra?"
Clearly Alun wasn't going to let me leave that easily.
"Happy is an Island."
"Happy is indeed an island. Now build a mental raft, sail to your island, free your mind."
I sat in the meditation position, freed my mind, built a mental raft, and sailed off to my island. I stayed at the island for nearly an hour, during which time I didn't get any writing done at all and I received three texts from my publishers about missed deadlines.
"I'm going to have to go," I said eventually. "I can't sit around meditating all day, I've got writing to do."
"To write you must reflect on your true self, clear your mind until there is nothing there in the way."
"No, to write you must sit at a computer and jiggle your fingers up and down the keyboard, you can't do that sitting cross-legged on the floor with an empty mind."
I tried to follow wise Alun's advice but I was so busy meditating and drinking tea I hardly got any writing done and received more and more angry emails from the publishers and editors I'd made commitments to.
The next morning I woke early, so that I could make wise Alun his morning cuppa. I checked my emails to find bad news.
"I've lost my job," I informed Wise Alun. "All my jobs. My publisher has ripped up the contract for my novel and I've missed the deadline for the magazines I was writing for."
"You see, the things you thought you needed to do didn't need to be done after all. All your frantic worry over deadlines was completely unnecessary, you should concentrate on the important things, breathing, sitting, meditating, drinking tea."
"But I lost my job."
"Buddha says that a job lost is a leisure gained."
"Buddha didn't have the council sending him final tax demands."
"Buddha told a tale of two people living on an island. One of them worked constantly, was always busy, always rushing around. The other did very little, mostly sitting around drinking tea. But because the second man began every other sentence with 'Buddha said', he was taken for a great sage."
"What's your point exactl?. I'm the only one on the island with an income, without my writing jobs what will we live on."
"The great sage has been offered a book deal, 'The Wisdom of Alun', with a healthy advance. There shall be buns for tea."
"You! Write a book! You've never written anything in your life."
"Buddha once had a new pupil. One day, after making Buddha tea, the pupil asked "Buddha, what is wisdom?" Buddha paused to remove the tea bag from the mug, the pupil was very much a novice in all things, including tea-making. 'Wisdom', he repeated slowly. 'To achieve true wisdom you must write down the words of your master.'"
"And what did the pupil say?"
"He didn't say anything Jed, he started writing. Aren't you getting this down, it's solid gold, the publishers will love it."
I started writing.
"And this one," Alun said, "About the time Buddha was sent a cuddly toy squid as a gift and his pupil said 'What will you do with a cuddly toy squid?' and Buddha said..."
"Hang on, I've not got the dodgy tea boy turned scribe story down yet."
"Well hurry up. And we must do the one about Buddha fighting the ostrich, and we should do Buddha in space, sci-fi always sells. What's that you've written, I can't read your scribble?"
"It's my summary of the numerous stories you've just blurted out. 'It's going to be a long book,'."